Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Season 1, Episode 15 – “Trespass” – Sovereignty and Imperialism

Star Wars The Clone Wars Trespass

     I never expected this show to explore issues of sovereignty and imperialism, but it did. This is probably my favorite episode so far of the show and the Jedi don’t actually do much in it. This episode is far more about the species that are in conflict and ways to deal with conflict than characters themselves, and it does it really well. It’s a perfect episode in my opinion.

     “Trespass” was directed by Brian Kalin O’Connell and written by Steven Melching, Henry Gilroy and Scott Murphy.

    The story involves Anakin and Obi-Wan exploring a Republic base that has gone silent on a moon that the Pantoran claim sovereignty over. Things soon get complicated as Obi-Wan and Anakin make contact with the native Talz who destroyed both the Separatists and Republic Forces on the planet. They ask the Pantoran to leave but it is soon escalated as Chairman Cho seeks to take the planet for his people, believing it is his and uses Republic Law to justify his actions.

The Pros: The Premise – The premise is great and starts out like a horror film. Clone Trooper helmets are on pikes when our heroes first reach the base and it is the same in the Separatist base where the droid heads are. The premise starts out as a monster of the week type deal but we soon see the Talz are sentient and negotiate with the Jedi and tell them what happened leading into the greater political struggle of the episode.

The Pantoran – The Pantoran are a pretty prideful species but not stupid. Through Senator Riyo we see the need to understand others while Cho is an imperialist who wants to take advantage of the war to establish Pantoran control over it. From here the story unfolds as he is willing to die for his belief in Pantoran superiority and dominance over the planet which he thinks is theirs by right and Riyo who is tired of the war and the fact that they are fighting when there are bigger threats like the Separatists to deal with.

The Talz – The Talz are a tribal people who have three eyes and are great fighters. With spears and mounts they manage to take out every enemy they face on their world but show that they can hold back and negotiate with

Chairman Cho – Chairman Cho is a nationalist and leader of his planet until the Assembly takes away his power after they lose nearly everyone to the Talz. He believes the planet belongs to Pantoran from the beginning of the episode and is willing to die for it. He is racist and an imperialist and an interesting character as we see that he believes these ideals enough to die for hoping to be a martyr for Pantora.

Senator Riyo – Riyo is the diplomat and I wonder if she’ll carry on diplomacy as she recognizes that it is good to fight and good to live. I think she’ll be smart though as she had Obi-Wan and Anakin as mentors who teach her what she needs to do for lasting peace between the Talz and Pantora so war does not return.

Captain Rex – Rex protects Chairman Cho up until the end and is in a difficult position. He never attacks the Talz, only defends as Cho and his men are the ones who are attacking. He is a difficult position this episode and he loses most of his men. I feel bad for him this episode, he is just a pawn of the Jedi and the Pantoran.

Anakin and Obi-Wan – Anakin and Obi-Wan are the first to meet the Talz and negotiated a peace until Cho started the war. They stay out of the way and just seek to protect Cho and Riyu and refuse to negotiate a new peace since it was the Pantoran who started the war with the Talz so they need to negotiate the peace. In this way the episode is far more about Cho, Riyo and the Talz rather than the Jedi.

Imperialism and Sovereignty – Cho represents entitlement through other people’s lands expressed through Imperialism. The Pantoran “discovered” the planet and ignore the native life there up until Cho is killed and Riyo is in charge of negotiating the peace. In the end they respect the Sovereignty of the Talz, which is what the Talz had been defending the entire time.

  This is one of my favorite episodes of the series and shows that the show can explore powerful and major things through the eyes of complex characters and events. It didn’t even involve The Clone Wars really, it was an internal conflict between Pantoran Imperialism and Talz sovereignty that was being resolved. This is good television and storytelling at work.

Final Score: 10 / 10

Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Season 1, Episodes 13-14 – “Jedi Crash” and “Defenders of Peace” – The Price of Attachment and Those Caught in the Crossfire

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   I’m really liking “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” thus far. Minus Jar Jar getting far more screen time than he should (he should be replaced by someone else) and the general incompetency of Grievous it really is an amazing show thus far that manages to explore powerful themes related to war. These are two connected episodes that explore the theme of pacifism during war, the affects of war on neutral populations by larger powers and non-attachment.

    The episodes directors were Rob Coleman and Steward Lee with the writers being Katie Lucas and Bill Canterbury.

