Transformers: War for Cybertron: Earthrise Review

“The Allspark is somewhere out there, and it’s because of my actions.”

(This review is mostly spoiler-free, but as always, if you want to go in completely blind, do not read this.)

In the summer of 2020, Netflix premiered a new Transformers animated show, called the War for Cybertron Trilogy, and based on the original toy line and subsequent video game. Season 1 of WFC was titled Siege, and it followed the final days of the Autobot-Decepticon war for their home planet of Cybertron, before they eventually make their way to Earth. Season 2, titled Earthrise, picks up right where Siege left off, and continues the story in surprisingly deep and philosophical ways, even if Earthrise is much lighter on action and spectacle than Siege.

When we last left the Autobots and Decepticons in Siege, the Autobots had split into two teams, with one staying on Cybertron to continue the resistance against Megatron and his Decepticons, and the other team following Optimus Prime on a possible suicide mission to retrieve the Allspark, the age-old MacGuffin of the Transformers franchise capable of creating life and powering Cybertron. Earthrise begins a short while after this, with the Decepticons having established a government over the entire planet, the few Autobots remaining on the planet struggling to fight back, and Optimus’ team adrift in space. Like Siege, Earthrise is a brisk 6 episodes, of only 22 minutes each, but each episode manages to pack in ample development for the core cast as well as plenty of action to satisfy fans of the franchise.

The series focuses on three perspectives: the Autobot resistance (pictured above) led by Elita-1 remaining on Cybertron, Megatron’s Decepticons, and the Autobots in space led by Optimus Prime. Although we don’t spend much time with Elita-1’s group of Autobots, they’re given enough agency and reason to get us to care about their plight, and the hopelessness of having five Autobots against a planet-wide government of Decepticons. As for those very Decepticons, they’re only superficially in command, as Megatron wrestles with the burdens of being forced to take desperate measures in order to keep Cybertron running in the absence of the Allspark. More than any other Transformers show or film that isn’t the original 1980s cartoon, Megatron is a fully realized and sympathetic character, and a far cry from the garbled and generically evil antagonist that’s been featured so recently in Michael Bay’s movies. Although Big M starts to regress a little bit towards the end of Earthrise into a hammy villain, it’s hard not to see where many of his decisions and reasoning would make sense, to the point where you’re maybe starting to think that Optimus Prime might not be a paragon of truth and justice.

Don’t worry, this isn’t a spoiler! It’s in the trailer. But yes, fan favorite Galvatron makes a cameo appearance.

Speaking of Optimus Prime and his Autobots, they’re on the short end of the stick during all of Earthrise. From running out of fuel, to being set upon by mercenaries, to having their leader question what he’s even doing, the Autobots just suffer one massive setback after another, but it’s not all bad. The beleaguered Bumblebee, a highlight of Siege, continues to impress here, sharing some key moments with Optimus as well as getting to take charge of the Autobot contingent when Optimus is otherwise occupied, helping him towards his ultimate destiny as a loyal Autobot soldier. As for Prime, his usual quiet stoicism and steady, if firm, demeanor in other depictions of him throughout the franchise is sparse, replaced by a heightened sense of depression and some bursts of intense rage. Where Siege doubled down on the burgeoning leadership ability of Prime, and his battle to do what was best for his people, he takes a 180 in Earthrise, and makes some really stupid choices that almost cost the Autobots any chance at recovering the Allspark.

Verdict:

Transformers: War for Cybertron: Earthrise is a much slower burn than it’s initial chapter, but uses that to great effect, fleshing out and humanizing the eponymous Transformers with plenty of depth. While much lighter on action and the big, bombastic battles that fans of the franchise have come to expect, Earthrise nevertheless helps to push the story along, and sets up the miniseries nicely to conclude in the final installment, Kingdom.

Score: 7/10

Let me know what you thought of the show in the comments below!

Disclaimer: I do not own any of these images. RoosterTeeth and Netflix own these images!

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