The Loop (TV)
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Transformers Prime is a realistic deconstruction (and probably will end up a reconstruction) of the Transformer mythos.
Technically, Transformers Animated already did this, but it focused more on the sociological and political deconstruction rather than personal/thematic deconstruction like this series.
- We start out the series with a pair of lovable Autobots on routine patrol, admitting that they almost miss the action of fighting Decepticons. Yet only five minutes in, we're reminded that at its core, Transformers is a war story, and in war, people die. Hence, with brutal fanfare, Cliffjumper goes out a Deadpan Snarker to his last as The Dragon Starscream slays him with one strike.
- This also explains why the show's creators keep trying to emphasize their idea for the show that, "When we kill a character, we kill a character." They want to show that such a war can't be lightly shrugged off, and to take seriously that in some situations, you can't just repair your team back to working order (though they do show the importance of medical facilities quite a bit).
- Starscream is himself a meditation on just what kind of Decepticon would stay The Starscream for a long period of time. The answer, surprisingly, isn't so much a shadowy plotter like G1, a two time obvious snake like in Beast Wars, a complex yet powerful man that needs to be kept close like in the Unicron trilogy, or even a powerful yet sneaky boaster like in Animated. Starscream wants to be "his own master", but takes a page from his Transformers Cybertron and Transformers Animated counterparts in trying to be smart about it. He enjoyed autonomy with Megatron gone, and does obey his general commands, while on occasion taking a safe route rather than following Megatron to the letter. Sometimes it pays off, and for almost 10 episodes, we have the rare moment where Starscream is Big Bad of the Decepticons. However, sometimes it doesn't, as Megatron eventually gets back on his feet. Starscream clearly enjoyed being leader and desired to leave Megatron's shadow, but perhaps he wanted autonomy to do it more. He slowly begins to lose everything, but it was only when he thought he lost his position within the Decepticons that he thought he had nothing more to strive for as a Decepticon, and he decides his own freedom of action is more important than being a powerful leader. Starscream declares himself Chaotic Neutral, at least for now, and literally disappears from the war. It's a pretty good meditation on what kind of soldier would keep trying to reach the top, and just how they would do it without getting killed.
- It also answers the question that always plagued Transformers fans as haunting fears: What would happen if Starscream got control? The answer: Things wouldn't go nearly as poorly (for the Autobots or the Decepticons) as many assume, though his planned actions are much lower key compared to the grandiose plans of Megatron. True, he's not nearly as competent a fighter, but at the very least, his priorities -- finding the Autobot base, gaining weapons for the war -- are reasonable.
- In addition, recent episodes have given the "Starscream as independent operator" idea more credential, but at the same time creates a kind of Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain vibe. Starscream has become a walking contradiction. He's still dangerous enough to throw substantial monkey wrenches into both Autobot and Decepticon plans as the Spanner in the Works and strong enough to defend himself sneakily. On the other hand, as a rouge, and then without a T-cog, he lacks the means to become a major threat for the most part, and even the more pragmatic Autobots consider him too pitiful to finish off at times. Though interestingly, after Starscream tried to Send in the Clones, and now that he has armor that may allow him to become even more powerful, it indicates that he's still a dangerous Wild Card in this fight between robots.
- Megatron takes the most ruthless characteristics of his older counterparts and shows what kind of leader would arise in that situation. Determined, powerful and ruthless, he's still the Bad Boss of the team, and many of the other Decepticons fear him and his wrath just as much, if not more, than they respect his authority. Indeed, it also gives a thoughtful idea of why Megatron became evil, [[spoiler: as it mentions his ambition drove him to destroy Cybertron to achieve his goals. He's calm and thoughtful in handling the failure of his lieutenants, and he permits disobedience to a degree, but when it comes to traitors who directly attack him, he wastes no time to eliminate potential threats.
- Arcee takes the idea of a Transformer war, and deconstructs how it can affect the people in it. Ratchet of Transformers Animated did this too, but this again takes a realistic, non-romantic approach. Arcee lost two of her friends/partners in the war, and her mentality in fighting 'Cons is brutal determination over all else, her life filled with a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against the organization who took two partners away. It often leads her to rash decisions and coldness towards her team. It makes it hard for the others to warm up to her, despite her status as Optimus's Lancer. Yet perhaps she's the one character who's being rebuilt the most. She's growing to realize how her quest for revenge might lead her to becoming the very thing she sought to defeat. She becoming more patient and level-headed in talking with her fellow Autobots about their Team Pet humans. She's even gotten smarter in how they engage threats, calling out others on fighting too quick and rashly. Finally, she's formed a third partnership with the Badass Normal Jack, which is helping repair her emotional health, and Jack is quick to offer her an appreciation for her work protecting humankind.
