Sunday, June 5, 2016

More Thoughts on Steeljaw (also, birthday!)

Hey guys. I'm back with some more of my dorky over-analyzation! Huzzah! Ok, before I go on with the post though, I'll have you know that as of May 20th, I am now of legal driving age! At least in Malaysia. By American standards, I've been of legal driving age for little over a year now. Anyway, let's talk about Steeljaw.

So, in my last RiD 2015 post, I gave my overall view on the series, and this included my thoughts on Steeljaw. My thoughts remain relatively unchanged, but there is something I want to add to it.

As amazingly silver tongued and manipulative Steeljaw is, there was something about him that never sat well with me. Like I mentioned in my last post, I didn't feel like he was being used to his full potential as a villain. It wasn't until I finally took the time to watch the Orion Pax arc in Transformers Prime that it hit me. There is nothing personal in the rivalry between Bumblebee and Steeljaw. And everything I say from here on out is at the risk of me sounding like an uneducated idiot, but please, hear me out.

I'm unsure how to explain this in a well articulated way… Some of the best villain/hero rivalries are characterized from how they interact with each other. And I can't really say much about how Bumblebee and Steeljaw interact beyond 'meh.'

Bumblebee doesn't seem to regard Steeljaw as anything more than another convict, albeit a dangerously persistent one with a ridiculously resourceful processor. Steeljaw doesn't really regard 'Bee as anything more than another cop on his tail, one who occasionally gets in the way of his plans.

There is nothing wrong with this dynamic. This dynamic could really work if it simply evolved as time went on. If the constant conflict between the hero and villain started to effect how they act, both in everyday life and towards each other, then that creates a very interesting villain/hero rivalry. Largely - epecially when either the hero or the villain starts to make this conflict personal, because as a result, you not only become concerned with how the villain's goals effect the world, but also with how the villain's goals would effect the hero should the villain win. If a villain wants to take over the earth and wins, well that sucks for the earth. But what does that mean for the hero, the one who made it their life's mission to stop the villain? Do they simply lose and die, or does this loss effect them, not only physically, but also mentally and emotionally?

For instance, let's say that Bumblebee started to get steadily more frustrated and angry about the fact that Steeljaw keeps on getting away with what he does. The more frustrated Bumblebee gets, the more he starts to make his battle with Steeljaw something personal. That would definitely effect Bumblebee's behavior, both around his team and around Steeljaw. And if Steeljaw is as smart and manipulative as the show depicts, then he would probably use Bumblebee's frustration to his advantage.

I don't know about you, but I love villains who mess with the protagonist psychologically and/or emotionally. Regardless of whether or not the protagonist views the conflict between themselves and the villain something personal, when a villain psychologically messes with the protagonist - whether by mocking them, or by taking advantage of a weakness/so-called weakness, etc. - they pretty much MAKE the conflict personal. That's another thing that makes me feel as though Steeljaw isn't quite being used to his full potential. The guy is clearly manipulative, but he doesn't use this skill nearly as much on the Bee Team as he does on his own teammates.

The whole 'steadily rising frustration' thing works on the the villain as well, though in a slightly different way. If Steeljaw started getting more angry and frustrated with every time Bumblebee gets in his way, eventually Steeljaw would be less concerned with his 'Make Earth a Decepticon homeland' mission and more concerned with 'DESTROY THAT SLAGGING AUTOBOT WHO KEEPS ON GETTING IN MY WAY.'

Sure, Steeljaw has hardly ever been beaten by the Bee Team. In fact, I think it's only when Steeljaw is executing his big plans when the Bee Team finally manages to thwart him (see Battlegrounds 1-2 and Decepticon Island 1-2). But in all the little battles leading up to the finale, with the more obvious exception of episode Lockout, Steeljaw pretty much never loses. And while that's not to the advantage of the 'villain makes it personal' idea - though Steeljaw is clearly about to make it personal at the end of Lockout, but that doesn't last long - it is most certainly to the advantage to the 'protagonist makes it personal' one. Unfortunately, neither of them is used, hardly ever.
Or are they?

