Rob's Pile of Transformers: Manic Ramblings

Manic Ramblings and Delirious Rantings
Re: "Endgame Part 1: The Downward Spiral"

Anybody else find these multi-part titles for multi-part episodes a bit cumbersome?...







Warp speed:

Legions of drones roll across Cybertron, while still more of the things are created at an automated plant. But it's not enough: Megatron orders an immediate attack to regain his base. After the Generals depart, Megs reflects that "I need a stronger body... but there's no time to design an entirely new one. I require... a template!" He fiddles with some controls, bringing up a three-dimensional graphic. "Yess... and what could be more appropriate?"

Aboard the BFH, Silverbolt and Nightscream try to convince Optimus to restore the Sparks to their bodies. "If nothing else it'll help even the odds," SB says. "And allow Megatron to re-caputure them?" Op replies. "I can't released the Sparks until Megatron is defeated and we reformat Cybertron." Botanica announces that she has changed the defense grid so Megs can't remote-access it; Rattrap sets to work on getting the weapons working. Cheetor asks, logically, how they're supposed to reformat the planet; Op isn't sure, but says the missing piece of the puzzle lies with the Oracle. "That wouldn't be the same Oracle that you so graciously allowed Megatron to download from you?" "The Oracle knew about the download and wanted it to happen!" Op says -- but he hasn't the faintest idea why. RT announces that the weapons are keyed to Megatron's Spark and are totally inaccessible. "Well what are we supposed to use against him? Our sunny dispositions?" Blackarachnia asks. Further debate is stifled by the arrival of hundreds of drones.

Rattrap whips out his handy disks again. "Remember these? Fooled 'em before!" BA: "Oh, like they're gonna fall for the same trick again." RT tosses one at each Maximal: "Who said anythign about the same trick?" And each affected Maximal suddenly sees teh others as... a different Maximal. Silverbolt, Blackarachnia, and Nightscream move out with the disks to buy the group some time.

Three pods deploy from the BFH, revealing Maximal signatures when the drones scan them. But when they're shot down... the pods are empty. "They took the bait," SB observes, lurking in the shadow near the crash site. As Obsidian observes that it's some kind of trick, Nightscream pops up behind him: "Tag! You're it!" He spins to find BA and NS standing there. "Zero Maximal signatures detected," his computer reports. "Did you really expect us to fall for that ruse again?" he asks, swiftly blowing away Nightscream, Blackarachnia, Silverbolt, and coming to a puzzled pause as he sees Nightscream again. And as the smoke clears, he finds the ruins of three of his own drones. "Strika! Thrust! The Maximals are up to something!" he radios. "You think?" Thrust replies, surrounded by pieces of his own drones. NS comments that "combining field scramblers with holochips was pure genious!" "I must thank him personally!" Strika replies from nearby, attackign the group.

Op radios Silverbolt, urging him to get his team inside the BFH before they raise shields. Silverbolt tells him not to wait... and Optimus reluctantly agrees. Cheetor raises the shield in time for a number of helodrones to plow into it... then the remainder surround the BFH and attack. SB's team tries to evade Strika, only to run right into Thrust. BA vaults over Strika, who rounds a corner and finds herself confronting all three Maximals. She blasts SB and NS; Blackarachnia protests -- in Thrust's voice. Thrust retreats: "Hey... stop! Are you nuts, lady??" "Good thing I had one of Rattrap's headtrip devices left," BA notes, watching from above. After briefly noting the battle going on above, SB and co. retreat underground.

"Shields are holding," RT observes... as Botanica moans weakly and pitches to the deck. Rattrap's reaction is far from passive: "Botanica! Oh, come on, Sprouts, this is no time for napping!.... The shields. They're cuttin' her off from the organic core!" he tells Optimus. She has to be removed from the shield... quickly. Primal won't have it: "If we lower the shields for an instant we're all finished!" he say, glancing at the hordes of attacking helidrones on screen.

"We cannot penetrate their shields, Lord Megatron," Obsidian reports. "Their power reserves can't last forever. And then you can re-take the ship! Or blow it out of the sky. Either way, the Sparks will again be mine..."

"How can we win when Megatron has like a zillion drones?" Nightscream wonders below ground. "How 'bout cutting off his supply at the source?" Silverbolt replies.

