Transformers: Robots in Disguise (2015)
Transformers is an extremely popular American, science-fiction franchise based on toys produced by the American toy company, Hasbro, and the Japanese toy company, Takara Tomy. The Transformers toys are a line of shifting mecha toys based on the idea that extraterrestrial groups of sentient robotic lifeforms have come to Earth to continue an ongoing civil war. The original Transformers storyline pits the Autobots, otherwise known as the protagonists, and the Decepticons against each other. The original toys released took the form of cars that one could transfigure to become more humanlike in that the Transformers would become bipedal and reveal what looks like a face. Later in the movie and cartoon series, though, Transformers expanded to include other general mechanical objects.
Transformers: Robots in Disguise the Animated TV Series
Transformers was soon adapted to the small screen as it was made into an animated television series. The show, Transformers: Prime, follows the Autobots and Decepticons’ struggle on Earth. In the first series, they discover that Earth is actually the body of Unicron, an eternal being known as the Lord of Chaos and the Planet Eater, forcing them to momentarily unite. In the end, the Autobots are able to gather the four Omega keys that form the Omega Lock to harness the power of Primus, which is enough to restore their once destroyed homeworld of Cybertron. This immense release of power ultimately awakens Unicron, causing the Autobots, Decepticons, and the Predacons (beast-like Decepticon hunters) to unite under Bumblebee, the new leader of the Autobots, and Predaking, the leader of the Decepticons.
In 2015, a new series was released as a sequel to Transformers: Prime. It was to be called Transformers: Robots in Disguise, and it would follow Bumblebee as he travels back to Earth following the crash-landing of the prison ship, Alchemore. As he is put in charge of finding and gathering the escaped Decepticon prisoners, Bumblebee must take charge of a new team of Autobots. This series was organized into three seasons throughout the show’s runtime, each of which contained over twenty episodes.
This season followed a pretty specific structure in which new episodes would feature a new Decepticon enemy to challenge the Bee Team, only to be somehow defeated and returned to a stasis pod for storage while the remaining prisoners are captured. In general, the villains featured in every episode had very little in common with each other, aside from the fact that they were escaped prisoners from Alchemore.
The storyline of season one obviously evolved throughout its runtime to vary slightly from this new episode, new villain structure to include more complex, overarching themes and recurring character traits. For instance, one particular focus of the season was Bumblebee’s difficulty with being a leader to his new team. This was a struggle that he had to constantly overcome and develop. Other subplots included the rivalry between Strongarm and Sideswipe, two of the Autobots on the Bee Team, and other team members’ problems like Grimlock’s difficulty in finding an Earth disguise or Fixit’s glitching problem. These subplots were vital to the main plot as they created obstacles for the Bee Team to overcome throughout the course of the episodes in order to complete their mission.
Furthermore, over the run of the first season, the viewers watch as the Autobots are able to strengthen as they invite new talent onto the team, such as the bounty hunter Drift, his Mini-Cons Jetstorm and Slipstream, Windblade, and Optimus Prime, brought back from death to defeat Megatronus.
This season of Transformers: Robots in Disguise saw Bumblebee’s team fracture into two separate groups. One group becomes an “away team” that is tasked with searching the universe for Decepticons while the other team, consisting of Bumblebee, Strongarm, Grimlock, and Fixit, must maintain their position near Crown City and defend it. The aftermath of an embarrassing defeat at the hands of Megatronus, the last season’s main villain leads Steeljaw to ally with a group of Decepticons with the plan of seizing control of the group for himself.
This season breaks away from the structure of the first season and strives to create more continuity with its predecessor series, Transformers: Prime. It does so by featuring more frequent references to the first series, as well as allowing the return of several recurring characters from the first series. Rather than focusing on a new villain each week, season two puts more emphasis on an overarching threat, that of Decepticon Island, the group of Decepticons operating out of the crashed Alchemor.
In addition, this season collaborated more with the Transformers toy line that was being released and updated at the time. Not only did the season feature recurring characters from the first season that had their own figures, but it also featured new Mini-Con and Deployer characters that had each received a new toy figure. The emphasis placed on Mini-Cons in this season carried over as what many fans consider a spin-off mini-series of episodes that are grouped into the show as Season 2 ½. This small half-season sees the return of Starscream, the Air Commander of Cybertron’s best air warriors, who has partnered with a group of Decepticon Scavengers who seek peculiar Mini-Con Weaponizers hidden somewhere on Earth along with other abandoned Cybertron relics.
This season is titled “Combiner Force” and it sees Bumblebee and his team attempting to harness the power of combination to defeat their new enemy, the Stunticons. Throughout this season, there is an overall theme in which there’s a “Con of the Week” as caches set up by Windblade contain Decepticons who happen to escape and require recapture. This follows the departure of Alchemor, thus requiring a new avenue of villains for the team to face. Other episodes throughout this season of Transformers: Robots in Disguise feature Decepticons or other antagonists coming to Earth with the intent to get revenge on the Bee Team.
The second half of this season, pretty distinctively focuses on the conflict surrounding corruption on Cybertron that had been developing over the course of the entire series. A mysterious benefactor on Cybertron pardons Steeljaw and his group and sends them back to Earth where they ally with Soundwave to capture Autobots. This new antagonistic group led by Steeljaw forces the Autobots to find a new base after nearly destroying the Scrapyard. The season from this point generally focuses solely on this conflict, coming to a series conclusion to wrap up this dispute.
