A new Autobot joins the team. Meanwhile, Starscream seeks out the elusive Red Energon.
Finally, a new Autobot. This show needed one for the longest time. Filling in as the eager but immature and inexperienced rookie, Smokescreen essentially takes a role I thought Bumblebee was attached to. This is slightly disappointing, as I feel that Bumblebee’s potential in that rule is pushed aside in favor of the newbie. It doesn’t help that impulsive Autobots are dime a dozen; Wheeljack, Cliffjumper, and even Arcee have had their moments make Smokescreen come off as a tad redundant. Still, Smokescreen’s behavior is actually a commentary on their vast differences. Bee is the youngest, but he’s had war experience that’s molded him into a smarter, well-adjusted character that stands out in contrast even though Bumblebee doesn’t have a striking personality. Smokescreen’s willingness and enthusiasm is fairly infectious and oddly endearing, but kid appeal characters tend to walk a short leash with me (his voice sometimes shrills to Chipmunk level). Only time will tell if he’ll be adorable or grating.
Smokescreen is an interesting case not because of his personality, but because of what he may be in the long run. The Autobots were smart to keep him at bay, given past incidents with false allies. The episode hints he could be someone suspicious and that his cheery exterior could all be a facade. His story comes off too neat and clean, while his fascination with the currently frozen Airachid furthers the point that he may have a second agenda. His name is Smokescreen; that name alone invites mistrust. I don’t think he’s necessarily going to turn into a Decepticon or is one in disguise, I think he’s a mole for a higher Cybertronian authority with a secret mission. That way, the Autobots will still question his intent without giving him the immediate boot when the full truth is revealed. Or these hints could be red herrings, and he is exactly who he says he is. Either way, this series needed the fresh blood.
“New Recruit” has a number of plots going on. Bulkhead is insecure when Smokescreen appears, fearing his current handicap will mean he’s being replaced. Likewise, Red Energon is introduced as a power source that can give a Cybertronian hyperspeed, but at no point do we ever see this in action. Jack guides Smokescreen around the main Autobot base and bonds with him a bit. Could there be a future partnership between the two, however brief? This would also give Arcee cause to protest further, since she’s been the most vocal against Smokescreen’s arrival. All these subplots have been sprung on us, but remain underdeveloped for now. This show is like Transformers Armada in that regard, except instead of hastily wrapping up everything, it goes the opposite route and introduces new story ideas for future episodes to focus on. At least, this is what I’m banking on; all of these have enough material to get the spotlights they deserve. I’m especially rooting for Bulkhead to desperately wear the Apex Armor in a boneheaded attempt to prove he’s still got it. Either way, the plots have been implanted, let’s see if any of them will go anywhere.
Color me surprised when Smokescreen used the Phase Shifter; I never thought anyone would use it. Granted, this still doesn’t explain why the Autobots refuse to utilize it and other Cybertronian artifacts more often, but I’m glad their existence is acknowledged. One nagging issue is how he was able to kick Starscream out of the armor, when “Tunnel Vision” establishes it can phase through anything that isn’t solid ground, including other Cybertronians.
“New Recruit” is an episode that got better after repeated viewings. The numerous B-stories are as gracefully compacted as a packed clown car, but they open up new angles and twists. Smokescreen may end up annoying me, but his introduction was laid out nicely.