Donatello is a geek. No bones about it, he’s a geek, nerd, dork, whatever word you want to use, it ultimately describes Donnie. In every version of the turtles Donatello is defined by his brilliant mind and his ability to whip up a technological masterpiece in the span of a microsecond. The line, “Donatello does machines” from the theme to the ’87 cartoon, however, has become far more infamous over the years as adult turtles fans turn just about every line into innuendo – whether it’s funny or not. Twenty-five years later and the 2012 Donnie is still a brilliant mind, but his greatest asset to the team can also be a hindrance. His singular focus on advanced technology and upgrades prevents him from seeing that ingenuity, adaptability, and a wooden stick can be more effective tools than a really sweet robot ninja avatar.
The episode starts out mid battle between the turtles and a group of Kraang. Though Leo, Raph, and Mikey seem to be holding their own, Donnie’s in a bit of a pickle when his bo staff proves to be ineffective going up against advanced robotics and alien technology. And when the Kraang pull out a laser cannon that can only be described by Keanu Reeves, the guys are saved by Leo’s quick thinking and a lucky shuriken. Donnie then decides to drag one of the robots home to better understand and utilize the Kraang tech and, with the blessing of Master Splinter, upgrade his weapon. Donnie’s version of an upgraded bo? A robotic turtle carrying an arsenal Mikey christens Metalhead (because he got a head and it’s…yeah, we get it, Mikey). April, not to be out-smarted, gets some intel on a warehouse that might get her closer to finding her father. Spying on a group of Kraang, she learns that the aliens are planning to contaminate the city’s water supply with unstable mutagen. The turtles face the Kraang once again, but Donnie finds that his new weapon is just as dangerous as the enemy.
Though this is essentially Donnie’s spotlight episode, I like how the show’s creators keep that spotlight squarely on Donnie’s need to be an effective member of the team. The cornerstone of this episode is Donnie’s staff, a weapon that seems inferior compared to katana, sai, and even nunchaku. The weapons of the turtles are as well known as their personalities and I applaud the creators for addressing Donnie’s bo and making a case for its purpose as a weapon that is only as effective as the one who wields it. Though a wooden staff breaks (twice in this episode) that doesn’t make Donnie any less of a ninja or a capable fighter. Donnie may be the smart one, but those smarts don’t just apply to machinery and technology. This does pose the question as to how the turtles ended up with their distinctive weaponry. Did they choose or did Splinter assign them a weapon? Now that would be an episode worth watching.
Also worth noting is the presence of April for more than a scene! Yes, yes, I know the show is mostly about the turtles, but April is an essential character as well. Other than being the turtles’ only human friend, she’s also an assertive young lady that pushes along the on-going plot of the Kraang’s activities and her missing father. Like her ’87 counterpart, April isn’t afraid to go after a lead. Unlike her ’87 counterpart, when April O’Neil gets into trouble April O’Neil takes care of her damn self! The pilot may have shown April as a damsel in distress by circumstance, but “Metalhead” makes sure you know that April has no intentions of waiting around to be rescued.
Speaking of robotic turtles with heads made of metal, let’s talk about the titular Metalhead. As far as I know, he was a one-off character from the original series constructed by Kraang but then reprogrammed by Donatello. It’s a nice little reversal of origin to have Donatello create Metalhead from the Kraang tech only to have him be reprogrammed by the Kraang to fight the turtles. TMNT gets a gold star on their homework for that one! I wouldn’t say he’s a character as much as he’s a prop. Donnie uses him and then the Kraang use him, but that’s the point. He isn’t meant to be anything more than an eventual obstacle, but a formidable obstacle nonetheless.
- Leo says the turtles can’t go with April to the warehouse because it’s day time and they’ll be seen. Is it just me or did it look plenty dark when April started snooping around? Bad call, Leo.
- Also, didn’t Donnie have a blade extension on his bo in a previous episodes? I’m prety sure he did.
- Like all teenagers, Donnie instantly believes Splinter won’t let him do something, so of course he’s surprised when Splinter let’s him do what he wants
- Raph’s victory dance
- April O’Neil: badass!
- The continuing adventures of Captain Ryan on Space Heroes! Now I just want the creators to make a whole episode within an episode.
- “Take me to your leader.” “Leo, it’s for you.” – Mikey’s delivery is fantastic
- “Gentleman…and Raphael.” – burn goes to Donnie!
- Donnie just can’t win when it comes to April
- How does Donnie operate Metalhead? With an old Nintendo NES controller!
- “Hey, Kraang! The one that is called your mother wears the boots that are made for combat!” – burn for the win, Donnie!
- Splinter’s talk with Donnie at the end. Awwww. And, ahhh! Run for your lives!