Friday, January 9, 2009

Season 1, Episode 12 - The Gungan General

The Gungan General, while a lot of fun, doesn't quite maintain the momentum established by it's lead-in Dooku Captured. The best moments are hidden behind some slapdash story choices and bland writing. The episode's take on Jar Jar Binks, though, is more in-depth than was the previous Jar Jar episode Bombad Jedi.

The episode begins with a head scratcher. Although we plainly saw Obi-Wan and Anakin outsmart the pirates and pointedly not sip from drugged drinks at the end of the previous episode, this episode begins with them captured themselves, having been drugged. Huh? (Apparently, the explanation can be found in the online comic, but it's not much more dramatically satisfying that way.)

Then, the Jedi are put into a cell and tied to Count Dooku. Which, of course, is the smartest thing for wily pirates to do. Take three powerful Jedi and tie them together. They'll never escape that way.

For the most part, I'm fine with this sort of expedient plotting if the results are worthwhile. The best reason to tie heroes and villains together is to get to some entertaining, hopefully comic, dynamic. Odd couples in peril are a grand tradition (see: Midnight Run.) Here, though, it's a better idea than its execution. Dooku and the Jedi seem less like mortal enemies and more like classmates from different social circles thrust together to study for a final exam. Their banter consists of harmless "I agree" or "I don't want to hear your voice." It's an opportunity that isn't truly taken advantage of.

Also, the reason that the Jedi keep trying to escape isn't artfully established. At one point, Obi-Wan even says: "We have to get out of here or we'll look like fools." Not such a compelling reason for an escape, if all the Jedi have to do is wait for the Republic to show up in the meantime. High stakes are key in any compact narrative, and this one's stakes appear to be pride, at least for the Jedi.

Jar Jar, though, has better material to work with. He accompanies Senator Kharrus and their clone escorts to deliver the ransom for the release of Count Dooku to the pirates. Unfortunately, Turk Falso, Captain Ohnaka's second in command, decides to go after the ransom himself. He has the envoy shot down.

Senator Kharrus is killed, which leaves Jar Jar as the ranking officer. Jar Jar, in this episode, proves less of a hopeless, child-like buffoon than he did in Bombad Jedi. He shows his own sort of instinct and wisdom; and his words about Senator Kharrus's death are the closest thing the episode comes to real sentiment.

As with Dooku Captured, the action in this episode flies forward, with our heroes getting into and out of trouble again and again. This time, though, plot feels more slapdash. Why, for example, didn't they spread out the Jar Jar Binks storyline over two episodes if this was intended to be a two-parter? Why wasn't Turk Falso introduced last week? It feels like a bit too much is crammed into The Gungan General, and it shows.

What was good? Well, the pace, for all is chaos, cooks and that is always good in Star Wars. As I said, I prefer this version of Jar Jar Binks to the sillier one. I also liked how, knowing how things wind up in Episode III, Anakin and Obi-Wan's response to dealing with Dooku showed contrast.

Finally, Obi-Wan's decision to consistenly avoid a quarrel with the pirates, even when he's out of danger from them, was an excellent character note. It shows that part of being "The Negotiator" is having a sense of honor, not just a way with words. Obi-Wan comes off as rather cold in the Clone Wars series, at times. Here, we see a bit more of what makes him heroic.

While the Clone Wars took a step forward with it's presentation of Jar Jar; the trio of Obi-Wan, Anakin and Dooku just didn't live up to its potential. An fairly entertaining episode, if far from perfect. The Gungan General seemed to lose decent ideas to rushed execution.

Rating (out of five): ** /12


David D. said...

Thanks for linking to the online comic-- I had wondered what I missed, too (and great Katie Cook art in that installment). I don't think that they should be relying on the online comic to bridge that big of a story beat, though.

I agree with what you said about the episode, but I will say that not only was there wasted dramatic potential by having the three of them in the cell together, but I also continue to be confused, in the midst of this war story, by the rules of honor the Jedi seem to have to live by.

As with the General Grevious episode, in which the Jedi lose their brief upper-hand moment because they want to CAPTURE Grevious instead of just kill him, wouldn't the three of them in the cell, even without their lightsabers, be an immediate battle? Finally, a chance to destroy the person who they believe to be leading the Separatists? Or do all Jedi fights have to be lightsaber duels? Certainly two-on-one is not an issue, as that is how the same two Jedi end up taking on Dooku later. I just don't know that I buy this idea that keeps getting played that the Jedi are obsessed with capturing these baddies, like they work for a war crimes tribunal, as opposed to wanting to kill those that are commanding the opposing army in a war. I feel like that has been used as a story convenience.

I also thought, while it was a better take on Jar-Jar, this episode fell into the trap of the well-meaning though naive character who no one believes in saving those that are supposed to know what they are doing. And therefore this may as well have been another Ashoka episode. One like next week's, where I am sure Ashoka will again come to the rescue of her bumbling elders. I feel like we so constantly watch Obi-Wan and Anakan swallow their pride, that this is starting to feel like The People's History of the Clone Wars, in which we find out that they would have never won if it wasn't for all those resourceful Padawans and Gungans, who kept saving the Generals from themselves. Oh well.

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