Rob's Pile of Transformers: Manic Ramblings


Manic Ramblings and Delirious Ranting
Re: "Crossing the Rubicon"
2/22/99

 I didn't expect to see this episode for another week, but what the heck.
Maybe it was the fact that I saw it at 7 am after a severe lack of sleep,
but it didn't make a terribly strong impression on me either way the first
time through... and kinda blew me away when I watched it again later on.


  Now leaving the SPOILER-free zone....




 Others have summarized the episode, but I'm finding that doing so myself
gives me a firmer grasp on the events and lets me separate one episode
from the next when I've seen several at a time, so here goes:
 
 As with "Go With the Flow", we open with a flashing light in the
wilderness, (forests this time.)  Blackarachnia has been hard at work, and
is about to plug herself into a duplicate of Megatron's Frankenstein getup
from "Feral Scream" part 1.  She activates it... but Silverbolt,
patrolling nearby, detects the energy surge and flies in to "rescue" her
before the procedure is complete, disrupting the device.  "Way to go,
bowser.  You just blew a decacyle of hard work, and I'm still the same old
me," BA groans.  They argue; SB doesn't want her risking damage or worse
to herself.  Just then, a burst of energy surges through her, and she
falls unconscious into SB's arms.

 At base, Rhinox diagnoses her condition: the Pred shell program is
deteriorating, which could infect her core consciousness.  "Guess using
the Transmetal driver on myself wasn't such a good idea."  "I thought you
were smarter than that.  And how did you get the driver?" Optimus asks,
plonking the device on the table.  "I... kind of... borrowed it."  She
wanted the power of a Transmetal, she explains, and was confident that the
Maximals weren't about to help a Pred get more power.  "Maximal or
Predacon, you're one of us.  You should know that by now," Optimus says.
"Enough!" says Silverbolt.  "Our only concern now is Blackarachnia's
well-being."  Optimus agrees.  Rhinox points out that if they don't sever
the deteriorating shell program from her core, she'll go insane and
eventually be completely wiped... and the procedure has never been done
before.  BA is not sanguine: "Great choice.  Be a Maximal, or drool oil
for the rest of my life."

 The equipment will take a while to prepare, so BA steps out of the base
to contemplate the moon.  "Are you alright?" SB asks, walking up behind
her.  "I always figured if anyone survived the Beast Wars, it'd be me.
Looks like I was wrong."  "Don't say such things.  Rhinox will find a way.
Trust him."  "Trust isn't easy for a Predacon."  And BA doesn't like the
idea of becoming a Maximal at all.  "You enjoy this hero stuff.  Me?  I'm
a bad girl at heart."  "Oh, I know your heart.  And when I look into it I
see no evil... only love."  "Sappy as always.  What did I ever see in you
anyway?  Oh yeah... I remember."  But as they move for a kiss, another
surge overtakes BA; an anguished SB gathers her up and flies her off.

 "How do you feel?" Rhinox asks her later, as she waits in a sensor
thingie for the process to start.  "Like someone's been playing squash the
spider with an energon ball," BA responds.  Before the procedure begins,
Blackarachnia transfers the Ark's access codes to Optimus.  Rattrap notes
that he wouldn't want BA in his head, but is quickly and angrily silenced
by both Cheetor and Silverbolt.  "Thanks for all your help," Optimus says,
in a mirror image of what he said at the end of "Other Voices".  "Spare me
the Maximal mush and let's get the ball bearing rolling," BA answers,
laying down into the device.  Lots of machinery does lots of cool
machinery stuff, and BA remarks "See ya soon, boys... if you're lucky"
just before Rhinox shuts her down.  We see lots of glowing computer
thingies which are Blackarachnia's insides, with a little probe
maneuvering among them all, guided by Rhinox.  The probe fires little
beams that begin severing the links to a particular ball that somehow
holds/represents/is the shell program.

