All right, let’s not kid ourselves. My focus is always going to be on Starscream, so that’s where we’re going in this one.
Ironic, isn’t it, how the episode summaries never seem to give us the important details of an episode anymore, eh? Well, my exploring Star’s relationship with ‘Bots and ‘Cons, with a spattering of other things, below the cut.
…and again, let’s not kid ourselves; it’s really just me bitching as per usual.
First and foremost: man, I am so fucking glad KO isn’t dead, but that shit doesn’t make a lick of sense. How is he not dead? How is that wall not cutting into major fuel lines, neural circuits, and his spark chamber? Did he displace it? Then why can’t he just… pull out of it?
Oh, whatever. The first time I am relieved that the writers went the “kids’ show” route. At least it saves Mr. Sass ‘n Shine.
Okay, and yeah, Smokescreen did shit and I don’t really care because it still gives him zero characterization beyond “I’m the new golden boy watch me troll the entire Decepticon warship despite the fact that I have NEARLY ZERO experience.” I guess he gets a free pass because of the Phase Shifter. That he somehow grabbed from KO.
Again: whatever. I still dislike him, and unless he grows some humility, I will continue to dislike him.
I could also talk about Optimus here, but I think that Audrey (krakenbell) will do it when she… recovers. Well. As much as she can recover. I’ll leave him to her, as it should be.
So let’s get to the part I really care about: why in Primus’ name would Starscream DO that? Why not just trade the key for his T-cog, or for a place with the Autobots? Why steal and then go to the Decepticons again? Why go back there?
Well, now that the shock’s worn off, I have to say this: I could see this coming from waaaaay back during the Orion Pax episodes. Again during Crossfire. Again during Triangulation. And now it’s finally happened, and I’m looking back at my old arguments, and the chain of motive and reasoning has held up pretty well.
Let me say this first of all: this isn’t any one person’s fault. This isn’t Optimus’ fault, or Starscream’s fault, or anything like that. You can’t pin this sort of thing on any individual. Instead, I feel like it’s better pinned on miscommunication, missed opportunities, and that dash of hypocrisy that the writers never seem to call anyone out on.
To understand this, at least the way I understand it, we need to go back. All the way back to season one, to Partners, because this is where it started.
Back when Starscream shoved his foot as far down his throat as it could possibly go, and Arcee lost her mind for a few minutes. Back when they almost killed one another, and the Seeker was saved only because Bumblebee has excellent timing.
At that point, I can say this: yes, he said something incredibly stupid. No, he shouldn’t have done it. It probably happened because he is an exquisite mixture of jerk and insecure nitwit. Yes, I understand Arcee’s reaction.
However, at the end of all of it, we get something important: Arcee admits that she is at fault.
The next time we see Starscream, it’s during Orion Pax Part II. That lovely scene where, despite him giving them the information he honestly believes they want, Ratchet and Bulkhead decide that leaving him to die is a brilliant plan (after not giving him pain meds OMFG I will never get over that just ignore me it’s the veterinary training).
After that, we get much the same bit in Crossfire.
Then, the next full interaction is in Triangulation, where he’s shoved about at gunpoint by both Dreadwing and Optimus before finally, FINALLY, getting a leg-up back into some semblance of dignity by way of Apex Armor.
So, what is the point here?
The point is hinted at very nicely twice, that I can recall: once during Triangulation, and a second time during tonight’s new episode.
In Triangulation, Starscream remarks on how not everyone can be as “selfless” as Optimus. In Inside Job, he makes a comment about how the Autobots consider themselves “so superior.”
The issue at hand here is that, for all of their nobility, their talk of redemption and forgiveness, the Autobots never truly give him a chance. After Arcee has her moment in Partners, after she ADMITS to being wrong, do they go after him? Do they hunt him down and give him that promised chance at redemption?
The next time they see him, do they recognize the fact that he’s been wandering around, so desperate for Energon that he risked sneaking aboard the Nemesis, only to get shot? Do they recognize and acknowledge his pain? Do they help him out of their supposed nobility, the “goodness of their sparks?”
Same in Crossfire. In Crossfire, we had the addition of Ratchet berating him for working with MECH… which he did because he was basically starving.
