Thursday, August 11, 2011

Give Prime a Chance

That's just...oh, you get the idea.
Transformers Prime had a lot to live up to. Transformers Animated garnered a huge following, many new to Transformers as a whole, due to its creative pedigree. The less reasonable in the fandom (and come on, it's a fandom) have held its premature cancellation against Prime. Even over halfway through the season there are people who refuse to give it a chance, finding any niggling reason to hate the show when its real crime is simply not being Animated.

Well screw them.

Though a little slow to get cranked up, Transformers Prime has developed into a show on par with Beast Wars. I admit to my own prejudices against the show: I was worried that it would hew too close to the movies thanks to the involvement of Kurtzman and Orci, and as a result it would be just as much of a poorly-written mess. I could feel that melting away, though, the moment Bulkhead demanded that Miko look away as he tore a Decepticon apart - and Miko gleefully refused. The show has been full of moments like this: Raf trying to explain to Ratchet the difference between being related and being family, Arcee giving in and racing a bully when he insulted her, June giggling over Optimus Prime, Bumblebee's expression upon finding Arcee beaten by Starscream after being unable to restrain her anger, and Starscream, oh Starscream... Scheming, conniving, simpering Starscream, everything the character is supposed to be distilled down to the essence and played by Steve Blum in one of his best performances.

Okay, okay, I MAY have a crush.
One of the brightest spots for me in Prime, however, is a character who isn't played to type: Arcee. Far from being the Girl Robot, Arcee's only real concession to her "gender" is her body type. She's everything a female character should be and nothing they so often tend to be. Arcee's taken something like the role of (Furman's) Grimlock in this cast, an angry Autobot brawler who walks the line between good and evil, who too often lets her anger get the best of her. One could say she's emotional, but it's an emotion so few female characters get to show. And that anger is justified by the losses she's faced. Far from just being "The Girl", this Arcee has deep, developed characterization that has nothing to do with gender casting.

Another place where they did gender right - and the whole show benefited for it - was forgoing the common assumption that the female characters be paired together and putting Arcee with Jack and Miko with Bulkhead. I couldn't see any of them with anyone else. I can't help but think that Arcee has been a better influence on Jack that any other character could have been, even when she's not being a terribly good influence at all. Jack paired with a male character - say, a Hot Rod/Shot sort of character - would have been boring at best and volatile at worst. And Bulkhead gives Miko a partner as big as her spirit. She's a tiny girl who wants to do everything and be everywhere, and in reigning her in Bulkhead has to reign himself in a little as well. They're at first glance unlikely pairs, but they compliment each other perfectly.

I'll admit it's not a perfect show. Bumblebee and Raf can be a little bland, though they're the perfect pairing that truly is perfect together. Much of that can be blamed on the one conceit that did carry over from the movie, which has left Bumblebee's moments of true characterization few and far between. I was extremely disappointed at seeing a Wheeljack who acted more like Drift and did not at any point Try Science. Optimus Prime is a bit too Optimus Prime at times, to the point where I called ahead of time that he would believe they should give Starscream a chance to change. On the occasions his dialogue doesn't have a swelling of heroic music behind it, it seems like it should. But Transformers Prime has become a show I look forward to, and one of those lately-rare Transformers shows I'll eagerly watch in reruns.

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