"Any luck?" Op asks ship-side. "Yeah. But not the good kind!" Cheetor says. Still no weapons... but Rattrap vows he'll think of something. "Stay with me, Shrubs... don't you wilt on me!" He turns to the others. "We gotta help her!" Op repeats: the shield must stay. "The Sparks... keep them safe," Botanica says faintly. "Oh no. Frag this. I'm bustin' you outta here! If I can create a field exactly matching the shield's harmonics --" "Too risky. If Vehicons detect it, and lock on--" "Vehicons I can handle... but not what's happening to you."

The away team enters Megatron's factory... and finds themselves face-to-scanner with Megs himself. "What a pitiful excuse for a commando raid," he says non-chalantly, dodging their attacks. "Don't you ever get tired of losing?" he adds, using magnetic beams of some sort to toss BA and SB into a face-to-face heap. He then repells NS's sonic scream with an energy shield, turning it on him. "Someone underestimated me! Someone thought, because I was trapped inside this puny body, I would be easily vanquished. Someone was wrong!" "Uh, Mr. Megatron sir? I'm over here!" NS shouts from across the room -- and Megs discovers he's been another victem of Rattrap's disks. NS blasts some kind of large box, which promptly overloads. The Maximals escape; Megs tries to stop the inevitable with some controls, but finally just stares slack-armed as the plant goes BOOM.

SB's team reports that they've put Megatron out of business "and buried him under three gigatons of solid titanium." "So now all we gotta do is take down the remaining drones!" Cheetor says, glancing at the hundreds of said drones on-screen. "The shields are sucking our power core dry! And when it's gone, it's _all_ gone, including the anti-grav units."

Rattrap, elsewhere, has loaded Botanica into a pod, which launches from the BFH: "Don't say I never did nothin' for ya, Sprouts," he says poignently. SB's group observes as the pod is hit, and springs into action to keep it from crashing. Inside, they find Botanica, who is desperate to rejoin the soil. Her palor returns as she does so, as a relieved Rattrap observes from above. A squad of Vehicons appears down the road, and Botanica begins melding into the ground. "Leaving? I'd call that a good idea," Nightscream says, as the others depart. Megatron is with the squad.... and his sensors locate Rattrap's disk. "The device is submitting a series of harmonic pulses...." He glances at the BFH, then radios Obsidian: "Have your force recalibrate their weapons to fire at the following frequency!"

The attack that follows goes straight through the shields, to Primal and Cheetor's surprise. Rattrap's reaction -- lowered head, slumped shoulders -- tells most of the story. "Rattrap... what did you do?" Op asks seriously. RT looks away a moment, then faces Primal: "I did what I had to." Op: "Realign the shields. Change the frequency--" "Forget it, Big Bot! The defense grid's toast," Cheetor tells him. Obsidian's squads target the BFH's antigravity units. Inside, Cheetor snaps at RT: "Do you have any idea what you just did? We finally had them on the ropes and--" "Not now, Cheetor! We have to focus on saving the Sparks -- what are you doing?" "Erecting a statis field around the Spark contaiment unit! It'll suck up the last of our power --" And with a jolt, the BFH begins a long, slow crash that brings it smashing to a halt atop the Citadel.

Op, Cheets, and RT dig themselves out. "Well, the good news is that the containment field survived! The Sparks are just fine." RT reports. "And the bad news?" Cheetor wonders. "You have to ask?" RT says, as the camera tracks over to Megatron and his forces. "Can you reroute the shields somehow, get them back on-line?" "With what?? We got no power, no where, no how!" RT continues, recriminating himself: "Oh, what did I do... what was I THINKIN'??" "As you said, you did what you had to do. Well this is it, people. The beginning of the end. And with the Matrix as my witness, Megatron will NOT get those Sparks." But it looks grim... a wall of drones rises into the air around the fallen BFH and we fade to black.


Finally... a "Part One" that FEELS like a Part One.

This episode had a very "big" feel to it -- grand armies, high stakes, epic and desperate adventure. I like it a lot on that count. Both sides are playing for keeps now, each frantically trying to out-maneuver the other at the last minute.

