103 - The Web
Season 1 is the longest of the show's three seasons, accounting for half of the series' 52 episodes. As such, we get a lot of filler episodes that don't really build the larger myth arcs. That's not a bad thing though, as these episode give us some character building time.
"The Web" is the first such episode, it opens with a swoop to the Maximal base. Optimus congratulates Rhinox on his latest creation, saying it needs a "test". Cheetor comes in running in beast form, landing on the table to volunteer for the test. We get some quick exposition on how Rhinox created this new commlink (a disk-shaped thing that straps with an armband) to resolve their communication problems (as you will recall the Autobot commlinks stop working beyond shouting distance, which is an itsy bit of a flaw). Cheetor volunteers to test it, and he's given permission, but told to avoid engaging any Predacons. Cheetor responds with his usual level of cockiness. He runs out and Rhinox has this great face as he shakes his head, that of a man who knows
he's not getting that commlink back in one piece now that Cheetor has it. That look of silently resigning to that fate. The animation may be primitive, but the animators do know how to give subtlety to their characters; acting. Optimus' "He'll do fine." only sealing the deal. Only way they could Tempt Fate
any more is if Optimus had replied "What could go wrong?"
The commlink seems to work. Which in hind sight is unsurprising, considering the stuff we'll see Rhinox build in the future, a working commlink almost seems like something he should be able to make in his sleep.
Out in some rocky place, Scorponok has found one of the Darksyde's main gun, that broke off in the crash, and is eager to return it to Megatron. This establishes what will be Scorponok's sole character trait: He sucks up to Megatron and is blindly loyal to him. The cannon is stuck in rocks though, so Scorponok uses his missiles to free it. The explosion draws Cheetor's attention. After reporting to Optimus, he ignores orders and goes to investigate, Optimus transforming and taking flight to follow him. Rhinox' tone when reporting that Cheetor is not following orders has "I knew this was going to happen" all over it.
Scorponok has freed the gun and returned to beast mdoe when Cheetor transforms and jumps him, holding him at gun point. Cheetor reports to base, and again refuses to follow orders to gtfo. As he focuses on Scorponok, Tarantulas comes out, flanking him, Cheetor panics, fires wildly at Tarantulas, which gives Scorponok the time to transform and fire a missile into Cheetor's chest, gravely damaging him. Tarantulas vanishes and then tells Scorponok to get the gun before Optimus arrives. Scorponok tries to pull rank (He's second-in-command) but Tarantulas is nowhere to be seen or heard, so he makes off with the cannon himself. Optimus arrives to find the damaged Cheetor, in stasis lock (Transformer equivalent of a coma), and bring him back to base for repairs.
Twinkle Twinkle Little Starscream
As Cheetor passes out, he dreams. We see Cybertron. A familiar Metallic, Red and Blue F-15 flying past with a familiar logo on his wing
. Megatron, Waspinator and Terrosaur are there, all three being dispatched easily by Cheetor, who envisions himself like a giant. His victory is short lived however as Tarantulas' eyes appear, causing a repeat of his encounter with him and Scorponok to occur, intercut with a brief but out of place shot of Rattrap leaping at Cheetor with a knife. Huh that was weird. Cheetor wakes up screaming.
Rhinox has just finished repairing him. Rattrap is there too. Cheetor gets disciplined by Optimus for trashing the commlink. It took a month for Rhinox to build with, and he lacks parts to build another. Optimus head off to consult Dinobot to take care of that Mega-Cannon, showing clear disappointment towards Cheetor. Rattrap's taunts on Cheetor immense failure get to him and he decides to go storm the Predacon base alone.
Rattrap: You know, that is why you mess up, kiddo. You don't have the sense to BE afraid.
Cheetor: OH, YEAH? I'll show you what I have the sense to do, motorhead! You and Big Bot! (Runs Out)
Rhinox shakes his head
Rhinox: You know what he's gonna do.
Rattrap: He's just grinding his gears. Even he's not dumb enough to disobey the great Optimus again.
Rhinox: (Stares down at Rattrap) Huhuh.
Rattrap: (Sighs) Okay okay okay! I'll stop him! If I can catch him. Sheesh, rotten little...
