It’s a mad race between the Autobots and Decepticons when they discover a fossilized Predacon skull.
With the chaos and sense of hopelessness of the last four episodes over, the Autobots have a chance to breathe and focus on their new mission: locate the fossilized Predacons before the Decepticons do. Fortunately for them they’re all located on Earth, established in a rather needlessly complicated backstory, though I do like that they may have inspired Earth mythology.
“Project Predacon” lays the groundwork for a lot of character explorations while neatly moving the plot along. The main story centers primarily on Optimus, Bumblebee, and Smokescreen, the former spending most of his time flying around advertising his new flight mode while the latter two get the meat of the development. Smokescreen struggles with his return to rookie role after the whole Prime candidate fiasco, eventually asking Bumblebee why a skilled guy like him is still a lowly scout. He is incredulous when he finds Bee chose to stay in that role, inspiring a great deal of the patience that Smokescreen lacked. He questions his current flaws and realizes he needs to be more humble. This is a step in the right direction; his overeager behavior and brash tendencies caused harm to his personal journey rather than elevating it, so hopefully this will be the kick he needs to finally grow up. The scene also neatly supports my theory that Bumblebee has his head on straight compared to Smokescreen. I think it’s a neat progression since he was more or less stuck as the “Kid Sidekick” archetype prior to Smokescreen’s arrival.
The other half of the bunch seems to be a set up for the next episode. You can take Wheeljack out of battle, but you can’t take the battle out of him, much to Ultra Magnus’ bemusement. I’m glad they’re still going somewhere with this, as I think Ultra Magnus’ straight-faced persona is a dynamic contrast to Wheeljack’s looser output. He’s much more of a team player than he was before, but he hasn’t left his Wrecker philosophy behind.
The only other thing to note is the return of the synthetic energon subplot. Finally, someone mentions it. This hasn’t been dealt with since season one! You would think the ability to create Energon would be given more importance than it actually has.
“Project Predacon” is a decidedly calmer episode, providing the stepping stones for the next big thing. It does end in another awesome plot twist when Megatron ends up with the fossil sample that Optimus and the others fought so hard to claim. The ground bridge reveal was nothing short of brilliant. I also didn’t expect a new intro, I figured they were going to keep the old one with the new “Beast Hunters” logo smacked onto it. I’m glad to be proven wrong.