Rob's Pile of Transformers: Manic Ramblings

Manic Ramblings and Delirious Rantings
Re: "In Darkest Night"
3/02/00

I got one weekday evening to get this review done, since tomorrow the SO comes into town, and I know I ain't gonna be sittin' around writing reviews with her here. So, on with the show... uh, so to speak...

SPOILERS

have

left

the

building.

PERIOD!!

What happened:

The Megahead is slowly cruising along above the surface of Cybertron in the distance, as Nightscream (in robot mode) wanders purposefully through a demolished section of Cybertron. "Somebody's in a bad mood," he observes. A large set of claw marks gives him pause: "It IS you, isn't it? Noble... Savage... is this all you are? A mindless destructive beast? Is this all Megatron left behind?" A distant howling sounds, and NS wanders off in search of it... but instead finds Jetstorm and Thrust. "Nothin' noble 'bout us," Thrust says. "But savage - we can do that!" JS adds. "I thought you losers were out of business!" "Guess again, bat brain -- we're back on the winning team!" JS replies. Thrust runs NS down, driving off a ledge and landing with NS pinned beneath him...

Elsewhere, in the caves, Rattrap is hard at work with various mechanical bits. "Whatcha got there?" Blackarachnia asks, dropping in (literally) and scaring Rattrap enough to make him revert to beast mode. "How long you been snoopin' around up there?" "Long enough. Can I have a look?" BA advances. "Uh-uh-uh... you look with your *eyes*," RT tells her. "Okay, that's a Spark extractor, but what's it rigged up to?" "An old DNA scanner," RT says, activating it and holding up an eaten apple core to the scan. "Y'see, me, and Optimus, we got to thinkin', we oughta cobble together something to restore the Transformer Sparks into their robotic bodies!" "Well have you found a way to make them techno-organic without the Oracle?" "We're still workin' out that part," RT says a bit dismissively.

Optimus arrives just then, asking if NS has returned from his recon patrol. Nobody's heard from him, and the group immediately heads out to search... but before leaving, BA looks again at Rattrap's device with an interested "hmmmm..."

NS awakes to find himself surrounded by circling cycle drones. He looks up to see Jetstorm hovering above, prepared to deliver a killing blow: "Game over, Nightsqueak!" -- till he's shot down by Primal. "Lemme guess... our party invites got lost in the mail!" Rattrap says to the Vehicons. "Just had to stay up past your bedtime didn't ya?" he adds for NS's benefit. When NS explains he was searching for Noble, Cheetor dismisses the creature as a "mindless thing."

A battle ensues, during which Cheetor has a great time gliding away from aero-drones, which finally crash. "You broke 'em, you bought 'em, kitty cat!" Jetstorm says nearby, unaware of BA sneaking up on him -- till she jumps him from behind, landing on his shoulders. "You again! What say we finish this once and for all?" "Music to my ears. Shall we dance?" BA asks, leaping away... and as Jetstorm follows, we see Rattrap's device attached to his back. The other Maximals, meanwhile, are holding their own, until the ground rumbles with the approach of Megatron.

"Ah, greetings, Optimus!" he says cheerfully. "You ran off before we could talk last time. And we have so much to discuss..." A door opens in the BFH's underside, and a beam lifts Optimus -- and Cheetor, who leaps in to try to save him -- into the BFH. BA observes this for a moment... then challenges Jetstorm: "Catch me if you can..." She leaps underground, JS in pursuit. NS observes the capture as well, but is knocked out by Thrust... who himself is put down when Savage arrives on the scene. Savage gently hauls off the prone NS a moment later... and Rattrap valiantly pursues them.

The agile BA is staying ahead of a furious Jetstorm in the caves... till at last she arrives in the Cave o' Bones from "Survivor", where she webs the entrance. JS is entangled when he shoots through the entrance, and the scanner activates, sweeping across the bones. JS moans and roars. "No... don't fight it!" BA tell him as a glow envelops his form. The glow subsides after a moment, leaving only a tired panting... in a notably new voice. "Silverbolt?" BA asks, stepping forward, as we close in on a freaky closeup of an eye.

