The War Rages On

Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008 Series)

Since we're already reviewed the movie that launched this series, it's time to get deep into The Clone Wars TV show. I will admit trepidation about this series: the movie was pretty crappy, and despite some people telling me the show gets better, I'm expecting something more akin to Star Trek: The Animated Series that anything resembling a good show. Still, I have to give this a try, so lets see if over the course of the five episodes I gain an appreciation for this show.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars

Note that unlike the Star TrekOriginally conceived as "Wagon Train in Space", Star Trek was released during the height of the Hollywood Western film and TV boom. While the concept CBS originally asked for had a western vibe, it was the smart, intellectual stories set in a future utopia of science and exploration that proved vital to the series' long impact on popular culture. project where I reviewed an overview of episodes for each series, the rules for this show will be a little different. Since there is a lot of overarching stories for this series, I'm not worried about avoiding two-parters or multi-episode arcs. Instead we're just going to look at the top five episodes, as generally agreed upon by fans, from across the six seasons of the show. Whatever we get, whether part of a larger plot or not, is what we're going to watch:

Season 1, Episode 5: Rookies

Often put on lists of the best episodes of the series, "Rookies" is held up as an episode that helps to show that Clone Wars could be more than just the kiddie-style adventures of the movie. People complain that the first season is shallow and not all that great, but this episode is one of the bright, shinning moments of the run before it really branched out and got better. At least, that's what people tend to say Online.

Personally, I felt the episode was fun, if not terribly thrilling. Like a lot of episodes in the first season, "Rookies" features a very basic plot, simple characters, and not a lot of depth to the proceedings. In the episode, we follow a team of clone troopers as they guard a defensive outpost that stands as a communication blockade for the planet Camino; if the base falls, Camino, home of all the clone troopers, falls with it, cutting off a vital resource for the Republic. A squadron of droid soldiers land on the planet, though, and disable the installation, leaving only three rookie troopers alive (as they fled the base to try and regroup). Joined soon by Commanders Cody and Rex (two more clone troopers sent to the planet for routine inspection), the remnants o the forces have to retake the base and warn the Republic about the threat to Camino.

But here's the thing: aside from Cody, who I know from the movie, none of the clone troopers stand out in any particular way. Following them, instead of the Jedi, on an adventure is a nice change of pace from the movie (and, presumably, the previous four episodes of the season I didn't watch for this overview), but that doesn't make them into compelling characters. I didn't hate any of them, but because they're all clones with essentially the same personality I didn't really care about them either. They were amusing enough, and they got the job done, but that's not enough to really feel an attachment to them.

Plus, really, this is an uphill battle for me. I know all the clone troopers are going to betray the Republic and kill all the Jedi (since I've already watched Episode III: Revenge of the Sith once before), so whether they live or die isn't of any consequence to me. Sure, if I were new to the series, watching these in order, maybe I'd get more invested in the clone troopers, but for me that's a no go.

So yeah, I get why people like this episode. I can understand the appeal of this adventure. Personally, though, it just didn't hook me in.

Notes:
  • I'm amused that every episode of this series starts with a "Would You Like to Know More?"-style propaganda intro. That's good stuff.
  • By episode end each of the troopers is marked in such a way that we can tell them apart when in full armor: Fives has a hand print on his chest, Echo has special goggles on his helm, Cody wear special orange flairs on his armor, Rex has blue flairs, and Heavy in in normal armor. Nice touch.

Season 3, Episode 14: Witches of the Mist

The last episode focused on the clone troopers, the second episode we're looking at is all about the Sith. The episode introduces a new Sith warrior, Savage Oppress, apparent brother to Darth Maul (who died in Episode I: the Phantom Menace. Savage has been going around the galaxy, killing people left and right. He ends up on the Jedi's radar after killing two Jedi masters at their temple. This leads to Anakin and Obi-Wan tracking down the Sith to try and bring him to justice (read: kill him). However, Oppress is more than just a rogue Sith agent; he's also the apprentice of Count Dooku. But, in reality, he's also the secret apprentice of Ventress. who at one point was also Count Dooku's apprentice before he betrayed her. So both Siths are really after Dooku to have their own revenge. Being a Sith is hard, man.