Botanica has some kind of life-supporting connection to the organic core? Wha??? Where did THIS come from? Was it always there? How, then, did she survive flying off millions of lightyears into space? It must be a result of the reformatting -- but then, what if there'd BEEN no organic core in the first place? I guess in such a scenario, there'd be no reformattings, either.

At any rate, this deux ex Beast Machina served its purpose of putting the Maximals in a tight fix -- watch one of their own die, or watch their entire race be destroyed. Rattrap does something that (by the premises established in this series, at least) is astoundingly unselfish, on one level at least -- enacting a desperate plan soley to save the life of another. On another level, it's totally selfish -- he's disregarding the mission and the lives of countless others because of HIS feelings for another person. Neat, huh? A nice parallelism with the repeated explanation of Rattrap "doing what he had to do."

On the other hand, the sacrifice he made wasn't all that great, really -- both Megatron and Cheetor had already made it clear that the BFH's power wouldn't last much longer. Rattrap's actions just sped up the process a bit, ultimately, and made the landing rougher. It's still an interesting bit of character development for The Rat, perhaps, but not quite as much a sacrifice of everything as you might initially think. Despite what Cheetor said, the Maximals hardly had Megatron "on the ropes". In fact, if Rattrap HADN'T done what he did, Botanica apparently would have died -- and the BFH would be shot down anyway. Now at least the Maximals have one of their most powerful members still in action....

Elsewhere in the plot, we have -- what? Not a whole lot of complexity, really. Megs attacks the BFH; the Maximals blow up the drone factory; Megs shoots down the BFH; curtains. With Rattrap's Botanica subplot, the episode is filled. It moved along nicely enough, and there wasn't that sense that "nothing happened" which commonly marks a sub-par episode; it's just that not a lot stood out in my mind, either. I suppose there was something about the editing that made things seem so busy -- if so, I guess that's a nice move by the director. Whatever it was, it worked to create tension in this stand-off situation. I did notice a fair amount of filler dialogue -- Megatron's order to attack, "Immediately", for example. What, were they going to take a nap first? Likewise for Silverbolt's failed attempt to contact Optimus -- it didn't seem to serve much purpose. I guess it did create the pleased reaction from Op and Cheetor when SB suddenly bursts onto the screen with the news that they blew up the factory... which is yet *another* filler bit. Also, unlike last episode, there was rather little rich, insightful, character-exposing or double-entendered dialogue. This was a straight-ahead action ep.

Well, with one exception -- Op, Cheetor, and Rattrap have a rather powerful running argument after the shields are penetrated, one that worked very well for me. Cheetor's anger and impatience, Op's initial anger and later understanding, Rattrap's shame turned to defiance, followed by self-recrimination... beautiful.

I kept waiting for the Maximals to use the BFH itself as a weapon. Megatron, as seen on Op's viewscreen after the shields were penetrated, looked to be RIGHT UNDER the BFH. Just set down right where they were, and *squish*, the war's over. :] Another option might be trying to maneuver to ram the helidrones with the shield, though doing that with a ponderously large ship like the MegaHead might prove difficult against nimble little helicopters.

What's that "template" that Megs called up at the beginning? More than anything, it looked to me like a very thin Optimal Optimus, with the giant round shoulders and tapering shoulder armor above that. But I honestly couldn't tell for sure. But his words imply it's something we've seen before... Wait, OpOp has a beast mode. That CAN'T be it. :] What then?

How many times did Primal say some variant of "We must protect the Sparks"? I seem to recall at least 4. More filler dialogue.

Primal's reasons for not releasing the Sparks seemed very contrived. "And have Megatron re-capture them"??? So it's try to beat Megatron with 7 Maximals, risking the destruction of all the Sparks if they fail, or release them, and beat Megatron with a much greater number of Transformers, risking the destruction of some of them in the process, or all of them if they fail? Uh, that... doesn't add up. The stakes are the same either way -- why not use every resource available? Or, why not point out the much more immediate reasons that they don't have bodies for most of the Sparks, and that Megatron's virus is very likely still lurking about in one form or another?

