Monday, December 6, 2010

Season 3, Episode 11 - Pursuit of Peace

Well, yet another episode that features plot lines about interest rates. Pursuit of Peace follows the proceedings of Season two's murder mystery episode Senate Murders. All in all, this episode does everything it can with a plot that, like last week's episode, relies heavily on buzzwords from today's political climate.

I won't retread what it is I like about the complexities of the Clone War (read my review of Heroes on Both Sides for that). That being said, there's very little that can be done to make conversations with cheating bankers get the blood boiling. It's clear that the chase scene and a few scenes were thugs threaten Senators were included to make the overall plot some energy.

It's because of these sequences that the episode has a sort of identity problem. By reducing the difficult decisions of Senators to "I don't want to get beat up"...they back away from the reasons that someone might escalate a conflict. On the other hand, it's hard to argue that what this episode needed was more conversations that take place in offices. The final few moments, though, are given a nice bit of stagecraft as screens show Padme essentially addressing the entire planet.

So...all in all I thought the episode itself was well put together and animated. It was a bit clunky, but not ineptly assembled. Maybe my problem with it was, essentially, one of context.

The episode as a stand-alone is fine. Season 3, though, has been filled with episodes that seem focused on the backroom deals and political ethics surrounding the war. Look at Supply Lines , Sphere of Influence, Corruption, The Academy, Assassin, and Heroes on Both Sides. Including Pursuit of Peace, that's 7 of the aired 11 episodes that feature political lessons, or that star Senators giving speeches or making difficult votes. I think I've hit my saturation point.

Rating (out of five): ***

Monday, November 29, 2010

Irvin Kershner has died

Sad news for Star Wars fans...Irvin Kershner, director of The Empire Strikes Back, has passed away at 87. It goes without saying that The Empire Strikes Back was the best of the six films and the best Star Wars story ever committed to any medium. It goes beyond that though: it was massively influential through the culture. It's echoes are felt everywhere, with memorable lines and characters and images that have become a part of the cultural landscape.

It wasn't automatically going to work out that way. We all know that sequels do not always surpass their predecessors, let alone entirely deepen and expand on them. This was a truly great piece of popular art, and Kershner was at the helm.

Thank you for what you did for all of us. May The Force Be With You, Always.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Season 3, Episode 10 - Heroes on Both Sides

I find myself conflicted as I write this review of Heroes On Both Sides, a landmark episode of the Clone Wars series, that highlights the inherent Catch-22 of the prequel-era storytelling. The episode moves the scattered chronology of the series forward significantly, aging Ahsoka and moving Anakin's attitude and wardrobe closer to that of his ultimate fate in Revenge of the Sith. It also fully embraces the muddled political story that Lucas is telling in the prequel-era.

In many ways, the prequel-era politics are a large dramatic setback for the stories. Our heroes are never clearly fighting for anything except the idea of the status quo and "Democracy" even as we see that the very ideals they fight for are subverted by leadership. The Separatists interests in leaving the Republic are entirely confusing: are they leaving because they believe in the idea that the Republic is corrupt? If so, why do they have their own Parliament? What policies have driven the Separatists away? And if they are so against, for example, corporate influence, why are the stand-ins for the Separatists always members of the Corporate Alliance or the Banking Clan?

Making things worse is that, essentially, the war itself and the issues involved are entirely an invention of the Sith. Both leaders are in cahoots, escalating an invented conflict in order to push the galaxy towards Imperialism. Why? Because the Sith are bad, basically, and they want to rule the galaxy. Power, in a sense, for its own sake.

In short, it's hard to keep track of why our heroes are at war, and with whom. It makes for stories that are harder to tell, and have a bigger barrier for mainstream consumption.

What's both wonderful and terrible about what I've written above is that it is, in fact, no more or less complicated than real war, especially the wars of today. Like it or not, the prequel-era stories are a mirror to their time.

The wars of the United States do not have popular support. They were started on evidence that is discredited, and the countries we invaded were states not directly related to the loose affiliation of terrorists that attacked us. These wars have abstract goals, have complicated players, have costs and benefits that are hard to pin down. We've done unethical, even criminal, things (torture, for example). We're not at war with the Nazis in the US; we're at war with ourselves and our values. It's unsatisfying and unresolved, and perhaps that's one of the things that the prequel-era stories get exactly right. Whether or not you're on the left or the right in the US, it's impossible to feel as if our reason for fighting is clear cut and fixed.

My attitude towards this episode, in that context, is also unresolved. In a lot of ways, it's tough to sit through and be entertained by a plot driven by deregulation of the banks (which shoehorns an unrelated contemporary hot button issue in an uncomfortable way) and a lot of chat in sitting rooms. Some of Ahsoka's lines are inelegantly shoved into scenes for the utility of speaking for the younger members of the audience ("I don't understand!" "All I know is the Separatists are bad!" "Politics sure aren't black and white!"). I can't say I don't see the reasoning, but I did wince a few times.

Also, the moment where a young man "checks out" our newly early teen Ahsoka struck me as, shall we say, in poor taste.

All that being said, though, I can't help but admire the goals of and existence of this episode's major themes. The Republic has killed good people. That the Separatists may simply have different political ideas. That sometimes what drives people to fight is fear, not reason. That there are those that profit from war financially. The message is anti-establishment, deeply subversive. This is a story about questioning the reasons for fighting, questioning unthinking loyalty, and about not judging the "enemy." Considering the demographic of this audience likely skews below 15, I have tremendous respect for the audacity of presenting those messages in this way. Even as we know the outcome, to watch politicians manipulated away from peace, even as its offered to them, is painfully resonant.

Imperfect and clumsy as moments in this episode may be, Heroes On Both Sides reflects reality back to us, and asks us what we see. Our political landscape is foggy, dramatically slippery. The stakes, though, remain life and death, freedom or tyranny. The story of finding, or losing, ones moral compass in a confusing world may not always be as fun as the story of dogfighting with the bad guys. That doesn't make it a story that shouldn't be told.

