July 2, 2012

Shadowcon Reviews- One Shall Rise, Part 3

Shadowcon Reviews: Transformers Prime season 1, episode 26: “One Shall Rise, Part 3”

And so, here it is, the final episode of Season One, and what a way to end a season, I’ll give it that. This episode picks up right where the last on left off, with Megatron leading Optimus and his Autobots through the core of Earth to Unicron’s Spark chamber. Megatron has another vision of Unicron and his destruction of the Earth, and informs the Autobots of Unicron’s growing strength. Arcee asks how Optimus knows if Megatron is being used by Unicron to lead them into a trap, and Optimus responds as reassuringly as ever:

“We do not.”

Yeah, that question should have been posed back at the base, Arcee, not here in the Earth’s core. Back at base, everyone’s a little on edge after having a death machine in their midst not five minutes ago. Agent Fowler wants to act now, but Ratchet questions his intentions: they already have both Optimus and Megatron trying to stop Unicron from the inside, and apparently the two had worked closely before this as well.

Ratchet tells of how Optimus was originally Orion Pax, a data clerk in the Iacon Hall of Records, who had uncovered some rather disturbing evidence of corruption in the Cybertronian government, and a class difference among the people. He learned and became inspired by a gladiator who took his name after Megatronus, one of the Thirteen Primes, all of whom had been previously told about in “One Shall Rise, Part 1”.

Megatronus attempted to challenge Cybertronian rule, and demanded that all Cybertronians be treated equally. This outspoken mindset garnered him quite a large following. Megatronus and Orion began talking, and eventually, Megatronus (now having shortened his name to Megatron) proposed his vision of a just society to the High Council, which involved a forced removal of the current government and an overhaul of leadership, with Megatron at its head as the next Prime.

However, Orion was able to persuade the High Council of another course of action, and they made Orion the next Prime in title. With his plans foiled, Megatron waged war against all who opposed him, and now his goal was to achieve possession of the Matrix of Leadership. His war devastated the planet, and corrupted the very core. Orion journeyed there to repair it, and came face-to-face with Primus, who then bestowed upon him the Matrix, and deemed him Optimus, the last of the Primes.

This entire segment of the show is beautifully presented with painted pictures presented on the screen, an awesome voice-over by Jeffery Combs, and the full Prime theme song playing in the background. It’s really cool.

Well, Jack’s not going to let a flashy light show deter him from pointing out plot holes, and he wonders why Megatron won’t just take the Matrix now that he and Optimus are down at the core together. Ratchet responds with the hope that Megatron’s desire to conquer Earth is stronger than his obsession over the Matrix, which is a pretty good argument, to be honest.

Back at the core, the quintet forge ahead to the Spark chamber, but Bulkhead’s exposure to Dark Energon is beginning to show its effects. Arcee, in a strange out-of-character moment, has him lean on her… and Bumblebee, and gets two over-the-top lines regarding Bulkhead’s wooziness. Look, no offense, Arcee, but the guys a pretty tough dude. I don’t think he needs to be babysat by you. I know your only trying to offer support, but really, this is just a little too far.

Anyway, the five get attacked by Unicron’s internal defense systems, which Optimus deems “antibodies” because they are, after all, in a life form of sorts. They begin their battle against these things, but Arcee gets taken out, and Bulkhead’s Dark Energon sensitivity fully sets in, making his vision fuzzy, and making him trip, now clinging to the platform that they’re on with one hand. Bumblebee tries to save him, but he’s a little too heavy, and the two are left at a standstill.

Meanwhile, Megatron and Optimus fight side-by-side in a really awesome scene. This is what Armada should have done, but didn’t. These two seasoned warriors obviously know each other very well, and they’re able to work around and with each other in the heat of battle. It’s very cool to see. Bumblebee nearly lets Bulkhead go, but Optimus steps in and saves him at the last minute. Arcee rejoins the group by catching a ride on one of the flying antibodies and meeting up with them, a clear reminder that she’s a real badass. In a subtle twist, Arcee lands in front of Megatron, and now leads the group through the next corridor. It’s a nice callback to when she had been wary of going in front of Megatron twice before, once back at the Autobot base, and again earlier in this episode when Megatron found a second passageway.

Back on the Nemesis, Airachnid’s command authority is now absolute, with her ordering that they prepare for an exodus to some planet. Soundwave, though, is not giving up on Megatron just yet, so he steps up to challenge her for command of the ship. In a surprising move, Soundwave actually does something in this series! While he isn’t revealed to speak, he does offer some pretty kick-ass ninja moves on Airachnid, who is promptly taken down by him. She relinquishes command, and Soundwave returns to his station without so much as a glance back. Knock Out sums it up pretty well:

“Watch out for the quiet ones.”

