Transformers Prime - "Con Job" Recap
“Bulkhead reunites with his old buddy Wheeljack, but something seems off about him.”
“Con Job” opens up with Bulkhead reconciling with his old buddy Wheeljack, completely unaware that he’s a fake. In reality he’s the shape shifting Decepticon Makeshift, sent to infiltrate and reveal the location of the hidden Autobot base to Starscream. The real Wheeljack is a captive in the Decepticon warship. Be that as it may, Makeshift puts on a convincing appearance and not only fools the main characters, but also provides us with enough information to understand the basic gist of the real Wheeljack’s personality.
Wheeljack is who Cliffjumper likely would have been if the latter had lasted beyond five minutes in the beginning pilot; they’re both cocky and rambunctious. They both spew sarcastic one-liners as they maul dozens of Decepticons. They’re all about chewing gum and kicking butt. Wheeljack seems to be what the creators were making up for after Cliffjumper’s early demise. Wheeljack is only a one-shot character, but man, does he do it justice. His introduction is fantastic even if he was portrayed by an imposter for much of the episode. At only eight episodes in, I didn’t think he’d stick around—it’s too early for major changes in the cast line-up. His departure is a little hasty with an even flimsier excuse; he prefers to explore the depths of space instead of helping the Autobots against an ongoing war. I say “little” because Wheeljack has a better chance of finding other spread out Autobots from his spaceship, an advantage the main characters do not have. I eagerly await his obvious second coming.
I equally adore his bonding moments with Bulkhead. They’re both outgoing and affectionate. The two behave like a pair of macho frat boys, with shenanigans and parties to be had. It’s their openness to one another that really convinced me during the last stretch when Bulkhead confronts his best friend. Throughout the episode, Wheeljack slowly starts to behave differently. Suddenly, the boisterous bot is quiet and withdrawal. He refuses to boast about his glory days when he had no problem bragging about them prior. The other Autobots claim he’s changed over the years, but Bulkhead believes otherwise. This is not the friend he grew up with, he’s a total stranger. When he does expose the faker for who he really is, it’s a powerful scene. It wouldn’t have worked nearly as well if their friendship hadn’t been adequately displayed. Even Bulkhead’s current best friend, the human Miko, gets her chance to connect with Wheeljack without feeling like a third wheel.
The only downside happens to be Makeshift himself. He spends so much time copying another robot that he has no time to display his true personality. We don’t even get a clear shot of what he looks like because he appears in shadows, he just conveniently pops up without explanation. Makeshift’s ability to turn into just about any robot he can get his hands on is an unfortunate flaw; his powers are so convenient that they would have presented limitations in future episodes. In a way, I understand why they had to off him; the creators wrote themselves into a corer with Makeshift. In the end, he was just a disposable plot device.
Aside from that, the episode is excellent. It has great character interaction and convincing emotional delivery.