Teenagers. What do they know, right? I mean, they have no idea how hard it is being an adult. You’ve gotta, like, have a job, earn money, and pay your bills on time. They think it’s all playtime and listening to my iPod and texting every minute of the day and “my parents don’t understand how deep I am about stuff!” Responsibility, man. Teenagers don’t know jack about responsibility. It’s all about owning up to your mistakes and cleaning up your messes even if you don’t want to. That’s what being an adult is…man!
With all the nostalgia surrounding TMNT from my generation, it gets a little lost in the shuffle that this show is on a “children’s” network, which means learning a lesson is a mandated trope to be thrust upon the impressionable youths. The turtles, however, have a built-in mechanism for lesson learning in that the characters are a family. Specifically, a father and his four teenage sons. Though the previous episodes have certainly shown Splinter’s effective role as teacher, mentor, and father, “I Think His Name is Baxter Stockman” really hits you over the head with the concept of cleaning up your messes no matter how small or how big. In the case of the turtles, their messes are often bigger and more violent.
After being grounded by Splinter for skating in the lair and making a general mess of the place, the turtles decide to sneak out anyway to go skating. On an unrelated note, Donnie has created a new music player using an advanced A.I. chip he scrounged out of a military scrap yard – like ya do. As the boys skate about the New York rooftops, Donnie discovers that the T-Pod (Mikey is so good at naming things) is actually upgrading itself and downloading music from the surrounding area at an advanced rate. Before this fascinating new development can be discussed, the turtles come across the rather pathetic attempts of one Baxter Stockman (Phil LaMarr) to break into the TCRI offices. Though he’s taken down in spectacular turtle style, Mikey unfortunately drops the T-Pod, which Stockman finds. Plugging into the advanced tech immediately upgrades his mediocre battle armor and Baxter Stockman becomes Stockman-Pod (okay, maybe Mikey isn’t so good at naming things). From here on out, the turtles have to go about cleaning up the mess they made.
I wouldn’t say this is a weak episode. This is better described as filler. There’s no advancement of any of the other two plots established at the beginning of the series, but it’s clear that the show’s creators are still world-building and possibly setting up more pieces on the board. Baxter Stockman was a well-known Renfield-type character from the original ’87 cartoon who was turned into a human fly hybrid after an experiment gone wrong. In the 2003 cartoon reboot, Stockman returned as a scientist who seemed to be in the habit of losing body parts after every encounter with the turtles. At one point, he’s simply a brain and an eye in a jar. Yikes! Stockman doesn’t exactly come out on top by episode’s end, but I get the feeling we’ll be seeing him again soon. For the most part, this episode is about the turtles learning a very specific lesson, one that is more clearly seen through Leo than the others.
To the show’s credit, I like how Leo is slowly learning how to be the leader amongst his brothers while still being a teenager himself. Leo’s often considered the wet-blanket of the team, the brother too obsessed with being a good student and pleasing Master Splinter. This version, on the other hand, strikes a great balance between Leo’s growth as a leader with his youth and inexperience. I was quite enamored of a small scene where Leo is, once again, watching his favorite sci-fi show and quoting the dialogue of his hero, Captain Ryan. Though he leads his brothers when they’re above ground, Leo is still, for all intents and purposes, a 15-year-old boy, so of course he’d find heroic figures to emulate. It’s those little character traits that make the turtles more endearing.
- Apparently Master Splinter has never told them not to skate in the lair, but they should’ve known that anyway
- Mikey’s kryptonite: polka music
- Absolutely loved how Donnie flips up the rooftop and balances, upside down, on Mikey’s shoulders to inspect the evolving T-Pod
- The look of pure happiness on Raph’s face after Leo lectures them on being silent and proceeds to make the most noise of them all – “That wasn’t very silent, Leo!”
- Baxter trying to come up with a suitably villainous name after going high-tech
- The use of Japanese art to emphasize Splinter’s story of how ninjas fought armored warriors in the past
- I just want to say how Jason Biggs and Sean Astin are really coming into their own as Leo and Raph respectively. Rob Paulsen and Greg Cipes are amazing in their own right, but the less experienced Biggs and Astin as voiceover artists step up their game with each episode. Well done, guys!
Just for fun: Phil LaMarr was on Rob Paulsen’s Talkin’ Toons podcast before the release of the show and they talked about his voicing of Stockman and his career of playing “white” and “black” characters. Samurai Jack was always one of my favorites.