Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Season 1, Episode 3 - Shadow of Malevolence

The second part of the Malevolence trilogy and third episode of the series, Shadow of Malevolence "introduces" the Y-Wing bomber to the Star Wars chronology. It's essentially a theme-episode about ambition and responsibility. Anakin is leading a strike team against the Malevolence and comes up with a complex, longshot of a plan to eliminate Grievous for good. It entails navigating a nebula and attacking the bridge of the heavily-guarded flagship. His clone troopers are game; but the Jedi are typically skeptical.

Certainly the episode has set-pieces and visuals galore. It also has some lovely character work by the animators. I enjoyed, for example, the subtle way in which Anakin plays in this episode. His 'moment of realization' is about a subtle as a 'moment of realization' in a bomber can be.

The clones, here, are also smartly played. Their never-say-die attitude towards Anakin's plan shows just how responsible he is for their safety; it's a dynamic that I hope we see played out in future episodes. Adding, as well, the jeapordy of the medical station, with its Kaminoan staff and Attack of the Clones flavored interiors, makes for a wonderful deepening of that exact theme. The Jedi aren't just generals, they are the clones protectors as well.

The episode offers up plenty of action, some massive flying creatures, and the climactic bombing run adds another tribute to the classic Death Star battle. If I have any complaint about that, it's that this particular quote of the original trilogy (blowing up the Death Star!) has been quoted twice already in the films. (Return of the Jedi is basically a replay of the original Death Star attack; and The Phantom Menace quotes the battle of Yavin with its "Anakin accidentally blows up the Droid Control Ship" bit.) One thing we don't have too little of in the Star Wars canon are victorious explosions in outer space.

I hope that slavish quoting of the films doesn't become so prevalent that it serves as a crutch for the creative team. They're sure to feel like they're satisfying fans by giving them a piece of cheerful nostalgia, but wherever there's a 'quote,' I wonder if an opportunity for something new and fresh was passed on.

My only other reservation is that Anakin's 'lesson' in this episode comes in the form of nagging reminders from Ashoka. I still am not entirely sure what the logic is behind Ashoka teaching lessons of responsiblity Anakin; it strikes as a false note in otherwise well-constructed episode. There are tons of experienced warriors around to play the role of mentor for Anakin. Having his teenaged Padawan play mentor seems notably backwards.

Those quibbles aside, Shadow of Malevolence offers shout-outs to A New Hope and Attack of the Clones, life-and-death stakes, great character moments, and Y-Wings. A full meal for a hungry Star Wars fan.

Rating (out of five): ***

No comments: