Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Season 6, Episodes 1-4 – “The Clone Conspiracy Arc” – When the Only Freedom is in Death

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   This was a powerful arc that showed that there really isn’t any sort of happy ending for Clones. They were made to be weapons and whenever they assert their agency their creators or the Republic remind them that they are property and within that have been made to a do a very cruel task that breaks the minds of two Clones who find out. One of these Clones is one of my favorites who we have gotten to know since the beginning of the timeline, Fives. This is a tragic story but fits the theme of the last 2 seasons that the coming of Order 66 is inevitable as well as the Republic becoming the Empire.

      “The Unknown” was directed by Bosco Ng and written by Katie Lucas who also wrote the other 3 episodes in the arc. “Conspiracy” was directed by Brian Kalin O’Connell, “Fugitive” was directed by Danny Keller and “Orders” was directed by Kyle Dunlevy.

     The story involves Tup killing a Jedi when the chip in his head activates early. From here The Kaminoans and the Palpatine seek to cover up what happened by killing Tup and removing the chip or discounting Fives who has begun to figure it out, especially after he removes the chip from his own head. As a fugitive he seeks to reveal the truth to Rex and Anakin when all is working against him, including his own mind.

The Pros: The Conspiracy – The conspiracy to control the Clones is brilliant and it makes sense that Palpatine would have that fail safe so that when the time came, no Jedi would survive. It also makes sense that a fluke would mess things up and that Fives would seek the truth as he has always been a rebellious Clone.

The Kaminoans – These guys are all about the bottom line and we see them talking to Dooku on multiple occasions as they seek to fulfill the Clones original programming and keep the secret safe. They know the Jedi are going to die and don’t care…this goes for just how detached this species is that the Clones are just property and assets and the Jedi are nothing to them.

Count Dooku/Darth Tyranus – In this we see that as one of the original folks who commissioned the Clones he is keeping a close eye on events. He knows what is at stake if the truth is revealed and that the fake war could end and that all the Sith are working for could be undone. To this end he goes to any end to prevent the truth from getting out.

Palpatine/Darth Sidious – This guy frames Fives for trying to kill him after he’s been pumped up full of drugs by the Kaminoan Doctors and after he sends his own special Clone Force that wears Red to take out Fives. He is brilliant in this and anytime Fives makes progress at getting the truth out, Palpatine reveals something else (a Parasite made Tups and Fives violent) that discounts their stories. This is an episode where he wins.

Fives – Fives is my favorite Clone outside of Rex and in this we see his rebellious nature work to his advantage to seek the truth as he goes against the Republic and his creators to get the truth out there (The Kaminoans pump him up with drugs) so that Clones can be truly free and not slaves to programming. He was always the more sensitive of the Clones and it motivated him to risk his life against Krell and this time too against the Republic and Kamino. R.I.P. Fives, you were one of the best. In the end he does have freedom as the chip is gone and all it was suppressing (kill the Jedi) is released so his nightmares finally end.

  This was a tragic episode as Fives and Tups never find justice as Palpatine and Dooku win and the plan for Order 66 remains hidden and ready for activation at the end of the war. Fives is the one railing against the system in a very “Brazil” like fashion and like in “Brazil” there is nothing he can do against it. He is a cog in the machine and in the end it devours him and destroys his mind, and from that the only freedom he receives is in death.

Final Score: 10 / 10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Score: 7 / 10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Score: 9 / 10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Score: 10 / 10

Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Season 3, Episode 4 – “Sphere of Influence” – Pantora versus Separatist Influence

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   This is a great episode! In this we see the complexity of both the Trade Federation and Pantorans and that neither people are pawns of anyone and both are dealing with the Senate and Separatist influence in whichever way they can, while still looking out for their own influence.

    “Sphere of Influence” was directed by Kyle Dunlevy and written by Katie Lucas, Steven Melching and Drew Z. Greenberg.

    The story involves The Trade Federation’s blockade of Pantora and how Senator Riyo to find the kidnapped children of the Chairman as she gets help from Ahsoka and negotiates the tense situation in which the Senate is powerless to act and tries to learn who is behind the kidnapping as the Chairman and

The Pros: The Pantorans -The Pantorans take matters into their own hands with Senator Riyo and the Chairman finding the Chairman’s daughters through their own action. It’s an extreme moment of empowerment that shows the lengths the Separatists will glow to blackmail neutral parties onto their sides. I really like these guys and the Trade Federation as political factions being explored.

The Trade Federation – The Trade Federation is complicated. We see that some are firmly Separatists like Gunray and Sib versus the Ambassador who is still walking that line between Separatist and Gunray influence against being a member of the Republic and Senate.

Ahsoka  and Senator Riyo – Ahsoka is super active in this and her and Senator Riyo do a great job of finding one of the daughters and holding their own against the Trade Federation and in ending the blockade.

The Politics – The Politics are great in this episode as before we know the Separatist offer could have been real as they do have more influence with the Trade Federation and the Senate is inept. It is only through Jedi action via Ahsoka and Pantoran action that the daughters are saved.

   This is a great episode that shows just how complicated it can be to remain neutral in the middle of a giant war, especially when you are a planet rich in resources like Pantora. We also see that the Trade Federation isn’t stupid and at least some of the might be willing to learn from their mistakes and not fall into the trap of Gunray’s greed.

Final Score: 9 / 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.