Saturday, March 21, 2009

Season 1, Episode 21 - Liberty on Ryloth

The final third of the Ryloth Trilogy, Liberty on Ryloth, features Mace Windu front and center for the first time in the first season. He leads a ground assault against the capital city of Lessu, on Ryloth. When he appears overmatched, he turns to the local rebels, led by Cham Syndulla, to lend him support.

This is the third episode directed by Rob Coleman in the series, and his experience and talent are as apparent here as they were in Duel of the Droids and Jedi Crash. He's got a sense of what's cinematic (he was, after all, the Animation Director for the prequel trilogy) and he's careful not only to fill up the frame with action, but make sure the "camera" swoops and dives. Liberty on Ryloth never looks less than amazing, and the action scenes are pumped up and creative. Windu's escape from the disappearing bridge is definitely one for the series' highlight reel.

Coleman also has a strong feel for how to animate emotion. Cham Syndulla is a soulful new character, an his scenes with Mace Windu had an honesty to them that is hard to pull off within the Thunderbirds design. As with the last episode, Innocents of Ryloth, Libery on Ryloth doesn't shy away from showing us the costs of war, and the citizens and their particular issues. The episode was mostly action (the politics are shallowly played here) but it doesn't forget there is more to war than laser pistols.

That, unfortunately, doesn't help Mace Windu become more interesting. On screen, Mace Windu has always been sort of character-less. He's stalwart, wise, careful, and has a glare. But those are qualities. Who is he? What does he care about? Where is he from? What drives him? Watching Mace Windu is always a thrill - much like Yoda, the showrunners love to leave most impressive displays of Force Power to him - but I've never much cared if the character is happy or sad. That trend continued here.

On the other side (isn't this always the way) the villains have a lot more fun. In a fun subplot, it's clear the Wat Tambor and is Tactical Droid are not seeing eye to eye. I'd love to see some more episodes from the Separatist side for this reason - there's a sense of fun and play with those characters that the writers rarely seem to have with the heroes.

Liberty on Ryloth, as a stand alone episode, is well-executed and well done. As the third part of a trilogy, it shows some flaws. Although there is a tacked on Episode I style parade at the end of the episode, the three individual episodes don't connect particularly well, and don't seem to all add up to this one. Sure, there's a logic to their order (Get on the Planet, Secure the Planet, Take the Planet) but it would have been almost better to simply see three episodes of Mace Windu, or Obi-Wan, or even Ahsoka. The diffuse nature of the episodes, and their differences in quality, didn't help make this episode a stirring triumph. Just another episode with really cool battles.

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

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