      The story involves Anakin suffering a major injury when he and Ahsoka rescue Aayla from her ship that the Separatists are destroying. They crash land on an unknown world and must look for a healer. They soon put the pacifist Lurmen in a difficult situation in aiding Anakin as the Separatists soon arrive to use their planet as a testing ground for a new weapon.

The Pros: The Lurmen – This species is designed to look like monkeys and they look sympathetic but not cute thankfully. We aren’t dealing with Ewoks here. They are also a complicated society with pacifism as a tradition that isn’t questioned until the Separatists want to use their village to test a new weapon. The leader’s son and the younger generation are the ones who fight though and embrace the new possibility of the Republic.

General Lok Durd – Voiced by the amazing George Takei, this guy is someone who has no concept of valuing life. For him everything is about power and position and he treats the Lurman like a slave casts raiding their village as an example of Separatist “Protection.” He has invented a weapon that destroys organic life but doesn’t get the chance to use it as Anakin destroys it and captures him. I hope we see this character again. He’s deadly and pompous and fun to see in action.

Aayla Secura – Secura teaches Ahsoka about the importance of non-attachment and tells about her own experience with it when her Master was gravely injured and the choice she had to make. She is a major part of the team and does a good job at walking the fine line in their dealings with the Lurman and fighting the Separatists.

Ahsoka – Ahsoka shows how much she is like Anakin in this when he almost dies when she asks to stay with him when if she had he might have been killed by the animals that were hunting. Because she goes with Aayla they find the Lurman village and it is her defense of them and conversation with them and inspires the Chieftain’s son to fight.

Anakin Skywalker – Anakin is out of commission for most of the episode and shows that he is capable of calm as he respects the Lurman’s pacifism and defends them from the Separatist weapon and army.

The Choices of the Neutral – In this episode we see the Chieftain of the Lurman always true tradition and pacifism and believes he is doing so to protect his people. We see later that a lot of it is just tradition and that he doesn’t want to lose his culture as their people will be wiped out by the weapon if they do not fight. His son and the younger generation choose to fight and in the end we see the Republic Fleet ominously arrive over the planet as he warns about what this might bring. His fears are validated in the end as the end result is the Empire. I wonder if the Lurman even exist anymore in the Imperial Era or if they were all wiped out.

Does Pacifism Work? – The question posed is the question of Pacifism working as a philosophy. I’d argue it can, but only if there aren’t any bullies or threats willing to take, kill or main you. If you do nothing you are letting greater evil occur and that is why Pacifism doesn’t work. By not fighting back the Chieftain was ready to let all his people die without even the chance for life. This shows that as an ideal it is great, but in practice against those who are ready to kill you, it is one of the worst paths that can be chosen.

On Attachment – Aayla tells Ahsoka that one person should not live so thousands can die. Echoing the Vulcan philosophy of the needs of the many outweighing the needs of the few. This is the reason for the Jedi Non-attachment as like Buddhist monks their goal is to live right action to the greatest degree and not be blinded by attachments when it may needlessly risk themselves or innocents.

   These episodes were powerful, especially “Defenders of Peace,” which was better. They asked important questions and we saw people change. From Ahsoka becoming more Jedi than Anakin as she embraces non-attachment and in the Lurman choosing to fight after embracing pacifism for who knows how long. I’d highly recommend these two episodes. George Takei as Lok Durd was brilliant too. These stories show just how great this show can be and why at the end of these reviews, chances are it will have become a favorite show.

Final Score: 9.5 / 10.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Season 1, Episode 10 – “Lair of Grievous” – Dooku Trolls Grievous

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     Grievous actually feels like a threat this episode, which is good considering he is on his home turf. This episode also shows that Kit Fisto is a wonderful character, I didn’t care about him before this episode, but Phil LaMarr (John Stewart of the “Justice League”) gives him personality and made me actually care about him. Also I like that Dooku is aware of all of Grievous’s losses and this episode is trolling him because of those losses.

    The episode was directed by Atsushi Takeuchi and written by Henry Gilroy.

    The story involves Jedi Master Kit Fitso following the tracking signal on Gunray’s ship to Grievous’s Lair and learning from Dooku that this was a setup. When he arrives his Padawan Nahdar is present and is wanting to kill Grievous for all his acts during the war. When Grievous arrives and finds his guards have been shut down he embraces Dooku’s test and begins hunting the Jedi and troopers who are occupying his home.

