Children take their cues on how to act from their parents. If mom or dad are calm, then you’re calm because they’re the adults, the ones responsible for your safety, so if everything’s okay by them, then you’re okay by proxy. However, if mom or dad are clearly panicked, that anxiety and fear transfers to the kids as well. As a family, Splinter and the turtles are no different. Though Splinter has always provided a strong pillar of support for his sons, a calm presence to counteract their teenage antics, after their recent encounter with The Shredder it’s Splinter who’s more afraid for his children. Like most fearful parents, he tries to protect his sons, but unlike most parents, that protection means exhausting his sons through rigorous training to prepare them for their next fight with The Shredder.
The opening sequence sets the mood for an episode that’s a bit light on the main plot, but makes up for it in the undertones of fear experienced by Splinter and the turtles. We know very quickly that it’s a dream sequence, but we’re not quite sure whose dream. The turtles, under the cover of fog in an alley, are trying to avoid running into The Shredder, but he has no trouble finding them. Taking the turtles out one by one, we’re left with Shredder and Leo, leading us to believe this is the anxiety-driven dream of a young leader reeling from his failure. But as The Shredder’s blades come down and split the screen, it’s Splinter who jumps awake. It’s a great fake-out and completely fits with the strong family ties established in this series. The turtles, though defeated, are still confident that they’ll be ready for The Shredder next time. It’s Splinter’s overreaction that instills in them a sense of fear and panic that extends from his own fears that he’ll lose his family, once again, to The Shredder. Watching Splinter’s mood shift, his voice booming with parental authority, is audibly terrifying to his sons who, based on the shocked looks on their faces, have never seen their father act this way.
But it’s not really an overreaction, is it? You don’t have to be a parent to understand the fear of losing someone you love and trying to do everything in your power to keep them safe. Splinter just happens to be a ninjitsu master and keeps his sons “safe” by putting them through drills for weeks and forbidding them from going to the surface until they’re truly ready to fight The Shredder again. The unfortunate side effect is the near panic of his sons at the very thought of facing Shredder and his minions again. So when April comes a callin’ with news that The Shredder is up to something that involves the safety of the lair, the turtles are forced to go above ground as a means to protect their home.
Like I said, “Panic in the Sewers” is light on an actual plot, but follows through from the previous episode by focusing on the detrimental effects of fear and the need for the turtles and Splinter to overcome that fear in order to move forward. Yes, they’ll eventually have to fight The Shredder again, but it does them no good to be in a state of panic at all times. Even Raphael is jumpy, which should tell you something when the seemingly fearless one is just as afraid as his brothers. The episode also gives us a good look at Dogpound, the newly christened mutant that was once Chris Bradford. As a human, Bradford was a formidable opponent against the turtles, but as a mutant dog with bony claws that are nearly indestructible, he’s an enormous force to be reckoned with. My only real problem with the episode is the use of Dogpound as little more than a lackey. Yes, he gets a fight sequence with the turtles in the beginning, but there’s little in the way of poetic justice at the end when even Shredder has to remark that he was beaten by the turtles using go-carts and water balloons. It’s one of the trappings of having recurring villains. You want them to still be a threat to the heroes, but you also have to find a way to keep them around without insulting the audience’s intelligence. While the turtles’ defeat of Dogpound is entertaining, it lacks the impact of their previous victories. But maybe Xever, now a mutant fish, will have a better chance. Though we see him briefly in Shredder’s cathedral hideout, it makes sense that he’d be a decent threat to the turtles. I mean, come on. Fish=water=sewers. Map drawn.
- Dr. Prankenstein!!! Where does Mikey keep all those water balloons?
- April has fooled the same guy, with different cover stories, twice now. Rule of three says she gets one more con before he catches on.
- Raph reluctantly using Space Heroes as a means of getting Leo out of his state of panic.
- Donnie’s proto-type vehicles aren’t quite ready yet, but I feel we’re getting closer to the turtle van with each episode!