April 1, 2015

Shadowcon Reviews- Chain of Command

Shadowcon Reviews: Transformers Prime Season 3, episode 6, “Chain of Command”

Alright, so all of those suggestions that I mentioned last episode about how to make cloning easier? Well, Shockwave, you better take my cue, because this episode’s teaser is the Predacon breaking free of the ice and flying back to your ship! That’s it, and I will credit them this, it’s a nice, quick, and effective teaser.

After the credits, Starscream is mocking Shockwave’s plan of cloning more Predacons, thinking he’ll be doing so on the ship, but Shockwave just takes Starscream’s insults in stride, saying that he has an off-site laboratory. And, really, why not? If the Autobots can whip up a new base complete with operational GroundBridge off screen between episodes, surely Shockwave can set up an entire laboratory complete with cloning vats and a closed power source, right? Anyway, the living Predacon returns, much to Starscream’s chagrin. Megatron’s impressed. Starscream continues to fall upon bad luck, as Megatron orders him to take command of the Predacon.

“Me, master? I mean, I wouldn’t dream of seizing such an honor from its very creator!”

“Military command of the Predacon is most logical, as my services are required elsewhere.”

Shockwave just loves rubbing Starscream’s nose in the dirt, doesn’t he?

Meanwhile, Ultra Magnus’ team lands in Scotland on Ultra Magnus’ ship. Wheeljack's chomping at the bit to get to the action, and Magnus’ micro-managing is justified here, as he criticizes him for advancing without proper cover, only to have the guy leap off the cliff that they’re on, shouting all the while. I know Magnus is meant to look like the overwhelming authority douchebag here, but I think Wheeljack’s stupidity makes Magnus, well, completely in the right. They did establish just after landing that the Decepticons were right below them, so yelling really doesn’t seem to be the smartest option here- even Wheeljack I would think could see that. Then again, we are talking about a guy who brought a squishy human along and sent them in for reconnaissance, so y’know, he’s probably not the smartest person around.

Despite poking fun, I do like that Jackie and Magnus are clashing more now than they did when they stormed the Decepticon citadel back in “Rebelion”. Magnus’ command decisions in that episode were followed without question, and that made sense then because it was an immediate crisis. Here, the Autobots have gotten a chance to breathe before going in, so things are a little more free to slide. Ultra Magnus isn’t having that though, and is visibly irritated when Jackie and Bulkhead engage in a firefight at the entrance to the cave that the shuttle is parked above. After a few flashy moves by those two, Magnus just decides to end it by coming down himself, wailing on these poor Vehicon guards with the Forge of Solus Prime. The fight ends, and Magnus is now pretty pissed:

That’s why we wait for cover.”

Well, apparently Jackie decided to bring a guest to this little party, because Miko pops out of his chest… a sentence that you’d only read in a Transformers review (or I suppose in Miko/Wheeljack fanfics, you never know). I love the backstory for how Miko convinced Jackie to bring her along, check this out:

“Yo! Can I come with?”

“Why not?”

That’s right, it’s two lines in a flashback lasting like eight seconds! And hell, this is Season Three; the writers know by now how flimsy their justifications are for stuff- it’s high time one of them just said fuck it and didn’t even bother explaining things in the script. I like to think that this is the explanation Jackie gives Magnus too, like verbatim! That would really push Magnus’ buttons. Still, Jackie’s not without heart:

“Prime told you to lead the Wreckers on this one. I assumed he meant all of them.”

“Are you mocking your commanding officer?”

“Wouldn’t think of it, sir. The kid’s a full-blown Wrecker. Isn’t that right, Bulkhead?… Look, she may be small, but she saved my tailpipe. Snuffed an Insecticon all on her own!”

Magnus grudgingly agrees to have Miko come along after some prompting from Bulkhead that she’s been through worse, though considering that Magnus is supposed to be all about protocol, sending her into this situation because she’s been through worse isn’t exactly reassuring. Now, Miko is actually one of my favorite characters on the show, and that’s definitely a minority viewpoint, because, well yeah, she can be a bit annoying. “Tunnel Vision” in particular was grating precisely because she was in there. But for the most part, I think she is how most of us would react if we were introduced to giant alien robots; who wouldn’t want to got on a recon mission with these guys just on the off chance that you might see some action?

As this is going on, Starscream has been busy trying to get the Predacon to get inside the ship, putting on the Apex Armor to protect himself from the beast’s fire breath. Megatron decides to send Starscream and the Predacon to see what’s what with one of the excavation teams on the grounds that the Predacon should be skilled in bone retrieval as well as killing people- you really want your pets to be well-rounded, don’t ya know?

