First and foremost, this episode is thrilling. There's some strong character-driven moments, but the action is frequent and tons of fun. The bit with Tiger Claw on a bike is without question one of the coolest and most memorable things this show has yet to produce. It's -- as the older Turtles would say -- totally radical, dude. There's some great melees and a few moments where stealth shines, but what makes this all so entertaining is that it's not action just for the sake of action. There's a lot of emotion behind each of these encounters and you can really feel the tension behind each of these conflicts. It's not just, "we need to stop them from *insert scenario that you know will never happen here*!" There's a massive amount of drama in these fights and it's definitely felt. Unless you've read spoilers early, this is a story that'll keep you guessing about what'll come next.
There's some stellar shots in this episode. It's clear this team loves to have characters strike a pose in front of a gorgeous and bright moon, and, you know what? It almost always looks impressive and they're often shots that would be worthy of being turned into a poster. On top of that, the animators did a great job making us feel the emotion with these characters. From Shredder's face to the look of raw hatred in Splinter's eyes, the pure emotion these characters are experiencing is more than transparent.
The Turtles don't get too much focus, but that's okay because the core of this conflict revolves around Karai, Shredder, and Splinter. The attention given to who this characters are and what makes them unique is terrific. They're juggled quite well and each have more than enough time in the spotlight. There's a heartwarming bit thrown in there and we're once again treated to a more humanizing look at Oroku Saki. It's a much appreciated change of pace for the character. Additionally, there's no way I could possibly forget to mention the Shredder/Splinter conflict is given even more depth! We're shown an extended look at their origin story -- which is once again presented superbly with a dark, comic book-ish tone -- and it adds a little more weight to their tale. There isn't a mind-blowing development here but it's just enough to add to the dynamic and make this universe feel a little more unique.
Now, that's not to say the heroes in a half shell don't get a fair amount of time on the screen! Leonardo's dilemma over the scenario is front and center, Donatello's intellect is given a moment to shine, and Michelangelo is consistently hilarious. It's never enough to take away from the dire nature of this narrative, but it is just enough to make sure the episode is fun. You can't help but smile whenever he sticks his tongue out at his enemies. "Aw yeah, son! Never underestimate the water balloon arm!" Raphael doesn't get much attention, but his initial operation with Leo is quite cool and his reaction during the training session is definitely amusing.
The negatives are all very minor. There's one bit that felt unnecessary (thunder and lightning to make Shredder's statement appear more ominous). I love how badass Karai is in a few spots, but it was a shame they followed it up by having her ineffectively jab Tiger Claw in the stomach during their second fight. After their first encounter, you'd think she'd know she needs to go for kicks to the face -- you know, attacks which work. Now, I'm not saying she should obliterate Tiger Claw -- not by any measure -- but it would have been great to have those awesome dodges followed-up by an equally awesome melee. And speaking of melees, it was a bit of a bummer that the big showdown was cut short so soon. Once that catchy music gets going, you can't help but feel pulled into the scene and love every second of the action. But then its conclusion felt a little abrupt. Still, there's some very cheerworthy moments in there. Last but not least -- and I can't hold this against the show itself -- it was pretty disappointing to have the big twist spoiled for me so long ago. I don't seek out spoilers, but people tend to forget to use spoiler warnings when talking about leaks and upcoming plot twists. So, please try to be a little more careful about that next time.
This week's episode is easily one of the best from Season 2. It's packing basically everything you'd want from an episode of TMNT. There's a strong focus on the importance of family as Karai's story takes some major steps forward and it's loaded with character-driven moments. On top of that, the action and comedy is a total joy. There's so many thrilling set pieces and, even though this episode takes some strong emotional turns, there's plenty of laughs to enjoy, too. This episode is a perfect example of how this show can appeal to fans of any age.