Ratings (out of five): ****

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Season 3, Episode 9 - Hunt for Ziro


That's a bit more like it! The ninth episode of season three picks up the pace decidedly from the last few episodes. Chronologically following the debut of Cad Bane (the season finale from Season 1, Hostage Crisis); Hunt for Ziro follows Obi-Wan Kenobi and the screen debut of EU darling, Jedi Quinlan Vos.

I've made no secret of my dislike of the Ziro the Hutt character. From his original introduction in The Clone Wars movie to his subsequent appearances, Ziro is simply an ill-conceived character. He's silly, he's mildly offensive (the big city Hutt is sexually ambiguous and swishy). He makes Jar Jar Binks seem like a breath of fresh air.

How fantastic, then, to see the creative team focus on his creepiness, as opposed to his silliness. His love scene with Sy Snootles is nothing less than audaciously vile: weird in a way that actually made me laugh out loud.

Her eventual betrayal of him is perfect, of course. It reinforces the dangerous world of Jabba's palace. The Hutts have lost a whole lot of steam in The Clone Wars series. Jabba's "son," and the silly looking Hutt Clan, Ziro's Mamma, and Ziro himself...they all contribute to the Hutts as sight gags, as opposed to dangerous criminals. In this episode, the split the difference nicely. Ziro is wicked and manipulative. Sy Snootles? A murderer. (The death of Ziro gets this episode an extra half star from me, just for giving me the satisfaction.)

The episode was full of imaginative touches. The dance sequence homage to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom; the mummified Hutt; the nasty little lizards that crawl on Mamma the Hutt. It had a sense of whimsy and ideas that I really enjoyed.

Furthermore, we meet Quinlan Vos at last. For me, his debut was fun, if not iconic. Obi-Wan refers to him as "crazy" but I never really understood why he was more brash or distinct from, say, Anakin. I'm hoping they can go a bit further with that aspect of his character, but I liked him well-enough.

The action sequence, though, between Vos, Kenobi and Cad Bane was easily the best action sequence of the season and, I would say, among favorite action sequences of the series. Bane comes off as creative and dangerous, and it was a thrill to watch him and the Jedi leap and tumble through the new (and intriguing) world of Nal Hutta.

One hope for Vos is that now we have a character whose adventures can be new to us. He's a loner, he's got a history to establish (I loved that they made reference to a previous run in with Cad Bane), and he's got unique powers. I look forward to Vos-centric episodes, and maybe, an extended rivalry between him and Bane. It's set-up here perfectly. I hope they see it through.

Rating (out of five): **** 1/2

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Season 2 Blu Ray thoughts

I picked up the Clone Wars Season 2 Blu-Ray. Love the presentation of the discs. Season 2 looks amazing in high definition.

One little quibble: the extras are a bit buried. The Season 1 set has an icon next to each episode, which allows you to see a quick mini-documentary about the making of the episode, and it lets you know if that episode has additional footage. All of the Season 2 extras are buried in the Jedi Archives feature. In fact, it took me a minute to realize where the "deleted scenes" were... and I'm a huge fan of DVDs. It shouldn't be hard to find that sort of popular material.

So...great set, great season, but the Season 1 set is laid out in a slightly more fan friendly manner, I'd say.

Savage Oppress Previews

Two of 'em. Picked up from TFN. Savage Oppress versus Quinlan Vos FTW!


Monday, November 8, 2010

Season 3, Episode 8 - Evil Plans

I wouldn't say it's actually bad because it's just so bizarre that it's worth watching. I love the droids, and it's nice to watch them have their own episode. Anthony Daniels continues to be the hardest working man in Star Wars.

I do think, though, that I hope that we'll see more of the Artoo and Threepio from A New Hope. Notably, that Threepio is not the funny one in that duo...he's the straight man. Watch it again. Artoo is beeping away what are undoubtedly rude or off-color comments, and Threepio is offended or horrified. Lately, we see Artoo seem amused by this Felix Unger counterpart. But to me, Artoo is the one with all the jokes. We just only hear half the line: that's what's funny.

Not too much to add to review this episode other than it made me half-smile and half-scratch my head. You have to sort of see the Artoo gets a massage/Threepio gets tortured scene to believe it.

Thank the Maker next week is something worth getting excited about: Quinlan Vos. (Sadly...Zirro.)

Rating (out of five): **

Season 3, Episode 7 - Assassin

Ahsoka Tano is having terrifying visions, which lead her to believe that Senator Amidala's life is being threatened by Aurra Sing. Another episode that is focused on our female cast ("You've come a long way, baby!"), Assassin puts Ahsoka in charge of protecting Padme during an important speech on Alderaan.

Before I go into the details of this episode, I'd like to quote the official site:

This episode, more than others, reveals the convoluted chronology of stories from the first two seasons. The Season Two finale, "Lethal Trackdown," actually takes place before the Season One finale, "Hostage Crisis."

In a chronological flow of events, the series begins with the action on Christophsis ("Cat and Mouse," "The Hidden Enemy"), which introduces Ahsoka to the Clone Wars ("The New Padawan," which was incorporated into feature film). Then, the kidnapping of Rotta the Hutt introduces Ziro the Hutt, and the movie ends with Ziro's incarceration. Many Season One and Season Two episodes then follow, with Season Two's trilogy of Boba Fett episodes introducing Aurra Sing into the storyline. The crashing of the Slave I leads the Jedi to mistakenly believe that Aurra is dead, until she surfaces in this episode, which brings back Ziro -- chronologically -- for the first time since his imprisonment. The story continues in the next Season Three episode, "Evil Plans", and Aurra will somehow be freed from captivity in time for Cad Bane's attack on the Senate in Season One's "Hostage Crisis." The drama surrounding Ziro and his freedom then picks up in "Hunt for Ziro," the ninth episode of this season.

Get that? Right. Look, I really don't mind any of this if the episodes are good. But in upcoming episodes (see: the next episode Evil Plans) the Secrets Revealed theme might as well be "Retcon - The Season." Continuity is important to someone - but let's face it - I'm someone who follows this stuff closely and even I don't care exactly when Ahsoka got good at using a Jedi Mind Trick or when Aurra Sing bit the bullet. Continuity isn't plot.

