LEGO Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitzu Pilot
So, a while back I saw The LEGO Movie, and, surprise surprise, I was on a LEGO kick for the rest of the week. Two Fridays later it looked like I was finally getting over the hype when I stumbled upon a little link on TV tropes… A reference to LEGO Ninjago on the LEGO Movie WMG page. It was the weekend, I had some time to kill, so I clicked it, not completely on a whim.
You see, a few years back I spent Christmas at my cousins’ house, and they have a crap ton of LEGO! Including some ninja minifigs who came with these nifty back-mounted sheaths for swords, spears, what have you. And in the time since that, I had caught the end of one episode while waiting for Adventure Time to come on.
So, fast-forward to last week, and I click the link mainly to satisfy my curiosity. Unfortunately it just piqued my curiosity more. So I decided to watch the first episode, just to see if it was any good.
WHOOPS! WEEKEND GONE!
Yeah, this show is surprisingly good, with a quick pace to fit its 13 episode season, a very likable cast, and a tongue-in-cheek, slightly self-aware, rule-of-cool atmosphere to counter the admittedly clichéd plot. The show doesn’t take itself too seriously, but does treat things with enough weight that when something serious happens it doesn’t feel completely out of place.
So, to share my new-found love for this series, and try and explain to myself just why I’ve gotten so into a little boys’ cartoon about LEGO, I’ve decided to review the series episode by episode.
LEGO NINJAGO: MASTERS OF SPINJITZU
PILOT: THE WAY OF THE NINJA/THE KING OF SHADOWS
So, fun fact to get things started here, I actually watched the pilot last, because the episode list I went by when discovering the show started with season one. Y’see, there’s a bit of confusion caused by this pilot. It was released as a TV movie on CN, then broken up into two episodes that aren’t technically included in season one. This leads to a lot of people calling the pilot season one, rather than the real season one. However, I watched it as one movie, so I’ll review it as one movie, and refer to it as the pilot.
We open with a bearded old man walking down a path to a blacksmith’s shop. Inside said shop is a young man with crazy hair that wouldn’t be out of place in Yu-Gi-Oh. He’s trying to make a sword… trying being the key word.
This is Kai, our main character for the series. His sister, Nya, laughs and says he’s made it too quickly, establishing that he is one of those impatient heroes.
The old man from the opening scene walks in and asks if they have any ninja weapons for sale in the most insulting way he can.
Old Man: Your metal is loud and heavy, useful to slow one down. Useless in the art of stealth. All tools for a samurai… but nothing for a ninja?
Kai doesn’t take kindly to the old man’s attitude and tells him to buy something or get lost. Hey, I know the guy’s being rude, but if you return in kind you’re never going to sell anything! What happened to ‘the customer is always right’?
The old man leaves in a huff (what a surprise) and suddenly the sky fills with dark clouds. So either the world’s fastest cold front just moved in, or evil is coming.
Apparently evil likes big, noisy, extreme vehicles. This rejected death metal album cover is Samuki and his skeleton army. He’s joined by his two annoying comic relief henchmen, Kruncha and Nuckle, whose names I will immediately forget. Samuki says they’re after a map and orders his army to attack the blacksmith shop, scattering the local rice paddy workers.
Kai sees them coming and equips himself with some armor and a sword from the shop, telling Nya to stay inside. He has a bit of trouble fighting an undead opponent. He cuts one skeleton’s head off and the skull just bites his foot.
Kai: Bite this! –Kicks skull over the building–
Me: Man, you’re gonna have to work on your one-liners.
Nya comes out with a stick and starts whacking the skeletons about.
Kai: I thought I told you to stay back?
Nya: And what, let you have all the fun?
I see. The movie is trying to convince me that Nya is a feisty, strong girl who can take care of herself. I’m sorry, but just giving her a clichéd one-liner and throwing her into a fight does not a good female character make. I’ll believe she can take care of herself when I see it. The annoying henchmen sneak into the forge and start looking around for the map, and find it after faffing about for a bit.
Kai gets into a fight with Samuki and soon realizes he may have bitten off more than he can chew. Just when the skeleton is about to dice him, the old man returns in the form of a spinning gold tornado of death, like a martial arts Tasmanian Devil.
