*This review includes Pilot Part 1 and Pilot Part 2 of Transformers: RID.
The Transformers are back. The new season, not to be confused with the 2001 iteration of Robots in Disguise, is technically a sequel series to Transformers: Prime, albeit not quite as dark or edgy. Still, this series has enough action, humor, and mystery to continue to enthrall Transformers enthusiasts.
During a routine mission on Cybertron, Bumblebee is called upon by a ghost image of Optimus Prime to return to Earth for a new mission. Believing Prime to be dead (as he sacrificed himself in last year’s Predacon Rising movie), he infiltrates a museum holding an old space bridge portal. Reluctantly alongside new recruit Strongarm and wisecracking, attitude infused Sideswipe, they travel to Earth in an attempt to find out why Bumblebee is needed.
The cell-shaded animation of the show is superb, which adds a lot more color and richness to the show than in it’s CGI predesessor. Bumblebee is now in command, with voice actor Will Friedle reprising the role from his short time in Prime. Darren Criss and Constance Zimmer take on the roles of Sideswipe and Strongarm, respectively, and they mold into the roles quite well. Whether intentional or not, I enjoy the likeness they give Strongarm to her Rescue Bots counterpart, Chase. Both are police-type vehicles and can be found talking about law, duty, and regulation. Meanwhile, Sideswipe is the equivalent of a teenage bad boy, who doesn’t care for rules and does what he wants. Once on Earth, he’s the one who first befriends the human Russell and forms a bond with him.
As of now, Russell and his father Denny are the only primary humans on the show. That could change at any time, but I like the emphasis they put on the Transformers. Prime did this well too, using only a handful of human characters to interact with the Autobots throughout the course of the series.
These first two pilot episodes comprised satisfying action along with humor and an interesting story. An Autobot security/prison ship crashed on Earth, letting loose a horde of angry, vengeful Decepticons. When Bumblebee and team locate the site, we meet Fixit, who had been assigned to the prison ship and in turn acts as the team’s information bot and engineer. As for the prisoners, the first two we meet is Underbite, the primary antagonist of the first two episodes, and in a surprising turn, Grimlock, who originates as a Decepticon in this series, but for untold reasons joins Bumblebee’s team(oh, and he really likes to punch stuff).
The only aspect of the pilot episodes I didn’t care for was Underbite himself, a beast bot that transformers into a kind of car-tank hybrid. To me, he felt like more a Decepticon subordinate than a primary villain, and though his voice and attitude were fun, they also felt a little over the top. I question how far the show can go without a lead villain like Megatron or Starscream, but since we’re only two episodes in, with hundreds of escaped prisoners, there’s plenty of time to figure it out.
The first two episodes of Robots in Disguise delivered an enjoyable experience that both my son and I enjoyed. I look forward to seeing how Bumblebee handles command, having so little experience with it, and what exactly is going on with Optimus Prime and whether he’s a ghost image or more than that. Though not in the main cast, we do know Optimus will play a pivotal role going forward, maybe a kind of Obi-Wan Kenobi mentor role? The only way to find out is to keep watching, which I intend to.
Transformers: Robots in Disguise airs on Cartoon Network, Saturdays at 6:30am.