The Pros: The Action – The fight scenes are really good in this. From Grievous losing his legs and running from the overwhelming numbers to him turning the tables on the Jedi and Clones and hunting them all down and trapping them to the point that only Kit Fisto is able to escape. The action is really good and shows the stakes.

Grievous’s Lair – The Lair is cool, he has replacement parts, a Doctor Droid who is sassy and a giant alien beast named Gor who he actually cares about. His home is also full of traps and feels threatening as well as revealing his backstory as a warlord on another world.

General Grievous – Grievous feels like a threat for once! It takes him being schooled at the beginning of the episode, but after he gets repaired it is the Jedi who are running away. I want to see more of this as he deserved the trap that Dooku set because he is a failure of a General who only seems able to survive and not give us any victories on screen until this episode.

Kit Fisto – Fisto knows the danger of anger and arrogance but was not able to teach it to his Padawan. What I got form this is Fisto likes to work alone, it was why his Padawan is a Former Padawan and this probably lead to him being super independent which lead to Nahder’s arrogance. In that way Fisto’s flaws lead to the losses that happened this episode, which I like, it shows he’s complex.

Count Dooku – This whole episode is Dooku playing the Jedi against Grievous to remove Grievous or test him and in the end him pretty much showing no matter how many times Grievous hangs up on Dooku, Dooku still owns him and is the one controlling him like a puppet and punishing him when he fails. I liked how in control Dooku is when he isn’t even present and is manipulating everything for a distance.

Okay: Nahdar – Is an overeager padawan who thinks he is powerful enough to defeat Grievous. he was really naive and deluded and I didn’t mind him dying at all. He is the first defeat of a Jedi that we see Grievous do which is good and really the only purpose he serves as well as showing us Fisto is sad that his former apprentice is now dead and that the war is changing the Jedi.

    This was an episode that had loss, great action, showed how the war was bringing the Jedi to becoming closer to the Sith and establishes that Grievous can be a threat, now if they will follow up on this Grievous could end up being a decent antagonist. I don’t have much faith though given his current track record in how he’s been written. Dooku and Ventress are still far more compelling as antagonists.

Final Score: 9 / 10

Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Season 1, Episode 9 – “Cloak of Darkness” – The Threat of Ventress

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    “Cloak of Darkness” is a great episode and definitely a favorite. We get some development of minor characters and we get to see just how dangerous and awesome Ventress is! As well as just how influential the Separatist is within the Republic.

    The episode was directed by Dave Filoni and written by Paul Dini.

    The story begins with Master Luminara and Ahsoka delivering Nute Gunray for trial when Dooku sends Ventress after to save or kill Gunray. From here we see her plan unfold as Luminara and Ahsoka try to handle the threat and hold onto their hostage.

The Pros: The Action – The action in this episode is fantastic! We see Ventress fight Luminara and Ahsoka in some wonderfully dark locations that put her assassin skills to use and the assault starting out with a drop of Super Battle Droids to give Ventress the distraction she needs.

Faro Argyus – Is a member of the Senate Commandos and a Separatist spy as he helps Gunray escape due to the reward that Dooku offered him. Sadly he ends up dead as Ventress kills him. I wanted to see more with this character as so far the betrayers tend to have complex reasons for doing what they do be they Clone Troopers that change sides or Faro.

Nute Gunray – Gunray is all about survival and he’s honest about it. In this way he is compelling because he knows he is a coward but he knows he is valuable due to his assets and money. This makes the fight to get control of him all the more compelling because what he offers and represents is compelling.

Master Luminara – Luminara is over confident and believes she can take Ventress on on her own. This ends her being injured and Ventress’s eventual escape with Gunray. She’s aware she messed up though and is grateful to Ahsoka for saving her and recognizes she was right about the threat of Ventress.

Ahsoka – Ahsoka is good in this, we see her great at stalling Ventress and being harsh to Gunray to get him to negotiate. She gets it after Anakin most likely and we see how anti-Jedi she is in some of her practices as Luminara calls her out for her cruelty and fear. In the end they respect one another though as Ahsoka’s past experience with Ventress gives her a better understanding of the threat.

Ventress – Sidious sees Ventress as a failure for the Separatist losses early in the timeline will Dooku’s faith is shown to be well placed. Ventress at her core is an assassin and that is how she works best, when she has specific targets and can cause chaos and doesn’t have to worry about negotiations. We see how cruel she is to as she kills Faro out of spite and for his pride.