Samuki: Sensei Wu! Your spinjitzu looks rusty!
Sensei Wu: Nothing like bone to sharpen its edge, Samuki.
Yeah… the special martial art in this show is called “Spinjitzu”. The sooner you get over how goofy that is, the better.
The skeleton sees he’s outmatched, and instead knocks over the water tower onto Kai, forcing Sensei to save him. This distraction lets Samuki get away, yelling that “Lord Garmadon” wants the girl. Luckily for them, their monster truck has a giant grabbing hand on a chain, for easy damsel capturing.
Yep, four minutes in and she’s already a damsel in distress. Sorry Nya, better luck being an interesting female character next time.
Kai is obviously distraught that his little sister was just kidnapped by the undead, and Sensei is likewise freaked out by the mention of this “Lord Garmadon”. Our hero yells at the old man for not using that ‘twististzu’ to save his sister. Uh, Kai, he was kind of busy saving your life! Anyway, they’ve taken her to the underworld, so there’ll be not following her now.
Kai asks what the heck is going on, so Sensei explains this world’s backstory.
The first spinjitzu master created Ninjago using four golden weapons: the scythe of quakes, nunchucks of lightning, shiruken of ice, and sword of fire. These weapons are so powerful that no one person can handle all four at once.
This first spinjitzu master then had two sons, and when he died the two were left to protect the ultra-powerful weapons. The oldest was consumed by evil, yada yada, he got greedy, the other son had to hide the weapons away and banished his brother to the underworld, family drama. The younger brother made a map of where the weapons are hidden in case he’s ever killed, and gave said map to Kai’s dad for safe-keeping.
Ok, that explains why the skeletons attacked in the first place, but why did they kidnap Nya?
So, turns out the younger brother is Sensei Wu, and the older brother is this Lord Garmadon we heard about before.
Kai: You’re the younger brother? So you came here looking for the map?
Me: No Kai, he made the map. Why on earth would he need it?
No, Sensei came here because he wants to train Kai to be a ninja. Kai’s all ‘No, I gotta save my sister.’ Really man, really? You don’t think learning a powerful martial art would be useful for sister-saving, especially considering how badly you just got beat? Sensei says essentially the same thing… but also knocks Kai over. Surprisingly, this gets Kai to agree.
We start our wise-old-master-training© by scaling a mountain to the monastery where Sensei lives. To add insult to injury, there is clearly as staircase up to it on the other side of the mountain.
Inside the monastery there is an obstacle course/ training ground. Kai’s job is to complete the training course before Sensei finishes his tea. The first time Kai just kinda sits on his butt and watches.
Sensei: Today you fail. Tomorrow you will try again.
Kai: Failed!? But I didn’t even start t-Door slams shut–
The next day Kai actually gets to try at it, but he gets whacked around by the thing pretty badly. Each time Sensei simply states “Fail”. Geez man, that kind of negativity is no way to teach! Try some positive reinforcement! After several tries Kai is obviously getting better at not getting beaten up by various pieces of training equipment, but he’s still failing. The next day Kai finally does what the more genera savvy of us have been yelling at him to do from the beginning. He knocks the teacup out of Sensei’s hand by throwing his wooden sword. Now that Kai’s finally finished the course, all Sensei gives is an indignant “hmph!”
Kai asks if he can finally learn some spinjitzu, but Sensei says he already has, and that the final test is tomorrow.
Being cryptic all the time doesn’t make you look wise, man, it just makes you look like a bigger jerk.
That night we see three ninja clad in black sneak into the monastery and jump Kai while he’s brushing his teeth. He has the bright idea to distract them by shoving his toothbrush in the mouth of one, then jumps up into the rafters. This only works for a little while, and one of them knocks him through the roof and into the courtyard. Kai turns on the training equipment to try and trip them up, but they still get into one enormous dog-pile before Sensei comes out yelling “Stop!”
“Yes Sensei.” The three ninja respond, bowing.
