Two Donnie episodes in row? Interesting. I guess my intro to the previous episode was a bit wasted in that this week’s episode does address Donnie’s qualities as a genius more than last week where his weapon of choice was the main plot point. I guess it does make sense, though, given that Donnie is quite the anomaly as a ninja. He’s a skilled fighter, of that there is no doubt, but being known as the “smart one” amongst a group of warriors barely scratches the surface. Donatello is a genius and, because he’s a genius, he tends to over-think every given situation so that he’ll always be prepared. But in his extensive preparation, he neglects to take into account his opponent. Fights rarely follow the rules of engagement, which the episode’s teaser demonstrates beautifully during a sparring match between Donnie and Mikey. If Donnie and Raph are diametrically opposed personality-wise, then Donnie and Mikey are on opposite sides of the spectrum when it comes to fighting. Donnie over-thinks, Mikey doesn’t think at all. Or rather, Mikey doesn’t bother with adhering to a set list of maneuvers. He goes with the flow. He adapts in the spur of the moment. This is something Donnie just can’t comprehend.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. “Monkey Brain” is one of those episodes that starts one way and ends on a completely different note…but in a good way. Wanting to spend more time with April, Donnie helps her track down yet another lead on the Kraang when Dr. Rockwell, a well-known scientist, is reported missing by his colleague, Dr. Falco. Scoping out Rockwell and Falco’s lab, they find a horrific dentist chair-like contraption and learn from Falco, after he catches them in the lab, that Rockwell was experimenting on a monkey with the mutagen provided by The Kraang. Believing the monkey to have gone berserk and escaped, April and Donnie are confronted by the larger-than-normal size monkey on their way back to the lair. After Donnie gets his butt whooped by a creature that acts on instinct (see where this might be going?), April manages to keep the creature at bay. Looking over Rockwell’s lab notes, April discovers that the scientist was using the mutagen to try to create psychic abilities in human beings and the monkey is psychically in tune with the emotions of others, hence it attacking Donnie and not April. As a team, the turtles take to the streets to track the monkey down. When they find him, however, the episode takes a yet another turn plot-wise as April discovers that the monkey is, in fact, Dr. Rockwell.
There’s so much more going on that recapping it would take up most of this review. But I’ll let you in on a little secret. Dr. Falco is voiced by Jeffrey Combs. That should be enough right there, but suffice it to say that Falco isn’t exactly the good guy in this episode. Falco’s part in this plot is a great misdirect and once he comes into his mutagen-enhanced psychic abilities, he becomes a formidable opponent for the turtles. He knows exactly what they’re going to do before they do it. The visualization of this ability is absolutely stunning. Falco sees the on-coming maneuvers like astral projections of the turtles’ thoughts and easily avoids their attacks. Even Mikey, confident in his ability to not think, does himself in by thinking about not thinking. That just leaves Donnie to deal with the bad guy and his fight with Falco is magnificent.
The episode, however, cleverly advances April’s character development and storyline. It makes sense that April is only now becoming a prominent character as the first six episodes really needed to establish the turtles, Splinter, and do some world-building before focusing on another lead character (at least I hope she becomes more of a lead). It is worth pointing out that, in the preceding episodes, April has been doing most of the leg work when it comes to finding out information about The Kraang and missing scientists around New York, so kudos to Miss O’Neil for having the initiative to do so despite the guys vowing to help her search for her father. When Splinter asks her how she knew the monkey was Dr. Rockwell, April says she just “had a feeling” it was him. Believing her to be gifted with a sort of “sixth sense” that took Splinter years to perfect, the turtles’ sensei offers to train April as a kunoichi, a female ninja. Of course April’s on board. Why wouldn’t she be?
- Donnie’s Master Plan to hang out with April is very reminiscent of Sheldon’s flow chart of friendship on Big Bang Theory
- What’s on the other side of the Master Plan, you might ask? A poster for Space Heroes III: The Resurrection of Mindstrong. Clever cartoon.
- Donnie accounts for everything on his flow chart. Everything.
- “Careful, Donnie, that’s a dangerous mutant!” “That makes two of us!”
- Leo knows a lot of monkey puns!
- Splinter is the best at making examples of his sons.
- Finally, Donnie invented the turtle communicator (OG style!), now called the T-phone. Even comes with its own classic turtle theme ring tone!
- Mikey faces the ultimate gamer’s dilemma: must eat pizza, but can’t stop playing
- Falco harvesting the psychic neuro-chemical from Rockwell is about as horrific as the show has dared to go. Beautiful!
- Nice to know that the monologuing villain trope never really goes away
- I think Donnie unlocked his special ability in the fight with Falco
- Is training as a ninja more spiritually draining than high school? That’s a tough one.