    This episode was great at showing just how Sithlike Ventress is and how great she is as a Separatist agent. Already in the series she has two victories to her name against major characters while Grievous has none and has ended each running away. She is the compelling antagonist and I can’t wait to see what the series does with her.

Final Score: 10 / 10.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Season 1, Episode 5 – “Rookies” – Making a Soldier

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     After how terrible the last few episodes were it’s great being back with our favorite clones! Our favorite Clones being the members of Domino Squad from “Clone Cadets” and his team along with Commander Cody and Captain Rex. This episode has cost, loss and people change! This is what is good good writing than contrived writing that we got during “The Malevolence Arc.” Events need to change characters since people aren’t static, this episode showed this really well.

      “Rookies” was directed by Justin Ridge and written by Steven Melching.

      The story involves a Separatist attack on a far flung outpost by Commando Droids. This outpost also happens to be where Commander Cody and Captain Rex were coming to expect and where Domino Squad is stationed as well. From here they must figure out how to recapture or destroy the station so that Republic forces will be warned about Grievous’s invasion force.

The Pros: Commando Droids – These guys actually feel like threats and manage to take out all the other Clones stationed at the base, leaving us only with named characters. They take a lot to take down too and are shown to have extreme intelligence, from wearing Clone Trooper armor and impersonating them to fulfill their mission.

Commander Cody and Captain Rex – These two are the teachers for the Clones and we see their creativity in action as well as how smart they are as they fake their death when their ships is destroyed and use the head of a Commando droid to infiltrate the base where they later lay the charges. They have respect for those who survive too and invite them to join the 501st legion.

Domino Squad – These guys became soldiers together and in this we see how laid back they are until things get serious. In this we see them slowly lose each other. From Cutup being eaten by an Eel after the Droid Commandos take the base to Hevy’s sacrifice at the end in order to warn the others. Fives and Echo live with the loss but are invited into the 501st legion as their inventive thinking is what made possible the victory that day.

Loss – Cutup and Hevy’s death actually mean something. They each died showing just how serious the Separatist and nature threats were and that there is no easy out in this war. You feel for their loss and see how it changes the survivors who have learned the cost of war. Hevy fighting to the end and setting off the detonator with his dying breathe was powerful too.

Okay: General Grievous – He was smart about the threat of the base but he should have just left it and attacked Kamino. He stalled and it cost him. I can at least understand why he was stalling and he was Chaotic Evil Stupid like the last time we saw the character. Still difficult to take him seriously though. He has no victories in this show and Ventress has shown herself to be a better commander.

This was a fantastic episode that even Grievous couldn’t ruin! We get to see the men of Domino Squad develop further, get some time with Cody and Rex and see the Separatists actually act like a threat and manage to kill some named Republic characters! So this episode was a win and one I’d recommend. Definitely a favorite.

Final Score: 9 / 10.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Season 3, Episode 3 – “Supply Lines” – The Cost of War and Matters of Diplomacy

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     This was a good episode, which is surprising given it had Jar Jar Binks in it, who yes was the weakest part of the episode…but outside of Binks this was a powerful episode that showed the complexity of diplomacy and how no person whether they are Jedi or Clone Trooper are safe in the battles in this war.

     “Supply Lines” was directed by Brian Kalin O’Connell and written by Steven Melching and Eoghan Mahony.

     The story involves the Separatist siege of the Twi’lek world of Ryloth and the Republic’s attempt to get supplies to them through Bail Organa while Master Di fights the Separatist forces on the planet, holding out until the people can get supplies. The situation soon becomes complicated when the neutral world of Toydaria where the King must make a decision to help the people while dealing with the threats from the Trade Federation if they openly break their neutrality.

The Pros: The Politics – The politics are complicated and I felt for the King of Toydaria who was trying to look out for his people and Ryloth so has to openly turn down Organa while secretly letting him send the ships he brought so that Ryloth can still receive supplies. It is a sad situation but the Trade Federation’s threats push Toydaria to possibly join the Republic in the end.

Ryloth – Ryloth is a world with giant mushrooms and a people whose technology isn’t all that advanced but who are ready to fight to the last to defend themselves against the Separatist onslaught. Within the Twi’lek culture we see the Jedi looked on as Outsiders but also a willingness to fight to the last man. I immediately cared about this world.

