Nickelodeon's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has given plenty of love to the horror genre. From crazy new mutants to awesome nods to iconic films like Alien, John Carpenter's The Thing and many more, they've managed to fit a nice horror vibe into an all-ages show. However, this week's episode embraces another genre: fantasy.
First and foremost, I'll admit I'm not a big fantasy buff. I didn't play Dungeons & Dragons or Dragon's Lair as a youngling and, don't tell Sean Astin, but I'm not the biggest Lord of the Rings fan around (don't get me wrong: I enjoy them and quality-wise they're stellar, but overall, it's just not really my thing compared to sci-fi and such). That said, this latest episode, "Mazes & Mutants," has such a good time celebrating the genre that you really don't need to be a huge fan to appreciate all of the fun. Witnessing each of the Heroes in a Half Shell step into their makeshift outfits is glorious. And, even though it's beyond cliche, the "slow motion group shot" was so well-deserved for the team in their new (and not to mention fantastic) costumes. And yes, they're apparently making figures based on these designs. Wizard Donatello shall be mine... or is it "Donatello the Purple"?
The Lord of the Ring/The Hobbit jokes aren't too frequent, but when they are used, they're a total knockout. The "dragon's tail" slithering through the piles of gold, Mikey's face as he protects his ring (of awesome), Rob Paulsen's delivery of a classic line... there's more than a handful of moments that are sure to make you laugh out loud. Plus, you can't help but chuckle at the fact this episode's new mutant, Sir Malachi, is charismatically voiced by Paul Reubens.
I continue to love the illustrated flashback segments. The handling of them and the style itself is always topnotch and brings a nice change of pace to each episode. I mean, they could easily have Sir Malachi explain his backstory and include reaction shots from the Turtles, but instead, they flesh it out with this comic book-ish scene and it's most definitely appreciated. Oh, and it's always a good thing when they offer foreshadowing via the classic TV show. Always.
Watching the team encounter new traps and what they generate is a joy, but when it comes to the actual combat, this episode didn't bring anything all that thrilling to the table (one "special attack" aside, that is!). And, unless it took a Gollum-esque turn, the "ring of awesome" bits became a little too repetitive. Still, "Mazes & Mutants" is a whole lot of fun and it's certain to keep you laughing (personally, I dug Raph's attitude and the conclusion with Malachi). There's plenty of references to enjoy and it's great seeing the team in a totally new environment. Oh, and be sure to pay attention, otherwise you may miss the triumphant return of Ice Cream Kitty!