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Old 2011-05-01, 03:36 PM   #5
Blackjack
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Darkness Rising, Part 5
Airdate: 3 December 2010
Written By: Joseph Kuhr

Synopsis:
Optimus Prime grimly imagines what will happen if Megatron succeeds to use Dark Energon to raise all the corpses on Cybertron into a legion to conquer Earth. At KO Burger, Jack arrives and is accosted by Arcee. While Jack initially refuses to go back, Arcee tells him that her recent loss of a good friend makes it hard to say goodbye. At the Autobot base, Ratchet have pinpointed Megatron's Space Bridge in Earth orbit. Ratchet explains to the team that they must extend the Ground Bridge to its limit to reach it, a risky process. Arcee and Jack arrive, and the Autobots sans Ratchet leave, shooting into space and locking onto the gigantic Bridge portal. The Decepticon ship looms into position, and the Autobots get ready to fire. On the bridge of the Nemesis, Megatron berates Starscream again, while Starscream assures Megatron that Soundwave is locking on to Cybertron's coordinates. The Autobots, ready for a last stand, is befuddled why the Decepticons haven't moved. A quick scan shows that Bulkhead had damaged the Decepticons' navigation dish prior while rescuing Fowler, and since Cybertron is so far away, they need pinpoint accuracy.

Ratchet is smug, since there is no way they could get a targeting array that sophisticated on Earth. Raf suggests that the Decepticons may be using several radio dishes, specifically the one in Texas. However, Fowler is still out, unable to alert the staff. Raf is unable to hack in, and Jack thinks they should go on-site with the Ground Bridge, justifying that this is their home as well. In space, Megatron sends out a squad of Vehicons to engage the Autobots, and a battle soon commences where the Autobots tear the drones apart. The kids Ground Bridge to the Texas array, and sneak into a small, unused room. Raf finds a computer, and confirms that the Decepticons have already hacked in. Raf takes the opportunity to download the weird schematics they saw previously into a flash drive. Raf assures Jack and Miko that it's like online games... but they don't know that Soundwave is in the next room, crouched down and plugged into the system. Soundwave aligns the array and locks onto Cybertron, but Raf hacks and disables it. Megatron and Starscream demand what is going on, and Soundwave taps into the security cameras and locates the kids. One of Soundwave's tentacles arrive, and trash the room, destroying the computers and knocking the wind out of the kids. Miko grabs a fire axe and attacks, but Soundwave's tentacle picks the axe up. After a moment where it seems like Soundwave is going to strike, Soundwave withdraws and uses the axe to cut the hard lines, making it impossible to undo his work again. As Soundwave leaves, the kids arrive and Miko takes a photo of him... and vice versa.

Starscream activates the Space Bridge, and Megatron lobs the entire chunk of Dark Energon through. Despite Optimus' attempts to shoot it away, the Dark Energon strikes Cybertron, coursing through the dead planet and reviving the dead into a legion of undead. Optimus knows they don't stand a chance against the legion, and realizes the only course is to destroy the Space Bridge. Raf supplies the schematics, and after a moment of hesitation Ratchet instructs Bumblebee, Arcee and Bulkhead on what to do. Optimus Prime, meanwhile, faces Megatron personally. After a brief exchange, the two battle and Megatron manages to knock Optimus down. Before he could deliver the killing blow Starscream alerts Megatron to the sabotage attempt. Megatron remarks how Optimus would've made a great Decepticon, but Optimus takes advantage of the distraction to shoot Megatron. Megatron transforms and flies off. Arcee manages to reverse the Energon flow when Megatron arrives, blasting her off into space. As the Space Bridge begins to crumble the Autobots jump into the Ground Bridge, Bumblebee catching Arcee in the way. Starscream has taken the ship away and screams for Megatron to retreat from the explosion. Instead Megatron tries to reach for his army, just as the Space Bridge explodes. Starscream sadly notes to the watching crew that Megatron couldn't have survived that... and proclaims himself new leader. The Autobots make their way to the base safely, although Arcee is injured. Optimus affirms that Megatron couldn't have survived. Fowler thanks the Autobots and leaves. Optimus Prime gives a speech and sends a signal to space declaring that Earth is now their home, and the Autobots will protect it from anyone with hostile intentions.

