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"Transformers Prime" Season Two Premiere: Machines That Go "Pocketa Pocketa Pocketa"

I am so lost.

Well, that’s what I ought to be saying about “Orion Pax, Part 1,” the season 2 premiere of Transformers Prime, given that I’ve never watched the series and have been barely aware of its existence. Fortunately, the show (which is clearly pitched at a youthful demographic) knows that continuity for kiddoes should be leavened with enough repetition of exposition that even total newbies like me can’t get lost when we wander into the middle of things just after a cliffhanger. Score one for the good guys.

Liberal text borrowing privileges are the birthright of all sentient beingsStill, you shouldn’t trust me to understand the details enough to give a trustworthy synopsis. Luckily, as I say, you don’t have to understand much more than “These guys–Yay!” and “Those guys–Boo!”, and color schemes and vocal inflections are more than enough to tell you which inexpressive heap belongs to which team. More particularly: Apparently good-guy-leader Optimus Prime caught amnesia from an infected plot point at the conclusion of the last season, and has been carried off by the Decepticons, whose leader has spun his erstwhile captive a sufficiently pretty skein of lies that Optimus–who has reset himself as Orion Pax, an earlier personality and memory bank–has donned the colors of Team Decepticon. Megatron then gives Orion a job as librarian and sets him to deciphering some Autobot codes while cackling about how he’s going to shiv his new little datamongering recruit at the earliest opportunity. (He’s so unsubtle in those scenes you wonder if Homer-like he’s accidentally set his inner voice to “loud” and his outer voice to “quiet.”) Meanwhile, Optimus’s allies and teammates fret over his fate. Their plans for rescuing him didn’t much register with me, but basically they seem to involve laying hands on one MacGuffin that they can use to operate another MacGuffin so they get a third MacGuffin inside a fourth MacGuffin. (I think there are four of the Scottish lion-killers involved, but I may be double-counting a couple of times.) So, it doesn’t really matter. Hoops have been erected and set on fire.

As pop bubble-gum, it’s perfectly chewable, though it doesn’t have a lot of flavor. There’s not a lot of action, which is a shame, because what action there is puts some speed and spin on things while distracting you from the lifeless way everyone–bots and humans alike–waggles their limbs while over-emoting through dead faces. I have no idea who the kid characters are supposed to be or how they got hooked up with the Autobots, and I’m not especially tempted to care about them. The dramatic bits–the lead boy character gets to be antsy about his missing robot friend, and mopey about the life he has when robots aren’t around–have all the resonance of checklist items being ticked off one by one. But there is one twist at the end–I won’t give spoilers–that promises future fun, especially since it is going to leave two characters very surprised and a third character feeling extremely embarrassed as he tries ducking under some well-deserved energy blasts. Those who have been paying attention probably won’t be surprised at the twist, but it’s nicely handled and got a grin even out of me.

I’ve no idea if viewers returning after season 1 will enjoy what they find. As a potential new viewer, I will say that it did nothing to actually convert me. But I think all of us, the show’s producers most emphatically, would be surprised if it had.

Transformers Prime Season 2 premieres Saturday, February 18, 2012, at 8:30 PM (ET)/5:30 PM (PT) on the Hub Network.

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