Bulkhead searches for the next Relic while battling Insecticons.
Last episode ended with a pivotal scene where Bulkhead’s fate was left ambiguous; the general presumption would be that “Toxicity” would provide the answer. It fittingly utilizes a standard, but considerable “How did he get there” scenario. Bulkhead locates the next Relic, but discovers it to be a deadly Energon toxin. With an Insecticon named Hardshell on his trail, Bulkhead must dump it before anyone can get their grubby hands on it.
Bulkhead is pretty far down in my “Favorite Characters” list. I mentioned in my previous recap that his particular archetype (The Big Guy) isn’t a trope I personally cherish. Sadly, that’s all there is to him and he rarely elevates from it. He does get a neat moment with Fowler. Since they both possess similar combat backgrounds, they have an instant rapport with each other. What’s even neater is that we finally get to see how all four episodes connect chronologically from Fowler’s point of view. Bulkhead does get a definite turning point, but not from Fowler. Appropriately, it’s Miko.
Miko and Bulkhead’s friendship tends to favor the former in terms of development and emotional viewpoints. The show goes out of its way to simultaneously emphasize how loyal and broken she is whenever Bulkhead is in danger. In contrast, Bulkhead mostly plays glorified babysitter. He’s just as concerned and steadfast, but he doesn’t really gain anything new in the growth process. There’s no unexpected and vulnerable crying from his end (though robots probably can’t cry). A lot of what he does for Miko here doesn’t break any fresh grounds either, but this time it effectively works for both his character and the story. It’s believable when Bulkhead is concerned for her safety; he constantly worries and yearns for her company. When he’s down on his last legs, he is motivate to finish the mission just to see her again. You want to root for him to beat the odds and accomplish his goal. It’s the best I can expect from his character and gives the episode a heart and soul. Ultimately, its also the biggest sign that he may never see her again.
“Toxicity” spends its time pushing Bulkhead to his limits, ominously hinting that he may not get a second chance this time around. Right from the start, I got a nagging feeling something was up when Miko told Bulkhead that they will reunite and trade tales of their adventure. The other scene where I felt the same occurs during Bulkhead’s flashback montage. Unless it’s a clip show, you don’t just replay someone’s best moments without foreshadowing their swan song. It’s like the plot is tempting fate. The clues are all there. Everything is perfectly laid out to say that yes, Bulkhead is likely going to buy the harp farm. In that regard, it matters little if he’s someone I care for or not; if he doesn’t die after all that build-up, the entire setup will be cheap. It will be manipulating emotions for the sake of manipulating emotions.
Regrettably, it never reveals his final fate at all and ends exactly the same way “Triage” did, further teasing (or testing) the audience’s patience for some unfathomable reason. Why was it necessary to drag it out further? Last episode’s cliffhanger was meant to draw out anticipation so the next one can solve it. Instead, all that build-up culminates to nothing. It kills the overall mood it was setting up for and ruins the piece as a whole. It’s anticlimactic. I still hope Bulkhead will die just so the emotional residue will be fully realized because right now, I feel cheated. To paraphrase Comic Book Guy: Worst Ending Ever.