That being said, this is yet another Perfectly Fine Episode. Aurra Sing seems threatening enough to warrant a few moments of stylish action and Ahsoka's visions are cryptic enough to have some mystery about how they play out. Padme, even, gets into the action is absolutely fun ways.

The problem though (and it's not small) is that we know that Padme is not killed here. Our visions of the future are 100% more accurate than Ahsokas. We are absolutely certain of the future, because we have seen Padme's funeral already, folks. We also know that Ahsoka's attempts to be the best Jedi she can be and believe in herself will have little bearing on the larger Star Wars narrative. Certainly, there might be a little girl watching who is learning to trust her instincts and be confident (and hey, I'm not completely heartless) but without a whole lot of help from some expert animators, this story lacks much tension, and this type of story deals entirely in tension.

Not that I have any illusions about being listened to by the creative staff - but maybe if Ahsoka were to protect another Senator whose fate is unknown, the exact same episode would have been doubly effective.

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

Season 3, Episode 6 - The Academy

Following on the heels of Corruption is The Academy, an Ahsoka focused episode. In The Academy, Ahsoka has been brought to Mandalore to educate the elite children of Mandalore about, you guessed it, corruption. The kids get into all sorts of trouble, Scooby Doo style, as they try to figure out how high up the government the criminal element goes.

Prime Minister Almec, featured in each Mandalore episode, features prominently here too, along with Satine as well. Those characters are especially effective, and Ahsoka isn't as terrible as she is capable of being. Still, the incorrigible youngsters at the center of the episode's action didn't exactly thrill me. They felt light-weight and expedient, and barely distinguishable from one another. Also...Cadet Korkie? Really?

Certainly, there's little doubt about who the villain turns out to be if you've watched the previous episode or you've watched a mystery in your life. I will admit, though, that the final act of the episode was played in a more harrowing way than the opening of the episode led me to expect. So, whatever half star I might remove for giving Ahsoka so much to do, the creative team gets back in making our heroes appear to be in real jeopardy.

All that's done well here, though, falls prey to the same general malaise I felt when watching the previous episode. I love Star Wars (I mean, no one's paying me to write this blog, folks) but episodes about Smart Alec kids saving an entire planet from bad guys just leave me cold. At the end of the episode I though: Okay what moment was new, exciting, shocking, grand? Even retreads like Grievous Intrigue - which offer little new plot - have action and spectacle on their side. Here, though, between plucky Ahsoka and her kiddie Cadets, I felt no such resonance or sense of wonder. Just a workmanlike episode in an oddly workmanlike season.

Ratings (out of five): ** 1/2

Season 3, Episode 5 - Corruption

In Corruption, The Clone Wars returns to Mandalore and Dutchess Satine, one of the best characters introduced in Season 2 (and from the best of the story arcs as well). The episode itself is actually the first of a duology, although it stands up perfectly well on its own.

Here, we see the complications inherent in attempting to remain outside of the system. The pacifism of Mandalore has meant that they are neither dealing directly with the Republic nor the Separatists. Resources are scarce, and a black market rises to fill the hole left where regular commerce is failing. When the profit motives and unethical business practices become a real hazard (unhealthy doses of a toxin leak into children's meals) it's up to Satine, with Padme's help, to move beyond the political squabbles and discover the culprits.

The episode plays out in a relatively straightforward manner. Satine and Padme follow leads, find themselves in danger, are horrified by the corruption around them, and unravel the mystery. The animation has evolved to the point that little character moments are far more nuanced, and Mandalore's design is always fun to see. I also enjoyed the relationship between Satine and Padme well-enough, although geniality isn't exactly dramatic.

Which is, perhaps, the biggest issues. Corruption is never exactly ho - hum, but it never feels inspired either. There's no villainous character whose invention seems sinister enough to be more than generically greedy, and never a heroic moment that's unexpected. Neither disappointing nor exhilarating, this episode sort of left me feeling unmoved. Which is, shall we say, not a good thing.

As with Supply Lines, it's admirable to see the writers tackle complex issues like political corruption and greed in a way that's palatable for younger viewers. Unfortunately, it's a delicate balance to communicate this type of nuance to children, and there were, for my taste, a few too many lines that bring down the subtlety hammer in order. The word Corruption itself is stated...five times? More? In 22 minutes? Is this overkill for a viewer like me, or simply necessary for some viewers? Hard to tell. For me, as a longtime fan, the hamfisted "teaching moments" stick out a bit too often.

Again, watching this episode never made me feel unhappy to have tuned in, or overly bored. But a lesson in civics followed by a couple of gun fights? Bring on Savage Oppress please.

Rating (out of five): ** 1/2

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Season 3, Episode 4 - Sphere of Influence

Sphere of Influence is a fun, zippy, but ultimately minor episode of the series with one distracting-and-delightful detail: it stars the George Lucas clan. Chairman (wasn't that Baron?) Papanoida (get it?) is, in fact, modeled after Lucas himself. To see him and other characters modeled after his own family running around solving a mystery and firing laser guns is...well... a hoot.

Luckily, as the sight gag is apparent in every frame, the episode is not played for laughs. A kidnapping tale, Sphere of Influence is excellent for what it is, even if it never quite soars. In keeping with the Season 3 theme, this episode returns to one of the few new characters not instantly shot: Senator Riyo Chuchi from Trespass (one of my favorites).

It also checks in on young Greedo. Yes, indeed, Greedo. And takes us to the Mos Eisley Cantina. To see George Lucas and family in the Mos Eisley Cantina in a firefight with Greedo? C'mon people. It's like a love letter to nerds.

That's why, really, it's a minor miracle that the intrigue of the episode plays out relatively smoothly. I can't say that I thought it was all that memorable - the story was standard fare - but I enjoyed it while it lasted. Also, the politics seemed to work well in the story, as opposed to being a story about the fact that there were political issues.

One little nitpick: doesn't Greedo speak Huttese? What's with all these prequel era characters speaking basic? Did I miss a meeting?