Quickly shoved about at gunpoint, as we all remember from that week-long tumblr argument over that one scene between him and Optimus.
The thing here is that, when it really counted, when he was truly down and in trouble and could have died at any time due to injury or illness or simple lack of Energon, the Autobots and their supposed nobility went right out the window.
They had no trouble showing him exactly how much contempt they had for him, how low they felt he was, how ugly and unwanted and worthless he was.
When he was down on his luck and not dangerous, they treated him… well, essentially like trash. Yes, yes, I know: Starscream. But that’s the thing here: if the Autobots are going to preach redemption and forgiveness and second chances, then they need to deliver that. Not pick and choose who gets their esteem.
I can’t blame him for not magically turning into the perfect person on Autobot command; not after all that he’s been through. Not after the society he had to live in for so long. How in the world would a creature like Starscream, who comes from a world of violent hierarchy and, thanks to Megatron, actual physical abuse, just be able to “turn a new leaf” without significant help from a real support system of individuals?
He can’t, but that’s apparently what the Autobots expected him to do, and when he failed to meet those loft expectations, they threw him to the curb unless he had something they wanted. Which they would take from him in a deal while, at the same time, make sure he knew how lowly they thought he was for making that deal.
That was back when he was weak. Back in the days of The Scooter.
Now we are exactly where I was afraid such behavior would lead us.
Now that he’s dangerous again? Now that he’s strong? Now that he’s secure?
Now he can look back and remember how poorly they treated him when he actually needed help. Now he can remember the anxiety of asking them for help, wondering if he would actually get it, then sit through the You’re a Disgusting Excuse for a Person lecture when they “lowered” themselves to give it (after receiving his information payment, of course).
And that has consequences.
All of those negative feelings have consequences, and instead of taking Starscream’s vulnerability and using it to at least try to build a better relationship, the Autobots took advantage of it when they could and ignored it when they couldn’t (while accusing him of essentially the same thing, might I add).
And now, I’m sorry to say, they’re paying for it.
Back then, they gave him no reason to have any sort of loyalty to them.
And now he doesn’t.
Now he has his strength back, and he’s using it to look out for himself, as per usual. Because back when he was weak? Well, back then, he learned that he was the only one who would look out for him.
And now it shows.
Now, the other important thing: why go back to the ‘Cons? Why not deal solely with the ‘Bots?
Simple: he wants more. He still wants that power that would give him the respect and security that he’s always lacked, and the awful thing about it? The awful thing is that he only really understands how to get what he wants with the ‘Cons.
Megatron and the ‘Cons are terrifying and dangerous, but he understands them. He understands that social system. He knows how to work with it. He has to, considering how long he lived in it. Megatron is a monster, but Starscream knows that he’s a monster. He knows the buttons that can and can’t be pushed; that’s what kept him alive, if terrorized, all those eons.
The Autobots preach nobility and redemption and peace and love and probably even rock ‘n roll, but when those values are called into action, when it really comes down to the wire, they don’t follow through. Not really. Not when the subject isn’t a cute human kid or one of their own.
The Decepticons and Megatron provide a terrifying environment to work within, but it is an environment that doesn’t lie. There are no illusions of friendship and understanding and lofty ideals muddying it all. It is a world of dominance and submission and commanders and subordinates, but it doesn’t pretend to be anything else. It doesn’t claim things it doesn’t deliver.
Megatron is horrifying, but he is plainly Megatron, and in the end, you always know where you stand with Megatron.
Starscream chooses to return to the Decepticons because, terrible situation that it is, it is one that he understands. Heartbreakingly enough, it is one that he is adapted to. It isn’t one that pretends that it cares about all life, only to suddenly become very choosy when said life proves to be less than ideal, less than desirable, less than pleasant.
When it comes down to it, the Autobots failed him when it counted most, and so even though the Decepticons are hell, they are a hell that he knows how to deal with.
It’s awful, really. It’s all going to end up horribly wrong, because let’s not kid ourselves: Starscream back with Megatron? That can only end poorly. Very, very poorly.
But I’m not surprised that it’s come to this. Not after what happened while Starscream was down on his luck.
I just wish it had ended differently.