 At that precise moment, Tarantulas's console notifies him that "Shell
program T70 is in jeopardy."  Big T puts in a call to Megatron (who is in
his energon bath, and quickly palms his rubber ducky behind his back) and
informs him of the situation.  Megatron deduces that the Maximals wouldn't
take such a chance unless BA had passed on the Ark's access codes to
someone else.  "Optimus, no doubt," Tarantulas says.  "Of course.  Which
fits in nicely with our little plan for him."  Big T assures Megs that BA
will not survive the attempt, since the shell program has "certain
safeguards"... but Megs decides to play it safe and "give the Maximals
something else to worry about, yesss."  He raises a fist and squeezes the
rubber duckie for emphasis. :] 

 Rhinox continues to vaporize pathways, when a glowing thing races up one.
"Slag!  This is Tarantulas's work.  We have to intercept it before it
reaches her core consciousness."  He does so, destroying it, but just then
the whole base starts rockin' and rollin', causing power disruptions.  As
Silverbolt mans an extra console to stabilize the power to BA, Rattrap
reports that "we got Preds poppin' up from under every rock!"  He can't
get a bead with the autoguns; the Preds are behind cover and shooting at
the walls.  Optimus deduces that the Preds know what Rhinox is attempting;
he, Rattrap and Cheetor head out to distract them.  "Ignore the Maximals,"
Megatron orders coldly.  "Continue to target the base." 

 "This is more fun than strippin' a Maximal's circuits!" Quickstrike
observes, before being taken down by Cheetor.  "Here, tankie, tankie,
tankie," Rattrap mutters as Rampage approaches.  He tosses a magnetic bomb
onto Rampage: "Pop goes the --" BOOM!! "--crab cake."  Optimus fires at
Inferno and misses; Inferno launches, gloating that "Your power is useless
against the royalty, fool!" -- only he's the fool, since the autoguns
quickly target him once he's out of cover.  Scratch Inferno.

 Rhinox is on the last link, when _two_ glow thingies launch from the
shell program.  He nails one, and is about to get the other -- but outside
the base, Tarantulas whips out a funky looking missile with a crossed-out
Maximal symbol on it.  "Good bye, my treacherous creation," he says,
firing.  The impact disrupts the systems and the glow thingie escapes, to
Rhinox's horror.  The system goes wild for a moment and dies out, leaving
only a single beeping tone.  "Too late," Rhinox says quietly.  He looks
away for a moment, his voice dropping to a whisper, as Silverbolt stares
in disbelief.  "I'm... sorry."  Silverbolt walks over to the body,
whispering her name.  "I'll let Optimus know," Rhinox says, quietly
leaving... while Silverbolt sees red.  "Tarantulas," he says with rage.

  The Preds withdraw from the battle; Rattrap and Cheetor are elated, but
Optimus suspects that something's wrong.  Sure enough, Rhinox walks out
from the base hatch just then, head hung low.  His silence is all that
needs to be said.

  The Maximals gather around BA's body.  "I never thought I'd say it, but,
uh... I'm gonna miss her," Rattrap says, awkwardly.  "I know I will.  She
was something special," Cheetor says.  "We should have trusted her more.
If only because Silverbolt loved her," Optimus adds.  "Where is the bird
dog?" Rattrap wonders.  "He couldn't have..." Optimus says, worried.  "Oh
no."  The group immediately charges out of the room... and behind them,
the Transmetal driver -- still sitting where Optimus placed it -- begins
to glow...

 Silverbolt soars through the night, sights Tarantulas, and wastes no time
in unleashing a furious attack on him, blowing him off a cliff edge.
"You've twisted your last innocent life, spider," he tells him as he lands
nearby.  "Ah, the avenging hero," Tarantulas say sarcastically, opening
fire with his shoulder cannons.  Meanwhile, back at the Ark, the TM driver
suddenly launches itself across the room and comes to rest a foot or so in
the air above BA, where it fires energy beams into her...

 Using his own wings as a shield, Silverbolt weathers Tarantulas's
barrage, then nails him with two feather missiles.  He stalks up to the
downed figure, glancing skyward once and whispering BA's name again.  But
he's in a target scope himself.  "Ah, such pain," Rampage says, sounding
concerned.  "I must help _deepen_ it."  At the Ark, BA is still being
zapped; we see some funky computer stuff inside her, including a fleeing
glimpse of a Spark...

 SB jams a missile in the ground, then lifts Tarantulas over his head.
He's about to run him through when Rampage's voice stops him: "Now that's
not very Maximal of you, ho ho ho ho ho ho!"  Rampage fires; SB deflects
the shot with Big T's body (which is sent flying away), but he still takes
damage.  Downed, he reaches for the missile -- only to see Rampage stomp
on it.  "Hmm.  This will hardly be any fun at all," Rampage mutters
matter-of-factly, jamming the Hellbelcher in SB's face.  "Yeah.  For
_you_, creapazoid!" a new voice calls out.  It's Blackarachnia, gleaming
blue, gold, and dark grey in her new Transmetal form.  "Blackarachnia,maximize!"

