And as such, everyone more or less seems to be adding his or her contribution to this iconic holiday with Top-10 lists or other such things. Feeling the need to contribute, I'll be showing you guys a list I put together a while back.
For anyone who actually watched the ’03 Ninja Turtles show, we all know one of it’s unique markers was how dark it was compared to most shows on at the time. But sometimes… thing got a little… too dark. Its sometimes baffles me just how much dark and foreboding material got past the censors, but nevertheless, if you’re someone who just can’t get enough of serious cartoon-overtones, than this is the show for you; and here are the top 10 Darkest Episodes of that series:
(NOTE: These are my opinions and strictly that. You gotta' problem; write your own list!)
10. Good Genes [Ep. 102-103, se. 4]
Plot: Donatello’s infection worsens and he mutates into a monster.
What makes it dark? Consider that one of the turtles’ own becomes a savage beast, and the one that mutates is the only one who may have known how to reverse the effects. This comes as a crushing blow to the gang and hard choices have to be made, including making a deal with Agent Bishop [we’ll learn later on why this was such a hard decision] to find a cure for the mutation. In one scene Mikey tries giving Donny food, and Don tries to kill Mikey. In another, Leo is forced to use a dart blaster loaded with Elephant Tranqs to stabilize Donny and keep Bishop from killing him. This is pretty deep stuff. But this two-episode story arc is not without some residual weirdness; after having nearly died [we’ll get to that later] Baxter Stockman is revived by Bishop, but now with only half of his body mass, no skin, barely any flesh, no face, jaw or even skull, only one eye, and a few stray nerves hanging loose throughout his body; the sight of this is so horrible that even Stockman screams in horror. Of course, all turns out well in the end for the fab foursome, but there is a cliffhanger that would hang over them all until season 5.
9. Trouble with Augie [Ep. 96, se. 4]
Plot: Donatello and April use the talisman-travel-device-thingy to find April’s long lost uncle, Augustus O’Neil.
What makes it dark? The main villains of this episode are brutish but intelligent lizard-like people that kind of resemble Leatherhead. They claim to be peaceful explorers, although something tells us right away that that’s a lie, and there were also people before the lizards who aren’t around anymore, also no surprise. But what’s earned this episode a spot on the list is the scene in which a suspicious Donatello sneaks off and discovers the truth; that the first people were eaten by the lizards. Ok, so we could see that coming, but what really makes this shocking is the HUGE pile of bones that first tips Donny off, and the hologram recordings he sees after confirm what we could already guess. This episode is dark because little is left to the imagination as to how the first people were finished off, all we’re left to imagine is how the lizards-eating-them scene unfolded, and that’s a pretty gruesome scene. They do manage to thwart the lizards by leading them into a bug-infested world and then trapping them there to be eaten themselves by the bugs. And of course, we never see the lizards again, so you can imagine the end result… every gruesome detail of it. What makes this episode so dark is how the writers used the episode’s predictability to shock us with such obvious gruesomeness.
8. Notes from the Underground [Ep. 13-15, se. 1]
Plot: a 3-episode story arc where the turtle go deep below the earth's surface to investigate the monsters stalking the sewers.
What makes it dark? Well, first off, it a story completely about a team of explorers [The Turtles] investigating shadowy monsters that live in the dark caverns below. That’s enough material for a whole monster movie in itself. Secondly, we learn that the monsters were once normal people kidnapped and mutated by the Foot Clan, and that they broke out of the lab, killed the technicians, and all that’s left are roars in the shadows and a dark, broken genetics lab; and then part-1 ends on a cliffhanger as the monsters find them. These monsters still retain some of their human nature, but the others have been lost to their inner beast and now hunt the three that befriend the turtles, who had been forced to break their only form of protection against the wild beasts. To help them, they have to go even deeper into what’s described basically as a place even the monsters are afraid to go; an ancient city filled with shadows. After some mysterious phantom-like entity kidnaps all the monsters and turtles (except Mikey) we learn the entity is from a near-dead race and has this crazy plan to rebuild with the captured prisoners. The whole three episodes are pretty tense and creepy, and there’s a very creepy, almost dreamlike air to the three-parter that brings forth a haunted feel to add to the monster movie horror (helped by Mikey’s nightmare sequence). But for me the crowning of darkness belongs to Part-1; in the entry logs from the Foot lab state that “Master Shredder believes his enemies have taken refuge Underground”, for any who weren’t clued in by previous episodes about the Shredder’s enemies (later revealed to be the Utroms) we believe the Turtles are the enemies spoken of. So, with that in mind, that means that the turtles are responsible for innocent people being pulled out of their own lives and permanently mutated into mindless monsters, monsters that later go totally berserk and become bloodthirsty killers. what’s more, the Turtles didn’t know about the utroms until later on, which means that they likely also believed this happened because of them (even if they never said it, I’m sure at least some of them were thinking it) Episodes of the classic series had been done to suggest the world was in turmoil because the Shredder was always trying to kill the turtles, but this one really sets the tone of that theory by suggesting they’re responsible for peoples’ lives being destroyed. Even if later proved untrue, this is still pretty heavy stuff, all neatly wrapped in a very memorable three-parter.
