For millions of years a race of military like robots have been locked in a brutal war. The two opposing factions are the heroic Autobots lead by Optimus Prime, and the evil Decepticons lead by Megatron. After years of fighting, both sides are facing extinction due to low energy reserves. Seeking a new power source, the Autobots plan a recon mission, but their ship is invaded by the Decepticon force, which causes their ship to crash into a volcano on earth. 4 million years later, they awaken from their dormant state to continue the war, with earth's resources being the ultimate prize and deciding factor of the war. -summary
Here goes another stellar collection of episodes that took place from the second season, which some consider to be the best season of the series. This volume Programmed for Evil focuses on the internal power struggle in the Decepticons between Megatron and Starscream. Ever since the beginning of the season, there had always been a possibilty that sooner or later Starscream will revolt and plan a takeover. Numerous times during the series, he acted on his personal goal to usurp Megatron's power. This volume collects two of those episodes, with Starscream's Brigade being the best, and Auto Berserk being pretty good, but not on the same level as Starscream's botched attempt in the episode Triple Takeover. In any case, these are some very entertaining episodes.
Like the second volume, the action isn't all these episodes have to offer, as you will see some good characterization. In Starscream's Brigade, Starscream berates Megatron on his inability to destroy the Autobots and win the war. He attempts to end Megatron's life, and as a result he's exiled. Starscream plots revenge, by breaking into the Decepticon detention center on Cybertron and freeing the personalty components of a renegade Decepticon unit called the Combaticons. From here, the battle of leadership begins.
Auto Berserk is a strange one, because it doesn't completely focus on Starscream, instead, it follows the Autobot Red Alert who feels betrayed by the Autobot Inferno, whom abandoned his post and as a result Red Alert suffers an injury that fries his logic circuits. He joins up with Starscream who's abandoned by Megatron in battle and together they plot revenge.
Both episodes are mainly driven by the stark characterization. In the former, Starscream shows how resourceful he is in proving that he's not only one of Megatron's mindless followers, by assembling a team that was able to fight against almost the entire Decepticon force. This episode is mainly remembered for the debut of the third Decepticon combiner Bruticus, who goes on to battle against Devastator. The action isn't the best you will ever see, fortunately it isn't boring either.
The latter episode examines Red Alert's paranoia, and the damage he suffers makes him even more paranoid than before. The action segments are a little better, however, the stand out in this episode for me is the power of Decepticon Soundwave. Alone with his cassettes, he was able to keep serious pressure on a size-able team of Autobots. One thing the second season did a lot better than the third, it took the time to develop a good portion of their characters and abilities. Instead of focusing on a small group day in and out. To include, Starscream's feud with Megatron continued to move up a notch, and this kept things so much interesting on another level.
The production values are solid for the most part, but there were lots of corners cut in the animation, which you can easily notice in the first episode. During the firefights, there was little to no movement at all, and because of this, the segments really weren't too intense for me. The second was better in this area, with physical play finding a way to be fit into the shootouts. I also like the slight differences in some character designs. Despite Red Alert being only a different colored version of Sideswipe, there are small details that sets him apart, such as the design of his face, and even the door placement in his robot mode. It isn't the same like the Seekers or even Prowl and Bluestreak who clearly look the same.
If I have any issues with this, it's actually the choice of episodes. Starscream's Brigade is only the first part of the story (ending with a cliffhanger), with the Revenge of Bruticus being the second part. Now I understand while that wouldn't necessarily be a Starscream episode; I really don't thinkAuto Berserk is a full-fledged Starscream episode either. And when looking at the fact Starscream was the one to set the gears in motion for the Revenge of Bruticus. It made more sense to add that episode, when it's a lot closer to a Starscream story than Auto Berserk. In any case, this situation isn't a big deal at all, because I recommend skipping this and going for the series to complete the story.
Pros: Two good stories, good characterization
Cons: Episode choice selection, not all the action is great
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