Wednesday, 21 March 2018

How Cyclonus Saved the Decepticons

 - Becka of the Rated Thighs

“Once the Decepticons nearly held the quadrant through terror. Now we scrap like slargs over a few energon cubes. Is this how you honour the memory of Galvatron? Is this the fate of the mighty Decepticon Empire?” 

I’ve been a fan of Transformers for nine years this year, and for eight of those years I wrote off season three of the Generation One cartoon as something I wouldn’t be interested in after all of the deaths in the movie and the change of setting from Earth to Cybertron. (Hell hath no fury like an Ironhide fan being forced to watch him die in two separate films). However after deciding to give season three another go, I found not only that it’s now my favourite of the cartoon, but also that Cyclonus is the most important thing in it. 

Copyright Hasbro

Yes, ol’ lilac bunny ears himself.

Or, to put it another way, he’s at least more important than any of the Decepticons who preceded him: Megatron as the leader, Starscream as the backstabber archetype (looking at you, copycat Terrorsaur), Devastator as the first gestalt, Blitzwing and Astrotrain as the first triple changers…heck, he’s even more important than his own leader, Galvatron.

And yes, he would punch me for saying that. And yes, I would still say it. Why? Because Cyclonus broke the mold of what it meant to be a Decepticon in the most instantly recognizable of Transformers properties. (Before anyone can object with “but the Marvel comic!” yes, the Marvel comic is amazing. But to the average casual fan I’d put money on the cartoon being the more familiar).

In seasons one and two, the Decepticons were portrayed as borderline-idiotically evil, despising anything ‘good’ just because (“I hate nice things!” says Rumble in ‘Microbots’, perfectly summing up Megatron’s entire movement) and refusing to even allow something as meaningful as friendship enter their ranks. Seriously, they spend 90% of their day hating and sabotaging the Autobots, and the remaining 10% of that same day hating and sabotaging one another (see Astrotrain and Blitzwing’s attempted coup in ‘Triple Takeover’ for a prime example of how completely incapable of working together the Decepticons are at this point). But they’ve still got a leg up on the Autobots, so their pointless squabbling doesn’t really amount to much other than to maintain the status quo of Autobots = good and Decepticons = evil. 

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And then the movie happens to them, and they lose everything they’ve spent the last couple of million years building up: their entire homeworld, and the only leader they’ve ever known. The only leader powerful enough to force them to work together. ‘Five Faces of Darkness’ opens with the remnants of the faction hanging out together (yet oh so apart) on a cold barren world, unable to achieve anything even as basic as foraging for energon (although Astrotrain tries, bless his cotton socks). They’re dispirited, desperate, and broken as a faction.

And then Cyclonus arrives, and with him change. Because Cyclonus is not an egocentric Decepticon who believes only in the superiority of himself, but rather the superiority of the Decepticon movement as a whole.
Within five seconds of being on planet Chaar, Cyclonus has the erstwhile morbidly depressed troops on their feet, cheering, and handing over their meagre energon supplies so that he can find Galvatron and restore them to their former glory. He inspires them in a way Megatron was never able to and Galvatron will never be able to; both versions of the guy led solely by fear, whereas Cyclonus’s natural talent for leadership comes from his own proactive nature. He identifies a problem and immediately starts thinking of ways to overcome it, rather than using the favoured Decepticon tactic of the first two seasons of either a) ignoring the problem outright, b) blaming the problem on someone else, or c) refusing to acknowledge the scale of the problem, refer to a) or b) to continue. (See: pretty much any episode from seasons one and two).

But beyond his complete lack of ego, Cyclonus is also totally almost selfless. The Decepticons of the first two seasons were greedy, desiring power for themselves above all else, but also just that slight bit too lazy and/or cowardly to fully pursue their goals. For example in ‘The God Gambit’ Astrotrain, Starscream, and Thrust discover an energon-rich planet and waste no time in conquering it and forcing its natives into worshipping them – all without contacting Megatron, because they would not wish to share this newfound wealth with their own movement? This is in sharp comparison to ‘Fight or Flee’, in which Cyclonus and Scourge discover another energon-rich planet. Do they do as Astrotrain and crew did one season beforehand? Nope. Cyclonus’s first instinct is to contact Galvatron and summon the Decepticons, recognising the planet’s strategic value in their continuing campaign. It simply doesn’t occur to him to keep the glory for himself. He is a warrior to his cause, and his cause comes above all else – even personal glory.