Turns out these three are Sensei’s other students, and our three other main characters. Let’s see their introduction:
Ninja 1: Whoa-whoa-whoa! You never said anything about a fourth. It’s always three! Three blind mice, three musketeers…
Me: There are four weapons idiot. –Sigh– Believe it or not, this guy turns out to be my favorite character. He gets better, I swear.
Ninja 2: What he means, Sensei Wu, is that the three of us have trained together. We’re solid!
Kai: Tch, didn’t look solid to me.
Ninja 3: Master, what is the meaning of this?
Well, now that he’s got all of them in one place, Sensei gives them all spiffy new uniforms, and we finally learn our new characters’ names and their elemental alignment. Kai is the red ninja, he gets fire (obviously, main character always gets fire). Jay, the blue ninja and the one talking about the three musketeers before, is lightning. Cole, the black ninja and the one who commented on already having a solid team, is earth. Zane, the white ninja who tends to take things a little too seriously, is ice.
I want to save a full character analysis for the end, so for now I’ll just give a quick run-down. Kai’s the brash new-guy and Jay is the goofy jabber-mouth. Cole is the team leader, and brags that he’s not afraid of anything in this whole world. Except, Zane points out, dragons.
Cole: Dragons aren’t from this world Zane. I said in this world.
Zane’s… it’s hard to explain Zane. Sensei says he has a sixth sense, which in this pilot means he has the annoying habit of saying “I sense” before most sentences. He also has no sense of humor.
Jay: He’s making a joke Zane! Remember, we talked about this, your sense of humor?
Zane: Yes, it was a joke. Ha-ha.
Me: … I swear he’s not normally this creepy.
These four are the Chosen Ones©, and it’s their job to protect the four weapons from Lord Garmadon.
Kai: But what about my sister?
Jay: We’re saving a girl!? Is she hot?
Jay: I-I just wanna know what we’re getting ourselves into! Does she like blue?
Kai: Back off.
Me: Yup, this team’s off to a fine start.
Sensei assures Kai that Nya will turn up in their search for the golden weapons. They head out for the location of the Scythe of Quakes: the Caves of Despair. And how do they get there? Human Taxi!
They find the skeletons have already arrived and are excavating the cave in their search. Cole starts formulating a plan, but Kai’s too impatient for silly things like that. Well, I guess you guys will just have to follow his lead.
So our heroes sneak about the excavation, the other three keeping Kai from getting caught at least once before they reach Samuki’s tower and spy on him. Turns out the idiot has the map upside-down and is digging in the wrong spot. The ninja swipe the map using a shiruken on a line. While they don’t technically need it, it still wouldn’t be a smart idea to leave the map with the army of undead.
This whole time Kai is having trouble with the whole “team player” thing. He keeps rushing ahead of the others. Cole tries to confront him about it, but he’s just all ‘Whatever.’
They finally find the real location of the scythe, and my, that pedestal looks awfully jaw-like.
Jay, unfortunately, forgets this is a stealth mission.
Jay: Whoa-ho! That is so cool! –‘Cool’ echos through entire excavation site–
And what’s more, as they leave the chamber we see the jaws twitch.
The guys are actually surprised to find Samuki waiting for them outside the chamber, but they jump right into the fight. Jay in particular notices that battling is just like the training course, and as he goes through the motions he starts doing spinjitzu. The other catch on quick, and with their new-found powers, they easily force the skeletons into retreat.
Cole is celebrating by making manly muscle poses when he turns and sees the jaws from earlier… attached to a great big earth dragon.
Zane: Didn’t Sensei say there was a guardian protecting the weapons?
The thing breaths a sand-blast at our heroes as they run in terror. They get cornered, so Kai gets the brilliant idea to use the weapon they just recovered. Jay warns him that Sensei said using the golden weapons is a big no-no, to which Kai replies ‘You better not tattle then.’
Kai uses the scythe, forming a fissure in the roof and starting a cave-in. Luckily Cole thinks to use their spinjitzu to get up to the fissure and escape.
Sensei ain’t too pleased with the four when they emerge from the caverns, what with Kai using the scythe an all. Kai protests that it was his only option, but Sensei says ‘You shouldn’t put yourself before the team.’
