June 27, 2012

Shadowcon Reviews- One Shall Rise, Part 2

Shadowcon Reviews: Transformers Prime season 1, episode 25: “One Shall Rise, Part 2”

Previously on Transformers Prime, stuff happened that was better than the entirety of the film franchise put together! This episode opens with a very funny line from Ratchet:

“Optimus, have you uncovered any further sign of Unicron’s emergence?”

“Unicron is power incarnate! And you, the last of the Primes, shall perish!”

“I take that as a yes.”

Yup, seems Optimus is indeed outnumbered, but neglects backup, as he tries once again to be the hero of the piece and fight all the Unicrons by himself.

“This fight must be mine alone.”

Optimus engages in battle against the phalanx of Unicron spawn in a really badass fight; he’s taking out these things left and right, we even get a good slow-motion flip that he does while blasting two Unicron manifestations and then landing while stabbing another one. Still, even the Prime isn’t capable of taking on an infinite number of these things by himself, so what do you know, the rest of Autobots show up to offer an assist.

After a few flashy moves by Arcee (she manages to do a really sexy swan-dive off of a cliff), Optimus orders them back to base, but Ratchet points out that Optimus may not survive this battle without help, and if Earth is to survive, Optimus must live. Arcee too points out that perhaps Optimus himself should return to base, but Optimus shoots it down on the grounds that Unicron could locate him anywhere on Earth. Remember that point. He also says that he’ll not put others at any more risk. I like this line because, cliché though it may be, its said after the events surrounding Raf and the humans, and I think Optimus is trying to make up for his mistakes during the last two episodes.

He mentioned to Fowler that he could not condone a single human casualty, and when a casualty did occur, Optimus was noticeably more aggressive and adversarial than before. Battling Unicron is sure to be far more threatening that a blast from Megatron, so Optimus’ character here is about proving to himself and to his team that he’s still able to protect humanity on his own, and trying to cope with the guilt that now plagues him.

Regardless, Optimus concedes to help from the rest of the team, and here we see just how effective a fighting force (or at least a coordinated force) Team Prime really is. Arcee takes the lead, clearing a suitable path for the others to follow, and Bulkhead brings up the rear. It’s a cool scene, with the four of them transforming in unison to drive. We get a lovely POV shot from both Optimus’ and Bumblebee’s point of view of the battle, and its only when a giant Unicron simulacra appears that our heroes transform again.

I suppose now is as good a time as any to talk about the lovely work that was done on the animation for this multiple-episode arc. The “One Shall Rise” arc in particular has been noted for its use of textures and subtle humanized motions on the Transformers, and I really like how it turned out. All of the robots blink at random intervals, and I love how Optimus’ battle damage and broken blade are still left over from his grueling battle with Megatron in “One Shall Fall”. The reflections, textures, and backgrounds all do a lot to enhance the finished episode. The expressions on the Transformers themselves are all pretty life-like, much more so than that of Cybertron, and it’s a welcome change to that. I particularly like how the sky is always this really ominous storm-cloudy grey, presenting everything, especially Optimus, in muted colors.

Anyway, the team confronts a huge version of Unicron, and the team gets taken down pretty easily (Arcee gets swatted like a bee, poor girl), and Optimus gets buried under a pile of rocks! But, as Unicron moves in to crush Optimus, who should save them all… but Megatron! I like how that was handled, because it looks at first as though Bulkhead and Bumblebee did it, but no, it is in fact Megatron.

He’s here to offer his aid to the Autobots. His reasons for this are that, because he has a link to Unicron’s Spark with his Dark Energon infusion, he’s able to lead the five of them to the Earth’s core, where Unicron's Spark lies. Ratchet wonders why Megatron would do this, and Optimus responds with the kind of logic you would expect from a show like this:

“Because Megatron’s pride would never allow anyone but himself to rule this planet.”

