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Transformers Prime – “Rock Bottom” Episode 19 Recap

by on February 4, 2012

“Caught in a cave-in, both the Autobots and the Decepticons must find a way out before they destroy each another.”

Reading the preview description for this episode didn’t exactly fill me with glee; I expected boring filler. Things start off poorly when Miko jumps headfirst into an abandoned mine without a second thought, oblivious to the danger. Again. Megatron creates a cave-in when he runs into Arcee and Jack shortly after, trapping everyone inside. At this point, I figured it’d be nothing but the cast trying to find their way out. 

I’ve never been so happy to be wrong.
“Rock Bottom” is a pleasant surprise and one of my personal favorite episodes of Transformers Prime. It opens up a bushel of poignant moments for the main characters in ways I never expected.

Astonishingly, the best part is Miko herself. As annoying as she is, her loyalty to Bulkhead is absolute and Transformers Prime did a bang-up job establishing their friendship. Bulkhead is literally stuck between a rock and a hard place when he’s forced to hold a giant boulder, lest it crush both him and Miko. She tries in vain to clear a path for the two, determined not to give in while she’s slowly running out of air. Even when Starscream threatens them, Miko stubbornly refuses to leave her companion. When she’s finally forced to, she breaks into tears. Every scene between Bulkhead and Miko cumulated to this point and the result is heartbreaking. She has never been so emotionally vulnerable until this moment.

This was a wonderful Starscream episode. I’ve made no attempts to hide my affection for him, but he truly shines here. After Megatron reawakens, he’s stripped off his crown and once again playing second fiddle. While Starscream has displayed paranoia and fear before, he’s a completely different character whenever Megatron is around. The towering beast brings out the coward in him. Sick of Starscream’s incompetence, Megatron plans to finally kill him for good, but the cave-in distracts him long enough for the traitor to bolt. Ever the schemer, Starscream later dives in to save his commander in an attempt regain Megatron’s favor and live to plan another day. As always, Starscream is the most expressive character in the series; he displays fear, cunning, and egotism all in the span of a single episode.

The ending is the episode’s crowning achievement, when Starscream has to grasp the same boulder Bulkhead did when Arcee holds him at gunpoint. His reunion with Megatron prompts him to plead for mercy. Despite his treacherous nature, I felt sorry for him. Starscream has begged before, but never like this. Down on his luck and close to death, he’s officially broken. The animators did an amazing job creating the facial reaction; who’d have thunk Starscream could master the puppy dog eyes? It’s one of the most gripping moments of the entire series. Megatron silently watches as his second-in-command begs for a second chance, wondering if he should rescue him or leave him to die. My only complaint during this scene is that Megatron should not have spoken even a speck of dialogue, but his one line disrupts the moment a bit.

Other complaints are minor and don’t necessary hurt the episode, but there are a few clunkers. How was Jack able to drive a Decepticon drill? He’s a human boy who’s shown no ability to command an alien vehicle. Also, as much as I’m pleased that Megatron is smart enough to kill Starscream for his betrayal, I can’t believe it took him four episodes to get on that. While there is an element of menace in keeping Starscream around purely for his own amusement, it’s a dumb move. Starscream can and will bite back, and for a powerful leader like Megatron to not act because of such a flimsy excuse discredits his villainy. 

Despite that though, “Rock Bottom” is a top-tier episode. Both its plots play to their strengths and bring out strong emotional elements. Compared to other episodes, this is a diamond in the rough.

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