Binge 'n' Purge - Transformers: Robots in Disguise Season 1
Freak of the Week.
You follow up one of the best, most epic Transformers TV series with a show that boils down to a very weak Freak of the Week trope.
Look, I could give you the short, short version of this review simply by telling you that this is time I’m never going to get back in my life, but, since I had to go through hours of Transformers: Robots in Disguise, well, I should probably try at the very least to air some intelligent, well worded commentary on the matter. [Because, you know, a grown up criticizing a children’s TV show…yeah, that’s fertile ground for intelligent, well worded commentary. How exactly does one convey the rolling of eyes via text? – Ed.]
Transformers Prime, in my opinion, while not perfect, was awfully close. Yes, Miko was insanely annoying…but there was so much good to counter that. Sure, it got dark but it always managed to inject some levity in order to keep from being pitch black. Now, that said, yes, I can understand why the producers and Hasbro thought that they should pull it back a bit and lighten things up. Hey, I remember Transformers: Animated…it was light and fun and I was generally a fan…so I’m not one of the usual internet trolls that demands that children’s programming be tailor made for my sensibilities. And throughout the first season of RiD, I was willing to forgive the other tropes this show fell into…hard. Grown-ups are idiots and only kids can save the day? Check…but it’s Cartoon Network, so not totally unexpected. I’d wager had this been done on one of Disney’s channels, it actually could’ve been worse. [Not seeing how that’s possible. – Ed.] Bumblebee’s recurring search of a rallying cry and always falling flat? Ugh…but that’s like, what, 2 to 5 seconds of every episode? Just push through and persevere. The Autobots not entirely being well rounded characters but instead being caricatures with one or two defining traits? Check. Bumblebee’s the unsure leader always questioning himself because he can’t live up to the standard set by Optimus Prime. We’ve had this already, it was called Rodimus Prime. Not a single person I’ve talked to who was a kid at the time found it enjoyable. At all. So why do we have to go through this again? Because it’s Bumblebee…oh, well, that makes a world of difference, please, continue. [Workin’ that sarcasm awfully hard bud, aren’t you? – Ed.] Next we have Strongarm, a by-the-book police type. While it’s nice to see that she doesn’t fall into the stereotypical girl Autobot stigma of transforming into something sleek or small…instead turning into a police SUV, well, again, her characterization is overly simple. Sideswipe’s your standard “I’m too cool for this” character. Fixit is the quirky mini-con that’s the main liaison between the ‘bots and the current round of adopted humans. And, as usual, if there’s gonna be a dinobot, you can bet they’re the muscle…and they’re stupid. Sure enough, Grimlock fits that role. Optimus plays an Obi-Wan Kenobi sort of role…all force-ghosty and stuff…but eventually returns (as he always does)…but when he finally does, he does not take over from Bumblebee, but instead allows himself to fall under Bee’s command. While I recognize that this is something new and should be congratulating it for breaking the cycle of Optimus always being in command…I absolutely F-ing hate it. Could you imagine Optimus returning in G1 and opting to follow Rodimus? Aw HELL NO. Yeah, it doesn’t work here either.
On the one hand, plot structure like this with the very thinnest of seasonal arcs as well as the characters with minimal depth is very reminiscent of old school G1…I get that. But our storytelling sensibilities have moved on, haven’t they? Even kid’s programming has moved into the serialized storytelling and well-rounded characters that have become rather widespread. I certainly get that with such a heavy show like Transformers Prime that producers might want to lighten things up a bit…but Robots In Disguise really seems to aim low in its storytelling. The reason this bugs me so much is the fact that there’s already a show out there that has this youthful, child-friendly, light sensibility…it’s called Transformers Rescue Bots. It feels like we’re getting a double dose of the same thing but being told it’s different.
Ultimately, no, I certainly can’t recommend this show if you’re over, say, 10. There are lots of kids’ shows out there that have a writing that doesn’t talk down to its audience and ends up being excellent all-ages fare…something kids, their parents and weird nerdy adults like me can all enjoy. This show isn’t that…probably the farthest thing from it. The good news is that like any other iteration of Transformers, this too shall come to an end and be replaced by something else. Yeah, I’ll buy the seasons because I’m a completist (c’mon, I own the Energon boxed set, that gives you an indication of my so-called ‘standards’)…and sure, I’ll watch ‘em too. But heed my Jacob Marley-like advice…don’t make my mistakes…stay away…stay awaaaaaaaaaaaay.