TV Shows: "Combiner Wars" Episode 2: The Council Review
Title: The Council
Air Date: August 9, 2016
Summary (from Go90):
News of the Combiner combat has reached Cybertron, which is currently led by a Council composed of Rodimus Prime, Starscream, and the Mistress of Flame. Former enemies and rivals, the three clearly have a tenuous relationship and discuss their different opinions on how to deal with this new impending threat. But, little do they know that someone is watching their every move and most importantly, the powerful artifact that they possess – The Enigma of Combination!
Review (SPOILERS AHEAD):
In my review of "Combiner Wars" episode one I provided a section of background reading to help folks understand some of the source material for this series. The first episode was action packed. In many ways it plays like the cold open for an action movie, and that's cool. Generally however when you have such an action packed episode it not only engages your interest but it also sets up some questions you want to have answered. What follows generally begins to answer those questions.
Episode two of "Combiner Wars" does not do that.
Instead, the episode winds up creating even more questions and just barely answers any of the questions from episode one. Now, were this a regular season of 13, 20 minute episodes I would not be worried at all. However, each episode is only about five minutes, and the total amount of animation to be produced has been said to be roughly 40-45 minutes. With about 10 minutes released already, that does not leave a lot of time to pick things up. I understand the "Prelude to Combiner Wars" videos were supposed to explain things but they really did not. They served as cool character introductions, but that's about it.
Among the questions I have:
- Where did the Enigma of Combination come from? Was it found? Did it create Combiners or did someone else use it to do so?
- When were Megatron and Optimus Prime exiled? And by whom?
- Are there other Combiners or are Menasor and Computron the only ones?
- If there has been peace, why were Menasor and Computron fighting to begin with?
Now, I'm not saying this episode needed to answer all those questions, but what kind of bugged me is that some of them were not even asked. For instance the Council discusses the battle between Computron and Menasor, but at no point does anyone question why they were fighting, and why they went to Caminus to do it. Instead, their first move is to decide to use the Enigma to "control" the situation, potentially by...starting more violence. Now, if this was the hey day of the war and there were battles going on every day I could understand this strategy. But this series is set on a Cybertron that has seen decades of peace, so why is violence the first answer? I was confounded by this.
I don't want you to think this episode has no good points. I enjoyed the animation for the most part (though the mouth movements are...odd to say the least). The models for each character look great, incorporating elements of both past animated versions of the characters and action figure features (most notably on Starscream, who seems to be a fusion of several different versions of the character).
I enjoyed the voice work for the most part. Both Rodimus and Starscream sounded like aged, mature versions of their G1 counterparts. Ben Pronsky's Rodimus sounded like Judd Nelson's Hot Rod would after a few decades of settling into maturity. Frank Todaro's Starscream sounds like a mixture of G1 and Armada Starscream but tempered, less panicked all the time and more controlled. The Mistress of the Flame will take getting used to as her tone was a bit slow. I am not sure this is the fault of the voice actor or if it was a directorial choice, but in one scene she calls for an alarm to be sounded but she does not sound concerned, there is no urgency in her voice and I found that odd.
- The beginning sequence was meant to show us conflict on Cybertron but I didn't get that. It would have helped to show figures running around a battlefield. Even G1 styled still images that a camera would "pan" across as battle sounds played would have helped convey that a battle was going on. Instead, I thought that the explosions were some type of natural disaster occurring.
- The Mistress of the Flame is not really introduced properly. I would have loved to see G1 Japanese cartoon style introduction text overlapping each character. It would take three seconds of screen time and give viewers an idea of who they were. Imagine if upon her first appearance a bar appears on the bottom that says "The Mistress of the Flame: Caminus Council Representative" or something along those lines. In a few seconds it tells you the name of the character and a bit of history.
The primary weakness of episode 2 is that it makes the same assumption that episode 1 did: namely that viewers know a lot more about "Transformers" (particularly the IDW Publishing comic books) than they really do. Then it makes it worse by introducing even more questions. It also squanders some time with the opening that could have been spent on dialogue. I'm really hoping the next episode explains a lot otherwise I can see less seasoned viewers losing interest out of sheer confusion.