“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.

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Sleepy Hollow – Season 2, Episode 6 – “The Abyss Gazes Back” – A Matter of Redemption

Sleepy Hollow Season 2 Episode 6

    “Sleepy Hollow” has great monster designs and this one gives us the classic beast of the Wendigo, which is used as a werewolf analogue since it is a cursed human who changes at the smell of blood after receiving the curse from ground up bone. This episode also gives us a greater glimpse into Abbie’s mentor Sheriff Corbin as his son appears in the episode.

The episode was written by Heather V. Regnier and directed by Doug Aarniokoski.

The episode begins with Sheriff Corbin’s son Joe returned from Afghanistan and hates Abbie for feeling she stole his father from him. He is forced to seek her help after blood turns him into the Wendigo and he realizes what his curse is. From here the story unfolds as they race to find a cure and War uses the situation to his advantage to get an item of power that Sheriff Corbin had hid away.

Here is the assessment of the episode:

The Pros: Detective Irving – The episode begins the asylum with Irving accusing War of taking his soul, War says he traded and will owe it if Irving dies. He later manipulates him into nearly killing the man who paralyzed Irving’s daughter from drunk driving and we see the dilemma Irving is in. He’s soulless and has no good choice.

Sheriff Corbin – We see Corbin in a flashback mentoring Abbie where he expresses his love to his son. It is great seeing Tom Clancy again (especially after finishing up “Carnivale”) and we see how the war changed him in regards to making him distant, even if he never stopped loving his son.

Joe / The Wendigo – Joe is the man always going into danger because he has no time with the people he loves, given his father was never there. For this reason his redemption arc involves him forgiving Abbie and his father. He is used by War pretty effectivly though as he retrieves the artifact that his father said was buried when his father passed him on his legacy and after War transforms him, seeing his humanity as a curse. Abbie holds off till the end though and the Shawnee chant and blood from the Wendigo successfully save him.

Abbie Mills – This is a great Abbie episode. In this we see her when she was young and how the love that Corbin gave his son was what she wanted in her life, which lead to her turning her life around. This theme of redemption she carries over in order to save Joe, Sheriff Corbin’s son. She still has hangups about War though, given he locked her in purgatory…and if it comes to the tough choice and Ichabod and Katrina can’t make it, I hope she can kill or stop War…cause someone needs too. He’s one every battle so far this season.

The Shawnee – The Shawnee in this episode are cool. Their hunting party is a group of bikers and it is only through the mention of failure to save Boone that they work with Ichabod since Hawley has screwed them over in the past and sold items they traded and told him to keep. I hope we see them again.

Ichabod Crane – Crane is willing to take the step with those he isn’t attached too. He was ready to kill Joe when the curse seemed permanent. This is contrast to his unwillingness to face War or even the darkness in Katrina. I hope this has consequences later as it is something War should use to his advantage. It is here we learn that Boone was turned into a Wendigo too and the Shawnee weren’t able to help him. They help Ichabod this time though.

Henry Parish / Horseman of War – Parish is great again in this! It starts with him telling Detective Irving he can get his soul back if he kills another…a soul for a soul. He is battling for control of Irving against Crane and on his and Moloch’s designs he succeeds as he turns Joe into a Wendigo with the bone from the flute that the Pied Piper made and got the poison needed that he turns into a spider that goes into his mother Katrina’s mouth at episode’s end. His manipulation of Joe and making Irving feel hopeless is part of what makes him such a great villain. He always wins and even turns his losses into wins.

Okay: Nick Hawley – Looks like he’s a member of the team as he helps them in the search for cures for the Wendigo curse. He isn’t bad but it is hard to be attached to the guy given he lacks the charisma of the other characters.

Jenny Mills – Appears briefly but is only their as muscle to protect Joe. I hope we get a Jenny episode, as she is a great character and deserves more exploration.

The redemption theme is powerful in this episode, but I hope they show that you can’t always find it. Henry Parish is pretty evil and has destroyed all his humanity. The longer Katrina and Ichabod fail to face him, the closer he is to winning. Abbie is right and she might be the only one who can stop him given she knows how bad he is. An artificial curse is not the same as evil chosen the way Parish has chosen it. If they do take that path in the season it better make sense because right now it would look really contrived. War is committed to the cause and doesn’t have empathy even though his power is to find and eat other’s sins. Regardless, can’t wait to see where the story goes. I really like War as antagonist.

Final Score: 8.8 / 10

 

Carnivale – Season 1, Episode 3 – “Tipton” – The Legacy of the Father

Carnivale Tipton

We continue with “Carnivale” with some answers about the past and who Ben’s father is, as well as Samson’s relationship with the town of Tipton and the foreboding of things to come.

“Tipton” was directed by Rodrigo Garcia and written by Henry Bromwell.

The premise is that they arrive in Tipton but the Sheriff doesn’t want them there because he’s worried about them losing what little money they have. After Ben is recognized for healing the girl Samson makes a deal with a preacher for a revival to raise money which leads to Ben becoming famous until he’s called by a dream to the Sheriff’s mother Rebecca and how she is related to Ben’s father.