Rattrap leaves. Rhinox smirks
At the Predacon base, the Mega-Cannon is being mounted as a base defense. Cheetor sneaks about, unaware that a rock behind him moved, and an anchor shaped thing hooks his hind paws and drags him down. Tarantulas laughs. Cheetor wakes up suspended in a web in cave. Tarantulas explains and demonstrate that his web will drain Cheetor's energy. Tarantulas intends to suck out his blood. Cheetor doesn't have blood, but Mech fluid will do, Tarantulas points out it's he act he prefers rather than the nutrition. The whole scene is well played, Alec Willows' voice giving a wonderfully deviant, insane, scary note. It is no wonder Tarantulas will become a fan favorite among the Predacons. We get a quick scene back at the base of Optimus planning with Dinobot, setting up Dinobot as a graduate of the "Worf school of shoot them first and consider strategies later". Rhinox covers for Rattrap and Cheetor when Primal asks about them.
Rattrap sneaks around the Predacon base outskirts, decrying his own folly for even accepting to do this. He finds the entrance to Tarantulas' lair, where the spider waits for Cheetor to expire. Rattrap interrupts, and both him and Tarantulas transform. They trade fire, before Rattrap hides in the cave. Tarantulas turns on his thermal scan, but Rattrap deploys one of his little gadgets, a hot box, to flank Tarantulas, shooting his leg off. Rattrap tries to free Cheetor, but unable to use the control panel for the stasis web, he resorts to just shooting it. He cuts the web using a knife, jumping at Cheetor exactly like Cheetor saw in his dream. Tarantulas returns, hopping on one leg, firing at the web, Rattrap jumps out of the explosion, throwing Cheetor away. Both Maximals make their way back to base. Tarantulas' lair collapses around him, and buried in rocks he mutters:
"I hate that rat."
Back at base, Cheetor and Rattrap walk into the meeting, Optimus demanding to know where they've been. Cheetor looks about ready to confess, but Rattrap says they went for a walk, Optimus was rough on Cheetor and Cheetor needed to decompress. Optimus apologizes to Cheetor for chewing him out earlier, Cheetor admits Optimus was right and he'll never slip up again (till next episode). Leaving, Cheetor thanks Rattrap for covering for him. Rattrap makes it clear he only lied because Optimus would have kicked his ass too if he had told him about the Tarantulas thing. And he warns Cheetor that if he ever does something like that again, he'll personally "rearrange (his) spots". Rattrap leaves, and Cheetor thanks his friend for saving his life.
"The Web" is a far cry above the pilot. It's got good action, good character moments, and is all around awesome. It takes a rather simple, by the numbers premise, and makes the plot work by filling it with awesome character moments. It sets up Tarantulas' deviancy, Rattrap's reluctant loyalty and his tendency to fight dirty. Cheetor begins his character journey from being an impatient, hot headed, undisciplined youth into becoming something greater
- Some Early Installment Weirdness
- Scorponok's voice has changed since the Pilot. Same voice actor, but he uses a deeper, more mature voice for Scorponok. This is the first of several such changes in performance.
- Several character pronounce Cheetor's name "Cheater", including Cheetor himself when he transforms.
- This is the first episode where the animators indulge in doing grievous injuries to the robots (Blowing a hole in Cheetor's chest, blowing off Tarantulas' leg). Like Transformers Prime, the animators realized that robots gives the show a free card to avoid censors. They are machines. You can do whatever you want to them, no one will send angry letters.
- Most early Beast Wars toys had two faces in robot mode. A robot face, and a "Mutant" face. Most of the cast are modeled after their robot face. Except Tarantulas and Waspinator who use the mutant one. In the former's case, it helps set him as a dangerous monster. Tarantulas' robot face would later be used for Blackarachnia's head (the slot where her mouth is is where the joint to switch between the two faces is).
- When Cheetor enters Stasis Lock, his face takes the form of his toy's face, losing the black markings and feline features.
- This is the first instance of Cheetor's prophetic ability. It's an extremely minor plot point, that never amounts to anything big till Beast Machines. While there's the obvious foreshadowing of Rattrap's rescue, the dream includes other more subtle ones: Starscream is seen first, then the first Predacon to get a close up is Terrosaur (who is an Expy of Starscream and will repeatedly try to usurp power from Megatron), followed by Waspinator (who gets his own special link to Starscream).
- Starscream's appearance marks the first direct reference to G1.
- The Mega-Cannon is never destroyed. It is seen in later episodes as one of the Predacon base's defenses.
- This marks the beginning of Rattrap and Cheetor's friendship, which last for most of the series. The two characters often sent into action together.