The Autobots and Decepticons engage in their final battle for the fate of two worlds!
Very few story-driven cartoons ever get the rare chance to answer most of their big questions and simultaneously pull off an effective finale. The only one from recent years that I can remember doing that off the top of my head is Avatar: The Last Airbender. The sad fact is that a lot of these kind of toons suffer cancellation that forces the creators to either abruptly end the series in a frustrating cliffhanger or, even worse, produce a blatantly rushed ending that only meagerly satisfies the audience because they had to wrap everything up in just a half hour. Transformers Prime is very fortunate to suffer neither of these aliments because like Avatar, it managed to wrap up a lot of its central story arcs, saving a major one—that is, Predaking—for the upcoming movie. Ironically, a lot of this can be traced back to the veritable mess that was season two, which sought to introduce seasons worth of plots only to solve them a mere three to five episodes later and then revert everything back to the status quo. However, this in turn gave season three the breathing ground it needed to focus on one or two major things, and its consistency ultimately saved Prime from a mediocre series finale.
“Deadlock” is perfect – well, as perfect as a finale can be. There are a few mishaps. The Wreckers (Bulkhead, Ultra Magnus, and Wheeljack) are largely relegated to background. Smokescreen diverts from his teammates to retrieve the Star Saber, but for some ill-conceived reason, decides it’s not worth telling them why he’s leaving. Acting like he’d gained enough credit to do that when the show really hasn’t given me a reason to believe it bugged me. His whole “Will-he-or-will-he-not-be-Prime” plotline has been left in the backburner, but I’m kind of hoping the movie will do something about it. Despite my criticism, he has significantly matured enough by now that this particular plot is worth exploring.
But overall, the episode is golden. Unlike the bonafide epic that is the season one finale or the massive cliffhanger of season two, “Deadlock” managed to successfully capture flashy actions while balancing proper storytelling and character developments. What I got wasn’t a giant free-for-all brawl, but something far more personal and engaging.
Bumblebee is “Deadlock’s” biggest surprise because I went in this episode expecting a strict Optimus Prime vs. Megatron battle. While there was plenty of that, it is Bee who lands the final blow on Megatron shortly after the latter kills him. He is quickly restored to normal – voice and all – when he fell into the Omega Lock. This could have been an awful scene. Bee’s death is played in the usual dramatic fashion, only for him to hop back in a minute later. This kind of mood whiplash is often tasteless and idiotic. Also slapping such an important role on Bumblebee does the episode a mild disservice because of his limited focus; the show really did not utilize him well and he spent most of Transformers Prime as a bland background with a gimmicky voice box. But “Deadlock” somehow makes it all work. His revival in the Omega Lock is nothing short of brilliant. Given just how big of a deal the device is and what it represents, Bee’s return is symbolic of what the Autobots and Decepticons have been fighting for all these years. I think it was wise that they brought him back almost instantly after he died, as having his death linger would have made his revival feel cheap (a situation that I decried before.) And let’s face it, since Megatron destroyed Bee’s voice, it’s only fitting he gets to deliver the sweet, sweet karmic payback.
Adding to the list of brilliant things is how the kids managed to get rid of Soundwave. After all, how do you kill him? He’s like the ultimate warrior, no one can beat him! Jack finds a way and it’s ridiculously clever: use his own ground bridge trick against him and whip him off to the Shadowzone. That is so ingenious that it, like Soundwave, left me speechless.
Starscream’s reaction to Megatron’s death is psychologically warped. No matter how much ol’ Buckethead beats him up, he still vows vengeance on the Autobot for killing his boss. We know what kind of character Starscreams usually tend to be, so I’ve been preconditioned to expect he’ll raise a fist in triumph upon seeing his master dead, but his undying loyalty has stayed true since the events of “Patch”. Though no less sneaky, his devotion to the Decepticon cause has been stable enough that I can believe his mourning is genuine. I like that he’s a different kind of Starscream. I also love that he ditches the Nemesis with his rival, Shockwave. It’s even funnier when he calmly tells Starscream to shut up now that he knows exactly how the seeker feels about him.
