Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Season 5, Episodes 1, 14-15 – “Rise of the Shadow Collective Arc” – The 3rd Faction in the Clone Wars

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   Well, Darth Maul is cool again. This entire arc establishes why he became the Master in his and Savage’s relationship and we see him tactfully use others and rise to own and an entire portion of the Galaxy, all while being invisible to the Jedi as being the one behind it all. It is a really solid arc and one of my favorite so far that the show has done.

    “Revival” was directed by Steward Lee and written by Chris Collins who wrote the other two episodes in the arc. “Eminence” was directed by Kyle Dunlevy and “Shades of Reason” was directed by Bosco Ng.

     The story involves Darth Maul taking control of Savage and with him plotting to build an army so that they will no longer be drive wholly by revenge but by conquest and power. To this end he attempts to recruit Hondo’s pirates which nearly ends in their death from Obi-Wan until Death Watch rescues them. From there Maul uses Viszla to recruit all the Crime Syndicates to form to the Shadow Collective and finally deals with Viszla himself so that he can own Death Watch and Mandalore as well.

The Pros: Hondo and his Pirates – Hondo is great! When Maul and Savage turn some of his men against them he tantalizes them back by saying that they’ll just take the supplies on Maul’s and Savage’s ship. To this end they turn on the brothers and with Obi-Wan nearly kill them both. Hondo has fun the entire time and respects him men for betraying him for power.

Obi-Wan – Obi-Wan appears in the first episode in the arc and after Jedi Master Gallia is killed he almost defeats the Brothers Maul but is unable to when they make their escape. We see how powerful he is in this though as he holds off them both and manages to recruit Hondo against them too.

Death Watch – Death Watch is great! From Bo-Katan and Viszla’s quest for power and conquest of Mandalore following Maul’s plan in witch the gangs cause problems and Death Watch saves the people, leading to their taking over Mandalore and arresting Satine to Death Watch coming under control of Maul when he defeats Viszla in single combat. This organization is awesome.

Pre Viszla – This man is a nationalist and had no dreams of conquest, he just wanted to bring back the warrior culture to Mandalore. It is for this reason he arrests the Brothers Maul since Maul wants to conquer the Neutral worlds. He dies with honor in the end as Maul defeats him, though his legacy lives on as Death Watch and the culture of Death Watch now rules Mandalore. Jon Favreau was great as this character.

Bo-Katan – Katee Sackhoff rocks as the Second of Viszla’s who fights on after the Brothers Maul take over. She is a Mandalore patriot and Nationalist and believes only a Mandalorian should rule Mandalore.

Rise to Power – Maul and Savage’s rise to power is really cool. They kill the leaders of the gangs with Death Watch and establish control and then use those resources to fund Death Watch. It’s really well done and Darth Maul is calm and collected the entire time throughout it.

Darth Maul and Savage Opress – Maul is the Master with Opress as the apprentice and we see together they are unstoppable after their failure to get Hondo’s pirates. Maul has learned patience and through it we see him use the greed of the Syndicates and the pride of Death Watch to make them his and make him ruler of the 3rd Faction in the Clone Wars, The Shadow Collective. In the end he places Almec in charge as the face of Mandalore as he made the deal with him in prison and he was a man, unlike Viszla and Satine, who could be used.

Okay: The Gangs – The gangs have great designs but we don’t really see what the Pykes and Black Suns are doing before they are recruited. The Hutts get the most exploration as they were already explored pretty heavily already and they put up the greatest fight before becoming part of the Shadow Collective.

This was a fantastic arc and even though I don’t like that Darth Maul was brought back, I appreciate this story and I think it was one of the best to come out of the Clone Wars. The Shadow Collective is a perfect Sith Tool and I can’t wait to see how Dooku and Sidious deal with the new threat to their end game and plans.

Final Score: 9.5 / 10

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Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Season 5, Episodes 10-13 – “The D Squad Arc” – Exploring Droid Sentience Could Have Been Better

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    This was an arc that tried to be both comedic and dramatic. It mostly failed on the comedic and had a few moments of awesome for the dramatic and profound…shortly after to waste them on comedy. It was still an enjoyable adventure to say the least, but you really don’t need to watch this arc.