Rating (out of five): ***

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Supply Lines and Sphere of Influence coming soon

Hey everyone -

I'm getting married on Saturday, so that's taken up all my excess brain-space. The reviews are coming soon!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Season 3 Poll Results

My life is complete! More Season 3!
11 (42%)
Looks good, but is it going to be more of the same?
6 (23%)
Kamino Battle!
5 (19%)
Just how much Star Wars do I have to watch until it's enough?
0 (0%)
Savage Oppress? Really? Why not call him Murder Badguy?
4 (15%)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Season 3, Episode 3 - Supply Lines

Supply Lines is an oddball of an episode, wedged into the Clone Wars continuity and starring characters usually relegated to the sidelines. The battle for Ryloth rages led by the unfortunately named Master Di and season 2's Ryloth rebel Cham Syndulla. They appeal to the Republic for aid - food, ammunition and medical supplies. In order to fulfill this request, Bail Organa and Jar Jar Binks travel to the planet Toydaria, in an effort to secure a route.

As a stand-alone episode, it's a ho-hum affair, focusing on a sort of kid-friendly version of diplomacy. It would be interesting (as with other episodes in the series as a whole) to see a prolonged negotiation that involves the interest of various parties as opposed to the oft-repeated assertion of neutrality (see: Madalore). It's laudable that the writers want to show the effect of politics on the war front, but because of the brevity of episodes and the demographics of the general viewership, the limitations makes scenes like these better in theory than in practice.

The debate before King Katuunko isn't without interest for fans: it helps to clarify the Trade Federation's public position of not being an active Separatist supporter. It remains unnecessarily sticky and confusing as a story point, but it adds layers to what a character like Lott Dodd can contribute. Later, "diplomacy" is reduced to an amusing enough song and dance number by Jar Jar Binks as ships fly past the windows.

The battle scenes here are there to serve debate on Toydaria, not the other way around. As such, they work, and the animation is fluid and fun. Once again, new characters are cut down quickly. This time, though, it's in service of showing the timing of Bail Organa's and Jar Jar's efforts impact lives, not just who gets bandaged up and when.

It's an interesting trend for Season 3 to wedge episodes into the continuity. The first two episodes of Season 3 were bookends for an episode in Season 1. This episode is glue that connects the very first episode of the series and the Ryloth campaign. This is a six of one, half a dozen of the other choice for me. I like that that they're using their existing narratives to weave a larger tapestry. I am, though, excited to see extended stories that reach beyond the core characters and show us things that are entirely new. Supply Lines doesn't cover new ground in the least. In fact, it's actively retracing the series' steps.

Rating (out of five): ** 1/2

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Season 3, Episode 2 - ARC Troopers (plus deleted scene!)

The second episode (or the second part of an extended episode, depending on how you look at it) of Season 3 is ARC Troopers, which fast forwards us past "Rookies" in the chronology of the series and into the defense of Kamino against a cunning and sinister attack by General Grievous.

The episode is action packed, and it throws quite a bit of the best of Star Wars tricks at us: lightsaber duels, firefights, underwater and space battles. It's all in there, and all thrilling. It's so good that, in a way, it would have benefited from being given more time. In Season 2, the battle for Geonosis took place over multiple episodes, turning it into a stirring campaign. Kamino could easily receive that sort of treatment.

That being said, it's unfair to review what you didn't see. What I did see what exceptional characterizations and great action. It's episodes like this one that excited Star Wars fans when this series was announced in the first place. It, like Clone Cadets, also benefits from being a part of a larger in-series mythology pertaining to this five-clone coterie.

Nitpicks? Sure! First of all, Obi-Wan once again has a lightsaber duel with General Grievous and, let's face it, it's starting to feel like duel number 3,000,0000 with those two.

The other nitpick requires a bit SPOILER ALERT! Do not read past if you have not seen this episode!

The death of 99 is yet another example of them pulling the trigger, literally, on character's too soon. 99 is a fantastic character whose death could have been absolutely tragic. By introducing him and killing him off in the course of less than an hour, the writers robbed themselves, and the viewers, of a terrific extended and well-earned story arc.


That all being said, I loved watching this episode, and certainly hope there's more extended and impressive battles like these in the future.

Rating (out of five): **** 1/2


Thanks to the guys over at for posting this deleted scene. One can see pretty quickly why it was cut out. Still, though...bad ass.

The Clone Wars Season Three - ARC Troopers Deleted Scene II
Uploaded by millenniumfalcon. - Full seasons and entire episodes online.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Season 3, Episode 1 - Clone Cadets

Star Wars: The Clone Wars begins the third season with it's focus squarely on the clones themselves. The first episode, Clone Cadets, and the second, Arc Troopers, chronologically bookend the fifth episode of season 1, "Rookies." Here, we meet Fives, Echo, Droidbait, Hevy and Cutup. They're learning here to work together as a team, training on the clone "homeworld" of Kamino.

In many ways, Clone Cadets is extremely conventional: a sort of Bad News Bears Go To War. Heard this before? "A plucky squad of misfits must to work together and gain confidence in themselves. Only then will they come together and earn their place as soldiers. Along the way, we learn that their greatest strength is not only their unity, but their creativity and individuality."

It doesn't remake the wheel. Still, Clone Cadets deepens our relationships to this band of brothers, and retroactively deepens the already excellent episode "Rookies." It also features some well-staged action sequences, and one of my favorite new characters ... 99. 99, a misshapen and seemingly aged clone, who wants nothing more than to be accepted as a member of his people. He relates to, defends, and aids our heroes. (More on 99 in my review of this episode's follow up - Arc Troopers.)

The work in this episode even further speaks to the brilliance of Dee Bradley Baker, who marks each clone with distinctiveness. It's terrific work, and when a new clone shows up like 99, it's all the more apparent.

Other new characters include the bounty hunters hired to train the clones: Bric and El-Es. They show potential, but I felt they weren't all that necessary. Might it have been better to let Shaak Ti, an audience favorite, take center-stage instead of sharing it with even more new voices?

If Clone Cadets isn't quite as iconic an episode as Rookies, and even if it relies a bit too heavily on story convention, it's an excellent episode in it's own right. Welcome back, Clone Wars!

Rating (out of five): *** 1/2

Friday, September 17, 2010

New poll

New fun Season 3 poll is up!

Season 3 is upon us!

