Has The Latest Season Of The New Series Finally Cracked The Formula?
Since this blog is still pretty fresh in the grand scheme, many of you may not have picked up that I am a HUGE Transformers fan. Since I was a kid, I have always had a genuine fascination with the robots in disguise. As I have gotten older, that interest evolved into understanding and respecting the complexities of each story and character in the franchise. I even wrote up a piece about Optimus Prime that I will link below.
Well, as Hasbro started up their resurgence of Transformers product with their new War For Cybertron Trilogy line, it reignited a lot of fan’s love of the series. It did so by bringing back the classic G1 designs for a new generation, including some new Cybertronian alternate modes that looked very impressive. As with all toylines, it wasn’t long after that a new cartoon based on the line was coming to Netflix from Rooster Teeth, the same team that had released the Prime Wars Trilogy. The show promised to give us an in-depth look at hte final days of Cybertron before the Autobots and Decepticons would bring their war to earth. Since this isn’t a review of Siege (that may come later), I will leave it by saying I have seen worse and I have seen better, but I did love the animation and overall premise of the story. Some characterizations needed work, but as this seems to be an origin series, I was willing to let it slide until season two.
Fast forward to now, the Earthrise toyline has landed on pegs in toy aisles around the world, and we now have modern interpretations of classic G1 designs in (that actually become their beloved earth alternate modes) in the palm of our hands, which means that the second season of the series will be following suit, right? Well, the series picks up right where Seige left off, Prime has sent the Allspark (the one thing that will save Cybertron) into space and has left with a small band of Autobots to retrieve it. Sadly, Elita-1 and an even smaller squad of Autobots have been left on the planet to continue thwarting Megatron’s schemes. As Optimus and co. go on an odyssey that can only be described as mythic, Elita and her team show us the cost of fighting a losing battle and no longer being a large army, but a small resistance.
I always like to get my bad news first, so it should only be fair to tackle the cons (heh) of the show. First, a lot of my complaints of the first season have bled into this season, while I only have one real issue with the season as a standalone (Mild spoilers ahead). When this series started, I noticed how the delivery of almost every line in the series was rife with dramatic pauses. I can’t help but emphasize this enough as lines would literally come out like “I…..do not….trust….youuuuuuu,” Which is an actual line in the season and is followed up by an even more drawn out response. While not all of the voice acting felt sub-par, there were times where it felt like the direction the actors were given did not match the show’s pace. I have seen many others comment on how they have had to watch the show at a higher speed to make it feel natural, which is an obvious issue that I had hoped would get fixed this season and sadly was not.
Another issue I have had with the show so far is how unnecessary a lot of the moments felt. That doesn’t mean that what we are watching is bad, however, which may be why I have such an issue with it. With six episodes of the season, it feels like almost every occurrence that Optimus encounters keeps us that much more away from the main goal, Earth, which is an issue when a series titled Earthrise only sees earth for the last few seconds of the season. While everything that the audience encounters is fun and offers up a ton of easter eggs for die-hard TF fans, it all takes way too long and detracts too much from the ultimate goal of getting to earth.
Finally, and this one is kind of a biggie, there is Optimus Prime. Now, for those who have read my previous write-up on the Autobot’s leader, you know that Optimus has a pretty specific demeanor that he carries. What makes him so important is that he never wavers and always remains calm as a leader. This begs a crucial question that I have to present to the show; “Why are you making Optimus Prime look like an incompetent and emotional wreck?” It sounds like a nitpick, and may be, but it is important to note that Optimus does make mistakes in the series and struggles with leading, as he should. He also allows his team to see his faults, and they remind him he is not alone. These moments are great, and I love it, but there is one particular moment in the season finale that is so off-brand for the character that it just felt wrong to his core values. Now, I know it is a new iteration and perspective, but for me, if something has worked a particular way for almost 40 years, it’s best not to go too far off the reservation.
That being said, let’s get to the pros! I know I have torn into this season quite a bit, but weirdly enough, I don’t dislike it at all; I like to think that is because the things that were great about the show were really great. To begin, Megatron is easily the standout character of the season. While he is still the tyrant reader we all know and love, he has even more layers. We see him deal with similar, if not more difficult, choices that any leader would have to make, and just when you think he will do the humane thing, he goes right to the darkest choice. It is both intimidating and satisfying to see a villain who has always been evil “just because” perform his dark deeds to justify saving his people. He truly sees himself as the hero of his own story, and it works perfectly when you see what his decisions bring.
The entire storyline with Elita-1, Red alert, Chromia, and Jetfire saving captive Decepticons on Cybertron was another highlight. We never saw more than we needed to see of this storyline, and since there wasn’t a lot of time to add filler, the side story of the season ended up being the main pull for me. There were many moral dilemmas and true horrors of war that we witness on what is left of their homeworld, and we also get to see some transforming (since there really isn’t a lot of on-screen transformations in the season, to begin with).
Animation-wise, the series looks incredibly well-done. It was very satisfying to see the toys available now come to life on the screen; it isn’t hard to imagine myself as a kid with my own figures, playing along to the series. The action is top-notch and shows a good balance of military strategy and hand to hand brawling. As for cameos, there are quite a few. Not only do we see characters like the Go-Bot (yes, you read that right) Bug Bite, we also see the Quintessons, which appeared first in the original animated movie. A few more surprises are left to be seen in the show that I don’t want to spoil, but it leads to a bright future for the series.
Transformers War For Cybertron: Earthrise was yet another installment that offered big promises and delivered just enough to keep me interested. With Kingdom on the way and the inclusion of Beast Wars, there is one more shot at making the trilogy as a whole make sense and hopefully usher in even more content. While it is hard to grade a product before it is complete, as a standalone season, Earthrise suffers from poor pacing, drawn-out dialogue, and a severe lack of earth. The standout moments are thankfully enough to keep me engaged, but it is hard to fully invest when knowing that there has still been very little progress made to push the story forward by episode four of this six-episode season. If pieces are being set up to be knocked down in season three that will justify the pacing, it is hard to tell and should probably be something that should be presented so that fans don’t feel cheated in any way. While I am excited about the next installment, it does not outweigh my caution.
Transformers War For Cybertron: Earthrise 6.5/10
Thanks for reading guys! If you want to check out my piece on Optimus Prime you can do so right here! Also, I would love for everyone to be in the know and spread the word on my blog so feel free to follow me on social media for updates and other surprises!