    “Secret Weapons” was directed by Danny Keller and written by Brent Friedman who wrote the rest of the arc. “A Sunny Day in the Void” was directed by Kyle Dunlevy, “Missing in Action” was directed by Steward Lee and “Point of No Return” was directed by Bosco Ng.

    The story is that of D Squad who serve under General Gascon. Their mission is to retreive Separatist plans for a surprise attack on the Republic. After recovering the plans they must escape the Void and finally stop the ship that plans to destroy an important conference taking place in the Republic.

The Pros: R2 – R2 is the droid with the most personality and the most memorable of the lot. He is the true leader of the group and helps them fulfill their mission on multiple occasions.

“Secret Weapons” – The infiltration of the Separatist Cruiser is pretty cool. We get to see each of the droid use their upgrade in a way that gets them closer to the data chip with R2 using his boosters to grab it. It was a lot of fun even though Gascon and WAC can get really annoying.

8 / 10

“Missing in Action” – This story is that of Gregor, a clone who lost his memory but recovers it when Gascon and the droids remind him of who he is. He is amazing and we see him defend them and get his freedom from the man exploiting his amnesia. I wish we’d had more time with this character, he has a moment of awesome though and takes on a whole squad of Droids.

9.5 / 10

Gregor – Gregor has a great arc and his discovery that he is a warrior and standing up for who he wants to be is fantastic! His Clone Commando gear is also really cool when he finally gets it back.

Abafar – This desolate planet is great in how it taps into our characters and we see how they clash and come together and also how wide the Separatist net stretches as they are mining resources from this world for their trap and turning a Republic Cruiser into a bomb.

Exploration of Sentience – WAC and Gascon discuss nature versus nurture in regards to genetics and nature versus programming and we see how similar they are. We never get Droid sentience officially recognized though it is a good start.

The Cons: Gascon – This guy was really annoying and definitely had Little Man Syndrome going on. He was arrogant and disregarded everyone until he needed them. We see him go insane on Abafar but that is about as interesting as he gets with his only good moment being how he helps Gregor find himself.

WAC – WAC is annoying, he is a Jar Jar like character who was made to be a comedic character and also was supposed to be profound. He failed on both counts and was a lot like Gascon. Really arrogant and stubborn and not much else.

Disposable Droids – From the Droid General to the rest of the astromechs, they are pointless and serve no purpose beyond plot convenience

Dr. Gubacher –  This guy had a small part but it was annoying as the Mad Scientist trope is over exaggerated. I didn’t believe that the Republic would use him or Gascon as assets.

  This was a fun arc but had a lot going against it, even though 2 of the episodes were at least solid, the rest was pretty forgettable and could be pretty boring. There were a lot of good ideas here but the Droids could not carry the episode and R2 is good but C-3PO and their dynamic is part of what makes him so much fun.

Final Score: 6 / 10

Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Season 5, Episodes 6-9 – “The Path of a Young Jedi Arc” – Enemy of my Enemy

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   “The Path of the Young Jedi Arc” has some really good moments and is a solid arc overall, though it isn’t the strongest in the series. It does at least take the time to explore all of it’s characters and continues to treat Grievous as a valid threat, which is rare enough that I have to recognize it when it happens.

    “The Gathering” was directed by Kyle Dunlevy and written by Christian Taylor who wrote the other three episodes in the arc. “A Test of Strength” was directed by Bosco Ng, “Bound for Rescue” by Brian Kalin O’Connell and “A Necessary Bond” which was directed by Danny Keller.

    The story involves Jedi Younglings going to the Ice Caverns with Ahsoka to get their Kyber Crystal so that they can construct their lightsaber. After the younglings face their fears they are attacked by Hondo who kidnaps Ahsoka and from there they must rescue her as the Separatists arrive to get revenge on Hondo for kidnapping Dooku in the past.

The Pros: “The Gathering” – “The Gathering” is great, we see each individual Jedi face their fears. From Ganodi’s finding hope, Zatt learning patience, Byph learning courage, Petro learning compassion and Katooni with trust. It is a great arc and we see them demonstrate these skills later against the pirates.

