Transformers Prime - "Speed Metal" Recap
“Jack is in hot water when he agrees to an illegal drag race, one that the Decepticon Knockout decides to interfere with.”
It begins in the dead of night. A fancy European car silently approaches the upcoming illegal drag race. His sleek cherry design incurs the wrath of a fellow racer. The human proceeds to scratch his paint job just before the start, displeasing the red car. The moment the race begins, he waste little time slamming his competitor off the mountain road. He delivers a quick quip, “You scratch my paint, I scratch yours.” Then he drives off without a care, kicking off a brief day in the life of the Decepticon speedster, Knockout. Looking at this intro, I really wished “Speed Metal” had been his first introduction instead of “Deus Ex Machina”, because everything about it perfectly describes Knockout’s character.
Knockout is a memorable Decepticon and “Speed Metal” is an especially good character study where every element elegantly crafts his personality. While most Decepticons content themselves with an aircraft as their choice mode, Knockout prefers the comfort and flair of a four-wheeler, partaking in several drag races to test its superiority. He adores automobiles: their design, their feel and the way they handle. It’s become an integrated part of his vanity. A minor scratch on his door frame is enough for him to take up a personal vendetta, remorselessly retaliating against anyone who dares to muck his beauty. His cruelty is only matched by his insubordinate attitude; he and Starscream get some great interaction with each another. The latter is constantly driven mad over Knockout’s rebellious retorts and flimsy respect for him, while Knockout takes everything in stride and casually treats his boss as an annoyance getting in the way of his fun.
The heart of the episode deals with Jack, though. He’s a well-behaved young man, raised to be studious and responsible. But even he succumbs to silly teenage desires, this time by accepting a bully’s challenge to a dangerous drag race in order to impress the girl he likes. As expected, this gets him into a heap of trouble. Knockout enters the same racetrack and kidnaps the bully under assumption that he’s one of the Autobot’s human companions. Typically, everything works out in the end and Jack learns a valuable lesson. While this does diversify Jack’s personality, it doesn’t really push his character into anything notable. It’s a largely standalone and unremarkable incident never to be brought up again, used simply as a means to present an Aesop for the target audience.
I’m even more disappointed that they never went anywhere with Arcee. She follows orders and provides a stern guardianship to Jack a good portion of the time, never actively pursuing trouble. She has a strict and composed personality – until she’s prompted, that is. When something triggers her emotionally, her discipline is replaced with unbridled stubbornness and a reckless behavior. “Speed Metal” set this all up in the beginning and never really concludes whether she overcomes this major flaw. Overall, it’s not too big of a loss since her pigheadedness over personal matters is a recurring matter in her character arc throughout Transformers Prime, but it does feel inconclusive just for this one episode.
“Speed Metal” is a subpar episode with an equally mediocre life lesson tacked on, but Knockout keeps it relatively entertaining. The episode nailed his personality beautifully.