Bulkhead tries to be more graceful when he wrecks everything in his path. Meanwhile, Megatron reveals himself to Sumdac and tricks him into creating the Dinobots.
Bulkhead is pretty far down my list of favorite characters ever. The Big Guy trope doesn’t do it for me; it usually revolves around how simpleminded and idiotic such characters are as they brainlessly break stuff. It’s the kind of barebones archetype that doesn’t lend itself any credit. However, I’m a bit more keen on it when they’re portrayed as gentle creatures that are more than just a physical powerhouse. If I had to choose between a macho, muscled dork versus someone kindhearted and well-meaning despite his size, my heart goes out to the latter choice every time. That’s how it is for Bulkhead in “Blast From The Past”, who’s so downright lovable that I can’t feel total disinterest. He’s stated before that he’s known to have a sensitive side, but all people expect him to be is an unsubtle wrecking ball. It doesn’t help that Bulkhead is often that way unintentionally, as we see when he ends up violently swinging trees and colliding into things. This is exaggerated to get the point across and he’s not remotely as destructive in any other episodes, but this episode is a good look at the kind of guy he is. Naturally, even learning gracefulness from Prowl proves fruitless. Ultimately the lesson is to just be yourself, which is cheesy but effective and necessary to address Bulkhead’s lack of self-esteem.
Megatron continues to be a menacing foe despite his current handicap. He reveals himself to Isaac Sumdac and tricks him into recreating the robotic dinosaurs into walking death machines. Sumdac’s your standard absent-minded scientist and this offers some justification on why he accepts Megatron’s words so easily, though when he witnesses the Dinobots’ fire breathing this this borders on ridiculous. Just how naïve is this man? Megatron is good about keeping his motives as inconspicuous as possible. I love that his tone inflicts that; it’s soft with only an occasional edge to it, but I still question some of Sumdac’s foolishness. I theorize a part of it may be his guilt for keeping Megatron a secret from the Autobots. He’s afraid of how they will react the day he’s forced to reveal his entire robotic empire came about because he essentially copied Cybertronian technology.
The most interesting segment of “Blast From the Past” occurs around the end when the characters react to the Dinobots’ existence: are they sentient or mindless machines? They’re capable of feelings and free will, but remain simpleminded. They were built by Sumdac and only brought to life through Sari’s key (and a whole lot of electricity), which becomes even more mysterious as we get another glimpse of its immense potential. The doubt over the Dinobots seems odd and may be only justified by the Allspark key’s enigmatic nature; it seems particularly egregious when previous episodes emphasized the Allspark’s connection with life.
However, one person does touch on the issue: Prowl. He questions Sumdac’s decision to melt them down when they “malfunctioned” because he feels life in them. I racked my brain on why he’s able to detect sparks the others cannot, but then I realized it makes perfect sense. Why not Prowl? He’s the most spiritual of the five, so it’s not surprising he mediated enough to gain a sort of sixth sense that allows him to see things others can’t. Unlike his teammates, Prowl observes matters far greater than just what is in front of him; he studies and sees beyond its main structure.
“Blast From the Past” is an excellent starting point for Bulkhead’s character. It also neatly ties in both the Dinobots and Sumdac and Megatron’s partnership, blending its various elements together better than “Total Meltdown” crossed over the subplots involving Bumblebee and Meltdown.