"Scrap indeed, Jack..."
Thus stood my sentiment for the premier of the final season of Transformers Prime, and I assure you the connotation is intended as a negative. To start, that the Hub and Hasbro has seemingly written off this series is the fact that, after two previous seasons, they have yet to update the opening credits. While I don't consider myself fond of Wheeljack or Smokescreen the lack of the their presence or even Bubblebee's updated appearance in the title sequence is, frankly, deplorable and altogether another sign of laziness on the part of Hasbro's production team. Still, this oversight was not by any means the most detestable aspect of this lackluster premier. Where to begin...(*Disclaimer: There are some small moments I won't touch on as I found them to be either wastes of time or generally superfluous)
After a brief recap we are segued right into the immediate aftermath of Megatron's assault on Autobot HQ, complete with Megatron and Starscream still lauding over the rubble and their apparent victory. This was the episode's first mistake. So much valuable narrative time was wasted simply to give these two time to chew the scenery and to remind us just how good The Silo was blown to cinders. Given that the premier already had a recap this bit of juxtaposition wasn't required. There was also the decision to bring us in right where the previous season left off as opposed to moving the timeline forward, something which would have allowed the writers to address certain events that instead came off as convenient, baffling, and altogether rushed.
Under the category of convenient we have Smokescreen's rescue of Prime from the remnants of the Silo right under the noses of the Decepticons. How was that achieved? Yep, you guessed it, another Relic of the Month moment strikes again. No, it appears the writers have no intention of leaving those lovely scapegoats behind. In the midst of the Cybertron confrontation in last season's finale our resident Autobot Jack-Wannabe managed to "snag" the Phase Shifter during the confusion, conveniently allowing him to sneak back through the Ground Bridge after departing during the finale's final moments. Speculation has already begun as to why it was Wheeljack who provided this particular scapegoat but that's not something I'm quite prepared to address least I descend down another unhappy tirade road.
In truth, Prime's "rescue" was a poor dramatic choice. Regardless of what the show-runners intend for Optimus's future (or lack thereof...) I feel it would have been keeping much more in tune with the sense of absolute defeat driven home at the close of last season and the atmosphere of desperation that should be hanging over both the Autobots and Humans given Megatron's current reign of power if Optimus would have fallen into the hands of the Decepticons in his dire condition. This would have allowed the story to highlight just how successful Megatron's masterstroke had been. Instead of having him loom over the remains of the Silo show him brooding over a dying Optimus deep within the confines of the Fortress, his thoughts mired by rage, triumph, and possibly even regret. At one time one must recall that these two were very much brothers, both of whom believed in a "better way" for Cybertron, merely choosing two very different paths to get there.
Moving on from convenient we come to baffling. First and foremost we have the "reaction" of the U.S. Military to Megatron's decimation of Jasper (the town miraculously evacuated down to the last man, woman, and child *despite* the fact that no one knew Megatron's Fortress was about to appear, his legions sweeping across Nevada) in the form of a single Armored Battalion and Air Wing, both of which are easily, and not unexpectedly, wiped out. Being a prior service member of the Armed Forces I can tell you, unequivocally, that such an event, i.e. a clear invasion of U.S. Soil (if not Earth itself) by an alien threat the Government was already aware of, would have been met with a much more impressive counter. The only indication we even get of that is derived from Megatron's conversation with...(*rubs temples*) Agent Freaking Fowler. (*Pause*) Really? Megatron and the Decepticons launch a full scale assault on an American state and it's the Homeland Security guy he talks to? Is it The President of the United States? The Joint Chiefs of Staff? The U.N. Security Council? Nope. It's Fowler, the guy who apparently represents every person and government on Earth. But I digress...
Next we come to, easily, the key moment most fans were waiting for, i.e. what happened to Team Prime. Again, the writers choose what feels like a rush job instead of giving us real time to process where these characters are now. Raphael and Miko are given brief 'here they are' scenes in which both take just enough time to state the obvious. They've scattered, their trying to regroup, and the Decepticons are looking for them. Really? You don't say? Not going to waste too much breath on BB's "Michael Bay Movie" new paint job so moving on. When last we left these characters they had just bid farewell to each other, unsure if or when they would be able to see their friends/family again.
