“Flying Mind” doesn’t particularly stick out. Its only function is to set up future plot lines (as if the “To Be Continued” didn’t clue you in). The rest of the episode involves a talking ship. It’s not as surreal as it sounds.
A flirt with Dark Energon restores the fallen Nemesis from a previous Insecticon invasion, with the bad side effect of installing self-awareness into it. The ship mutinies and freezes all the robots—Autobots and Decepticons alike—into stasis. Then it successfully decrypts a part of the still-unexplained Project Iacon files, revealing the locations of four ancient Cybertronian artifacts. With no Autobots available to sneak in and download the info, the mission unanimously lands on both Fowler and the kids’ laps. Fowler is taken out of commission early on (in fact, his overall presence is largely extraneous), leaving room for the true stars—the teenagers. Miko doesn’t do a whole lot and mostly follows her peers. Raf gets one moment when he guides Fowler to operate the hard drive with his tech-savvy knowledge, but Jack is the most defined.
Jack has been compared to Optimus Prime numerous times, but he hasn’t truly shown any leadership skills until now. As the reliable one, much of his past actions were based on instinct and clever resourcefulness. A healthy dose of hesitation and caution lingering in his mind kept him from successfully leading, but now he commands. He directly escorts his team as he elegantly and fearlessly deduces solutions with quick thinking. When his friends are in danger, he selflessly distracts the Nemesis and eventually ends the ship’s brief tyranny and sentience. With the data in hand, the Autobots must now race to the artifacts before the Decepticons do.
Other interesting moments involve Optimus Prime attempting an extreme method that strays from his usual rulebook when he plans to use the deadly Spark Extractor to kill Megatron. Ratchet continues to be my favorite Autobot with his sardonic personality and a temporary return to leadership that’s much improved from last time. For added awesome, Ratchet sneaks up behind Knockout when he’s caught Jack and delivers a well-aimed sucker punch. Dark Energon makes a surprising return (it was last seen in the season one finale). It’s not a necessary compliment to the plot anymore now that Unicron’s essentially bitten the dust, but it’s gratifying to see it just for the sake of acknowledging its existence and that it didn’t disappear into the Great Pile of Forgotten Plot Trinkets.
“Flying Mind” isn’t any more or less a game changer than others, but it can be. Everything could be solved in three to five episode if they wanted to – this has been season two’s pattern – but there’s that nagging sense that it’s something more. Not that multiple story arcs are a bad thing, but it dawned on me that Project Iacon could be a huge factor – if not the factor – for the grand finale. It’s been an important presence since the season two opener and frequently mentioned on and off throughout. The project is a big mystery and that in itself can raise anticipation. The last time some of its contents were decoded, the cast retrieved a couple artifacts. At best they were one-trick ponies and at worst; obtainable MacGuffins that merely pushed the plot. I’m afraid the next set of items might suffer the same fate. If Project Iacon is meant to be portrayed as something big, then we need it to be big. They have to go somewhere with this or it’ll all be anticlimactic.