Show Runners: F. J. DeSanto, Brandon Easton
Review Author: Tony
Synopsis: Following the events of Siege, Megatron has become even more desperate trying to source energy on the dying Cybertron, resorting to immoral measures. Optimus and his ally Autobots are stranded in space, left to contemplate whether their last ditched effort was in Cybertron’s best interest. Meanwhile, Elita-1 and Jetfire fight every moment for survival after staying behind on Cybertron following Optimus Primes exodus with the AllSpark. The duo lead risky incursion on Decepticon territory, discovering they are imprisoning their own.
Chapter 1 (Siege) was a surprisingly mature take on the beloved Transformers series, which brought us back to Generation 1 glory. The first act was an ode to fans who’ve grown up with the franchise and rocked out to the killer theme song of the original series. A sort of origin story dropping us into the endgame of the war for Cybertron, where the Decepticons are the victors, but at the cost of ravaging the planet. Siege was a fantastic reintroduction to several of the series beloved characters; one that developed in unexpected ways and portrayed many in a different light. There are few certainties in life other than death, taxes and Megatron being a colossal dick, but Chapter 1 gave his character layers. Earthrise continues this development but only really zones in on Optimus Prime and Megatron’s story arcs at the cost of others, notably Bumblebee, who was a big focus in Siege.
One of my biggest gripes with Siege was the lack of polish and variety from the animation. Character models, outside of the main line-up, were recycled far too often and became distracting. Also, other than the occasional decent hand-drawn background, the overall backdrops were dull and uninspired. Earthrise is an even worse offender with no real stand out sequences to display the fluidity of 3D action scenes and somehow even more drab backgrounds and environments. The overall scale just feels smaller and less risky compared to Siege.
Overall, chapter 2 suffers from lesser writing and inconsistent pacing. Earthrise starts strong with the opening episode, showing the fallout of the events in Siege. Megatron carries the weight of keeping his kin alive, forced to make drastic decisions, becoming more villainous out of necessity. Meanwhile, the stranded Autobots fighting for their last bit of moral superiority over the Decepticons, liberating prison camps containing their own. It’s great stuff that feels like a natural branch off from Siege, but then we catch up with Optimus and his crew and the show takes a drastic dip in quality. This arc becomes centre focus for 3 entire episodes and crams in a bunch of new characters, including fan favourites, but they only feel tacked on rather than aid the narrative. This season very much feels like a poor bridging to the last act of the trilogy.
Earthrise has flashes of brilliance which are unfortunately offset by far too much filler material and poor pacing. While the season picks up in the last 2 episodes, it’s a little too late to save an overall disappointing follow-up to a solid first act. That’s not to say my excitement has dwindled for the last season of this trilogy, Kingdom which looks to expand on another beloved series of the Transformers franchise and carve its own finale that hopefully retains the mature tone and character development this series has encompassed.