July 24, 2012

Shadowcon Reviews- Orion Pax, Part 2

Shadowcon Reviews: Transformers Prime season 2, episode 2: “Orion Pax, Part 2”

We start Part 2 off right where we left off. Orion’s pretty confused as to why Starscream called him Optimus Prime, and Starscream quickly backpedals and says that Orion merely reminded him of someone else. I love Starscream’s confused look at Optimus, and how he quickly plants those seeds of doubt in Orion’s mind, of how Megatron may be lying to him, and of how he may not be asking all the right questions.

Eventually, the guards locate Starscream who, in all awesome cowardice, hides behind Orion before transforming and blasting off, leading into a pretty cool chase scene. He’s transforming back and fourth, taking out two drones at a time; it’s pretty cool. He manages to escape the confines of Megatron’s ship, but eventually gets taken out by a lucky shot, and spirals down to Earth out of control.

Back at the Autobot base, Ratchet and Raf are supposedly testing Ratchet’s upgraded GroundBridge. Why they’re doing this is never explained; they already decided that they were going to seize the Decepticon Space Bridge and use that, so why are they still working on their own GroundBridge? Maybe they’re doing this as a backup plan? Anyway, it doesn’t really matter, because the test fails, and Ratchet’s frustration is plain to see:

“It was just the first try.”

“No, Rafael, it was pure folly, a misguided act of desperation.”

Raf’s next comment is treated as all the stupid human encouraging comments should have been treated back in Armada and Energon:

“You know, there’s this thing in gym class where you have to climb a rope all the way to the ceiling. Its really hard, and I’ve never been able to do it. But when I told ‘Bee about it, he believed in me, which made me practice a ton. Finally, just a couple of weeks ago, I made it. To the top!”

“What does any of this have to do with gym class?!”

Man, isn’t that telling. This just shows how not athletic Raf is. I also love Ratchet’s response. This is how Rad’s, Carlos’s, Alexis’, Billy’s, Fred’s, Kicker’s (God, I hate Kicker), Coby’s, Lori’s, and Bud’s comments about how the Autobots should never give up should have been treated, as nothing more than a distraction to the problem at hand. This doesn’t solve anything, it doesn’t encourage Ratchet, and it certainly has no relevance here. But it’s still funny to see Ratchet’s reaction.

This also allows Ratchet’s character to deepen just a little bit; he snapped at Raf not really out of anger towards him, but out of frustration that the problem that they’re facing is perhaps too big for him to solve, and as he laments to the stars about how sorry he is for Optimus, we see just how much stress he’s under. He has to coordinate the Autobots from the base, and without Optimus to guide them in the field Ratchet has to work (at least partially) on coordinating them in the midst of battle as well. Some of this responsibility falls to Arcee, but not much, and Ratchet’s workload is pushing him to his limits, and I’m thrilled that the Autobots are so lost right now, even with a plan in place. It’s more psychological and emotional problems that are being presented due to the fact that Optimus is gone, not physical weakness, and its great to see that.

We get a pretty creepy Megatron/Orion scene next, as Megatron comes to check up on Orion’s progress. Megatron’s concern for Orion’s wellbeing is played up to an almost comical degree:

“Orion, I’m so sorry for the recent commotion. You weren’t in any way harmed, were you?”

“No, Lord Megatron. But why did you tell me Starscream was dead?”

“Because he is dead to our cause. Starscream was my most trusted lieutenant, until he turned traitor and joined the Autobots. Never have I witnessed a more profound act of deceit.”

Two things here: first, I love how Megatron bends down and examines Orion up close, in a rather creepy manner. Second, Megatron’s response to Orion’s question is not a lie: Starscream did abandon the Decepticons of his own accord; he did, at least in part, want to join the Autobot cause, even if his reasons for it were pretty thin; in Megatron’s eyes, Starscream has betrayed the Decepticons, and he’s now messed up Megatron’s plans, which pisses him off to no end. Also of note is the last line of that quote: “Never have I witnessed a more profound act of deceit” is said with such sarcasm that it almost makes you wonder if Megatron is trying to cope with lying to a person who thinks him a genuine colleague and/or friend. It gets a little funnier too, as Megatron makes sure Orion hasn’t been manipulated in any way:

“He [Starscream] did not do or say anything troubling to you?”


“… Good. Perhaps its best to forget the entire incident and return to your project.”

