“The Mandalorian” Season 2 – A Great and Complete Story That Sets up Future Projects

Star Wars: The Mandalorian Season 2 Poster Released

“The Mandalorian” Season 2 is easily one of the best shows to come out this year and one of the best “Star Wars” stories. This season provides a completed core arc and sets up a lot of promise for stories to come. My only real issue with the story is the Empire is feeling like they do in “Rebels” and that isn’t good. The threat of our antagonists should be better felt and I hope we can feel an “Empire Strikes Back” level of threat again. So without going into SPOILERS, this show is well worth your time.

The story follows Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) as he attempts to unite “The Child” with the Jedi as he tracks Mandalorians who might know where the Jedi are located.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Action – The action is the best it has been this season. We get multiple duels and standoffs both with melee weapons and guns. We get large scale battles, under cover missions, space battles and all of it happens over multiple environments and threats. Most importantly the action drives the story forward, it is rarely ever wasted.

The Soundtrack – The soundtrack continues to elevate the storytelling. Ludwig Göransson has truly brought this space western to life and how he weaves the music into the themes of the story enrich the overall work and the music itself is worth coming back on it’s own to listen to again.

Planets and People – We get a ton of planets and people we haven’t seen before and visit areas that we have never been too. We get a hostile snow world full of spiders, Trask a water world and rough trade port where Mando is nearly killed and we visit the small town of Mos Pelgo, a small town on Tatooine being harassed by a Krayt Dragon. All these areas are made richer by the characters as we also get to meet other characters from prior in the series or greater Star Wars Universe. I’ll go into some of my favorite next.

The Characters – The characters are what make this show and here are the ones whose arcs and how they play off Din Djiarin enriched and made the show as great as it is.

Cobb Vanth – Cobb Vanth is the Marshal of Mos Pelgo, a former slave of a mining company that enslaved their town after the fall of the empire he rose to his position by trading what he stole from the company for Boba’s armor from jawas. He promises to give the armor to Din if Din helps take out the Krayt Dragon harassing them. Din does this by forcing the town to confront it’s prejudice against Tusken Raiders who are also dealing with the threat of the dragon. It is powerfully done and the victory is well earned. This was the first episode of the series too and I would not mind visiting Olyphant’s Cobb again.

Mayfield – Bill Burr is back to help Din find Moff Gideon! Cara Dune breaks him out of prison for Din so he can find Gideon’s vessel after Gideon captures “the Child” who at this point we’ve learned is named Grogu. His arc is powerful as we see him turn against the Empire during the undercover mission to get the coordinates to Gideon’s ship as we learn about when the Empire turned on Empire in “Project Cinder” and the slaughter that occurred. Mayfield is the first human to see Din without his helmet too and respects him for it as he sees how deeply Din cares for Grogu. In the end Din and Cara let him go and his arc is completed as someone who went from bragging about his imperial past to one who fights against them now.

Ahsoka – Rosario Dawson is great as Ahsoka and it was great seeing what has happened to her character post “Rebels.” In this she is facing off against a corrupt leader of the forest world of Corvus as she attempts to find who is the Magistrate’s master is. She is the one to reveal “The Child’s” name as Grogu and refuses to teach him because of his attachment and fear. It is really well done and we see that she is looking for Grand Admiral Thrawn. I look forward to seeing that story unfold.

Bo-Katan – Katee Sackhoff is back and Bo-Katan is once more seeking leadership over Mandalore and to free it. In this she seeks the darksaber and weapons for her fight which leads to her working with Din against the Imperial Remnant. She usually has 2 loyalists with her and we see how driven she is in her quest as she only ever helps Din if she gets something out of it. From her we learn he was a foundling of the fanatical “Death Watch” who are attempting to bring back the ancient Mandalorian ways. This clearly changes him too as over time he does get to the point where he will take his helmet off if it is important.

Boba Fett and Fennec Shand – Boba Fett saved Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen’s assassin) and they run into Din to get Boba’s armor back. These two are a great duo as we see that Boba is still the mercenary but he has a code as he helps save Grogu from Gideon as protecting Grogu was part of the deal to get his armor back. We also see how stupid he thinks taking Mandalore is so doesn’t take Bo-Katan seriously. It is a fascinating dynamic as they look down on him for being a clone. We get an idea of his long term goals too as his story is setup in the aftercredits scene.

Din Djarin and Grogu – The heart of this show is Din Djarin and Grogu, they are “Lone Wolf and Cub” and their adventures and the people they meet is what made these last 2 seasons work so well. In this we see Din come into his role as a father and face the hardest of choice when he eventually has to let Grogu go to the Jedi. This completes his arc as his religious zealotry was given nuance by those he met and the comfort he found in himself enough to reveal his face. Din’s arc feels complete and it was because of how much he cared for Grogu.