After commercials, we're treated to a BW flashback, during which SB and BA relive the various moments of their affairs from the Beast Wars. BA explains that the Golden Disks contained some old 50s Earth music, which she plays for Silverbolt's benefit --

Just kidding, just kidding... seems the good folk at TFExtreme.com, who've been capturing the episodes and making them available for download, left in a "Beasties" commercial that aired during the ep. Heh heh. It did throw me for a moment... glad I got to see it.

Silverbolt is confused and agressive-sounding as he breaks out of BA's web: "Get back!" His new form is a largish condor, which he observes with distaste: "What am I," he asks, looking over his wings. "... no!!" He abruptly flies off, leaving BA in shock.

In the BFH, Megs has his two captives floating in suspension. "What do you want from us?" Primal asks. "Oh, nothing much... just every bit of data on the Oracle, to better understand how I can fully exploit the precious Sparks in my possession. I anticipate that extracting this information will be slow, painful, and regrettably, fatal."

NS, meanwhile, awakens and finds Noble nearby. Though the creature growls fiercely at first when NS shows himself, Noble then offers him food. Elsewhere, on the surface, Silverbolt stares intently at Megatron, cruising in the distance. "How can you stand the sight of me? Look at what I've become!" he asks, nastily, of BA when she arrives. "Your Spark is strong. Megatron could never crush your spirit." "What to you know about my spirit!" Silverbolt starts to fly off, but BA is having none of it: "Where do you think you're going? Do you have any idea what I went thorugh to get you back again?" "What YOU went through?" SB snaps, leaping and pinning her beneath his talons... then letting her up. [actually, it sounds like "After what YOU went through!"]

"You helped me find the light once." "I was a fool back then. I *believed* in things." "Then let me help you believe again! Optimus and Cheetor have been captured. We have to rescue them!" "Why," Silverbolt asks, almost petulantly. "Why? For honor, for glory, for the sake of goodness!" "Words. Nothing more than air. They carry no meaning for me." "Fine! Be that way. But I'm not leaving them with Megatron." SB's interest -- and ire -- perks at that: "Megatron..." A moment later we see them in flight, closing in on Megatron, BA riding SB in a scene reminiscent of late Season 3 Beast Wars.

At the generator plant (from "Savage Noble"), Rattrap has located the creature's "little hidey hole" and moves in, wondering "why me?" NS is chowing down on metal apples, when Rattrap arrives, trying to rescue him. But it's RT that needs rescuing when Noble arrives; NS tries to calm the beast, saying that RT is a friend, but they both must run as he morphs into Savage. "Hate to see how he treats your enemies!" RT shouts as they flee.

BA and SB have infiltrated Megatron. "We have to find where they're holding Optimus and Cheetor," BA says. "They're your concern. I'm only here for Megatron," SB says, heading off. "Revenge? That's you're noble ideal? I know one knight in shining armor who could use a little *polish*!" BA snarls. The pair encounter some kind of floating... helmets, I guess. Mines, maybe? Whatever they are, they don't do anything before the pair escapes through a convenient hatchway. "That was lucky," BA says. "Luck... had nothing to do with it. HE lead us here," SB says. And just then, "he" materializes in the form of a floating colomn of numbers with facial features. "Welcome, my once and future general. I've been expecting you," Megatron says, as he reveals the suspended forms of Op and Cheetor. "Prepare to enjoy the same hospitality. You continue to serve me well, even when fouled by techno-organic matter." "I don't work for you anymore," SB snaps back. A furious argument insues:

Megs: "Mind your manners. I rescued your Spark from oblivion. I chose you as my general for a reason."
BA: "Yeah, to satisfy his twisted sense of humor. Don't listen to him!"
Megs: "You are a creature of honor, Silverbolt. You fight for just causes. I gave you such a cause."
BA: "The destruction of all organic life?!"
Megs: "Cybertron is a haven for machines. Where Optimus was deluded by the false visions of a malfunctioning computer, *I* have been restoring Cybertron's purity, and surely, that is the most honorable cause of all!"
BA: "A world without free will? Where's the honor in that? Don't listen to him, Silverbolt! He turned you into a monster!"
Megs: "I gave you strength. I gave you power."
BA: "We gave you friendship. I gave you my heart!"
Megs: "I gave you purpose. I gave you *life*!"