Uh, what? Kai using the scythe kinda saved the team. How is that putting himself first, exactly? Sensei’s a jerk in the pilot.
Kai goes to his old fall-back: yelling angrily that the skeletons kidnapped his sister. Sensei tells him to just do it right next time.
Y’know what? Kai and Sensei are both jerks in the pilot. I swear they get better in the series.
We cut to Samuki standing at some kind of alter in his HQ, fidgeting nervously. And for good reason. He’s speaking with Lord Garmadon, apologizing for losing the scythe and failing to kill the ninja before they learned spinjitzu. We don’t see Lord Garmadon, but we do hear him. It’s a deep, foreboding voice. Major props to Mark Oliver, he does a great job with the role.
Lord Garmadon: Good. Then my brother was there.
Samuki: If I gather my army, we can easily ambush them and—
Lord Garmadon: No. Let them think they’re winning.
Samuki: Uh, I do not understand.
Lord Garmadon: Everything is going as planned. –Short evil chuckle-
And on that happy note, we end part one.
We pick up in part two of the pilot, King of Shadows, with our heroes sailing through some ice cliffs.
Jay: I spy something… white.
Cole: Could you be quiet for once? This ain’t easy. –Crash–
Jay: Huh. I spy something… broken.
Me: There’s no reason for me to include this, I just thought it was funny.
Sensei tells his students about the most powerful spinjitzu move ever, the tornado of creation, which is accomplished by combining all their powers. (Ok, cool, but if a blue-skinned, green-haired ecopreacher comes out of it, I’m leaving) As the name implies, the tornado of creation has the power to make something out of nothing. However, Sensei warns them, if you do it wrong the results will be disastrous.
After that little speech the party arrives at the location of the shiruken of ice. (I’m sure the place has a name, but the show doesn’t mention it) Several frozen skeletons are littered about the place, which is good because it means the dragon is doing its job, but bad because the dragon will probably be doing its job with them next.
Interestingly, the shiruken just kinda float there. The other three lift Zane up to reach them, and he freezes on contact. Also the dragon wakes up. Luckily they can ride Zane’s ice-encased body like a sled back down to the boat, easily out-speeding the dragon, which gets caught behind some ice pillars. Plus, since this is a cartoon, Zane’s just fine when they crash into a wall at the bottom of the hill. His little “ow” is both adorable and hilarious.
My, that was a lot easier than last time.
The next weapon, the nunchucks of lightning, are easier still. We see the guys climb up to the weapon while being chased by the skeletons, grab the nunchucks, see the dragon, and then escape on gliders. Huh. I guess the key to this kind of thing is to get in and out fast.
That night our heroes celebrate three-down-one-to-go with horrible dancing! Well, Jay and Kai dance horribly, Cole plays the bongos and Zane just stands there bobbing his head to the beat. Sensei is being his usual (for the pilot) grumpy-jerk self, grumbling that there is still one weapon left, but our two dancing fools talk him into taking a break and getting his groove on. So we get a little bit of team building and character development.
Sensei: Now this move is very special…
Zane: But if done incorrectly, will it lead to disastrous consequences?
Kai: Zane, is that a joke!? Your sense of humor, you found it!
That night everyone sleeps soundly… except Kai, who hears someone whispering his name. He wakes up and glances Nya.
Nya(?): I have to go.
Kai: Nya! Wait up!
Me: That sounds nothing like Nya!
Nya, if that’s who it really is, runs into some sort of fire temple (will there be Gorons there?) and Kai follows without bothering to wake up anybody else. I think we can all see where this is going.
“Nya” turns into the giant shadowy form of Lord Garmadon. I gotta say, he looks pretty cool, even if he is a clear Darth Vader expy. And wouldn’t you know it, Kai forgot his sword. Kai insists that Lord Garmadon can’t hurt him because the dark lord is trapped in the underworld; this apparition is just a shadow. Probably to reassure himself more than anything else.
Lord Garmadon: And that is why you are going to remove the sword of fire for me.
Kai: I don’t think so!
Lord Garmadon: Are you sure?
So it looks like Kai’s gonna have to remove the sword to cut Nya down.