The Western / Samurai Themes and Feel – The Western / Samurai style themes of the show is part of what made this season and last season work so well. Whether it is helping a small town face a dragon, liberating a town from a corrupt ruler or questing for a mysterious temple we feel how rough the galaxy is and how important our actions are. Din lives this in his role and code and I hope future seasons do not forget this and these themes.

Luke Skywalker’s “Rogue One” Moment – Luke Skywalker shows up after Gideon has activated his powerful Dark Troopers who have come to rescue them, and he just walks through them with. With black glove and green lightsaber this is clearly the young jedi master who isn’t jaded yet and it is awesome. The de-aging of his face is the only thing that feels off, like in “Rogue One” with Leia. Until that point though, it is fantastic. You can see why Grogu went with him to train to become a jedi.

The Book of Boba Fett – The after credits scene involves Boba and Fennec taking over Jabba’s old operation as we meet a fat and old Bib Fortuna who Boba easily kills. I like this setup as “The Mandalorian” can now refer to Boba officially as we get his story going forward, which gives Din a break.

The Cons:

Why Even Have Stormtroopers / An Empty Empire – Stormtroopers are useless in this. At least last season they managed to kill one named character, here they only injure them barely if they have power weapons. This applies to tie fighters and the Empire as a whole. Them being so weak hurt the drama of the show. Why should I be afraid for any of these characters? This happens anytime they are faced whether it is against Boba and Fennec, Bo-Katan and her allies or Greef and Cara taking out a military base. In each situation the Empire loses all their troops or their resources are taken.

Moff Gideon’s Lack of Plan – Gideon knew that Din was coming for him to save Grogu, and did nothing. He had Dark Troopers as his only card, which is really dumb if this guy is supposed to be in intelligence. His lack of plan ruined the Empire as a threat. It felt very “Return of the Jedi” this season where pirates and thieves were a greater threat to our heroes than the named big bads.

Season 2 is a great season and I love how Din and Grogu’s arcs are completed. We get to see how much bigger this universe is but it never loses sight of the themes and western feel. I can’t wait to see what more stories we get with all the shows that have been announced. This is a favorite show and this season was stronger than the 1st Season in every way. This is a show that I’d highly recommend and is easily one of the best shows to come out this year.

Final Score: 9.8 / 10 The lack of villain payoff is the only thing keeping it from being higher.

“Star Wars Rebels” Season 4 – The Completion of Arcs and the Promise of Stories to Come

Star Wars Rebels: The Complete Fourth Season [DVD] - Best Buy

“Star Wars Rebels” is a show I haven’t come back to for sometime. I think I know what my issue at the time was too. After finishing up Season 3 and hearing how Season 4 went I knew I wouldn’t be getting the same bittersweet experience of “The Clone Wars.” The thing is this show was never that and with time I came to see that and wanted to return to this story, especially as it does connect to “The Mandalorian” and sets up some intriguing plot points for the future of the Star Wars Universe. This doesn’t change the cons I’ll be bringing up, which are pretty consistent throughout the show but in the end if you liked the past seasons, before I go into SPOILERS I will recommend this season.

The story picks up after the Rebels loss in Season 3 as they seek to gain victories again as they face Thrawn and his Tie Defender program as well as other Imperial Threats as the Rebellion attempts to grow.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

Heroes of Mandalore Arc – The season starts out strong with us returning to Mandalore and learning about a weapon Sabine Wren made that targets and destroys Beskar armor, which all Mandalorian warriors wear. After nearly losing her mother she and the Rebels manage to stop the weapon through Bo-Katan’s leadership as Bo-Katan unites the Mandalorian Clans in rebellion against the Imperial Occupation with the Dark Sabre Sabine gives her. Empire was also somewhat effective as a threat.

Bo-Katan – Katee Sackhoff is once again wonderful as Bo-Katan as in this we see how driven she is as well as her big picture mindset she’s had since “The Clone Wars.” Her becoming leader made sense and this was a nice part of her arc and rise to power against the Empire.

The World Between Worlds – The penultimate story before the Final is a head trip and opens up the Star Wars Universe in some really cool and unique ways. It is here we find a Jedi Temple connected to the Mortis Gods from the Clone Wars is a gateway between space and time. This leads to Ezra saving Ahsoka from Vader at the last second and accepting the loss of Kanan. It is a really well done story and the Minister was a great villain. The Empire was largely effective this episode which is always nice.

