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Old 2011-05-07, 04:13 PM   #6
Blackjack
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Masters & Students
Airdate: 11 February 11 2011
Written By: David Slack

Synopsis:
After reviewing Megatron's death footage, Starscream gives an eulogy and a speech in front of the crew. One of the Vehicons question whether they will be able to bring down the Autobots, and Starscream proclaims himself the new Emperor of Destruction, but the crew are less than enthusiastic. Starscream considers that there is one Decepticon on Earth that could turn the morale around... In the Autobot base, Optimus Prime and Ratchet discuss about Megatron, and Optimus hopes that he had a chance to change Megatron's mind. However his determination remains, and notes that the Megatron he fought beside perished the day he became a Decepticon. They are interrupted by an explosion, which is apparently caused Raf's papier mache volcano. The kids are working on their science project with their guardian Autobots. Ratchet scoffs at the idea of the other Autobots helping out in science projects but Optimus thinks it's a good way to learn about Earth. Elsewhere, in a canyon, Soundwave detects one of the few Decepticons left on Earth eons ago to protect the Energon deposits, and both he and Starscream head to recruit the lost Decepticon. Starscream explains that during the Great War a lot of Energon is hidden on Earth, and Megatron had sent some of Cybertron's greatest to guard them, albeit in stasis.

While working on Raf's volcano, Bumblebee and Raf discuss Bumblebee's status in the Autobot army, and Optimus tells Raf that Bumblebee has a long way before reaching warrior class. Their sensors detect Energon in the desert, and Optimus takes Bumblebee with him to investigate (Ratchet electing to stay behind to help the kids' projects). Starscream and Soundwave, meanwhile, haul out the metallic structure and inserts an Energon cube to revive the Decepticon inside, Skyquake. Starscream immediately tries to recruit the powerful Decepticon but Skyquake announces he only serves Megatron. An impatient Starscream tries to point out that Megatron is dead and Skyquake must serve him. The two nearly come to blows when Optimus Prime arrives. Optimus and Skyquake recognize each other from the Battle of Technar, and Optimus tries to get both Decepticons to peace in this new era. Starscream, however, would only be willing to consider peace if Optimus bows to him... at which point Skyquake loses his patience and bashes Starscream aside, before charging Optimus he remembered one of his last orders from Megatron is to annihilate Optimus. Starscream flies away and rendezvous with Soundwave, and muses that all Decepticons will obey him once they see that Skyquake has killed Optimus Prime under his command, and orders Soundwave to record everything. In the canyon Optimus and Skyquake battle, and despite orders to the contrary Bumblebee joins in the fray. Observing that Skyquake does not have an alternate mode the Autobots transform and drive away, whipping up a sandstorm that disorients the Decepticons.

In the Autobot base, Ratchet have gone crazy and builds all the kids' projects by himself. In the canyon, Soundwave picks up a Decepticon signal from where the Space Bridge has exploded. Starscream tries to dismiss it as a false alarm, but realizes that he cannot talk his way out of it and flies off to investigate, ordering Soundwave to stay. Soundwave dispatches a Deployer to keep an eye on Starscream. With some clever decoy tactics and transformation, the Autobots manage to knock Skyquake down. However, Agent Fowler flies by in a high-tech military jet to investigate the energy readings in the area, and Skyquake scans his jet. Skyquake takes to the air, and divebombs the Autobots below. Fowler assists the Autobots and opens fire at Skyquake, but after a little dogfighting Skyquake unleashes a barrage of heat-seeking missiles. Fowler manages to lose them with some stunning manoeuvring. In space, Starscream arrives and lands on a piece of debris to find Megatron, still intact (if dying) in space. A surprised Starscream finds that Megatron is kept alive by a sliver of Dark Energon, if barely. Starscream leans in to Megatron, monologues a little and rips the Dark Energon out... just as Soundwave's Deployer arrives. Starscream quickly hides the Dark Energon and tries to put up a facade that he was planning to bring Megatron to sick bay. On Earth Bumblebee manages to get on top of a plateau and get the jump on Skyquake. Despite the dangers, Bumblebee rips pieces out of Skyquake, sending the Decepticon into a crash dive. Fowler brings his plane close enough so Bumblebee can hop on, while Skyquake crashes and is killed. Optimus observes that had Skyquake chosen peace he wouldn't be dead. Some time later, Bumblebee is repaired and Optimus commends him. The kids return to tell Ratchet that their projects didn't exactly go well Miko had a model of Cybertron, Jack has some kind of flying saw while Raf's volcano blows a hole through the school. Ratchet leaves in frustration and disappointment. On board the Decepticon ship, the Decepticons have gotten Megatron into stasis, and Starscream sincerely hopes he gets better... while scowling.

