January 10, 2012

Shadowcon Reviews- Convoy



Shadowcon Reviews: Transformers Prime season 1, episode 9: “Convoy”

I consider this episode to be a standard Prime episode; not bad, not great, but having enough plot to fill twenty-five minutes. This and “Scrapheap” are what most other episodes of the show are measured against, and it isn’t until “One Shall Fall” that the quality of the show is boosted considerably. That’s not to say that the episodes preceding that one are bad; on the contrary, most deliver strong scripts and moderate character development, and while this particular episode is sparse on the latter, it does manage a solid script and very few major plot holes.

So, let’s begin. Agent Fowler calls up the Autobots to inform them that he’s been shot down. It’s not the last time that’ll happen, I promise. Turns out that he was transporting a DINGUS, a highly experimental, and we later learn highly unstable, nuclear device that he was transporting to some secret lab for testing. So, he was transporting an unstable device on a fighter jet?

Ratchet wonders why Starscream (who’s in command of the Decepticons while Megatron remains in stasis) would bother with that type of technology, which is obviously so low-tech compared to Cybertronian technology, and Fowler muses that if the device were to melt down, it could destroy five whole states! Again, he was transporting this thing in a fighter jet? Well, Fowler needs the device transported immediately, and he wants to send it through the GroundBridge, the Autobot’s transporter device, but Optimus says it’s too risky.

“I’m afraid that sending such a volatile device through a GroundBridge is out of the question. If there were to be an accident during its transmission, the radiation of which you speak could propagate through the GroundBridge vortex and harm all fifty states and beyond.”

So the Autobots need another plan. So, yes, this is a car chase episode, as the Autobots themselves now need to carry the DINGUS to its destination, with Agent Fowler escorting them. The team consists of Optimus, Bumblebee, and Bulkhead (no Ratchet, as he needs to operate the GroundBridge). It seems odd to me that Ratchet would be the one to stay behind, instead of being with the convoy, as he’s the science guy of the team. Wouldn’t it make more sense for him to monitor the DINGUS up close? I guess he wanted to be far away when it melted down and killed five states-worth of people. Don’t worry, there’s an even bigger gripe I have about the common sense coming up.

Anyway, the team gets going, and Ratchet informs the team that they should reach the rendezvous point by sundown, provided they don’t run into any trouble. There’s some nice banter between Optimus and Fowler, such as Fowler accusing Prim of stirring up trouble on Earth with his little war and all. Optimus is less than troubled by this insult:

“Are you suggesting that no evil existed on your world before we arrived?”

“Well, it was a different evil.”

This exchange foreshadows the identity of the villain for the episode, which is nice, and it also gives the series that much more realism. I’ll talk more about this in a little bit. Fowler spots the chopper that shot him down, and begins speculating on what his name is:

“Who is he? Wingnut? Dingbat? Skyguy?”

None of the above, but I’m sure there are Transformers out there in possession of those nifty names. Anyway, the Autobots are now being pursued. Everyone thinks that the three green cars are Decepticons in vehicle mode, but Ratchet doesn’t reed anything on sensors, speculating the use of cloaking technology.

Optimus orders the Autobots to remain in vehicle mode for the duration of the chase. This means that this episode is one of those rare occasions where the Transformers are in vehicle mode more often than they are in robot mode, which is cool. The five green cars cut off Bulkhead from the pack, and then pull up alongside Optimus, revealing themselves as not Decepticon, but as human adversaries.

Everyone is surprised, except for Miko, who in a rare moment of sanity, declares the humans as “road kill”. I can’t argue with that. Indeed, her claims are backed up as Optimus takes out one of the cars, ordering the Autobots to “apply minimal force”. Remember that, it’ll be important.

Silas (he’s in the chopper) orders his men to halt the Autobot’s advance, but our heroes evade, with Bumblebee knocking one of the cars off the road in typical Hollywood stunt fashion. Silas is impressed.

“Those are not civilian drivers.”

Well, this wouldn’t be a road trip without someone getting sick, so, yes, the badass Fowler, who refuses to wear any flying gear when piloting a fighter jet, gets carsick. I find that a little annoying, but I can see it appealing to the younger audience, so it’s really okay. One of the enemy guys tries unhitching the trailer from Optimus, but Fowler wins back his dignity by stopping him, grabbing him by the shirt and demanding to know just what the hell’s up with these guys. But, the guy jumps, and Fowler’s forced to get back into the cab.