Nya: You know it’s a trap! I can –ugh– free my –uh– self! –Struggles– Ok, that’s tight.
Me: She may be a damsel in distress, but at least she’s a funny damsel in distress.
So Kai grabs the sword and cuts Nya down while Lord Garmadon just laughs.
Kai: You can’t hurt us! You’re only a shadow!
Lord Garmadon: Even shadows have their uses.
The evil lord proceeds to bring Kai’s shadow to life. Kai can’t hit it, but it sure can hit him. Nya calls hax and Lord Garmadon trolls them by creating even more shadow clones. Kai charges in and tries to fight them like an idiot. (Seriously, why did you think this would go differently from last time?) He gets pummeled, losing the sword.
Suddenly the shadow of Sensei Wu appears! Sensei himself is standing in front of a fire, casting said shadow, and laying the smack-down on the shadow clones. He then scares them off with a giant eagle… shadow… puppet…
… and reclaims the sword.
Lord Garmadon taunts his brother, asking who’s looking after the other three. We then cut to a sleeping Cole, who wakes to find himself surrounded by skeletons. Zane and Jay are already tied up and Samuki has the golden weapons.
Back at the fire temple, Sensei Wu, Kai, and Nya try to escape with the sword, but Lord Garmadon puts a stop to that plan by awakening the dragon who’s supposed to be guarding the sword.
The dragon knocks down some rocks, blocking the exit. Kai notes that they’re pretty much doomed, but Sensei’s got one more trick up his sleeve. Apparently there’s a portal to the underworld in the lava, or something, so he’s going to take the sword down there, basically banishing himself to the underworld like he did to Lord Garmadon.
Here’s where we get the supposed resolution for Kai’s conflict with Sensei Wu. Kai says it should be his sacrifice to make and apologizes for not listening and running off on his own, trying to do everything himself. Then Sensei falls over the edge into the underworld.
Me: Pft. –Snicker-
Yeah… not gonna lie, this part’s trite to the point of stupidity. It really sums up my whole problem with the pilot: it takes itself too seriously. By the time they get to the series the writers realize: Wait, this is all with LEGO… if we try anything too serious It’ll all be narm. Better do everything by rule of cool and rule of fun. They get away with more serious and dramatic stuff by the end of season two because by then they’ve built up the characters and their backstories enough for me to care, but here… it’s the beginning of the series. I don’t know these characters well enough, and this scene is too clichéd for me to really care. It doesn’t help that both Sensei and Kai have been huge jerks through the whole pilot.
So, once we’re done laughing at Kai, Lord Garmadon’s shadow leaves to prepare for his brother’s arrival. This leaves Kai and Nya alone with the dragon.
Meanwhile, Cole, Jay, and Zane have been taken back to the skeleton’s camp. Samuki orders the army to move out to the fire temple, but Lord Garmadon’s shadow shows up and says ‘Nix that, bring the weapons back to the underworld so we can unite them.’ The skeletons leave our three heroes tied up and race away, but they made a critical mistake. They turned their backs on a ninja. Jay swiped one of the comic-relief henchmen’s sword and cuts the trio loose. Impressively, the guys manage to keep pace with the skeleton army’s motorbikes and monster truck, which are approaching 88 mph to cross into the underworld. Cole even manages to grapple a chain onto Samuki’s truck and slow it down.
Zane and Jay hop onto the truck and start knocking baddies off. While they’re all fighting, Cole accidentally catches Jay’s throat in the backswing with his scythe. This renders the poor guy speechless, which I guess is supposed to be funny since, hey, the jabber-mouth lost his voice, but I just keep thinking “Isn’t that a serious injury?”
Samuki takes the wheel and pulls a stunt to throw the ninja off his ride before he hits 88 mph.
So the baddies have gotten away and it looks like all is lost. To further cement this feeling we cut to Sensei waking up in the underworld. The skeleton army has just gotten back and are gathering together at Samuki’s fortress. Just another sign of impending doom.
Back to the overworld, Cole, Jay, and Zane are at the fire temple, hoping to find Kai and maybe even Sensei. Zane says he can sense that they were here with the sword of fire, but now all he can sense is loss. (Well, aren’t you a bright little ray of sunshine?) It’s at this point they realize they are well and truly doomed… until they hear Kai’s voice.