At the Autobot stronghold, Ratchet informs them that their communications link with their team has been neutralized, and they can’t get a fix on their life-signals, which usually means that their team’s dead, but Ratchet’s confident that the reason for this is because of the electromagnetic interference caused by Unicron’s tampering with the weather on Earth.

Miko asks how they’re going to know when the team needs a bridge back to base if their communications links are down, and it’s a question that will never be answered, because Ratchet is distracted by Jack, who’s taking such good care of that key that Optimus entrusted to him by… idly tapping it against a railing. Y’know, considering how frail that thing looks, I’d wager that, had Ratchet not noticed it and had Jack just continued tapping it, it would have splintered within the next few seconds. Anyway, Ratchet informs Jack that the key is not in fact a key to the GroundBridge, but to Vector Sigma, an artifact that we won’t learn anything about until next episode, so I’ll spare you the details here as well. Jack’s naturally confused about why Optimus gave the key to him in the first place, and Ratchet responds that Optimus does not plan on returning from this mission.

Back at the core, Megatron has another visit from Unicron inside his head, encouraging him to kill Optimus. Megatron resists, and even manages to save Optimus from an antibody while he does so. Megatron informs Optimus that they have indeed reached the Spark chamber.

“How do we get inside?”

“By fooling Unicron’s defenses into believing we’re not a threat.”

Okay, so why didn’t you do that before all the antibodies started attacking you guys? Or could Megatron not interface with Unicron’s outer defenses? Well, it doesn’t matter, because Megatron’s able to get inside, with Optimus telling his people to hold the line while he abandons them and joins Megatron. Why the others couldn’t come with is not made clear. I do like the one shot Optimus fires before leaving though, as if to say “see, I’m still the leader!”

The two leaders enter the Spark chamber and stare in awe at Unicron’s Spark, which is massive (about the size of a massive mansion… for Transformers). Purple lines of animation attack Optimus, while Unicron again attempts to take command of Megatron, but Megatron has other things in mind:

“Megatron is commanded by NO ONE!!!”

Yeah, you tell ‘em, Megatron. Well, this causes Unicron to get royally pissed off, and Earth’s volcanoes and earthquakes and tsunamis go out of control, Odin going crazy on the planet too! Unicron finally takes control of Megatron’s body, but not before Optimus can recover. Surrounded in a brilliant blue light after calling upon the Matrix to light their darkest hour, Optimus unleashes the power of the Matrix into Unicron’s Spark, bringing him back into stasis, relinquishing control of Megatron’s body, and making Optimus black out for a few minutes.

All the abnormal weather conditions stop (though with complete disregard for forward momentum, as a huge tidal wave abruptly stops before it reaches a city), the antibodies are deactivated, and Ratchet and the kids witness all the COM links and life-signals pop back up on the screens. Everyone’s happy, including Fowler, who hugs June, for whatever reason… make of that what you will.

Soundwave also locates Megatron’s signal, and activates a GroundBridge. Megatron himself is all ready to finish Optimus, but in a surprising twist, Optimus wakes up and…

“Where are we, Megatronus?”

Ummm… oops. Well, it takes Megatron only a moment to figure out what had happened, and when the other Autobots arrive, and Soundwave’s GroundBridge opens up, Megatron takes one look at the Autobots, and pulls a fast-one, telling Optimus that the Autobots are his and Optimus’ mortal enemies. The two leaders depart, leaving the Autobots at the core.

The Autobots return home, much to the excitement of the kids, but Ratchet is more concerned with Optimus. Arcee and Bulkhead sum things up:

“Dead? No.”

“But he looked right at us without recognizing us. Didn’t even know his own name.”

Ratchet reveals that when Optimus dumped all the Matrix energy into Unicron’s Spark, he lost not only the collective wisdom of the Primes, but also his own memories. And on the Nemesis, Megatron welcomes Orion Pax into the Decepticon fold.

To be continued…

Post episode follow-up: Final score for “One Shall Rise, Part 3” is 8/10. The conclusion to an original take on a somewhat trodden story, this episode really tried to go all-out on effects and drama, and it succeeded… somewhat. I’ll give my opinion of the arc as a whole at the end of “Orion Pax, Part 3”, but for now, I’ll say that the conclusion to the Unicron story arc itself felt a little bland to me. I thought that the many plot conveniences and plot holes were just a little too much for my taste. That said, it is the midway point for this arc, and it wrapped everything from the first half up to a satisfying degree. I liked that the info dump at the beginning of the episode was contrasted and made bearable by having images to correspond with what was being said, and awesome background music to go along with it. The fight scenes were a little less dynamic than last week’s but I still felt suspense when watching them. Overall, this was a well-crafted story and a very ambitious way to end the first season of Prime. Next week, we’ll see the beginnings of Season Two, with Orion Pax adjusting to life aboard the Decepticon warship, Arcee getting to star again, and a really confusing plot device.

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