Enter the Season 2 finale, episodes Decepticon Island part one and part two.

This finale was pretty epic, better than the Season 1 finale. It actually addressed (and somewhat resolved) an issue I've been concerned about ever since I watched the season 1 finale, had a pretty awesome final show-down between Bumblebee, Optimus, and Steeljaw, and contained some of the coolest scenes in the entire show. The amount of adorableness surrounding Strongarm and Sideswipe wasn't a bad bonus either. Also, Strongarm and Windblade being total BFFs is one of my new favorite things. I'm afraid I won't be reviewing the finale, but I will point out how quickly the dynamic between Bumblebee and Steeljaw evolved.

I predicted in my last post that the fast approaching series finale would leave little to no time for certain characters to develop. While I referred mainly to Glowstrike and Saberhorn due to their having hardly any screen time prior to the finale, I felt somewhat the same way about Steeljaw. While his character and personality was well established, his rivalry with Bumblebee, in my opinion, was not. And while my view concerning Glowstrike and Saberhorn remains unchanged, my opinion on Steeljaw and Bumblebee's rivalry however, changed rather quickly following the end of Decepticon Isl. part two.

"You're done, Steeljaw! Do you hear me!? Done!"
During the final fight with Steeljaw, Bumblebee has clearly had enough of this 'Con. He puts his all into attempting to beat Steeljaw into submission and shouts that Steeljaw is done for. With the amount of frustration and anger that Bumblebee displays, it certainly felt like he had made the conflict personal. Of course, Bumblebee spends much of the episode trying to contain his frustration surrounding an entirely different issue, so this could just be him lashing out (projecting his problems, if you will), but said issue was resolved several minutes before the final fight, and regardless, I became way more invested in their conflict.

Steeljaw, though… Steeljaw is so close to being on top of the world in these two episode. His ultimate goal of Earth wide domination is within his grasp, and he has enough brawn to take out any Autobot who gets in his way. Thanks to the three Decepticon Hunters in his possession, he is pretty much turned into a power-mad maniac with the ability to knock Optimus Prime on his aft and an incredibly wild design that Hasbro has probably made a toy out of. Steeljaw really is close to being on top of the world and he is NOT going to let ANYONE stop him from reaching it.
So of course, when Steeljaw is defeated, that is the final straw.

"This isn't over! I will tear you to ribbons, Bumblebee!"
As strangely unnerving as it was to see a power-mad Steeljaw - it's so unlike his usually suave attitude - it gave me chills to hear and see how furious Steeljaw was as his victory slipped from his claws. The amount of fury he displays as he tries desperately to escape from the trap Bumblebee has sealed him in is straight up feral. And I don't think anyone who watched this episode can forget that animalistic howl Steeljaw releases just before the cryo-gas puts everyone on Decepticon Island asleep. Now THAT gave me chills. And when Steeljaw pretty much all but said "I'LL BE BACK", when I first saw this episode, I told my sister, "Ah, NOW I feel like there's something personal in this rivalry." And it's true. Finally, after losing his chance at victory one time too many, Steeljaw has made the conflict between himself and Bumblebee personal. Even if Bumblebee feels like his battle with Steeljaw is over and done with, Steeljaw is now holding an epic vendetta against Bumblebee, and that makes me so excited to see how this newfound fury will effect future conflicts.
It's just too bad that there will be no future conflicts.

Decepticon Island part 1 and 2 pretty much marks the series finale. All there is left is an hour long special (whenever that'll come out), and I do have doubts as to how much they can fit into only one hour. Not only that, since Decepticon Island part 2 ends with Steeljaw and all other RiD 'Cons of consequence being put on ice, I'm not sure what else this show can do.

Unless, of course, this isn't the series finale… Stay tuned! I will eventually elaborate on that! Until then though, 'til all are one!

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