Sunday, February 1, 2009
Season 1, Episode 15 - Trespass
Trespass (like previous stand alone episodes like Rookies and Lair of Grievous) is a compact story with great impact. By divorcing itself from the main conflict of the Clone Wars, and exploring a local border dispute it finds a little breathing room for an independent, and no less engaging, story.
Anakin and Obi-Wan are sent to the remote Hoth-like world of Orto Plutonia, to investigate the radio silence from a clone outpost. They are accompanied by dignitaries from Pantora, a nearby moon. The Pantoran chairman, Chi Cho, claims that Orto Plutonia is the protectorate of the moon, and that it is essentially uninhabited. When its discovered that Pantora is the homeworld of a tribe of Talz, the Chairman's own bravado, and distaste for negotiation, become roadblocks to peace. His accompaniment includes a young Pantoran Senator, Riyo Chuchi, who he, at first, is able to bully and prod without much resistance.
What happens in the episodes full 22 or so minutes isn't hard to imagine. The Jedi work hard to broker peace, the local "savages" are far from savage, etc. etc. If the episode has any major flaws, its that its plot plays out much as one might expect.
Some plots, though, are often returned to because they work. That's how Trespass feels: more like classic plotting than lazy cliche. Within its classic structure, every thing is in its right place.
The delight is in the details. Orto Plutonia is beautifully realized, and its clear that the artists had a fine time mixing nostalgia for the Empire Strikes Back with prequel era design. The "Freeco" Bikes are a kick-ass blend of speeder bike and snowspeeder. The Clone Trooper Snowsuits are a great blend of old and new. The Pantorans are a strikingly rendered new race, and the Talz (seen in A New Hope and in the Clone Wars microseries) are elevated from cameo status in style.
Those feats of animation don't do much without excellent character work, and Trespass doesn't fail in that respect. I was especially happy to see Obi-Wan, who in the prequels is far to often relegated to officious finger-wagging, shining through as the budding mentor we see in the original trilogy. I also appreciated the truthfully played, (if telegraphed) transformation of Riyo Chuchi from inexperienced teen to peacemaker.
Trespass also manages to give the battles a hint of loss. (Not easy in a series that built its reputation on fun, creative battles.) Each Talz warrior that falls, each Clone killed by a spear, each Pantoran who dies; they all seem to go needlessly. When Captain Rex shows his prowess, it seems a shame to see him gun down so many warriors who aren't, in any real way, his enemies.
By offering up some of the series most memorable visuals, and one of its most complete, emotional, and well-told stories, Trespass is a boon to the series as a whole, and the Clone Wars mythos.
Rating (out of five) **** 1/2