Transformers Prime - "One Shall Rise - Part 1" Recap
“The reawakening of Unicron puts the Autobots on high alert as Earth suffers the consequences.”
I never expected Unicron to arrive as early as the Season One finale. The beginning blatantly foreshadowed his presence but since he is the Transformers
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equivalent of the Devil, I figured he’d appear at the tail end of the show as its final foe. Instead his Season One appearance is akin to the Disc One Final Boss trope; a threatening figure that appears in the middle of an ongoing series. The end results took me by surprise and for the most part, it works. “One Shall Rise” does a fantastic job anticipating his awakening: Earth is suffering severe weather, earthquakes, and other natural disasters of a sheer Apocalyptic level; Optimus relates the tale of Unicron’s origins (in a flashback that will please longtime fans) to emphasize his malevolence. Unicron’s revival simultaneously reveals the biggest twist to the series yet: Unicron is Earth.
Unfortunately, that was when I stopped taking it seriously and ended up giggling. The Unicron-is-Earth plot is so absurd, so out there that it feels like something the original 80s cartoon would have utilized. Yes, I’m aware this is meant to parallel Primus’ merge with Cybertron, but in that planet’s defense, it’s an alien world with its own rules, culture, and biology. Earth is too familiar a territory that the explanation comes off as ridiculous and my suspension of disbelief left the moment they dropped that bomb. Unicron’s voice is also gratingly hammy, but Megatron takes the cheese with his theatrical boasts and gestures. For all intense and purposes though, “One Shall Rise” does a great job building up the Big Bad’s arrival and I got the idea and desperate feeling that he is not someone to be trifled with. That in itself makes up for some of the corniness.
I can’t defend the subplot though. The beginning delivers beautifully: June reacts exactly like any worried mother would and forcefully urges the kids away from the big, scary robots despite the inevitability that she cannot protect them. Her son Jack stays put for the greater good, giving him a noble quality that boosts his usually bland character—it nicely parallels Optimus’ similar gallant view—but is also naively unaware of just how his mother feels. Their inner turmoils would have made a great subplot. Sadly, three minutes after the argument, Bumblebee saves June (and Raf) and she immediately changes her mind, rendering this B plot moot. This is a waste. The story needed to last longer, it needed time to explore how Jack is feeling about his mother’s sudden abandonment as well as her and Raf’s safety from outside danger. We had to get to the root of June’s mind and explore why she callously left her son behind. There had to be emotional resolutions. One disaster so shortly after her outburst and a sudden rescue does not a good character development make. It’s arbitrary and comes off too neat and tidy.
Criticism aside, the first part has just enough of a grand plot to keep the audience glued. The plot twist may be silly, but it compensates with its epic scope. I just hope they improve on the heart and personal growth of the characters.