This episode is really about training Oppress to be a good Sith, so we get to watch his training montage as Dooku puts him through his paces. This is supposed to show the contrast between the way the Jedi handle their training -- with care and respect and a proper master/student bond -- and the Sith, who train through fear and pain. It's interesting in that regard, but the episode really breezes through everything to get to a point where Savage is ready to fight Obi-Wan and Anakin. This is an issue with the fact that these episodes are only 20-ish minutes long and there's only so much story you can fit into that time span. A longer episode all about Dooku, Savage, and Ventress would be really interesting, a compelling dive into their dynamics and the politics inherent to the Sith master/apprentice relationship. This episode is not that kind of story.

That said, we do get some pretty killer lightsaber fights. Dooku, Oppress, and Ventress have a really awesome three way duel, and then putting the Jedi into the fight only adds to the dynamic of it all. A very enjoyable bit of action, even if the story for the rest of the episode really isn't there. Overall it's a again a matter of I can understand why people like this episode, it just didn't hook me in.

Notes:
  • Why do all the Sith have to have the same red color for their lightsabers. You'd think, as evil agents trying to so discord and chaos they wouldn't use one single color for all their weapons, especially not a color that makes them easy to identify. "I wonder if this guy is evil... oh, red lightsaber. Yep." Besides, Jedi have two colors (plus Mace Windu gets purple), so can't the Sith have a nice pink, or an orange, or something?

Season 5, Episode 16: The Lawless

Last episode revealed that Darth Maul was actually still alive, and this episode we find Maul and Oppress working together. It's a nice continuation of their journey for us, in this overview, even though I'm sure there were plenty of episodes in between. Regardless, here we find that Maul and Oppress have taken over Mandalor and installed a puppet government to rule over the planet. The Duchess, rightful ruler of the world, has been imprisoned and, after a failed attempt to escape, she does manage to get a communication out to the Republic asking for help from her old friend, Obi-Wan. The Jedi council refuse to back the move has Mandalor had declared itself a neutral world in the Clone conflict, so the Republic can't take sides in an internal Mandalorian issue. This forces Obi to go it alone, one man to free his friend and escape the clutches of Darth Maul.

This is the first episode I've watched for this overview that I've really enjoyed. Reportedly, that's because the last two seasons of the show (season five and the "Lost Episodes" of season 6) were among the best of the run. I can see that as this episode is tightly plotted and very focused. For most of the runtime there's only one story -- the Duchess and Obi-Wan -- the story is able to shade in the details of Mandalor, give the Duchess some personality, and give context to her friendship (and, really love) for Obi-Wan. All this in twenty minutes. Quite well done.

We do also get some pretty good action. Dudes on jet packs, ship combat, and lots of Jedi and Sith action. It all builds to a three-way fight between Darth Maul, Oppress, and Darth Sidious (the latter of which arrived on the planet because Maul has gained too much power and is now a rival to the evil Emperor's own status). This is a great fight, one that showcases the Emperor's true strengths while also giving both Maul and Oppress some much need bad-ass style. Even though it pulls away a bit from the Obi-Wan A-plot, I didn't really mind; the action we great, and that's one the things you really need in an episode like this.

Overall this was a great episode. I really enjoyed how well it was put together and, if the rest of the episodes we look at can be this good, I will totally understand why people rave about this show.

Notes:
  • Darth Maul has a darksaber. Apparently this is really a thing and not just a fan creation. There's only one darksaber in existence apparently and it looks like a modified vibrosword, just with a black blade. It's very cool and I'm glad the series finally gave us another saber color for the Sith, right after I bitched about it.
  • Of course, this episode basically shows us that Supreme Chancellor Palpatine is really the evil Emperor, Darth Sidious. The Chancellor says he needs a ship, and then suddenly a ship lands on Mandalor with Darth Sidious on it. If they were trying to keep that twist a secret before now, they let the cat out of the bag here.

Season 5, Episode 20: The Wrong Jedi

In a couple of episodes we didn't see for this overview, apparently Ahsoka (who we haven't see at all in the episodes we're reviewing, ironically enough) was framed for murder and is now awaiting trial. The Jedi Council ejects her from the order for her crimes, and then the Senate puts her on trial as a war criminal. The only one that believes her is Anakin, her master, as he has full faith and confidence in his padawan. So he goes out looking for clues to her innocence, which leads him to track down the last person Ahsoka saw: disgraced Sith Lady Ventress. But Ventress apparently isn't behind the frame-job and Anakin will have to venture further, deeper into the dark workings of the order, if he wants to find the real truth.

