Rob's Pile of Transformers: Manic Ramblings

Manic Ramblings and Delirious Rantings
Re: "A Wolf in the Fold"

I let this episode sit for a whole evening without watching it, preferring instead to go biking, eat dinner, and do some bike maintanence. Man, where are my priorities?...







The blow by blow:

A series of decending pan shots past the abandoned underground civilizations of Cybertron lets us know we're on the way to Oracle land. There, the Maximals are hanging out, enjoying a breather.

"Ah, Silverbolt buddy, it is great to have you back," Rattrap says, for those who missed last week's episode. "Thank you for bringing him back to us," Optimus says to Blackarachnia. "The old gang is finally all together again!" Cheetor adds... causing Op to walk off, distressed. "Well... mostly," Cheetor says quietly. "Sorry, Big Bot." "No... Rhinox is gone. I accept that. We have to take our victories where we find them... and assure that no other Spark shares his fate." BA reassures Silverbolt: "See? What were you worried about? Just like old times." "For them, perhaps. Not for me." BA says he'll adjust in time, "now that we finally have a chance to breath." which point the entire planet begins shaking. "You just had to go and jinx it now, didn'tcha?" Rattrap chides BA.

We cut to the surface and see a number of gigantic claw-ended tentacles snaking out of the MegaHead, and smashing their way into the planet's surface. The Maximals head for the surface, as green pulses of energy pass from the tentacles and along the corridors. One passes through Silverbolt's foot as he runs... and activates some sort of spider-disk-device thing that, near as I can tell, burrows out of his back. The spider-thing immediately shoots him full of some nasty-looking red stuff, causing his eyes to twitch and glow red. Cheetor stops to check on him, resting a hand on his shoulder... and promptly recieving a dose of the same red stuff.

As the Maximals arrive at the base of one of the tentacles, the red stuff is quickly passed along: Cheetor steps on Rattrap's tail; Rattrap high-fives Nightscream with a suggestion to attack the MegaHead; Silverbolt puts his arm around Blackarachnia.

Optimus hands out attack orders to the group. "Oh yeah? And what are YOU gonna do, *monkey*?" BA asks, sounding peaved. "Yeah! Who died and made YOU King Kong?" Cheetor asked. The others jump in with increasingly argumentative comments, and within seconds a furious, senseless arguement is underway. Optimus's attempts to calm the group are met with rebukes, and Op gets serious: "If you want to act like a bunch of surly farm animals, so be it! I'll deal with Megatron alone." And Primal rockets off.

A laser blast scatters the Maximals, as Thrust arrives with cycledrones. Optimus sees the battle below, and turns to help -- but one of Cheetor's reflected bolts severs a tentacle. Optimus takes the flailing thing head-on and falls, till another tentacle scoops him up (here we get a sense of how big they are -- Op lands ON the tentacle, the way you or I might land on the wing of an aircraft.)

Thrust and company, meanwhile, head underground ("What's the matter, Maximals -- a little slow on your feet?!") Cheetor says they have to stop them before they find their base; the others disagre, of course, but Cheets shouts them all down: "Listen to my voice!! I said shut your mouth and beat your feet!"

Inside the Megahead, the disembodied Megatron greets Optimus. "Why did you bring me here?" "For the same reason you wanted to come. It's time for us to settle things." "What are you doing to Cybertron?" "Oh, that was merely an elaborate way to get your attention -- an invitation, if you will. It seems, Optimus, that we are not so far apart as it would appear. We both want the same thing....harmony," Megatron concludes, materializing as a ghost data head again.

The Maximals, meanwhile, run down the cycledrones and trash them... then quickly resume arguing. A seven-second lapse occurs, and Silverbolt soberly concludes that "This is my fault... I never should have returned." He flies off, to BA's scorn: "THAT's right, just run away from your problems..." And the arguing resumes, as does the fighting: Thrust arrives with more drones.

