Bumblebee feels inferior when his teammates endlessly tease him. Can he prove his worth with the arrival of new villain, Meltdown?
Remember when I mentioned how pathetic the human villains are in the last recap? Scratch that, Meltdown is an exception. Prometheus Black can be best defined as Isaac Sumdac’s opposite. The biggest distinction is Sumdac’s professionalism with robots while Black favors organics and bioengineering, but their personality difference stretches beyond that. Look at how the both of them treat Captain Fanzone when it comes time to present their latest invention to the police force. Black bribes Fanzone into investing his product by pampering him with free luxuries and a nice room. He pitches his experiment through equally flashy means by staging a public boxing match between his creation and Bumblebee. It also doubles as a vain attempt to prove the inferiority of technology. Meanwhile, Sumdac shows off his line of police robots in a drab, but humble workshop. Even their appearances contrast. Black stands tall, lean and sharply dressed, disco shoes notwithstanding. Sumdac is short and portly, donned in a simple labcoat. Lastly Sumdac is absentminded but kind, while Black is vindictive and egotistical. Naturally, it’s those traits that bring about Black’s downfall.
Black’s irrational hatred of machinery is a good obstacle for the Autobots to counter. When he blends Autobot fluid and his own chemicals together, he is accidentally exposed to the mixture. It subsequently ruins his life, changing him into an acid spewing monster. Now under the moniker “Meltdown”, he vows vendetta against Sumdac out of spite that his mechanical empire is superior. Meltdown is a serious foe with a dangerous mind to boot. Signs of his callousness were hinted before he became Meltdown, most tellingly the reveal that he has experimented on humans and his tone indicating that they weren’t volunteers. If Angry Archer was a walking joke, Meltdown exists as the opposite of that. Given how powerful the Autobots are in comparison to humans, having one possess a corrosive strong enough to cut through their armor is a scary thing to process. He’s such a creepy antagonist that it’s kind of a shame he’s introduced in an episode starring the comic relief.
Bumblebee’s plot is decent and predictably expected of him. When the other Autobots lightly tease his short stature, he takes it badly and tries to prove otherwise. It’s not just a height issue; “Total Meltdown” drives the point that between Bumblebee’s youth and feisty attitude, older Bots aren’t taking him as seriously. The setup is there, but the pacing is iffy. Bumblebee is an impulsive bot with a habit of making rash decisions, which the beginning emphasizes when he enters Black’s boxing ring without informing the others. This episode honestly starts kind of slowly while the story does gets tedious in the middle, since it mostly consists of Bumblebee anguishing over annoying shortness puns. Fortunately, the last third picks things up when it falls to Bumblebee to save Sumdac. His success impresses the other Autobots, though he still has a lot of growing up to do. So while the pacing falters, the general premise is consistent and gets the message across. I just can’t say it’s anything special.
I’m a little thrown off by Bulkhead’s demeanor. He instigates much of the insults and short jokes. On one hand, he’s the second youngest and this is just an extension of his immaturity. On the other hand, it feels widely out of character for someone as soft spoken and modest as him.
I enjoy Captain Fanzone’s portrayal here. His main shtick is his inability to handle anything electronic without it breaking out on him. He bemoans the idea of alien robots as Detroit’s heroes. Even his catchphrase (“This is why I hate machines!”) reflects his overall routine. In a lesser show, he might have been an incompetent boob who sticks with his one-note gag. Thankfully, Fanzone is treated with a bit more complication than that. As much as he dislikes machines, he’ll rely on the Autobots if it means a safer Detroit. It’s a small moment, but I like the added layer of complex. He doesn’t respect the Autobots, but he’s not so thickheaded that he can’t tolerate their presence.
Bumblebee’s plot and Meltdown’s quest for vendetta doesn’t blend from an atmospheric point of view. Bumblebee’s personal journey is lighthearted through and through while Meltdown brings a darker setting to the episode. It’s never too edgy that it clumsily mood swings, but I find Meltdown’s story much more interesting than Bumblebee’s. If anything, the latter’s plot gears towards the younger set with its Aesop. I think it makes sense since he’s the youngest member and Bumblebee fans will likely get the most kick out of it. I just stayed for the cool villain.