Game Changer: The Iacon relic hunt took a marked upswing when the outnumbered Autobots got the Forge of Solus Prime (a hammer capable of forging anything) from a defecting Dreadwing, allowing Optimus to build a space bridge to meet the Decepticon forces on Cybertron looking for the Omega Lock, as without it they couldn't make the journey. Another game changer happened in the second season finale, where the Decepticons discovered the location of the Autobot base and destroyed it, the Auobots being scattered around the world to hide from them.
Megatron expressly considers Optimus possessing the Star Saber to be this, even declaring it to be "the Decepticons' darkest day."
Gecko Ending: The Japanese dub omits season three, retooling the cliffhanger to be more of a conclusive ending. The beasts show up in the form of Japan-only short episodes packaged with TV-Kun magazines, known as "Triple Combination: Transformers, Go!". It is... very Japanese. It's unknown where, or if, it's supposed to fit in the Prime series' timeline.
Genki Girl: Miko. For bonus points, she's a Japanese exchange student living in Jasper.
Glowing Mechanical Eyes: All Cybertronians have these, but Prime stands out for the variety of designs compared to other entries in the franchise. Every character has their own unique eye design, usually a variation of black/coloured rings, which greatly assists in facial recognition by the audience.
God Is Evil/God of Evil: Unicron. As Optimus puts it he is, metaphorically speaking, the parent of humanity and all life on Earth. Unicron agrees with Optimus on this... and then declares his creations parasites unworthy of living.
Good Lips, Evil Jaws: Compare the lipless teeth of the Insecticons to the lipped, expressive faces of the other Cybertronians.
Gory Discretion Shot: In "Predatory", there's energon splattering across the wall like blood due to Airachnid slashing open one of Arcee's allies in a flashback.
In "Convoy," Arcee knocks a particularly unfortunate Mook off of one of MECH's cars. The actual impact is hidden behind the crashing car.
Gotta Catch Them All: The first season had a scattering of Cybertronian artifacts lying around for the others to find at random times, but the second season explained why there were so many. In the later days of the war the Decepticons were about to breach the Iacon Library, which contained many relics that were both sacred and potentially weapons of mass destruction. Rather than risking them falling into the ruthless hands of the Decepticons, they ejected hundreds out into space.
There was apparently a fairly elaborate conflict between the two factions on Earth long ago, and considering Megatron's plans, Optimus correctly assumes he would test out Dark Energon on the site of an unexplained battlefield.
The original war between the 'bots and 'cons that devastated Cybertron.
Greater-Scope Villain: Unicron. He's been at it since the dawn of time, battling Primus and his followers, on Earth which is actually based around his slumbering physical body and Cybertron. He's a far more serious threat than Megatron, even mentally breaking him and invoking his HeelFace Turn at the end of the series after torturing him.
Purple Rocks: Dark Energon, which generally has similar properties within the show, but is quite different to the stuff shown in War For Cybertron. Megatron has a habit of using it for random purposes and quickly finding that it has Unpredictable Results.
Grievous Harm with a Body: Starscream blows off Arcee's arm in the prequel comic and proceeds to smack Cliffjumper around with it.
Wheeljack chops off a Vehicon's arm and smacks another Vehicon with it.
In "Rebellion," Optimus throws Megatron into Darkmount's power core, taking the Decepticon leader out of the fight and leaving the fortress defenseless against a squadron of incoming jets.
The Grovel: Starscream does this whenever threatened by someone more powerful then him (ex: Megatron). Though he did use it once to catch Arcee off-guard.
Megatron himself does it in "One Shall Rise, Part 1" when Unicron rejects his offer of servitude.
Gun Kata: The second, Wing-Chung-y style shows up in "One Shall Fall", when Optimus Prime and Megatron have an epic duel at the foot of a Dark-Energon-spewing volcano.
Gunship Rescue: Done mostly via Agent Fowler and his F-35 Lightning II inspired jet he frequently uses, done most literally when Bumblebee was doing some "jet judo" and needed help to make a softer landing than Skyquake was going to offer. It also turned into a running gag that several Decepticons have used Fowler's various aircraft as a reference point to acquire an Earth-based alternate mode.
Fowler also has a helicopter with a gatling gun on the underside, which was shown in "Darkness Rising" and appeared again in "Crisscross" to rescue Jack and Arcee from Airachnid and MECH.
Wheeljack comes to the rescue in The Jackhammer in "Darkest Hour" and fought alongside Fowler in his helicopter to buy some time for the Autobots to evacuate their base before the Nemesis was able to destroy it.
Ultra Magnus rescues Bulkhead, Wheeljack, and Miko from Predaking with his space cruiser in "Prey".
Handicapped Badass: Bumblebee lost his voicebox after being captured by the Decepticons and refusing to divulge information to Megatron. He is still able to communicate with the other Autobots, but cannot speak clearly to humans other than Raf.
Ultra Magnus loses his right hand while battling Predaking. It is replaced with a claw-like appendage due to lack of appropriate materials.note Which, more than likely, is the arm of one of Starscream's clone
Harmful to Minors: Bulkhead tells Miko to look away before finishing off a Vehicon by ripping out its equivalent to a heart. She doesn't.
HeelFace Door-Slam: After Megatron dies and the Autobots restore Cybertron in the series finale, Knock Out tries to switch to the "winning team," only to get immediately decked by Miko in the Apex Armor. He gets to make a HeelFace Turn in the subsequent movie finale.
HeelFace Revolving Door: Starscream. Him being, well, The Starscream, his allegiance has always been dodgy at best, but here he seems to take every opportunity to switch sides, directly aiding the Autobots in some form at least three times already.
In "Partners," Starscream nearly kills Arcee, but she gets back to her feet and gives him a smackdown.
