An experiment goes awry, leaving Knock Out and Starscream to deal with a horde of vampiric Decepticons.
Disregard what I said about the continuity’s lethargic pacing. “Thirst” may not advance the plot much, but very few episodes strive to be this memorable. “Thirst” is everything I ever wanted starring two of the most extravagant characters in the show. Knock Out is my favorite character: his over the top flamboyance and penchant for clever comebacks immediately appealed to me, but his entertainment value rises tenfold whenever he interacts with Starscream because then you have two bombastic, flaky robots scheming and counteracting each another. I loved it back in season one and missed it when Starscream temporarily went AWOL from the Con camp. Thank God they haven’t lost their touch, these two make the episode.
In a bid to one-up Shockwave, Starscream contributes a supply of Dark Energon (Oh, hey, remember that?) to complete Knock Out’s experiment with synthetic Energon (Oh, wow, remember that?), turning his test subject, Silas (still in Breakdown’s body) into an Energon-craving robot vampire. Cue a full episode of Knock Out and Starscream clumsily trying to solve the issue without Megatron knowing. “Thirst” is an experimental success: it’s the first (and likely only) time where the focus is strictly on the Decepticons. I’ve always thought they were more interesting than the Autobots. They just have the better character developments, situations, and idiosyncrasies, so them having their own spotlight was a long time coming. Knock Out and Starscream produce charming, hilarious scenes together and I think it was a smart move to center much of “Thirst” on these losers.
Of course my favorite scene occurs in the middle when Starscream and Knock Out, both assuming they won’t survive, take the time to confess how much they respect one other despite their setbacks. Probably the most telling part is Starscream’s reaction when Knock Out compliments him, he gives off such a warm and decidedly unStarscream look. He genuinely looks appreciative and you realize why: no one has ever said a kind word to him. At all. Knock Out still misses Breakdown and has kept Silas alive to prolong his vengeance. He spends much of “Thirst” following Starscream’s stupid plans (he’s sadly not any more competent here) because he’s arguably the closest friend Knock Out has after his best buddy died. Knock Out manages to pull something no one would ever do: trust Starscream. It’s unexpectedly heartwarming and gives them reasonable depth. It also builds itself up for a hilariously ironic joke later on.
“Thirst’s” nightmarish background isn’t lost despite such lighthearted whimsy. The vampire robots are appropriately scary and I think half the reason it works so well is because the majority of it takes place in the dimly lit Decepticon warship. The ending especially sent chills to my bone.
Unfortunately, the third act falters when the plot quickly switches perspective to perform a massive clean up on a bunch of irrelevant characters because the show had no idea what to do with them anymore. Airachid arrives at the last minute and just as quickly leaves the plot with her army of Insecticons. Not to mention Silas finally bites it (a surprising event, as children’s shows rarely kill off a human as blatantly as what happened here.) They’ve been played out for a while, but their departure could have been handled better. From a narrative perspective, it’s a shoddy rush job.
I’m getting mighty tired of Megatron and Starscream’s dynamic. Megatron is an intimidating antagonist, but he’s really not the smartest crayon in the box no matter how hard the show tries to show otherwise. No respectable baddie would keep Starscream around when he’s not only a wanton backstabber, but a self-destructive ninny that’s utterly incapable of doing anything right. Why did Megatron take him back? Why doesn’t he dispose of Starscream? His list of failures could stretch the entire planet! Instead he just beats him into submissiveness like he always does. His entire solution is to aggressively hit stuff to make up for his pitifully goofball decisions. Whatever flimsy excuse he has, it’s getting old. While I can’t say it isn’t inconsistent with his behavior, it makes him a poor leader and even less a villain. Half the time, I can’t take this guy seriously.
Despite the mishaps, “Thirst” is the episode I’ve been waiting for. It’s an amusing piece of work mixed with a bit of heart and a whole lot of creepy. I had a blast watching this.