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Optimus Prime is revived as a zombie by Quintessons.
Japanese title: "Convoy's Shadow"
On the run from Galvatron, Rodimus Prime, Arcee, Ultra Magnus, Kup, Spike and Daniel take refuge on board the Autobot Mausoleum containing many of their deceased comrades. These include Ironhide, Prowl, Ratchet, Huffer, and Optimus Prime. While exploring by himself, Daniel is stuck in a dark room with robot corpses and gets appropriately creeped out. When he finds the others he swears he has seen Optimus Prime alive. To satisfy his curiosity and against the opinions of the other Autobots, Rodimus opens Prime's tomb only to find it empty.
However, they cannot investigate further because the Decepticons have followed them inside and attack them. The fierce battle that follows appears lost for the Autobots when suddenly they are saved by none other than Optimus Prime. Freaked, the Decepticons retreat.
The Autobots are amazed and confused at his presence. Optimus can give them no explanation to his apparent resurrection, just the typical near-death experience of seeing darkness and then a light at the end of the tunnel.
Rodimus Prime eagerly (too eagerly) returns the Matrix of Leadership to him, despite Prime's bizarre behavior and damaged appearance, and against the advice of Kup and Ultra Magnus. Without the Matrix inside him, Rodimus reverts to Hot Rod and declares, "Let's party!" Optimus evidently has other plans and attacks the Autobots and sets the auto-destruct sequence to the mausoleum ship. He then departs and leaves the others stranded.
After returning to Cybertron, Optimus informs the Autobots that Rodimus and the others were killed by the Quintessons. This puts everyone in a pretty bad mood (Springer swears vengeance- particularly for Arcee- while Grimlock spends at least a minute stomping and thumping his tail). Optimus re-assumes command and orders an all-out attack on a supposed Quintesson base. The Autobots obey without question or explanation (loyal bunch, aren't they?) and the entire Autobot fleet heads into battle. The Dinobots stay behind to "guard the base."
Hot Rod and his group manage to escape and return to Cybertron, only to find that most of the Autobots have left to attack the Quintessons. They pursue the fleet in their own ship, but their frantic calls to stop the attack are dismissed by Optimus as Quintesson tricks.
Hot Rod and the others finally manage to board the lead ship and the former Rodimus goes "Optimus hunting" after his zombified mentor. When the two meet, Optimus starts to pound on Hot Rod, but as he's kicking Hot Rod's tailpipe he begs Hot Rod to defeat him.
It is finally revealed that the Quintessons stole Optimus Prime's corpse and reanimated it with their own evil programming to lead all Autobots into a trap. Optimus is nothing more than a "mindless zombie." However, since the Matrix of Leadership is inside him, Prime's true, heroic self is overriding the Quintesson evil.
Hot Rod is physically overcome by Prime, but the Matrix finally reverts the evil programming and Optimus returns it to Hot Rod's chest cavity. Prime then takes control of the ship, and orders the Autobot fleet away from the Quintesson trap.
The irreparable Optimus' last act is to pilot the Autobot flagship into the trigger zone of the Quintesson trap. With a massive explosion, the solar system is destroyed. As Kup bids his old friend farewell, Magnus remarks that it be his memorial. Rodimus doubts he'll be the Autobot leader that Optimus Prime was, but vows to try. And thus, the tears of Daniel Witwicky and many other thousands of young kids flowed all over again.
Written by: Antoni Zalewski
"Great. What'll Daniel and I do when the air runs out?"
"Basically you'll have two choices: suffocate, or smother."
- -- Spike wonders about the limited oxygen in the Autobot life pod, while Rodimus Prime takes "deadpan" to a whole new level.
"Decepticons! Leave this place... or die!"
- -- The half-dead corpse of Optimus Prime confronts the Decepticons.
"Quintessons! ME GRIMLOCK THUMP QUINTESSONS FLAT INTO GROUND!"
- -- Grimlock mad. Grimlock want smash.
Arcee: "Sludge! Snarl! Oh, are we glad to see you."
Sludge: "Me Sludge not glad to see you."
Snarl: "You all dead! Rarrr!"
Sludge: "...Maybe we dead."
- -- Arcee freaks out the Dinobots.
Kup: "Where is everybody?"
Sludge: "All go smash Quintessons."
Ultra Magnus: "Quintessons? What do the Quintessons have to do with any of this?"
Snarl: "They kill you! Optimus Prime say so! ...Uh-oh. Something not right."
- -- the Dinobots start to comprehend that all is not well.
"Not a game! ...Matrix makes me too strong!"
"Now there's a unique complaint!"
- -- Optimus Prime wails on Hot Rod, who takes it in stride
- -- Optimus Prime's last words. Or not.
Items of note
- When Daniel lists the names of the Autobots killed in the shuttle ambush, Brawn (the first casualty of the movie) is mysteriously absent, replaced instead by Huffer (whose death is unseen). Brawn and Huffer (discolored) later reappeared in the episode "Carnage in C Minor" (This is usually dismissed as an animation error)
- Optimus Prime is even more batshit crazy than Galvatron.
- There were two different versions of this episode made; One with the current ending where Optimus Prime flying into the sun and dying. And the other version had an alternate ending where Dr. Swafford and Jessica Morgan rescue Prime before his ship explodes which was shown the day before "The Return of Optimus Prime, Part 1" aired. After this re-episode aired (the day before Return of Optimus Prime aired) this was the stated: "But is this really the end of Optimus Prime, find out in tomorrow's exciting episode The Return of Optimus Prime'.
- The Rhino DVD has the re-aired episode in the chronological order of the first airing giving the viewer the impression that it is out of order when in fact, the original airing did not have the prelude to "The Return of Optimus Prime".
Animation and/or technical glitches
- When Optimus is in control of the flagship and orders the other Autobots to return, he has his left arm again... and the hand colored wrong.
- When Cyclonus shoots Arcee, the blast comes from WAY too low from the gun, coming instead from his third knuckle.
- Immediately after this, Kup, Ultra Magnus and Rodimus fire purple laser blasts.
- When Kup, Ultra Magnus, Rodimus, Spike, Arcee, Daniel are getting into their escape ship, there are duplicates of Rodimus and Ultra Magnus who stand almost beside each other as they enter the ship, though this could be a bad attempt to show the shaking.
- Shortly after Optimus Prime first awakens, Rodimus Prime states that Optimus has been dead "for years". Unless he means dog years, this is impossible, considering season 3 starts immediately after the 1986 movie. Also, Daniel is the same age he was when Optimus died. In actuality, Optimus probably hasn't been dead more than a few months. This works a little better in Japan, though, where the series takes place in 2010.
- Rodimus Prime and his crew were surprised to find the Autobot Mausoleum, suggesting they forgot where it was. Why didn't the Autobots just put the Mausoleum somewhere on Cybertron?
- The deaths of the Autobots happened in The Transformers: The Movie.
- The opening scene of this episode is copied almost note-for-note from an episode of the cartoon Super Friends, including a pursuit through space, launching an escape pod ("We turned the cockpit into an escape ship just in time!"), right up to Spike's verbatim quote "It's the size of...Manhattan!"
- It seems that Galvatron has learned since The Transformers: The Movie — now he checks for space debris instead of just thinking his victims are dead.
- It's always been somewhat problematic that the Autobots didn't keep Optimus Prime's body in the hopes that, one day, technology might come about that could revive him. Why didn't they? They just put his body, along with all the other Autobots in a tomb — in space. Great idea.
- Three words: saddest ending ever!
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