- Miko is a deconstruction on the idea of it being fun to see giant robots fight, or as a WMG put it, a deconstruction of the Leeroy Jenkins Kid Sidekick. True, they always emerge unscathed, but everyone else sees her enthusiasm as foolishness rather than endearing, given her size and lack of strength. All the Autobots and humans constantly try to keep her safe while she observes the brutal fights going on around her, and sometimes, her lust for observing the great war between giant robots can get her in trouble. After all, this is a Transformer's War Is Hell scenario. Her recklessness even almost gets her friends killed on several occasions, not to mention almost wiping the mind of her own partner. It's practically a Take That to any person who thinks giant fighting alien robots is a safe pastime to observe in real life. Yet despite all that, there are the seeds of Reconstruction in the works, as her Undying Loyalty is always admirable, and despite going through Aesop Amnesia, she's starting to mellow from her original ways. And of course, if there's two things she brings to the team, it's creativity and FUN!
- Jack is a bit of deconstruction on how parents affect the battle as well as the answer to the question, "What if the humans didn't want to be part of the war?" Jack started off not wanting giant robots trying to kill him in his life, fully understanding the inherent danger of the war. He even tried to bow out after the first grand adventure on Megatron's ship. And yet, both Miko and Arcee saw that Jack had so much potential, and thus they both convinced him to return to the fight. Afterwards, he had to keep The Masquerade from his mother, and when she found out, she really wanted him out of there. Yet despite the danger, Jack is also a reconstruction of an Audience Surrogate, as a cool-headed thinker who helps the Autobots in his limited fashion, and even gains some respect from them through his actions. He even calls out his mother on the fact that in their current situation, giant robots are the best way to stay protected from other megalomaniac giant robots, and from all this, he's given something very important by Optimus.
- MECH and Silas are the deconstruction of how human military forces would react when alien robots bring a war to their world. MECH doesn't sit on the sidelines while the robots fight, but takes the initiative to achieve its own agenda. They interrupt Breakdown's victory over Bulkhead, capturing and dissecting the former to reverse-engineer Cybertronian technology. Silas forms an alliance with Airachnid, working together until he has a chance to take a piece of Arcee and split before the inevitable double-cross happens. Silas also knows when to quit, ordering his forces to retreat whenever he sees a Big Damn Heroes moment coming his way. He knows better than to fight several Autobots or Decepticons before he can level the playing field technologically. Silas is a genuine human supervillain and a threat to both sides.
- Also of note is that, unlike the human villains of the other Transformers deconstruction, MECH is totally normal in terms of being humans with great technology rather than having gimmick superpowers, showing that you wouldn't need superhuman abilities to be threatening to Transformers.
- Plus, the way Silas and MECH seem to see the Transformers is likely how many would see the Transformers in real life: not as autonomous individuals with personalities and souls, but as robots, i.e. things and weapons. Due to this dehumanization, they are able to literally dissect Transformers with no more hesitation than one would have doing the same to an engine block.
- Even the great Optimus Prime gets deconstructed to a certain degree. In every iteration of Transformers, he's expected to be the leader and The Hero, acting as the wise leader of the Autobots no matter their rank. However, despite his obvious wisdom and compassion, in this version he does have his oversights, such as not condoning a single human death despite Agent Fowler insisting in the military's willingness to die for their work. He leads battles, gives grand speeches and all that, but part of that is just the expectations he's fulfilling as Primus's herald, and two areas are cast in doubt: his idealism, and his identity as a Prime.
- It's indicated in the backstory that Optimus was a compassionate, concerned bot before being made a Prime. Yet at his core, he seemed to be more of a follower than a leader. While others recognized his Right Makes Might as more Prime material over Megatron's narcissism and desire to use force to become the next Prime, Optimus's idealism led him to continue for Megatron's eventual redemption despite years of evidence stacked against him that his old mentor/"brother" would never repent. It take the near aversion of Infant Immortality for Optimus to finally try to kill off Megatron for good. Even more interesting, by the time of Flying Mind, Optimus has become determined to end the war as fast as possible, deciding to use a cybertronian WMD to try to beat the cons as fast as possible.
- The other side of the deconstruction is in his identity of being a Prime and how the Matrix of Leadership is tied to Optimus's identity and being. Word of God says that the series is all about discovering "what it means to be a Prime." When Primus used divine right to give the matrix to Optimus, it endowed Optimus with all that Primes "naturally" have through the different seasons. Yet in the first season finale, we get a shocking twist on this idea. When Optimus uses the Matrix to defeat Unicron, its energy leaves him (maybe). And when it left him, the collective wisdom he had was lost, and only Orion Pax of Cybertron was left. Hopefully, come Season 2, "Orion" will learn the hard way the components of being a just, good leader, leading to a reconstruction of Standardized Leader. Until then, it's a sobering critique on the idea of Optimus being a "natural leader".
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