Star Wars Rebels – Season 2, Episode 11 – “The Protector of Concord Dawn” – Aggressive Negotiations

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    “The Protector of Concord Dawn” is the greatest episode in a while. Not only do we see a return of the Mandalorians but we are given a choice and dilemma, which is part of what “The Clone Wars” so great. This is an episode that captures the stakes and the charms of the best episodes from that series, which this Season has needed.

The episode was directed by Brad Rau and written by Henry Gilroy and Kevin Hopps.

The story involves the rebels seeking safe passage through Concord Dawn, which is Mandalorian space. After Hera’s negotiations fail and she is nearly killed as is most of her squadron, Sabine returns seeking revenge as Kanan returns trying to finish the negotiation.

The Pros: The Premise – The idea of the Rebellion having to negotiate with the Mandalorians or to beat them in their space is really interesting as it shows that the Rebellion has to make hard choices too and won’t always be the hero. This episode really illustrates that and that war has consequences.

The Opening Battle – The opening battle is awesome! Phoenix Squadron is annihilated and Sabine, Hera and one other pilot barely escape Rau and his Protectors. It raises the stakes and shows that these are men to be feared.

Fenn Rau and the Protectors – Fenn Rau and his organization are pretty awesome. They get money from the Empire to keep folks out of their space and are intriguing as the reason they made the deal is so they’d be left alone. I had a lot of respect for Rau and hope that he escapes to get revenge on the rebels for capturing him to blackmail him and his people.

Sabine – We see Sabine’s ruthlessness here and that she does know her people pretty well, as the Protectors didn’t want to work with the Rebellion. It is thanks to her quick thinking that they are disarmed and the only reason that her and Kanan weren’t captured.

Kanan – Kanan is the clear head but still gets ruthless for the Rebellion. No matter how you cut it he went darkside here as he captured and held a man against his will in order to take control of his space, this is after he destroyed his ships of course. Kanan’s idealism came up against reality and idealism lost. I liked seeing that as it was realistic.

The Cons: Rex – Rex should have been used. He implied that he trained with Rau but that is never used. He would have been perfect for negotiation as he had the mindset the Rau did of just wanting to be left alone by both sides.

If Rex had been used this would have been a perfect episode. So glad the Mandalorians are back, and I hope the rescue Rau and that Rau gets his chance for revenge. This episode showed that to win in war you have to make hard choices and sometimes there isn’t a good option, just a lesser bad option.

Final Score: 9.4 / 10

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

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  “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.

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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, 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

Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Season 2, Episodes 12-14 – “Duchess of Mandalore Arc” – Shades of Grey and Power Plays

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      The “Duchess of Mandalore arc” is awesome! In this we explore the conflict of neutrality during wartime as well as the benefits and disadvantages of a warrior or pacifistic philosophy as both the Duchess Satine and Death Watch leader Viszla both have reason to believe what they do as sovereignty is the primary theme of this arc and how different factions seek to use that to their own benefit and make Mandalore a pawn.

    “The Mandalore Plot” was directed by Kyle Dunlevy and written by Melinda Hsu and Drew Z. Greenberg, “Voyage of Temptation” was directed by Brain Kalin O’Connell and written by Paul Dini and Henry Gilroy and “Duchess of Mandalore” was directed by Brain Kalin O’Connell and written by Drew Z. Greenberg and Brian Larsen.

     The story involves Obi-Wan arriving at Mandalore to investigate the terrorist group Death Watch who rumor has is being controlled by his past lover Duchess Satine. He soon discovers they are false rumors and when the Death Watch leader Viszla is revealed he must protect Satine as she advocates for Mandalore to deal with it’s own affairs and not have an occupation done by Republic Forces. She is later framed for the death of a Mandalorian and must reveal the truth of the recording of her Prime Minister to the Senate that speaks for Mandalorian Sovereignty that was doctored to present that as not being the case.

The Pros: “Duchess of Mandalore” – “Duchess of Mandalore” was my favorite episode in the arc as we got to see Viszla in action see Palpatine working actively against Satine so that Republic forces would have reason to occupy Mandalore (and in turn later the Empire) and how she and Obi-Wan navigate the political minefield using Padme to save Mandalore’s sovereignty, though it doesn’t solve the problem of Death Watch or how Death Watch is out of Satine’s control unless she gives up her pacifism. It’s a powerful plot. 10 / 10

Death Watch – Death Watch is a hyper-nationalist organization that wants to restore Mandalore to it’s former strength that it had in the Old Republic as an Empire. Viszla even wields an ancient Mandalore saber that can counter lightsabers. They are a small and powerful organization that has sympathy among the populace as Satine cannot protect them from the Separatist and just neutralized the Republic.

