Season 2, Episode 1
Return of the Shredder
Air Date: October 1st, 1988
The second season of TMNT kicks off with a bang and a slight dip in animation. I’m not saying this as a disservice to this show, but the second season saw twice the amount of episodes as the first and with that means the animation isn’t as sharp. Not that I’m an animator, but it’s obvious the quality isn’t quite there this time.
With that being said, this episode finds the Shredder stranded in Dimension X as little more than a slave to Krang’s rule. This is a very interesting turn for the character. In the first season, Shredder took no guff from anyone, but here, he is without resources, equipment or weaponry to take the fight to the Turtles. He pleads Krang for assistance, but it’s to no avail. I know this may sound dramatic for a kids cartoon, but we get to see our primary villain at his lowest point and watch him rise to the occasion. If he were almost anyone else, he would be the hero of this episode. Shredder is the man with a goal and motivation, and the Turtles are constantly in his way mucking things up for him.
Shredder is the hero here.
As I said, Shredder is sent to Earth with little more than the blades on his arms, and he goes about building an army to take the fight to the Turtles. Stumbling upon a low-rent karate dojo, he makes quick work of the entire class and their instructor and convinces them to follow his rule and let him train them in the ways of the Foot Clan. We even get to see how great a leader and tactician he is as he trains a group of wayward kids (before the 1990 movie) and begin a hysterical crime wave across the city, robbing banks and various jewelry stores. His new minions are dressed as turtles and calling themselves the Crooked Ninja Turtle Gang(!).
Shredder’s goal is to take the city’s public opinion on the Turtles and askew it. The plan works and quickly catches the eye of the Turtles themselves, resulting in a massively one-sided brawl in a junkyard that finds the Turtles once again claiming victory over the Shredder. Refusing defeat, Shredder enlists the aid of Baxter Stockman, the hapless scientist who has recently been committed to an insane asylum…for whatever reason, but it’s nice to see him again. It’s just too bad that he doesn’t keep better company.
This season also sees April’s work life get a bit of an expansion with the introduction of hopeless romantic Irma Langinstein, as well as their boss Burne Thompson. I think I can be forgiven for saying that Burne takes more than a little influence from Spider-Man’s J. Jonah Jameson, as he;s the big time editor/boss that is utterly and incorrectly convinced that the Turtles are a menace to the city, even if it is only a ploy to convince a girl to…well, you know. Irma is also a welcome addition to the show as she just doesn’t care about anything but finding a date. This might seem a little out of place nowadays, but be honest, we all had that one friend that wanted little more than some romance, and if you didn’t, well I’ve got some bad news for you…
This season also sees the rivalry between April and Vernon as she’s always working incredibly hard on the latest scoop and Vernon is lazily searching for “credit”. I don’t know if he’s itching for an easy promotion or a free meal but it’s obvious he’s just an idiot that’ll get what’s coming to him sooner rather than later. He’s a dork that you just love to see embarrassed.
While this episode is the start of the slapstick slant that it’s remembered for, the characters themselves weren’t sacrificed for this move. The Turtles are still heroes and the Shredder is still their main antagonist, and that is what makes this episode great. You get to see Shredder at his lowest point and rise to the occasion. Sure, he may not win in the end, but he doesn’t have to, you want to see the Shredder get taken down a peg with each episode, that’s the whole point. Despite his many setbacks, incompetent henchmen and faulty schemes, the Shredder never lets himself get defeated. Even though he loses the fight by every episodes end, he never let’s himself feel defeated. There’s a life lesson in there somewhere.