Monday, December 7, 2009

Season 2, Episode 8 - Brain Invaders

As the picture above might imply, these are some nasty tapeworms. At least they don't make you buy lots and lots of cats. Brain Invaders, which appears to be the last episode in the Geonosis story arc, doesn't take surprising narrative turns. But it does have character flourishes that elevate it in ways I wasn't expecting. While the basic plot (mind controlling parasites!) is extremely B-movie, the writers deepen what is clearly the uber-narrative of the Clone Wars series: who is (was?) Anakin Skywalker?

In this episode, Ahsoka and Barriss are aboard a starship that's overrun by Geonosian mind-controlling worms. Not only are they desperately attempting to save their own lives, but there's a crisis of timing as well. If the ship docks at a medical bay, the worms will hit a central hub and spread throughout the Republic's army.

Anakin, for his part, is trying to get answers from Poggle the Lesser. In an exceptional sequence, in an effort to extract information about his Padawan's whereabouts and how to stop the worms, he gives us the full Vader. His willingness to use force and power to get results is a stark reminder of what's to come. The series can afford this: Anakin's story needs this and heroism in balance in order to make sense and be worthy of watching in a serialized format.

I initially found Ahsoka Tano almost unbearably off-putting, but I've got to admit that the direction her character is taking is starting to become clear and it's improving. Having a confidant of her own in Barriss Offee allows us to hear her own insights on Anakin's behavior, even as she's clearly deeply influenced by him. That made her own final moment with Anakin in this episode (no spoilers to those who haven't seen it) one of my favorites of Season 2. Even in a moment where we feel she's truly done her best, and has triumphed, Anakin's lesson isn't one that serves him, or the Republic, well in the long run.

While the basic premise (Invasion of the Body Snatchers!) didn't blow me away , I found the character moments stellar. Brain Invaders rises above what could have been cliched material by letting the characters breathe, and embracing the elusiveness of Anakin's moral center.

Rating (out of five): ****

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