Transformers: Prime "Darkness Rising - Episode Three" Synopsis and Review
Original Air Date: 12/1/10
Written by: Marsha Griffin
Arcee and Jack are racing down a highway, enjoying some time away from Decepticons. Miko is spending time with Bulkhead joy riding through the desert while Raf and Bumblebee play video games.
As the day ends, Ratchet is enjoying his peace and quiet at Autobot headquarters. He hears something fall and some strange noises - the insectoid Drone! Before he can react the Drone launches itself at him! Ratchet tries to swat the Drone but it manages to dodge him. When it leaps at him one last time, Optimus comes in and blasts it right before Ratchet stomps on it. Ratchet wonders how this could have happened and Optimus has a suspicion: Dark Energon!
On the Decepticon ship, Megatron relishes the feel of Dark Energon, claiming to even be able to hear Unicron's thoughts. Megatron grabs a piece of Dark Energon and leaves the ship. Starscream tells Soundwave to increase global surveillance.
At the Autobot base, Optimus rationalizes that the Dark Energon is what most likely brought Cliffjumper back to life. Ratchet wonders what such a substance would be doing on Earth. Optimus believes Megatron brought the Dark Energon to Earth to raise an army of "undead" soldiers. Optimus goes off with Ratchet and leaves Arcee in charge. Miko comments that Bulkhead should be in charge. Arcee is doubtful about Prime's orders and says that Ratchet hasn't been in the field in a long time. Optimus tells her a lot has changed in the past 24 hours and that they must adapt. Arcee decides to go on patrol with Bumblebee, leaving Bulkhead in charge at base with the kids. Miko decides to put together a little band with the three kids to have some fun.
Suddenly, the alarms go off in the base and it turns out to be Fowler. The kids hide behind Bulkhead and he tries to hide them as Fowler is chastising Bulkhead for the damage caused by Autobot battles. He finds them out however and they try to explain themselves as "interns". Fowler insists on taking them into Federal custody but Bulkhead stops them. Fowler is not pleased and intends to report this to the Pentagon.
Deep in a series of canyons, Optimus Prime and Ratchet head towards what Optimus describes as the site of one of the largest Transformers battles in history. This was due to Energon being stored on worlds off Cybertron such as Earth. Optimus fears that Megatron will remember this just as clearly as he does.
Meanwhile, Agent Fowler is trying to contact the Pentagon when Starscream and Soundwave pick up the transmission. As he flies along a winged figure dives at him! It's Soundwave trying to take down the helicopter. Fowler manages to dodge and avoid Soundwave, getting the drop on him and blasting him. Soundwave manages to take the hits however and slashes the tail off of Fowler's helicopter. Before he crashes, Soundwave latches on and captures Fowler.
At Autobot headquarters, the alarms are going off again. This time it's an S.O.S. from Fowler. Bulkhead tells the kids the location scans were incomplete and dismisses the alarm. The kids tell him that Fowler is in danger and needs help (and that he knows the location of the Autobots). Raf explains the government began putting chips into their agents five years ago. He decides to break into the government computers in ann attempt to track Fowler.
On the Decepticon ship, Fowler is taken to Starscream. Fowler tries to play dumb, but Starscream is not having it and tells the Decepticon Drones to "make him comfortable".
In the Autobot base, Raf has found Fowler and Bulkhead uses the Ground Bridge to find him. When he arrives, he is right outside the Decepticon ship. What he doesn't realize (until it's too late) is that Miko has snuck out there with him!
A Decepticon Drone notice and begin to attack! Bulkhead takes on one Drone. They struggle for a bit before Bulkhead rips the Decepticon's chest out. He quickly contacts Arcee and Bumblebee for help as Jack decides to take the Ground Bridge to the site of the battle. He tells Raf to stay but he follows anyhow. Just as they leave, Arcee radios the base to have them Ground Bridge them back but they're already gone. They decide to go "pedal to the metal" instead.
Meanwhile, Fowler is chained up and is being interrogated by Starscream. He refuses to talk and Starscream decides to begin torturing the human instead.
Raf and Jack arrive on scene and are quickly seen by the Decepticons! Bulkhead and Miko are still in hiding but see what has happened.
In the canyon, Optimus and Ratchet arrive at the battleground. Megatron also arrives and reveals the Dark Energon, throwing it into the ground! The ground opens up and he commands his army to rise! Cybertronian bodies start coming to life and crawling out of the ground. They are damaged and in some cases have weapons sticking out of them, but they are alive and begin to converge on Optimus and Ratchet!
If there's one thing I will say for this series, it has definitely got some good fast pacing down. This story takes off in three different directions in a very short time and this episode leaves you hanging on almost every single one, which makes perfect sense for a "part three" of a five part story. If this were a feature movie, I would say we'd be at the middle where all the major crises begin to converge into one big mountain for our heroes to overcome. The timing is perfect.
The biggest story element is the Dark Energon and Megatron raising an army of zombie Transformers. I really love the fact that Megatron actually accomplished his mission. No last minute saves, no blasting the Dark Energon out of his hands at the last minute etc. Instead, the "dead" rise and now our heroes have to deal with the consequences. It's a wonderfully grand plan worthy of Megatron's G1 predecessor in scale and creepiness factor. This also shows us just how truly depraved this Megatron is. This makes him a much stronger villain in my opinion.
The secondary story involves the rescue of Fowler from the Decepticons. I was genuinely surprised to see a cartoon show allowed to show a human being chained and tortured. This is some pretty heavy stuff. Sure it wasn't bloody or anything (which would have been inappropriate) but it does really show the level of cruelty these Decepticons are capable of. It really elevates the threat they represent when you personalize it down to the level of a character you know.
The third tier story is the growing relationship between the Autobots and their assigned "kids". I have to admit Miko is pretty much sailing over the line of being annoying at the rate she's going. Raf and Jack however are spot on. Curious, still kids but not jumping in the way of getting shot without good reason. Jack does make a good point that Miko has not yet seen what the Decepticons are capable of, and I'm curious to see if she has learned at the end of this multi-part series.
In terms of voice performances, everyone was top notch in this episode and they all sounded more comfortable in their roles (with the exception of Cullen who simply owns the Prime role). Frank Welker in particular did some wonderful job selling the menace and insanity of Megatron in this episode. He didn't get many lines but every single one was dripping with evil!
In terms of the larger story of the Transformers in this universe, I really like the idea that Transformers had taken Energon to worlds across the galaxy. This makes perfect sense from a war time perspective. Keep your greatest asset hidden, and what could be further than another planet? I also like the idea that great Transformers battles happened on Earth long ago. This also jives with the story show in "Revenge of the Fallen" where Transformers fought in the distant past on Earth long before Optimus and Megatron came to Earth. The way the zombie Transformers looked was also appropriate. They appeared to be carrying melee weapons instead of more modern looking weaponry. They also have the look of robot frames with large armor on top, not too dissimilar from Megatron himself. I really look forward to see where this story goes next!