Ahsoka – Ahsoka is back and seems to be being watched over by the Daughter of Mortis as her animal is always with Ahsoka. She is the one who helps Ezra accept the loss of his Master and promises to find him when she returns to her place in time. We don’t see her until the end and as far as I know the in-between time hasn’t been answered yet. I hope we get it given how core she was to the Rebellion early on. I thought I’d hate retconning her great death but I didn’t as it was a pretty special bit of circumstances that made it possible.

Kanan – Kanan’s arc is completed in more ways then one this season. His love story with Hera is finally made official, his training of Ezra is completed and in the end he risks his live to save his friends and becomes a full Jedi, a role he’d rejected after Order 66. It is powerfully done and he carries a lot of the emotional weight this season in his loss.

Zeb, Rex and Sabine – These 3 all are handled well and in Sabine’s case actually have an arc this season but it was mostly good to just to see them in action again and seeing how they help liberate Lothal.

Hera – Hera is my favorite member of the crew besides Zeb. In this we see the weight of being a general in the Rebellion as she navigates politics as well as surviving Imperial torcher and the loss of Kanan. She is such a great character and seeing her guide the crew both as a rebel leader and friend and mentor is some of the best writing on the show.

Rebellion Politics – Mon Mothma versus Saw Gerrara is a thing and it is cool when we see it. Sadly the episodes story kind of sucks as Gerrara is made a joke and a clear villain. This was a shame as the premise and politics of leadership and the fight on Yavin IV was really cool and I liked what it implied, just now how it was handled. Though the politics themselves among Rebellion leadership is still really good.

Grand Admiral Thrawn – Lars Mikkleson continues to play the biggest threat to the Rebellion at this point as we never see Vader of Tarkin in action against the Rebels again at this point. This was probably a good thing as more time with Thrawn is always nice. He continues to be the only successful threat against the Rebels this season and he is only defeated (like last season) through a combination of Deus Ex Force Machina and dumb Imperial underlings. He isn’t dead though so I’m curious to see how his story continues on.

The Cons:

Cringe Dialogue Sometimes – The jokes rarely work in this show and sometimes the show is telling you what you can already see through animation. The Clone Wars could sometimes have this problem too but it was very apparent in some scenes this season.

Governor Pryce – Pryce sucks. At least the Inquisitors had a cool look and managed to be effective somewhat before Ahsoka showed up. Pryce always loses and this character, who is setup really well in the “Thrawn” novel is wasted. She isn’t clever or strategic and just reacts. If any semi-competent leadership was in charge of Lothal the rebels never would have won or had as many survivors as they do at the end of the season.

Deus Ex Force and Force Wolves – Force Wolves, animals in touch with the force who have one who can speak to Jedi save the Rebels from destruction when they return to Lothal and single handedly make this small rebel cell nearly unstoppable. I hated this as the Bendu was at least neutral. These beings are Kanan and Ezra’s pets by the end and it makes the Imperial threat even weaker as our heroes have Force entities on their side who can be plot armor at the right time. I think I would have been more forgiving of them if we’d seen them in Season 1 when we were on Lothal a lot. Because of their late entry their ability to be plot armor is made so much more obvious.

This was a good season overall. I was never bored and I found myself invested in the the main cast. The show ends the main arcs solidly and it sets up stories that can be followed up on. We have Bo-Katan and the war on Mandalore, we have the search for Ezra and Thrawn as well as what happens to Thrawn and Ezra. I want to know what happens and am happy that it looks like some of these questions are being answered now in “The Mandalorian.”

Final Score: 8.3 / 10

Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Season 7 Retrospect

Amazon.com: Trends International Star Clone Wars-Season 7 Key Art Wall  Poster, 22.375" x 34", Premium Unframed Version: Posters & Prints

“The Clone Wars” Season 7 was a return to form for this wonderful show and I really hope it isn’t the last. Like the show itself there were some arcs that were merely okay, some arcs that explored the life of the Clones and also some Jedi focused episodes as well. I’m glad Dave Filoni got to give this last hurrah for the show as it was canceled before it had the chance to finish and there are still stories that I hope can be told in one-shots or mini-series related to the show. I’ll get into those arcs and give an overall score for this season at the end, but before I do get into SPOILERS, this is a season worth checking out.

