September 13, 2014

Shadowcon Reviews- Thirst


Shadowcon Reviews: Transformers Prime season 3, episode 8: “Thirst”

This review is dedicated to Audrey!

Okay, so I originally had this whole plan to go through and review all the Prime episodes that involved MECH, and trace their progression as a secondary villain in the show and it was going to be really cool because I was going to get to review things like “Operation Bumblebee”, and “The Human Factor” and stuff like that. But then a friend of mine and I got to talking about “Thirst” and she was like, “you should review that one,” and I was taken with the idea, so I’m kinda messing up my MECH plan and just starting from the end of their incredibly loose multi-season arc. It’s also kind of okay because my first Transformers Prime review was “Convoy” which introduced us to MECH as villains… and then I never got back to their story after that, so this is sort of along those same lines: I’m shooting all the way to the end!

Alright, with that egregious explanation out of the way, I have to say that “Thirst” is kind of like a “we need to clean up all our loose ends” episode. In the first minute alone, Starscream, who is ranting to Knock Out, references Airachnid’s brief return to the Decepticon ranks and conflict with him in “Partners”, her incarceration in the stasis pod in “Armada”, and then we get a nice pull-back shot revealing Breakdown… and then we’re reminded that Silas took over his corpse in an attempt to be a more effective weapon and join the Decepticons in “The Human Factor” and has been here ever since. (Also, he changed his name to Cylas after merging with Breakdown’s corpse, so I’ll be referring to this character by that name to describe the Silas/Breakdown hybrid). After this, we get a nice dose of references by Knock Out to when Silas gouged out Breakdown’s eye waaaay back in “Operation Breakdown” in Season One, to Synthetic Energon which Knock Out obtained at the end of “Stronger, Faster”, and Cylas references “Operation Bumblebee” when threatening Starscream.

Whew! Needless to say, there’s a lot of backstory that’s referenced off-hand here! Even the Transformers Wikipedia, TFWiki.net, admits to this in it’s “Continuity Notes” section for this episode with “Yowza, this would be a tough episode to start watching the series.”

This episode really feels like a clean-up of past plot threads left hanging, and by episode’s end, most of them have either been done away with, or reintroduced to the series to help drive the show to its conclusion. And despite the obvious mission of the episode to tie up loose ends, that doesn’t really drag “Thirst” down in any significant way! There’s enough fresh material here that plays off of past events to make this episode stand on its own, not to mention the comedy, which I think makes this episode a joy to watch as well.

I also love that they bring back Dark Energon here as well, something which hasn't been used since “Flying Mind”. And mixing two Energon types together as Starscream does with Dark and Synthetic Energon is something that hasn’t been explored before, so that’s pretty neat. While Dark Energon’s use here is a little odd (because as we’ve seen before, infusing a living being with Dark Energon will give them control over the dead, yet here Cylas doesn’t display any ability like that at all, save for his vampiric abilities), the collision and intermixing of all of these past plot points is pretty good, and once Cylas breaks free and starts feeding on the Nemesis crew, you quickly forget about that as the pace picks up and Knock Out and Starscream are able to carry the comedy quite well:

“Aim for the head!”

“What? How do you know?”

“I have seen human horror films!… At drive-in theaters!”

Reviewing a comedy like this is very hard. For one, comedy itself is subjective, so what I find funny might not float other people’s boats. Also, some of what’s funny about this episode is visual, and being that this is a text-based review with no way of showing you what’s going on without the flow of the writing being oddly broken up proves challenging for me. There are a few great lines between Knock Out and Starscream that breathe life into what could’ve been a retread of “Flying Mind”. I liked when the two of them found refuge while running away from the infected Terrorcons and just straight-up borrowed dialogue from Optimus and Arcee in “Convoy”:

“Knock Out, this situation might be a bit more dire than either of us ever imagined.”

"I find it rather ironic that after battling Autobots all these years, getting smacked down, shot at, blown up, this is how our lights go out?"

"Drained of our precious fluids. If this is indeed the end, if we are to become Terrorcon-chow, it has been an honor serving Lord Megatron with you."

"You're no Breakdown. Though I must confess, I have always admired your lustrous finish."

[Awkward pause]

"*mm-hmm* Well, then."

"Should be going.”

I have to believe that one of the writers just pulled that from a fanfic online! Like, how do writers even pitch this kind of stuff to a network?

And then right after that, they run into Megatron, who totally fits the role of parent to these two children!

Megatron: “Would either of you like to tell me what exactly is going on?”

Starscream: “Yes, absolutely nothing, my liege.”

Knock Out: “All is quiet, too quiet. One could even say dull!”

Megatron: “Funny, because the Dark Energon within my spark has been pulsing.”

Starscream: [To Knock Out] Allow me to handle this. (To Megatron) IT'S KNOCK OUT'S FAULT!"

Knock Out: “Precisely my- WHAT?!”

And I even love Megatron’s response to Starscream a few lines later:

“I do not know from what madness your yarn springs, Starscream. But if I learn that you have been dabbling with my Dark Energon stores again, attempting to infuse yourself with its formidable power… Let me just say: you have been awarded more chances for redemption than anyone in Decepticon history!”

I can’t argue with that!

And then to make matters even more complicated, about two thirds of the way through the episode, Cylas breaks the stasis pod holding Airachnid and frees her, thereby shooting the references and plot threads up to a whopping six! I’m glad that Gina Torres gets to have one last episode to shine (and one infinitely better than “Armada”, let me tell ya!) and her vocal talents as the villainous spider-bot are in full swing here. I also like that Silas (the human) and Airachnid get to have one final conversion before Silas’ death; it’s pretty mundane dialogue, honestly, but I’m glad that they at least got to wrap up their brief arc back in Season One.

But shit really hits the fan when Airachnid resumes control over the Insecticons like she did in “Armada”, leading to a confrontation with Soundwave which calls back to “One Shall Rise, Part 3”. … Yeah, the references just keep coming.

Anyway, Soundwave opens up a GroundBridge and dumps Airachnid and the Insecticon hive on one of Cybertron’s two moons which I thought was an appropriate way to screw Airachnid over. Quarantine procedures are implemented, and Megatron deals with Starscream as he’s dealt with him in past, while Airachnid gets the final coda for the episode as she’s revealed to have been bitten by Cylas and turned into a Terrorcon, who feeds on her Insecticon legion to close out this episode.

Post-episode follow up: Final score for “Thirst” is 8/10. There’s so much referential material packed in here to be sure, but I think this episode’s greatest strength is that none of that feels forced or rushed into the script. Everything here evolves naturally from Starscream’s idea to infuse Cylas with a Dark/Synthetic Energon mix. The only thing I’d say was a little out of place was Airachnid’s reintroduction, and that’s only because it came just a bit too late to have any lasting effect on the audience. But Starscream and Knock Out make a great comedic duo, and to have Megatron involved in this made the mix of comic relief and straight-men all the stronger.

The horror element of “Thirst” was a bit bland, but I’m glad that the usual horror tropes and such were acknowledged and implemented here; it added to the cheesiness of this episode’s comedy and gave me a good chuckle here and there. Much of the comedy worked for me, the animation was stunning as always (they really improved and nailed down Starscream’s facial expressions and body movements since Season One), and given that this episode was essentially a way to wrap up so much stuff that was left hanging, it pulled that off very successfully and made much of the plot threads pay off, or at the very least made for some good laughs. Overall, this is definitely a high point for the sereis and one of several for Season Three!

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