Nick's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles does a great job making sure each character receives a whole lot of love. Every turtle has had numerous episodes revolve around them, but Master Splinter hasn't been given quite as much focus as his sons. Don't get me wrong, he's by no means neglected in the program. They've done a fine job giving the mutant a whole new mythos and solid appearances in a majority of the episodes, but it's not every day he's the focal point. Because of that, "Of Rats and Men" is a nice change of pace as the Rat King makes his return and, of course, this puts the spotlight on Master Splinter as he tries to fight the villain's influence over his mind.
The creative team has made it more than clear they love to sprinkle elements of the horror genre in the show and this episode had a great "classic horror movie" vibe to it -- it almost feels like it could be titled "Invasion of the Killer Rats!" Everything from the flashes of the Rat King's horrific face and glowing eyes to the vast and haunting underground setting just oozes an eerie atmosphere. It's never "scary" (although it could be for very young viewers), but it's appropriately creepy throughout. It's also worth noting that the conclusion with the villain is kind of an easter egg to the Mirage comics. Oh, and the chase scene and the fight itself in the end? You can't hear it, but I'm giving a slow clap. Great stuff.
To balance the Rat King's more serious scenes, the episode introduces what is quite possibly the best mutant ever: Ice Cream Kitty (voiced by TMNT co-creator Kevin Eastman). It's simple: you're either going to laugh like a crazy person at the character's scenes or you're going to think it's just plain weird. It's a twisted scenario (stray cat is literally melted and becomes a... blob of ice cream), yet with Michelangelo's heartwarming interactions and some of the Kitty's "action scenes," it turns out to be a blast and full of hilarity. I think Casey Jones' days as the new teammate are numbered now that Ice Cream Kitty is here.
And speaking of Casey, the dude that loves to scream "goongala" gets a good amount of attention. It is an episode about giant rats, after all! Not only does Jones get to show off the various weapons on his bike -- which is a very fun and well-directed sequence -- but he also gets the chance to step up and face his biggest fear. And it's never followed-up on, but Irma has a slightly bigger role here and, with everything that goes down, I wouldn't be surprised if she's able to connect the dots between Casey and April's link to all that's going on sooner rather than later.
The Rat King loves to monologue. Some of this is obviously needed (e.g. elaborating about his new plan), but at times it felt like a bit much. Also, the ending is very abrupt. In fact, it's so sudden that the credits begin to roll on the bottom of the screen during what should be a cheerworthy action scene. It's still very, very awesome, but having the credits pop up at that point was somewhat distracting. Maybe if the Rat King's amount of speeches were trimmed they could have had a little more room for extra closure in the very end.
"Of Rats and Men" is yet another hugely entertaining episode. Sure, the Rat King loves the sound of his own voice a little too much, but there's a strong spotlight on Splinter, an enjoyable classic horror vibe and some crazy fun bits with Mikey and Ice Cream Kitty. This is yet another Sunday morning where it's great to be a TMNT fan.