Transformers Prime: Season 3 (Blu-ray)
Shout! Factory / 2013 / 300 mins / TV-Y7
For the first time in almost two decades, Hasbro has won me back to their transforming robot franchise with Transformers Prime. With its top-notch production values and skillful direction, this has not only become one of my favorite Transformers cartoons, but one of my favorite action cartoons of the decade. And with this final season, I can state that with the utmost certainty.
The third season begins with one heck of a multi-part opener. Taking place directly after the events of season two, the Decepticons have succeeded in destroying the Autobot base and now have their own excruciatingly tall fortress on Earth known as Darkmount. The Autobots maintain radio silence while a severely injured Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) is cared for by Smokescreen. When the Decepticons reveal their latest weapon to be a newly revived form of animalistic robots known as the Predacons, the Autobots must eventually regroup with the help of their human allies and some new Autobots as well. But the Predacons are only the tip of the iceberg for what the Decepticons have planned.
Unlike previous seasons, this one felt much more focused on character rather than the usual plot of treasure hunting for epic relics. Now that most of the cool toys have already been introduced, the series finally has the opportunity to utilize them more as tools for great action scenes and less as MacGuffins. True, the plot is now more centered on the evolution of the Predacons and the eventual revival of Cybertron, but it keeps things fairly open for a lot of brilliant scenarios. For instance, I love how they took whole the concept of Dark Energon and turned it into a zombie outbreak scenario on the Decepticon warship with Starscream and Knockout fumbling to solve the emergency.
At one point it seems as though Smokescreen will take over as the new Prime of the Autobots, but he sacrifices that position to save Optimus and starts regretting it later. The new addition of the strictly-military Ultra Magnus (Michael Ironside) to the Autobots leads to a clash of rank and respect between him and the Wreckers of the group. Even the Predaking (Peter Mensah), which starts off as a brainless science experiment, turns into one of the most conflicted and intelligent characters of the whole season. And Bumblebee has one of his best moments of the whole series in the gripping finale with a major change to his character.
Strangely missing from this set is the feature-length finale, Predacons Rising, which resolves the remaining conflict with the Autobots, Decepticons and Predacons once the humans are out of the picture. Still, the finale of this last season will leave you quite satisfied simply for how many risks it takes and how many cool battles it stages. The series ends with the Autobots bidding farewell to their human companions as they set off to carve their own destiny on a new world. It's a fitting conclusion that left me not quite emotional, but proud that such a series is possible for television.
Shout! Factory seems more apt to deliver on some less-exclusive Blu-ray releases and it's nice to see them finally taking these chances (even if this is at the end of the Transformers run). Their 1080p transfer looks strikingly good as it perfectly showcases the best CGI ever rendered for television. The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is sufficient enough for a Blu-ray release with plenty of great sound effects and an epic score by Brian Tyler.
Special features include audio commentary and footage from the 2013 San Diego Comic-Con panel with the directors and producers.
Even without the inclusion of Predacons Rising, this is a strong final season to one of the best action cartoons on television. It's going to be tough for Hasbro to raise the bar after such a top-notch production as this one. I'm hopeful they can pull it off in the future, but, as it stands, this is the first Transformers series I've genuinely enjoyed since Beast Wars as a child. Hopefully, kids today will get that same thrill I received in the 1990's from Transformers Prime.