Transformers Prime - "Masters and Students" Recap
“In a bid to gain respect amongst his fellow Decepticons, Starscream awakens the fierce guardian Skyquake, and in doing so draws the attention of the Autobots.”
“Darkness Rising” was the ambitious mini-series and the pilot for Transformers Prime. It wasn’t just telling a story, it was telling a story with style. “Masters and Students”, the episode that follows the five-part story arc, presents a more casual, humble offering that reacts to the aftermath of the previous event.
Starscream is arguably the most important character to the plot as he directly benefits from the events of “Darkness Rising”. With Megatron currently out of commission, he becomes the primary antagonist and has the most opportunity to set the course for the next several episodes. Even the title “Masters and Students” directly speaks to Starscream’s struggles as he attempts to surpass his “master,” Megatron, and prove he’s the better commander. Needless to say, his first day on the job is a total screw up and he fails to secure his position as the leader falters when he can’t even get one Decepticon, Skyquake, to listen to him. He’s frustrated when the Decepticon army holds him in contempt, fearful when Soundwave locates the barely alive Megatron, and manipulatively alluring when he tries to kill his former mentor. The look at his face when he fakes concern for Megatron is filled with disgust. It manages to say a lot of his character with only a simple expression. It’s this kind of attention to detail that separate him from being a cardboard caricature. He is easily my personal favorite character in Transformers Prime.
Ratchet is also a delight. When he gets
wind of the human kids’ science project, Ratchet comically takes it upon
himself to help. He’s not volunteering as an act of charity; he
egotistically takes over in an attempt to show the puny humans what true science is. He’s so ridiculously selfish, yet childishly enthusiastic that he comes off endearing. Jeffery Combs performs marvelously and his hammy performance only adds to the charm.
Unfortunately, the rest of the cast aren’t as interesting. The episode presents Bumblebee as a young rookie with much to learn, at least that’s what Optimus stated and I have to take his word for it since Bumblebee can’t speak. There are a couple of moments where he makes rash decisions. He eventually kills Skyquake through his inexperience, but the lack of conflict before and after undermines the event. Bumblebee merely goes along with Optimus’ orders and the rest of the battle just plays up that one trait. Making him voiceless doesn’t help endear him to the audience either and I can’t help but feel this was an unnecessary carryover from the live-action movies. He’s got a lot of youthful exuberance and I felt that could have been achieved through pantomime, but he barely makes use of that. I’m also disappointed the title “Masters and Students” didn’t apply to Bumblebee and Optimus.
It could have drawn a nice parallel between Optimus’ respectful treatment of Bumblebee and Starscream’s attempted domination over a disgruntled Skyquake.
I don’t have much to say about Skyquake as he existed only to show that he’s loyal to Megatron and then to die. That’s all you ever needed to know about him. Like Cliffjumper, he’s a sacrificial lambmeant to move the plot along. It would be nice if their deaths meant more. Fowler is a better
supporting character than either Skyquake or Cliffjumper and though he doesn’t really have any need to be here, he gets credit for surviving a dogfight with a Decepticon.
So the characters are hit-or-miss, but “Masters and Students” is a nice break after the hectic pilot. The story builds on the events from the mini-series and set the stage for future ones.