Plot-wise, “Fungus Humungous” doesn’t do anything new. There’s no Kraang or Foot Clan drama, there’s still plenty of mutagen canisters left to collect, and all of the character’s fears have been displayed in previous episodes this season. What the episode does do is showcase how impressive the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animation team is.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is frequently funny, but occasionally goes for gross and scary; this episode does both well through visualizing the turtles, April, and Casey’s fears. Although everything is a hallucination, the show jumps in to the characters’ points of view to let the audience see the same grossly animated monsters they’re faced with.
The deepest fears released through the mushroom poison can be split into two categories of external and internal fears. April, Casey, Raph, and Mikey’s all fall in to the former group. Their fears are based around creatures they’ve encountered in the past. Raph and Mikey are both afraid of rats and cockroaches respectively and see horrifying swarms of them filling the sewers and in some instances, engulfing entire turtles. At one point, Raph stares at a still Mikey (that alone is unsettling) whose head then falls off and neck starts spewing out cockroaches that trap Raph against a wall.
Mikey is still afraid of the Squirrelanoids and their TV-PG version of Alien’s chest burst. April’s is probably the worst though, unless you have a fear of any of the above varmints. Her deepest fear is of bats, which was caused when the turtles allowed her father to mutate in to Wingnut. Instead of just seeing a giant bat, we also get the joy of watching characters mutate into giant deformed bats.
Donnie and Leo’s fears are both internal, but the show finds ways to visualize the fears. Donnie’s fear of rejection is displayed through an evil version of April that grows in size as it spews hate at him. It’s the right decision for his fear, but it’s a bit disappointing after last week’s hideously designed Aprilderp. They at least give them opposite personalities; evil April wants to push away Donnie while Aprilderp was a teenage Lennie Small.
Leo’s fear has the oddest portrayal. His fear of failing his team is displayed through him being surrounded by eyeball-less floating heads calling him a failure and… dancing mushrooms with butts dancing to The Nutcracker.* Instead of just scaring Leo, the mushrooms taunt him with the dancing. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has gone to odd places for references before, but I can honestly say that I did not expect to see black light mushrooms synchronize swimming to Tchaikovsky. It’s not the same horror that the others had, but it’s still disturbing in its own way.
*Butt cheeks rhythmically jiggling to music is apparently popular with kids; Nick’s upcoming Breadwinners goes to this comedy well frequently.
Along with the choreographed dance number, the show also mines humor through its horror. When Mikey is hit with the fear gas, he and Raph think each other are their fears. The background artwork changes for them as they run in fear; Mikey’s background are panels from his sci-fi horror comic from “Invasion of the Squirrelanoids” and Raph gets a cockroach wallpaper designed by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. When the Squirrelanoid pins Mikey, Mikey’s cry for help is written out in word balloons while the Squirrelanoid’s onomatopoeia sound effects are written over its face.
At the end of the episode, Splinter asks Leonardo if he has conquered his fear of letting the team down. Leo responds that he hasn’t; instead he just faced it. Dealing with that fear is what he’ll have to do every day. Or at least in every Leo episode; poor turtle can’t seem to get a storyline that isn’t about leadership or handling responsibility.
The show tends to ignore how Manhattan actually functions (like how empty the streets are), but the ending really bothered me. Leo defeats the fungi by destroying the ceiling of the cave and letting sunlight in. How is it possible that he made a massive sink hole in New York that didn’t interfere with buildings, traffic, the train or even one of the parks? Also, how is the city going to handle the fact that an area larger than a block just disappeared?
The engineer from the end of “Invasion of the Squirrelanoids” is back. I’m assuming his screams were because of the mushrooms, but I kind of like the idea that he’s been running through the sewers for the past seven episodes screaming about squirrels.
The episode was written by Mark Henry. Sadly I don’t think it’s the Olympian/pro wrestler, although he is quite the poet.
I’m not a doctor, but in case you gained any new fears from this episode, here are the medical terms for each of them. “Musophobia” is a fear of rats/mice. “Sciurophobia” is a fear of squirrels. “Katsaridaphobia” is a fear of cockroaches. “Atychiphobia” is a fear of failure. “Chiroptophobia” is fear of bats and is common among Gotham’s criminals.