7. Dragon’s Brew [Ep. 82, se. 4]
Plot: Casey Jones and Leonardo go out for a night of Purple Dragon bashin’ and encounter a creature unlike any they’ve faced so far.
What makes it dark? The monster and therefore main villain of the episode [known only by his serial number, T9581] is another victim of genetics testing, but unlike the guys in Notes From The Underground, we actually get a glimpse into the creature’s pre-monster life; that he was a Navy officer and is married with an eight-year-old kid, a kid who –alongside the man’s wife, misses his dad and is thinking he’s dead. All right, so that’s sad, but not necessarily dark, and we’ve already gone through the monster bit in NFTU, but what sets this episode apart from the others is a five-minute sequence in which Hun blows the living snot out of the monster with a friggin’ huge Gattling gun, unloading close to a thousand rounds on it, and while Casey and Leo battle Hun, the monster retreats and his torso actually falls off his lower torso; so for ten seconds he’s sitting there in two pieces (Gross!) moaning and feeling sorry for himself. Then, all of the sudden the legs start moving and the innards from the pelvis snake out and reattach to the monster. So this thing is blown apart in a violent way, oozes everywhere as it falls apart, and then puts itself back together; that’s a pretty gruesome scene! We rarely see anything like it throughout the whole series, and to suddenly see it here was quite a surprise to me. I should mention that this episode is also dark because of Leo’s growing aggressions shown throughout season 4, and his sense of safety for that around him is gone, actually making him a bit scary in some moments. Anyway, the episode ends with T9581 having escaped into the river and is watching the city where he used to live. This story is never resolved and looking back, the sad ending will forever serve as a painful reminder that the monster can never –and will never, go back home.
6. Bad Day [Ep. 86, se. 4]
Plot: Bishop hunts the Turtles in a citywide chase with deadly results.
What makes it dark? The action stars with the Lair being flooded and Mikey’s kitten, Klunk, drowning in a whirlpool. That’s a pretty shocking way to speed things up, Klunk was just a kitten, no one had anything against him; and now he’s lost forever, flushed away like a dead goldfish. But we’re not here to talk just about Klunk, so lets move on; before the flood, Splinter seems to suffer from a heart attack when the water starts rising [and for anyone who’s read the original Mirage comics, you may remember a heart attack is what killed Splinter in the end] The gang is forced to the surface where Bishop exposes them to the world. Casey and April show up just in time to save them from a mob, but realize the shell-cells are giving them away. So they decide to lead Bishop’s goons away from Casey and April, but then April’s van is blown up; with her and Casey still inside! Casey and April are now dead! Devastated, the turtles are barely able to move on when they are ambushed again by Bishop, who somehow has every villain the turtles have faced along with him, including the Shredder, returned from the grave yet again! Shredder attacks the turtles and supposedly kills them, leaving only Splinter. Of course, we learn that it was all an illusion from the Foot Mystics and none of it really happened. But still, we see three characters die, and we don’t learn that they really didn’t until the end of the episode, had all this really happened, it would have been a serious turning point for the series and the end result may have just been the following entry:
5. Same As It Never Was [Ep. 73, se. 3]
Plot: Donatello and the others are attacked by the Ultimate Ninja/Drako hybrid and Donny is sent to a parallel future in which the Shredder has dominated the Earth and beyond for thirty years.