Hey everyone,

Obviously, I've been intermittently updating this blog. Never fear: full episode reviews of each Season 3 episode will appear here weekly.

I am getting married in a month. Those of you who have ever gone through wedding planning know, it's quite a hectic time. Still, I'm excited to continue to offer my thoughts as long as you care to read them.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Tell George Lucas To Bring Back Yaddle!

Check out this Facebook group. I fully support this. You should join and send this around!

Yaddle would be a super amazing character for the Clone Wars series. Who wouldn't want to see Yaddle and Yoda squabbling? C'mon. This would be terrific.

New poll - What do you want to see in Season 3?

Check it out! Up for one week! Voting is open!

Season 3 Trailer Online

Here! Dark-ish tone. Ahsoka having prophetic dreams and such.

Favorite New Characters from Season 2? - A Tie!

My last poll asked who your favorite new character from Season 2 was? With 30% each, Satine and Embo. Just goes to show the power of the image. Embo appeared in one episode and speaks barely a grunt.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

This week's poll

Who was your favorite character that was introduced in Season 2? Remember Cut Lawquane? Admiral Trench? Embo? Duchess Satine?

Who was your favorite from Season 2?

Obi-Wan wins our favorite main character from Season 2 poll

Obi-Wan Kenobi received 48% of the votes, followed by Anakin Skywalker with 20% and Captain Rex with 20%.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Star Wars: The Clone Wars - Season 2 Review Round Up

Thought it might be useful to see all my reviews in one post.

Holocron Heist **** ½

Cargo of Doom *****

Children of the Force *** ½

Senate Spy **

Landing at Point Rain **** ¾

Weapons Factory ****

Legacy of Terror *** 3/4

Brain Invaders ****

Grievous Intrigue ***

The Deserter ****

Lightsaber Lost **

Madalore Trilogy *****

Senate Murders ***

Cat & Mouse *** ¾

Bounty Hunters *** ½

The Zillo Beast *****

The Zillo Beast Strikes Back **** ¾

The “Fett Trilogy” ***

I’d say that maybe I should have gone the extra quarter star on Landing at Point Rain, but that’s neither here nor there. Definitely a great season, with lots of nuance and action. I wasn’t that thrilled by the final three, but they were more than made up for my the Zillo Beast episodes, the Mandalore Trilogy and the entire Geonosis Campaign.

The Bounty Hunters were definitely infused in the action of the season, but I felt like the real tag line for this season was scale. Everything felt bigger, grander.

Might I add that Rob Coleman needs to be give 2 hours and a script and just direct a made-for-DVD movie? Because his work is amazing.

What was your assesment of Season 2? Did the Bounty Hunters live up to advance billing?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Next Poll: Favorite Main Character from Season 2

Soon I'll ask about the newly introduced characters...but who was your favorite character this season from the main cast? Polling will be open for a week.

Landing at Point Rain gets the vote in first poll

Within the five choices of The Best of Season 2...

Landing at Point Rain received 42% of the vote, followed by Cargo of Doom with 23% and the Mandalore Plot with 19%.

Thanks for voting!

Interestingly, some commentors thought Children of the Force should be included. I definitely liked the episode, but I don't remember being as floored by it as some. Here's my review of it from its original airing.

Monday, June 21, 2010

What Was The Best Episode Of Season 2?

I've added a poll to the sidebar. One week of voting. Just thought it'd be fun. If you disagree with my choices...oh well. My blog. I make it up. You might, though, let me know what you think I missed in the sidebar.

I'm hoping to update with a new poll each week on Mondays.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Quick thoughts

So I posted the final reviews for Season 2 below. Great season, and I can't wait to pick up the Blu-Ray discs in October. I'll try to post thoughts here and there when I can. Thanks for being patient everyone. I love comments on the reviews, so comment away, even on older stuff. I read all the comments for sure.

Season 2, Episodes 21, 22, and 23 - The "Fett Trilogy"

Okay everyone. My apologies. I've had quite a bit going on, what with my recent engagement, my wedding approaching quickly, and having two plays going on in New York City last month. (More hints at the identity of CloneWarsFan...) It's been a fine time, but I've neglected you good people.

Instead of trying to write up three separate posts and continuing to delay, I'm going to review all three of the final episodes of Season 2 at once, as they comprise a "trilogy arc" much like Malevolence or the Mandalorian episodes did.

The three episodes in question (Lethal Trackdown, R2 Come Home and Death Trap) give fans of the prequel trilogy a payoff that they've been waiting for since 2002. We finally see young Boba Fett attempt to enact revenge on Mace Windu as it was foreshadowed in Attack of the Clones.

Excellent material and especially for so iconic a character. Boba Fett's spirit has been throughout this season, as Bounty Hunters and Mandalorians have been hanging from the ceilings and stealing Holocrons throughout. Still, though, I can't say I found these episodes to be the series strongest. Primarily because Fett gets a bit of the Anakin Skywalker treatment, and it's treatment that doesn't fit quite as well. If you'll allow me to explain...

In these episodes, we see a distraught kid who has fallen in with a group of assassins because he believes its the only way to avenge his father's death. That's perfectly fine. This kid is, while occasionally showing flashes of rage and darkness, primarily a good kid who is confused and feels bad about what he's doing. That, shall we say, is not what is exciting about Boba Fett. It might be a logical extension of the story, but it's not, maybe, the most thrilling way to re-introduce the galaxies most dangerous Bounty Hunter. Hell, when did you ever think you'd see Boba Fett...apologize?

It sort of reminds me of Transformers 2. Wait, wait, hear me out.

What is the best darn thing about the Transformers? Optimus Prime. What is one of the few really awesome things about these Transformers live action movies? How great Optimus Prime looks and that they use his original voice. So what happens in the nearly 3 hour Transformers 2? Optimus Prime [SPOILER ALERT] spends about 2 1/2 hours of the movie ... dead? Great. That's what I paid to see.

Same goes for Boba Fett. I think his childhood is a perfectly reasonable subject to explore. But why spend nearly half of our time with him watching him fret? His moments of verve and cool calculation are what we want to see. Why deny us that pleasure in an effort to add not-so-necessary complexity?