 "Love the new look," Rampage says merrily, sounding like a Texan.
"Goodbye!"  BA dodges the shot.  "Missed.  AND you're ugly."  She gives
him a good treatment of roundhouse kicks, then transforms back to spider
mode, lassoes him with a web, and slings him into a cliff face.  "Hmph.
Not too shabby," she notes in a tone of voice that can't be replicated in
print.  She turns her attention to the injured Silverbolt: "You're not
gonna quit on me now, bowser... not when I had my nails done and
everything," she says, flashing her claws.

 Back at the Ark, BA tells the others: "I wish I could explain it.  One
minute I was tumbling down a dark pit.  The next minute there was this...
light.  Then I saw Silverbolt in danger."  "And rushed off on your own, as
usual," Optimus says.  "Not a very Maximal approach."  "Even when I'm
good, I'm still bad."  BA tells SB to stop making her save him while he's
trying to save _her_.  "I'm sorry," Silverbolt answers, "but I will ever
be your champion, m'lady."  "Ah.  The way you talk," BA says, favoring him
with a kiss that lights up the room briefly and leaves Silverbolt's head
zinging.  "Transmetal power.  Better get used to it," BA advises the
viewer as we iris out amid some electrical streamers.


 I can't believe how much _more_ I like this episode on the second
viewing.  It MUST be the fact that I saw it at 7 am on way too little
sleep the first time, because the second time it struck me as the best
plot-wise that we've had this season.  Silverbolt and Blackarachnia are at
last at a happy point of stability, one that's been built up to for the
entire season to date, with BA voluntarily becoming a Maximal, and a
Transmetal as well.  Though the techno stuff struck me as way too long the
first time through, most of it seemed just right on the second viewing.
And BA's 'death' was quite compelling; Rhinox's pain came through clearly
-- he blames himself.  It was nice to see him having some reactions
besides talking about shields and field dampers and stuff... it's been a
while since we saw him do much else.  We at last get some movement in the
story arc, with Megatron speaking of "our little plan" for Optimus --
things like that are what everyone's been crying out for since "Cutting
Edge".  AND we get a reference to past continuity, as Tarantulas is pegged
as the cause of BA's conversion to a Pred -- that happened way back in
early Season 1! ("Double Jeopardy", to be specific.)  It's a nice touch,
and for me it vastly enhances the show.  It makes the characters seem to
live in a real world, with memories and a definite sequence of events that
they remember and react to, rather than a magic box with a magic reset
button that gets hit every week.  It's such a tiny thing, yet it adds so
much... I wish we'd see it more often.

 The ep starts with a goofy yet interesting premise.  Would BA have
started deteriorating if Silverbolt hadn't interrupted the procedure?  Or
was her entire attempt flawed from the start?  Who can say?  It almost
seems that all one has to do to go Transmetal is come in contact with the
driver while it's actively implanted in the right equipment.  That's all
Cheetor did; he certainly didn't get plugged into the equipment correctly,
yet he still went TM2.  Ditto for BA; in fact, the driver got up and
finished the procedure all on its own.  Maybe the equipment only controls
the stability of the process?

 What is UP with that TM2 driver alien device thingamabob?  Seeing how it
gets more nifty and handy with each passing episode, I'd really like some
explanation of what it is, where it came from, and why it does what it
does.  I hate the noise it makes, even more so when it started spinning
faster while hovering over to Blackarachnia's body.  How the heck did it
bring her back to life?  That's the cheesiest term in all of scifi --
"bring her/him back to life" -- and it's the only way to describe what
happened.  She was dead, dead with a capital 'd', and it completely
restored her.  I think the viewer deserves to know how it happened, and why.

 Rhinox's computer journey is something of a weak point.  I have a big
problem with this sort of scene in general.  It involves thinking and
skill on the part of the characters, but relatively little for the writer.
How do we, the viewer, know when the techno-problem is solved?  There's
lots of flashing lights, things appear and go away, but only the reactions
of Rhinox let us know that anything's going well or poorly.  It could have
just as easily and just as plausibly taken two seconds or the entire 22
minutes for the shell program to be destroyed.  That's both the beauty and
the curse of science fiction - you can manipulate things any way you want
to suit the plot, but it's really easy to write something that's nothing.
So what if Rhinox managed to beat the CyberTransWarpSuperliminal
Thingamajiggers and save Blackarachnia?  All that does is prove that
Rhinox knows a lot about machines, something we've known since Season 1.
It might have helped if we could somehow have been told just what it takes
to eliminate the shell program before hand -- this was done in "The Spark"
when Airazor was created, and it really helped the plot move along.  But
we got nothing of the sort, just Rhinox shooting some stuff and activating
some machines.  This could have been condensed, or had some more dialogue
put over it.  Once the battle started, it wasn't so bad; in fact, the
tension worked very well.  But the scene of activating the machines and so
on was a snooze point for the plot.