What makes it dark? You’re kidding, right? If you’ve already seen this episode, then you know that question is rhetorical, but I’ll go ahead and answer anyway; the world Donny is thrown into is broken, grey, and ruined, the Utroms have been conquered and enslaved as well as Earth and the Humans now live a sort of global Nazi-Ghetto where they’re worker slaves with no freedom. The scene shown in the episode prologue may even remind you of ‘Big Brother’ from George Orwell’s ‘1984’ [oddly enough, that’s also the date Ninja Turtles was started]. But lets not stop there; as Donny arrives he is instantly swarmed by Foot Soldiers (not ninjas, mind you) and is then saved by a more aggressive one-armed Mikey (Donny asks what happened, but Mikey never tells us). Soon after we learn that Splinter sacrificed himself to save the turtles and is long dead; Leo and Raph had a huge blowout and aren’t with anyone anymore; Casey is dead; and we’re never actually told what happened to Donny, but the possibility that he’s also dead is open. There are some tense moments bringing the gang back together and a pretty dramatic entrance at the Shredder’s palace, but finally they just cap it off in a blood fest; Mikey, Leo, Raph, Baxter Stockman, Hun, Karai, and the Shredder, are all dead by the end of the episode, having pretty much slaughtered each other (Donny himself killed the Shredder literally obliterating him with the Tunneler’s laser drill) Only Donny and April are left, Donny on the verge of having a spas attack after watching his family get slaughtered. But then is pulled presumably out of this existence, leaving April alone amongst the corpses of her friends and enemies. Although victory is there’s; for once, it doesn’t feel like it, not even remotely. Everyone except April is now dead, and Donatello is gone, taken to who knows where, if he’s even anywhere at all –the episode itself never reveals where. This has been named Downright the Best Episode Ever by almost every fan-favorite list, mostly because its so dramatic and compelling. So why isn’t it at the top of this list? Well, you’ll see as we go on.
4. Bishop’s Gambit [Ep. 76, se. 3]
Plot: Bishop kidnaps Splinter and uses his genes to make alien-killing super-soldiers.
What makes it dark? If the episode description didn’t make things sound weird and dark enough [it earned a spot on the episode collection ‘Mutants and Monsters’], allow me to explain just how crazy Bishop acts in the episode as he plays Frankenstein with his clones. You heard that right; Clones; hundreds of Bishops, soon to be infused with super-warrior genes to mingle amongst society and kill the aliens also hidden amongst society. Ok, seems like your typical Government dude wanting to end the alien threat and going way overboard to do so, yeah, nothing we haven’t seen already in, like, what? Every other show, including this one? But where this one differs from all the others is when Splinter asks what if Bishop’s plan goes wrong and innocent people are caught in the crossfire; Bishop’s answer; “Not my concern. In fact, it would be better if half the world’s population just… Disappeared.” At this point we should know that not only is Bishop acting alone on this, but he plans to eliminate half the Human Race as well as the aliens; and he’s totally calm about it! This guy has flipped his lid and is using Splinter to carry out his plan. “A New Dawn of Human Civilization in the Age of Mankind!” [Or something like that] is what he screams as his creation comes to life in a blast of electricity all Frankensteinian-style. Now before you compare him with Frankenstein, let me do that for you; Frankenstein wasn’t crazy, just dumb; Bishop is crazy no doubt about it, mad, insane, wacko, a nut-job to the tenth power; I mean, its no wonder they found it so hard to ask for his help later on when Donatello mutated! One. Maniac. Freaky. Dude. The turtles rush in to save Splinter and are beset by the super-soldier, called ‘the Slayer’, who beats the living crud out of them before they put him into a stasis tube and go against Bishop. In the ensuing fight, Bishop falls into a sharp hook on a chain and a sickening, graphically evoking, skewering sound can be heard, the next sequence shows his limp form dangling fro the ceiling, motionless. Holy friggin’ cow! Did we just see a guy get skewered to death AND hung?! On a kid’s show?! There are five different places where that hook could have gotten him and would have killed him -sans the head, because we see him screaming in pain; but we never find out which spot it was! Later it turns out that he survived, but that’s not the point, the point is we heard a guy get skewered and we saw what we thought was him dead! Hanging! Like a dead fish! On a kid’s show! This is truly a memorable episode with a lot of dark themes like Playing God, Disappearance Conspiracy, Super-Soldiers, and Death, as well as Pure Insanity, and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forget the quite imposing tones of the episode.
3. The Darkness Within [Ep. 66, se. 3]
Plot: Angel’s brother goes after some treasure and is trapped by some unknown foe, and only the turtles can save him, but are they doomed just like him?
