The horns of Transformers: Prime
I already knew from having recently seen the film which comprises the first five episodes of the first season that Transformers: Prime is a fun show with a lot of cross demographic appeal.
There was the concern, however, that this appeal would be difficult to maintain over a season of smaller arcs.
Now that the first season has come to a close, I see my concern was unwarranted. The show stayed on target through a total of 26 episodes, none of which felt like a throwaway piece or fluff, and each developed a small part of the greater transformers mythology.
The real strength of Prime is that its episodes feel much more like a serialized story than an episodic adventure. Interesting character development and multiple engaging storylines carry through the season - giving it a connectedness not often found in children's fantasy programs.
Also, the characters felt very individually driven. There was no blind obedience. There were no allies who could be unquestionably relied upon, and there was a strong sense that none of the characters was immune from dying. The season conflict contained 6 factions, the allegiances of which were frequently shifting as each saw benefit in temporary alliances or enmities. Even the primary foes, the Autobots and the Decepticons, were forced to occasionally team up for the greater advantage to Cybertronian kind.
The most immersing of these factions is M.E.C.H, a group of humans with a mission to overthrow the government. To do this they collect advanced technology, and when they accidentally learn of the existence of Transformers, they set out to capture whichever robots they can get their hands on. Toward the end of the season, they seem to mysteriously disappear from the plot, but I have a feeling we won't have to wait long into season 2 to see them again.
The cliffhanger we’re left with in the last episode of the first season is a great twist, and ties in well to the greater lore, though perhaps a bit abruptly. For the sake of spoiler avoidance, I'll leave it at that for the purposes of this review,.
The Blu-ray set gives the show a bit of polish over what you'll catch on television, the robots and scenery really pop in HD, making clear the attention to detail which has gone into the creation of the CG, as well as the inspired artistry of each scene. The only disappointing element it's the use of only one model for all of the low-level Decepticons. The Autobots crunch through several unnamed Decepticon fighters each episode, and most of them seem to be the same robot. No in-canon reason for this it's ever given. It doesn't affect the quality of the show however, and after a few episodes it's easy to understand why they choose to do it that way. Designing up to three new Decepticons each episode, just to have them junked would be a waste.
The Blu-ray is not just a better picture, however, it also contains a few special features, including a making-of video which clarifies parts of the design process, and a "toy featurette" in which the show’s designers give an inside look at how the toys tie into the show, and how closely the character designers and toy designers must work together showcasing some of three challenges of creating a series around a line of toys.
There are also a couple of commentary episodes, but these were not worth listening to, as they are rather juvenile, and lend little to the understanding of the episode they sit upon. The commenters don’t actually seem to even be watching along most of the time. The limited Edition Blu-ray set also comes with a 96-page graphic novel, which covers a pre-season adventure for Arcee and Cliffjumper, and is actually a very high-quality book, if not quite as impressive as the show itself.
Here's a clip from one of my favorite episodes which gives some idea of the tone, design, and great dialogue which is typical of the show.
As a fan of the franchise, I find this the best Transformers series yet, and the first one which meets the sheer enjoyment I once derived from watching the original series when I was a kid. It’s not just for kids, however, and with the unexpectedly great writing, immaculate attention to detail and mythology, and beautiful graphics, it’s not just a show for Transformers fans either. This is a great show for all genre enthusiasts. If you haven’t already, you should catch-up on the first season with the Blu-ray set, which is available now.