Sunday, March 8, 2009

Season 1, Episode 20 - Innocents of Ryloth

War stories shouldn't just be about soldiers. If there are costs of war, we need to see and feel them in order to care about the outcome. The Clone Wars series could very easily be a series of well produced video games that you don't get to play. Episodes like Innocents of Ryloth, therefore, become a key to the series' potency as effective storytelling.

In The Phantom Menace, we were often reminded that the people of Naboo were "suffering...dying." Words like "we must do something quickly" were spoken. But the camera never once lingered on a camp of Naboo citizens in dire straits. It was never even clear how they were suffering. Were they not being given food? Were they being shot? It made investment in their salvation (being entirely fictional characters, after all) that much harder.

With Innocents of Ryloth, we not only see Twi'leks, but a Twi'lek child named Numa. We see the Separtists using civilians as living shields. We get a sense of just what it is our heroes are saving the Twi'leks from. Much like the episode Defenders of Peace, this episode puts a face to those caught up in the war, and gives us a sense of what they might lose to it.

Of course, all the best intentions in the world aren't much without execution. Storm over Ryloth was intended to deepen Ahsoka's character, but it didn't acheive its task. Innocents of Ryloth, though, performs its duties with efficiency and heart. We see not only thrilling battles and daring escapes, but linger on the relationship between two clone soldiers, Waxer and Boil, as they interact with the frightened and plucky Numa. We're also given a fun villain in Commander TX-20, a "tactical" droid. As a Separatists droid, it seems that a tactical droid can't help but be a bit on the amusing side...but TX-20 balanced that out with a whiff of threat.

All in all, therefore, this might not have been the most stunningly designed or most fresh episode of the bunch, but it tells an excellent story and does so with vibrant characterizes and a solid script.

Innocents of Ryloth also marks the first "solo" adventure for Obi-Wan Kenobi. I'd be happy to see more of these. Obi-Wan is one of the richest characters in the Star Wars mythology, and here, he shows why. Clever, cunning, funny and caring, he lacks the shruggy teen angst of Anakin and is a fine example of what Luke aspires to be in the original trilogy.

Rating (out of five): ****

1 comment:

Dave said...

I thought this was a really strong episode. My wife (who doesn't like SW much and prefers these shows to the movies) was almost in tears at Numa and I thought the "brother" thing was a nice touch. Mind you I'm still dragging her along to the big Star Wars concert in London next month :oP

Human shields is a perfectly logical idea for a droid to use and an effective one too.

I liked that he got his come-uppance and a thoroughly good beating...a nice touch having Numa peer around from behind Obi-Wan's hand.

I was puzzled when the clones were being cut down by the bug creatures why Kenobi wasn't fighting, then I realised what he was doing...which was perfectly Jedi of him.