 The only other scene I found seriously lacking was the final one.  No
explanation of how BA was revived, just a cheesey mention of "falling
towards a pit, then seeing a bright light."  Was there an angelic chorus,
too?  And the "Transmetal power" bit was WAY too much product placement
for me to handle.  Ouch ouch ouch.

 Rampage didn't do anything particularly new or character-expanding, but
he did manage to run the entire range of his personality: from quiet
brooding to incoherent growling.  It was nice to see him back on the
screen, and the delivery of his lines was a treat.  He likes inflicting
pain, and that brings out the silent, mournful side of him.  But he has no
qualms about a good old-fashioned shoot out, and is plenty happy to blast
Blackarachnia into the next grid.  His "Goodbye!" was great.  In fact,
several lines in this episode that could have been forgettable were
instead made great by the actors' delivery -- most notably BA's "Not too
shabb-ehh" at the end (which is also a play on Rhinox's earlier use of the
same line.)

 Big T gets still more screen time -- yay!!  Megs addressed him as
"lieutenant" when he first called him while in the bath -- a reflection of
his current rank, or a remembrance of his role in the Pred Secret Police?
Those chest blasters he used on Silverbolt were neat; we've only seen them
fired once before, in "Coming of the Fuzors" part 2 -- and then they fired
missiles instead of projectiles.  But where is the Pizza Cutter of Doom
these days, I wonder?  I enjoyed watching him and Silverbolt have it
out... funny that Tarantulas didn't realize just how much trouble he was
in, going against a fighting-mad Silverbolt.  Big T has no regrets and no
compunctions about destroying his "treacherous creation", and in fact
seems kind of happy to do so.  Sadistic bastard, ain't he?  I wonder if
the shell program and the fact that Tarantulas designed it had anything to
do with his ability to leave a psychic link between himself and BA in
"Coming of the Fuzors"?

 Poor Quickstrike!  He only got one line, and it wasn't even a very good
one.  On the other hand, Depth Charge didn't make it into this ep at all.
Shouldn't he have been there, hunting down Rampage?  Where does he go when
he's not around in eps like this one?  Does he have a summer home
somewhere?  Why was he present in "Go With the Flow", when Rampage was
absent, and absent in "Crossing the Rubicon", when Rampage was there?

 Primal continues to shine; I'd say that he's gotten the best character
development this whole season.  And if you consider the whole series, he's
grown and changed more than any other character in the show.  Blackarchnia
comes in a close second; she's come a long way from her days of quick snap
judgements and youthful overconfidence.  And with the Pred programs
removed from her, who can say what new directions she may be headed in?
Her new body is... weird.  I don't care much for the colors or the face,
and we didn't get a very good look at the spider mode.  She's lanky and
thin, almost gangly.  She seems to have some kind of weird boobs that look
like jet thrusters or something; her face looks like it's hidden behind a
mask of some kind.  It's almost Airazor-esque, but not quite.  It should
be noted that I'm not a real big fan of the TM2s in general, so this is
personal taste speaking here.  YYMV.

 The Maximals' grief was real and palpable as Rhinox realized what
happened, and the group gathered around BA.  This is easily the ep's
strongest scene.  OTOH, I can't help but find it disturbing that those who
actually die (Tigatron, Airazor, Transmutate) often get considerably less
mourning time than those who only appear to die (BA, Rattrap in "Better
Mousetrap", Optimus in "Aftermath".)  I've about had my fill of the "He's
dead!  No, he's not dead!" plot in BW... here's hoping it doesn't happen
again (well, granted, I won't mind if Stripes and the Bird Lady come back,
but otherwise...) 

 Overall: The story arc is finally getting moving again, and how!  This is
the sort of episode that keeps us cryin' for more.  Here's hoping that
this is an indication of how the rest of the season goes.

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