Every old pizza is new again.
Two big thugs chase a magic beast down the streets of New York into the path of four adolescent terrapins named after Italian philosophers, Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael, and Michelangelo and their human friend April. The two thugs reveal themselves as monsters from another realm, and take the captured beast and kidnap April back to “The Hidden City”, a magical land deep under New York.
Recognizing the symbol from their master Splinter’s special cabinet, the turtles use a related magical device to enter this special realm and save both the creature and April, along with getting special new magical versions of their usual weapons along the way. However, before they can return to their world, they must first face their newest and greatest foe, The Shred-ER I MEAN, Baron Draxum (John Cena). Draxum shows a great interest in mutations, and notices the turtles as former experiments of his own making, but they manage to fight him off before he Hermit Purples them into submission.
With April saved and a new enemy identified, the team decide to name the beast that brought them into this brand new adventure. And that name is…
Venus de Milo.
…I mean, Mayhem. They call it Mayhem.
With the shortest break between TMNT cartoons (less than a year!), this new series had a lot to prove, especially with how much of a departure it was from the 2012 series. Besides the radically new designs for the turtles, there’s also them no longer being the same age, Raphael taking Leonardo’s place as leader, Baron Draxum taking Shredder’s place as the main villain, and April…wearing glasses, this series was primed to completely separate itself from everything that’s come before. I’m not the most dedicated TMNT fan out there, but that just goes to show how well the 2012 series was in drawing me and friends of my in while apparently being so reverent of all previous incarnations of the franchise’s history. With that in mind, I think it’s worth giving this new show a chance, or at least not immediately dismissing it just because it’s new or different.
But then again, that’s also dependent on how this series stands on its own. This could be the very first version of these characters for some kids, but the true test of being a worth successor starts with the pilot, and this one assumes a lot of general information is already known by the audience. For one, as far as I know, I think this may be the first version of the series that starts with the turtles already being friends with April. Usually the first few episodes serve as a way of showing the brothers seeing her as their first true connection to the outside world, so it’s a shame we aren’t able to see how that connection started (or at least not yet). There’s also no mention of their origins as mutated turtles or how they were raised by Splinter, which are kind of big parts of their characters. It’d be like having a Spider-Man movie without showing or even mentioning Uncle Ben, and we know that’ll never happen.
The focus on this “Hidden City” and new villain Baron Draxum are also interesting choices, to say the least. On the one hand, Shredder and the Krang are usually the go-to’s for TMNT villainy, but this Draxum guy seems to be a wholly new creation for this series, as well as having some sort of connection to the mutations that made these turtles so ninja. TMNT has been a franchise that has been shown to have a lot of flexibility when it comes to blending sci-fi and fantasy, as shown most clearly in the “mutant” and “ninja” parts of the title (amusing considering the first comic series was originally made to parody overly ridiculous concepts like this), so dipping a bit more into the mystical side of things is a curious change of pace, but we’ll have to see where it goes from here.
“Rise” has managed to make a very distinct first impression about what it wants to be and where it wants to go to be different from that which has come before, with a fresh new cast and mood that feels familiar as it does different. Hopefully they can carry the good will of their predecessors into the rest of this first season and beyond.