That isn't to say that there isn't some really strong animation and worthy moments within these episodes. The first, Deathtrap, shows Boba infiltrating the Republic Fleet in a way that is almost too perfect: he walks right in as a clone. It's solid set up for the next episode.

The strongest, in grand Star Wars tradition, is the middle chapter. R2 Come Home not only has some wonderful sweeping visuals - the crashed Star Destroyer is quite a sight - but it's an homage to, of all things, Lassie. It's explosive, inventive, and excels at staging a patented "daring escape."

The final episode, which brings us full circle for the season, is called Lethal Trackdown. It's essentially a sort of police procedural, headed up by Ahsoka Tano and Plo Koon. It's a bit of a pedestrian affair, and neither Plo Koon nor Ahsoka have really matured much as characters, but it was well-written and staged just the same.

The final moments, featuring the aforementioned apology and also a threat, seem to bring us back where we started. It's also sort of a non-cliffhanger. We don't know what's going to happen next exactly... but we do know where this is all headed, so it's not a nail biter.

While, as you can tell, I didn't feel like Season 2's final episodes were as fantastic as the strongest episodes of this season... I can say without a doubt that the season as a whole was breathtaking new Star Wars. If the Fett Trilogy wasn't as canonical as I'd hoped, it certainly showed that the standards I have are increasing. Some episodes of the series are so strong that average episodes stick out a bit more.

Overall, I'd say that Deathtrap was an average ** 1/2, RS Come Home as *** 1/2 and Lethal Trackdown was basically somewhere in between or ***. So...

Rating (out of five): ***

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


Hey everyone!

I will do full recaps of the end of Season 2 shortly! I recently got engaged! So, obviously, that's been taking up a lot of my free time!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Season 2, Episode 19 - The Zillo Beast Strikes Back

Immediately following the spectacular episode The Zillo Beast is this mini-sequel: The Zillo Beast Strikes Back! In the spirit of Toho, this episode shows us the beast rampaging through Coruscant itself. It's as if the planet has finally found it's true purpose. Sure, a city-planet looks cool in a movie. To a giant lizard, though, it might as well be made entirely of targets.

The episode continues on the course of the previous one, showing us the unethical and expedient logic of Palpatine, as he attempts to corrupt the Republic around him. What a wonderful turn of events that only the Zillo Beast seems to see him as a direct threat, and makes a very real attempt to kill him. The Zillo Beast vs. Palpatine dynamic drives the action, and gives the overall story arc a whole lot more than just watching Zillo go nuts.

I definitely enjoyed the whirling action and the unethical machinations of Palpatine throughout. Great visuals pervade and the way we begin to feel for the beast is reminiscent of Godzilla in all the right ways. Perhaps only the smallest little nitpick would be that the Zillo Beasts armor is established to be weapons grade as of the last episode, so watching Yoda hack away at it with a lightsaber to no effect, and watching guards just shoot at it blindly, seemed somewhat lazy.

All in all, though, a great follow up and excellent episode

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

Monday, April 19, 2010

Season 2, Episode 18 - The Zillo Beast

Okay. Yeah. That was awesome. Where to start?

First of all, the Zillo Beast is an episode that introduces us to the Star Wars equivalent of Godzilla. It's like someone got their chocolate in my peanut butter.

One of the facts that makes Star Wars such an enduring universe is how adaptable it is by nature. It's a mythology of spare parts and mash-ups. That's why Clone Wars episodes that quote the films themselves are less, perhaps, in the spirit of Star Wars than episodes that appropriate new material.

The issue I had with Bounty Hunters was that it took a four hour epic and crammed it into 22 minutes. Godzilla, to me, often seems full of filler in between Man In Suit rampages. The Zillo Beast never feels like there's less of what you'd want. It's filled with action on a mammoth scale, but it doesn't let the spectacle stomp all over the story.

Taking place on Malastare, populated with Dugs, the Zillo Beast addresses some honestly complex issues for our heroes. Malastare's leader Doge Urus drives a hard bargain with the Jedi, knowing that the Republic needs their fuel rich mines to fund the war effort. When the use of a highly volatile weapon - the Electro-Proton Bomb - uncovers an ancient sleeping creature, the Dugs insist that it be killed. The Jedi resist the taking of the life of the beast, the last of its kind. But is the life of a single creature worth alienating the Dugs and their necessary allegiance?

Anakin eventually finds a way to split the difference (the beat itself could be used for weapons research) but that doesn't solve the problem of disturbing a practically unstoppable force.

Inevitably, the Beast goes on a classic rampage, complete with Wilhem scream, tossing tanks, and stomping on troopers. The creative team makes The Beat both sympathetic and terrible. By the time the Beast is brought down, in a perfect moment, we see the hubris of the Republic leadership promise more carnage (see: the next episode). It's classic Godzilla. The folly, as always, is ours.

By taking time to highlight the ambiguity of the Jedi's place in the war, and infusing that with a joyful explosion of beautifully cinematic nostalgia and mayhem, The Zillo Beast is a fanboy's dream episode. One of the best of the series.

Rating (out of five): *****

Monday, April 5, 2010

Season 2, Episode 17 - Bounty Hunters

Bounty Hunters begins with a dedication to director Akira Kurosawa, whose work has been an inspiration to the Star Wars universe since the very first film. This episode is an homage to one of his most well-known and imitated works, The Seven Samurai.

Anakin, Ahsoka and Obi-Wan find themselves marooned in a remote area of Felucia, in the middle of a conflict between pirates, a local farming community, and some hired guns (the Bounty Hunters in question). Obi-Wan isn't eager to get too involved in the dispute, but when push comes to shove, and their old "friend" Honda Ohnaka shows himself; the Jedi partner with the Bounty Hunters to protect and train the less-than-imposing Felucians.

The episode itself is fun, light, and the action sequences especially stood out. The new Bounty Hunters we meet are Embo, Rumi Paramita, and Seripas. All three are welcome additions to the growing cast of the Clone Wars. Embo, especially, makes a smashing impression as a silent, Samurai inspired bad-ass.