This episode isn't terrible but it's also not all that great, especially when at one point it had to serve as the series finale for the show (before NetflixOriginally started as a disc-by-mail service, Netflix has grown to be one of the largest media companies in the world (and one of the most valued internet companies as well). With a constant slate of new internet streaming-based programming that updates all the time, Netflix has redefined what it means to watch TV and films (as well as how to do it). gave it a one-season revival). It's all setup, really to illustrate why Ahsoka isn't in Episode III, so the whole episode sets itself up as if it's going to kill off the girl for a crime she didn't commit, executed for treason. Plenty of people expected her to die by series end since she wasn't in the third movie, but the episode, honestly, never really commits to it. Anakin goes on the hunt, and clearly he will end up finding the evidence he needs to exonerate Ahsoka, so the result of her trial is never really in doubt.

Besides, if Ahsoka really had been killed by the Senate, there's no way Anakin would have been cool with the Jedis, or the Republic, come Episode III. For this storyline to remain properly in continuity, Ahsoka ha to somehow survive this trial otherwise our lead character wouldn't make sense in the next movie. It just wouldn't add up.

Clearly, then, Ahsoka was going to end up leaving the order, a twist that is played up for huge drama but was all but inevitable considering what we know is coming. I'm sure if someone hadn't already seen the latter works in the series there's a chance they could have been shocked by all this, I just wasn't. The episode gets points for at least explaining Ahsoka's absence, but it doesn't really stick the landing as much as I would have liked.

Notes:
  • Oooh, Grand Moff Tarkin shows up this episode. He's an evil guy later in the movie series, but I'm sure we can trust him here.
  • We see Anakin use Force Choke here. Shades of him going bad and becoming Darth Vader, methinks.
  • There's a Jedi with a white lightsaber in this episode. We're getting all kinds of cool saber colors all of a sudden.

Season 6, Episode 4: Orders

For our last episode we go back to the clone troopers. We once again join up with Fives (who we last saw in this overview in the first episode we watched, "Rookies") after he's been through some shit. One of his allies went mad and started killing others in his squad, and he had to be put down. Looking into it, Fives realized it was a secret chip that was installed not only in his friend but in all the clones. Thus, Fives removed his own chip, as well as the chip from his dead ally, realizing there was a larger plot afoot. Captured by the Republic, Fives is sent back to Coruscant to speak to the Chancellor, to plead his case. Of course, we now know that the Chancellor is evil, so this doesn't go well. Fives is framed for an attack on the Chancellor with claims that the chips are actually inhibitor chips meant to make the clones more docile and since Fives removed his own chip, he's become more aggressive, more likely to attack. Fives has to go on the run lest the secret of the chips be buried forever.

If you've seen Episode III then you know the chips really aren't inhibitor chips, they they're actually a device implanted in the troopers so that, when desired by their controllers, the troopers will turn on their allies and kill them. Fives, of course, is right but he comes across as a crazy man. He's wild and unpredictable and the evidence against him seems solid enough. His fate is basically sealed, not only because we know what happens in the next movie but also because there's just no way he could be believed, not in the twenty minutes this episode has to tell his story. It's sad, but that's the inevitability of fate.

As the last episode we get to watch for this, I do feel like we've ended at a good place. All the pieces are in place for the next film, what with the 2003 series showing us where the characters will end up at the start of that film and this episode giving us a hint of the dark turn yet to come. I like the setup this episode gives us, and I appreciate the nuance it adds to events we're soon to witness.

As a closing episode, then, this episode really works for me. And, really, between these last three episodes I do ind of feel like the last two seasons of the show were worth the price of admission. The series might have started off rocky, but we've come to a good place for its final episodes. This episode ends dark, and we're only going to get darker from here.

Notes:
  • So, Order 66. I wonder if we'll ever hear about that again...

In Conclusion:

I had my doubts about The Clone Wars, especially since the movie that kicked it off didn't exactly starts us in a great place. But after watching these five episodes I really do think I might come back to this show and give it a second chance. I'll have to watch the first two seasons, which I know will be painful, but long run I'm going to get a few seasons I'll probably really enjoy. I'm not saying this series made me into a Star Wars fan, but this might just be enjoyable enough to breeze through on a rainy afternoon.