Summaries and SPOILERS ahead.:

“The Bad Batch Arc” covers the first arc of the season and explores Captain Rex as he works with Anakin and Clone Force 99, a group of Clones with genetic mutations who each have distinct personalities and are nearly rogue in their approach to missions. The mission turns into a rescue and infiltration the Techno Union homeworld to rescue the missing clone “Echo,” while all the time facing off against Admiral Trench, one of the greater Separatist Admirals in the Clone Wars. I really enjoyed this episode as the Clone stories really were one of the strongest parts of the show as a whole and this arc is no exception.

Final Score: 8.6 / 10

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2020/12/01/star-wars-the-clone-wars-season-7-episodes-1-4-the-bad-batch-arc-echoes-of-the-republics-future/

“The Martez Sisters Arc” is the weakest arc of this season, though it does not reach the lower depths of some of the droid and Jar Jar episodes. The problem is the Martez sisters cause most of the problems in this arc and just aren’t likable. Luckily the Pyke Syndicate as a threat and Ahsoka’s return help elevate this episode to enjoyable.

7 / 10

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2020/12/01/star-wars-the-clones-wars-season-7-episodes-5-8-the-martez-sisters-arc-at-least-ahsoka-is-back/

“The Siege of Mandalore Arc” brings many characters to a close as it takes place during the events of “The Revenge of the Sith” and we see how that plays out with our heroes and how they interact across the galaxy. This is a story with consequences and we witness how devastating Order 66 is for all those involved. The events on Mandalore have some of the best in the show and Bo-Katan reveals how complex her character and what drives her. This is an episode full of nuance as even Maul is alone reaching out for anyone powerful enough to help him stop Sidious. He also never stops being such a complete threat and I hope someday they can make a film of his escape from Sidious. This episode is full iconic scenes and so much sorrow and is the perfect story that revealed how powerful this show could be.

Final Score: 10 / 10

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2020/12/01/star-wars-the-clone-wars-season-7-episodes-9-12-the-siege-of-mandalore-arc-the-cost-of-the-clone-wars/

This was a solid return to “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” and I hope that we can get more of the unfinished stories that Filoni and the team made brought to life in animation or film. I hope that enough people on Disney+ check it out and show just how much people care about these stories. This was a series that captures that cost of war, gives us beautiful action and explores what identity means…whether one is a Clone or Jedi. Suffice to say, I’d recommend checking this out if you are a fan of the show.

Season 7 Final Score: 8.7 / 10 This was a really good return to form and shows the stories that this series was capable of from okay to amazing.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Season 7, Episodes 9-12 – “The Siege of Mandalore Arc” – The Cost of the Clone Wars

“The Siege of Mandalore Arc” is possibly the greatest story in “The Clone Wars.” This a story with consequences, nuance, depth and the best music and action in the series as a whole. What a way to end this season. This story has events that will stay with you and I hope we can get more stories like this from “Star Wars” in the future. This is easily one of the best “Star Wars” stories to be created and is Dave Filoni’s best work.

The story begins with Ahsoka Tano seeking help from the Republic to help Bo-Katan take back Mandalore from Maul.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Action – The action in this arc is epic. This is largely due to the actions having consequences, Maul’s Shadow Collective is a worthy threat and when Order 66 roles around…well you don’t mess with the 501st.

The Music – The music isn’t as operatic in the prior arcs as it is here. Here it is on par with the “Star Wars” films at their best. The action is elevated and the music gives you glimpses into the characters thoughts. It is so rich and I plan to go back to listen to it again when I write fiction of my own.

The Anakin, Obi-Wan and Ahsoka Reunion – This arc starts out strong with a tense but wonderful reunion between Anakin, Obi-Wan, and Ahsoka. In it Anakin is advocating for taking down Maul and in the end gives her half of the 501st (After Obi-Wan allows it) and gives her two new lightsabers. This whole reunion there is much to say but urgency keeps it from happening between our heroes and their missions. Some members who join Ashoska from the 501st also have their helmets painted orange to honor her. This plays into the tragedy later.

Bo-Katan – Bo-Katan is driven and Katee Sackhoff does such a good job as this war weary warrior. She is victorious over Maul in the end but she loses so much and has a populace that isn’t her biggest fan. This provides a fascinating end to her story here as she admits she doesn’t do politics and is only good at fighting, leaving how she’ll be as a leader up in the air. It is powerful seeing her admit that to Ahsoka though and we see fully how much Mandalore has suffered from the war.

The Siege of Mandalore – The Siege of Mandalore is amazing action. In this you see the air assault where a lot of Clone Troopers are taken down but how they quickly take out Maul’s troops once landed and at that point Maul is on the run except for a final standoff that he uses to make an attempted escape. Through it all you see both his and the Republic and Bo-Katan’s power and that Maul could have held on here longer if not for the Alliance.

