Any leader worth his weight has to know when to be ruthless and when to show compassion. To lean too heavily on one or the other sends a clear message to one’s enemies and allies what type of leader you are and whether or not to fear or trust you. Such is the dilemma of our turtle with the blue bandana, Leonardo. From the beginning of the series, Leo has had a desire to be a good leader much like his idol, Captain Ryan of Space Heroes. Unfortunately for Leo, things are not as clear-cut in the fictional universe of a television program as they are in the real world of alien robots, mutants, and ninjas…
Okay, yes, neither are plausible universes, but you get my point! Real world = complicated.
Shredder, dissatisfied with Chris Bradford’s defeat by Hamato Yoshi’s man-sized turtle ninjas, turns leadership over to Xever, the butterfly knife wielding ex-con. Xever has already put word out on the street to look out for the turtles and plans to personally filet them at Shredder’s leisure. The turtles, discretely following April to a noodle place find the shop’s blind proprietor, Mr. Murikami, under attack by The Purple Dragons, a gang of street thugs looking for protection money. While the gang of three are no match for the turtles’ skills, Leo shows mercy to one of the thugs and lets them go, which does not sit well with Raph. Believing that Leo showed weakness, Raph emphatically states that showing mercy won’t stop The Purple Dragons from being a threat to Murikami. Using April as their woman on the street, the guys track down the Purple Dragons to make sure they get the message to stay away from Murikami, but end up crossing paths with Xever and Bradford again. Leo must decide how far he’s willing to go when his enemies will cross every line to get what they want.
I managed to show a very good friend of mine the new series over the weekend and we ended up discussing the Leo vs Raph dynamic that has been one of the core conflicts of TMNT since the first live action film. Personality wise, the two “older” brothers are like night and day with Leo characterized as the infallible teacher’s pet and Raph the angry rebel. Their power struggle over the team has never been clearer than in this episode. My friend said she was glad that Raph beat Leo in the first episode since it made sense that Raph is the better fighter, but Leo is the better leader. As was pointed out in “Turtle Temper”, Raph’s anger and passion may help him as the team’s muscle, but they prevent him from truly grasping the idea that strength of leadership doesn’t always come from causing fear. Sometimes compassion is a more powerful tool. Though the episode does side with Master Splinter and Leo on the merits of mercy, Raph at least gets his say and he’s not entirely wrong in his argument. Gangs like The Purple Dragons (a little shout out to the 2003 series) don’t just stop and walk away when you tell them to. Violence is the only language they understand, so giving them a taste of their own medicine – with extreme prejudice – might be your only option. But this is a kids show so, yeah, compassion wins in the end. Even Raph won’t entirely cross the line like Xever or Bradford, but he’s closer to that line than any of his brothers.
I’ve been enjoying the slow growth of Leo as team leader. Though Splinter chose him mostly because he asked, I feel as though Splinter would have picked Leo regardless. Of all the turtles, Leo possesses a greater desire to do good and fight honorably, but the previous episodes, as well as this week’s, very much show that Leo’s method of leadership is still in a state of flux. Unlike Raph, who’d just assume beat everyone up, Leo isn’t as sure of what to do in any given situation. He struggles with how to deal with enemies who do not share his combat philosophy. Leo wants to fight with honor but Xever could care less, which means Leo either has to adapt or hold his ground. In “Never Say Xever”, though he attempts to adapt, he receives the greater reward in his decision to remain an honorable leader by showing mercy. That’s, in my opinion, what makes Leo a better leader.
And Another Thing: I really haven’t been giving enough props to Hoon Lee as Master Splinter. The man is amazing at giving Splinter the right balance of authority and humor. I heart you, Hoon Lee!
- Saying turtles are slow is a hurtful stereotype according to Mikey
- The fight choreography continues to impress me, especially when the turtles use the geography of the New York City rooftops to their advantage
- Pizza gyoza!
- Mikey has the best callback to the original series ever! EVER!
- April posing as an undercover cop – 21 Jumpstreet style
- The blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Dim Sum & Then Sum shop name
- “We’re giving up again? Are you kidding me?” “Yes, it’s all part of my hilarious stay alive routine!”
- Raph’s glee in capturing Chris Bradford
- “I love it when a change of plans come together.” – Donnie for the A-Team reference