Silverbolt finally speaks up: "You... gave... me... NOTHING!" SB transforms (dramaticallly, of course, with a full camera fly-around and facial close-up) and goes berzerker on Megatron's interior, unleashing some sort of death-boomerangs that set off alarms, cause explosions, and free Op and Cheetor. BA is apologetic for her earlier decision: "I'm sorry -- I never should have let him take you!" "We'll discuss it later..." Op says, somewhat weakly. Holding a door open, Primal allows the group to retreat... BA has to zap the still-berzerk Silverbolt and carry him out. They bail out the bottom hatch as Megatron cruises onward. "The nightmare is finally over," BA says as they float to the ground. "Guys," Cheetor asks, "Aren't we still shy a couple of units?"

RT and NS are still running from Savage. "Explain to me again how dragon breath qualifies as a *friend*?!" RT asks. A moment later, they bump into Thrust and a couple of cycledrones: "Just the vermin I was lookin' for... Last requests?" Rattrap glances briefly behind him, then replies: "Yeah... I like my Vehicons well done!" And Savage attacks from the shadows, easily handling Thrust and his drones as RT and NS retreat -- running straight into the other Maximals. "Jetstorm," a downed Thrust radioes, "get your tailpipe over here. I need backup!" "Jetstorm's gone," SB says, suddenly looming over him, "and so are you!" SB tosses him over a ledge and into the waters below.

"Silverbolt! Oh, compadre, am I ever glad to see you again!" Rattrap says. "Welcome back into the fold," Optimus adds, offering a hand. But Silverbolt simply walks off, with BA following. "Sheesh! What's his design flaw?" RT wonders. Savage is also stalking off, to NS's distress: "Noble, wait!... we gotta take him with us!" "Oh, we gotta take him -- have you got a SCREW LOOSE?!" Rattrap says. "He went out of his way to save me! There's something inside, him something Megatron couldn't destroy!" "Whatever it is, it's not a Spark," Optimus says. "We can't just abandon him!" "When he's ready, Noble will come to us," Optimus says sagely.

BA finds SB sitting on a ledge with a view, in front of one of those interesting neon signs, as orange morning light fills the sky. "Nobody's judging you," she says, taking a seat beside him. "You were under Megatron's control. Join us, and you can avenge yourself!" "You still don't get it, do you. I don't hate megatron for what he made me do. He freed me from my code of honor and I *revelled* in it. Don't you see? I... enjoyed it. I don't know what I am anymore..." "You are what you've always been. Honest... pure.... virtuous to a fault." BA gently takes his hand; Silverbolt's hand seems to begin moving away... but doesn't. "You're taking a huge risk," he advises her. "Considering how well I know the goodness in your heart... it really isn't a risk at all," BA says, as we pan up and fade out.


What I thought:

Once again... what an episode! The pacing was incredibly tight at many points. Take, for example, the battle with the Vehicons: within perhaps ten seconds, Megatron arrives, Optimus is captured, Cheetor tries and fails to rescue him and is captured too, BA makes a very deliberate decision not to try and save them and implements her plan instead, NS is knocked out, and Savage arrives on the scene and takes Thrust out, ending the battle. THIS is exactly what I meant when I said there wasn't much going on in "Savage Noble"... here, by contrast, there is a TON going on, and it makes for great watching.

It's nice to have Silverbolt back in action... even though it comes with a price: no more Jetstorm. I can't say I'm terribly upset by JS's passing. I liked him, true; he was a fun and often funny character. But he didn't have a lot of depth or substance, and I never really warmed up to him on an emotional level. After 13 or so episodes, the joke had kinda run its course. His adventures off with Thrust might have made interesting viewing, but with Megatron back in control, the character didn't seem like it would be going anywhere anytime soon. Given the circumstances (JS and SB sharing one Spark), I'd just as soon have Silverbolt back.