I actually like this reasoning. Sure, its cliché, but at least a reason is given instead of an appeal for the safety of humanity. And I love how it is Megatron who approaches the Autobots, rather than the other way around. It adds a level of character to Megatron that I wasn’t expecting. He also freely admits that to defeat Unicron, he’ll need the aid of a Prime, and seeing as how Rodimus isn't the series, Optimus is first in line.

Everyone has their own reactions to all of this: Ratchet’s indignant, Bulkhead laughs at the very notion, Arcee and Bumblebee are torn between following a leader who’s pissed that he got help and killing Megatron, and Optimus himself is giving the matter some serious thought. I like Megatron’s motive for doing this, too. Aside from the above quote about Megatron’s pride, he is also lashing out at Unicron as a means to get back at Unicron for brushing him off earlier.

Optimus suggest they GroundBridge to the center of the Earth, with Ratchet’s indignation still ringing through loud and clear.

“GroundBridging into space, or onto moving trains is difficult enough! But plotting a blind jumpinside of a sentient being?!”

Here’s an idea: how about you use the Decepticon’s Space Bridge to just bounce into the Earth’s core that way. You already have the final piece of their Bridge to use a bargaining chip, and it would be more reliable… but wait, we need to save that for later, so never mind!

Even so, the predicament remains of what to do when their joint-mission is complete. Megatron tells Optimus that it’s only going to last as long as is mutually beneficial, and that when they’re done, he’ll conquer the Earth, or at least try. He continues to cement the fact that Unicron has yet to fully awaken, and that the manifestations that Optimus and Co. were battling earlier were nothing more than foot soldiers. Arcee’s pretty skeptical of Megatron’s claims of cooperation, and Ratchet’s indignant “the past always matters”, is a subtle foreshadowing of what he’ll tell of in next week’s episode.

Arcee asks of how they intend to stop Unicron directly, and Optimus reveals the existence of the Matrix of Leadership, which Ratchet says contains the collective wisdom of the Primes. Jack’s a little confused.

“Do we have time for a scavenger hunt? I mean, where’s Optimus supposed to find this Matrix?”

“Optimus does not need to find it. He carries it within him.”

Megatron’s all the more insistent on using it though, and Optimus agrees that unleashing the power of the Matrix into Unicron’s Spark would return him to stasis. Miko and Jack wonder aloud whether or not if it's possible to maybe siphon Unicron out of the Earth, but Ratchet says that Unicron is the Earth’s very core, and that if they attempt to tamper with it, it could affect the magnetic poles and cause all kinds of bad to happen. Well, sure, but having five heavily armed robots go in with the intent of unleashing a mystical device that hasn't been used like this before into the Earth’s core isn’t exactly a good thing either.

The giant Unicron begins to reform now that all of the melodrama and planning is done, and the Autobots spin up a GroundBridge so as to transport back to base. But not Optimus, because he’s staying because he said that Unicron could locate him… oh, no wait, that’s what I would have expected from Optimus Prime, not... Optimus Prime. In fact, Arcee only points out the danger of opening a direct path into the Autobot’s base with Megatron standing right beside them. But even Megatron can see that taking advantage of this now would prove futile, so he stays behind to distract Unicron while the Autobots debate amongst themselves a little more.

Meanwhile, on the Nemesis, Airachnid has a subtle moment where she fills the role of Starscream adequately, saying that the Decepticons should perhaps entertain the notion of a future without Megatron. I like how Soundwave has a little half-turn in the far right background when she says that. He knows that scheming is one of the essential traits for a second-in-command of the Decepticons to have.

Back at base, Ratchet and June are vehemently opposed to bringing Megatron over to the base itself, and all Optimus can say in defense is that Megatron will be “closely monitored”, which we later learn is code for “he will be held at gunpoint by no less than two of my men at all times”, and that he will only be staying long enough to provide Ratchet with the coordinates to the core.

