TV Shows: "Combiner Wars" Episode 4: Unforgotten Review
Air Date: August 23, 2016
Summary (from Go90):
Optimus Prime and Windblade have teamed-up to try and destroy the Enigma of Combination. But to do that, they're going to need the biggest gun they can find.
Review (SPOILER ALERT):
Slowly but surely "Combiner Wars" is getting better, and that's a relief. The more I see of this series, the more I think its format really works against it. Had this twenty or so minutes of the cartoon aired as one continuous chunk, we could argue "the show starts slow but picks up." because the pace has certainly gained some steam. We now have a mission and a trio of warriors committed to it. If this was say, a 13 episode series with 20 minutes devoted to each everything up to this point could easily be chalked up to being the "set up pilot episode".
But that's the problem, it's not.
"Combiner Wars" was announced as an eight episode series. That means we are already half way through the series. Though half the Constructicon team makes an appearance in this episode, so far we have only seen two Combiners in the series and a few more via the "prelude" episodes. It is really worrying me that Combiners as a whole are more of a vague, conceptual threat. Sure we saw Computron and Menasor duke it out, and supposedly Combiners had something to do with trashing Caminus, but the actual who, what, where, when and why of just how that threat supposedly lead to Caminus' destruction has yet to be told. Reminder: we are half way through the show. We should know this by now.
I also find it odd that Optimus only recruited Megatron. I understand going after him as a "big gun" (no pun intended) but episode two told (and sort of showed) us that Transformers were battling on Cybertron. Wouldn't some of those be Autobots that would help Optimus if he asked? Couldn't we have seen him at least mention a token line about "I tried to recruit Grimlock but you know how he is."? Even a line about "All my old friends have left, I do not know these warriors." or something would have served the purpose.
Perhaps it was unintentional, but for me this episode ended on a very sad note. Megatron, the once powerful leader of a movement that devastated a planet is now considered a "relic". Optimus, whose words once inspired a legion now has his catch phrase turned into a joke for Windblade to laugh at. I know the moment was meant to be humorous, but I found it profoundly sad. It really felt like a statement of how the past is really not meant to be respected, which seems to directly contradict the last episode where Optimus got to show Windblade what a real warrior is. The tone was just wrong. I was fine with Megatron teasing his old enemy, but Windblade going along with it made me dislike her profoundly.
Jason Marnocha makes his debut as Megatron and I have to say I really liked his work. He played across a wide emotional spectrum from amusement to anger and it worked very well for the character. I appreciate that he was not trying to do a Frank Welker or David Kaye impersonation but instead went in his own direction with the character. Bailey unfortunately gets shortchanged. Though his delivery is fine, whatever filter they are applying to his voice really makes it reverberate too much. Every time Optimus spoke I wished they had not used any filter at all.
I was very disappointed that the individual Constructions were not given voices or even named. If you did not know your Transformers history you would think they were just mindless drones. The only trickle of hope is that a voice actor for Devastator has been announced so we have that to look forward to. Still, it was disconcerting and sad to see the Constructicons (only three of them to boot) reduced to speaking in mechanical tones and blinking lights.
From an animation standpoint I am not sure what is going on, but the framerate seems to go from choppy to smooth. There are some scenes where it feels like I'm watching a video that is buffering (I'm not, I've watched Netflix from the same computer and it is smooth and crisp). One example is the opening overhead shot of the arena leading to the battle. It feels almost like the video halts here and there. Then in other scenes, such as Windblade knocking Megatron down or Optimus and Megatron fighting where everything looks perfectly smooth. It's a bizarre inconsistency that tends to take me out of the episode for a moment. I will say however that Megatron's model is very cool, incorporating elements of his "Generations" and "Generation One" appearances.
Half way through the series and there are still huge questions lingering. I feel like at this point in the show we should know more than we do, and we should have seen more Combiners than we have. I am hoping this is an inflection point and that the show will go on an upward trajectory from here on forward.