Friday, December 5, 2008

Season 1, Episode 9 - Cloak of Darkness

Cloak of Darkness is so elegantly plotted and so fantastically directed, that it pains me to admit I found its one major flaw so frustrating. Somehow, the writers of The Clone Wars have the relationship between Ahsoka Tano and, well, everything utterly upside down. They did, though, finally start to get Asajj Ventress right.

Before I go there, let me get the important part out of the way: Cloak of Darkness is an episode that could be proudly shown to almost any skeptical Star Wars fan as proof that The Clone Wars series rocks. The twists and turns of the plot all add up perfectly, the characterizations are spot on, and the choices made are, generally, good ones. Also, the action is phenomenal here: the best fight choreography that the series has seen yet.

One major plus for this episode is the deepening of Asajj Ventress, making her seem legitimately threatening. So far in The Clone Wars series (not counting her original 2003 introduction), Ventress has sneered and run around, but generally been bested by the A-List Jedi like Yoda and Obi-Wan. Putting her up against Luminara Unduli gives her room to kick ass, and Cloak of Darkness takes advantage of the opportunity.

Luminara is also well-realized here, and well-voiced by Olivia D'Abo (of Wonder Years fame). Since her first appearance in Attack of the Clones (for seconds) she's captured fan imagination, mostly because of the uniqueness and beauty of her design.

We also see the introduction of the Senate Commandos, a cross between the Imperial Guard and a Clone Trooper in design, who are decidedly NOT Clones. Where they take that storyline is rather telling: the Clones are shown the be dedicated to following orders. We see the upside of that in Cloak of Darkness. (There is, of course, a rather serious downside...)

The only problem I have with Cloak of Darkness isn't actually a small one: what the hell are they doing with Ahsoka? Are we intended to believe that Luminara Unduli, Jedi Master, is not only more naive about Asajj Ventress than Ahsoka is, but also would declare herself a fool and thank Ahsoka for saving her life by the end of the episode? Suffice to say, I feel a bit like the Master-Padawan relationship between the cloying Ahsoka Tano and just about every other Jedi is entirely backwards. She tells Anakin what to do, defies Yoda and Obi-Wan, has a personal relationship with Plo Koon, and now, all but shames Luminara. Whe does this padawan start learning from Jedi Masters, as opposed to teaching them?

Rating (out of five): *** 3/4


David D. said...

And of course the traitorous human commando was a blond guy.

I agree that- in trying to make her the audience surrogate- they are giving Ahsoka a push at the expense of all these other, supposedly wise, characters. I don't want Obi-Wan to become like the dad in the Encyclopedia Brown books, who just would never be able to solve a crime in his town if it wasn't for that irascible teenager who won't follow the rules!

Dave Williams said...

"And of course the traitorous human commando was a blond guy."

And a Brit (well a yank doing a Brit impression) :o) Keeping up the good run of bad guy Brits in Star Wars. The Jedi could do worse than killing and Brits on sight.

A great episode, it's vying with the Rookies for the position of favourite so far.

I liked that the Super Battle Droids seemed more threatening in this episode until they came up against the Jedi. The action was absolutely fantastic with Ventress seeming like more than a match for Luminara.

My wife watched this episode (she's not a fan) and her observation of Ashoka was "she's not really a very good Jedi is she". I can see the need for her character but she's too far from the Jedi mould, as much as I dislike some of the Jedi ideals from the prequels such as denying even positive emotions I just struggle to believe that she is the product of 10 or so years of Padawan training.