Jack is more concerned about the condition Optimus will be in after he unleashes the power of the Matrix, and Optimus responds cryptically that he doesn’t actually know, but that he has no choice but to do so anyway. The rest of the team then rallies around him and says that they’ll do this for their human friends (even Bumblebee’s normal squawking is understood as “for Raf!”)

Well, it’s a good thing that they decided on that quickly, because we cut back to Megatron who’s taking on three giant Unicrons all by himself! Damn. He even manages to kill one of them by transforming and using his super awesome power to deliver a punch hard enough to shatter his freakin’ face!!! Well, Movie Prime has a contender for worthy Face-Fetish Trophy-holder. Anyway, the Autobots send transport and Megatron deals with the other two Unicrons and begins walking through the GroundBridge.

I love this sequence. Megatron walks through the GroundBridge with the Autobots on the other end all having their weapons out to greet him. His line as he steps into the base is priceless!

“So, this is where the magic happens. Quaint.”

Love it.

Well, Raf isn’t letting a little thing like his safety get in the way of his revenge, so as soon as Megatron enters the base, Raf runs right up to him… and grunts. I’m sure it was supposed to be dramatic, but honestly, what were you going to do? Its not like you could hurt him. Megatron’s total mastery of the situation seeps through here, as he notices and remembers the face of Jack, whom he encountered back in “Rock Bottom”, which I have unfortunately not covered (yet! -ed). But it's Miko who takes all the drama out of this scene, as her rash behavior leads her to yell and threaten Megatron to his face! I’d say she’s got bravery, but given her role in the series thus far, I have to say it's just sheer arrogance. I also have to nitpick about Megatron’s disinterest in locating Starscream. Last we heard, Megatron believed Starscream to be captive of the Autobots, but now that he’s here, he doesn’t even bring it up. I guess being smashed in with truck tires and then getting bitch-slapped by a pseudo-god would make you forget about the little things like those under your command.

While Megatron gives Ratchet the coordinates to the core, Optimus confronts Jack in private, pulling out a key, which he claims is the key to the GroundBridge power supply.

“Okay, but shouldn’t Ratchet have this?”

“Perhaps. But I’ve been impressed by how much you have matured since we first met. As such, I feel you have earned the responsibility of safeguarding this important device, until my return.”

“I won’t let you down.”

I like how this scene mirrors Ratchet’s claim that Optimus was a lot like Jack before he became Prime, and will become even more potent and powerful later. Jack’s maturity through the season is recognized by the character whom he most resembles. It’s a really neat moment, especially when viewed in hindsight.

The four Autobots and Megatron are then ready to depart, with Megatron again in complete control, giving Arcee a mocking bow as she says that he can go through first. I love how the rest of this scene is handled. Arcee takes one last look at her human partner, whom she’s gotten to know over the past year, with the GroundBridge backlighting her profile, before she departs. Optimus too looks back at Jack, and the point of seeing a younger version of Optimus in Jack is now driven home (at least for this season). Optimus is the last to leave.

And so the five of them enter the core, surviving the jump, and Arcee wonders how long they have before Unicron knows that they’re here. Megatron responds ominously.

“Make no mistake: he already does!”

And this is my favorite part of the episode because its soooo creeeepy: Overhead, a giant eye moves slowly around its pivot point, watching them. Jesus, so messed up!

Post episode follow-up: Final score for “One Shall Rise, Part 2” is 10/10. What really impressed me were the conflicts that all the characters presented. I also loved that no particular character was absolutely right in that conversation when Megatron first arrives after saving Optimus. I loved how Megatron showed logical initiative, and that Optimus only agreed because he had no other option. The battle at the beginning was a great way to start off the episode, and I loved all the little animation details as mentioned before. Character and conflict are placed above action, even though this episode has some of the best action out of the three “One Shall Rise” episodes, with the beginning sequence taking up a full ten minutes. Next week, we’ll see the conclusion to the Unicron story arc, Airachnid’s attempt at leadership, and Soundwave getting to do something!

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