Hidden in Plain Sight: Seemingly taking a page from the IDW G1-inspired comic series, the Autobots are exceptionally careful about staying in their alternate mode and avoiding any attention. The Decepticons show a similar attitude, and while they're more willing to draw weapons, that also means they're more willing to kill human witnesses. It is such that the human kids are placed under Autobot protection because Optimus fears the kids will be mistaken for Autobot allies just for stumbling across a confrontation.
Holding Hands: A platonic version occurs between Optimus and Arcee in "Scrapheap" where they are freezing to death in the Arctic and believe it was their end.
Hollywood Darkness: Nighttime scenes tend to be fairly well-lit, but the most glaring example comes from "Rock Bottom." After the cave-in, the area remains light enough that Jack can wander around for a while on his own without difficulty, even before he finds the drill.
Hollywood Tactics: Considering the Autobots are typically outnumbered, they sure seem to like standing close together during a firefight and out in the open.
Homeworld Evacuation: Both Autobots and Decepticons performed one when Cybertron became uninhabitable, taking to the stars and leaving their dead homeworld a graveyard.
Hope Spot: Done to the villains when the Decepticons find out that Makeshift does indeed know the location of the base, it's cut short by the Decepticons finding a bomb on Makeshift, which promptly explodes, killing Makeshift and denying the incredibly important information to the Decepticons.
A more minor, but still villainous, one in The Human Factor when Knock Out thinks his old partner Breakdown is alive. It turns out to be Silas, using Breakdown's body as a Humongous Mecha suit. Knock Out is understandably pissed.
Hostile Show Takeover: In a meta example, Megatron took over the Hub Network (before it became Discovery Family) and hosted a Season 2 marathon, teasing that the premiere episode at the end, its season finale will change the Transformers universe forever. The appropriately named episode "Darkest Hour" has the Decepticons pull a major win against the Autobots by finally destroying their hidden base.
Hostile Terraforming: Specifically Hostile Cyberforming. The Decepticons twice attempt to use the Omega Lock's cyberforming beam to instead convert Earth into a Cybertron-like world, which threatens to eradicate all organic life on the planet in the process. The same technology could be used for simply restoring Cybertron to its former glory, but Megatron uses it to attack Earth out of megalomania.
How Would You Like to Die?: Airachnid asks Jack how he'd like his mother to die, then when he won't answer, she asks June herself. This being Airachnid, the choices are "agonizing" and "excruciating."
Airachnid asks Arcee to make it hurt when Arcee kills her... because it's what she'd do for her. Naturally this doesn't do much to change Airachnid's creepy sadist overtones.
Humans Are Special: One of the main themes surrounding the main human characters: the Autobots' human allies more than make up for their small and frail (by Cybertronian standards) bodies with a warrior's spirit.
Hypercompetent Sidekick: Soundwave to this to both Megatron and Starscream. Unusual is that while Megatron is competent in his own right, he is more of a broad schemer and uses brutal tactics while Soundwave takes care of the fine details. Starscream clearly knows it and is careful around him; Airachnid doesn't and learns a hard lesson.
"Scrapheap" has two such instances in one scene. At the end of the episode, Miko freaks out over a tiny spider, when earlier she'd mildly made fun of Bulkhead for his fear of Scraplets. (The difference is Bulkhead has a genuine reason to be afraid of them: The little things are lethal.) Bulkhead also comments that she Screams Like a Little Girl, when he'd done the same thing earlier (and Miko actually is a girl).
In "Rock Bottom", when Bulkhead tells Starscream that he isn't going to beg for mercy, Starscream (who was doing exactly that with Megatron earlier) nervously comments that begging for mercy would be "quite pathetic".
In "Out Of The Past", after Arcee shoots out the ceiling, burying Shockwave under a pile of rocks, Starscream appears with several mooks and says that "It appears that Shockwave's arrogance was his undoing". Never mind the fact that arrogance is Starscream's primary personality trait, earlier in that episode he spent too much time grandstanding and failed to kill a captive Cliffjumper because of it.
Though Shockwave himself commented earlier that "only Starscream could fail to dispose of a helpless captive", despite the fact that the only reason Cliffjumper got out was because Shockwave didn't realize he failed to kill Arcee.
The Decepticons in general seem to fall victim to this, usually associated with their Evil Gloating.
In "Regeneration," the Decepticons capture the three human children and bring them to Cybertron as bargaining chips, with the threat that if the Autobots refuse to surrender the Omega Keys, the kids will be exposed to the planet's toxic air.
To drive the point home, Megatron's thoughts are revealed to the audience, saying that Bumblebee can't hear Raf anymore, just to show how total of a control Megs has over Bumblebee.
Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: A series of episodes in the second season that are four separate stories about hunting Iacon relics occurring at the exact same time all begin with "T." "Tunnel Vision," "Triangulation," "Triage" and "Toxicity."
If Only You Knew: When Starscream sneaks back onto the Nemesis to steal Energon and runs into Orion Pax/Amnesiac Optimus, he inadvertantly helps Optimus start questioning his situation.
Later Optimus, severely wounded and knowing he won't last much longer, tells Smokescreen to take both the Matrix of Leadership and the Forge of Solus Prime. Smokescreen ultimately refuses, instead using the Forge to bring Optimus back before it's too late.
In "Nemesis Prime", the titular character guts the real Optimus. Fortunately, the wound was neither fatal nor enough to prevent Optimus from getting a Heroic Second Wind and opening a can of whoopass on Nemesis.
This is how Bumblebee kills Megatron during the final battle, by impaling him through the chest with the Star Saber.
The Autobots would succumb to this whenever a named Decepticon shows up, although averted whenever it is Megatron, who is just that tough to withstand every single shot. Also averted in Optimus' first bout with Dreadwing in "Triangulation", where a good shot from Prime knocks Dreadwing to the ground.
