Transformers Prime - "Shadowzone" Episode 15 Recap
I’m torn on “Shadowzone”. I didn’t care for its A plot with the human kids, yet the B plot with Starscream is excellent. After Megatron retakes his position as Decepticon leader, Starscream unsurprisingly plans immediate treachery against his former master. Using the Dark Energon shard he had obtained many episodes back, he attempts to bring Skyquake back to life in an effort to counter Megatron. It’s only mildly successful, as the shard turns Skyquake into a brainless zombie.
Starscream’s story is humble compared to the central plot. Much of his time onscreen has him fumbling improvised plans to cover up his messes. Skyquake still refuses to obey him on virtue of being a walking undead, he has to contend with a detached arm while taking Autobot crossfire, and he has to deal with the reality that his glory days have officially crumbled in one fell swoop. He’s a tad frustrated, so to speak. Much of his reaction to the whole ordeal contributes and pushes his current character arc. He was once the Head Honcho, but his ego must now deal with the consequences of his failures. More than just a credible villain, Starscream can just as often mood swing into a hilarious figure without his key traits being sacrificed. Unlike the other main villains, Starscream’s hammy personality serves to enhance his character rather than detract from it. Simply put, he is a Primadonna and everything he pulls from unsubtle gestures to his boisterous behavior — all lend itself to a fascinating character with an equally fascinating story arc. Every other villain tends to stick out whenever they perform an exaggerated scene because they’re often low key, but Starscream fits the cheese just right.
I hope they go somewhere with the Dark Energon shard Starscream absorbed. If later episodes are any indication, Megatron’s prolonged exposure to it drove him crazy and gave him the ability to hear Unicron. Starscream briefly consumed his, so either he’ll react differently or the energy will simply dissipate from his body. I’m praying for the former; it’d be a good waste of plot if this issue is never brought up.
By contrast, the stake is much higher with the human kids. Miko follows the Autobots in an attempt to snag pictures of Zombie Skyquake, forcing Jack and Raf to follow out of concern. The Autobots urge their safe return via a ground bridge. At the same time, the Decepticons open their ground bridge under Starscream’s command. Operating two separate bridges fixated on one location causes a distortion that sends the children in an alternate dimension of their world. Trapped with no way to contact the Autobots, they have to contend with the undead Skyquake.
Their dilemma is intense, but I found it difficult to care for the trio. Raf is fine, but Jack is dull and Miko is irritating. They get a few close calls with Skyquake to shake it up a bit, and their attempted communication with the Autobots via cellphone is ingenious. They’re unable to contact their robotic buddies and must struggle to find a different answer, so it’s a compelling conflict that isn’t automatically and conveniently resolved. Otherwise, they essentially run around in circles until they’re rescued. It doesn’t help that Miko is at her absolute worst here. I was never a fan of her abrasive personality, but her sheer disregard for safety and questionable decisions were painful to absorb. Racing headfirst into danger to witness a giant, robotic zombie is a very idiotic thing to do, and her refusal to leave and constant insults aggravate me. She turned from plain annoying to unlikable by the end of the episode.
“Shadowzone” is a very mixed episode. The main plot grabs your attention more, but it’s flash over substance. Starscream’s tale is deeper and yields better, captivating results. It’s a great look at his growing arc and provides a worthwhile addition to the overall series. “Shadowzone” also contains the single most hilarious ending: Skyquake tries to repair his own broken arm by callously sticking in Starscream’s. When it doesn’t fit, he merely chucks it away. It’s a short, simple visual cue that had me rolling. You’ll watch this for the general plot and stay for Starscream.