Then we have talk of "reformatting Cybertron". I dunno about that! I like Cybertron just fine the way it is. It certainly doesn't need a bunch of funky vines growing all over it, IMO... and the Oracle WANTED Megs to get hold of it (a fact that's reiterated two or three times -- more filler)? Something about that idea gives me bad vibes, like we're going to get a magic reset button of an ending, in the not-so-grand tradition of "The Rebirth".

The other big plot device is lifted straight out of 'Star Trek: Generations'. Match your weapons to the enemy's frequencies, and you can shoot straight through their shields. Ah-ha.

Point of confusion: how did Silverbolt and company get to the surface? They clearly weren't in the pods, and apparently never were. Somehow they snuck out, and the pods were to make the drones aware that three Maximals were on the surface, setting the stage for the deception with Rattrap's devices. But how'd they GET there in teh first place?

Biggest apparent plot hole -- how in HELL did Megatron survive the factory explosion? He was in there right down to the wire. It was a nice touch how, at the very end, he went limp with apparent dispair. But then, with no explanation, he's back in action a moment later. Couldn't we at LEAST get a fast shot of him zipping out of the factory... or at least turning on that shield he used on Nightscream?

No, wait, that wasn't Nightscream; it was a drone. A drone that Megs somehow halucinated as speaking to him in NS's voice, then FIRING NS'S WEAPON at him. Huh? Except, wait, that last part wasn't a Rattrap-induced illusion -- the drone REALLY DID SHOOT, because Megatron deflected the shot, destroying the drone. WTF??? This part made no sense at all.

And speaking of that scene -- okay, I finally agree with those who are getting sick of BA's excessive concern for Silverbolt. "SILVERBOLT!!! Oh no, I... I... *gasp* I TIED YOU UP!!!" Come ON, with these two -- don't tell me that's the first time that's ever happened... ;]

Thrust's annoyance at Strika was funny. Does she have it in for Blackarachnia or something? She seemed particularly mad at her ("You have nowhere to turn, arcachnid!") Silverbolt and Blackarachnia's little close-up was funny, too. How's THAT for laying on the inuendo thick?

Okay, Scott McNeil FINALLY did a bad job on a line. "Look. It's a pod! We have to stop it from crashing!" Okay, okay... maybe I wouldn't try very hard if I was handed that line, either.

Nightscream was annoying as often as not in this ep. "No, no, it was me! I blew up Megatron, ME!!" "Here's another tune for you" ?? Ugg. Credit Megs with an equally bad reply. And doesn't sound travel at the speed of sound? And yet Megs had all the time in the world to speak a pithy reply, BEFORE putting up his shield. It was amusing to see NS get bashed aside by the pod hatch, though, after timidly walking up to it....

RT invokes a brand-new pseudo-curse word: "Frag it!" Heh heh. If "slag" = "shit", well... you figure it out.

Nice shots: Op's brief eye-shutting before he tells Cheetor to raise the shield -- a nice moment of "gods, he's right"... Silverbolt pensively watching the distant battle around the BFH... the BFH lop-sidedly crashed atop the Citadel (maybe it should be the Big Sitting Head now? Big Crashed Head? Coin the best phrase for it, and I'll use it in forthcoming reviews... :] I couldn't see this image very well -- the episode recording was kinda dark -- but it still looked cool.... concentric circles of helidrones surrounding the BFH, just outside the shields. Maybe the Maximals WERE trying to ram them with the shields, and they were hovering just out of range; again, with the dark episode copy, it's hard to tell. Yet another reason I look forward to getting these eps on normal TV... All the Sparks in their chamber, flitting about like flies at a bug zapper....

Ugly shots: Strika walking. Did this girl have a hernia or something? Oh wait, you can see it if you look close -- she kinda skates along. Odd, considering I can't see any wheels that actually roll on the ground on her feet. And yes, it's official now, if I understand correctly: "Strika". I figured it would be from the start, but didn't want to say so because... well, I hate the name, and really hoped it'd be wrong. Why do I hate it? WEll, it's dumb. It's not a word. It's not any sort of grammatical play on a word. A "striker" is one who strikes. A "strika" is... in English, nothing, really.

Overall: Positive marks for a very enjoyable first watching. Negatives for lots of little niggling plot holes. Nothing outstanding, but a solid episode that effectively moved the plot forward.

Back to Rob's Pile of Ramblings