5 out of 5
Developed by: Joshua Sternin, J. R. Ventimilia
Yes, we all know I’m bias. But this rating is for the quality of the episodes collected as well as the special features.
‘Showdown’ collects the latter half of season 2, from the 2-part Manhattan Project – which introduces Tiger Claw and the ooze worms – to the concluding 2-part Invasion, which finally wraps up the Why of the Kraang storyline, which had been slowly seeded into the episodes leading up to this point. Season 1 got progressively stronger as things went on, shifting from episode-to-episode monster battles to a rousing conclusion that nonetheless felt like a slight tonal shift in comparison to what came before. Season 2 had a bigger palette to work with, and could afford to be a bit looser with plotting in the sense that payoffs could be delayed for several episodes. This was absolutely to the season’s benefit as the overall ramp-up from episodic to what’s presented here is a lot smoother, and while ‘Showdown’ still breaks down into bite-size segments, almost every episode here has something to do with the main plotline. So while we all felt that the conclusion was something of a repeat of season 1’s – Casey Jones actually jokes about this a bit – it was a totally valid redo, and properly presented more along the lines of a final showdown than the “here are the Kraang again” rematches we often get in kid cartoons. The show continues to surprise with its pathos – Karai’s story is particularly sobering, especially Shredder’s seemingly out-of-character responses at times, preventing us from being able to fully villainize him, and ‘The Lonely Mutation of Baxter Stockman’ does the one-off side character bit with a surprising mix of sympathy and cheek. The humor also remains a highlight, thankfully, and again, we must appreciate the awareness of the modern kid that allows gags like those presented to (mostly) take precedence over fart jokes, but the writers step it up a notch with ‘A Chinatown Ghost Story,’ riffing on Big Trouble in Little China, which I can’t believe age-appropriate kids will have seen. (This is a trend that would take appreciable primacy in the opening of season 3, with continual horror movie nods.)
There’s also an element here that I feel like the current IDW comic writers and the current cartooners have nailed moreso than any other animated variation, excepting select moments of the Mirage comics: justifying Mikey’s role on the team beyond goofball. Yes, he can fight, and is a sense of levity, but it’s difficult not to just play him for laughs via his fuck-ups. But: episodes like Pizza Face and especially, especially one of the best episodes yet, Into Dimension X! show how Mikey’s loose-lobed thought processes can be game changers.
Anyhow. I should dock this collection a star again for only existing in DVD format, which is a stupidity in this modern HD world, but the disc finally included an extra – a Channel 6 News Special on the Ooze – that’s actually pretty funny and not just a clip collection, so they’ve squeezed that extra star out of me. It takes so little. Also included are a swanky amount of animatics to pre-vis to final comparisons for 3-5 minutes of, I think, every episode; I dig that they put these very non-kid-friendly extras on here, altho I think they could’ve benefited from some accompanying production notes or commentary.