Featured Characters: Zombies (flashback), Megatron (flashback and present), Starscream, Soundwave, Vehicon Cars, Optimus Prime, Ratchet, Bumblebee, Rafael Esquivel, Miko Nakadai, Bulkhead, Arcee, Jack Darby, Skyquake (killed), Deployer, Agent Fowler

Review:
While at first the episode seemed shallow introducing a generic Decepticon and establishing that Megatron is still alive a second rewatching proved that it is actually better than it seems. There are some nice silliness with the base Autobots... Ratchet's clearly gone off the rocker with creating the projects; just see him going ah-zip-ah-ah when Raf objects. Also, that initial scene when Optimus and Ratchet discuss about the merits of second chances and Megatron is a great moment. It does not take too long and feels natural rather than cliched. The kids, Arcee and Bulkhead don't get to do much this episode, but Raf's innocent 'I should be doing my own homework!' attitude is irresistibly cute, while Arcee's "Can you build me a human intestine, Jack?" when the latter asks her to build a motorcycle engine is the best ever comebacks I've heard. That aside, really, we don't fool around too much. It's an interesting side plot that should by rights be really, really annoying but it isn't! It's actually pretty charming unless you've got yourself dead-set in the haters position.

Optimus Prime himself is portrayed grandly as well. No, he's not unwilling to pull out the big gonzo guns and start shooting and dicing Decepticons Movie style, but from this episode it is made clear that Prime does not enjoy doing this at all, and would prefer for peace to win out, even with the Decepticons. But when push comes to shove, Optimus Prime shoves back... hard. Very hard. This episode excellently sets the tone of who Optimus Prime is... Likewise, Bumblebee is well defined as a low-ranking scout, although he gets drafted into combat due to them being short staffed. So he's like G1 and Movie blended into one, but in a good way. He's brash, yes, and can do lots of funky action scenes but not flat out irritating with unnecessary dialogue, unlike Side Burn or Hot Shot or Nightscream or Cheetor (in Season 1) or the G1 and Animated versions of Bumblebee. But he can still emote!

The new character, Skyquake, is again original, not another retreaded G1 character. While I don't mind homages it's refreshing to see all new ones. Skyquake's pretty basic, a highly respected ancient Decepticon with a bad ass voice and a loyalty to Megatron... but he's not a flat, uncreative expy of Lugnut or Sky-Byte or Inferno, not the way the Japanese shows have been doing. Skyquake is loyal and powerful but not dumb, and the way he goes irritated at Starscream's ego is nicely done. Great action scenes which employs his massive bulk and clawed hands (is it a rule that all badass bad guys must have claws? Looks awesome so whatevs) and that slow-motion face punch with Optimus... Stunning action scenes, with great attention being paid to whether it looks cool and whether it makes sense. I like how Starscream isn't immediately received, and he has to try to win over the army's approval by getting the support of others like Skyquake. But instead of unnecessarily bogging down the cast with characters who disappear offscreen, they kill off Skyquake. It's not the most glorious death, a plane crash after getting bits ripped off by Bumblebee, but the directors have said that when characters die, they die. Presumably this applies to everyone not named Optimus, Megatron or Starscream, so we can safely say Skyquake's dead for real unless someone brings him back as a zombie or whatever. Like Cliffjumper this establishes that this is war, and anyone can die.

