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): ***