Ahsoka and Maul’s Duel – Ahsoka and Maul’s duel is a duel with layers and subtext. Maul wants Ahsoka as an apprentice so is holding back as he knows the Republic and Jedi are about to fall and knows with help he might be able to take out Sidious. It is well done and he and Ahsoka are pretty evenly matched and in both cases held back by their mercy and big picture outlook.

Order 66 – The Republic victory is hollow because Maul was right. Order 66 happens and the Clone Troopers turn on Ahsoka. It is only through 3 droids who help, releasing Maul and freeing Rex of his mind control chip that she even barely manages to escape. You feel the weight of this order and Maul and Ahsoka sensing Anakin’s turn before it happens is powerful.

Maul – Maul is such a complex anti-villain. He isn’t a hero but he is right about Sidious and the Republic. It is for this reason that I think Ahsoka frees him during Order 66 because she knows that if she wants to save the lives of the Clones than Maul is the last person you want to free. Maul is racked with sadness and desperation through the arc but he never stops being a threat or fascinating. This truly was a great ending for him and I hope the comic book of how he escaped is eventually adapted into a mini-series or future arc.

Ahsoka Tano – Ahsoka isn’t a Jedi and she tells the Council as much, but she is very much still guided by their ideals. Everything she does is to save lives until she has no other choice but to survive and in doing releases Maul. At one point she even is open to allying with Maul until he realizes that he wants to kill Anakin. Her loyalty to her friends is the one big separation from Maul as both are guided by a bigger picture. It is her friendship with Rex that leads her to risk all to save him and it is her desire to save Anakin and Obi-Wan that would have lead to an Alliance with Maul, a fact Maul misses. This all leads to her exile at the end the arc as she knows there is no place for her, which in turn leads to her story in “Rebels.”

Rex – Rex’s story is so powerful and sad. He is the one who learned about Fives and we see how the Senate and Jedi viewed him as nothing more than a cog and that Fives’s death to reveal the mind control chip meant nothing. We see his tears as he talks about having to kill the Clones for them to escape and how he would have too if Ahsoka had not freed him from the chip. I felt so much for Rex. He had no good choices this arc.

The Ending – The ending is powerful as Rex is the only Clone to survive and her and Ahsoka leave as we flash forward and see Darth Vader find the crashed ship and the lightsabers he gave Ahsoka. It is here mourns what was as a Clone Wars helmet looks on as he returns to serve the Empire.

“The Siege of Mandalore Arc” truly demonstrates the best of what “Star Wars” can be. You can have complex and layered political thrillers full of action and drama that can speak to deeper ideas. This arc demonstrated all of that and gave us a truly amazing end to so many of the characters. If they brought back more stories from this show as mini-series and one-shots I would check them out. This is the power of what these stories can bring.

Final Score: 10 / 10

“Star Wars: The Clone Wars” Retrospect – There Were Amazing Stories But Star Wars Prequel Problems Haunted This Series

Star Wars The Clone Wars

  “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” is a show that is a favorite. It had a lot of problems that could have killed the series for me, but when it had strong episodes and arcs…it gave us some of the best stories on television. Politics and war are complicated as are issues of identity and when this show was at it’s best it did that. It was far superior to Episodes I-III because it took it’s subjects serious and gave us complexity that made even Anakin a compelling character who was worth investing it.

      The series was created by George Lucas with the main developer, head writer and director being Dave Filoni (from “Avatar: The Last Airbender”)

        The story is about the Clone Wars, where we learn of love lost, Clones and their identities, adventures with Droids, Anakin’s descent to the Dark Side and the plots and manipulations of Count Dooku and Palpatine and the story of those caught in the middle who weren’t on the Separatists or the Republic side and how they are faced with choices as the Clone War is forced upon them.

The Pros: The Animation – The animation is fantastic! Lucasfilm animation really did a fantastic job on giving life and diversity to the characters and worlds that made up this series. Each alien race was unique and even the Clones were shown to be distinct in their personalities and identities as shown through the animation.

The World – The world of “Star Wars” gets so much exploration in this! From droids, to Clones, to Neutral Worlds, to Republic and Separatist worlds and also Senate Politics, Bounty Hunters and so much more. I’m glad it went for 6 Seasons and in many ways wish it had gone longer.

The Cost of War – The cost of war is huge in this and we see that the Separatist Parliament is as much a pawn as the Galactic Republic’s Senate. So many die, from countless Jedi, to Clones we come to know…the neutral worlds that are pulled in and destroyed in the war. There is also a loss of innocence too as the war drives Anakin to greater extremes and the Jedi Council is shown to be both incompetent and rather corrupt.

