Alternate Character Interpretation: Is Kicker nothing more than a self-centered jerk? Or is he just an emotionally troubled young man who became what he is through his father's neglect and mistreatment?
Author's Saving Throw: Kicker is characterized radically differently in the Dreamwave comic, and is much more likeable there.
"Distribution." You'll be guessing until the very end who's real and who isn't. And what in the name of Primus is going on. A 'simulation' that's a tournament-style matchup of every 'bot in the series, with robo-catgirl announcers. Some characters who are real walk in and out of things totally unconcerned with who's sitting across the room from them, seeing how they're usually trying to murder each other. Then turn out to not be real, making you wonder what the point of their being in the simulation was at all. Then whoever was just wondering if the guy who just walked out was or wasn't real... turns out to not be real. It was just... the most insanely random thing Transformers has ever done. Bad dubbing takes it from random to incomprehensible and insanely random.
In Superlink, this was a 500th Episode special for the entire franchise, was non-canon, and was shown at a special time. In the dub, to make up for cutting an episode, they added it to the actual run of the show. Right in the middle of a Darker and Edgier arc that was basically all-out war.
Complete Monster: Upon his resurrection after Armada, Megatron discards any redeeming features he once had in his quest for power and domination. Leading his forces in destructive raids for Energon, Megatron plans to use the element to revive Unicron and use him as a weapon. Now a callous Control Freak, Megatron uses Unicron's power to subvert the wills of his followers, notably enslaving Scorponok and Starscream and trying to do the same to Inferno, torturing the Autobot to the brink of insanity.
Dork Age: Beyond simply being regarded as an inferior sequel to Armada (by both the show's fans and detractors), it's regarded as the worst TF show period, due to wasted potential, terrible CGI, and very poor dubbing.
Demolishor retained this status from Armada prior to his reformatting, thanks to his conflicting loyalties between the both sides that he gained from living an era without the war, and losing that is considered to be one of the worst mistakes the show made.
Padding: Unicron perishes in "Unicron Perishes," appropriately enough, but then it un-perishes so we can basically repeat the entire plot for 10 or so episodes. On a smaller level, see As You Know on the main page.
Much of the show is padded by re-using the Story Arc of trying to prevent Unicron's revival and then knocking him out before his body is destroyed.
Rescued from the Scrappy Heap: Hot Shot and Rad get a lot better in comparison to their Armada counterparts. While not quite as effective, they did at least tone down Kicker for the last few episodes.
Ironhide also qualifies, thanks to his rather stupid design, annoying voice, and near-This Loser Is You personality. Ironhide toys were infamous for clogging shelves as the series wore on. That said, he at least had fans for his subplot with Scorponok actually going somewhere, which, for this show, is a lot.
Snow Cat. Cyclonus was already a Base-Breaking Character for his annoying voice and general uselessness... so let's make him even more useless and unrecognizable in appearance, then lobotomize his buddy to kill their dynamic and make him take up yodeling!
Sequelitis: Compared to Armada, which started slowly but improved dramatically in the second half, this show started with potential and utterly failed to use it.
Starscream is reborn as a confused, and angry spirit/being, up until Megatron gets hold of his mind and makes him loyal. He remains that way without his Noble Demon characteristics that made him famous in Armada. And then the pendulum swings the opposite way entirely in Transformers Cybertron, where he becomes a more traditional, yet VERY competent Starscream.
Let's not forget how close he was to the kids last series, especially Alexis. They're still around this time, but do we get to see him interact with them and a possible subplot emerge from this? Nope.
Justified as Starscream was an original character called Nightscream who was created in the former's likeness in the original Japanese edit. The dub played to established elements, though obviously had to work around that plot hole.
Demolishor went through a whole arc where he struggled with his allegiance. As Cyclonus and Tidal Wide defect back to their old faction, he tries harder and harder to do the right thing, until, in his penultimate episode, he makes his decision and saves Megatron's life at the cost of his own. He's resurrected in the following episode and is considerably less conflicted and quite a bit stupid, implying Megatron messed with his mind. The arc is never brought up again.
Team Ironhide's introduction hinted to an amusing vitriolic relationship over Kicker pushing around their idol — probably the nearest anyone got to calling him out on his treatment of Ironhide. However they never interacted after their first episode and Team Ironhide were killed off shortly afterwards.Thankfully, Kicker had the decency to lay off Ironhide afterwards.
Rodimus, who led a faction of Cybertronians who said Screw This, I'm Outta Here! to the Forever War and hasn't been seen in millions of years, returns, and he and Optimus are far from on the same page. Rodimus' team proceeds to... fall in line with Optimus' within two episodes and never really add much to the proceedings.
The Maximus combiners. Normally, combiner teams are a Badass Crew that double as an awe-inspiring Person of Mass Destruction, but the combiners in Energon get introduced so late that there's no time to characterize them and they have basically no role in the plot. Their components also show no signs of autonomy (to the point that most fans have suggested they're actually nonsentient drones or something), and they're never even shown combining outside of two short scenes, one of which is non-canon, making it come across as an Informed Ability.
There's some of Unicron in every Transformer. That should really go on to mean something or be important somehow. But this is Energon, so it doesn't.
Wing Dagger loses his best friend to Shockblast and then tries to avenge his fallen comrade, performing a Heroic Sacrifice. His quest of vengence is almost never brought up when he is resurrected — he has one revenge battle and captures him in his first appearance as Wing Saber, but nothing is made of it after Shockblast inevitably escapes.
Kicker wasn't just a Jerkass in the beginning: when Kicker developed his energon sensing powers as a child, his father had the bright idea to use Kicker as a living energon detector. For years, he dragged his young, pre-teen son around space, where he had to deal with a few mining accidents that nearly cost him his life. The Autobots saw no problems with putting him to work like this, and so Kicker grew resentful of both them and his father. Rather than have him grow to trust Team Prime in a charactery-developy way, the whole "there's a reason he's this way" thing was just forgotten early on and he spends the rest of the series being rude for no discernible reason. It takes until mid-season for everyone else to similarly forget that they don't like it when he's like this.
The Decepticons never powerlink throughout the series (one gag even implies they are unable to). Despite showing this ability in the previous series, a series that revolves prominently around powerlinks refuses to look into it, often making their battles with the Autobots rather one-sided due to this heavy advantage.
Heck, for some REALLY good wasted plot there could have been an Enemy Mine situation where some decepticons and autobots have to pair together for powerlinx. Also Optimus Prime forsake his previously Powerlinx capable body from the last season for his Fatimus Prime body meaning he can't powerlinx either. And they even had a Powerlinx-capable Optimus toy, so presumably the show version can do it too... he just never does.
Visual Effects of Awesome: Those rare time when traditional hand-drawn animation is used on the Transformers themselves, the quality of the animation can easily be seen on par with most beautiful mecha animes, which really stands out amongst the horrible CGI.
The Woobie: Demolisher (constantly abused by Megatron and forced into a conflict he wants no part of), Ironhide (constantly abused by Kicker and has most of his friends die), and Wing Dagger (fails to save his best friend and never gets the justice he seeks).