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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