Shadowcon Reviews: Transformers Prime season 2, episode 7: “Crossfire”
Okay, so my computer’s back up, my Internet is working again, and Netflix has been nice enough to put Season Two of Prime up for streaming, so everything’s hunky dory. Great, let’s review us some Insecticons!
“Rock Bottom” had a simple premise and thus had room to show off what the animators could really do with their models and textures. “Crossfire” is similar in that it gives us plenty of action and some lovely scenes, but it also has some neat character interplay and sets up three major points that will permeate the rest of the season to varying degrees of success. First, it introduces us to the Insecticons, a badass Cybertronian insect-like robot; secondly, it escalates the in-fighting among the Decepticon ranks, and lastly, it brings up a subtle side to Optimus’ character, which will come into play at various points later on in the season as well.
First, the action in this episode is great. The highlight of the episode is Megatron’s battle with the Insecticon, with all the great camera work and blocking you’d expect from any Prime episode. Its quick and adrenaline-rushing, with Megatron taking quite a pounding before being able to decapitate his foe. I like that Megatron was for the majority of the fight, relieved of his fusion cannon, thus making him resort to his fists and his sword! It makes the fight that much more intense, and when he does win, its makes his winning the battle that much more powerful.
The Insecticon he’s fighting is brutal, and really hard to kill, a trait that, like most television tropes, doesn’t last long, as in the episode “Armada”, the Autobots are able to shoot a mob of them out of the sky in one shot. This is obviously for time and plot constraints for that episode (and two or three more down the line; I’ll be getting to this in my Season Two Overview), but a trait like this should be at the forefront of whichever character it’s supposed to enhance. It would be like Optimus Prime not knowing how to wield his sword when we just saw him take out some Decepticons with his sword not two episodes ago. It’s just not possible. Anyway, for now, the Insecticons are really cool; they’re able to go toe-to-toe with Megatron and give him some bruises and serious wounds, which is saying a lot, considering Optimus seems to be the only one who could really hurt Megatron, and that was when Optimus was pissed off so much that he pimped-slapped Unicron in the freakin’ face!
I should also mention that Arcee’s fight with Airachnid is beautiful to watch simply just to see how the two characters move about in such tight spaces. I like how Arcee pretty much cartwheels through the tunnel they’re in while Airachnid uses her spider legs to move about. It’s really neat to watch. Once again, these two models are very receptive to different amounts of light and color saturation; whereas in “Rock Bottom”, Arcee was covered in grime and thus had a muted look, here she’s presented as sleek and shiny, her armor a deep blue in the cave lighting setup.
Season Two’s primary strength is setting the stage for something down the line. Foreshadowing is great, as I’ll touch upon below, and how the writers set things up is really good. The payoff is weak, but again, I’ll save that for my Overview of this season. Here, Breakdown dies, and not just by getting shot in the back, but by being completely ripped apart and eviscerated by Airachnid! The result is just this mangled mass of parts that later MECH stumbles upon! This is a great character death because it shocks the audience but also has the potential to bring us something really special with MECH, Silas, Breakdown, and the Decepticon storyline. Of course, instead we get a one-off episode with Silas groveling at Megatron’s feet, but the buildup to that was really good in this episode.
Character interplay is also pretty good for this episode. Starscream meets up with Airachnid and we get some pretty standard villain dialogue to go with those scenes. Megatron and Airachnid’s rivalry is brought to the forefront in this episode, along with the backdrop of Megatron having to keep his people in line, with her pretty much giving him the finger before taunting him to come after her. The Decepticon infighting is highlighted in this episode as well. Breakdown and Dreadwing are sent out to execute Airachnid on Megatron’s orders, and Megatron later berates Dreadwing for not following through with that. This presents Megatron as not only a villain, but as someone who doesn’t really know what they’re doing at this point… kind of like this season as a whole! I like this, though. It presents us with a glimpse into the running of the Decepticon army, and we see just how far Megatron has twisted himself into trying to make sure things run his way, when obviously things are going… not his way at all! This is a good undertone for this season if it ever had one.
Arcee and Airachnid’s rivalry is brought up again, though its old hat at this point, offering nothing new to the established backstory. We get a nice throwback to “Orion Pax, Part 2” with Bulkhead and Ratchet receiving a message from Starscream that is nearly identical to the aforementioned episode’s. Even the dialogue is similar. Starscream as a whole in this episode is pretty cool, first negotiating with Airachnid and when that fails, going strait to the Autobots for help. I particularly liked his near-slipup when he tells Ratchet about Airachnid’s plan:
“She is planning to retaliate against Meg-… mmm… mankind.”
Following this, Bulkhead and Starscream banter a bit about past events:
“I directed you to the location of the Decepticon Space Bridge so you could rescue Orion Pax, didn’t I?”
“Yeah, but then you helped MECH steal Bumblebee’s T-Cog!”
“So? He got it back didn’t he?!”
The Autobots then learn that Starscream is missing his T-Cog, after MECH stole it to make up for their loss of Bumblebee’s (this all happened in “Operation Bumblebee, Part 2”). Arcee’s a bit miffed that Bulkhead and Ratchet let Starscream go; she’s a little more annoying here, reminding the audience again of how Starscream and Airachnid have both killed her former partners. Optimus steps in to stop the argument, saying that they don’t have the means to hold their enemies at their base, and that he does not approve of killing any defenseless being, be they friend or foe.
This is a subtle hint of where Optimus’ character is going… well, is supposed to be going for Season Two, in that he’s becoming increasingly more desperate and irrational and violent, and pushing the boundaries of how far he’s willing to go to end this war. Its good character development that sadly didn’t go very far for this season, as with many themes of this season.
For this episode, though, the foreshadowing pays off very well. Optimus and company surround Megatron after he’s killed the Insecticon and Optimus now must make the decision to kill Megatron or take him in alive, or not even bother; as he said, the Autobots don’t have the means of imprisoning their enemies, so how would they possibly hold someone who took out an angry insect tank? And even though Dreadwing and a mass of Decepticons arrives and puts pressure on Optimus to let Megatron go, the question still lingers in the back of our minds: would Optimus have killed Megatron? And what really ties the whole thing together is that Optimus doesn’t say a word until Dreadwing arrives, with Megatron almost daring him to break his one rule! Very cool character dynamic here. Lastly, Arcee is spared by Starscream, who comes to her rescue just so he can try to take out Airachnid and waste one of his missiles in failing to do so! Nice just, ‘Scream.
Post episode follow-up: Final score for “Crossfire” is 8/10. An interesting look into the Decepticon army, and some neat character setup is established here. I liked Optimus’ subtle character development and all of the fight scenes were well-paced and very cool to look at. Some bad dialogue and Arcee and Airachnid’s redundancy drag this episode down a little, but overall this is one of the highlights for Season Two.