Featured Characters: Zombies, Jack Darby, Arcee, Ratchet, Bulkhead, Miko Nakadai, Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Rafael Esquivel, Megatron, Starscream, Agent Fowler, Vehicon Jets, Soundwave, Vehicon Cars

Review:
And so the first arc ends. This is what I was talking about when reviewing the IDW comics if executed well, even a stupid, basic plot involving zombies going through a warp gate could be a wonderful episode. On paper, this would be basically similar to a random throwaway sci-fi plot. But everybody is characterised so well here, with great dialogue, stunning action scenes and everything. It's by far not up to the level set by the previous episodes, but it's still well head and shoulders above most of Transformers fiction out there. A quibble I have is how fast Jack returns to the fold, and why the hell he is so important to the Autobots. Sure, he's a friend, sure, he knows things, but if Arcee didn't pop out he's content to live his life. Unlike Sam, Jack doesn't have the justification of having the magic eyeglasses to catch the Autobots' attention, although I suppose it couldn't be helped. I also disliked the ending, with Megatron caught in the Space Bridge explosion. It seems like a dead horse to beat, since we know Megatron can't be taken out so early in the series... or could he? I would love to see Starscream get some rightfully deserved air time, and this Starscream would prove more entertaining than the others. He is clearly competent, finding a way to atone for his mistakes last issue, with his quasi-hammy manner, long finger-claws, and well... just listen and look at him, bordering between great acting and real concern as he grips the console, screaming for Megatron to turn back (even though he just steered the ship away).

As the third member of the Decepticon power trio, Soundwave sees some action here. For somebody who does not speak at all, his skeletal gait and expressionless face manages to exude a sinister feel. Amazing how five episodes with no dialogue could give that much impact, eh? There's this sinister feel that Soundwave could easily cripple, if not kill, any of the three kids. Raf thinking that it's going to be easy to hack once they've Ground Bridged into the facility, only for Soundwave to stop the kids in thirty seconds flat (he's cut the hard lines!)... again, the kids prove themselves competent (downloading schematics even though they have no idea what) whilst not actually winning the fight. Ratchet's little ah-nah-at-ah moment when Raf suggests the satellite farm is great, a little unwillingness to be shown up by a bunch of kids. 'If you leave me alone in a planet teeming with humans, I'm never going to forgive you' is one of the best lines of this episode. Ratchet proves to be a great, sarcastic McCoy to the team. The little moment where he hesitates to destroy the Space Bridge, only to get right to it with determination when it's confirmed thrre's no other way is great as well. Arcee's good fun as well, showing a little vulnerable side (which she clearly isn't comfortable showing) but shaping up to action girl mode soon afterwards. And there's that moment of 'will they kill her off?' at the end.

I like those little character moments like Bumblebee cheering when the Space Bridge momentarily shuts down, or Fowler going 'YES! ...right?', or Miko smiling when she sees Bulkhead safe... the zombie plot is basically just a springboard to tell the story. What's got to be the best part of the episode would be Optimus Prime and Megatron, though. Both Cullen and Welker are literally on fire. Optimus delivers all his lines with perfect grim gravity, although I'll never get used to 'maximum overdrive!' Welker is stunning as well. Hell, I've never been a fan of Welker's G1 Megatron voice, but this is one great leap of improvement, showing that the ol' voice-acting god still has some kick in him. Combined with Megatron's scary, shadowed, fanged, full-of-expression face, their little taunting match before the swordfight is again one of the best O.P.-vs-Megatron battles ever. 'You would've made a great Decepticon.' 'I already chose my side.' I'm glad they did not opt for the G1 axe and flail, but rather stuck with the more practical blades from the Movieverse. Optimus' speech at the end is well delivered, and Megatron's growing instability as he reaches for his legion... just listen to him! 'My legion...'

I just feel that the episode takes too much time recapping and showing the what-could-have-been in the first two minutes of the episode. And simply sabotaging the Space Bridge isn't exactly a spectacular way of ending the climax. But compared to basically every single non-Beast TV series out there, Prime has to be the best and most well-organized show. It feels like a movie from start to finish. Again, zombies may not be the best way to kick-start this, but it manages to work so well that I'm simply impressed by the production team. Everybody in the main cast, even the bad guys, are well-defined by the time we reach five episodes, something even Beast Wars didn't manage to achieve. This isn't just a great Transformers episode, it's a great episode full stop. Compared to things like Ben 10 or Teen Titans or whatever they are showing the kids nowadays, Prime is certainly up there on the top in terms of quality. It's mature, it's got great characterisation, great action scenes, greet voice actors, subtle references, fresh exploration of characters, great CGI, good fun and even plot...

