“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 Rebels” Season 3 – Some Great Arcs are Completed and one of my Favorite Villains Enters the New Canon

    “Star Wars Rebels” has found great quality again, and they do it by getting rid of the Inquisitors (who were really wasted last season) all together and bringing in a character who existed in the original canon of Star Wars, Grand Admiral Thrawn. Doing this was one of the smartest things Disney could have done as even when the Empire is losing most of the time in small battles, it all comes together in Thrawn’s master plan and a pretty glorious final that shows just how deadly the Empire is since the Death Star or Battle of Hoth. Suffice to say, I loved this season and highly recommend it.

    The story of Season 3 involves the arrival of Governor Pryce as the new Moff over Lothal and Grand Admiral Thrawn as the new Imperial Agent to destroy the Rebellion in the sector. As the rebellion gathers allies to free Lothal from Imperial Rule Thrawn uses their own strengths against them as his master plan unfolds to wipe out the Rebellion.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: Growing Rebellion Arc – A major arc this season is the Rebellion collecting allies and meeting the leaders of other cells. Whether it is Saw Gerrera on Geonosis, the stupid Iron Squadron, the Twi’lik on Ryloth, Hondo and leaders of the Rebellion like Mon Mothma. This season continues on Season 2 and 1 as the Rebellion Cells are coming together to form a greater fleet so worlds can be liberated.

The Mandalore Arc – The Mandalore arc is one in which the Empire is in firm control but slowly loses it as Sabine and Clan Wren become greater power players when she takes on the leader of the Empire on Mandalore, Gar Saxon and makes peace with her family. From here it is decided to fight and Mandalore is thrown once more into Civil War as it is the only chance for Mandalore to exist for Mandalore and not the Empire. This is where Sabine leaves too as she has found a greater purpose beyond the tech. of the Ghost crew.

The Fulcrum Arc – Agent Kallus is fully a good guy in this season and his arc is helping the Rebellion and getting information to them until he is discovered by Thrawn. In this we see the Rebellion come to trust him and his arc ends with him officially joining them at their lowest as Thrawn’s battle is a success and the Rebels are routed from their base.

Maul’s Arc – Maul’s arc continues the theme of last season of showing how the Dark Side only leaves one alone and resentful of all. By the end of the series all he has is hatred of Obi-Wan and nothing more as he was not able to corrupt Ezra. For a character who really should have stayed dead or died in Clone Wars they at least gave his story a purpose. He is a character who brings about pity as he has lost everything and the Empire is so large and powerful he has no way of gaining back his prior position. He is taking easy outs because if he stays around long enough the Empire will hunt him down. His story is sad and he shows the loneliness of the Dark Side and how empty the quest for power truly is as in the end he dies in Obi-Wan’s arms as Obi-Wan has found peace and a higher cause beyond power and is able to help Maul find peace.

The Bendu – Tom Baker plays the Bendu, a force being who is made up of both the Dark and the Light. He is the one who trains Kanan and Ezra and helps them find balance after their losses last season. He is a great character who in the end is hurt by the Jedi, showing that they aren’t good, as forcing him to fight leads to his death at the hands of Thrawn. In the end he was right in a way and in the end the Jedi turning him to the Dark Side and destroying his balance, is one of the saddest parts of the season as it is what leads to his destruction.

Grand Admiral Thrawn’s Plan and Payoff – Much of this Season involves Thrawn as the observer, watching the different players of the Rebellion and studying how they fight, discovering who Fulcrum is and developing weapons for the Empire. In the end his plan is a success, though it is isn’t a complete success. He destroys most of the Rebellion on Atollon and forces the Rebellion on the run again. He only loses due to the pride of Pryce and Konstantine who let ego get in the way of results and in order for the Rebels to even survive Commander Sato has to sacrifice himself to destroy a ship at the Battle of Atollon, which the battle that ends this season.

Revenge versus Mercy – One of the major themes this season is Revenge versus Mercy and the heart of how the Rebellion and characters should act. We see this with Saw Gerrera and his willingness to kill the last survivor of Geonosis, Cham Syndulla and his willingness to kill and risk his life for the liberation of Rylok and each cases how isolated the characters are when they don’t act with mercy and only want Revenge. It is mercy that turns Kallus to the Rebellion and helps the Rebellion gain allies from Mandalore as well as keeping Ezra’s balance. This theme is universal through the season and gave it strength.

Grand Admiral Thrawn – Lars Mikkelson plays one of my favorite characters in the EU, both in the original lore and now the new lore. This is a character who is an alien among an organization made up of humans and because of this doesn’t care about his own ego and pride. He is ruthless and cares about results and it makes sense because he is an outsider. He has a history and we see that he is honorable to as he lets Cham Syndulla escape after Cham is willing to destroy his own home to escape and is the observer. Every rebel victory is a learning experience that pays off. He is unconventional too as he is making Tie Defenders on Lothal and they are shielded ties that the ghost crew has trouble destroying. Because his greatest asset is knowledge he takes out rebels spies whenever we see him and he is the one who traps Fulcrum and nearly destroys the Rebellion, as the Rebels only manage to escape because Kanan angers the Bendu and Ezra brings allies from Mandalore. He is still alive and I can’t wait to see what he does next season. Just as he was my favorite character in the original lore he is now in the new canon.

Okay: Empire Needed More Wins – The Empire still needed more wins, and with the dead of Admiral Constantine (a stupid Admiral who is obsessed with glory) is killed in the finale that may happen. Thrawn turns even scenarios were he doesn’t crush the Rebellion into learning experiences that lead to his trap unfolding at the Battle of Atollon.