What makes it dark? Well, a good place to start is that this is episode 66, one six away from the Number of Ultimate Evil, a pretty fair if discrete warning. And then finally we get to the rest of the episode; Angel’s brother is being held captive by an unseen force of evil that has the power to animate the dead and make them attack the turtles. That’s right, for the first time in the series the turtles actually fight zombies! Then we learn that the evil is actually an alien not unlike the kind from an H. P. Lovecraft story –the guy created some pretty scary monsters, if you didn’t know. The only way to defeat it is to stab it with meteorite spear forged by an apache warrior (its actually less ridiculous when you watch the episode) The turtles try to kill it in it’s lair, but they’re captured and put into feeding pods, where each of them have separate nightmares; Raphael fights the Shredder only to realize its Raph himself in the Shredder’s armor; Donny tries to save Angel from falling to her death but fails; Mikey is faced against Leo who becomes a monster minion of the Creature; and Leo is faced with the nightmare of being unable to save Master Splinter from dying; there’s even a moment where we can actually see Leo’s sword run through Splinter’s chest! Leo does snap out of it and frees the others, but the creature attacks and then offers Leo the World; Leo actually almost accepts, but shakes it off and kills the creature instead. As the beast is destroyed, the old guy who helped the turtles out turns into a pile of dust. So the is, is this: they fight zombies; forced into their worst nightmares; Splinter is shishkabobbed by a ninjaken; Leo almost turns; and an old guy disintegrates. All. On. Screen. But if none of that were enough, then we have an unresolved cliffhanger as the beast proves not to be dead and having successfully tempted another soul! This episode is particularly dark and has a lot of dark blue scenery which contrasts the eerie red glow, creating a truly creepy effect, but what gets me the most about The Darkness Within is how much the monster is like the Devil; an invader from another realm come to bring all the world under it’s power by tempting them, but being nothing more than a hideous creature in reality. My favorite scene is when Leo is tempted and almost accepts, but fights the temptation back and attacks the tempter. Its a powerful moment for me as Leo symbolically resisted the Devil and shot him down. So that’s it; and episode smitten with Devil Symbolism and stuff that never made the Halloween episode; its very creepy and literally dark as heck, more like Courage the Cowardly Dog than TMNT.
2. I, Monster [Ep. 83, se. 4]
Plot: the turtles and Casey go to an abandoned steel plant for a game of Capture the Flag; only to be menaced by the Rat King!
What makes it dark? If you were paying attention to the last entry, ‘Bishop’s Gambit’, you’ll remember Bishop’s Slayer. Y’know, the cyborg super-soldier created for hunting down aliens and possibly knocking off half the world’s population as well? Well, this episode is the belated sequel to that episode, in which the Slayer returns, this time without his cyborg enhancements and now covered in bandages, and begins his revenge by picking off the turtles one by one. Though he doesn’t really know why, or remember his past life, he just knows someone’s in his territory and he wants them gone, not out, GONE, preferably the DEAD kind of gone. He starts with Mikey –who is on his own because he has the flag and can’t be caught, by strapping him to a table and leaving him alone to be eaten by the thousands of rats closing in on him. So there’s dark step #1, Mikey to be devoured by rats as the scene changes to the others. When they get there, the Slayer (although the turtles don’t recognize him) attacks them with the ferocity of some sort of demon-possessed lunatic, and dang, he is just so freaky, man! I just wanna’ stop and say something for a moment, all those who watched the classic series and remember the original Rat-King, you might as well just hang up those memories for good because THIS Rat-King totally, to infinity, trumps that guy. The old one couldn’t really fight as well as he boasted a lot and always talked too much for his own good; but this guy barely speaks a word, letting all his fighting do the yakking for him, and man does he have a lot to say! Try their best, the turtles and Casey have a hard time fighting this guy and –after Mikey frees himself by panicking, typical Mikey, they are shoved into some sort of massive chimney and are left to be devoured by rats. Even though they seem to going along their usual lines of losing just before winning as always, there’s an unusual sense that maybe this time they won’t make it after all. But they do, and a seriously angry Leonardo takes on the Rat-King solo. In the final scene as everything is collapsing around them, the floor around Leo and the RK gives and reveals thousands upon thousands of hungry vicious rats waiting for one to fall, one does fall… and it’s the Rat-King. In a prolonged, horrible moment, he sinks down into the swarm as the rats feast on his body. Holy-yeeeeeaaaaaaaggghhhhhhhhh! That’s so freakin’ gross and disturbing! Oh, goodness, I- I need a moment… Ok, finally they escape as the building collapses behind them, and we see that –surprise! The Rat-King didn’t really die at all! And he’s fully capable of coming back the next time, [which for some reason he never does]. Still, this episode is one of the best as it not only reintroduces a classic TMNT villain, but it also adapts the original Mirage comic book and actually adds stuff to it, making it even better than the original, something quite rare for TMNT. But just to let everyone know I haven’t gone off track, this is a seriously dark episode and was nearly banned for it’s monster-movie-esqueness. This final entry, however, wasn’t so lucky in that regard…
#1. Insane in the Membrane [Ep. 97, se. 4]
Plot: Baxter Stockman attempts to create a new body for himself, but the body begins to decay and he blames April, planning revenge on her for all that has ever happened to him.