Politics of War and Sovereignty – Sovereignty is a major issue of this series that is explored in detail in the stories of Mandalore and countless other Neutral Worlds that are pulled into the conflict and are torn apart from within by it or consumed by it when the Separatists usually attack, and even the worlds that are saved lose their sovereignty to the Empire later.

Nationalism – We see Nationalism exploited by Palpatine to control the populace but also see it used by Viszla, Padme and Satine to try and get their agendas on what they want for their people passed as well. We also see Toxic nationalism too in the assassination of a Senator when an aid was angry that he had joined the Republic.

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Clone Identity and the Clones – I really like the Clones. Fives who is the rebellious Clone who is nervous at first but risks all to find out the truth that they are slaves to a chip set to go off when the time is right and with the murder of the Jedi…we see him lose his Brothers and end up as the last one of the Clone Cadets still standing. We also see Rex face a Clone who has left the force and respect his choice and the fact he is fighting for his family. There are others too but Rex and Fives best represent development over multiple episodes throughout the series as a whole.

Clovis – This is a great minor character who is Padme’s ex and a Separatist spy who in the end tries to re-write that wrong by saving the Banks but ends up a pawn once more and loses everything because he had the willingness to hope in the good of others and in his trying to do the right thing, ends up dead.

Cloak of Darkness

Asajj Ventress – Ventress goes from Dooku’s apprentice, to seeking revenge to finding her own path as Bounty Hunter who is neither good nor bad. She protects Ahsoka when the Council turns on her when she is framed and we see that she is no longer Sith as she trusted Dooku but he turned against her the moment Sidious asked. At this point she knows revenge isn’t possible as every plan fell to Dooku and she opened up another enemy in the war by corrupting Savage Opress and turning him into a monster, something that it seems to imply she regrets as her quest for revenge lead to the loss of all her people, the Nightsisters.

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Cad Bane – I really like Cad Bane. He is the best original character to come out of this series as he is a dark shade of grey. He will kidnap children and kill anyone for enough money but he also respects those who save him and are efficient in their mission, which leads to a mutual respect of Obi-Wan when Obi-Wan is undercover. He has also broken out of prison multiple times and is truly the best Bounty Hunter in the Galaxy as he can hold his own against any Jedi and only lose from being outnumbered. He had a great character design and was part of some of the best stories in the series where we see him turn losses into wins.

Savage Opress – Savage is voiced by Tom Clancy and is wonderful as a boy who loses his innocence in Ventress’s quest for revenge. He is a protector of his brother but in the end kills him after he is pumped full of Dark Side magic. He later carries on this protector role towards Darth Maul even though he is unstable from all the magic coursing through him and has gone kind of crazy. In the end Sidious kills him when he and Maul briefly form a 3rd Faction in the Clone Wars, The Shadow Collective. I really liked this character.

Count Dooku/Darth Tyranus – Dooku is fantastic in this series and I really respect him as a character after this. He is one of the core manipulators of the Jedi and we even see him try for Sith Master a few times until his weapon of Opress turns against him. It is really his loss of an apprentice that dooms him to Anakin in Episode III. If he hadn’t turned against Ventress he would probably still be alive as she won him many battles, as Grievous was not the best of antagonists or generals.

Palpatine/Darth Sidious – Sidious is evil and loves it and Palpatine is really good at using people’s honesty against them. He turns Padme’s idealism into a weapon, Anakin’s affection into jealousy and makes possible through his planning with Dooku, the invasion of countless worlds by the Republic. In this way he never loses and this series lays the ground work for Order 66 and the rise of the Empire. Ian Ian Abercrombie and Tim Curry did a wonderful job.

Mandalore and Death Watch – Iszla was voiced by Jon Favreau and played a Mandalorian extreme Nationalist who wanted to bring back the Warrior Mandalore. He faces off against the pacificist Duchess Satine and even wins at one point when he aligns with Maul’s Shadow Collective, but loses when Maul turns against him. Satine also fails in creating a Neutral and peaceful Mandalore as she is killed by Maul as Maul recognized Obi-Wan’s love for her. He later uses the corrupt Prime Minister as his pawn until Bo-Katan and the remainder of Death Watch start a Civil War to retake their world and ask for Republic help.

Obi-Wan Kenobi – Obi-Wan is someone who chose duty or love and in many ways has some regret as he knows he isn’t the prefect Jedi and in it fears failing Anakin. He loses Satine his ex-lover and friend to another’s hatred and revenge and we see him unable to deal with Anakin’s dark side actions either as Anakin kills many times for the final end and doesn’t even allow the chance of a peaceful solution. This dilemma is part of what makes him compelling.