Starscream thoroughly steals the show here, though. Every line delivered by Starscream is golden, and he has the effect of bringing the otherwise sub-par episode up. His moment with Megatron, his camaraderie love-hate relationship with Soundwave, his stubbornness to get everyone to bow to him, his schemes, barely keeping the facade of caring for Megatron up, little 'natural' voices like sighing and shaking his head after Skyquake decks him... you know by rights egomaniacs who keeps wanting others to bow to him should be irritating like an anime villain but like Sentinel Prime of Animated, Starscream becomes a lovable jerk. And he feels dangerous as well, not bumbling and stupid. Soundwave, despite the lack of voice, is also great. He basically acts like Starscream's conscience and his watchdog of sorts, keeping him from killing ol' Megatron or abandoning him. A much, much sinister and better improvement over 'Eject, operation termination', no? Unless you've set your mind to hate this, you can't help but to admire how they took everything cool about a character, distil it and exorcise all the annoying bits. And package it in good-looking, simply stunning CGI.

I had so wanted to give this episode a lower review score but after rewatching it I was so impressed I can't bring myself to do it.

(Seven out of Ten)

Notes:
The first appearance of Skyquake. While he shares his name with the G1 European exclusive Predator leader, this Skyquake has nothing in common aside for being a green Decepticon jet. Skyquake also seems to be based visually on the classic Seeker layout, in contrast to Starscream's all-new transformation.

Starting with this episode onwards we see a title sequence. After about a minute or so of a 'prequel', we fade into the title sequence and then the episode begins proper.

Starscream proclaims himself 'Emperor of Destruction' and 'Lord Starscream'. Emperor of Destruction is the title used in Japan for Decepticon leaders (every single one of them) while Lord Starscream is used passingly in the IDW Movie comics, as well as the Cybertron cartoon.

The idea of Transformers being left on Earth ages ago for a purpose has been done first in RID with Fortress Maximus, and reused ever since. The concept is also quite similar with the Movieverse's Seekers.

Energon cubes stem waaaay back from the original G1 episodes, and has been re-used in other series as well. Here Energon cubes are bright blue and are carried around in metallic containers.

The concept of 'Warrior Class' being a caste originated from the Exodus novel, which was probably partially inspired by IDW's Movieverse and/or Megatron: Origin comic.

Skyquake screams 'I will never side with a Prime!', hinting that there may be more than one Prime present. As it is the way he uses 'a Prime' seems to imply the quasi-religious state Primes are in the Movieverse instead of the random military rank in Animated.

Agent Fowler's first name is William. He can also fly jets, with as much skill as his helicopter.

The Autobot base has a healing chamber somewhat similar to CR chambers used in Beast Wars, but these have to be operated from the outside by Ratchet.

Ratchet's model of Cybertron has two moons, based on how Cybertron was in the G1 cartoon.

Megatron is in 'stasis' due to his damages, as is Skyquake before Starscream revived him. The condition of 'stasis' being one similar to hibernation is first introduced in G1.

Arm gimmicks:
-Soundwave has a spinning radar dish that pops out of his back.
-Skyquake's weapon of choice is a collapsible, multi-barreled gatling gun thingy that he holds with two hands. Kind of the one that Heavy Duty uses in the G.I. Joe movie; I'm sure there's a name for that kind of gun but I can't be bothered to remember what.
-In vehicle mode Skyquake can shoot laser beams as well as heat-seeking missiles.

Goofs:
Throughout this episode Bumblebee's pupils are black instead of blue.

The copies of the Jasper Daily newspaper Raf uses are identical back-to-front.

No matter how good a special agent he is, Fowler cannot fly a fighter jet without wearing a helmet and oxygen mask. No matter what G.I. Joe says.

Since they use the same CG model, Fowler's jet has Skyquake's transformed kibble arms and legs in its undercarriage.

Skyquake already has his Earth alternate mode kibble even before scanning. Surely it's not too much a chore to delete those wings and cockpit? Even Beast Wars can make a 'naked' version of their CG models...

How can Skyquake not transform? Doesn't he not have a Cybertronian alternate mode?

There are lots of sound in space, apparently it echoes a lot, Starscream finds Megatron only because he groans in pain, Starscream is alerted to Soundwave's drone... perhaps the Space Bridge had its own atmosphere, which didn't dissipate yet?
 

Last edited by Blackjack; 2011-10-04 at 12:05 PM.
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