But how much of the old Silverbolt have we got back? This new Silverbolt is angry, petulant, violent, contemptuous, self-loathing, and doesn't seem to care for anyone else at all. In light of that, it's more at the episode's end that you wonder how BA can stand the sight of him. But she believes... it's almost heartbreaking how strong her devotion is. Will Silverbolt successfully travel the road that BA once did? We'll see. One thing's for sure... BW doesn't need another angry, angsty character, particularly at the cost of one of its few lighthearted fun characters.

Silverbolt seems to be subject to the same sort of corruption as Rhinox, but to a lesser degree. "Megatron freed me from my code of honor," he explains, and suddenly what happened to both him and Rhinox makes a lot more sense. Megatron appears to have stripped away or suspended the moral sensibilities of both characters. With nothing left -- no moral framework to orient oneself -- Megatron's alternative made *emotional* sense to them ("I revelled in it! I... enjoyed it.") For those readers lucky enough to have ever read or been embroiled in one of ATT's infamous Autobot-Decepticon philosophy debates, imagine not just rationally comprehending the other side's point of view, but actually having your own feelings in the matter *removed*... and then seeing through the other side's eyes, and those eyes *only*. It's an interesting idea, and retrospectively helps explain what happened to Rhinox (though it *still* doesn't make Rhinox truly responsible for his deeds in late Season 1...)

By far, the episode's highlight was the argument between BA and Megatron, an argument for Silverbolt's very soul. Basicly, the sides boil down to warm emotion against cold logic. It wasn't a logic-goverened debate... the two sides were offering Silverbolt exact opposites, rather than refuting each other's points (and Blackarachnia kinda makes her own position seem weaker by shouting "don't listen to him!" Why not? Because he might be right?) And though he doesn't exactly choose to go with the Maximals, he definately doesn't take up Megatron's offer. What *does* the new Silverbolt want? Not revenge? If we're to believe his words, he wants to blow stuff up and then loath himself for it. At least it was nice that he didn't go back to Megs; nor did he pull a Tankor. On the other hand, he's not Mr. Nobility again, either, and evidently won't be anytime soon. In Beast Machines, there are no easy answers.

There are, however, easy plot devices. Why didn't RT and Optimus think of this Spark extractor/DNA scanner gizmo about 15 episodes ago? Why were the Sparks not important back then? I guess they didn't know they were captured instead of destroyed till the events of "Revalations", which is also when the Spark extractors first made their debut. And what good is a Spark extractor and DNA scanner gonna do, if there's no bodies to *put* the Sparks into? Oh -- wait -- there *are* bodies. Vehicon drones. Billions of 'em. As seen with Jetstorm, apply device, add Spark, mix with DNA, ta-dah, instant revived Transformer. I think I see where this might be heading...

Getting back to the characters: BA is given a motivation that's far more deep than "wanting her old boyfriend back". She's repaying a debt... more that that, she's motivated by her amazement at the act of faith that Silverbolt performed in the past, believing in her when she didn't believe in herself. And what seemed like angsty pining in the past comes across now as both sincere heartache and devoutly loving loyalty. When SB tells her she's taking a risk, it all came home to me: whoever he is, he's hardly the same person she fell for back on prehistoric Earth. And she still chooses to remain with him, determined to see it through -- even if things will never be the same as they were before, despite whatever future troubles may come. It's a profoundly human moment -- by far the best bit of character drama in Transformers since Dinobot's wracking indecision in Beast Wars Season 2, beautifully backed by soft orange sky above the darkened city and soft incidental music. The end of Blackarachnia's dark night... and perhaps the beginning of new troubles for her and Silverbolt as well.

BA is also still the snooping, scheming, devious spider we knew in BW... she spies on Rattrap, swipes his device, and runs off to use it despite there being other military priorities. Heh heh. Loved the scene where she snuck up on RT... it's been a while since we've seen somebody lose their center and accidentally transform; it's nice to know that plot point hasn't just vanished.

Megatron's actions were touched on a bit in this episode. He's apparently got some plans for the Sparks, even if those plans are purely in the abstract right now. It's nice to see him taking the offensive, going after the Maximals to get what he wants. This could be rumblings of his future, series-finale plans. BA also lists at least one reason for the recycled Sparks of the generals.... a sick sense of humor. Megatron also says he had a reason... was it what he said to Silverbolt ("I gave you such a purpose") or... something *more*? It was nice to hear Megatron, however briefly, address this still-bothersome plot point. And it should put an end to the occasional mutterings that maybe Megs didn't know whose Sparks he had pulled.