Back in the MegaHead, Optimus tells Megs that "Your version of harmony is nothing more than slavery. How can you have harmony without free will?" "How can you have harmony amid the chaos of disagreeing minds?" the ghostly Megs asks. "True harmony only prevails when *all* voices are heard. You only want to stifle them." "Your way leads to chaos. Or are these the voices of harmony?" Megs asks ominously, showing Optimus an image of the chaoticly, vehemently squabbling Maximals. "No... I've got to stop them," Op murmurs. "And how do you propose to do that?" Megs says, sounding like Socrates questioning a student. "Can't you see that conflict comes from confusion? Which in turned is spawned by divided, devisive minds. The only way to achieve true unity is through a singular mind! Are you so deluded by false visions that you can't even see my point of view?" "We'll finish this later, Megatron," Primal says, launching and flying out of the BFH, and down to the planet. "Ah, oh Optimus Primal," Megs says, watching him leave. "So eager to embrace the chaos... so eager to embrace your doom."

The Maximals, meanwhile, are fighting the drones less and less, and increasingly fighting each other. Cheetor has what alcoholics would refer to as a moment of clarity: "This is seriously glitched. We've argued before, but nothing like this..." But it's for naught, as the infighting continues and sucks him back in as well. "Save your ammo," Thrust tells his drones, waving them off. "They're gonna do the job for us."

On the surface, Silverbolt approaches one of the giant tentacles... and discovers the spider-thing on his back, which he plucks off with fury.

"Face it, lady! Your boyfriend's a big shiny chicken!" NS tells BA, whom he's gleefully dragging along through the air, while Cheetor grapples with Rattrap. "Heh, sweet, I oughta sell tickets!" Thrust grins from nearby -- till Optimus taps him on the shoulder, and KOs him when he turns to see who it is.

"STOP THIS!" Primal shouts at his crew. "You're soldiers! Teammates! Friends!" "Friends... don't abandon each other!" BA says, lassoing him with a web. The other agree, and attack, and in short order Primal is infected with the red stuff as well. "Forget the seeds of the future... I'm burying YOU in the past!" Op tells them, attacking -- till Silverbolt arrives. "This madness must stop!... we've all been infected with a virus. Can't you feel it?" "Why should we trust you, *Jetstorm*?" NS shouts. "BECAUSE! I know better than anybody that the hating... and the hurting... have got to end." Somehow this calms the group. "If Optimus trusts you... it's good enough for me," Cheetor says, holstering his swords. "Take it from an authority on the subject, I smell a rat," RT declares, heading off towards one of the tentacles, the others following. His helmet and a mysterious sensor gadget reveal the following to him: "These things are sending an activation signal right through the ground!" "To trigger a pre-planted virus, right? Hidden in me?" Silverbolt says, producing the spider-thing. "Yep! And it was a nasty piece of business, too. Had an addrenalin booster, a neocortex suppressor, and a shut-off on the self-diagnostic! And it's contagous." "Sounds like a new strain of that ancient hate plague virus," NS notes. "So how do we counteract it?" Cheetor asks. "In two words: Im. Possible," RT replies. "And I've got two more words for you, Maximals," a watching Megatron says. "Good bye."

Waves of energy pour down the tentacles, rattling the ground and alarming the Maximals. Primal has an epiphany: "That's it! We've got to work together to reform our neural pathways! That's the only way to destroy the virus and cure us!" Megs' energies, meanwhile, are sending huge seismic disruptions through the tunnels, collapsing the ground out from unde the Maximals. Falling, the group manages to latch onto one another, and angelic music plays as they are one after the next cured. Optimus lifts the oddball chain to the surface, where they land.

"Man, does it feel good to be a team again!" Rattrap exhults. But Silverbolt is far from happy: "Megatron *used* me to infect all of you... still happy to have you back?" "More than ever, old friend," Optimus tells him. The tentacles retract into the BFH just then, the plan apparently failed or over or something. BA laments that they were turned against each other. Optimus replies: "Perhaps... he didn't create the conflicts. He only magnified them. The fundamental disharmony... we provided that ourselves. Could it be that Megatron is right after all?" he concludes, vaguely disbelieving, as we pan up to the chuckling BFH over Cybertron.

