Stuck in the Decepticon warship, Bulkhead must content with an Insecticon invasion while trying to find an exit. Meanwhile, Starscream clones himself to get his vengeance on Megatron.
“Armada” has all the makings of an adrenaline-pumped adventure, bringing a bunch of subplots to the fore. Airachid leads her swarm of Insecticons to the Decepticon warship Nemesis to assassinate Megatron; Starscream creates a set of clones to do the same. Bulkhead is caught in-between the feuding threesome and must find a way out before he’s caught. Unfortunately, the episode is nothing short of a chaotic mess. There are far too many plots that end up tangled and disorderly like a bungled knot, and not enough time to give them all the proper emotional weight and satisfying conclusions that they deserved.
The opener has Bulkhead gaining consciousness, only to find he’s in the Decepticon ship. How will he get out of this jam without rousing Decepticon attention? Will he try to take Megatron or any other major lieutenants down? We don’t get to hear or see his inner-dilemmas, decisions, or insight. His conclusion is straightforward and obvious with none of the flair: contact the Autobots. For a while, we’re under the illusion that “Armada” would be Bulkhead-centric. By the halfway point, he’s insultingly irrelevant; only occasionally does the episode cut back to him, as if to suddenly remember that he was even in the episode. Bulkhead’s role is secondary, especially when Arcee snatches up his starring role by the second half. For that matter, his brutal annihilation of Starscream (one of his clones, actually, but Bulkhead doesn’t know that) is less heroic justification and more coldblooded murder. He didn’t do it as an act of self-defense – Starscream barely had a chance to retaliate – he just lost his temper and beat him to death. Transformers Prime has never pushed its morality beyond the black and white view that Autobots are good andDecepticons are bad, so Bulkhead’s execution was morally reprehensible and at no point does he question his actions or realize the dark path he just took. The show expects us to just accept it. After all, it was the “good guy” killing the villain. Sorry, I don’t buy it.
Starscream deserves death, but how Bulkhead handled it is disturbing.
Arcee’s rivalry with Airachid spanned and culminated through several episodes and “Armada” serves to conclude it – or delay it given Airachid’s fate by the end – but it’s practically an afterthought. Her arc was emphasized and grew over time, so there’s a considerable amount of backup driving Arcee’s final decision. It’s a huge buildup, so the payoff had to be equally as large. In
reality it’s a middling finale that doesn’t do the arc justice, accomplishing its goal with a simple finger snap. Also, in a fit of irony, Arcee spares Airachid and traps her in an Insecticon pod (where she’s presumably frozen until God knows when) because in her own words, “I’m not like you [Airachid]”. Compare that to what Bulkhead did to Starscream. Their respective villain sendoff is staggeringly different when she refuses to kill out of vengeance because it’s not the Autobot way, while Bulkhead had no issue smashing Starscream’s head because he suffered a short fuse. Both incidents are treated as if they belong in the same good guy category. What’s the deal with that?
The Starscream clone arc possesses the most charisma; the five doppelgängers get into shenanigans and hijinxes as they comically sneak around the Nemesis. They bicker and consult amongst themselves and run around like headless chicken whenever a sentry draws near. It’s the most amusing segment to be sure, though I don’t understand how the real Starscream has a psychic connection with his duplicates when he doesn’t specifically link up with them.
About ten minutes into “Armada”, things dramatically shift from stealth mission between Bulkhead and Starscream to a full on war when Airachid suddenly arrives with the Insecticons. The battle is epic, but I hate the latter’s portrayal. For the sake of plot convenience, the Insections suffer Conversation of Ninjutsu syndrome. “Orion Pax: Part 3” and “Crossfire” clearly established that one drone is so strong, even a powerhouse like Megatron can’t defeat it so easily. Here an entire swarm flies by and they’re immediately downed by standard Autobot guns. It’s anticlimactic and completely subverts the threat these beasts present.
And where are the other major Decepticons? Where are Knockout, Dreadwing, and Soundwave? How do they feel during the assault? Only Megatron and his army of nameless, cannon fodder Vehicons appear onscreen. These three do not and we presumably have to take for granted that they were fighting for their lives.
What good is a full scale invasion of the Decepticon’s primary mothership when we don’t get to see all the players’ reactions?
In just a half-hour, “Armada” crammed at least three major story arcs that were worthy of their own episodes. This is only the tenth out of a planned twenty-six episode run for season two; there was plenty of room to flesh them out, so why are they all being solved in one go? I have no idea what direction this show is taking. It handles multiple stories, but opts to solve them three to five episodes later so they can trigger new stories likely to be wrapped up just as quickly. This pacing is ill-advised; by rushing everything out the door like this “Armada” and this current season is made into a cluttered wreck.