TMNT – “The Frankenstein Experiment” Review
The Halloween themed jaunt through time continues as the Turtles and Renet hit 1800s Germany to visit Frankenstein’s Castle. “The Frankenstein Experiment,” while not being bad, doesn’t live up to the pedigree the show has created for itself. It’s not nearly as fun as the previous episodes in the monster arc and plays out pretty much exactly how you think it would. The Turtles don’t seem to learn anything from the previous adventures in this Tale, and it follows the structures of those episodes pretty closely.
The basic summary of the episode is as follows: The Turtles and Renet travel through time. They encounter a main character from the Universal Monsters catalog. They inadvertently help Savanti Romero recruit the targeted monster. A fight ensues, Savanti and his crew escape and travel forward through time, leaving the Turtles to play catch up. Sound familiar? It should. It’s exactly what happened last episode. Except it makes no sense this time. This is the third time the Turtles have messed up and helped Romero get the monster he was looking for. In all three time periods Romero got to where they were going first, tricked the Turtles into helping recruit the monster, and subsequently escaped with said monster. You would think they’d catch on to his game by now. You would be wrong.
This time, the Turtles travel to Dr. Frankenstein’s Castle. Of course, Savanti has already been here, and used Dracula to brainwash the good doctor. So, no matter what the Turtles do, they are walking right into a trap. Considering the whole mission was to stop Savanti from recruiting monsters, you’d think they’d stop the creation of Frankenstein’s Monster, since they arrived before the experiment was done. No, instead they decide to help him complete the experiment, with Donnie bonding with the doctor along the way.
There’s a subplot here of using Dr. Frankenstein’s synthetic blood to cure Raph of his vampirism. They don’t actually explain how this would help, just that Donnie could have used it. This was probably done to give a reason for Donnie to help Dr. Frankenstein, hoping to get a sample of the blood in return for his work. But it’s at best implied. It’s never fully explained, it feels sort of like a deus ex machina, and it’s ultimately never used, because the castle lab explodes. It feels like wasted time.
Speaking of Raph though, despite the time jumping and being ahead of the Turtles, he still hasn’t become a full fledged vampire. Dracula has only let him feed on rats and spiders (which is sort of sick if you consider Splinter), which apparently won’t turn you fully. Again, we’re not told why this is the case. We’re not told why Dracula won’t let him pick off a random stranger. It’s not even really in Dracula’s best interest to prevent Raph from fully turning. It’s definitely just to show the audience that Raph can be saved, but it takes all the stakes out of the episode. I don’t care that Raph is a vampire, because I know he will not be at the end of this tale.
Finally, we come to Frankenstein’s Monster. Again, this plays out exactly as you’d expect. If you have ever seen a take on Frankenstein, you know exactly how it will play out. Against better judgement, the doctor creates a living being. The doctor is immediately repulsed by his creation, because he brought a random pile of body parts to life. The “monster” is scared, lonely, and misunderstood, and goes on a rampage in response. There is a unique aspect of compassion here, as Mikey immediately calls out the doctor, scolding him for calling Frank (as Mikey names him) ugly. Frankenstein from then on embraces Frank, but due to fire, lighting, and a collection of mutants and monsters fighting each other it’s a little too late. Just as it seems they will reach Frank, the lab explodes, separating the two.
While this is happening, Renet uses Frankenstein’s lightning rig to charge her scepter, and Raph attacks Donnie. This seemed a little weird too. Raph was all about Mikey last episode, but now only wanted Donnie. It seemed kind of arbitrary. Last episode it felt like the writers were making a statement about who Raph wanted to turn the most. Now, he just seems mindless, offering a “benefit” that even the Turtles call into question.
At the end of this whole adventure, the Turtles are in the exact same position they were when the Tale started. Romero and his monster army are traveling to present day New York, and the Turtles have nothing to show for it. They didn’t stop Romero in the past and they didn’t find any weapons or new strategy either. My guess is that either they will bring Esmerelda and Frankenstein to the present day to help them through some old school magic and science, or they’ll appeal to the humanity of Frank, who will turn on the other monsters and Romero, evening the odds a little bit.
All told, “The Frankenstein Experiment” was a by the numbers rendition of Frankenstein. The episode as a whole felt a little weak, since the overall story was too predictable, and the interesting side stories didn’t really make sense or pay off. The tale has come full circle a little prematurely, and because of this, question the need for a full four episode arc. It probably would have thrown off the pacing of the last episode, but I wonder if they could have incorporated Frankenstein’s story there, getting us back to present day a little quicker.