The after-game commentary:

Well... this certainly was no "In Darkest Knight" or "Prometheus Unbound". Which isn't to put it down.... it just never really had the elements that made those episodes great. The plot? Well... it was okay. The characters? On vacation, for the most part, as the voice actors have what was no doubt an indulgently fun recording session, shouting and hamming it up. They and the writers did a good job, peppering the Maximals' squabbles with good lines (a sampling of which you'll find at the end.)

With those points being just average, the episode highlight turns out to be another variant of Megatron arguing for his single elegant machine. And oh, does he argue! "Can't you even see my point of view?" he asks Primal, and it's creepy how he's gently chiding the Maximal commander for not being open-minded. On the other hand... didn't we just see this same argument last episode? Well, yes... but it seems to be evolving, progressing, somehow. An on-going debate, rather than a rehash of the same lines. By gosh... it's *believable* dialogue -- not just *good*, which BM frequently has, but *realistic*. And, as happens occasionally, it's a tad reminiscent of various newsgroup debates, in form at least, if not content. I can almost, but not quite, see a plan: Megs is truly waging psychological war on his enemies. He doesn't *want* to vanquish them through force... he wants them to come to him willingly. He wants to crush them through self-doubt. And he makes a good argument, one that even the stalwart Primal can see the logic of by the end of the episode.

This idea, of course, is kinda shot down by his apparent attempt to destroy the group near the episode's end. What was that supposed to be, anyhow? A big cavern-collapsing earthquake? But then after that... now we KNOW that Megatron is just toying with the Maximals. How long was the group -- all six of them -- just standing there at the end, in plain sight? Don't tell me Megs hasn't loaded up the BFH with huge-ass weapons. One well-placed shot and BOOM, it's just Megs and Thrust on Cyberton. Well, assuming poor Thrust survived... it looked like he got buried in the tunnels. Of course, he also got knocked down a VERY high ledge at the end of the last episode.

Oh no.

Do you see it? The emerging pattern.

BW's favorite punching bag is returning to his old role. Arrrrggg!! Oh, poor Thrust, you have NO idea what you're in for. Get out. Get out now, before the pain goes any further....

Speaking of being alone on Cybertron, for a moment, I mistook a long, wide view of Cybertron with the decending tube-things for the arrival of some kind of spaceships entering the atmosphere (possibly due to the odd resolution of the video capture.) "Skir's lost tribes!" was my first thought (my second was "Oh no, not another Spark extractor battle...") Alas, t'was not to be. A lot of the character dynamics on this show have become fairly flat, generally falling into Let's-Do-It Maximal Teamwork, or antagonistic disagreement. Where's the friendly squabbling a la Silverbolt and Rattrap? Or Dinobot and Rattrap? The group could use a bit more in the way of fresh faces, and someone arriving from off-planet would fit the bill nicely.

At least Silverbolt's been added to the mix... it's proving interesting so far, and his character's anger provides a tertiary plot thread to the episode (after the virus and Megatron's manipulations.) We haven't had any "Megs is still controlling him!" plot devices; nor is he all angsty, really. He's just pissed off... and scarred. The only bit that bothered me was his question at the end ("still happy to have me back?") He seems to be saying "don't you want to hate me? Come on, hate me! PLEASE hate me!.... just a little? Please?" Megs "using" him was interesting: did he plant that virus container on him before he even created Jetstorm? Hmmmm. The little doomahopper, by the way, resembled a long-lost cousin of Tarantulas's spider-lights from BW.

The virus itself, of course, is the infamous Hate Plague from G1's "The Return of Optimus Prime". It acted a bit differently in those episodes -- there, the plague caused victems to glow bright red all over. BM's interpretation is certainly more believable in that respect, causing only a phasing in-and-out redness of the eyes. Both are contageous to the touch; G1's, however, left a lot less room for rationality -- infected robots generally began brawling right away, without bothering with verbal abuse. BM also added a nice dose of technobabble that made it seem a lot more plausible, and menacing as well. Of course, the characters had many more flashes of rationality than those of G1, returning for moments at a time to their old selves. One can, I suppose, chalk all this up to it being a "new strain"... presumably engineered by Megatron, master of viruses. (Why isn't that a TFWW joke? Megs: "I made a virus to make all the Maximals talk like Elmer Fudd.")

