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