Transformers Prime - "Predatory" Recap
“A simple recon mission between Jack and Arcee turn dangerous when the deadly Airachid arrives.”
Jack tags along with Arcee as they seek an underground Energon deposit. What started off as a simple mission twirls a complete 180 when they spot a crashed alien ship, which Arcee recognizes as the property of the Decepticon Airachid. She suffers vivid flashbacks during her time as Airachid’s victim, when she was tormented and ultimately forced to witness the death of her first partner, Tailgate. Now Arcee is at risk of losing yet another comrade, as Airachid targets Jack for her growing collection of “endangered” species.
Transformers Prime spent the past eleven episodes trying to establish itself. Though it was well-intended, a significant portion of the show after five-part pilot was vastly underwhelming. Hampered by unsubtle dialogues, iffy character developments, and boring plots, it never quite reached its zenith point or realized its vast potential. “Predatory” is an exception; everything about this episode clicks. Transformers Prime finally got it.
The main strength is its characters. Only three major players ever grace the screen and every single one of them is played to their fullest. Cliffjumper’s death is the first thing we see in Transformers Prime, instantly triggering Arcee’s primary character arc that will ultimately define her throughout the first season. Guilt-ridden from her failure to save both partners, this has forced Arcee to permanently build a shell around her by the time Jack arrives as partner number three. The teen wants nothing more than to be treated as an equal, but the prospect of losing another companion is too much for Arcee to bear. So when Airachid specifically targets him, Arcee loses her grip and reluctantly reveals to Jack just how terrified and traumatized she is. The writers deserve major kudos for expanding on her personal issues with grace; she’s mentally scarred, but not a blubbering mess. She panics, but always pulls herself through when push comes to shove. Forced to conquer her fear, she bolts into action to ensure this will never happen again.
Airachid is a delightfully frightening villain. No longer concerned with the Autobot/Decepticon war, she spends a neutral lifestyle traveling the cosmos, collecting near extinct creatures to add to her collection – creatures she personally endangered herself. Her voice is calm, but tinged with malice and sadism. Her devilish design is elegantly sinister and spidery. She takes pride in her twisted hobby, gleefully hunting her victim down. Airachid lacks principle and her willingness to kidnap, torment, and kill anyone—including a teenage boy—adds an unpleasant, but satisfying layer to her personality.
Jack’s the least interesting of the three, but he’s not skimped over. He questions his position with Arcee in an attempt to dig further into her life. When she refuses to speak about Airachid, it propels a usually obedient Jack to disregard Arcee’s warning and seek her out — he’s never seen her so shaken up before and it unhinges him. Though they both care for each other, Jack and Arcee’s relationship is dramatically different from Miko and Bulkhead. Those two share similar interests that formed a close, if immature, friendship with each other. Serious, stoic Arcee will have none of that. She sees herself as Jack’s guardian first, friend second. Jack has to earn her respect, which he thankfully does when he proves his resourcefulness by outwitting Airachid with only quick thinking and a survival kit. If a “squishy human kid” can protect himself from a Decepticon, there’s hope yet.
The presentation and animation here is worth a good look. After several episodes of bland deserts and hills, the change in scenario here offers refreshing variety. The entirety of “Predatory” takes place in the deep woods, so we get gray clouds, acres of trees, and surrounding mist. It’s a setting that is both gorgeous and emphasizing a creepy atmosphere.
“Predatory” is an excellent episode. It’s engrossing in all the right ways, successfully balancing a nightmarish tale while delivering superb moments from the cast. While it does call back to “Darkness Rising”, it’s just standalone enough that I would fully recommend this for any newcomers to the show. They aced it.