It finally happened! The two plotlines finally converged in a moment of absolute genius! Hyperbolic much, Sam? Hell yes, I am! Why? Because this is exactly what needed to happen and when it needed to happen. After eight episodes setting up the new world of the turtles, letting us get to know the characters, and establishing the battlelines, the appropriately named “The Gauntlet” throws down spectacularly as the turtles prepare, in the words of their sensei, “To go to war.”
As a disclaimer, there will be way more spoilers in this review than usual mostly because a lot happens in this episode that needs to be said. Consider yourself warned.
Plot wise, everything seems straight forward, at first. April, while walking the daytime streets of New York City, is randomly attacked by a giant, mutant pigeon. When she tells the guys (only Raph finds the idea of a mutant pigeon funny), they decide that the best way to help her and stop the culprit is to use April as bait. Our heroes, everyone! The guys are confident in their ability to take the pigeon down, despite Master Splinter’s warning that their overconfidence without first assessing the situation is dangerous. The turtles don’t really know what they’re going up against, only what April has told them, but Leo points out that they’ve defeated every villain thus far, so their heroic posturing continues. Elsewhere, Shredder is none to happy with the incompetence of Bradford and Xever, which leads him to take matters into his own hands.
The turtles manage to capture Pigeon Man, or Pete, (Jason Marsden) and discover that he was seeking out April to give her a message from her father. With the offering of bread (sourdough) in exchange for telling them where April’s father and the other scientists are being kept, the turtles break into The Kraang building. They find Mr. O’Neil and learn why The Kraang have been nabbing scientists. Turns out, they’re from another dimension (a Dimension X, perhaps?) and the laws of physics don’t work the same way in our world as in there’s, meaning they need the scientists to modify the mutagen. They also learn, at least Donnie does through some hacking and an assist from Mikey, that The Kraang are going to release the mutagen into the city via a giant bomb. Though they manage to get Mr. O’Neil out, they’re quickly discovered by The Kraang and are forced to leave April’s father behind when he takes it upon himself to hold off the enemy so the turtles can save the city and keep his daughter safe.
Finding the bomb, Donnie only has five minutes to disarm the alien tech before the city is covered in ooze. Adding more pressure, Bradford and Xever show up to prove themselves to The Shredder. The fighting is still amazing and shows that Shredder’s henchmen are still worthy adversaries for the turtles even in their third showdown. It all comes to a head when the turtles have Bradford and Xever cornered on top of the bomb. Bradford decides to go out with honor, stabbing into the ooze and releasing it over himself and Xever. Confident in yet another victory, the turtles get a moment of celebration right before The Shredder shows up and serves them a much needed dose of reality.
I almost expected this episode to be a two-parter. Once The Shredder shows up, it’d be easy to carry the fight over into another episode, but the turtles’ escape after a thorough beating feels right when faced with the horrific transformation of Xever and Bradford into fish and dog-like mutants respectively that genuinely shocks The Shredder. I applaud the creators for waiting this long to make the transformation of Shredder’s henchmen. Even though we get a brief glimpse of them every week in the opening credits, I honestly didn’t see it coming until the moment Bradford tries to pet a random dog in The Shredder’s headquarters. From there on, it was only a matter of time, but it was a smart decision to really give us time with Bradford and Xever as they were before their transformation. There’s definitely shades of Bebop and Rocksteady, as well as Tokka and Razar, in the two henchmen so it’ll be interesting to see what they bring to the table now that they’re mutants.
What really makes this episode is its audacity to amp up the stakes while taking our heroes down a notch. Yes, they’ve been victorious in all of their encounters up to this point, but by saving their fight with The Shredder for last, the turtles, and the audience, learn that heroes don’t always win. The fight between the turtles and Shredder is the absolute highlight of the episode. Shredder is a force to be reckoned with, a skilled fighter with no desire to show mercy. Though the turtles manage to hold their own, the fight leaves them beaten and broken in body and spirit. This is the first crushing defeat they’ve really experienced and none of them, especially Leo, take it well. I don’t know what the carry-over will be next week, but I get the feeling the guys will still be reeling from their encounter with The Shredder.
Nitpicker’s Corner: Why does Shredder refer to Splinter as Splinter? Is there some backstory we haven’t gotten yet? He should just be Hamato Yoshi, right?
Favorite Moments: The whole episode! Not even joking!