Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Animated Series: Season 2 Review

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The five-part debut of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles during Christmas season 1987 was an explosive success for franchise creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird.  Signing on for a second season was a no-brainer, and with the help of co-developers David Wise and Fred Wolf, the 13-episode sophomore run aired its first installment as a syndicated Saturday morning cartoon on October 1, 1988.  Showcasing a slew of new mutants fighting both against and alongside the Turtles, Season 2 outshone the first, constructing the foundation for the classic series for many years to come.

The final episode of Season 1 saw Shredder and Krang sucked into Dimension X aboard the Technodrome.  With things looking bleak for the Turtles' most notorious antagonists at the start of Season 2's opener "Return Of the Shredder," Krang grants the Foot Clan general his wish to be sent through a portal back to Earth to avenge his latest defeat to the fearsome foursome.  Unfortunately for ol' Shred-Head, he spends most of this season without much assistance from Krang, the pulsating blob content with his current warlord status in Dimension X.  Shredder forcefully establishes himself as the new leader of the Slash For Cash Dojo, instilling a band of outlaw martial arts students with decades worth of lethal Ninjitsu training.  The silvery ninja master then sends his disciples to the streets to cause mayhem dressed in shoddy Turtle costumes, dubbing them "The Crooked Ninja Turtle Gang."  The sly diversion works; as the real heroes go after their imposters, Shredder busts his former accomplice Baxter Stockman from the insane asylum and hires him to manufacture the Ultimate Rat Catcher to finally put the kibosh on his life-long rival Splinter.  The Turtles drop the copycat criminals in a one-sided junkyard brawl before once again rescuing their beloved master from another one of Shredder's diabolical schemes.  In the end, the phony turtles are nabbed, the boys in green handing Shredder yet another crushing loss.

The following four episodes cover the memorable "Eye Of Sarnoth" story arc, featuring the Turtles playing tug-of-war with Shredder over a celestial crystal which bestows unlimited capabilities unto its possessor.  "The Incredible Shrinking Turtles" opens with the guys conveniently witnessing a spaceship explode into pieces above the park where they're training.  Upon discovering that the mysterious "Eye Of Sarnoth" has split into three fragments spread all over the city in the fiery crash, the Turtles set out to secure them before Shredder does.  The first true battle between the Turtles and Shredder takes place when the boys find the first sliver on a trash barge.  Shredder bests the Turtles in a four-on-one battle, seizing the gem and harnessing its awesome power to shrink them to their former pre-mutagen size.  Our heroes flee to the sewers, helpless as Shredder uses the crystal to miniaturize the Empire State Building, a feat that impresses the still unwilling-to-help Krang.  The evil brainiac is thrilled, though, when Baxter captures the Turtles, but their nefarious plans are halted when April and Splinter make the save, aided by the glowing rock in restoring them back to their normal fighting selves.  The episode ends on a cliffhanger as Shredder makes off with the crystal, a rare victory in a string of thrashings by his reptilian challengers.  The fight would be far from over, as you just can't keep a good Turtle down, let alone four of them.

The remaining episodes in the "Eye Of Sarnoth" saga pit the Turtles against several new opponents.  After swiping the second crystal shard in "It Came From Beneath the Sewers," Shredder and Baxter breed a giant killer plant from a sample of alien DNA to divert their enemies' attention from their pursuit of the third piece.  The wicked weed is subdued, but that dastardly Shredder finds a new conspirator in "The Mean Machines," a malevolent computer virus named OMNIS which is equally hell-bent on taking over the world.  OMNIS drains a nearby power plant's energy for his army of construction equipment dispatched to polish off the resilient Turtles.  In a scene straight out of Maximum Overdrive, a cement truck, a tractor and a crane brandishing a wrecking ball come to life.  The conflict gives the guys a chance to show off some fancy combat skills, and after the Turtles cut OMNIS's cord, Shredder and Baxter skedaddle, the last remaining fragment still waiting to be uncovered. Shredder locates it in "Curse Of the Evil Eye," where he fuses the completed jewel to his helmet and uses his mind to conjure up some adversaries to manhandle his teenaged tormentors.  The headwear is traded between Shredder, Baxter and a Woody Allen-esque Channel 6 worker named Blodgett before the jewel is destroyed by the Turtles to ensure that its powers will never again be used for evil.  Back to the drawing board, Shred-Head.

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