Anakin Skywalker – Anakin is shown to be very flawed in this. From jealous, to attempts to be controlling, but also someone who will risk everything for another…whether it be one of the Clones, a civilian or a Jedi. In this we see Palpatine feed his ego and how the Council’s own misconduct drive him towards hating and distrusting them as he feels more and more isolated as the lie he is living with Padme as their marriage cannot be open weighs on him.

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Ahsoka Tano – Ahsoka is Anakin’s apprentice and is stubborn and egotistical, much like Anakin but also more of a Jedi than Anakin as she never kills and no matter how difficult things get she stays true to herself. Her jumping into things gets her into trouble many times though as does her attachment as she nearly gets the Republic involved in conflicts they shouldn’t be in because of her emotional investment. She is also a grey Jedi too as she leaves the Jedi Order after they turn on her when she is framed and goes her own way, which ends up saving her from Order 66. She was one of my favorite characters in the show.

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The Cons: Jar Jar Binks – He’s just as annoying as he is in Episode I and II and nothing can save him. It doesn’t matter how many times you make him a hero, it is an embarrassment to any serious conflict going on as he takes away from the drama with his stupid jokes and ways.

General Grievous – This guy is an embarrassment to the Separatists for most of the series and spends the majority of it running away and even getting captured and beat by the Gungans of all people. He is better in the last few episodes he is in but all he is really good at is running away. When Episode III roles around he isn’t much better. We only know he is a threat from what the narrator tells us, not from his actions during an episode.

Bringing Back Darth Maul – Darth Maul should have stayed dead as all he did Opress could have done under his own power and for Maul even when he learned about his brother. All his being brought back does is look like a cheap move for profit given how iconic the character is. He is handled well in “Lawless” and the “Shadow Collective Arc” but that doesn’t change the fact that bringing him back was a mistake.

Boba Fett – Fett is a punk kid who loses everything he gets into. He doesn’t get revenge on Mace and I never believed that the older Bounty Hunters had any reason to follow him until his last episode he appeared in. This character like Maul worked better as a mystery.

Blank Pacifist Species – Too many to name but they are the faceless victims of the Separatist and are there just to show that Dooku and his generals are bad. Beyond that they serve no purpose.

Blank Slate Jedi Masters – Plo Koon, Mace Windu and a few others are just as blank as they are in Episodes I-III and have no flaws. They are fortune cookie philosophers and in the end the conflicts they are put in are only compelling because they might die. This was a missed opportunity of the series to show them as flawed individuals not Perfect Avatars of Peace.

This is a series well worth checking out. I wouldn’t watch the Jar Jar episodes or Boba Fett episodes again personally and some of the Droid episodes are pretty weak but anything with Cad Bane, Clone Identity or politics and war are some of the best writing on television, especially for a kids show. This is a show that shows death, corruption and destruction and isn’t afraid to shy away from the evil that people are capable of…nor is it afraid of showing courage and strength of character as so many of our heroes go their own way and make their own path in the Galaxy far far away and so long ago…

Final Score: 8.5 / 10. One of my favorite shows and worth checking out. It isn’t as good as “Star Wars Rebels” Season 1 but it is still good quality overall.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Season 5, Episode 16 – “The Lawless” – The Dynamic of Power

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     “The Lawless” is where a lot of moments come to a head. Savage Opress’s story ends as does Satine’s. Maul finally faces his old Master and Mandalore is made vulnerable to a Republic invasion through internal strife and Civil War. It is powerful and shows that no one wins in the end, except maybe Sidious as he wants everything and now via Obi-Wan has all the reasons he needs to invade Mandalore and make it part of the Republic and later the Empire. It is a powerful episode and one of my favorites.

     The episode was directed by Brian Kalin O’Connell and written by Chris Collins.

    The story involves Satine being used as bate for revenge to lure Obi-Wan to Mandalore. Once there she is killed by Maul in revenge. After Bo-Katan rescues Obi-Wan and as they fight to escape so that Obi-Wan can bring Republic help Sidious arrives to take on his rivals Maul and Opress.

The Pros: Satine – Satine’s death actually means something as we have got to know her as a character and even to the end she holds onto her nobility and reminds Obi-Wan of what to fight for. She was a great character who will be missed. R.I.P.