In Harm's Way: Miko, full tilt. She's constantly sneaking onto the battlefield to watch the Autobots fight, and is almost killed every single time. Though she seems to have learned her lesson a bit by season 2.
In Medias Res: The Autobots have been on Earth for some time and have contacts with the human governments, and references are made to an initial Autobot/Decepticon conflict on Earth several years prior.
In Your Nature to Destroy Yourselves: When confronted with a team of Starscream clones, Megatron calmly states this and then offers them a way out by serving him. This distracts them long enough for Megatron defeat all of them but one, who sure enough, escapes back and tries to back stab the original.
Infodump: The explanation of Dark Energon in "Darkness Rising, Part 2" is very informative for people who haven't played Transformers: War for Cybertron; the Transformers Wiki pointed out that the Infodump was to the point that it sounded like Megatron and Starscream had never encountered it before, which they have. Given the Broad Strokes relationship between this series and WFC, the exact properties of Dark Energon are also up to change.
Ratchet takes almost a segment between commercial breaks to explain the history between Megatron and Optimus. It works, though.
Internal Reveal: In the episode "Crisscross", Jack does this with his mom twice. The first time doesn't work out so well. The second time she buys it, but she's also seen "Jack's motorcycle" duke it out with a giant mechanical spider-bot at that point. Later, Optimus only reveals the existence of the Omega Lock to his team in the penultimate episode of the second season, claiming Alpha Trion ordered him to keep it a secret.
Megatron: How was it that you put it, Optimus? "I could not have allowed this to end otherwise"?
Soundwave does this sometimes, repeating a voice clip of another character in a different context. For instance, Starscream mentions that he "must bear witness" to Optimus Prime's defeat before flying off. (He's ordered Soundwave to stay rather than investigate signs of Megatron's survival, which Starscream plans to do himself - so he can finish him off.) Soundwave repeats "Must bear witness" before sending Laserbeak to follow Starscream.
In "Stronger, Faster" Ratchet tells Megatron he is his Doctor of Doom. Later in "Orion Pax, Part 1", Megatron uses the same title for Ratchet when demonizing him to Orion Pax.
"Darkest Hour" puts a decidedly more tragic spin on Ratchet's Running Gag line when Optimus, out of necessity, destroyed the Omega Lock, and with it, the chance to restore Cybertron.
Ratchet: Optimus... we needed that.
Irony: In "Rock Bottom" Starscream was brought to the old energon mine to be executed by Megatron as a final humiliation for all his failures. Upon encountering the Autobots and causing a cave-in, Starscream barely makes it out while Megatron is trapped behind. Starscream begins gloating over the switch-up, but then realizes Megatron has survived worse and still commands far more loyalty among the Decepticons (who would seek to rescue him), and there's no place he could hide from Megatron's wrath. He rants in anger, realizing his best option is to re-enter the mine and rescue Megatron in order to "prove" his loyalty.
Soundwave's favoured tactic in battle is to remotely open Space Bridges to dispose of enemies by sending them off to some remote location, rather than getting his own hands dirty. In the final episode, Deadlock, this reliance on Space Bridging enemies away is used against him by Raf, Jack, and Miko who open up their own Space Bridge directly behind Soundwave's, causing him to be pulled into the Shadowzone.
It Has Been an Honor: Arcee says this to Optimus when it seems like they're going to freeze to death in the Arctic.
Smokescreen gives the silent version of this trope (comes to attention and salutes) at the very end of season two.
A villainous version happens between Starscream and Knock-Out when they screwed up badly with some Mad Science. It gets a little overly sentimental, to the point of becoming humorously awkward.
Ultra Magnus and Wheeljack are on the receiving end of a Curb-Stomp Battle against Predaking. Anticipating their death and having previously been at each others throats, in that fight they worked out their personal differences and had this exchange.
It's Personal: Arcee's rivalry with Airachnid. And, to a slightly lesser extent, Bulkhead's rivalry with Breakdown.
Arcee and Starscream, after Arcee learns that Starscream is the 'Con who killed Cliffjumper.
Wheeljack's rivalry with Dreadwing.
Miko lists this as the reason why Fowler should go after Silas in "Nemesis Prime", referring to how Silas tried to kill Fowler earlier in the episode.
Miko, Wheeljack and Hardshell.
It's Raining Men: Breakdown in "Out of his Head" and Smokescreen in "Inside Job".
Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Subverted in "Convoy". Fowler tries to get information out of a mook by holding him off the side of Optimus driving at highway speed. Then said mook gets hit by a tree branch and dies.
Jerk with a Heart of Gold: For the good guys: Miko, Agent Fowler, Ratchet, and Wheeljack. Arguably, Breakdown is a villainous version.
Kibbles and Bits: It's Transformers, so it's required. However, even the Transformers that explicitly don't enter vehicle modes clearly have vehicle kibble, most likely to save money on character models.
Killed Off for Real: Jeff Kline, a producer of the show, says "When we kill a character, we kill a character." And indeed, when a character is killed, they remain dead, although the show isn't against using clever ways to show them again, like with zombies, flashback stories and Soul Jars. They later made exceptions with Bumblebee and Megatron (and technically Optimus in the third season premiere). The death toll is as follows:
Season One: Cliffjumper, Skyquake.
Season Two: Seaspray, Breakdown, Hardshell, Dreadwing
The next time we see Scraplets, it's against a mass-produced Mook, and we get to see just how deadly they are. The Insecticon is falling apart seconds after the combined might of the swarm descends on him.
Knight of Cerebus: While Megatron is the Big Bad, the stoic Shockwave and the sadistic Arachnid makes things turn dark and dire during their appearance.
Kryptonite Factor: Toxic Energon, or "Tox-En", is a dangerous form of energon which, instead of powering a Cybertronian, poisons and shuts them down to the point of spark loss.
