Remember how last week I praised 'Never Say Xever' as my favorite TMNT episode yet? Well, 'The Gauntlet' has now taken that title. Not only did this week's episode deliver some firm laughs from Mikey, but it also had some great action, dove deep into the plot, and the Shredder makes an incredibly formidable appearance.
It's quite impressive how this week's episode managed to juggle numerous topics and not get them clustered with only 22 minutes at its disposal. We have a new mutant which provides intel on April's dad -- and I must confess, I was very relieved that Pigeon Pete played a small role and wasn't mutated villain #5,034. This transfers into a plot surrounding the Kraang and their plan to detonate a mutagen bomb in the city. Yet this wasn't merely another "we need to stop the Kraang!" story. This time we were treated to the who, what and why about the aliens. Seeing the Turtles slice and dice the Kraang has been good fun, but it was so refreshing to finally hear more about them.
Not only did we have a fairly deep story surrounding the Kraang, but 'The Gauntlet' also focused on Chris Bradford and Xever's desire for revenge. As if that's not enough, the episode concluded with a jaw-droppingly good rooftop fight with Splinter's nemesis. Speaking of Shredder, there was a pan shot of the bruised and battered Turtles and it felt like a moment stripped right out of Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1. Moments like that really showcase how much the creative team loves the source material.
Smoke bombs! It's always a treat seeing Donatello creating new gadgets for the team, but an even bigger treat is seeing Mikey foolishly use the new technology. As expected, he had a field day with the smoke bombs and the segment almost had me in tears. Want a tissue? Smoke bomb to find one! It was an excellent dose of lighthearted humor and just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to good laughs in the episode.
As usual, the fight sequences were solid and the Shredder battle gave me goosebumps. Once again we see a split screen focus on eyes as combatants prepare for their next move and slow motion is used in all of the right spots. It's a style frequently used but never overstays its welcome or feels redundant. As if an energetic rooftop fight with Shredder's minions and then himself wasn't enough, we also had a healthy dose of the Turtles viciously disposing of some Kraang. A sai to a robotic head will never get old. The explosive bow and arrows was a very unique and a welcomed touch as well.
This modern take on the Turtles is consistently impressing me. Don't let the kid friendly look fool you. While the humor is lighthearted, it's sharp and can easily be appreciated by fans of all ages. Furthermore, virtually every episode is packed with more than enough solid action and flat-out cool shots of the Turtles. I watched this episode 3 times before writing this review... not because I wanted to refresh my memory, but because I simply loved it that much.
Viners, what did you think about the latest episode and the show as a whole? Don't be shy, speak up!
Gregg Katzman is a freelance writer for Comic Vine and IGN Entertainment. Donatello is his favorite, but Mikey is becoming a very close second.