Bounty Hunters did, though, feel a bit truncated. Some of that is simply knowledge of the source material. The Seven Samurai is a nearly four hour epic. At 22 minutes, a single Clone Wars episode can pack a lot of punch, and even show us the Cliff Notes of a classic, but there's not enough time to really feel the learning curve of the farmers or the hard-won camaraderie of our heroes. The Felucians go from terrified to bringing the full Ewok seemingly overnight. It's not that it's a bad story, it's just hard to make it believable in the time allotted.

Still, raise your hands if you wouldn't watch The Adventures of Embo?

*looks around the class*

That's what I thought.

Rating (out of five): *** 1/2

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Season 2, Episode 16 - Cat and Mouse

In the first season of The Clone Wars, Storm Over Ryloth tried to offer Star Wars fans a strategic duel between generals in outer space - going so far as to make a reference to Grand Admiral Thrawn from the Timothy Zahn books. It was, in my eyes, one of the least successful episodes of the first season. Cat and Mouse has almost exactly the same premise, and it fares far better with clearer choices and smarter writing.

In Cat and Mouse, Anakin and Admiral Yularen are trying to break through a Separatist blockade and bring supplies to the besieged Bail Organa on the surface of Christophsis. Chronologically, (according to the official site) it takes places immediately before the events of The Hidden Enemy, which would then be immediately be followed by the 2008 feature. The episode focuses on Anakin's use of a prototype stealth fighter to break through the lines and overcome the formidable Admiral Trench.

Trench isn't the first character invented solely for the animated series, but he is one of the most memorable. It's not only because of his look (a humanoid Tarantula); it's because of how well the script supports him. He's shown immediately backing Anakin off of the battle (not easily done).Then, in a scene that shows the increasingly depth of character the animation can bring forth, Admiral Yularen explains in hushed tones just how dangerous Trench can be. By building Trench up as an idea, half the work is done before Anakin ever engages with him.

This episode was heavy on quoting (the show abuses quoting lines from the films a bit too much at times) but this episode seemed to have a good sense of how quoting can be used in a way that's clever and sly. Bail Organa literally saying himself "Obi-Wan Kenobi, you're our only hope" was a highlight for me.

Anakin's showdown with Trench, too, was exciting. Anakin's maneuvers seemed deft and daring in equal parts, and there was never, for me, a lapse in logic that distracted from the chess-match tone.

I also liked how this episode extended the mythologizing of the Battle of Christophsis. Raising up specific engagements in the Clone Wars is a smart frame for the series ongoing. I'm curious to see if other battles take on this type of life. I know that the Clone Wars movie's opening sequence was already augmented for me by The Hidden Enemy. Cat and Mouse only adds to this effect.

There were only a few minor issues that kept this episode from perfection for me. First was the throwaway "Welcome to the Army, Rookie!" subplot that seemed to have been largely cut down from a longer version of the episode. The other is that the episode's outcome, while exciting, seemed to knock down Trench just after he had been so effectively built. I'd love a little more long term thinking with these villains. Imagine a character like Trench that isn't defeated until Season 3. That's a moment worth waiting for. Patience, after all, is the Jedi way.

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

Friday, March 19, 2010

Season 2, Episode 15 - Senate Murders

Much like the fourth episode of Season 2, Senate Spy, Senate Murders follows Padme Amidala's work in the Galactic Senate. 75% less laser guns, to be sure. As one might guess, Senate Murders is about some Senators getting murdered. It's up to our serious and determined heroine, Senator Amidala, to make things right.

Senate Spy had its heart in the right place, but failed (for me) to really hang together as a cohesive piece of storytelling. The tone just wandered around a bit too much. Senate Murders is far clearer and more effective. A character we know from Season 1's Bombad Jedi, Rodian Senator Onocanda Farr, dies mysteriously, directly after his coalition with Padme makes its case in the Senate to reduce funding for the war. I won't give away the ending, but I'll say it's pretty much a dead-on genre piece of short mystery writing, complete with red herrings and reveals.

What works well is this singular sense of purpose. Senate Murders sticks rather slavishly to a formula, and in doing so, is effective entertainment and it elegantly resolves.

It also gets Padme right, which is something that doesn't happen as often as it should. Padme just isn't a plucky wisecracker like Leia was (will be?). Padme is a serious woman, and its always best when she's played with a sense of single-mindedness and stubbornness. That's not to say she's humorless. It's just that her defining trait seems less her bravado and more her keen sense of what's just and true.

The existing characters from the films - Bail Organa, Mon Mothma - are well written and animated. They seem to fit well with Padme, and its clear that they could carry future episodes or story arcs themselves. The newer characters were a mixed bag. Kaminoan Senator Halle Burtoni is a fun invention, aged and mean-spirited. Not what we've come to expect from Kaminoans at all.

Lt. Divo, though, just didn't quite do it for me. It was clear the idea was a sort of bumbling detective, but the voice acting here (by voice acting star Tom Kenny of SpongeBob fame) just is a bit distracting and over the top. Also, Divo never seemed funny enough to be truly enjoyable to watch, or effective enough at his job to add much to the proceedings. I'm open to seeing more of the character, but this wasn't an auspicious debut.

The other thing that kept this episode from being among my favorites was simply that it felt a bit too by-the-book. Much of what happened never really felt in doubt to me, and while it was all perfectly acceptable, it never really soared. I think, perhaps, I'd like to see a story like this one over several episodes, much like many of the show's story arcs. If this mystery was resolved in three episodes as opposed to in 22 minutes, it would have packed a bit more punch. At least as good a punch as, apparently, Senator Amidala can throw

Rating (out of five): ***

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Senate Murders preview

Hm. I'll reserve judgment, but this doesn't exactly make me go nuts with anticipation.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Season 2, Episodes 12 - 14 - The Mandalore Trilogy

Hey everyone! Clearly, I'm way behind on my reviews. So I'm going to catch up quickly but reviewing in total the last three episodes: The Mandalore Plot, Voyage of Temptation, and The Dutchess of Mandalore. These three episodes compose an arc that is nothing less than superb.