Large and in Charge: Optimus and Megatron are a lot taller than their subordinates. Subverted with Bulkhead when Optimus appoints a temporary leader; Bulkhead never gets picked. His second in command is in fact Ratchet.
Lasers Are Worthless: Hitting anything bigger or more relevant to the plot than a Vehicon with lasers might as well be hitting them with a bean bag.
When Optimus and the Autobots are fighting Unicron's mooks, the smaller ones prove remarkably fragile despite packing a punch capable of nearly disabling Optimus. The larger ones, however, are utterly impervious to the Bots' blasters. Megatron's cannon to the head is another story...
Averted in "Triangulation", where a solid shot from Optimus' blaster knocks Dreadwing to the ground.
Laser-Guided Amnesia: When Optimus gives up the Matrix of Leadership to defeat Unicron, he subsequently loses all of his memories since he originally obtained the Matrix millenia ago, thinking him and Megatron to still be allies and not recognizing any of the Autobots. It doesn't last.
Happens to Silas in "The Human Factor" - when his plan to curry favor with Megatron and gain entry into the Decepticons fails, he is dragged off by Vehicons so he can be dissected by Breakdown's old buffing pal Knock Out, much like Silas did to the Cybertronians that he encountered.
The reaction to Soundwave, when the designs were revealed, were "what do you mean a robot can be anorexic?!" It's especially surprising in his case because the original Soundwave was boxy (turning into a tape recorder) and all Soundwaves since are boxy so they can homage the iconic chest design.
Left for Dead: Shockwave was marooned on Cybertron after he was caught in an exploding space bridge. He managed to repair himself and continued his research in isolation until some Decepticons returned to the planet on an unrelated mission.
Lesser of Two Evils: Siding with Megatron against Unicron, and using Starscream as an informant against Megatron.
Let's Get Dangerous!: In the first season finale, when Airachnid makes a bid for leadership (not unlike Starscream) the Decepticon forces are almost ready to join her due to Megatron's absense and erratic behavior. The only person to oppose her is Soundwave, who up to this point has done almost zero fighting. Airachnid scoffs at him, only to be on the receiving end of a Curb-Stomp Battle. The point was made: don't screw with Soundwave.
Limited Wardrobe: All of the human characters have the exact same outfit in every episode. Agent Fowler even pilots a jet and helicopter with the same shirt, suit and tie-at-half-mast combo, when he should probably be wearing a flightsuit.
Fowler's case is explained in "Grill" as being upgrades to his jet from Ratchet. And a preference for being comfortable.
Little "No": Miko in "Hurt," when Wheeljack goes down while fighting Hardshell.
Living Relic: All of the Transformers. Their civilization is old beyond reckoning and is now destroyed. While their technological capabilities are impressive, it is clear in many episodes that they only have scraps of knowledge compared to what once was.
The Cybertronians are this in another sense; they have been fighting this war for a very, very long time. Megatron almost offhandedly refers to having been trying to kill Optimus Prime for thousands of years.
Load-Bearing Hero: Throughout most of "Rock Bottom", Bulkhead is holding up the ceiling of the cave to prevent it from collapsing on him and Miko. By the end of the episode, Starscream is forced to hold it up as they escape.
Ratchet: We lost one this week, by the Allspark, don't let it be two.
Lost Superweapon: Related to Lost Technology below. There are quite a number of weapons that are far, far more effective than the standard Transformer armament hidden about.
Lost Technology: Earth appears to be littered with Cybertronian technology (and a few Cybertronians), including at least two crashed starships. And yet humanity hasn't discovered any of it, despite some of it sitting out in the open. MECH is working on it, however. Somewhat justified in that the crashed starships and battlefields are in isolated wilderness areas. Smaller tech (like the energon extractor) has been found, but it seems no one realized what it was.
The modern Cybertronians themselves are working off of a fraction of the technology the ancient Cybertronians, the Thirteen Original Transformers specifically, once had. Space Bridge technology in general was reverse engineered relatively recently. Thus even they are curious about what they might find.
Lotus-Eater Machine: During his coma, Megatron dreams of perpetual duels with Optimus that he always wins. He's tempted to stay, but Bumblebee convinces him that this is ultimately empty.
* Machine Blood: Much like in the movies, the robots tend to bleed a blue fluid that appears to be energon.
Meaningful Echo: In "Darkness Rising, Part 2" after Bulkhead destroys a piece of Ratchet's lab equipment to make a point:
Ratchet: Bulkhead, I needed that!
In "Darkest Hour", after Optimus destroys the Omega Lock to prevent the cyberforming of Earth, but also stopping them from ever resurrecting their home planet:
Ratchet: Optimus...we needed that.
Magic Skirt: Averted in "Speed Metal" when Jack drag races Vince down a long strip of road. The blast from their vehicles whips up a breeze that looks to blow Sierra and her friend's skirts up, but they immediately pull and hold their skirts into place as soon as they start to billow.
Magnetic Plot Device: In the first season, several episodes were dedicated to fighting over some Cybertronian artifacts that seemed to be randomly on Earth somehow. The second season clarifies that as the Cybertronian Civil War got worse, Autobot officials took a lot of culturally and technologically significant artifacts and scattered them into space to prevent Decepticon usage in case the Iacon Archives were compromised (and some artifacts were too dangerous/valuable for even Autobot use), providing a handy justification for a new MacGuffin every so often.
With the story of Transformers: Fall of Cybertron, Earth itself was a documented planet even to "the ancients." In this series it was revealed that Earth was formed around the body of Unicron, which adds a new level in why the planet seems to attract Cybertronian activity.
We get some skidplate shots of Arcee and Airachnid in "Predatory".
"Out of the Past" is another episode featuring close-ups that show off Arcee's rear.
The Masquerade: The Autobots arrangement with the US government hinges on keeping the existence of the Transformers presence on Earth a secret, something Wheeljack and Smokescreen had a little trouble with at first. Megatron all but throws off the Masquerade in "Darkest Hour".
