Friday, August 16, 2013

Transformers Prime is more than Optimal

Transformers Prime has finished, well nearly finished. There's a movie coming out in a few months, but the series itself has wrapped up. Just live Star Trek tries to hit that magic Season 7, Transformers seems to have three seasons and a movie. It's weird that I only really started watching it a year ago, after some initial hesitation which had left me abandoning the show. When I wrote about it at that time I was only a few episodes into the first season and I was already starting to enjoy the new cartoon. Having now seen all three, I think it might just be the best Transformers show there has been. Ever.

One of my original complaints were the kids being in the driving seat. I've almost always been annoyed at the inclusion of humans, going all the way back to Spike. I've just never seen the point. They get in the way and annoy, and that's exactly how the three in Prime started. If we were getting another show about kids who just happened to be friends with giant robots I wasn't interested. Then it turns out they tend to be one of the shows biggest strengths.

There's Miko, a rebel girl into metal and likes hanging out with the bruiser of the bots. She always wanted to be part of the battle, and predictably would often sneak away and cause havoc. But even here Prime somehow doesn't make it as hard to cope with as other shows have. Often Miko does cause complications for the bots, but half the time she's also part of the solution. She doesn't just get in there. Of course she's not meant to be there, and most of the time she misses out on the action. As the robot army grew, her resentment increased. Yet, eventually, she finds her place in the fighting group, which should be really annoying, but it's done well. Her appearance there takes its time. It's a very slow build, and because of that it fits. When she's finally able to step up it's a fantastic “Hell Yeah” moment. Even after that, Optimus is reluctant to include her in missions. She still sneaks out, but it's no longer annoying when she does because she more than holds her own.

Raf probably gets the shortest end of the stick, mainly because he finds his place with the bots so early. He's the token boy genius who is basically half Cybertronian, with the ease of how he grasps robots and computers. And of course he's the only one who understands Bumblebee's broken speech pattern. It helps that, alongside Ratchet, he's the team's brains from behind enemy lines.

Finally there's Jack. The shy kid. The kid who tries to fit. The kid who basically gets a kickass motorbike robot as a second mum. The one that Optimus Prime basically takes under his wing and singles him out for greatness. Yet Jack doesn't believe him, and then continually keeps proving Optimus right. It's all down to some fantastic writing that none of these incidents come off cheesy or out of place.

I think Prime's biggest help with the kids is that the time's they go into the field are rare, and often – with exception to Miko – not planned, but as a result of getting caught out. The majority of the time, the Bots are the only ones that go into the field, and the Bots are handled really well. Each has a distinct personality that stays true, and a lot even have character growth.

Looking back on the old 80's Generation One series, there really is way too many characters. So it makes sense to scale it down in these more heavy story telling times. Even then, the initial five Autobots only balloons up to eight, and the Decepticons gain four new members, though the show's not afraid to kill people off to keep the population under control. It's also a big help during the finale.

The ending is done brilliantly. Any big Transformers showdown can easily be yet another throwdown between Optimus and Megatron with “One Shall Stand, One Shall Fall” thrown about. Prime doesn't, Prime creates its own path, and its pay off is far greater for it. It double bluffs you, it makes you believe things are worse then you think, and it pulls it off because the show has had no problem being nasty in the past. Ultra Magnus loses a hand in one big scene earlier in the season for Sparks sake.

I'm going to miss Transformers: Prime, though I get the feeling this upcoming movie isn't going to be the only one. I can already spot a couple of story lines that aren't fully resolved. Either way, Prime stands alongside the two Cybertron games by High Moon and The Movie as the best the franchise has ever offered. And I do realise one of those is driven by nostalgia.
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