It's not perfect per se, but, yup, this bodes well for us indeed.

(Seven out of Ten)

Notes:
The first appearance of the Jet Vehicons. They transform into Cybertronian jets somewhat resembling Cybertron Sideways' alternate mode. Alternate mode and kibble aside, they are identical to their car counterparts. Also, first appearance of Soundwave's alternate mode, a Reaper Drone jet.

Whoo-ee. Lots of subtle homages here. First up, the Autobots not being able to fly recalls their situation in early G1 episodes, an often-repeated setting in cartoons.

Miko refers to space as 'the final frontier', prompting Jack to say 'space?' a reference to 'Space, the final frontier', the opening credits of the several Star Trek shows. Note that Prime producers Kurtzman and Orci also wrote the newest Star Trek movie.

The way Miko tries to use a fireman's axe to cut Soundwave's hacking tentacle seems to be a homage to how Tom Cruise's character tries to drive away the Tripod tentacle in War of the Worlds.

In an ironic twist to a similar scene in the 2007 Movie where Blackout hacks the SOCCENT base and is foiled by Colonel Sharp using a fire axe to cut the hard lines, here Soundwave uses the axe to cut the hard lines so Raf can't tamper with the satellite dishes. Raf even says 'they've cut the hard lines'.

Remember Bulkhead ripping off a dish as a throwing shield last episode? Yeah? That's the reason the Decepticon ship can't just warp to Cybertron.

The way Megatron rises out of the Nemesis with the boulder of Dark Energon is clearly meant to evoke Atlas carrying the sky on his back.

Ratchet says 'then by all means, let us light our darkest hour', a variant of the 'light our darkest hour' oft-repeated line from the 1986 animated Movie.

Optimus Prime: "I might derail its objective... by removing its head." If it were anyone other than Orci and Kurtzman, it might be just another passing line. As it is, it's probably a homage to Movie Prime's face/head hacking obsession. Prime tears off the head of a Vehicon this episode as well.

Optimus Prime and Megatron say 'One shall stand, one shall fall', the same words that preluded the two's epic battle in both the 1986 and 2007 Movies, and had been oftn repeated afterwards.

The way Megatron and a Zombie tries to reach feach other's fingers through the Space Bridge is too similar to Michaelangelo's The Creation of Adam to be a coincidence. You now, God and Adam reaching, fingers touching...

Megatron thought dead after being caught in a Space Bridge explosion has been done in an early G1 episode 'Transport to Oblivion', twice in the Marvel comics, as well as the season 2 finale of the Animated series.

'All Hail Starscream' is a variant of 'All Hail Megatron'. Starscream proclaiming himself leader is the same with every other Starscream out there, although arguably only this one and the Movie Starscream did so without actively double-crossing Megatron.

Optimus' speech at the end, sending a message into space stating that the Autobots have a home, and have forged a bond with humans, and 'My name is Optimus Prime, and I send this message...' is very similar to the closing speeches Optimus did in the end of both live-action movies.

Arm gimmicks:
-So they don't float in space, the Autobots have magnetic soles on their feet.
-All of the Autobots can morph both their hands into their weapons at the same time.
-Arcee has blades that pop out of the sides of her lower arms.
-Soundwave can grow multiple tentacles from his chest like his Movieverse counterpart. At the end of each thick tentacle are four squirming worm-like tendrils. Which is a bit disturbing, really.
-Megatron can fire laser blasts from the front end of his alternate mode.
-While the real zombies did not do so, the zombies in Optimus' imagination shoot laser blasts out of their palms, Go-Bot style.

Goofs:
How can the Zombies leave Cybertron and go into the Space Bridge, which materialized in space? When even healthy Autobots can't fly...

Why doesn't Starscream deploy the group of Vehicons in the Decepticon ship towards the Autobot troops, allowing Megatron to finish Optimus off?

When the Autobots jump off of the exploding Space Bridge into the Ground Bridge, they should've floated in space instead of 'falling' down. Of course, we don't know how these Bridges work, so...

Presumably the Space Bridge was in orbit all along and built sometime prior to this, why didn't the humans notice it?
 

Last edited by Blackjack; 2011-10-04 at 11:34 AM.
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