The Masquerade Will Kill Your Dating Life: In the season 2 premiere, Jack is talking to Sierra at his job. She's obviously interested, but never sees him around. As Jack tries to make an excuse, Arcee chooses this moment to broadcast her voice over the intercom so she can pick him up. She obviously thinks it's his girlfriend, an assumption which is not dissuaded by Arcee's holographic driver in skintight leather nor passing her off as his "mother".
Mecha-Mooks: The Vehicon drones, who function as generic footsoldiers for Megatron and Starscream. They're actually dangerous, though, as they captured Cliffjumper and give Bumblebee and Arcee a hard time.
Mechanical Life Forms: When properly introduced to the Autobots, Raf asks, "So, if you guys are robots, who made you?" Ratchet is insulted by the question. Optimus then explains that they are "autonomous robotic organisms from the planet Cybertron." It's shown later in the series that they have an approximation of the same nervous system and "vital components" that regular organic life has. They have limits to the amount of damage they can take, and cold arctic weather can be dangerous.
Further attention is brought to this when Arcee feels nauseous after coming into contact with Dark Energon.
Miko: Robots who get dizzy? Raf: Robots with emotions... Jack: Robots... who can die...
Another interesting factor comes up when Arcee notes that just being robots doesn't mean they know all the details of how technology works, much like how humans may not know how their own body works:
Jack: You're a motorcycle, Arcee. Shouldn't you know how to build a motorcycle engine? Arcee: You're a human, Jack. Can you build me a small intestine?
Another factor is the description of T-Cogs (which control a Cybertronian's ability to transform into their alt-modes or access their built-in weapons) when Bumblebee's was stolen in "Operation Bumblebee". While mechanical in nature, T-Cogs are essentially biology, meaning they can't make one from spare parts any more than humans can replace a kidney with a chunk of beef (although transplants are an option). To anyone like MECH (who are making their own Cybertronian inspired robots) they're useless without a flow of Energon, as a result of being biology and not technology. This also means that Bumblebee, and later Starscream, essentially became victim to organ theft.
Several episodes have described the use of biological weapons being used in the Cybertronian war. Cybonic Plague is a poisoned form of energon transmitted via interpersonal contact and Tox-En is a more chlorine-like type of bio-weapon.
This makes Cybertronians largely vulnerable to factors that affect non-living metal or other objects from their world. The Polarity Gauntlet can magnetize (to the effect of gluing them together or warping them into a pile of scrap) as if they were random bits of metal; the Energon Harvester, in addition of its function as a mining tool, can drain Energon (read: blood and/or fuel) from a live Cybertronian as well as it does from an unrefined crystal.
Menacing Stroll: Optimus walking through the Nemesis in "One Shall Fall"; later Megatron when he enters the Autobot base through the groundbridge.
Merchandise-Driven: Played with, as the toys came out over a year after the premiere date because of the debacle a few years ago concerning on the delay of the Transformers Animated toy line because the movie line was still selling well. Even then, the toy line is fairly minimal as they are a subline of the greater "Robots in Disguise" line rather than being their own set (like the movies or Animated).
Meteor Move: An Insecticon, under the influence of Airachnid, pulls a uniquely vicious variation of this move on Megatron. It slams Megatron into a cave wall and kicks him into the air, flying after him and bloodily ripping a chunk of his shoulder off with its mandibles in mid air, before raining a hail of laser fire after him as he crashes to the ground. This has the undesired effect of seriously pissing him off.
Mid-Season Upgrade: After suffering serious injuries at the end of season two, Optimus uses the Forge of Solus Prime to give him a new body that makes him dwarf Megatron and have flight capabilities.
Also, If You Kill Him, You Will Be Just Like Him is adhered to... unless the enemy really, really pissed you off. However, the Autobots aren't portrayed as absolutely perfect saints, and they've all endured a lot during the war.
More Teeth than the Osmond Family: Scraplets. Tiny little critters that actually look cute. But when they see living metal, they open their mouths and show their teeth, and you can hear a dentist's drill as they speed toward their target.
Mr. Exposition: "It stands to reason" that both Ratchet and Optimus Prime fill this role.
Mugging the Monster: MECH thinks it's stealing the D.N.G.S. from "an unarmed civilian truck". The Autobots don't even need to transform to trash the MECH cars, and it takes Decepticon interference to reveal the Autobots to MECH.
Mutual Kill: When Wheeljack shoots down Laserbeak, the drone's final, wild shots score a crippling hit on his ship. Both parties survive, but Laserbeak and the Jackhammer are down for the episode.
Natural Disaster Cascade: In the first season's finale, Unicron begins causing this to Earth via Planetary Core Manipulation when his physical body (which comprises the Earth's inner core) begins awakening: causing a simultaneous chain of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions along the tectonic boundaries, followed by freak storms, global hurricanes, tornadoes, a blizzard in Hawaii, and a Giant Wall of Watery Doom. Fortunately, the disasters all immediately cease when Unicron's body is forcibly returned to hibernation.
Dreadwing does this to Starscream in "Triangulation".
Soundwave does this to Airachnid in "One Shall Rise, Part 3," though his hand is so big on her that it's more of a shoulder-and-neck lift.
Nemesis Weapon: The Star Saber and the Dark Star Saber, used by Optimus Prime and Megatron respectively. The Star Saber is a legendary weapon while the Dark Star Saber is a Evil Knockoff made by Megatron.
Never Recycle Your Schemes: Double Subverted in "One Shall Fall". Megatron tries to rebuild the space bridge that was destroyed in the pilot, in order to use it to find more dark energon. However, it turns out that he didn't need to. There already is more dark energon on Earth because Earth is Unicron.
