Rob's Pile of Transformers: Manic Ramblings

Manic Ramblings and Delirious Ranting
Re: "Go With the Flow"

 Curious about how #@$ed up the play schedule has been here in Philly (or
maybe just in general)?  No?  Then skip this paragraph.  I got home last
night (after a tiring 4 day weekend in Vermont) to find on my tape: "Go
With the Flow", "Dark Voyage", and... "Flow" again!!  No problem, I
figured; I'll just wait patiently till next weekend for "Crossing the
Rubicon"; in the meantime I'll resume taping Season 1 in order.  Popped in
my Season 1 tape, all ready for part 1 of "The Trigger"... and woke up
this morning to find "Crossing the Rubicon" playing.  Urrrrg!!!  Things
couldn't get any more screwed up!!


 Whadda we want? 


 When do we want 'em? 


 The episode begins with a long zoom on a mountaintop crevice, which seems
to be glowing from within with intermittent flashes of light.  In the
forests below the mountain, more of Tarantulas's technospiders are
skitting about... and Cheetor is on the prowl.  But the hunter is the one
who gets bushwhacked -- by Oona, the young female protohuman we met in
"Cutting Edge", who leaps out of a tree to knock Cheetor down.  "Totally
ambushed!" Cheetor says.  "Oh, yeah, I'm doomed now, okay, ya got me." 
Jack (Jock?  Jaque?) joins in the fun, and is advised by Cheetor that
"when you're battling bots, hack at the hinges."  The trio is startled by
Rattrap's abrupt arrival; he advises Cheetor to "give it up, blondie. 
These kids are primitives.  They're way out of their league!"  As one of
the technospiders crawls down a tree, Rattrap impales it with his
tail/whip, and reminds Cheetor that he's there to watch his back, since
Primal thinks Megatron is up to something in the area.  "Whatever.  Just
sit down and be quiet," Cheets responds.  "Yeah, yeah, story of my life," 
Rattrap says, while Cheetor gives the two kids a lesson on basic mechanics
including the lever and the pulley, the latter of which manages to drop a
big rock on Cheetor's foot.  "Educational stuff," Rattrap says derisively. 
"Me, I'd rather watch things explode." 

 On that note, we cut back to the mountain seen before, where the Preds
are hard at work constructing a big ol' funky device.  Unfortunately, as
they bring it on-line, it overloads them all with some sort of energy. 
"Predacons!  Retreat!" Megatron orders.  Retreating for Megs means moving
to the other side of the room, where he proceeds to unveil his plan to... 
well, to no-one, actually.  "The bipolar energon source affects all
Cybertronians.  The Ark is protected by Teletran One... but the Maximals
are not.  My disruptor ray will destroy them.  However, I need a
non-Cybertronian to finish the job."  "Interesting you should say that,
mighty Megatron," Tarantulas says, pointing to the readings of his
techno-spiders: the two kids will be perfect. 

 Cheetor has just shown the kids how to construct a simple hacking
instrument when Waspinator and Inferno attack, damaging Cheetor and making
off with Oona ("Waspinator sees helpless target!  Oh, happy day!")  Depth
Charge arrives and drives the Preds off.  Optimus calls in and orders
Cheetor to fall back; DC flies in pursuit with Rattrap as an unwanted
passenger.  Ahead, Oona recalls Cheetor's advice -- and begins hacking at
Waspinator's insect legs with the tool he made for her.  Waspy radios
Megatron: "Waspinator has female fleshy bot, but there is problem."  "She
had better not be injured!"  "No!  She injuring Waspinator!"  "Ah,
situation normal, then, yes."  "Ohhhh... Waspinator want to re-negotiate
contract!"  Waspy promptly falls apart after delivering the fleshy-bot
safe and sound. 