Bo-Katan – Bo-Katan is Satine’s sister and the current leader of Death Watch standing against Maul. She protects Obi-Wan and helps him escape and even is willing to call in the Republic as she knows Mandalore will endure through any occupation. She is a true nationalist and believer as she imprisoned her sister and her sister was her enemy up until the end when she realized that even if pacifism is wrong she always loved her sister.

Savage Opress – His development stopped but his death was still meaningful as buried under the Dark Magic the young boy who was turned into a weapon was still there. He was never as full of the Dark Side the way Maul was as for him it was against his will, Maul it is implied that he had more choice even if he was still used by the Witches. R.I.P.

Civil War on Mandalore – Death Watch against the Shadow Collective…and in the end the people lose. Both sides are powerful enough to keep the war going long enough for the Republic to invade. It is a tragic story but the Civil War makes sense, Mandalore has been through nothing but conflict since Death Watch against Satine and Maul just made certain it would last much longer by taking over and the Shadow Collective.

Obi-Wan Kenobi – Kenobi loses the one person he loved and who loved him and through it all endures. His perseverance is strong in this and he never loses sight of Mandalore, for example he questions Bo-Katan when she wants to bring in the Republic as he knows Mandalore will no longer be neutral and that it will be under Republic control. His story truly is tragic and he doesn’t even get to kill Maul.

Darth Maul – Maul is the leader of Mandalore and is confident in this one. His trap goes as planned and he kills Satine to show Obi-Wan how he suffered. We also see that he didn’t have a choice to some degree as well as he was taken as a child to become a Sith. We see in the end he still that child when Sidious tortures him and he begs for mercy and to be brought back. He was still a powerful leader of his own faction though and this episode he was handled well, just like the last arc.

Darth Sidious – Sidious is the one who wins in the end. He wins Mandalore, destroys his rival in the Shadow Collective and Maul and has Maul as a tool even if he’ll never take him as an apprentice again. It is awesome to see him fight too as he wipes the floor with Opress and Maul. In the end he’s the only one who wins as a Republic invasion of Mandalore puts Mandalore under the Empire’s control later.

This was a great ending for a lot of characters. We see where some of the unspoken pain in Obi-Wan’s eyes come from when he talks about the Clone Wars comes from and we also have Opress and Maul’s arc come to a close and with it the dissolution of the 3rd Faction of the Shadow Collective. It is an episode with stakes and quite a few people die, it illustrates from this that in war, more often than not, there really aren’t winners except from those who profit from it’s existence in the first place.

Final Score: 10 / 10

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

Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Season 4, Episode 14 – “A Friend in Need” – Don’t Trust Death Watch

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    This was an episode that had a lot of potential. We meet Lux again who realizes that Count Dooku killed his mother and he wants revenge. Sadly the more interesting part of the episode gets hijacked by this revenge arc rather than us being with Padme and the Republic with the Separatists representatives negotiating a peace. All that is left behind to show that Death Watch is horrible and that Ahsoka and Lux probably have a crush on each other, which is interesting but not as interesting as the politics that were left behind.

    The episode was directed by Dave Filoni and written by Christian Taylor.

    The story involves a Peace Conference between the Separatists and Republic that is interrupted by Lux who accuses Dooku of the murder of his mother. Things don’t go as plan though as Ahoska brings him to the Republic and he knocks her out to take her to the Death Watch base as Pre Viszla promised him Dooku dead through the use of Death Watch.

The Pros: Death Watch – These guys are thugs, like Mandalorians always were when they went warrior as we see them subjugate a local planet and take their food before they head out but not before they burn the village and leave the people to die. Viszla is a great antagonist as was his second in command Bo-Katan.

The Conference – “Will you recognize the Separatists as a Sovereign Nation?” This is the question Padme should have been wresting with this episode as it may have been the only way to bring about Peace and don’t they have a right? They have their own government. This was interrupted for a much weaker story sadly.

Okay: Ahsoka – Ahsoka is shown to be true to her friend and also may have feeling for him. This doesn’t make her stupid unlike him though as she fights Death Watch when they destroy the village and calls Lux out multiple times for his stupidity.

The Cons: Lux – His swearing to do his own thing and survive was stupid, especially since he had no allies and was alone outside of Ahsoka. It was this and his tacked on romance with Ahsoka when they were undercover that really annoyed me.

The Locals – They are just kind of there and we never get to know them as people, we only see them as oppressed and they never get the chance to fight back.

  This was an episode that should have been about the peace conference. Lux doesn’t feel fleshed out as a character and the contrived romance as well as making Death Watch outright bad were not good story decisions. So many missed opportunities, what a shame that this was the episode where Death Watch had to return.

Final Score: 4 / 10