Never Trust a Trailer: Several, but by far the most egregious one is the advertisement's treatment of Predaking. The ads consistently portray him as a straight-up antagonist, even going into Big Bad territory. Even after the show revealed he is a Noble Demon who isn't all that evil and actually lonely being the only Predacon alive, the ads made every effort the make him look as evil as possible. While he was by default an antagonist until the climax of Predacons Rising, he was never anywhere near the level of evil as Megatron or Sila, let alone as a Big Bad.
The promos for "Persuasion" made it appear that the new Autobot base was destroyed by Starscream. It turns out, the Decepticons were just as tricked as we were, with Starscream blowing up the wrong building in the episode proper.
The clip for "Armada" seemed to depict Starscream's death. In reality, Bulkhead only killed one of his clones.
The description for "Crossfire" stated that Airachnid and Starscream would try to control an Insecticon. This is a Justified Trope, however, given "Crossfire" is a Wham Episode featuring the death of Breakdown, Airachnid's departure from the Decepticons, and Dreadwing becoming Megatron's Dragon.
Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: In "Orion Pax, Part 3", a pair of Vehicons start beating up Orion Pax (who is starting to doubt Megatron's lies) when he protests against Megatron's plans. The beatdown causes Orion's arm cannons to appear — the arm cannons Orion didn't know he had. He immediately kills the Vehicons and leaves to confront Megatron.
No Flow in CGI: Subverted, due to the series being animated by a veteran CG animation studio. All of the human characters' hair looks somewhat like clay, but this is largely due to the art style and most likely intentional.
In "Orion Pax, Part 3", a couple of Vehicons start whaling on Orion when he protests Megatron's orders. This backfires spectacularly when Orion reflexively activates his arm cannons (which he didn't know he had thanks to being mentally regressed to a time before he was ever armed) to defend himself.
Bulkhead delivers one to a Starscream clone, going so far as to actually beat him to death.
Done more successfully by Bulkhead with the energon harvester.
In "T.M.I.", Megatron destroys the information capsule rather than let the Autobots take it.
Subverted with the polarity gauntlet and the immobilizer staff.
In "Toxicity", Bulkhead does it again with the Tox-En by throwing it in a volcano.
How Optimus convinces Dreadwing to stand down in "Triangulation" - since the Apex Armor had just gone to the bottom, there was no reason for them to fight.
Non-Action Guy: Ratchet doesn't see much fighting and usually stays at base as Mission Control. But when needed, he is still willing to go into battle, surgical blades and all.
Soundwave tends to stay out of combat as well; for almost the entire first season, his only fight scene was when he attacked the kids with one of his tentacles in the pilot. In the season finale, however, he proved that when motivated, he's easily one of the more dangerous Decepticons.
In "Rock Bottom", Starscream initially writes Megatron off after the cave-in... but then almost immediately remembers that Megs has survived worse, and he decides that rescuing him would probably earn him some points.
Hardshell also proclaims that Bulkhead could not have survived his wounds. He's wrong, but Bulkhead suffers a complete systems failure, and has to undergo lots of physical therapy, with the implication that he'll never be at his physical peak again.
No Power, No Color: The movie death is alluded to in an episode wherein Bumblebee enters Megatron's comatose mind to find a cure for a disease afflicting Optimus. Megatron is quick to sense his advantage and pressures the scout to agree to a little quid pro quo or else "Optimus fades to gunmetal gray."
Jack: Uh, Optimus! You wanna see something funny? Optimus: No.
The Noseless: All of the robots seem to follow the aesthetic set forth by Animated, substituting noses with a small ridge on their helmets in the same approximate place. Optimus is perhaps the most notable example, as his ridge is so small as to be barely noticeable.
However, four episodes later, pretty much everything is back to the way it was.
Not Quite Dead: Megatron survived the space bridge exploding thanks to dark energon, which left him barely alive.
Silas, after Nemesis Prime gets dropped on him. He's left on heavy life support, and MECH is forced to place him inside Breakdown's corpse to save him.
In Predacons Rising, Unicron returns, bringing Megatron back to life as well.
Not So Different: In "Convoy," with the introduction of MECH, Optimus notes that humanity has its own Decepticons.
In "Toxicity", Fowler was coaching Bulkhead over a comm channel to give him the strength to complete his mission of destroying a small stockpile of Tox-En. Here we learn that Fowler is an ex-Army Ranger and thus understands Bulkhead's connection to the Wreckers. It's especially interesting because they didn't get along very well before, but found new respect for each other.
Not the Intended Use: The Omega Lock's purpose is apparently replenishing and restoring Cybertron in the event that the metal world is damaged, but Megatron finds a far more devious use for it: forcibly cyberforming Earth into a new metal world and killing all organic life on it in the process.
Off-Model: The eyes of the robots mix the colored shapes that were used for most all prior incarnations and the pupils are the intricate "adjusting camera lens" look that the movies introduced. Depending on the episode certain characters' pupils (most often Bumblebee and Starscream) vary between the camera lens look and being just filled with color.
One-Man Army: Bulkhead is second only to Optimus in combat power, and he produces a fine showing of this in "Darkness Rising, Part 4", when he takes on a squad of Vehicons by himself with surprising grace, finesse and power. He's also the only Autobot besides Optimus to hold his own against Megatron, while he's fully powered by his dark energon. A very impressive feat.
Ditto for Wheeljack. It seems that for the Wreckers, this trope is par for the course.
In "Orion Pax, Part 3", Megatron takes on Ratchet, Bumblebee, and Bulkhead at the same time, and wins.
One Size Fits All: The Apex Armor automatically sizes itself to its wearer, even if that wearer happens to be a human.
And in an interesting variation, Miko apparently feels that Bulkhead is the only one allowed to defeat Breakdown.
Arcee and Airachnid have this attitude towards each other.
