Transformers Prime - "Deus Ex Machina" Recap
“The Autobots must prevent the Decepticons from getting their hands on a powerful ancient Cybertronian artifact.”
Ratchet’s discovery reveals a mural in Greece depicting a golden sphere. Closer observation identifies it as an Energon Harvester, a powerful device capable of sucking any Energon dry, including ones flowing inside Cybertronians. The real deal is located on display at their local museum, requiring stealth to steal it. Since giant robots and human preservation buildings aren’t a good mix, the Autobots rely on the kids to swipe the object while they keep a lookout. Further complications arise when the Decepticons catch on and desire the Harvester for their own use.
“Deus Ex Machina” is leagues more entertaining than the dull offering of “Convoy” previously. There’s more effort put into characterization and the heart of it centers on Bulkhead and Miko. Their relationship has been largely straightforward up until this point. One’s a giant, lumbering powerhouse and the other a teenage girl, yet they share the same love for rock music and violence. They’ve been best friends long enough that Bulkhead’s attempt to install discipline on her falls completely flat—she’s too free-spirited to be tied down. Miko doesn’t view Bulkhead as an authority figure, she sees him as an amusing, but ultimately simpleminded friend. Miko likes him best when he isn’t being anything but a macho-clad crushing machine. Appropriately, she feigns annoyance when he does lecture her, forcing him to relent to her nonconformity. Bulkhead must learn to put his foot down and push her to realize he’s more than brawn while Miko needs to focus on her schoolwork instead of constantly goofing around.
Their ensuring character development works itself out, but to middling degrees. Neither side learned from each other when the episode keenly hinted in that direction. They’re separated for a good half of “Deus Ex Machina”, solving their current dilemma by themselves. I would have been fine
with this if the conclusion to it all hadn’t been delivered so haphazardly. Bulkhead outsmarts Starscream not through clever means, but by crushing and throwing the harvester away. It’s a contradictory solution because the whole point of his anguish is that he has the brain to back up his brawn. How’s Bulkhead supposed to show that if he smashes his way to a solution? Miko’s goal is to shape up and finish her History report, but it conveniently solves itself when she suddenly realizes she’s got a gift for motivation through last minute panic. I wonder if her solution was the intention? Miko explains the concept of Deus Ex Machina to the security guard who caught her during the museum heist and Agent Fowler arrives to rescue her at the last minute. It’s even the episode’s title. It makes for a slightly bearable scene because of how tongue-in-cheek it was, but it’s not as clever as it sounds. It might have worked better if the joke had been built up to that specific point, or if the series was known for bending genres and narrative elements. Deus Ex Machina usually do pop out in unexpected and cheap ways, so the series got that right, including the poor taste left afterward.
The introduction of Knockout and Breakdown is mildly triumphant. They don’t stand out, but there’s enough character tic to get a hold of their personalities. Breakdown’s appearance is flashier when he aggressively attacks Bulkhead, serving to be the Decepticon’s muscle and eventually the latter’s rival. Knockout is a talkative conundrum whose speed counters his partner’s strength. He’s thoroughly engaging, often peppering his dialogue with snappy one-liners and sporting a sleek blood red design that purposely draws attention to him. His flamboyance increases as the show advances, rendering Knockout a personal favorite of mine later down the line.
The Energon Harvester is a nightmarish tool and much like the Scraplets, it produces a slow death when aimed at Cybertronians, essentially draining their blood. Sadly, the sense of impending doom and the impact it could have produced is limited. Most of its significance is fuel for Starscream to milk a groan-worthy catchphrase (“It’s harvest time“) and ominous choral music when he activates it. The whole effort reeks of cheese. The device barely gets playtime and is quickly demolished.
“Deus Ex Machina” tries to enforce character development and though it eventually works, getting there is a muddled mess. Bulkhead and Miko should have interacted throughout to get a better grasp on each others’ personal flaws and why they’re more than just their shared stereotype. Unfortunately, their development is the highest point of the episode. Everything else is average, though at the very least it isn’t boring.