So finally, half way through the episode, Silas calls up Fowler, taunting him for a little bit before introducing himself and then his team. These guys are MECH, and yes, according to Teletran One, the Transformers Wikipedia, that is an acronym for... something, we’re not quite sure what yet. Silas begins preaching about how there’s going to be a war between “the new technology and the newest”, which is such a hack-line. Anyway, one of the MECH men manage to open Optimus’ trailer up (shut up), but it turns out that Arcee was stored in there alongside the DINGUS! Now, when Optimus said to apply minimal force, he also backed this up with ordering the Autobots to disarm the humans only. Well, screw his commands; Arcee hops out, in bike mode, and rams the guy standing on the car in the head, then manages to turn, flipping the car in the process, and then it explodes (must be a gas leak). Yeah... I can’t imagine how that could have gone down back at base:

Optimus: “So, you rammed a guy in the face.”

Arcee: “Well, you said disarmament!”

"Yes, as in relieved of weaponry, not of limbs! Plus you blew up the car.”

“Well, actually, the car flipped and blew up, I was just driving away after pelting the guy with my tire.”

“Do you have any reason I shouldn’t relieve you of command right now?”

“I’m the most complex character on the team.”

Okay, joking aside, that does seems a little extreme. Also, MECH seems to be using some pretty experimental weapons on our heroes, which make me question again the actual danger of the DINGUS. It’s obviously nuclear and, as established earlier, unstable. Yet both MECH and the Autobots are willing to risk blowing things up and driving haphazardly, which in reality would only strengthen the danger factor. Also, how exactly did Fowler’s plane get shot down at the beginning of the episode and not explode? Was MECH using some kind of Nerf gun in place of actual bullets? The whole premise is a little jarring, though not nearly as bad as some.

Fowler now gets a chance to taunt Silas, but Optimus takes the threat that MECH presents more seriously:

“Agent Fowler, do not take your Silas lightly. Megatron preached the very same ideology before plunging Cybertron into the Great War that destroyed our world.”

While the actual continuity of this statement is questionable (we later learn that Optimus and Megatron were once on the same team after the war had already started, and also that Megatron was worried about the political situation of Cybertron, not the technological), it’s still a good line, as it again emphasizes the severity that the threat of a human terrorist group actually presents. In this show, these people represent humanities dark side, which has never been explored in any previous Transformers television show. Ever! Not even a little. This may seem like a small thing, but it really elevates this episode from mediocre to pretty good.

Ratchet orders the team to prep for “Phase Two”! Apparently Sulu and Chekov weren’t invited.

“Five miles ahead to the south you’ll reach the rendezvous point.”

And, just because we couldn’t have a car chase fill all the episode, the Decepticons picked this very moment to listen in on the Autobots’ conversation! Wow, how’s that for contrivance? Starscream orders a phalanx of drones to intercept the Autobots, because, hey, they’re the Decepticon’s mortal enemies, so why not take them out now when they’re occupied by something else and won’t give the Decepticons they’re full strength. It’s what Megatron would do!

Well, the Autobots reach they’re rendezvous point (at around an appropriate time given Ratchet’s earlier comment about reaching it before sundown so long as they don’t run into any trouble, so that’s some nice continuity). The Autobot’s plan is to give DINGUS to the military on a train and have them take it from there. They go under a tunnel to do this, as the DINGUS’s move requires the Autobots to be in robot form, and they don’t want to be seen by human eyes.

So, of coarse, Bulkhead has to transform to shoot the ceiling, sealing off the entranceway. What’s weird is that the remaining MECH cars stop only a second or so after he did this, which raises the question of whether or not they saw Bulkhead in robot form, or if they’re just dim.

The Decepticons come in, all of them in vehicle mode, and Fowler suspect that its air-support. Silas is confused, as the Decepticons begin firing on the Autobots, and he’s convinced that the jets are for the military.

Optimus loses the trailer and it explodes, which makes me wonder about the earlier move by the MECH agent who was trying to unhitch the trailer purposefully. What was it going to do once it disconnected from Optimus? Or did MECH have some kind of support beams that were magically going to come up out of the ground.

The pilot of the chopper doesn’t read any radiation (though he should have been able to discern instantly that the DINGUS wasn’t on board the trailer anyway given the size of the explosion), and Silas begins piecing together the puzzle.

The Autobots, meanwhile, have no choice but to transform, as the Decepticons do so themselves and corner them in a clearing. Silas is impressed at this revelation:

“So the rumors are true: living technology stands before us, though perhaps not for very long!”

So, the Autobots begin doing what they do best: kicking Decepticon ass! Look at Optimus, just wrecking these two poor guys right here!

You never see the aftermath of these battles, where the drones are tending to their wounds. Anyway, Silas figures out the Autobots’ plan (oddly enough, by looking at a schematic reading the DINGUS’s energy signature right there! Though I suppose it took a little while for MECH to find it with it being on a train and all... although they had no trouble locating Optimus’ team with the DINGUS’s energy signature, so what the hell?), and informs Fowler, just to rub it in, y’know, it’s not like he’d want to make a clean getaway with the Autobot’s distracted and all.