Kai: We may not be able to cross over, –The fire temple opens up- But a dragon can! –Kai and Nya are riding on the fire dragon–
Cole is understandably freaked out, but Kai says the dragon became friendly once it realized they were trying to protect the sword of fire.
Ok, question. How did you convey that? Because I’m pretty sure that was the intention of you guys collecting the weapons in the first place, but you still got attacked by each of the dragons. Did you just tell it ‘Wait, we’re on your side!’ or did you have a moment with it like Toothless and Hiccup in How to Train Your Dragon? Because that would have been nice to know before.
Anyway, Jay sees Nya and tries to flirt with her, but since he’s lost his voice, Zane has to translate. He does manage a ‘Yesssss!’ when she says blue is her favorite color.
Kai tells Nya she’s going to have to stay behind, and she replies she’ll keep a candle lit for him (Aw!). Cole volunteers to stay back with her. After all, there’s not enough room for four people on that –gulp– dragon. Kai smirks and says he has a solution.
Cut to a very terrified Cole clinging to the back of the earth dragon. Jay and Zane have also retrieved their own elemental dragons and are having a much better time of it. This is especially funny considering that by the time the series rolls around the guys are keeping the dragons as pets and Cole babies his like a dog.
The dragons cross over to the underworld via spinning dive-bomb, followed by flying through narrow tunnels that become some sort of portal. Once in the underworld they find Samuki’s fortress. Judging by the number of guards swarming the place, the ninja are definitely expected. They try to go over the gate by jumping from one stalactite to the other, which is actually a pretty clever idea. At least until one of the stalactites turns out to be a giant spider leg.
Jay is the first one to encounter it, so we get to watch him try and tell the others.
Cole: Can I be the first to say it’s been an absolute pleasure since Jay lost his voice?
Me: You jerk, you seriously injured the poor guy!
They finally all notice that they’re about to become spider food and drop to the floor. Obviously this brings the attention of the skeleton army. The guys are confident they’ll be able to take the guards… until the spiders from before join the enemy ranks.
We leave that tense scene to see Sensei sneaking around the underworld, apparently looking for something. (Maybe a place to hide?) Well, whatever it was, he finds his brother. Rather than fight himself, Lord Garmadon orders some skeletons to take the sword of fire, but Sensei knocks them over like bowling pins, complete with sound effect. Samuki is his next opponent, and the skeleton general has the three other weapons. They start to fight while the Dark Lord just sits there watching.
Back with the ninja, Jay apparently has an idea, but can’t spit it out because of his lost voice. Everyone makes really stupid guesses at what he’s saying until he gets so fed up that he screams through his voice loss… somehow… and shouts “Tornado of Creation!” (Wish I could get over losing my voice like that)
So, the guys combine their powers to create a huge glowing vortex that sucks in all the surrounding baddies and most of Samuki’s fortress. When they stop, we see that they’ve created… a giant Ferris Wheel.
With the guards taken care of, the guys descend into the catacombs of the fortress where they find Sensei and Samuki having it out. Cole, Jay, and Zane move to help him, but Kai stops them.
Kai: No. This is Sensei’s fight.
Me: No, don’t try and help the clearly disadvantaged three-to-one old man in a battle for incredibly powerful weapons that could end the world as we know it. This is his fight.
I mean, I could sort of understand if it were Sensei Wu VS Lord Garmadon, since they’re brothers and all, but this? This is the undead general of the underworld. How exactly is it Sensei’s fight? If anything, Kai has a bigger stake in this fight; Samuki’s the one who kidnapped Nya!
Unsurprisingly, Samuki gains the upper hand and beats Sensei. Also unsurprisingly, he decides to keep the four golden weapons for himself. But Lord Garmadon is no idiot. He’s a clever one. He knew Samuki would try and take all four weapons for himself. In fact, that was the plan all along.
Sensei: No one can handle all their power at once!
Samuki’s arms start flailing about of their own accord, and look like they’re about to pop right off. (Well he is a LEGO skeleton)
Lord Garmadon: Not even I can handle all of their power. But now that they are combined, they will create a vortex through space and time, allowing me to finally escape this ghastly place!