Toydaria – Does a fantastic job showing its neutrality by not allowing people off their ship unless it is for diplomatic talks in talking to their King and council. They all have guns who we see and all can fly. It was great finally seeing Watto’s people. I was impressed with the culture presented with their council based on consent even though they have a King.

Bail Organa – This guy is a smooth operator and we see he will do anything to help his cause. Whether it is delivering the supplies secretly and having Binks stall or openly accepting surrender.

The King of Toydaria King Katuunko – This guy is a strange situation and he does choose the middle path. He doesn’t want to lose trade with the Trade Federation but knows the people of Ryloth are suffering. For this reason he decides against accepting so his people will still be okay but secretly helps Organa so Ryloth will be helped. In this he shows great wisdom and I really enjoyed this character.

Master Di – This guy is all about honor and dies fighting to stall the Separatist forces so Organa’s supplies can get to them. He’s an awesome character and I really enjoyed what little time we had with him. He felt for the people and his dying crying is “For the Republic! For Ryloth!”

The Cons: Jar Jar Binks – Guy is still a clown and still can’t stand the character. Super annoying and adds nothing to the script.

The Trade Federation – Openly evil and manipulative, did not like that. They should have offered to send supplies to the people instead rather than say that Organa and the Ryloth Senator were lying. No wonder the Toydarian King decided to change sides.

  This was a good episode that showed the price of war on the populace (Ryloth and the death of Master Di) as well as the complicated situation that political leaders like Organa and the Toydarian King were placed under in wanting to the right thing while still protecting their position against possible enemies. This episode did that really well with the only real problems being the Trade Federation still being sociopathic and Jar Jar Binks being Jar Jar…Wish they hadn’t brought this character back. Hopefully “Star Wars Rebels” will refrain from doing so.

Final Score: 9.3 / 10

Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Season 3, Episode 1 – “Clone Cadets” – Clone Identity

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    “Clone Cadets” is a great episode! This is an episode where the characters we come to care about are the Clones and even some mercenaries too! In this the one Jedi (Shaak Ti) is the weakest character. The episode is full of tender moments and all the characters not only form identities beyond numbers but grow as characters.

    The episode was directed by Dave Filoni and written by Cameron Litvack.

     The story is about Domino Squad on Kamino and their quest to pass so they aren’t forced into being forced into labor on Kamino. From here their story unfold as their personalities clash and they slowly develop identities beyond the numbers they were born with.

The Pros: Training – The training sequence is really cool. They fight simulations with battle droids as the enemies where they have to take the tower. It’s done really well as the only way to win is with full cooperation of the team.

Kamino – The Kamino don’t care about the Clones and say as much to Shaak Ti, for them it is all business which shows just how devalued the clones are by all those around them, even their creators.

The Mercenaries – The mercenaries have very distinct personalities. Bric is rough but his challenges help make Domino the best squad while El-Les’s advocating for them gives them the chance to pass in the first place. He sees potential in them and is open about it versus Shaak Ti who is very guarded but can relate to them better. Bric looks down on the clones and doesn’t truly see them as people.

Shaak Ti – Shaak Ti is the wise teacher who reminds the squad that she can relate to them as she is a Jedi and their is no room for her as part of the order to be a true individual, just like the clones. She also views all life as sacred as a counterpoint to the Kamino’s disregard for life. She is still a Nationalist though and sees the Separatists as evil which they are not, they are a lot more complicated than Palpatine propaganda.

Domino Squad – Domino Squad has a great arc! They embrace the names given them, from Echo who repeats everything to Cutup who is the joker but good at adapting, to Hevy who is reckless but also courageous and Fives. All of them pull through the adversity and through the support of 99 who was a clone who was designed “wrong” find support in each other and with 99 and win the day.

99 – 99 is abused by all those around him but eventually finds a friend in Hevy and Domino Squad who embrace him as a brother since he is a clone like them who was the only one who believed in them at one point. He receives Hevy’s medal as well as a promise that Hevy will return showing that he finally has family.

The Message – Don’t let others define you, define yourself and remember those who face adversity just like you. This is the core message and what the clones teach us about ourselves.

  This is another episode that demonstrates just how powerful I hope this show can be. I actually care about the clones, when in Episode II and III they were just numbers. They were as personified as droids and simply weapons. In this we see the weapons are aware and have struggles of their and are so much more than what the Republic has chosen to make them. I can’t wait to learn more about them and their struggles.

Final Score: 9.7 / 10