Mandalore – Mandalore is a once warrior nation that now is a primarily a trading world but it still carries it’s warrior roots through Death Watch and the Civil War it experienced prior. It is a beautiful world too and has a classic feeling to it, it captures both ancient mixed with modern with expresses the Mandalorian people really well.

Pre Viszla – Viszla has his own government on the moon where the losers of the Civil War were sent who aren’t pacifists. Unsurprisingly he is sympathetic and a leader of the populace he rules and because of that seeks to empower them as the current Mandalore is vulnerable to outside threats. Minus the hyper-nationalism he is an issue that Satine has not dealt with and his perspective is never dealt the justice it deserves as Mandalore needing an army to protect it’s sovereignty.

Count Dooku – Dooku is the one who sees the big picture and warns Viszla to wait when the assassin fails to kill Satine. He is a player of a long game of making Mandalore another faction that the Separatists control and it is his cool head even after failing Palpatine that make possible that Death Watch will be around for a long time to come.

Palpatine – Palpatine is a smart manipulator in this and would have succeeded if the Assassin had killed Satine. His end goal is control of Mandalore via Republic troops and he has reason to send them as the Separatists are a threat and Mandalore has no defensive force outside of Death Watch which it doesn’t see as representing it to the other governments. Even though his plan does not succeed he never lets on or breaks character with Satine or the Jedi that he was behind any of it. He is truly the Emperor for a reason.

Duchess Satine – Satine is an idealist and dreamer and the events of this arc change that in some ways. She still stands for sovereignty of her world and no involvement of outside troops but she is willing to defend herself. She explores her past with Obi-Wan and confesses that she loves him but afterword they are both so proper and don’t want to risk their friendship as Obi-Wan would never betray his Jedi vows. She respects that though and his call for defense while she calls for pacifism. She is also a nationalist and stands for her people regardless of the cost.

Obi-Wan Kenobi – Obi-Wan deals with his romantic interest Satine and we see that though he is committed to Satine he would have given it up when he was a Padawan if she had asked. It’s a great character moment that reveals the humanity in Obi-Wan as well as the fact that he is so committed to the Jedi Code because of that loss. The Code and his being a Jedi is all he has so he can be no closer to anyone beyond as a friend, but he stands with her and helps stop Death Watch’s plot.

Anakin Skywalker – Skywalker is getting closer to the darkside and Darth Vader as we see him justify the occupation of Mandalore since Death Watch is out of Satine’s control, we see him kill the Senate Separatist Spy when Satine and Obi-Wan are unable to do so and we see he doesn’t think about it at all. Killing someone is nothing to him as the ‘Imperial March’ plays. This show really does show Anakin’s descent really well. It starts with taking life for granted and he never lets up on that as the ends of protecting others are always the drive behind it, and it’s hard not to see the times he has taken that choice on the show as wrong, questionable for sure…but not wrong.

A Matter of Sovereignty – Sovereignty is a major theme this episode and the different ways it is sought. For Satine it is not involving outside power, while for Viszla it does involve outside power and a strong military to defend against threats. Neither side is wrong and that is what is debated this episode as we know that the Empire will destroy Sovereignty later while the Separatists may do that sometimes now, but not always. Does Sovereignty involve military strong power or diplomatic soft power, for me the answer is both are needed though the episode falls on soft power primarily as Satine is a pacifist. What this debate means for Mandalore still remains to be seen, the Republic and Separatists aren’t involved yet, but the war is far from over.

Okay: Romantic Potential – The romance feels more realistic than Padme and Anakin but that isn’t saying much. There back story of having to depend on one another for survival when they were younger was really cool and they do have good chemistry but I wanted to see more warmth between them, we only got moments of that.

The Assassin – The Assassin was awesome! He kills a Mandalore informant who passes the real info of the Prime Minister’s recording to Satine and dies in the process and he escapes every attempt at capture and manages to hold his own against Obi-Wan and Satine. We never learn more about the individual and I wish he’d done more damage but he was okay.

    This was a powerful arc, with “Duchess of Mandalore” being a personal favorite of mine as it establishes that Death Watch is not out of the game yet and also that Mandalore is alone for better and for worse to deal with it’s own problems. There is so much potential here as I don’t believe Satine is in control, her almost getting arrested is going to look bad in the public eye, not to mention the death of her Prime Minister. She has no control over Death Watch and they still control a lot of the narrative. This is something the episode doesn’t fully deal with and why I don’t consider this a victory for Satine. There was no middle ground of Republic help which could have stopped Death Watch, while now they have time to recruit and to grow.

Final Score: 9.8 / 10.

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