Of the four turtles, Raphael has gained the most reputation as the “hot head.” It’s the personality trait that puts him most in conflict with his brothers, usually Leo. An amazing fighter, and the team’s muscle, Raph’s anger both fuels and inhibits his abilities as a ninja. He’s tough, but not as thick-skinned as he wants you to think. A loner most in tune with the fact that he and his family are freaks who’ll never be accepted by the world above makes his reactions to insults far more intense. This was a plot point in the first live action movie and followed the character through every new rendition. Even now Raph continues to be the turtle with anger issues, sometimes played for laughs and other times for serious.
The first episode following the pilot shines a spotlight on Raph’s attitude in “Turtle Temper” but does so in a way that doesn’t deter from the main arc of the series and presents a cautionary tale about the consequences of anger and rage. The episode begins with the turtles waiting for the Kraang to show up at a lab based on intel given to Donnie by April (who doesn’t make an appearance). While the boys are messing around, an old curmudgeon, played by Lewis Black, finds them on the roof and proceeds to insult them almost immediately. Raphael, as you can imagine, doesn’t take too kindly to the insults and gives away their postion to the Kraang when they conveniently arrive to transport more mutagen. The Kraang attack the turtles and the curmudgeon manages to get footage of them fighting, putting them all at risk if they’re exposed to the public. The turtles spend the rest of the episode trying to retrieve the footage and save the curmudgeon after he’s captured by the Kraang.
As a followup to the pilot, it’s a pretty solid episode. The humor doesn’t slack and the animation is still gorgeous. Though there’s a very hurried bit of exposition as to the series’ set-up by Donnie in the beginning, it’s very clear that each episode will push the turtles closer and closer to finding April’s father and their eventual confrontation with The Shredder. There is a bit of a pattern forming – I say that cautiously because we’re only two episodes in – of villains being created from the mutagen. It’s understandable that the show wants to create it’s own rogue’s gallery without always having to go back to the old villains, but hopefully not every episode ends with someone being mutated. That being said, Spider-Bytes is a creepy looking mutant. Then again, I’m a bit biased what with the fear of spiders and all.
The curmudgeon is an obvious parallel for Raph, a person full of anger and insults who immediately rubs him the wrong way because, yep, the two are very similar. Though obviously Raph doesn’t see it, Splinter does and decides that he needs to be taught a lesson about the difficulties of anger in conjunction with his abilities as a ninja. He does this by allowing the other turtles to insult Raph while shooting him with toy arrows. The sequence is well put together as the insults of Leo, Donnie, and Mikey increase as the music builds and the camera circles faster and faster around Raph. A second, more poignant, moment occurs later when Splinter relates his own story of the destructive nature of anger to Raphael. Splinter, more than anyone, understands where the path of anger leads and he doesn’t want that for his son. When Raph inevitably confronts the curmudgeon turned mutant, it’s a beautiful moment of calm for Raph as he takes his sensei’s advice and lets the insults wash over him “like a river over stone.”
But it’s nice to know, at the end of the day, that Raph isn’t entirely changed. Though Mikey would probably disagree.
- Raph forcing Mikey to say very nice things about him while trapped in a headlock.
- Donnie’s repeated attempts to explain how digital footage work.
- The Kraang admiring themselves in the camera.
- Leo hitting Mikey on the head in the absense of Raph.