So, with Fowler informed, MECH has lost its advantage, and Optimus tries to intercept them, but gets knocked out first from a Decepticon pelting him in the face with a log, and then from a fall (evidently the battle was taking place on a cliff)! Damn.

With Optimus out, Ratchet needs to come up with a new plan. Sadly, its Miko’s plan that he eventually follows: GroundBridge the kids onto the train and have them take down the MECH agents. Riiiight, because your experience in hand-to-hand is next to none. Look, unless you want to knock them out with one of your guitar solos, it’s just never happening. Plus, isn’t there at least one military guy onboard? There should be, as we saw him answer the door when Bumblebee knocked on it back in the tunnel, so couldn’t he just take care of it? Sure, it’s not an all-out security team, but at least it’s something.

Also, Ratchet worries about how he’s going to get them onto a moving object that’s travelling at 90 miles an hour. He lists all sorts of things that could potentially go wrong (some of which sound pretty dangerous; I wouldn’t want to have mass-displacement trauma or twisted limbs), but the biggest problem is that they can’t get a fix on something moving at that speed. Raff suggests the idea of having a fix on the train’s coordinates, but being that its moving, I don’t really see how they could have access to anything but the trains’ departure and destination points, though I suppose he could have locked onto the DINGUS’s coordinates, the same way MECH had done. Regardless, this works, and Jack and Miko land safely aboard (the soldier guy has already been electrocuted thanks to MECH’s immobilization bullet). There’s another small continuity error present here. Earlier in the show, Jack had mentioned how he couldn’t call home from his cell phone while within the Autobot’s base because of the shielding around their headquarters, so why is Jack able to call Raff, who’s back at the base with the shielding still up? It’s possible that his cell phone could have been patched into the Autobot’s com link, so it’s up to you whether you consider this a blunder or not.

Anyway, the two kids set to work arming themselves… with a fire extinguisher and an axe. Don’t bother to pick up the gun lying next to the soldier, guys. Man, if this is who the Autobots have to rely on to get the job done, it’s a wonder they survived long enough to battle Unicron!

MECH’s copter tries to land on top of the train, but Raff manages to reroute the train onto another track, throwing the chopper off. Unfortunately, MECH not only has highly advanced weaponry, but also specially trained hackers, who manage to cripple the Autobot’s tech. Wow. So Raff can hack a government satellite, fix coordinates onto a moving train, and as of this episode, survive five Decepticon attacks, but when it comes to upgrading the Autobot’s firewall, he’s just a tad behind the times! Anyway, the chopper tries for a second time to land, this time succeeding, and the siege begins.

Optimus comes to, and begins chasing the train. Silas, no fool he, orders a retreat. Yeah, probably best he didn’t face Prime in his fowl mood (probably rip his face off)! Before this, however, Silas does blow the tracks. Well, without the train data, GroundBridging back is out of the question, so it’s up to Optimus to stop the train by force. Incidentally, isn’t there a driver driving the train? Anyway, Miko and Jack lament about how screwed they are:

“What were we thinking volunteering for this?”

“Next time you need to do a better job of talking us out of these situations.”

Miko, you have no right to be analyzing Jack’s protests after nearly getting everyone killed in the five-part opening. Just sayin’. Of coarse, that does nothing to cheer up Jack’s mood, and he comes to realize that Miko’s plans are not to be followed ever again (actually he realizes how close to death he really is, but I like my plot twist better; it’s more plausible).

“Miko, at least… we’re in this together.”

Yeah Miko, did you think he was gonna die alone? You got him into this mess, you at least deserve a quick death, never mind a long one. So, Optimus stops the train right before it plummets a harmless two feet into the ground. Seriously, this crater is not deep at all. Plus, even if it was, what was Silas going to do when five states were rendered uninhabitable due to the train’s plummet and Hollywood explosion (hey, it worked when Arcee flipped a car)? All is well, but the threat of MECH, we’re told, still remains. And indeed it does, as we’ll see them again a few more times over the coarse of Season One.

Post episode follow-up: This episode ends up with a final score of 5/10- an average Prime episode. It’s got a ton of minor continuity flaws, one or two major ones, but the episode has enough going on to keep one’s interest. The action is substantial, but in this case, the Autobots remain in vehicle form for most of the episode, and it’s always nice to see car chases in the shows. Surprisingly, they don’t happen often. Unfortunately, Fowler and Optimus’ discussion of humanity is pushed to the back to make room for the action, instead of being one of the main themes of the episode, or the show.

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