Ultra Magnus and the Wreckers enter the cave, only for Miko to stumble upon a rock and ask Magnus if it’s the Predacon bone they’re looking for. Wow. I know they want to make Miko annoying, but Jesus… Magnus, recite the full Tyrest Accord to these people right now; you are completely justified in doing so, sir! Bulkhead tries to cheer Wheeljack up to no avail:

“Just like old times, eh Jackie?”

“‘Cept back then, I didn’t need permission to pick my partners.”

“Come on, we’re all on the same team. Hey, beast hunters, right?”

Oh my god. I like the little nodding dance Bulkhead does as he says that too- he’s completely aware of the product placement, and it makes the namedrop oddly endearing because of this animation quirk. Wheeljack’s still kinda down:

“During all those cycles it took me to travel to Earth, all I could think about was getting our band of brothers back together. But this isn’t the lineup I had in mind. You did the smart thing, Bulk, leaving the Wreckers when you did, when we were still bringing our A game, before the rust set in.”

But Bulkhead admits to Miko that he feels that he abandoned Wheeljack, who deserted the Wreckers after Magnus took command. It’s an interesting dilemma to be sure, the thought that you might have betrayed your friend in that person’s eyes. Indeed, joining up with the commander of the entire freaking Autobot army must look pretty self-indulgent in the eyes of a guy who’s own commander can’t stand his subordinates walking in front of him without reprimanding them and, well… it almost makes you think that the fake Wheeljack back in “Con Job” might have fit better as the real one considering this new information, doesn’t it? And no, I’m not gonna let that go.

Anyway, the Predacon attacks, leading to a very okay chase scene. The Predacon gets snagged on a rock though, allowing the three Autobots to make their retreat, holding up in a larger section of the cave. Magnus makes the logical call to contact the other Autobots back at base, but he forgets that he’s dealing with Bulkhead and two reckless death-wish violence junkies, so Wheeljack meets that suggestion with the expected subtlety:

“Wreckers don’t call for backup.”

“…What Jackie means is that we can’t get a comm link signal this far underground.”

Ha! Wow, way to make your friend sound really really dumb, Bulk! With this amount of effort being brought out to cover for him, you’d think that Jackie would be a little more pissed at Bulkhead… almost makes you think his character would have changed… as we at first suspected in “Con Job” and hell no, I’m not letting that go!

Look at Jackie’s expression after Bulkhead says this- it’s just so full of sass, I love it!

Magnus gives Miko her assignment: climb to the ceiling of the cave, reach the ship and contact Optimus. Or in other words, free solo in a cave after having already having avoided being killed by fire, find a way aboard a ship whose doors are sealed shut from the outside, and then familiarize yourself with Cybertronian technology enough to contact Optimus Prime. Good, that’ll be no problem. I suppose it could be argued that Miko has had experience with Wheeljack’s ship, but that was just with one button (okay, two buttons)- finding Optimus’ name in the contacts section of the menu will probably take a while. Also, why doesn’t Jackie just climb up to the surface and then do all of this himself? He’s the smallest of the Autobots, and that crack up there looks big enough for him to fit… and anyway, we see all three of the gian robots climb up through the same hole at episodes’ end, so what the hell? They are trying to get Miko out of danger and all that, but Jackie could at least have her hang on to him while he climbs up and delivers her to the surface at least. Anyway, despite all of this, Miko agrees, eager to prove herself to the stubborn commander.

The Predacon’s roars of frustration grab Jackie’s attention as Miko starts climbing.

“Not sure I like the sound of that.”

Ah. Hey, Bulkhead, you wanna translate this for Ultra Magnus? “What Jackie means is that roaring monster equals bad.”

Miko manages to get aboveground in… record time! That took, what, about twenty-six seconds? Damn. But then, that’s why I’m not a physically active person- I just stay at home and review Transformers episodes all day.

But it seems that Miko’s luck is running out, as the bay doors open and out walks Starscream, accompanied by two Vehicons. Huh. I don’t know, I guess I thought the ship belonging to one of the most by-the-book people ever would have some sort of security lockout for precisely this reason. Starscream deduces why the Autobots are here, boasting about how he’s tamed the Predacon enough to obey his commands, and… man, even the Vehicons won’t let Starscream have a break, calling out the fact that he’s wearing the Apex Armor to protect himself from the Predacon. You know your life sucks when you’re getting called on your bullshit by the mall cops.

To prove that he’s not a coward (… um, at least to make it look like that he’s not a coward), Starscream takes off the armor, setting it aside much to Miko’s eagerness. If she’s lucky, Starscream’ll take off his wingpack too!

