[TV Show Review] ‘Transformers: Robots in Disguise’ Season 2 drops the ball with Optimus Prime

Autobots in Transformers: Robots in Disguise Season 2. (Dailymotion)
Autobots in Transformers: Robots in Disguise Season 2. (Dailymotion)

Should you watch select episodes and Wiki the rest? Yes, watch episodes 1, 2, 10, 12, and 13.

Should you watch the entire season? No.

Score: 2.75/5

Number of episodes: 13

Episode length: ~20 minutes

Autobots roll out in Transformers: Robots in Disguise Season 2. (Coming Soon)
Autobots roll out in Transformers: Robots in Disguise Season 2. (Coming Soon)

“Transformers: Robots in Disguise” is a 2D animated action drama about the Transformers in the “Aligned” continuity, specifically about Bumblebee’s team on Earth as they attempt to recapture the Decepticons who escaped from the prison ship, the Alchemor. It serves as a sequel to “Transformers: Prime”. Season 2 aired in 2016.

The second season sees the Autobots split into two groups as they attempt to reunite. Meanwhile, Steeljaw schemes his way into a new group of Decepticons. It features the voice talents of Will Friedle (Bumblebee), Constance Zimmer (Strongarm), Darren Criss (Sideswipe), Peter Cullen (Optimus Prime), Mitchell Whitfield (Fixit), Khary Payton (Grimlock), Eric Bauza (Drift), Roger Craig Smith (Slipstream, Jetstorm), Kristy Wu (Windblade), Troy Baker (Steeljaw), Fred Tatsciore (Saberhorn), Victor Brandt (Scorponok), and Grey Griffin (Glowstrike).

Bumblebee and Ratchet in Transformers: Robots in Disguise Season 2. (Dailymotion)
Bumblebee and Ratchet in Transformers: Robots in Disguise Season 2. (Dailymotion)

Admittedly, I took my time with this one because I didn’t like how Optimus Prime was characterised here. To be clear, it’s not that I expect Optimus Prime to be some sort of perfect, flawless saint – his characterisation in “Transformers: Animated” as a leader who grew in power as he did in character was a good progression. It’s just that in this season, Optimus Prime is incredibly dislikable, possibly so that Bumblebee gets the spotlight. It becomes this zero sum game, when it could have been about both Optimus Prime and Bumblebee.

Autobots return in Transformers: Robots in Disguise Season 2. (TFW2005)
Autobots return in Transformers: Robots in Disguise Season 2. (TFW2005)

Highlights

Soundwave & Ratchet

It’s pretty cool to see characters from the previous series return as upgraded, cooler characters. Well, it’s more like Ratchet was upgraded, Soundwave was severely nerfed in power. Then again, Soundwave from “Transformers: Prime” would have flattened Bumblebee’s team in two nanoseconds. Ratchet’s backstory hints at a possible conspiracy or treason within the ranks of the ruling Autobots on Cybertron, and I hope that they follow up on this plot thread in later seasons.

Loads of Decepticons

Season 1 followed this “Deception of the Day” format, which got old after awhile. The Autobots aren’t Power Rangers or some sort of bishoujo team. So it’s cool that in Season 2, the Decepticons were portrayed as a large, powerful force to be reckoned with, rather than one giant monster to be defeated week after week. Kudos to the escalated threat of the Decepticons!

Ratchet in Transformers: Robots in Disguise Season 2. (Dailymotion)
Ratchet in Transformers: Robots in Disguise Season 2. (Dailymotion)

Steeljaw’s scheming

Steeljaw was constantly described as charismatic in all his bios. However, besides his pretty amazing voice, he wasn’t really all that persuasive as he was a brute. Here, you really see him scheme his way up from being a pawn to being in a position of power. His character arc was far more compelling than the Autobots, and the way he manoeuvred around Glowstrike and Saberhorn was pretty engaging to watch.

Stronger connection to “Transformers: Prime”

Again, in Season 1, we all knew that it was a sequel to “Transformers: Prime”… but the show never really behaved that way. It felt as if it was trying to ride on the fame of “Transformers: Prime” to gain an audience, but didn’t want to forge too strong a connection in case the show tanked and they had to retcon it to being a separate series.