What makes it dark? This is the only episode in the whole series to be banned, so that’s your first clue as to what makes this so dark and why it’s at the top of this list. When Stockman’s body begins to ‘decay’, I mean his finger falls of and land in a puddle of his own slime; soon his whole arm goes, and then the rest of him. But instead of collapsing, he forces himself to live on and holds himself together with prosthetics, and all the while, a guy is rotting into a walking corpse before our very eyes! Not his finger falls off and in the next scene we see him all messed up; we actually have to watch him slowly rot and his brain rot with him; so in essence, Stockman has become a zombie. But it gets even worse, his now seriously dull glop of a brain thinks that April, his former lab assistant whom he hasn’t seen since episode three of the first season, four seasons ago, is to blame for all of his misfortunes and sets out on a mad mission to kill her. Ok, so forgetting he’s rotting and losing his noggin; some guy wants to kill April, so unusual, not really, not even that freaky, really. Ok, now let’s remember that Stockman has become a zombie. How do zombies kill people? Oh yeah, that’s right; by EATING THEM!!! Baxter’s brain has become so messed up that its more than likely he’d resort to eating his former lab assistant for revenge. But oh! You argue, Baxter’s not actually a zombie! First of all, yes he is, his body is rotting and his rationality is in the toilet (he no doubt smells somethin’ awful, too) and if you’ve somehow forgotten that he was falling apart for the first ten minutes of the episode, April tries to defend herself by kicking him hard in the jaw; only for him to barely budge and his jaw is knocked off, hanging on by a few tendrils of rot… and then he puts it back on like it never happened. Uh, zombie anyone? I think so! Ok, so maybe eating her wasn’t on the agenda, but there are a least fifty different ways he could have finished her off, and each just as likely as the other, and that includes eating her! In this episode, we also get a rare look into Stockman’s childhood, and we learn that his mother was the only family he had, not only that, she died when he was somewhere around twelve, so while on one hand we have this crazed zombie guy trying to (eat!) April, on he other we have this little kid who couldn’t hurt anybody, not even a fly! [Get my joke?] we reason the loss of his mother is what triggered his eventual becoming a bad guy, but then you also have to consider what happened to Baxter after his mother died; did he go into foster care and was adopted by a mean family, or did he never get adopted and spent all his teen years alone? Did he go live with a neighbor who only made his trauma worse, did he run away and live on the streets for a while before his genius was recognized? Or did something truly horrible happen afterwards that took away his childhood completely and his trauma to a whole new level? We don’t know and may never know; all we know is that something happened after his loss to trigger his villainous ego, and we’ll never know what it was. There are also some variables to consider when you look at these possibilities; when Stockmanstein (as Mikey calls him) steals one of Bishops helicopters, we briefly see a guard lying on the ground as it flies off; now, what did Stockman do? Did he knock him out? Or in his crazed zombie mind, did he kill the guard in some way; he could have suffocated him, snapped his neck, beat him and broken his spine, bashed his head in, slit his throat, or maybe stabbed him with something? Gruesome, simply gruesome. At the episode’s end, Baxter’s mind has become so frazzled that he’s crossing over his childhood memories with reality and winds up saving the one person he wanted to (Eat!), meanwhile he falls to his death in a cable-car wreckage over the Hudson River, us believing he’s dead. Its a sad ending to a truly messed up episode, and undoubtedly the darkest episode of them all.
Well, all accept ‘Nightmares Recycled’, but that episode never even made the final stages.-
So that's my list, I'll make a video out of it eventually; Happy Halloween/Nightmare Night, everypony!