Man, just listen to how Megatron treats Orion here: “Oh, umm, just don’t worry about this serial killer here, why don’t you go back to playing with your Lincoln Logs.” Jesus, Megatron, you want to settle down with the whole looking down your nose at this guy? I mean, yeah, you’re supposed to help him feel comfortable (and you’re doing a much better job than your guards, let me tell you), but you don’t have to continually treat him as though he were a child. After this, Megatron vows to kill Starscream the next time he encounters the traitor, with all the hate and frustration clearly evident in his expression and tone.

We cut back to Bulkhead returning to base. He, Arcee, and Bumblebee are all out looking for high levels of Energon that may indicate the location of the Space Bridge (which again makes me wonder why Ratchet would continue to try to upgrade the Autobot GroundBridge in the first place, but whatever). Anyway, Bulkhead reports that he hasn’t found any, and he’s about to be sent to the next set of coordinates when he and Ratchet are interrupted by a communiqué for Ratchet. It turns out its from Starscream, who wants to trade information for medical assist.

Once again, we get to see Starscream’s groveling and cowardice that makes him so lovable. Ratchet and Bulkhead GroundBridge over to a forest where Starscream is resting, his leg heavily wounded. He tells them about how Optimus has lost his mind and goes by Orion Pax now. He’s not too happy to learn that they already know this, and I love how Starscream has nothing more to give up, so he’s just going to beg for medical attention now. Lucky for him, Bulkhead accidentally lets slip about the Decepticon’s Space Bridge, which Starscream quickly spins to his advantage.

“Space Bridge? Do you mean to tell me that they actually finished building it without my supervision?!”

Now, there’s a bit of continuity… laziness here. I’m not going to call it an error, because this could have happened off-screen. Starscream reveals through this line that the ‘Cons were building the Space Bridge while he was still with them. But that was a good long time ago, before “Partners”, probably before “Rock Bottom”.

This raises a few questions: 1) how long have the Decepticons been working on this thing? If Starscream was in fact with them when the building began, then it's safe to say that the ‘Cons have been working on this for at least four months! 2) Megatron probably didn’t tell his crew that he was teaming up with the Autobots (at least he didn’t tell Airachnid, as she thought he was under the possession of Unicron for that period of time), so did the ‘Cons just forget about it? This entire thing is really minor, but screws up Prime’s continuity up just enough to give me a headache, and it also unfortunately gives me something to complain about, and something trivial for you to read, so there’s that too. Regardless of this, he’s able to provide Ratchet with the Space Bridge’s location, and he’s presumably fixed up.

Meanwhile, Orion is beginning to dig deeper into the Decepticons false files. Here once again is where I raise a contention: Orion discovers fake files detailing how Optimus Prime is the leader of the Autobot Invaders, and this image looks nothing like the real Optimus at all, leading Orion to wonder how he could have possibly reminded Starscream of that fake Optimus.

Now, Megatron set Soundwave on the mission to encode their files and create false ones overtop of them. There must have been some communication errors between Soundwave and Megatron though, because as Orion points out, Megatron said Ratchet was the leader. So, did Soundwave just not pay attention to Megatron’s fabricated story, or was this created before Megatron began talking to Orion and them Megatron forgot about his and Soundwave’s prearranged lie that he was to tell Orion? Either way, it’s a pretty weird thing to have happen.

Orion digs deeper and breaks through the Decepticons encryptions, and stares in disbelief at the picture of himself as the leader of the Autobots. Megatron and Soundwave find out about Orion’s recent findings, and Megatron’s plan slowly crumbles. Megatron then vows he will make sure Orion completes Project Iacon, by any means necessary!

Back at base, Ratchet relays the information given by Starscream back to the others, much to Arcee’s skepticism:

“What’s our intel?”

“A… reliable source.”

Riiiight. Anyway, the Bridge is located next to a Decepticon mining facility, which raises the question of why the Autobots didn’t find it earlier given that they were searching for spikes in Energon activity; wouldn’t a mining facility generate substantial readings? Regardless, they’ve found it now, and June’s now concerned about how Jack will be able to breathe on Cybertron. Fowler says he’ll call one of his people at NASA and have them give Jack a medium-sized spacesuit (maybe Fowler said he needed it for a small guy, I don’t know). June’s still concerned though:

“It’s too dangerous.”

“Mom, I know that this is hard, but Optimus risked his life to save our planet, and he’s not even human.”

I like the subtle reference to the fact that Optimus and Jack are very much alike. . Optimus and Jack both have responsibilities to each other’s race, as Optimus saved the Earth, and now Jack must travel to Cybertron to save Optimus. Both are willing to risk their lives in order to give each other a chance to live.