The cure, however, is quite a stretch -- both on its own and in light of G1's solution. The original Optimus Prime had to unleash -- and empty -- the contents of the Autobot Matrix of Leadership to cure those affected. This was reputed to be a strong enough "source of wisdom" to destroy the spores that caused the plague, as if wisdom were just another variant wavelength on the electromagnetic spectrum. Here, Primal somehow hits upon the solution that they need to "reform their neural pathways" -- which is accomplished simply by joining hands (while falling down another Bottomless Pit, a feature that Cybertron seems to abound in.) How's this work again? Isn't that a bit like a cancer victem saying that all they need to do is destroy the cancerous cells? Yes, it's true, but how is one supposed to actually *do* this?? This was a total pulled-out-of-the-ass plot device to resolve the unresolvable problem. I suppose we can retcon it by saying something about the group joining their collective wisdom together... but you mean nobody thought to do that in "Return of Op Prime"? The more I think about it, the more this ending strikes me as simple childish writing.

And where'd Megs *get* the virus, anyway? Wasn't it wiped out at the end of TROOP? Maybe the bit that got launched into the star by the wise Quintesson scientist (as told to us by the Matrix) is still there.... when did Megs find time to twiddle around with that, anyway? Sheesh. He had a lot of time to kill after "Nemesis" Part 2, evidently. I am sick of viruses! Enough with the viruses!! It's fast becoming one of the most abused, dull plot devices in Transformers! Can we please get a vaccination that covers these things, huh?

Speaking of bottomless things -- the Maximals sure got out of the Oracle chamber and to the surface quickly. Didn't it take them ages -- and several very long falls -- to get there in "The Reformatting"?

This was a great episode for Primal. He had some great line (such as the terrific delivery when he's lamenting the loss of Rhinox), some nice mood swings, handed out a few needed rebukes, briefly went into "Gorilla Warfare" bezerker mode, and entered new territory as, for the first time ever, he ponders the notion that maybe Megatron's arguments are actually true.

As big a deal as Season 1 made over the Maximals' beast modes being undetectable, they seem to have forgotten it now. Virtually everyone's in robot mode from the word 'go' these days, seems like.

Heeeyyy!! The ol' "tap 'em on the shoulder" gag from Optimus! Ol' guy hasn't lost his sense of humor after all. Remember when he did that to Inferno in "Before the Storm"?...

Nice quotes, excerpted from the Maximals' dialogue-intensive argument scenes:
* Rattrap referring to Noble as "schitzo-dog"
* Rattrap replying to BA telling him to keep his nose out of it: "Why should I keep my nose out of it, when *lover-boy* spent so much time tryin' to blow it off my face?!" SB: "Evidently I didn't try hard enough!"
* Cheetor to Rattrap: "Maybe if you low-rez chip-heads had any idea how to follow orders..."
* BA: "Hey, that was my foot!" RT: "Well ya got seven more..."
* BA: "If you'd trusted Silverbolt, we wouldn't *be* outnumbered!" NS: "Oh, okay, fine, I'll trust him. Oh wait, he flew the coup, *didn't* he?" RT: "brrrrrrrock bock bock bock!!" *Sigh*... that may be as close as I ever get to my long-desired chicken Transformer. :]
* Cheets: "You wanna piece of me?!" RT: "I want a LOT of pieces!"

Bad quotes: Another "gouda" out of Rattrap. Another "So now it's my fault?!", this one painfully shrieked by a voice-cracking Cheetor. "Shut your mouth and beat your feet"? Huh? What's that mean?

Overall: a plot-driven episode, backed up by some interesting philisophical debate. The central plot device, unfortunately, is a bit silly, and the resolution abominable. Hopefully, this ep is more of an aberration from rather than the standard for what remains of the season.

OH, almost forgot: any speculation on the title? Heh, it's a clever play on Silverbolt's old form, which literally was a wolf. Now he's the proverbial wolf -- a timebomb in the Maximals' midst, waiting to go off. Nice.

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