Optimus must decide between giving up the Allspark or the lives of Detroit when Starscream challenges the Autobots.
If the third part of “Transform and Roll Out” suffers from anything, it’s that it feels a bit detached from the first two. Part one works as an opener that sets the tone while Part two establishes the setting and overall structure; Part 3 is little more than an extension. A lot of this is made evident by the large quantity of action that dominates the episode and plot points that could easily be integrated to the overall series. Thankfully, it still manages to find a striking balance between the two. “Transform and Roll Out: Part 3” never ignores the quieter moments, opening up with the Autobots settling in Detroit. Their attempt to understand Earth culture effectively humanizes them, and Optimus pulls a priceless reaction when Sari tells him where human babies come from in one memorable scene.
The Autobots’ reputation rapidly increases as they handle Detroit’s problems. A lot of that is rescue work and though every life is precious for Optimus, this is hardly the epic battle between good and evil that heroes are usually made of. He gets more than what he bargains for when Starscream crashes the party, though. He wants the Allspark and if he doesn’t get it now, then they can kiss Detroit good-bye. Optimus is forced to make a difficult choice: sacrifice the city that’s come to rely on his team or hand Starscream a powerful artifact that will doom them all regardless.
Now Optimus realizes the weighty issues. Sacrifice is something that isn’t actually foreign to him, he’s not that naïve. He’s just put into a position that has no good outcome for anyone but Starscream. He has to make the proper decisions to ensure the best possible result, and in his effort to do that here Optimus further displays his chops as a leader. He utilizes Sari’s plans, improving upon them as the situation changes. By the time Starscream figures things out, it’s an all out war. Optimus’ determination eventually ends in victory, but at the cost of his life. It’s at these last moments when he finally understands that true heroism doesn’t come from those who seek it, but from a sincere desire to better the world.
Prowl’s character comes full circle when he recognizes his arrogance and supports an ensemble team to counter Starscream. Sari, meanwhile, defies many criticisms human protagonists often suffer in the Transformers franchise and proves her resourcefulness when she builds up a feasible plan. She is also ultimately responsible for Optimus’s revival through her Allspark key. I wonder if the latter was intentional lampshading given the character’s frequent – practically traditional – habit of dying. He buys the harp farm only to be resurrected seconds later in just the third episode. It’s as if the writers decided, “He always dies, so let’s just get this over with so we can focus on other matters”. It’s hilarious! It’s no less emotionally charged when each of the main characters react vividly to Optimus’ demise, though.
Ratchet checks Optimus for any spark of life before grimly announcing his death. He’s seen too many Bots killed during the war and likely has mentally prepared himself for such an event, even if the aftermath isn’t any less easy. Prowl is visibly affected by it, though. Having been selfish most of his life, witnessing someone die to save others is such a foreign concept to him. Bulkhead and Bumblebee attempts to tell Sari that death is not reversible. Sari’s stubbornness isn’t so much due to her not understanding the concept, but rather her absolute refusal to accept losing even one of her new friends.
The crowning star is Starscream though. He wastes no time threatening and shooting when his opponents retaliate. It was a conscious decisions by the creators to emphasize how mighty and intimidating the Cons would look and feel in comparison to the Autobots, and part 3 easily sets this in stone. The Decepticons are bigger, towering over the Autobots. The largest one, Bulkhead, is merely half the size of Starscream. They carry conventional weaponry, while Autobots don tools and come off less militarized and combat-ready as the Cons. The Decepticons also has the advantage of flight and quite appropriately, this adds to Starscream’s ego. He’s constantly in the air while he’s making speeches, indicating how little he thinks of everyone. They’re powerful beings, to the point that several Autobots have to work together to knock out even one. The creators did a fantastic job representing Starscream’s tremendous threat level.
The overall action is nothing short of perfection and the choreography is topnotch. The most visually striking moment occurs when Starscream flies around the city in an attempt to ward off Optimus, who’s hanging from his legs. Optimus is bumped and dragged into numerous obstacles and it’s a bit unsettling. There’s no way this would happen if a human was on the other end. Dazzling camera angles and a variety of combat—including the most serious game of “Keep Away” ever—pumps up the adrenaline quota. I was hooked.
If the “Transform and Roll Out” trilogy was all that existed of Transformers Animated, then it would succeed as an excellent, tightly packed, standalone. It leaves with the idea that there will be plenty more adventures to come, but ends on a satisfying conclusion that wraps up its current storyline.