 Megatron activates his giant McGuffin as the Maximals approach, despite
Tarantula's protest.  It fires an erratic beam which fries Depth Charge's
"energon circuits", leaving him powerless.  "Well, switch to -- glide mode
or somethin'!" Rattrap says, as they tumble earthward.  "I don't HAVE a
glide mode, mouse," DC spits back.  "I'm open to suggestions."  "Oh. 
Okay.  Hows about we crash down into those mountains, and die horrible
agonizin' deaths!!"  DC is in bad shape after the crash; Rattrap is beat
up but, to his surprise, "Heh.  I ain't dead!"  "This day's just full of
disappointments," DC says.  Rattrap leaves DC stuck where he is, giving
his systems time to recover, and drives off to rescue Oona.  A butterfly
lands on DC's chest as Ratty departs.  "What're YOU lookin' at?" DC
inquires nastily.

 Meanwhile, Megs works to complete his device... or to persuade Oona to
do it for him.  It takes quite a bit of talking to get Oona to attach a
simple shield plate, and then she does it rather crookedly, then uses a
wrench to bash the bolts down.  "Oh... whatever," Megatron says.  Some
time later... the entire device is covered with similarly haphazard pieces
of shield plating.  The final step is to "install the stabilizer crystal",
a glowing sparkly that Oona seems to like.  "Yes, yes!" Megs exclaims as
Oona closes the hatch. "My disruptor ray is complete.  Triumph is before
me!"  "And da rat is behind ya!" Rattrap says, popping out with gun aimed. 
But Dinobot quickly disarms Ratty, while Tarantulas moves to destroy Oona. 
The protohuman isn't such easy pickings, however; she uses a convenient
pole to lever a chunk of machinery onto Big T's head (complete with the
obligatory "D'oh no!")  Rattrap transforms to brodie mode and catches Oona
as she falls from her perch, then clears out.  Megatron orders Waspy and
Inferno to pursue, and prepares for a full-power test of the device. 

 At Oona's suggestion, Rattrap struggles to lever Depth Charge into a
nearby river (by the lug nuts!  Ouch!)  "Quarry detected, grid Joona," 
Dinobot 2 says nearby, and the Preds attack.  The explosions send DC
sliding into the river, but he still can't move; Rattrap and Oona pole him
downstream amid heavy fire (this would of course be the "flow" of the
episode's title.)  "Ow.  Careful, you moronic mouse!" DC says as Rattrap
bumps him.  "Hey, if you could ride a little steadier, maybe I could steer
better!"  "You couldn't steer a garbage scow."  "Yeah, like a floatin'
flounder's any better."  Just then they come to a convenient waterfall and
tumble over it, coming out with nothing more than a bit of coughing.  Oona
scoops up some mud from the shore with her pole as the fliers catch up
with them.  "Lev-er!" she says, and Rattrap takes the cue, sending the mud
flying into Waspy's face, blinding him.  Waspinator goes crashing into
Inferno, sending them both crashing into Dinobot.  Megatron recalls his
troops just then -- the disruptor is ready, and the Maximals are in line
with Ark. 

 The device builds power; Rattrap nervously tells Oona to clear out -- "If
the ray don't hurt ya, our exploding bodies might!"  Megatron gives the
order to fire, and the device -- dies out.  Oona holds up the stabilizer
crystal, which she figures makes a nice hair ornament -- "Oona pretty!" --
and the mountain top explodes ferociously, rattling the Maximals at the
Ark and tossing DC and company into the water.

 As the explosion settles, Optimus and Rhinox just exchange stunned looks. 
Elsewhere, DC notes that "those Preds are probably slagged and helpless
back there.  We ought to go finish 'em off."  Rattrap disagrees: "We're
not exactly in fighting trim ourselves.  I say we go home."  "Why am I not
surprised?" DC wonders.  "Say, Oona.  Cheetor ever show you my recipe for
fried flounder?" Rattrap asks, and gets a whack from DC's tail as the trio
sails off into the sunset and the camera irises out. 

 People have pegged this as a G1 homage, and personally I think that's
right on the money.  Let's count the ways, shall we? 

 - The episode itself was completely self-contained.  It could have fit
almost anywhere in the season to date, aside from small things like
Cheetor's newer body. 

 - We saw just about the entire cast.  Even those who said little or
nothing (Blackarachnia, Quickstrike, Rhinox) showed up in the background
at one point or another.  Only Rampage and Silverbolt were missing. 

