Ratchet meets a crazy, childish, garbage-spewing robot.
Did I say “Nature’s Call” was the funniest Transformers Animated episode ever? I change my mind, this is the funniest episode ever.
Wreck-Gar is a surreal robot with the attention span of a toaster, the mind of an impressionable child, and a devoted member of the Church of Mondegreen. His antics and bottomless bag of useless junk are borderline Looney Tunes material, yet the Transformers Animated universe is eccentric enough that it can support a guy like him. His appearance represents one of the defining elements of Animated: its gleeful and often tongue-in-cheek callbacks to the greater Transformers franchise that offer a wink and a nod for longtime fans without being distracting and confusing to newcomers. In addition to that, Wreck-Gar unexpectedly supports a baggage of depth despite his simpleton act.
Naïve to a fault, Wreck-Gar follows whatever he hears with a one-track mind and only one goal in mind: what is his purpose? He tries to lend a helping hand (ironically installed in him by a small time thief), but Ratchet grumpily rejects his Autobot status and elegantly tells him he’s only good for one thing: garbage. This drives him to inadvertently join the Decepticon force and once he pledges his allegiance, Lugnut treats him far more loyalty and passionately than Ratchet did. It’s a wily cover story that quietly emphasizes the gray between Autobots and Decepticons. Ratchet is nowhere near vicious and reprehensible, but he doesn’t make the Autobot position look endearing. The Autobots can make all the claims all they want, but the two sides aren’t stark opposites so much as they are factions with different ideas that are also severely and almost depressingly flawed. For someone stuck in that neutral middle ground, it’s a difficult choice. Eventually, this leads to an crucially important decision: you’re allowed to choose your own path instead of following others willy-nilly. Ratchet was prepared for Wreck-Gar to keep his Decepticon streak, but that decent piece of advice was enough for him to choose to be a hero instead. I may be reading too much into this since the episode plays everything for laughs, but it certainly foreshadows future episodes where this particular subject matter gets treated more seriously. I think it’s clever and insightful.
Sadly, Ratchet’s story is not good. I talked about how season one skillfully juggled Aesops and moral lessons without the repetition. It pains me to admit that season two doesn’t recapture that magic. Optimus matches Bumblebee and Sari with Ratchet to help him improve his grumpy attitude. Ratchet eventually learns to loosen up as a result but not only is this blatant, it’s also completely redundant after “Thrill of the Hunt” and “Lost and Found” gracefully portrayed a kinder Ratchet and did it better. He’s already proven to be a caring, compassionate bot and “Garbage In, Garbage Out” isn’t doing him any favor by repeating the same thing. This will sadly become a recurring incident.
“Garbage In, Garbage Out” is an absurd episode and Wreck-Gar’s comic timing is enough to make up for the repetition of this episode. I do appreciate their interaction in this episode, which works a lot better than it had any right to. With this episode, you’ll loosen up and stick around for the laughs.