Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Season 1, Episode 5 - Rookies

Rookies isn't the first episode of the series that treats the clones like distinctive characters; but it is the first episode to put them front and center. Voiced by Dee Bradley Baker (who should be receiving five times the paycheck of the other voice talent), the Clones in "Rookies" include characters named Hevy, Echo and Cutup, Commander Cody, Captain Rex. They are joined by the rookies in question: Fives, Nub and the unfortunately named Droidbait.

Stationed at a dull outpost, the Shiny's (the term for Rookie in clone culture) settle into a life of boredom. Of course, this being a 22 minute episode of Star Wars, things don't stay dull for long. The Clones are soon outnumbered and overrun by Battle Droids.

"Rookies" is smartly produced and encouraging. Not only does it show that the showrunners know how to quickly make the stock clones unique visually, but their personalities miraculously come through as well. No small feat with a single voice actor and less than 30 minutes to play with.

What's deceptive here is that the uniqueness of each clone comes from a singleness of purpose. Each clones has a single characteristic that they play to the hilt. One is a regulations maven, another a joker. What's more interesting is the interplay between Commander Cody and Captain Rex, who are mirrors of their respective Jedi partners, Obi-Wan and Anakin. Rex, being Anakin's right-hand man, is impulsive and daring; Cody is a thoughtful leader.

Cody's story is more fully told, and we know it ends with a twinge of pain. It's Cody who orders his own troops to fire on Obi-Wan in Revenge of the Sith. Rex, though, is an unknown. Does he die? Is he simply off-stage during the main action of Sith? Is he among Anakin's clone guard when Anakin massacre's the Jedi Temple?

We don't know, of course. It's wonderful to see that those characters are being played as not only extensions of their Jedi counterparts, but characters in their own right. It makes their journey far more fascinating, as we fill in their gaps and come to see them as heroes in their own right.

The other wonderful innovation in "Rookies" is the Commando Droid. Praise Lucas, we certainly needed droids that were a threat to the clones. The Commandos, with tough armor, better instincts, and clearly heightened combat abilities, are a welcome addition. We'll see how the series explains their disappearance by Episode III.

All in all, a solid episode, and an original one. I look forward to later episodes of the series, when we know the clones better, to make their lives, and deaths, more impactful. When Rex dies (or doesn't) I hope to feel more than I did when Cutup was eaten by an eel.

Rating (out of five) *** 1 /2

Update: You know what? I just watched this episode again. To heck with it. ****


Dave Williams said...

Ooo slightly tough rating I reckon. I thought this was a really strong episode, definitely a ****1/2 for me, I thought it was stronger than duel of the droids.

Couldn't agree more on the droid variations. They need to be more of a threat, I personally think the Super BattleDroids are being portrayed as a bit too vulnerable so far.

CloneWarsFan said...

I think I felt more strongly about this episode on first viewing, but then pulled back a bit. I think it's very good, but I guess my rating reflects my hope that this kind of episode will build to even more complex storytelling.

I agree about the Super Battle Droids. They were supposed to be an upgrade, but you don't really see it, other than more armor and bigger guns.

Dave Williams said...

What I'd love to see would be an episode which deals with normal people (i.e. not clones or Jedi) fighting standard battle droids.

I've always assumed that the reason Battle Droids were seen to be so inept is that they're always shown fighting against special forces. I mean if you look at how they dealt with the Gungans in Ep1 they were largely effective.

If they managed to get that into an episode it would nicely underline that it's not that Battle Droids are completely useless, it's that they're useless against crack troops.

Blackjack Online said...

It is absolutely useless.