Grievous and the Separatists – Grievous destroys Obi-Wan and Rex’s ship preventing them from saving the younglings and turns Hondo’s base into a Separatist stronghold. All he does in win in this episode and it is awesome. This is the Grievous we should have had from Day 1. Also Dooku shutting down Hondo is great.

Ahsoka – Ahsoka is the guardian and protects the younglings and guides them in their process of learning the force. She is firm and compassionate and never backs away from being a Jedi either as she is willing to work with Hondo who was holding her hostage and planning to sell her for money.

Hondo – Hondo is fantastic in this! In this you see he is a bit insane as he is willing to hold kids hostage even if he won’t kill them, but after he is beaten he acts as a mentor to Katooni and helps her build her lightsaber. He also helps the Jedi escape when he uses Slave I against Grievous.

The Cons: Huyang – Voiced by David Tennant, this droid felt underused and that he was just there for the guest voice and an attempt to have a C-3PO episode. What a wasted character…

 This was a solid and enjoyable arc that did some good things with Hondo, Ahsoka and Grievous and even managed to explore younglings and not mess it up! Only issue was Huyang, which is a shame as David Tennant is one of my favorite actors.

Final Score: 8.6 / 10

Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Season 5, Episodes 2-6 – “Revolution on Onderon Arc” – The Process of Rebellion

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  The “Revolution on Onderon Arc” is a pretty good arc. I am pretty annoyed at the character of Lux at this point as I never understood the romantic tension he had between himself and Ahsoka, it felt tacked on, which is a shame as if his character could develop more outside of that he isn’t that bad. The side characters in this are great though!

  “A War on Two Fronts” was directed by Dave Filoni and written by Chris Collins who wrote for all the episodes in the arc. “Front Runners” was directed by Steward Lee, “”The Soft War” was directed by Kyle Dunlevy and “Tipping Points” was directed by Bosco Ng.

    The story involves the Jedi Council sending Jedi advisers to Onderon to train the rebels of Onderon who are fighting against their corrupt King who joined the Separatists in order to reinstate the old King. From here they must train the Rebels in the art of fighting while staying out of the conflict itself.

The Pros: The Politics – The fact that the Republic is involved via the Jedi but in a manipulative way is really interesting and shows that even they are playing with the definition of neutrality (though Anakin is for more overt involvement though he toes the line later). It’s fascinating as well as the rise of the rebellion in popularity and how they go about doing that, the military’s relationship to the people and the past versus the current King.

The Kings – Ramsis supports the will of the people but not a violent uprising until he sees that the Separatists will go to any ends under the once idealistic King Sanjay who usurped him. They have an interesting relationship as they are nobility so they respect each other.

Ahsoka – Ahsoka must be an observer though she nearly gets involved when the Rebels are about to be executed. In this she is torn for her feelings for Lux and friendship with the group and her role as an observer Jedi. It isn’t dealt with fully but for what they did with it was decent.

Obi-Wan and Anakin – These two are two perspectives. Obi-Wan for as little involvement while Anakin wanted full action initially. This leads to them getting weapons to the Rebels via Hondo when Anakin’s perspective wins out. He also warns Ahsoka about personal feelings as he probably realizes how much his relationship to Padme has cost him in regards to being a Jedi too.

Hondo – Delivers weapons to the rebellion in a really cool way, the fact that Obi-Wan and Anakin want him to keep it on the down low makes it even more entertaining and you can tell how much Hondo loves having a favor over the Jedi.

The Rebels – The rebels are decent (Lux) to great (Saw and Steela) I will go into them individually below. The leader of the military joins the revolution too when the Separatists kill King Ramsis too.

Saw – Saw is angry and the assumed leader of the group and has a major indepedent streak. He is brother to Steela who becomes leader and we see that he believes so strongly in the revolution he turns the General serving King Sanjay.

Steela – Steela is the revolutionary who defeats Sanjay’s and the Separatist forces, though she dies in the process. She goes from a sniper, to the rebel leader to finally the head general of the rebellion. She’s a great character and is the calmest who can see the long game. Only issue was her jealous of Ahsoka in regards to Lux and her relationship.