I figured Predaking’s role would be diminished to a cameo, but even that tiny increment adds a great deal to his character. He witnesses Cybertron for the first time and his face says it all; he is in awe because he’s home. I look forward to seeing more of him in the movie.
Knock Out is a bit of an odd duck because unlike the rest, his fate is one of the remarkable few left up in the air. He spends the episode hilariously weaseling his way out of the Nemesis, then casually tries to join Team Prime (only for Miko to punch his lights out.) That one intrigues me because of the potential “What If.” One of his personal issues is that he rarely ever gets the respect he desires. In the last episode, he and Ratchet exchange pleasantries and though he was rather nonchalant, Knock Out seemed quite pleased when Ratchet thanked him. Considering he’s likely to be the biggest butt monkey behind Starscream, actively insubordinate, and an admirer of Earth culture – if not their choice in vehicles – switching to a new faction where he can potentially gain some manner of respect (or at least some degree of attention) would be cause enough for him. Ratchet volunteers to stay on Earth and though Cybertron is merely a space bridge away, they do need a medic, which is a role Knock Out is more than capable of fulfilling. At best, the Autobots will keep him prisoner, but Team Prime needs all the help they can get. Then again, this show is incapable of getting out of its black and white morality, so they may as well just confine Knock Out to a cell. This is probably more speculation than is necessary for a segment that clearly plays out as a joke, but I really hope the movie explores his future role, however small it may be.
Ratchet’s decision is a great wraparound to his overall development. He was the Autobot who least tolerated Earth and its inhabitants, so to have him stay instead of returning to Cybertron proves this little blue planet means a great deal to him. It’s a great strategy, too; having at least one Autobot on Earth would mean better communications to Cybertron. I also love that his tale wraps around at the same time Bee’s does. Distressing over Bumblebee’s voice only to complete the formula for the very synthesis that brought it back is poetic. Bumblebee hugging Ratchet in gratitude is nothing short of adorable.
At no point do any of these character arcs clumsily collide with one another; each of the cast are given a respective amount of time to shift through their problem. This is all within the first twelve minutes of the episode, showing an expert level of pacing the series usually has a poor grasp of. That leaves the last half to deal with Cybertron’s restoration and the final goodbye. Bumblebee, Bulkhead, and Arcee’s departure from their human partners are handled with the proper emotions the moments need. Miko tearfully crying into Bulkhead’s feet is good, but I was more touched with Raf’s final words when Bee attempts a farewell, “You don’t have to say anything.” Bee touchingly concludes, “I never did.” Yet the ending never gets so deep that their departure feels more permanent that it really is. They have the means to return and it’s pretty clear regular visits will be a norm in the future. It’s got just the right amount of bittersweet.
Transformers Prime has given me one hell of a trip. I admit that as a whole, my feelings on the show are still lukewarm. It’s a visual wonder that managed to successfully deliver plot twists and epic storytelling in one flashy package. Genuine displays of subtlety and character development are plentiful and the good ones succeed in spades. Yet every time they pull something amazing, the show always finds a way to counter it in the worst possible ways. A frequent reliance on battles over stories took over a decent number of episodes, its way of reverting back to the status quo after a major story negatively affected the show, and some of the themes the show employed were often downplayed or contradicted. Not to mention the overabundance of hammy delivery for trite dialogue, which was frequent enough that even appropriately dramatic scenes end up coming off as cheesier than they should have been.
I’ve been openly disappointed in Prime numerous times and I still consider it a step down from the excellent Animated (for that matter, I think Rescue Bots is significantly better at balancing story and characters, too), but you know what, I still had fun. In the long run, it was still a blast to sit through. I was still blown away by the shocking revelations. I still cared for some of the characters and eagerly anticipated what they would get into next. I still collect the toys and proudly display them on my desktop because I find their designs aesthetically pleasing. Transformers Prime isn’t an awful show and and my fangirlish nitpicks and analysis should tell you how much I care about it – or that I’m nuts. Whatever the case is, I can safely say Transformers Prime started and ended with a bang.
For good or ill, I am very much looking forward to the movie. Hey, at least it’ll be fun.