Cut to them now? It's like a mere afternoon has gone by and it's just another day. We have little to no sense of emotional weight from any of these characters. Raf gives us a quick rundown of "communications are down" (something which is repeated ad-nauseum over the rest of the episode) and Miko plays a game on her cell after Bulk has a "don't call anyone!" panic attack. From where I stand, shoehorning both characters into two small scenes only further dilutes what should have been much deeper, hefty moments. They've seemingly lost everything, yet neither seems bothered overmuch by it.
Then of course we come to Jack and Arcee. Simply put, these are the *only* two members of Team Prime we should have seen in the first episode, the duo serving as our first real taste of how against the ropes the team should be. I had imagined them somewhere in New Mexico (It appears as though they are, rather, in Arizona) hiding out in a small dusty town as the world reacts to, for all intents and purposes, an alien invasion. Instead they (and team prime) appear to be the only ones who know it's even happening thanks to a magical media blackout that defies logic. Had the writers chosen to move us forward a few weeks as opposed to merely a few days/hours (if any) we could have really seen Jack, and later our other teens respectively, aged quite a bit by the tragedy they bore witness to. From where they stand Prime is dead, The Silo gone, their friends and family also possibly dead or captured. Do we see any indication of that from Jack? Aside from wanting to call his mommy on his cell? No. And speaking of Cell Phones...(*Sigh*) said device provided the most baffling moment of the entire episode.
Jack (keep in mind this is the guy who, two seasons ago, was entrusted with the key to Vector Sigma and told how much he was like a "Young Optimus") knowing that cell phone calls might give away their location to Soundwave's Spy-Network decides that while a call is a no-no surely a text message (which uses the *same* frequency) doesn't count so it's cool, right? (*Facepalm*) Low and behold Jack's position is given away like a signal beacon and Megatron wastes no time in dispatching Terror-Drones after the Human he hates most.
Now, to be fair, this leads to, quite possibly, one of the coolest action set pieces we've seen in the series to date. Arcee, having run off after mistaking a news helicopter (something she's likely seen hundreds of times before...) for a Decepticon returns guns blazing to save Jack. Given that Arcee is apparently the only member of the team that can't take on more then one Decepticon Drone (when it's convenient for the story) at a time she comes up with a plan to use a nearby Gas-Station as a makeshift landmine. It works fantastically. The drones are torched as is Razorbeak, dispatched by Soundwave to track the duo.
The enemy handled, Jack and Arcee are off again to continue the regroup attempt being mirrored by the other pairings. Now, I also have to point out I did take one small "Fanboy" moment from this scene. In a blink and you'll miss it moment, when Jack flips open his cell prior to sending June Darby a text we see that a somewhat saucy-pose picture of Arcee is his wallpaper. Yes, I very much enjoyed that reveal and I truly believe that was put in for the 'Jackcee' fans. For that I give my thanks to the animation team, some of whom I know likewise ship these two.
Finally we cut back to Megatron looming over Soundwave as he attempts to recover any data from a decimated Razorbeak in the hopes of gleaning what direction our heroes went after the blowout. It is here we are given the final reveal of the premier and, really, the only one with any gravitas. Brought back from Cybertron, Shockwave returns to the series with an entrance that I could not help but applaud for it's cold, menacing nature. For those who recall his small cameo last season, and the massive role he played in the 'War for...' and 'Fall of...' Cybertron games (upon which TF's continuity is based) you'll know that this is a character who is very quickly going to take center-stage with his own personal agenda and his twisted science. I fear Shockwave's story-arc may be the only redeeming element for Prime's final season but I hope I am proven wrong.
To summarize? I did not *completely* hate this premier, but I was left ultimately dejected by the absolute waste of story, characters, and overall time. Little if any proper focus was given where it would have served the narrative best and right off the bat the series has this pall of rushing to the finish. I understand that this season will be slightly shorter then the two previous, and the writers have, perhaps, a lot of ground they want to cover in these fewer episodes. However, I do believe their are smarter ways to "trim the fat" without creating a shallow or hollowed out story. We've yet to see too much of what comes next so I can only hope that while Season 3 got off to a rocky start the production team gets their feet under them and it's sound footing from here.
Until next Friday, Roll Out!