Here is the assessment of the episode:

The Pros: The Tone – This episode really catches the desperation of the Depression, from the Sheriff’s distrust even though he’s worked with them before…to people needing hope through miracles and believing the tricks the Carnivale does in the revival since Ben is just a prop and doesn’t actually perform any on the actors that are chosen for healing. It catches the two faced of it which we see when some folks come to tear down Pastor Crowe’s new church because even if he owns it, they own land and their two faced “kindness” is screamed.

Pastor Crowe – Crowe is once again a very compelling character, as we see him preaching the end but giving the poor something to hope for. He’s a complex character and seeing him in action again is great, though the future of his church remains unresolved as the man who came to take it away find himself choking before he departs the church. If this will make things worse or better remains to be seen. Clancy Brown really does add depth to this role.

Samson – Samson is great as the practical leader once again, quickly changing the carnival to a revival and using the members of the carnival to excite the crowd and bring in more money. We also see how angry he was at giving Ben more freedom when Ben leaves them hanging without him and almost does an actual miracle that would have revealed them all the world. Michael J. Anderson continues exploring my favorite character on the show. Samson has them heading for trouble since he feels they have to go to Babylon after Rebecca reveals that is where Scudder is.

Rebecca – Rebecca was the lover of Ben’s father Scudder and we find out Scudder used to be a crook and in his revival suit he looks just like Ben. She feels guilty for not doing anything to stop him. Her role is small and powerful and she tells Ben that Scudder was last seen going to Babylon, which is where Samson has them go next.

Ben – Doesn’t want power and when he is given it is very humble. The most he does is use to follow his dream to Rebecca who points him to Babylon to find his father Scudder. She also reveals Scudder’s dark past a little bit and we we see him ready to save her until she denies it. For now none of the carnival knows his powers are for real. He is now invisible again, which I think is what he wanted anyway.

This is a good episode that furthers the development of Samson, Ben and Justin Crowe…which makes me excited for what’s to come. There is foreboding both in the name and mythology of Babylon, and that is where they are going next and what we hear about their bad experiences there before.

9.4 / 10. Really great, just would have liked more moments to see what will come of the attack on Crowe’s church.

Carnivale – Season 1, Episode 2 – “After the Ball is Over” – Hidden Demons

After the Ball is Over

“After the Ball is Over” goes into more behind the mysterious Carnival and also the growing power of Pastor Crowe as well as the demons he himself seems to be wrestling with. It’s a powerful story that reveals a lot about the surrounding and core characters.

The episode was written by Daniel Knauff and Ronald Moore and directed by Jeremy Podeswa.

The story begins with Ben being asked to clean out a mysterious carriage, which he finds out later never existed. It is there he finds a picture of his mother which leads to greater events unfolding in the Carnival. At the same time Pastor Crowe has set his eyes on making the Dancing and Prostitution house the new home for his growing parish and takes action that reveals the owner’s sins to them both. From here the story unfolds.

Here is the assessment of the episode:

The Pros: The Opening Vision/Dream – All the Shepherds are at a cafe and Crowe and Hawkins sit next to one another. The manager says something cryptic to them causing them to wake up. The dream establishes them, possibly her and the other person their as people of power which leads more to be discovered later. It was very Ronald Moore and reminded me of the Opera House Visions in “Battlestar Galactica.”

Pastor Justin Crowe – Crowe has the owner come to him and shows him how he used the front of the dancing and prostitution to molest boys. They face this truth together which leads the owner to giving the place to Crowe for his church and killing himself right after. We later see Crowe whipping himself in penance for leading to a man’s suicide…as we see his guilt at forcing the man to confront his evil did to him.

Ben Hawkins – Ben is the investigator this episode. When Samson says he doesn’t know the woman he later meets Ruthie after helping her get what she needs for her act. She tells him that the women fell in love with a crazy man named Scudder who is the man haunting his dreams. The blind seer says that Scudder is still alive and he finds out later both Scudder and his mother were involved with the Carnival.

Professor Lodz – Has a conversation with Samson about how he used to be in good graces with Management but how everything changed after Missouri. We see that he loved Apollonia but that she hates him. He sees the danger in Hawkins which Management seems to be aware of but going along with, for what purpose remains to be seen. He is a fascinating character who we see glimpse Hawkin’s dreams in the Pilot episode. Patrick Bauchau does a great job.

The Apollonia Scene – She awakens this episode and goes to Ben Hawkins. She is there to warn him but collapses and everyone awakes thinking he is the one who tried to steal her until Samson says that things are changing, and not for the better.

Samson – Samson has an idea that things are going bad, but for now is watching to see just how badly they unfold. He’s a practical guy so I wonder what action he’ll take in the end in regards to Ben Hawkins and the characters like Lodz who hate and fear him.

This was a solidly great episode and a must see. We learn more about Ben’s mysterious past, learn more about the Carnival, see Justin Crowe’s power in action again and also the demons he holds within. Demons were the theme as Scudder represents that in Ben’s dream and in how he is feared for his actions he did in the Carnival. More on what those actions were I expect to be revealed later.

Final Score: 9.3 / 10