Jack teams up with Smokescreen to teach him how to be discreet. Meanwhile, Megatron discovers the powerful Star Saber.
I’ve never had any longstanding issues with Jack; he’s smart, resourceful, and mature for his age. They’re admirable traits that are only hampered by how bland he can be. Thankfully, the show doesn’t ignore his deeper facets and season two has largely been kind to Jack as it explores his other aspects. The biggest development is his growing courage and leadership qualities that others have pointed out, virtues that Optimus carries. It’s a very good indicator of how responsible and important this kid is. This makes “Legacy” an interesting case, because we’re seeing another side of him that hasn’t popped up since “Speed Metal”. Good Samaritan or not, Jack’s still your standard sixteen-year-old and like any teenage boy, he’ll occasionally cave in to his impulses. When bully Vince provokes him, Smokescreen tempts Jack to enact revenge and generally motivates him to loosen up. Jack’s descent from cautiousness to behaving like a wild child is a very human flaw that everyone can relate to. It’s not out of character, it’s youth. If I have any problems with Jack’s story, it’s yet another pacing issue. The effort is good, but the first half really falls flat. After Vince strikes, the scene cuts from a very reluctant Jack protesting Smokescreen’s vendetta to the two of them laughing from an off-camera prank they pulled. In fact, all their tagged team capers aren’t shown and the lack of visuals really harms the lesson Jack is supposed to learn. Measured pacing is much more palpable by the time Jack realizes that his brief irresponsibility has lead him straight into danger, but it did feel abrupt for a time.
If Jack’s story didn’t work out so well, the same fortunately does not apply to Smokescreen. Unlike Jack, we do see him pull foolish actions and questionable mannerisms. He reveals himself to a human thug to challenge him, drags and influences Jack to the wild side, and finally brings the boy along on a deadly mission without thinking of the consequences. I suggested a commentary between Smokescreen and Bumblebee where I pointed out Bumblebee’s time in the war has provided a mature, straight man role in stark contrast to Smokescreen’s wide-eyed naivety. It was more speculation than anything due to Bumblebee’s lacking personality, but the beginning part of “Legacy” seems to support my theory. Smokescreen’s the one cracking jokes and exposing himself to random humans, just to pick a fight. Bumblebee’s trying to keep his ego in check and panicking when said human takes a snapshot on his cellphone. They’re vastly different from one another despite likely being in the same age group, which really communicates how infantile Smokescreen’s behavior is. It’s a straightforward aesop you’ll see coming a mile away, but it’s an appropriate, well-paced narrative that works for an idiot kid like Smokescreen. After he’s dug himself too deep, his apology is genuinely sincere and fittingly concludes his story.
I also love the further nod to “New Recruit” where Arcee remains Smokescreen’s constant criticizer. She’d have nagged his bluntness purely for Jack’s safety even if she hadn’t pointed fingers before, but it’s a nice continuity boost regardless. For that matter, Jack’s brief time with Smokescreen in that same episode also gives “Legacy” a richer flavor.
I wish I could say more on the other plot. Megatron discovers yet another Cybertronian artifact, the Autobots fight for it, and big epic stuff happens. It’s all standard. Of course Optimus would be the only guy capable of wielding the sword. Smokescreen’s life lesson is just as predictable, but it flows better because it smoothly elaborates his flaws and the gradual growth he gains from it. Optimus has the sword because he’s a Prime, and that’s it. The ending may very well make it worthwhile though. Most Cybertronian artifacts tend to be used once per episode—two episodes if they’re lucky—but the Star Saber is specifically delivering a message from a Bot of great importance. The sword has a chance to be a very important weapon; I just fear they might squander it like most of the other artifacts.
“Legacy” isn’t as good as the last couple of episodes, as it misses more than it hits. The Megatron-Optimus plot is flair with little substance. Jack’s side story is clumsy. Smokescreen came dangerously close to annoying when he kept pulling one ridiculous stunt after another in order to push the Aesop and I almost lost my patience with the guy. Regardless his plot remains the most captivating, and I enjoyed the emphasis on him and Jack.