The Decepticons unleash their newest weapon, the dreaded Predaking. Can the Autobots stop this powerful creature or will he seal their doom permanently?
“Scattered” ended with major changes that could make or break our heroes’ success. The Autobots gain an old ally, the straitlaced Ultra Magnus, who makes his presence known right off the bat. He’s worked with Optimus as a commanding officer and treats his job professionally. He is strictly by-the-book and dictates proper protocol (he calls lesser ranked Autobots” soldiers” and demands a “sir” in return.) He’s exceptional in battle and carries an arsenal of weapons that will give our heroes some leverage to kickstart the war again. He’s stoic to a fault, yet is capable of subtle mood changes. When someone disobeys him, he’s tone is slightly edged. And notice that out of all the Autobots he addresses, he never chides Ratchet when the latter doesn’t call him by rank. The two interact almost on equal terms, hinting of a deeper past. It’s clear these two respect each other. Wheeljack’s attitude is the complete opposite. Because he’s a free spirit, he instantly disapproves of Ultra Magnus’ rules. There’s a bushel of interesting character interaction begging to be explored amongst these three, so I hope we get to see more later down the line.
The Decepticons definitely get the better deal when it comes to new characters. Shockwave unleashes his latest creation – the dreaded Predacon, Predaking – to defeat the Autobots and boy howdy, is he cool. First off, he’s a robot dragon, which is automatically awesome. Predaking has an aesthetically pleasing design, though I’m not wild about the black and orange color scheme. I like the little touches the animators added to this character like how his chest has a glow that flows through his neck before he breathes fire, or the way his wings flutter like paper whenever he’s flying. Either way, he’s gorgeously rendered. Secondly, he’s ridiculously powerful. Predaking is so aggressive and unrelenting that it takes nearly the entire episode for the Autobots to escape his wrath. Despite his appearance and mannerisms though, Predaking shows signs that he may not be a primitively mindless creature. When Starscream criticizes him, he clearly takes insult. A savage beast is dangerous enough, but to potentially have one that’s self-aware is on another level altogether. I admit I was apprehensive when I first heard Transformers Prime would carry out the Beast Hunter gimmick. Giant prehistoric creatures felt out of place in an ongoing war between two robot factions, but now that I’ve seen Predaking in action, I am no longer reluctant. I can’t wait to see what he’ll pull off next.
The Autobots and their human companions eventually reunite, but the lack of a leader forces Ultra Magnus to temporarily take over. The aftermath from “Darkest Hour” still lingers and the team is more desperate than ever. However, their camaraderie is significantly stronger to boot. The biggest example is probably Wheeljack, who now seems to be a permanent addition to the crew instead of a guest star. I like the message “Prey” implies: The Autobots aren’t sure if Optimus is alive, but that’s not going to stop them. They will carry on the fight and continue to uphold his legacy and philosophy. It’s a different kind of experiment to potentially push someone as iconic as Optimus off to the side, but it really shows how much the situation has changed without completely excluding his presence from the series. I have a sneaky feeling Optimus will return just because he is so important to the overall franchise, but I’m hoping it’ll be much later down the line. Hmm, possible season finale surprise?
Only Smokescreen and Optimus have yet to join the rest. Sadly, their story remains the only unfortunate blip on an otherwise enticing conclusion. After a bit of buildup, Optimus comes to a decision likely forged from desperation and necessity: there will be a new Prime and Smokescreen got the golden ticket. I can’t say I didn’t see this coming, it’s an appropriate and logical leap in Smokescreen’s story. He admires Optimus and wants to be just like him, citing it as his “destiny”, however I’ve expressed this problem before and it’s these exact same issues that drives me to question why Optimus thinks this is a sound decision. Not once throughout the series has Smokescreen ever demonstrated that he has the qualities to be a leader. A lot of Smokescreen’s character development is that he’s supposed to understand and realize that war is not kind, tragedy is a guarantee, and hard choices are nonnegotiable. He either doesn’t learn these lessons, or they were taught to them and didn’t stick. Optimus is wise, noble, intelligent, and patient. He’s not a perfect bot, but he’s a seasoned warrior who carries the world on his shoulders. In comparison, Smokescreen is arrogant, whiny, overeager and clueless. He’s optimistic and well-meaning, but he has yet to elevate from his immaturity. It’s not all for naught, Smokescreen possibly could learn the finer points of being a Prime for the rest of season three. He better pick up fast because right now, I’m not remotely convinced he could lead a parade.
Outside of that mishap of a plot twist, “Prey” is amazing. These last three episodes may be my favorite trilogy in the series now; it uses its time wisely while delivering action and emotional intensity. I’m looking forward to the rest of season three. Here’s hoping we get a bang of a finale!