The Series Finale
The Transformers: Robots in Disguise series comes to a close with a two-part series finale that sees the Bee Team return to Cybertron to battle the corrupt High Council that allowed for Steeljaw’s benefactors. It is revealed that the High Council is actually Decepticons disguised as Autobots. The Bee Team comes together to form Ultra Bee, finally mastering the power of Combiner Force to take down the Council’s combined form. Cybertron is finally freed and the new High Council is left to the command of Ratchet after Optimus decides not to lead. The Bee Team then returns to Earth to continue to be its protectors.
Recurring Autobot Characters
- Bumblebee – The protagonist of the Transformers: Robots in Disguise series, who can transform into a black and yellow Griffin Motors 1995 Windblazer, a car that is very similar to a Chevrolet Camaro. He is the leader of the Autobot team on Earth tasked with maintaining balance and capturing escaped Decepticon prisoners. Throughout the series, viewers see his confidence as a leader grow and develop from his initial state of discomfort, represented through his inability to think of an appropriate rallying cry for his team.
- Sideswipe – One of the team members on the Bee Team. Considered to be the bad boy of the group. He transforms into a red street-racing sports car that matches his rebellious attitude. Throughout the series, he constantly has problems with authority and can be described as impulsive and short-tempered. Despite his apparent uncaring disposition, he is an incredibly loyal teammate.
- Strongarm – Strongarm originally was a cadet in the Cybertronian Elite Guard. She transforms into a blue and white modified police pickup truck. She can be described as being very law-abiding as she is always concerned with following protocol. Throughout the series, she is shown to have a very conflict-ridden relationship with Sideswipe as the two have completely different viewpoints.
- Grimlock – A Dinobot who transforms into a mechanical Tyrannosaurus. He essentially serves as the team’s muscle, as he is not very intelligent and uses brawn over brain in most conflicts. Despite starting as a Decepticon for committing property damage, he is able to gain the team’s trust, allowing him to become an Autobot.
- Drift – An Autobot bounty hunter who transforms into an orange samurai-like car and also started as a Decepticon that came to Earth to collect the bounty placed on Bumblebee. He has a very honorable disposition that makes him similar to that of a samurai. However, this occasionally puts him at a disadvantage as his honorable tendencies often lead him to fight fairly as well.
- Fixit – A Mini-Con who can be described as both hyperactive and faulty-wired. He guards Alchemor and eventually serves as the caretaker and medic for the Autobots. He does not take the form of a proper vehicle because of his small size, so he takes on the shape of a variety of tools instead.
- Optimus Prime – Bumblebee’s mentor, the former leader of the Autobots, and the last of the Primes. He is resurrected by the Primes of the past in this series to stop Megatronus, who was trying to destroy both Earth and Cybertron. After his resurrection, he joins the Bee Team on Earth before becoming the leader of the Away Team to hunt Decepticons elsewhere in the universe.
Major Recurring Decepticon Characters
- Steeljaw – A Decepticon who transforms into a wolf-like off-road vehicle and appears as the main antagonist throughout the Transformers: Robots in Disguise series. He was imprisoned in Alchemor for attempting to incite a rebellion, and he wishes to turn Earth into a haven for Decepticons to live away from the Autobots. Later in the series, he joins a group of Decepticon fugitives after facing an embarrassing defeat at the hands of Megatronus. With this group, called Decepticon Island, he is pardoned by the corrupt High Council on Cybertron to capture Bumblebee and his team. At the end of the series, Steeljaw has still evaded the capture of the Bee Team.
- Glowstrike – An Insecticon who transforms into a robotic firefly. She possesses the ability to fire energy blasts from her hands, and she leads a group of fugitive Decepticons based in a crashed section of Alchemor. She is eventually overthrown as the leader of Decepticon Island by Steeljaw and is eventually captured by the Autobots.
- Starscream – The Air Commander of Decepticon Seekers who transforms into a fighter jet. Starscream is set free and released when he is discovered in a lab where he and many other Weaponizer Mini-Cons were kept in statis. He strives to reclaim other Weaponizers in order to acquire the power to enact revenge on Megatron. He’s eventually defeated by the Autobots, who are helped by the Aerobolt Power Surge that links with Optimus Prime.
- Soundwave – A Decepticon spy who can transform into a blue drone UAV aircraft. Soundwave is allied with the same benefactors from Cybertron that worked to pardon Steeljaw. After getting a new body and building the Beacon Generator to try and bring Megatron back, Soundwave is still eventually defeated by Bumblebee.
- Cyclonus – The leader of the Autobot High Council and the main antagonist of the entire show, who causes most of the underlying problems. He can transform into a Cybertronian starfighter and plots to destroy the Bee Team.
Other members of the Autobot High Council include Cyberwarp, Skyjack, Treadshock, and Riotgear.
Reception by the Public
Debuting as a sequel to a well-loved and critically-acclaimed animated series, Transformers: Robots in Disguise had high expectations. It was generally well-received by the fandom despite some criticism of the show’s very formulaic, episodic nature. Though most fans don’t see this sequel as matching the precedent set by the original series, it was still considered a decent continuation of the Transformers storyline.