The Decepticons have won. The Autobots have separated and must now survive.
“Darkest Hour” was the game changer. Cybertron’s only hope for salvation is lost, the Autobot base is destroyed and the team separated, and the Decepticons lord over Jasper, Nevada. “Darkmount, NV” picks up right from the last episode and the situation hasn’t gotten any kinder. I think the best scene that emphasizes this occurs in the beginning when it shows off the remains of Jasper. It’s a very atmospheric scene that uses neither dialogue nor music. Everything is silent and dead.
The episode devotes time to focusing on the separated Autobots and successfully dives into their current feelings and desperation. Wheeljack has been captured and Ratchet is currently MIA. Bumblebee sports a new paint job to evade Decepticon detection, while Bulkhead’s scene with Miko establishes that cellphone contact as a big no-no. This is complicated when Jack tries to resist the urge to text his mother, but unfortunately he caves in and sends one message. It’s a dumb move, but I like that sense of vulnerability. For all the responsibilities and maturity he’s grown into, Jack is faced with an entirely different situation. He’s risked his life before, but mostly as an independent third party with little attachment to the war. Now that his hometown is burnt to the ground, this affects him on a deeper personal level.
I also love his teamwork moment with Arcee. Way back in “Predatory”, Arcee wouldn’t accept Jack as a full partner, constantly worrying that his safety will be compromised. She lost Tailgate and Cliffjumper before, leading to her spending most of Transformers Prime battling her demons. Here, Arcee and Jack team up to fight the Vehicons as equals. They’ve both come a long way and it’s a monumental change between the two.
Meanwhile, Smokescreen managed to rescue Optimus Prime from the wreckage, but he’s not doing so hot. They get the least focus, so there isn’t much to say, but Optimus’ “no hope” line is alarming. As the Autobot leader and its Prime, Optimus directly influences and inspires the other Autobots. He is determined to end the war and carries a lot of aspiration on his shoulders despite the tragedies he’s suffered. To have him think otherwise only adds to the struggle. This must be a big blow to Smokescreen since he hero-worships Optimus. What do you do when the leader of the Autobots says there’s no hope?
A couple of mishaps involve Fowler’s cover up story concerning Jasper’s fate. As far as outside public and the media are concerned, Jasper’s demise is the result of a meteor shower. I find this faulty for a couple of reasons. First off, there’s a giant Decepticon tower standing right there, it’s not trying to be inconspicuous. Secondly, even if the public can’t see it from a distance, the surviving civilians of Jasper surely would have. It’s hard to miss! I mean, somebody must have at least posted a picture on the internet! I don’t get why they’re still hanging onto the “robots in disguise” moniker, especially if the excuse is this flimsy. The other is Megatron’s feeble attempt to trick Fowler into a peaceful alliance right after he blew up several tanks and helicopters. To Fowler’s credit, he doesn’t believe Megatron’s lies anyway.
While it lacks the emotional intensity of the “Orion Pax” trilogy, “Darkmount, NV” gets the season off to a good start. I enjoyed the individual focuses on each of the Autobots. I also love the teases it has in store for future episodes. Airachnid isn’t dead yet and while her story with Arcee is more than finished, I like her enough that I wouldn’t mind one last showdown with the spidery freak. Lastly, the episode ends with Shockwave’s arrival, providing yet another good opportunity for the Decepticons. Whatever mess the Autobots are in, it just got ten times worse.