 The Cons: Iron Squadron – Iron Squadron is a rebellion run by a bunch of kids. They were super annoying and overpowered. They were the only folks from the Rebellion we meet who clash with the competence and fear that pervades the rest of the Rebellion and allies. I hated this episode, it is the only episode I hated this season. The rest are good or great.

   Season 3 was a lot better than Season 2 and was much more focused than Season 2 as Thrawn’s overall agenda was revealed at the end and the rebel plans became undone. This was a Hoth moment for the Lothal Rebellion and it was powerful to see what was supposed to be a fleet to liberate Lothal, decimated by Thrawn and the Rebellion forced to run, only just surviving because of unexpected allies. I really enjoyed this given that the Empire experienced mostly losses this season until Thrawn’s trap was finally sprung. This Thrawn is true to his original counterpart in the books in all the ways that matter, and if you were a fan of him in the books, as I was, you will most likely love him on the show. Can’t wait to see how his story unfolds and I hope he survives this series.

Final Score: 9.4 / 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, 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 3, Episodes 5-6 – “Corruption on Mandalore Arc” – Mandalore’s Worst Enemy is Itself

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    The “Corruption on Mandalore Arc” was enjoyable. This is one of the cultures and societies on the show that has gotten a fair amount of exploration already but we continue to get more and see just how complicated being a neutral power is. This is an episode where idealism is taken to the fullest degree as the next episode takes corruption to it’s greatest degree and we see the fallout from both in the arc.

     “Corruption” was directed by Giancarlo Volpe and written by Cameron Litvack who were also the same writer and director duo who finished up the arc in “The Academy.”

     The story kicks off with smugglers delivering goods that end up poisoning a lot of children, which leads Padme and Satine seeking to find the culprits as the Council and Prime Minister choose to do nothing. The arc finishes up with Ahsoka’s arrival to train the next generation of cadets as they discover someone high up is working directly with the smugglers and hoarding food from the populace.

The Pros: The Cadets – The cadets are pretty cool and they don’t bring the episode down. We see them work directly with Ahsoka and are inspired by her words to take action to change their society. They are the ones who learn that the Prime Minister was behind everything and it is thanks to them and Ahsoka fighting the Prime Minister’s corrupt troops that they save Satine.

Padme and Satine – These two have a great dynamic and I believed the friendship. They are both subversions of the Princess trope (passive and needs rescuing) as we see them find the corrupt smugglers and solve the issue of the poisoned tea. They have a great dynamic and know how to hold their own in a fight.

Ahsoka – Ahsoka takes action and learns that Satine had brought her to Mandalore since she didn’t know who to trust. She inspires the Cadets to find the truth but never loses sight of looking out for them as she helps them learn how to be good soldiers and people and to trust only those who have earned it. She gets them out of the Prime Minister’s trap and is the one who rescues Satine.

Prime Minister Almec – This guy is a complete politician but you get his point of view. What I didn’t understand is why he didn’t frame Satine as he was getting food to the populace in the only way he knew how from the war. He was rising in power in the process too, but he had some level of nobility that was never fully explored since they had him make stupid decisions at the end.

The Cons: The Moogan – These smugglers were animated to look bad and untrustworthy which in turn didn’t allow for their perspective. That was annoying as they seemed only driven by greed.

This was a great arc and one I recommend. So far any visit to Mandalore has been golden and we’ve gotten the chance to see just how complex and flawed the society is, as well as how linked corruption and power are as Almec has some parallels to Palpatine except he has idealism, where Palpatine is all about the bottom line and how much power he gains in the end.

Final Score: 9 / 10

Star Wars Rebels – Season 1, Episode 5 – “Out of Darkness” – A Matter of Trust

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“Out of Darkness” is a Sabine and Hera episode, though primarily a Sabine episode. In this we get some of her backstory and why she has trouble trusting Hera and the crew. It’s a good but not great episode as the main threat doesn’t feel like that much of a threat and doesn’t look threatening. The story is good though.

The episode was directed by Steward Lee and written by Kevin Hopps.

The story begins with the crew being pursued by Tie Fighters who they escape but the ship is injured in the process. After Chopper causes problems the repairs are never complete and when Phantom lands at the meeting place that the mysterious Fulcrum gives them Sabine and Hera find themselves trapped on in the fort with alien creatures closing in on them.

The Pros: Fulcrum – The mysterious informant who passes along missions, I like the idea as it leaves no trace for the Empire with only Hera and Kanan knowing the missions. The idea is very well executed and I hope we meet Fulcrum.

Infighting – Zeb, Ezra and Chopper clash a lot this episode, largely because Chopper continues to harass them which leads to Phantom not being repaired.

Sabine – Sabine was a stormtrooper on Mandalore and she trusted the Empire. She was ordered to do some pretty horrible things to her home and this is the reason she has trouble trusting. Hera understands this but she also is trying to protect them by only getting them information they need to know. They resolve things at the end but I expect Sabine’s trust issues will play a part again, the rebels aren’t perfect.

Hera – Hera is very guarded in this and this is partially due to her being the leader, but I wonder if she lost people too because information was too widespread and the Empire used it against her. Still she is a good mentor to Sabine this episode.

The Cons: The Creatures on the Base – They were meant to look scary but they just look like adorable zerglings…which misses the point of them being a threat. Their fear of light also made it so I could not take them seriously.

This was a good filler episode. Some great character moments with Sabine and Hera and even the humor moments where wonderful. This was definitely an episode that showed that even the lesser episodes in this series still have quality.

Final Score: 8 / 10.