 - "Mighty Megatron" and "Predacons, retreat!" are both familiar quotes
for G1 fans

 - The plot revolved around a gigantic Ultimate Weapon plot device about
which we've heard nothing before and will probably hear nothing ever again
(Evil Invention/Alien Device, as Kendrick Chua used to say.) 

 - The plot was resolved by a last-minute detail

 - Lesser plot problems -- like the fact that three Preds were after
Rattrap and a helpless Depth Charge -- were resolved in silly manners,
like having mud thrown in Waspy's face. 

 - Other plot problems - most notably the fact that Oona went over a
waterfall - simply went away, rather than being fixed.  Classic G1, folks.

 This was a comic episode, much as "The Low Road" was.  It set up a
serious problem, then solved it in a silly manner, while tossing in some
subtle and not-so-subtle humor along the way.  It worked much better for
me than TLR did, however, because the silly solution -- Oona taking the
crystal -- was at least within the realm of possibility.  And GWTF has a
nice poetic justice to it: Megatron's attempt to twist a friend of the
Maximals against them is instead sabotaged by that same friend.  Come to
think of it, the only thing missing from this ep was a declaration by Megs
that "Now the Maximals will be destroyed by their own ally!  How ironic!"

 Now, I do realize this was a humorous episode, and I did laugh at it -
but I wouldn't be a good nitpicker if I didn't also dissect it for
realism.  Consider this a fun catalogue of the show's (intentional?)
flaws, if you wish.  In a different episode, I would be more seriously
annoyed by these problems; here they're just part of the shtick routine...

 Others are complaining about the non-story arc plot, the annoying
protohumans, the fliers' incompetency, on and on.  Me, I'm going to
complain about the fact that in Beast Wars you can't float down a river
for more than fifty feet without coming to a waterfall.  Many real-life
rivers flow for thousands of miles and have NO waterfalls; why do cartoon
rivers have them around every bend?!  This gets to another annoying plot
bit: don't write your characters into an impossible situation without
plausibly writing them out of it.  Case in point: Oona went flying into
the air when her, Ratty and DC sailed over the aforementioned waterfall.
By rights she should have drowned, smashed into a rock, or been crushed by
several tons of Depth Charge landing on her head.  Neither Ratty or DC
made any effort to grab or protect her as they fell.  Yes, it's possible
she could have survived... but not too likely.  To top it off, her and
Ratty have no problem getting back on top of DC before they've even
cleared the waterfall's rapids.

 Another beyond-plausibility bit was Oona hacking up Waspinator.  I can
buy that she might chop through a few of his legs, but enough damage to
make him come apart completely?  That seems like too much, and was clearly
just another funny bit to make the kids laugh.  OTOH, I really like the
way Waspy rolls onto his back and continues to carry Oona after he's got
no legs left, rather than putting us through one of those tiresome "catch
the falling human" scenes.  No, it was Rattrap who put us through that,
demonstrating once again the law of cartoon physics which states, "A
falling person will not be injured if they land on anything besides the
ground toward which they were originally falling."  Oona should have hit
Rattrap's back and gone *crunch*; Ratty is just as hard and inflexible as
the floor underneath him.  And the scene that led up to that one was a
third implausibility: Oona was able to move that huge hunk of machinery
with a piddley little stick?  Right.  Granted, she didn't tip it all the
way over, but just enough to make the supports buckle and give out, but
still... this is a thing that Tarantulas had trouble getting out from underneath.
 And the fliers.  Hello?  Inferno and Waspy's aim is worse in this episode
than it was in "Dark Voyage".  How long can you shoot at a large and
practically stationary target without hitting it?  Sheesh!

 Nitpicking aside... some of the humor worked, some didn't.  I like the
idea of Tarantulas being squished by the little protohuman - but I think
it would have been funnier if it'd been an accident rather than an aware
decision by Oona.  I laughed out loud when we saw the end result of all
Oona's plate pounding.  And Megatron trying to instruct her was
hysterical... and masterful as well.  Hats off to David Kaye for this bit
- he did an incredible job.