Then there's the Nightscream/Noble side plot. That's all it came across to me as -- an aside from the main story. Not that I mind -- that's exactly how it should be, till it develops beyond "Noble! No!!" and "But he saved me!" We get the answer to last episode's ending question -- Noble is primarily if not entirely a wild beast. He's intelligent enough to remember a friend, however, and offer him food and defend him from percieved enemies. But given his wild abandon... Optimus was very wise to let him go. Hopefully, Noble won't become a plot device to save the Maximals every time there's a Vehicon horde at hand.

Poor Thrust! He must feel very alone now... he's the only general left. I felt sorry for him when Silverbolt booted him over the edge.

Cheetor must have some kind of propulsion: that was more than just a glide! I also didn't realize at first that he was the one laughing... it sounded too deep, and didn't seem to be quite in synch with his fly-by on the screen.

Nice shots: closeup of JS's face as BA prepares to jump him... SB staring at the cruising MegaHead in the distance... Rattrap doing the loop-de-loop to elude some cycledrones... the shadowed backside of the BFH as BA and SB approached it, with only thrusters and running lights aglow... Megatron's laughing, glowing-eyed data-colomn ghost... the soft-orange sky. Orange sky? Huh? Is day finally breaking on the perpetually dark Cybertron? Must be a HELL of a long night on this planet (I don't mind, though, since the new scenery also gave us some nice new music... not as hopeful as the Search for Spark, but not depressing, either.) And another wierdness -- what's with these metal apples everyone's chowing down on all of a sudden? Looks like the Oracle's techno-organic vines are bearing fruit.

*Sigh*... so, ALL the Transformers must be made into techno-organics? Guh. I would never have become a TF fan if they were all as ugly as the Maximals are. Bob Skir, Hasbro, *somebody*, say it ain't so... Presumbably this is in order to save them from Megatron's virus -- Optimus's fanaticism seems to have calmed itself, and I can't see Rattrap eagerly buying into a scheme to make all the TFs become like them unless it was *really* necessary.

SB's new form, though, is fairly sharp... definately easier on the eyes than any of the earlier Maximal models. I kinda like the little thing he's got poking out of the back of his head... it looks like a tied-up pony tail, and combined with his features, gives him a decidedly Oriental look. His brow looks decidedly avain; he also sports a VERY long chin that is reminiscent of Scourge's goatee. The condor mode... eh. It's alright. Not as cool as any of the other Maximal beast forms. Hope the toy will be a decent one... which means one where the bird legs don't become either pair of robot limbs. Please, Hasbro, PLEASE, just once.... Oh, and will the BFH (that's Big Floating Head, by the way, for those who've missed Suspsy's and Dusty's reviews :] get a toy? Could it be one of those Beast Rider/Deployer/other sublines we heard about? Wasn't one supposed to be a couple of character heads?

Kudos to Jetstorm's voice actor... both his roar as he pursued BA through the tunnels and his shouting as he was returned to Silverbolt form were very well done. Maybe knowing it's your final episode kinda turns up the emotional juice? Either way, the whole scene had an eerie quality to it. I felt rather sorry for Jetstorm in those final seconds.

Incidentally, some of the green goo from Season 1 splashed around as Jetstorm crashed to the floor. What was up with that? There was never any goo in the cave, was there?

BM seems to have a problem with repeated lame lines. We're up to three times for "Music to my ears", twice for "last requests", and Rattrap has cited goudda at least three times. I know there's one or two others that I can't recall at the moment. They were all pretty good the first time... and not at all after that.

Overall: Another fast-paced episode with lots of *interesting* action, co-evolving plot lines, some beautiful drama, and the return of an old familiar face... with a revised personality that -- I hope -- won't last.

Oh, and since I haven't said so -- thanks a LOT to the folk(s?) at TFExtreme for making these things available. Your doing so is simply cool beyond words... and is tremendously appreciated.

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