In this season, with the appearance of Soundwave, Ratchet, and numerous references to events and characters from “Transformers: Prime”, it finally feels like they’re acknowledging the preceding series and forging stronger links between the two shows.

Decepticons rise up in Transformers: Robots in Disguise Season 2. (TFW2005)
Decepticons rise up in Transformers: Robots in Disguise Season 2. (TFW2005)

Letdowns

Optimus Prime’s characterisation as an out-of-touch old geezer

Optimus Prime is shown to be incredibly stubborn and daft. Remember that he’s the leader of the Autobots, and is always able to put the needs of the team before himself. Here, he behaves like some sort of outdated Baby Boomer who’s constantly cantankerous and, dare I say it, even useless at times. I know he came back from the dead and everything, but geez. Optimus Prime hasn’t been gone that long, and he isn’t that bad a leader to understand when he’s jeopardising the mission.

It really soured the show for me, because it set Bumblebee up to be some sort of Mary Sue who eventually rises against his bully (Optimus Prime). We didn’t need to see Optimus Prime being reduced to some doddering old fogey just so that Bumblebee could be awesome. Why not just write Optimus Prime out of the show if they didn’t want him around?

Retreads Sideswipe and Drift’s relationship arc

If Sideswipe and Drift’s arguments sound familiar, that’s because we heard them before. In Season 1. They had the same issues, same fights, and same resolution. It feels stale because it is a rehash of what has happened before. Did their memory banks get wiped or something?

Bumblebee and Optimus Prime’s conflict

The problem with their conflict is that it’s unjustified. Bumblebee is constantly pining for Optimus Prime to lead in Season 1, but when it actually happens, he’s pissed off in Season 2. It’s inconsistent with what we know of Bumblebee idolising Optimus Prime. Then we have Optimus Prime, who seems like he’s been gone for a millennia and no longer knows how his body works. He’s always been appreciative and caring towards Bumblebee, especially in “Transformers: Prime”, so why is he acting so pushy and, dare I say it again, useless?

They’re both amiable, friendly characters to boot. In fact, besides for Drift, all of the Autobots are pretty easy to get along with. That just makes it even worse when you see them bickering like a pair of old men. What gives?

Autobots in Transformers: Robots in Disguise Season 2. (Dailymotion)
Autobots in Transformers: Robots in Disguise Season 2. (Dailymotion)

“Transformers: Robots in Disguise” Season 2 really drops the ball with Optimus Prime.


Marcus Goh is a Transformers enthusiast and avid pop culture scholar. You can find him on social media as Optimarcus and on his site.

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  1. Yep agree with a lot of what you said. I’m enjoying it still and looking forward to the mini series three Starscream arc. I recorded it for my 18 month son who loves RID (the deluxe figures are really good though, especially Bumblebee, amazing in either transformation, plus Drift is pretty awesome too). Although I prefer the movie and G1 season one, this has potential to be great, I know proper season 3 Combiner Force had been announced, if they improve the story (I like the characters) and move prime to another planet we could have a really strong Transformers series.

  2. Some very fair points all around, but I have to disagree that the show made Optimus dislikeable or useless. His weakened body is a handicap the other autobots and he himself have to work around, but in the very second episode of the season he already proves to the others that he still has his smarts and experience and that is enough to capture the polar bear con, in the very next episode he proves to Windblade who was worried about him that he once again can turn a weakness into a strenght and fools the predatory decepticons before beating them. By their third episode he is already back to normal.

    He is stubborn because he wants to help because he is who he is, I didn’t find that a show of Optimus’s being an egotist as much as someone that is so used to being the martyr and the leader. He said it himself, he did not wish to disrespect Bumblebee, but he genuinely felt he wasn’t ready for the new challenge. I was more than happy with how he was portrayed in the season, specially his strategical and experienced demeanor which is something he lacked severely in TRANSFORMERS PRIME, which was a show that thought that “making him do speeches and scream heroically when raf/earth/bumblebee gets hurt is enough”.

    • I feel that Optimus Prime continues being antagonistic towards Bumblebee even after his issues in the first few episodes are resolved. It’s true that he does the “turning weakness into a strength” beat later, but it felt hollow and rather forced. Also, Optimus has been a follower before, so it’s not like he doesn’t know what to do or how he should behave. I agree that he has more gravitas this season though.

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