 The protohuman school scene was painful to watch the first time through.
After reading others' comments, and having seen the rest of the episode, I
think I can take it in the goofy spirit in which it was intended.  We've
already seen that Oona and Jack are pretty intelligent - it makes sense
that they could master a few simple words, whether they're English words
or Cybertronian.  Heck, your dog can understand some words in English if
you train him right.  Why is Cheetor bothering with this, though?  I guess
he came to think of the kids as friends while helping them out in "Cutting
Edge", and just wants them to be well off.  Who knows.  And no, the kids
do NOT become the source of the English language.  This is all set about 3
to 4 million years ago.  English didn't exist until about a thousand years
ago or so.  Cheetor's efforts, alas, are lost to history.

 I'm sure we'll never see the disruptor thing again, but presumably it has
to have a line-of-sight to fire, and the Maximals will now be carefully
watching the peaks around the Ark - so maybe that's not a real plot hole.
Additionally, Megs would have to recruit another protohuman to help.
OTOH, why not just use some simple mechanical armatures to reach inside
the danger zone and do the work that way?  Screwing in bolts doesn't
require Cybertronian tech.  For that matter, why not just wait till the
protohumans go home, rather than grabbing them when the Maximals are
around?... Oh well, it was the cute/funny episode, and I'm not as worried
about fine plot details as I would be in a more serious episode.

 Welcome returns to the screen include Tarantulas and Inferno.  Inferno
didn't do much that was unusual for him; he flew around, shot big guns,
and was bad-ass and funny.   Tarantulas, on the other hand... wow.  I'm
beginning to think he's completely loyal to Megatron now.  Maybe the
speculation over his change of orders was correct?  Or is he just covering
for some further scheme?  Who can say?  But for now, he seems completely
happy to follow Megatron's orders.  It's nice for him to get some serious
screen time, the most he's gotten since "Tangled Web", really.

 What happened to Cheetor's self-healing power?  Perhaps my speculation on
that subject was incorrect.

 The animation in this episode definitely suffered.  The river rapids
looked more like Megatron's energon bath than anything.  And after three
looks I still couldn't tell what Rattrap was doing when he flung the mud
at Waspinator.  The explosion of the mountain top, OTOH, was suitably
impressive -- though it made us suffer through another one of those "good
guys fly through the air in slow motion" scenes.  C'mon, these shots were
tired and old way back in Season 1, and they certainly don't help anything
at this point.

 And finally, there's the inevitable comparison to "Dark Glass", the
episode which was intended to air in this spot.  For those who missed it:
"Dark Glass" got as far as having a script written when Claster (the
company which distributes BW episodes for airing) canned it, saying there
wasn't enough action and excitement for the kiddies.  Bob Forward hastily
came up with this episode as a replacement.  That considered, I think he
did a respectable job; there were enough plot twists and turns to keep the
viewer riveted, and enough gags to make the viewer smile the whole way
through.  It's not "The Agenda", but then, it doesn't try to be.  Would
"Dark Glass" have been a better episode?  We can't say for sure, since all
we have is a short plot summary supplied by Larry DiTillio via Joona
Palaste -- and even if we saw the script we _still_ couldn't say for sure.
Scripts are just the beginning, and go through a lot of changes before
they wind up on your television screen.  For example, "Dark Glass" author
Christy Marx's other contribution to BW, "Transmutate", was great in first
draft form -- but was mangled by later editing and directing, till it
became somewhat lackluster.  For all we know, DG might have gotten a
similar treatment if it had been produced.  I think DG has a better
_premise_ than GWTF, personally, especially since it ties in with several
earlier plot points.  But the execution of that premise is and forever
shall be an unknown.  So, folks, what say we just... leave it at that.

 Overall: It was cute, it was funny, it was a fair bit better than "The
Low Road".  It was fun to watch, it got the Preds back on screen after a
several-episode absence, and it showed that Megatron is still working to
infiltrate the Ark.  It's not perfect, but I had fun watching it, and
isn't that what really counts?

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