The story: Prompted by a series of terrorist actions by a rebel group called DeathWatch, Obi-Wan Kenobi is dispatched to Mandalore in order to see if Republic intervention is necessary. The Dutchess of Mandalore is Satine, who is dedicated to being a neutral party in the Clone Wars. She and Obi-Wan, we discover, have a rich personal history that frames and supports the story.

These three episodes have just about everything you'd want in a prequel era story. They deepen our understanding of Obi-Wan Kenobi, they offer us a wider perspective on the Star Wars universe, they open us up to iconic but as-yet-unseen worlds, and they offer intrigue, adventure, and action. I can't speak highly enough about the final few moments of Voyage of Temptation, where writer Paul Dini is able to create a wonderful dilemma and make gleefully vicious reference to Anakin's fate, all in one swift stroke.

Of course, one of the great pleasures of the series is seeing the Mandalorians, or at least a sect of them dedicated to their war-like history, in action. The design of this armor is arguably one of the most enduring in Star Wars. It's a part of not only the Fett visuals, but became the template for the Clone Warriors pre-stormtrooper gear as well. To see where it supposedly "all comes from" was a thrill. energy lightsaber? Come now. That's just so right that it almost felt... wrong.

Rating (out of five): *****

I'll be back on schedule from now on. I'm putting a play up in New York City (Will be ruin his anonymity, they ask?) and it's been keeping me very busy.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Season 2, Episode 11 - Lightsaber Lost

Lightsaber Lost, the eleventh episode of Season 2, gets a resounding *shrug* from me. (Therefore, prepare yourself for my shortest ever review!) It felt like we received lessons with a subtlety hammer (Don't Lose Your Lightsaber! Slow Down, Youngster!). It also made Coruscant look, in places, a bit empty. No small feat. Most of the episode is a chase sequence, which I felt was perfectly fine, but hardly inventive.

I generally liked Tera Senube, a new character and I'm always happy to see the showrunners give us something we haven't seen before. Still, this sort of aging detective felt a bit cliche. 'Slow and steady wins the race' is a great lesson for this show's younger audience, but it bored the heck out of me.

And, finally, I'd love to see the "underworld" of Coruscant treated with a bit less disdain by the Jedi. There's a moment early in the episode when Ahsoka sees a citizen coughing in the street. He isn't committing a crime and we don't see his face. But she turns her nose up to him. Not exactly a compassionate response to what looked like...poverty? Yeah. That's the word.

Extra star for a few new characters and a nod to Attack of the Clones. Still, this episode was firmly aimed at the "new generation" of Star Wars fan. Meaning: ages 10 and under.

Rating (out of five): **

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Season 2, Episode 10 - The Deserter

The Deserter is the second part of the "Let's go find Grievous and kill him" duology. The prior installment is chock full of lightsaber duels and daring escapes. The Deserter is the opposite. Instead of providing fans with retreads of old thrills, it asks questions about choice and individuality.

As Obi-Wan leads an attack on the surface of Saleucami, Captain Rex finds himself in trouble. Shot by an enemy sniper, he needs serious medical attention. His clone retinue decide to leave him in the care of a local family, while they seek help.

The head of that particular household turns out to be Cut Lawquane... a clone who has left the army.

What follows is nearly essential viewing for any Star Wars fan. Certainly the series has promised to explore what it means to be a clone, and how they become individuals through their experiences; but this episode allows a clone to make greater choice than what his haircut looks like, or if he likes the Jedi. In The Deserter, Cut Lawquane asks Rex essential questions about what it means to fight in the Clone Wars, and why a clone's identity is bound to military service.

As a character, Captain Rex has incredible potential. Unlike Commander Cody, we don't see him in Episode III, so his actions are not pre-ordained. We can watch him learn, what him experience new things, and we don't know his fate. If he were to be, for example, shot by a sniper: he could die. There's nothing preventing it except the will of the writers.

No small credit must be given to Dee Bradley Baker. His work on this series is astonishing. I know quite a few people who work in voiceover, and it is no small feat to distinguish tens of characters who have, essentially, the same voice. I certainly hope he's paid by the character. The scenes between Rex and Lawquane are beautifully performed.

This episode isn't perfect, of course. There's a bit of a pat ending as the two clones defend the homestead together, for example. But The Deserter lives into the spirit of an Expanded Universe. We meet new characters, learn who they are, and learn to care about them.

Rating (out of five): ****

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Season 2, Episode 9 - Grievous Intrigue

The first of a two-parter, Grievous Intrigue is curiously titled. The episode is certainly fun, fueled by punchy lightsaber battles, nail-biting escapes and tense battles. It also nods its head to the question of Grievous's motivations, and his skill as a tactician. It is, though, not an episode that offers much that's new, besides character models and taut animation. There wasn't... intrigue.

What happens? Grievous attacks a Republic envoy, and takes Eeth Koth hostage. An attempt to capture Grievous and rescue follow. Beautifully animated, well-staged, dark and fun. Catnip for Star Wars fans. I can't say I didn't enjoy it on a basic fan level. I certainly did and, if you're reading this, you probably did too, or will.

The problem is that a fair amount of the tension is taken out of episodes like these by their very nature. Anakin doesn't meet Grievous until Episode III. Which means they do not meet here. Grievous doesn't die here, neither does Obi-Wan. Koth, frankly, could have died here but I don't feel particularly invested in him at this point. In short, the outcome is decided. The tension is there in form (well edited, well put together) but if you're a fan like me, and not 10 years old and new to the Star Wars universe, I can't imagine you're gripping your chair as you watch.

Also, loathe as I am to admit this, lightsaber duels have come dangerously close to overkill. Where once I would thrill to see a single duel, now I feel like there isn't a lightsaber move left that I haven't seen. When Darth Maul showed up in Episode I, I was floored. Now, when Grievous whisks around 36 lightsabers, I resist the urge to look at my watch. I am a Star Wars fan and do not want to feel this way. Episodes like this one, practically covered in lightsabers, need to be doled out carefully.

Does this all sound like the complaints of a curmudgeon? Maybe so. I can't say this episode wasn't a rollercoaster. But there's more depth to mine in the Star Wars universe (see: the next episode of this series) and there's no need to feel deja vu.

Rating (out of five): ***