Rebellion process – First was being able to fight back and building a base, next was attacking a major target to rally the populace and finally fighting with the populace against the oppressive force. I really liked how they did it these episodes.

Okay: Lux – Lux is there primarily as a relationship foil for Ahoska and Steela and for being inept and being the political one, in the end he decides that Onderon should join the Republic, which wasn’t a surprise given he does tend to go with what profits most in the end.

I really enjoyed this arc and liked that it had stakes, Steela’s death actually meant something and in the end things aren’t clear as Lux’s initial assessment about the Republic and the Separatists both being corrupt was spot on. Onderon may not survive the coming Empire.;

Final Score: 9 / 10

Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Season 4, Episodes 21-22 – “Darth Maul’s Return Arc” – Why Did They Bring Maul Back?

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   Generally in fiction it is a bad idea to bring back someone who has already died. Shaak Ti in “Star Wars” died multiple times before she finally had her worst death in “The Force Unleashed” where she was killed by one of the biggest blandest Mary Stus to come out of this Universe. From this episode bringing back Darth Maul was the exact same problem, it took away from the development of Savage Opress and took off focus from the Clone Wars to retread ground we had already walked back in Episode 1, as well as giving a chance for Obi-Wan and the Jedi Council to act stupid. There were some things that worked about this arc though, and I’ll go into detail on what those things were.

    “Brothers” was directed by Bosco Ng and written by Katie Lucas who also wrote “Revenge.” “Revenge” was directed by Brian Kalin O’Connell.

    The story involves Opress finding Darth Maul his brother driven mad by his rage and being left behind. After he helps his brother find himself again he takes him to Mother Talzin who restores his legs and from here Opress and Maul set a trap for Obi-Wan by luring him to a village by slaughtering all the men, women and children in it. From here the story unfolds as Obi-Wan and Ventress work together as Ventress was brought to the world in her search for the Bounty on Opress.

The Pros: Savage Opress – This guy is unhinged and really powerful in the force. Everywhere he goes people get hurt and you get the idea that when he was pumped full of Darkside magic he lost all sense of self. He is still an agent of Talzin and the Darkside but beyond that there is very little that makes him human. It’s very cool to see this in his interactions with others too.

Ventress – Ventress arrives and saves Obi-Wan’s life when Maul is torturing him. They have a great dynamic and she is good at establishing that this isn’t entirely out of the goodness of her heart. Their banter is great and we see that she has continued to grow as a duelist.

Obi-Wan Kenobi – Obi-Wan gets schooled, which he kind of deserved since he didn’t take a Jedi Task Force with him (which Yoda stupidly consented too) and he nearly dies because of that. He only just escapes because of Ventress hunting Opress. He is fun in this though and he takes his battering and bruising with a smile and mocks Darth Maul a lot.

Revenge on the Galaxy – In the end Maul and Opress plot revenge against the Jedi and the galaxy and it is a good moment too as it shows that they are beyond the personal and have the potential to be an actual threat the galaxy.

The Cons: Darth Maul – There was no reason to bring this guy back and when we first see him he is insane…and even after he finds balance again we don’t really get his motivation beyond revenge against Obi-Wan. This idea could have worked if we’d seen him have some greater purpose beyond killing Obi-Wan, but we don’t which means it was a retreated of the Episode 1 fight for all intents and purposes.

The Idiocy of Personal Vendettas – Yoda says Obi-Wan should finish it on it’s own and gives Obi-Wan full reign to be an idiot. They knew how powerful Darth Maul was, so sending one person who didn’t know his current abilities was a recipe for disaster and felt the whole “Hero has to do for reasons” syndrome that is overdone in fiction.

I’m against bringing back characters who are dead, there is no point and it is largely just for fan service. There has to be a really good reason to write something in that stupid and so far the writers have not justified it to me. Maul sells toys, that doesn’t mean he should come back. This was a major reason I could not enjoy the episode and have trouble recommending it, even though it was decent.