Only the Chosen May Wield: Artifacts belonging to the Thirteen Primes will only respond to a Prime. Goes double for the Star Saber, which can't even be moved by a non-Prime. Megatron gets around this by stealing the arm of a deceased Prime.
It seems the Star Saber could only be removed from where it initially was by a Prime, since in later episodes other characters are able to carry it around just fine.
Orphaned Etymology: A visual edition. The 'bots in Prime categorically lack noses. (Some of them kind of have a nose suggested by the extension of a forehead decoration, but it's still basically on their forehead). Yet, somehow, they end up using the same Autobot logo as the rest of the franchise, which does indeed feature a stylized nose where noses actually go. Illustrated here.
Our Zombies Are Different: Adding Dark Energon to a Cybertronian's corpse results in a savage monster who kills everything in its path. They can be controlled by a living Cybertronian with Dark Energon in their system.
Out-of-Genre Experience: "Thirst" is essentially a horror film, using many of the tropes common to the genre (an experiment that did not go as well as expected, enclosed spaces, and the infection spreading very, very quickly). Knock-Out also lampshades the tropes a few times in the episode.
To a lesser extent, both the first episode to feature the Scraplets and the introduction of Airachnid play out like classic horror movies. The first is kind of an "Alien" experience, with vicious creatures loose in the base, while the second is a bit more like a slasher movie, hiding in the woods from a vicious psycho.
Palette Swap: In proud Transformers tradition. One of Arcee's old partners, Tailgate, is a recoloring of Cliffjumper in a white primary with red accents. They manage to hide it by showing sharp camera angles on him so it isn't so obvious.
Dreadwing is a recoloring of Skyquake, justified because they're brothers (split from the same spark).
Happens with the titular character of "Nemesis Prime."
Ultra Magnus is largely the same design as Optimus (as per tradition) except colored white and blue, but he is modified with different head, chest and shoulders. He ends up scanning a vehicle form identical to Optimus' as well but with even fewer design changes.
Pardon My Klingon: Cybertronian-style swears such as "scrap" and "frag". Notably missing is the formerly ubiquitous "slag", which is an actual swear word over in England and the UK (but not America or Canada). Production is aware of this; in Transformers Animated, the Dinobot who is nigh-identical to G1 Slag is named "Snarl" (after another Dinobot who doesn't get a TFA version) but "Oh, slag" remains the preferred "something really bad is about to happen" phrase. However, "Oh, scrap" appears to be its official replacement now.
Party Scattering: The team has to do this just to survive at the end of season two. The first few episodes of season three show them gradually regrouping.
Pet the Dog: Breakdown is prone to this, genuinely being grateful to Bulkhead for saving him, and is very kind to the otherwise hapless Vehicons.
In return for her sparing his life when she clearly didn't want to, Starscream saves Arcee from Airachnid and lets her go free.
Pintsized Powerhouse: Due to the way the Apex Armor works, Miko ends up becoming this in "Chain of Command". While wearing the Apex Armor, Miko is every bit as strong as Starscream or Arcee were when wearing it, but barely comes up to Starscream's chest since the armor is fitted for a mere human.
Before the start of the series, it was Dark Energon infecting Cybertron's core that caused the planet to shut down and become uninhabitable. It's implied this wasn't so much due to interference with the planet's gravity, mass or magnetism but rather due to the infection forcing Primus within the core into dormancy. In Predacons Rising, Unicron attempts to reach Cybertron's core via the Well of All Sparks to re-corrupt the core and thereby completely reverse Cybertron's restoration.
With the reveal that Unicron is the Earth's core and his awakening is causing natural disasters on the planet, Megatron and the Autobots form a temporary truce where the former will use his knowledge of Unicron to safely lead everyone to the core and the latter will use his power to pacify Unicron. Since the Earth had perfectly sustained life during Unicron's slumber and his awakening was making things worse, this is a case where deactivating the core is actually beneficial and has no ill effects on the planet.
At the end of the series, the Autobots enact a positive example of this trope, firing the Omega Lock 2.0's beam into Cybertron's core to reactivate it and restore the planet to a habitable state. Then they do it again in the Predacons Rising finale when Optimus flies to the core to reunite the AllSpark with it, enabling the planet to begin producing new sparks again.
Playing Both Sides: Starscream, though it's not what it sounds like. Starscream's just trying to survive and ends up trying to get help from the Autobots when he's injured and wrecking Megatron's plans when he can, but he's not above trying to convince Dreadwing to let him help fight against Optimus Prime, only to turn around and help Optimus take out some of the Vehicons, only to later exclaim to Dreadwing that he was forced to help Optimus.
Plot Tailored to the Party: "Scrapheap". The base is swarmed with Scraplets, metal-eating termites. The only way to get them out of the base is through the GroundBridge. The only way to fix the GroundBridge is to repair the leak in the fuel line. The fuel line is where the scraplets swarm is located. Now if only there was someone in the base not made of metal who could go down there to fix the fuel line.
Lampshaded by Ratchet: "We're lucky it happened... on a Saturday."
Plug 'n' Play Technology: Averted. Raf tries to download Decepticon information onto a flash drive, but can't find a port for it. Miko has to take a picture of the screen on her cell phone.
Police Are Useless: In "Deus ex Machina", the museum guard calls the police before he finds Miko and takes her into the security room for questioning during the night. At the end of the episode, morning comes and the police never arrive, when realistically, it should only have taken them a few minutes to get there. Fowler manages to get there before they do, and he was supposed to be on break at the time.
Possessing a Dead Body: The Grand Finale Movie starts off with Unicron telling a deceased Megatron's spark that —thanks to doping himself on his blood while he was alive— he's Barred from the Afterlife and will live again... to serve him. He takes control of Megatron's corpse, resurrects it, upgrades it, and inhabits it while Megatron's spark is along for the ride as little more than a prisoner, unable to control his body's own actions. The movie ends with Unicron being extracted from Megatron's body and banished, leaving Megatron alive and in control of in his restored and upgraded body, whereupon he promptly disbands his faction and exiles himself, having undergone a Heel Realization while under Unicron's possession. It is unknown if Unicron's banishment has changed his Barred from the Afterlife status.