(Although, as an aside, it has to be noted that he carefully avoids mentioning that he and Scourge had their afts handed to them by the Aerialbots earlier in the same episode when speaking with Galvatron, so it is possible Cyclonus has pride that can be dented at times).

Finally, let’s consider his relationship with Galvatron. It’s fun to simplify it right down to a master and servant dynamic, but like the Depeche Mode song there’s a lot more going on that first appears. For example, I don’t think it’s right to say that Cyclonus has 100% confidence in Galvatron. He unthinkingly corrects him on a couple of occasions – such as commenting on his leader’s lack of strategy at the start of ‘Webworld’ – and also seems to spend the majority of his time acting entirely on his own imitative without any orders from above. In ‘The Big Broadcast of 2006’ he even outright ignores Galvatron’s warnings that the Decepticons are not interested in the Junkions’ rebellion against the Autobots and flies off with Scourge and the Sweeps to see how they could take advantage of the situation. Galvatron has decided against intervention, but Cyclonus deemed the matter important enough to override his master’s command – and drag Scourge and co. along for the ride. Cyclonus, then, is not totally blindly loyal to Galvatron – again, his interests are for the entire Decepticon movement, not the one person leading it. 

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It’s also arguable that Cyclonus doesn’t even perceive Galvatron as a person in his own mind, but rather his own metaphorical figurehead. As already mentioned, Cyclonus has an innate ability to get people to follow him without a second thought and has both the brains and the brawn to back this up. Yet he always defaults back to insisting that Galvatron be the one in charge – and I will argue that this is not because he feels inferior to Galvatron, but rather because he recognises that one of them is good at sitting in a chair and yelling orders whilst the other one is good at actually flying off and making those orders happen. In other words, Galvatron must be in charge because Cyclonus is far too busy to lead and nobody else is suited for the role.

Another part of the Decpeticon mold thoroughly atomized.

If you want a neat summary of everything I’ve written above, I’d invite you to watch ‘Webworld’ – arguably Cyclonus’s most important episode. Cyclonus has enough of the Decepticons’ respect for both Swindle and Motormaster to warn him of the impending revolt against his master (Swindle, for goodness’ sake, does nothing without getting some kind of benefit out of it – yet here he is giving advice for free). Rather than allowing the revolt to happen so he can usurp power, as past Decepticons would have done, Cyclonus immediately sets about trying to fix the problem (albeit with advice given by Quintessons, but at this point he’s desperate). During the various ‘fixes’ on Torkulon he’s wise enough to not meddle in what’s happening – believing medical professionals to have more knowledge than him – but as soon as those treatments become harmful he immediately attempts to intervene. He then apologises to Galvatron, recognising that he has made an error in trying to force him to change, and guides the leader back onto his proper path of wanting to smash Autobots.

Now try to picture that episode happening with any other Decepticon, even Scourge, in Cyclonus’s shoes. It just wouldn’t happen – they would fly off the moment they discovered that the Torkulons are powerful enough to keep Galvatron prisoner and claim the Decepticons for themselves.

Cyclonus is also important because his colourful nature gives the Decepticons a flavour of believability. Even before season three and the excellently written Rodimus Prime and Ultra Magnus, the Autobots have always had the benefit of multifaceted characters; they had grumps (Cliffjumper, Gears, Huffer), they had naysayers (Sunstreaker in ‘Megatron’s Master Plan’), they had wildcards (Red Alert, Grapple, Hoist, and Ironhide at various points), and they had hubris (Optimus Prime, whenever they were doing badly). The Decepticons were just bad, period, and many of the new ones introduced during season three followed that same bland ideal. Cyclonus did not, and the season is all the better for him.

In closing: he’s a good lad whose positive attributes may have landed him on the Autobot side of things in another life, and showed television audiences for the first time that Decepticons could be more than bland villains hell-bent on the silliest world domination plans possible. And no, we’re not going to talk about what Headmasters did to him. 

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to rate his thighs.

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