Final Score: 7 / 10

Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Season 4, Episode 20 – “Bounty” – The Good in Ventress

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  “Bounty” continues Ventress’s story though is a stand alone episode as well as we are introduced to a free Boba Fett and his band of Bounty Hunters who are doing a job for a corrupt warlord. It is a good episode in how it further humanizes Ventress and shows the ways she is changing after the loss of her people.

    The episode was directed by Kyle Dunlevy and written by Katie Lucas.

    The story involves Ventress being pulled onto Boba’s team after she kills one of his men. From here they must protect cargo for a warlord, but thing soon get complicated when they find out the cargo is a member of the species that is attempting to free the cargo.

The Pros: The Job – A high speed train being chased by aliens below a planet’s surface while protecting special cargo sounds just awesome! The job is pulled off really well too as the aliens who are attacking have the advantage of numbers even though individually the Bounty Hunters are stronger.

The Bounty Hunters – Bossk continues to kick but and be Boba’s protector, C-21 Highsinger saves the cargo on multiple occasions, Denger is palyed by Simon Pegg who gives a lot of life to the character and Razzi fights with metallic leaves and becomes Ventress’s friend. Boba Fett is also pretty cool this episode and proves why he is the best as he beats every enemy he faces on the train.

Ventress – Ventress goes her own way and saves the cargo, conning the warlord but still gives the Bounty Hunters all their cut while collecting a small cut from the people whose daughter was kidnapped. She isn’t good but she is better and has found her own path outside of the Nightsisters and the Sith.

The Cons: The Belugans – These guys have no motivation and we don’t know why they kidnapped the humanoid girl as it seemed to serve no purpose in mating since they probably weren’t even genetically compatible. Never believed they were a threat, there tram is cool and that’s about it.

   This was a great but not a favorite episode. The biggest issue I had with it were the Belugans and I felt that Boba could have been more than an arrogant kid (though he was a great fighter this episode). This episode is about Ventress at it’s core and is what is done well. I consider her a favorite in this series after this episode and the one prior.

Final Score: 9 / 10

Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Season 4, Episode 19 – “Massacre” – Lost Ventress and Grievous Finally Acts Like a Threat

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     This was a great Grievous, Talzin, Dooku and Ventress episode as we see them go through extreme trials and out of it become more than they were before. This was a pretty dark episode as well as we see the slaughter of the Witches (reason the episode is titled “Massacre”) and once more have Ventress on the run. It was pulled off really well.

    “Massacre” was directed by Steward Lee and written by Katie Lucas.

   The story is that of Dooku’s revenge as he attacks Dathomir when he learns that Ventress is there and has become a member of the Nightsisters. As he orders Grievous to attack Mother Talzin attacks him with magic and a battle of wills commences between the two sides.

The Pros: The Undead Army – Mother Talzin summons an undead army that fights the droids and does a lot of damage until tanks and Grievous enter the battlefield and they go to kill the oldest of the Nightsisters who summoned the army in the first place.

General Grievous – He is actually a threat in this episode! We see him kill multiple Nightsisters, shake of zombies and put up a good fight against Ventress. Why couldn’t we have seen this more? He always gets his but kicked by Jedi Masters and he lost to Gungans one of the last times we saw him in action. This is the Grievous we needed from the beginning.

Count Dooku – Dooku does a good job at getting revenge, though he does not succeed in getting Ventress. We see how powerful he is at resisting pain though as a doll of his body is used by Talzin to destroy him and how even with all of that he still has enough willpower to live and to tell Grievous how to find Talzin. The guy deserves being the leader of the Separatists for sure.

Mother Talzin – Talzin shows that she is up there with Palpatine for truly powerful force wielders as she loses most of her clan but survives, turning into the green mist. What she has in mind for others remains to be seen but she helps Ventress heal and find a life beyond the world of the Nightsisters and what was lost.

Ventress – Ventress is the focus of this episode as we see her have community again to lose it as Dooku once more tries to take everything from her. In the end she survives with her life and not much else. It’s a heartbreaking scene as we see just how human Ventress is and how much losing her Sisters meant to her. This was her story.

   This was a great episode that had fantastic action, good character development, stakes and Ventress change in the process. The episode that follows up on this arc is really good too as we get to explore Ventress and her new relationships after she has lost it all.

Final Score: 10 / 10