P.O.V. Cam: The show is fond of showing the view of an Autobot, usually Bulkhead, while he's firing at Decepticons. Sometimes it's closer to an over-the-shoulder view, possibly in homage to Transformers: War for Cybertron.
A literal one is used during Bumblebee's trip into Megatron's mind, which later proves to be more than just giving a reason why the others know of Bumblebee's adventures.
We see the world through Soundwave's visor a few times.
Power Trio: The three human kids are an excellent example of the Freudian kind:
Jack: Ego. He's the most down-to-earth of the three kids and serves as the voice of reason. He's a perfect balance between Raf's intelligence and Miko's emotion.
Miko: Id. The most impulsive and given to emotions.
Raf: Superego. The most intelligent and tech-savvy, and the one most willing to pursue logical courses of action.
Let's be clear here. MECH is reverse engineering Cybertronian technology to develop the ultimate weapon and the only Powered Armor seen so far can only be worn by a Cybertronian.
In season 3, Miko discovers that the Apex Armor is indeed compatible with humans. Fowler seems to hint that the government may one day use reverse engineered armor as a way to help humans fight back against Decepticons.
Psycho Serum: The incomplete synthetic energon formula from "Stronger, Faster". Injecting it does make Ratchet much faster and stronger, but also makes him far more aggressive, angry, brutal, and overconfident enough to try and take on Megatron alone. And the episode ends with Knock Out finding a sample, presumably so the Decepticons can now manufacture it themselves, and Megatron sees no problems with its side-effects.
Punch Catch: Megatron grabs Ratchet's second synthetic Energon-powered punch, twists his arm, and punches a hole in Ratchet's gut with his free hand.
In "Toxicity", Hardshell catches Bulkhead's wrecking-ball punch and stabs him with his free hand.
Puny Humans: Used to insult Breakdown after he gets captured by MECH. Megatron refuses to send a rescue team, claiming that since Breakdown got captured by creatures smaller and weaker than him, he's not worth rescuing. Starscream also uses the trope name later to make Breakdown "forget" about the unauthorized rescue.
Puppy-Dog Eyes: Starscream, of all bots, does this a few times in "Partners".
Bumblebee's pretty good at them.
The Quiet One: Both Bumblebee and Soundwave. When Bumblebee does speak, his "voice" is a series of beeps and whirrs, but even then, he doesn't seem to carry on long conversations. Soundwave only "speaks" using recorded audio tracks of a recent conversation; that and his blank stare are meant to be unsettling.
Recap Episode: S02E09 "Grill" for the good guys, and S02E24 Patch for the Decepticons (Starscream in particular)
Red Eyes, Take Warning: Standard for Decepticons. Megatron tops this one, his stare alone is enough to frighten anyone at first glance. Exceptions among the Decepticons include Breakdown, Airachnid, and Soundwave.
Arcee and Optimus are the most clear-cut examples in the Autobot ranks. Arcee is brash and somewhat reckless while Optimus is generallyThe Stoic amongst the Autobots.
Bumblebee and Bulkhead are red to Ratchet's blue.
Starscream and Soundwave fit this trope to a T. Starscream is a foul-tempered, narcissistic coward while Soundwave is cold, calculating, and utterly emotionless.
Knock Out and Breakdown are another excellent example. Their color schemes are an inversion, however; Breakdown is dark blue while the more cultured Knock Out is red. Likewise, either one of them is red to Airachnid's blue.
Starscream and Megatron.
Megatron and Soundwave. Anyone and Soundwave, really.
Even though the former is long dead and they never actually met in-show, twins Skyquake and Dreadwing seem to be a pair. Skyquake carries himself like a gladiator, takes absolutely no crap from Starscream, and is quick to attack the Autobots. Dreadwing has an noticeably cooler temperament than his brother and employs more sophisticated weapons and tactics.
Revenge Before Reason: Arcee's obsession with defeating Airachnid to avenge Tailgate's murder. In "Partners", this also extends to Starscream for Cliffjumper's death, and she nearly crosses the line by killing him in cold blood, but snaps out of it in time.
In "Orion Pax, Part 2", when Bulkhead and Ratchet try to hide who they got their info from, they're surprised at how nonchalantly Arcee deduces it's Starscream, despite their fears that she would fly into an uncontrollable rage on finding out that they actually accepted Starscream's help.
Arcee seems to have backslid a bit by "Crossfire" when she breaks ranks and attempts to go after Airachnid on her own and would have gotten killed for it had Starscream not come to her aid.
She shows enough restraint in "Armada" to let Airachnid get locked into stasis, though she admits that it was difficult to hold back.
Reverse the Polarity: How they blow up Megatron's space bridge; reversing the power flow causes it to overload, destroying the whole thing. Although there is an attempt at justification, as energon is naturally volatile and what they do seems to be something like crossing positive/negative currents.
The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized: Originally, the Decepticon uprising was one based on the desire for freedom. Since then, Cybertron was made uninhabitable, its supreme leader cares more about himself and screwing over his enemies than making it a better world; and most Decepticons are savage thugs, with only a few having anything resembling honor, and the rest simply being a more sophisticated brand of thug.
The Thirteen Original Primes left behind a few descendants. Prima's lineage is recognised by those who possess a "Primian polarity", among whom Optimus is included. And Amalgamous Prime is ancestor to the "shifter" breed, which includes Makeshift.
One that actually is mentioned in-series, and is plot-relevant at the same time, are Skyquake and Dreadwing. Dreadwing is Skyquake's twin brother, come to avenge his death. It also lets them use a Palette Swap instead of making a new CGI model.