The Autobots are left to pick up the pieces after the battle against the Decepticons, but things grow complicated with the arrival of the Autobot Elite Guards and the matter of the now-dispersed Allspark.
Last time on Transformers Animated, Optimus’ team fought a newly reconstructed Megatron as both factions duked it out for the Allspark. It was a no-holds barred, intense battle that left no stones unturned. The next episode would have to be even more epic to top that!
This episode isn’t, though. “The Elite Guard” opens up gently with the Autobots rebuilding Detroit, while Sari struggles to handle her father’s company in his absence. While it’s less bombastic than the “Megatron Rising” two-parter, it’s actually much larger in scope. The first season established the rise and fame of five nobodies. Their arrival on Earth was significant and it permanently changed their lives for the better. Back on Cybertron, they were nothing. On Earth, they’re regarded as celebrities and superheroes, praised by the people of Detroit. Optimus got his dream: he became a hero. Meanwhile, the rest of his crewmates grew and got closer to one another, to the point that they readily defend Optimus when the Elite Guards dismiss him.
Leave it to Sentinel to crash and burn the whole thing. In just one episode, everything the Autobots had gained, everything they fought so hard for means absolutely nothing in the face of the prestigious Autobot Elite Guards. Composed of the straitlaced Ultra Magnus, brash Sentinel Prime and aloof Jazz, these three outrank and overshadow Optimus’ crew so fast I got whiplash. They don’t believe a lowly janitorial crew defeated Megatron, nor do they care about their status on Earth. They’re only here for the Allspark and whatever they do after is inconsequential. They did the impossible and manage to make “Megatron Rising” look like small potatoes.
Each of the three is given enough space to introduce themselves. Ultra Magnus is studious and commendable, apathetic to Optimus’ cause, but a capable leader with his head on straight. He’s the Autobots’ true leader for a reason. Jazz’s friendly attitude compliments his easygoing nature and fascination with Earth culture. But Sentinel is the worst of the lot. Previously only seen in tiny cameos, his debut here is about as grand as his chin size. Sentinel is haughty and highly xenophobic towards organic creatures. The spider incident took a heavy toll on him and this is the sad, sad result. He is such a blundering jerkwad that you cheer for Optimus when he finally tells Sentinel to back off, which is one of the crowning moments of this show.
And therein lays the brilliance of this episode. “The Elite Guard” is a setup for something far bigger than what the first sixteen episodes laid out. The Autobots felt like the most important people around until they were reminded of their dinky little positions. They don’t have proof of their accomplishments, nor the high position and status the Elite Guards possess. This is world building at its finest. With the introduction of the Elite Guards, the universe suddenly got a little bigger. The autobots also have new challenges ahead of them: The Allspark has been separated into pieces that they now must collect, the Decepticons are running loose in Detroit somewhere with the kidnapped Isaac Sumdac in their hands, and oh yeah: Sari doesn’t officially exist.
Season two of Transformers Animated opens up fantastically by setting up new expectations and foreshadowing. My only complaint is the humans’ growing fear towards the Autobots because of the previous battle, despite them fending off Starscream similarly at the start of the show. My guess is that it’s meant to add yet another layer of insult to tarnish their reputation, but I personally found it shoddy and forced. Either way, this is going to be interesting.