Back in the cave, the Predacon has broken free, but luckily Magnus has been able to get Bulkhead and Wheeljack into the semblance of a good fighting force, using himself as bait only to have them leap out and attack the beast form behind after Magnus takes a swing with the Forge. This fight is actually pretty cool! It’s an enclosed space, so the way the Predacon reacts to and moves within this new environment is interesting. His flame breath, which is normally used for long-ranged attacks, is used to good effect here. But as always, this “circle him and fire from all sides” maneuver breaks down and Bulkhead grabs onto the Predacon’s tail to defend Magnus, only to be thrown into him after the Predacon shakes him loose. And now, that just leaves Jackie. Yeah.

Wheeljack gets the beast’s attention, baiting it to open its moth to release its fire breath so that Wheeljack can chuck a grenade into his mouth. The Predacon is smart enough to see that, though, snapping its jaws shut just before the grenade can reach him. Uh oh. The grenade instead bounces around the room, landing feet away from Bulkhead and Magnus.

The resulting explosion is enough to grab the attention of Starscream from above, who moves to check it out, leaving the Apex Armor unguarded. Nice, yeah just leave that anywhere, dude. It’s not like you could take it with you, or get back into it before moving to investigate a fight. Miko takes her chance and heads for the ship, but Starscream blocks her path. After some pretty impressive dodging of Starscream’s giant claws, Miko leaps for the Apex Armor, activating it. The Predacon arrives shortly after, having retrieved the bone they were all looking for- it’s a Predacon eye! That’s a little weird, but we’ve already got a kid in a suit designed to protect nigh invincible robots- logic went out the window a long time ago.

The Autobots are in better shape that I thought they’d be after such a close explosion. Magnus’ temper and patience are really tested now:

“Your actions continue to be one step removed from getting us all scrapped.”

Well, we’ve got bigger things to worry about than character interaction, so Bulkhead decides to go after Miko… who he sent outside, with the Predacon now loose. Nice, man. You’re really one to alienate your friends, aren’t you?

Miko’s being terrorized by the Predacon, much to Starscream’s delight. Megatron calls in asking for a status update, and Starscream gleefully fills him in on their success, no doubt expecting a congratulations. But this is Megatron, remember, so instead we get:

“I will not risk losing a precious commodity to your arrogance!”

Starscream… why, just why are you loyal to this band of people who continue to spit on you and mock you every chance they get? Though considering that you tried to have many of them killed, this is probably heaven for him. Megatron orders the Predacon return with the bone, and the Predacon obeys, taking it from Starscream and flying off- and remember, Megatron’s orders came over the comm, so unless the Predacon has a comm link, which I don’t think he does, this… this is just one more way to humiliate Starscream. You really have to feel bad for the guy.

Starscream moves in to collect the Apex Armor, but Miko’s not letting her new badass-point be taken away from her, leading to a pretty amusing fight. I like this fight because Miko’s combat ability is obviously not up to snuff, so she fights like someone who has never really fought before, instead just wailing on the two Vehicons and Starscream until the Autobots show up. I like that she doesn’t instinctively know all the right moves- she takes them down, sure, but it’s not a graceful dance, it’s more of a… well honestly it’s more of a real fight. Her armor too is different than we last saw it, more of a ball of muscle than a lumbering tank like it is when worn by the robots. It’s an amusing side effect of her size and I found much of the fight to be oddly adorable in a way. Starscream and the two Vehicons retreat after taking a good beating.

Wheeljack commends Miko on developing form annoying sidekick to full on badass in the span of an episode, and then decides to take off on the grounds that Ultra Magnus is a bit of a tool.

Post episode follow-up: Final score for “Chain of Command” is 7/10. The episode is kind of on an upside down bellcurve, starting out strong and then kind of dragging only to pick up the pace at the end. The character moments here are few, mostly at the beginning, but when they’re there, they work. The fans of the series loved this episode mostly because of Miko, winning over most who didn’t like her and merely reinforcing how awesome she was to those of us who already did. I will say though that for all that that final fight was engaging, I do wish that this had come as a final step in her character evolution instead of being power for the sake of it. Maybe they could’ve called back to the events of “Hurt” beyond just a throw-away line, I don’t know. Ultra Magnus and Wheeljack do get some good interaction here, but this is more a case of butting heads than it is about learning to accept who the other person is or learning to change your ways to accept the other person’s behavior. Overall, it’s a solid Prime episode. Next time, the fallout of Wheeljack’s decision to leave, and the episode that had Tubmlr all in a fangirl frenzy for a day!

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