Samuki finally just… sort of poofs into nothing I guess, and the vortex appears.
And suddenly Sensei’s voice gets really weird in this bit, like he’s speaking baby talk or something.
Sensei: Fathah wouwd not want you to do this brothah!
Lord Garmadon: Father is no longer here.
Mark Oliver, thank you for carrying that short scene. Heaven knows it needed it. (Seriously, what the heck voice director Micheal Donovan and Sensei’s VA Paul Dobson, how was that your best read?)
Lord Garmadon gives a short speech about upsetting the balance of good and evil, becoming strong enough to poses all the golden weapons, recreating the world in his image, and yada yada evil stuff. Then he jumps into the portal.
Sensei’s voice continues to be really different as he says that’s not the last we’ve seen of Lord Garmadon. The guys collect the golden weapons, one each, and say they’ll be ready when he shows up again.
Cut to the sun rising over the blacksmith shop from the beginning of part one. Nya is sitting at the window with a guttering candle when she hears wing beats. Sure enough, Kai and the others have returned on their dragons.
Nya: Kai! –Hugs–
Jay: My turn!
Nya giggles and gives him a hug too. Kai just rolls his eyes, which I’m glad of, because we have enough “Stay away from my sister” plots out there.
It’s a happy ending all around.
So what do I think of this pilot? Eh… it’s got its ups and downs, but for the most part I’d say it’s actually worse than the majority of the series. It’s not a great introduction to most of our characters, as most of them haven’t grown into their character yet. Kai and Sensei seem downright out-of-character compared to the rest of the series. The skeleton army and Samuki aren’t very interesting villains, and when they try to be funny they’re just annoying. It doesn’t help that there are a few plot-holes, like why the dragons are suddenly friendly.
There are some good points though. The voice acting is all excellent, bar Sensei Wu’s baby-talk near the end. Lord Garmadon is a suitably menacing and intelligent Big Bad, even if he does have a rather clichéd back story. (Don’t worry, it gets more interesting as they flesh it out) The music is great at setting the atmosphere.
Still, all-in-all, it’s not a great introduction to the series. Which brings me to my rating system!
Bad: Not enjoyable or in any way a good representation of the rest of the series.
Below Average: Not a good representation of the rest of the series.
Average: A fair representation of the rest of the series.
Above Average: A fair representation of the rest of the series along with good character development or plot elements.
Great: A fair representation of the rest of the series along with good character development and plot elements and atmosphere.
Over-all Episode Quality: Below Average
Character Corner: At the end of each review I’d like to take a closer look at a character who was important in the episode. Since this is the pilot, I figure now is as good a time as any to take a look at our four main characters.
Kai (VA Vincent Tong) : His personality fits his fire element pretty well. He’s impatient, got a bit of a temper, and is also a bit of a jerk. (At least in the pilot. It’s much less prevalent in the series) He cares a lot about his sister though, and puts his all into his training when he learns it’s his best chance of saving her. This all-or-nothing attitude and dead-set determination will be his greatest strength and weakness.
Jay (Michael Adamthwaite) : He’s the goofy jabber-mouth character who uses nunchucks…
… and the team’s tech guy who has a crush on the fifth girl teammate.
As the lightning elemental, he’s also the fastest. Outside of electronics he’s kind of an idiot, but he becomes my favorite character. It’s not hard to see why, he’s a composite of my two favorite Ninja Turtles!
Cole (VA Kirby Morrow) : He’s the team leader; the grounded (pardon my pun) one who holds the team together when everyone else is getting out of control. He’s the most physically strong on the team, but he’s also kind of lazy. Sadly, he probably gets the least character development throughout the series.
Zane (VA Brent Miller) : What can I say about Zane at this point? At first glance he fits the ice element pretty well. He’s serious and reserved. He’s also the wisest and most technically skilled on the team. Thankfully they drop the “I sense…” thing for the most part in the series. He still has the sixth sense, they’re just much less overt about it. Zane becomes the most popular character for reasons we’ll see in future episodes.