June’s concerns are further put to rest as Arcee vows to look after him while off-planet. Ratchet lays out their plan of attack. He, Arcee, Bumblebee and Bulkhead will seize the Space Bridge, and scramble the communications so as to avoid any Decepticon triggering an alert. But there’s more, as Arcee points out:

“Taking the Bridge is the easy part. You three need to hold it long enough for Jack and me to get to Cybertron and back.”

And Ratchet brings back Raf’s little rope faux analogy with:

“Rafael climbed to the top of a rope in gym class; we can do this.”

Okay, sure. This involves guns and death and stealth and maneuverability, but hey, it’s the thought of the analogy that counts!

So, the Autobots do their thing and after a brief but pretty funny fight (Ratchet reminds an unconscious Decepticon guard to be quiet), the Autobots contact base, shutting down their communications-scrambler for the remainder of the mission.

The following scene with Jack is pretty good, as it mirrors the way Arcee and the rest of the Autobots departed for the Earth’s core back in “One Shall Rise, Part 2”, with Jack backlit by the GroundBridge, and the same music playing in the background. Jack’s salute to Fowler is a little cheesy, but the whole scene is still very well done. With a kiss from June, Jack’s on his way, as he steps through to the other side, where the Autobots are waiting for him. Just as an aside, props to the animators who designed Jack’s spacesuit; I love his retro-style spaceman suit, with all the wires and gizmos and giant helmet.

Ratchet reveals that he’s going to leave the Space Bridge open so as to make it easier to locate Jack and Arcee once their mission is completed. Jack’s a little taken aback:

“Easier to locate? You’re not bridging us strait to the Big V?”

“Vector Sigma’s true location is shrouded in myth and rumor, Jack. It is said that the path of the Primes leads there. We must be confident that Optimus will guide you.”

Man, I like how both Autobots and Decepticons are relying on such frail elements to ensure success. With Megatron, he relied on Orion’s skill as a code-breaker to complete his mission, while here, Ratchet relies on rumor and myth to guide Jack. I could do an analysis on this, but really, this is pretty flimsy planning and reliance on things that I don’t think falls in line with the characters presented.

So, they set up, and Jack and Arcee go through the Space Bridge and step onto Cybertron. Let’s talk about Cybertron for a moment, because this is a case where the animators and background people deserve full credit. This iteration of Cybertron is bleak, with much of it being cast in a muted grey color. I love how gloomy its surface and surroundings look. The sheer scope of it is impressive, as we see it through Jack’s helmet for the establishing shot. The music and lighting do a lot to increase Cybertron’s messed up environment.

Jack’s pretty thrilled to be on another planet, as he’s the first human to have done so, and this will naturally never be mentioned again, even by Fowler. Also, how are the Autobots even able to survive on Cybertron at all? In “Darkness Rising, Part 5”, Megatron infected the whole planet with Dark Energon, and raised a legion of zombies with it. So, what happened? I guess it all dissipated, but we’ve seen the affects of this stuff, and how it’s long lasting. Despite this, the two are nonetheless on Cybertron, and being back hits Arcee pretty hard though, with this great line:

“This isn’t how I wanted you so see my home.”

I love how sad she looks, and with this one line, we’re reminded once again that the Transformers on this show are just as human as the humans are, perhaps even more so. The Key to Vector Sigma is said to be their guide, and after a few tries, the Key lights the way for Jack and Arcee.

Meanwhile, the Autobots are caught unprepared as Breakdown contacts Space Bridge Control. The debate begins as to who should answer; Bulkhead’s and Ratchet’s voices would both be recognized, as Breakdown has met both, and since Bumblebee can’t speak at all, Ratchet puts through Agent Fowler. He manages to do a pretty good job, even putting Breakdown on his tows with a good “how are you”.

Meanwhile, Arcee and Jack follow the Key’s signal all the way to Kaon, the Decepticon capitol, and are surprised to find Vector Sigma located here. Arcee says that they must go on foot from here, as engine noise would most likely attract “vermin”, as Arcee says. But it seems as though their precaution was for naught, as even now, a creepy beetle-like creature transforms beneath a bridge and begins to follow them, triggering a “to be continued”…

Post-episode follow up: Final score for “Orion Pax, Part 2” is 8/10. Plot holes are evident, but their presence doesn’t really detract from the latter half of the story, which is a little more coherent than the first part of this episode. Starscream’s return is a great boon to the episode, and his current position will have a profound affect on his character throughout the first half of Season Two. Effects are nice, and Ratchet, Megatron, and Arcee all have pretty good and/or funny character moments, and there’s enough humor and engaging dialogue to entertain you. Next week, we’ll see the conclusion to this maxi-seven-arc, character-driven epic, and I’ll give you my thoughts on the arc as a whole as well.

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