Transformers Prime has shown that there is a formula that works in mixing nostalgia with fresh ideas. The show’s second season premiered last month and has helped fledgling channel ‘The Hub’ grow significantly in the past year. The show is not just a flimsy marketing ploy devoid of substance either, as it has already won two Emmy’s this past year. The latest episode, Loose Cannons, helped to provide the audience with something old, something new, and something borrowed.
The episode begins in the Autobot base where Optimus Prime and the other Autobots hear a message from their human contact, Special Agent William Fowler (voiced by Ernie Hudson). There has been a huge battle near a gas station between WheelJack, an Autobot traveling the universe looking for others of his kind, and Decepticon Dreadwing. WheelJack was looking for revenge from Dreadwing who killed one of his partners.
This led them to earth where WheelJack eventually met up another old partner, Bulkhead. The two, part of a special-ops group called the Wreckers, set off to find Dreadwing who actually escaped from WheelJack earlier in the episode. Bulkhead eventually gets captured and it is up to WheelJack and Optimus Prime to save him from Dreadwing. With Megatron watching, Dreadwing attempts to finish off the two in an intense, climactic battle.
What separates this show from other animated series is the quality of the voice actors. Peter Cullen and Frank Welker, voice icons from the nineteen-eighties, reprise their roles as Optimus Prime and Megatron, respectively. Simply put, no other voice-acting tandem has the relationship these two have. While Peter has been back at work as Optimus for some time now due to the movie franchise, Welker’s Megatron still manages to hit the ground running.
With the series’ serious approach Welker fine-tunes Megatron to create a more sinister incarnation of the Decepticon leader than we have seen previously. While Cullen and Welker are the driving force of the series, the rest of the cast is simply stellar and not to be overlooked either. Likely to be known to fans of animated series, they include the likes of Steven Blum (Cowboy Bebop), Kevin Michael Richardson (ThunderCats) and occasionally even famous guest stars, such as Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson.
Let’s not forget, however, what this series really excel and that is the storytelling. What most people remember about Transformers from years past was that it was first and foremost designed to supplement a line of action figures and other merchandise. The original 1984 series would often feature new characters simply as a way to convince children to nag their parents for the toy the next time they went to the store.
With Transformers Prime the first thing you notice is that the same cast of characters appears again and again, consistently in each episode. The focus here is creating compelling relationships between those characters, instead of just cynically exploiting opportunities to sell toys. Just like any good non-animated series, there are individual character arcs throughout each season to help keep the viewer interested.
This most recent episode dealt with the dynamic of Bulkhead and WheelJack. The two served together and share a deep bond. While one has moved on from the “Black-ops” group, the other has not and is still marooned in that mindset of being alone.
What surprises about the series is the spillover storylines, designed to push viewers towards a season finale. Not only are there individual character-arcs, but an overriding season-arc as well. This season is building on looking for artifacts from the Transformer home world, Cybertron. While some episodes, including this one, can be stand-alone in most part, they each build upon the other having a reason to exist in the canon, much like USA’s own Burn Notice.
The series is for children, there is no doubt about it, but it has something that adults crave also. Characters can, and will, die in this series. Which means that there is something actually at stake. The first season alone killed two major characters, one from each side, and has since had those who survive reflect and deal with the loss.
Dreadwing, the character introduced in this episode, is the brother of the character Skyquake who was killed in the previous season. He strictly goes to earth for the sole purpose of avenging the death of his brother. This is not your old Transformers series, as this show has far more depth to it and will help to push its host channel to greater heights should this series continue to honor its commitment to quality.
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