Star Wars The Clone Wars: Season 1

"Even a Sith Lord is no match for my warriors. Put up quite a fight! Blasters. Cannons. That glowy thing."

To celebrate the release of the long awaited new (final) season on Disney+, I decided to take a look back and review every season of one of the overlooked gems in the Star Wars canon - The Clone Wars.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars was a 3D animated series that originally aired on Cartoon Network between 2008 and 2013. Set in the three years between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, the series gave us a more in-depth look at conflict between the clone troopers of the Galactic Republic, led by the Jedi Order, and droid armies of the Confederacy of Independent Systems (also known as the Separatists), led by Count Dooku. It was basically Star Wars does Band of Brothers, except



Because The Clone Wars was/is a serialised series comprised of multi-episode arcs and the odd standalone episode, I decided to do something a little different for these reviews. Instead of doing a single write up of the entire season with a few choice highlights, I'm going to break the seasons down by story arc and write a brief review of each.

FILMS

The Clone Wars


This feature film, which is really just four episodes strung together and released in cinemas, works as the pilot of the series, introducing Ahsoka as Anakin's padawan and sending the two of them off on a rather silly mission to save Jabba the Hutt's baby son. While fun in places, this one can easily be skipped. In fact, I recommend skipping it just so you don't have to endure Ziro the Hutt, the only Star Wars character worse than Jar Jar Binks. It's really only essential as an introduction to Ahsoka and her relationship with Anakin, the heart and soul of the show. Free of the prequels' poor dialogue and Hayden Christensen's stiff acting, Anakin Skywalker actually gets to be a likeable character in this series. And while I did find Ahsoka rather annoying at first, I am now proud to declare her the greatest character in the entire Star Wars franchise. Yeah, suck it, Solo.

EPISODES

Episode 1: Ambush

To win the support of a neutral system, Yoda and a trio of clones must battle Asajj Ventress and her small army of battle droids.

Like the feature film, this is a fun, yet completely disposable, episode that suffers too much from Attack of the Clonesitis. Sorry Lucas, but Yoda leaping around wielding his lightsaber will never ever look anything but immensely silly.

Episodes 2-4: Rising Malevolence/Shadow of the Malevolence/Destroy Malevolence

Anakin, Ahsoka, and the Republican forces set out to destroy the Separatists' latest superweapon, the Malevolence.

The first episode of this arc is pure filler. But it is nice, character building filler that further develops the relationship between the Jedi and the clones and fleshes out Plo Koon, one of the many Jedi masters introduced in the prequels who didn't get to say or do anything, but is given plenty of opportunities to shine here. The remaining two episodes are all action as Anakin, Ahsoka, and Plo Koon set out to destroy the Malevolence. Alas, it is very familiar action as once again a small group of fighters are sent to take down a large enemy base/ship. And was there really any need to bring Padme in at the last minute just so she could be taken prisoner? It was a blatant attempt to drag out the story for another episode and throw in some *groan* comedy droid antics.

Episode 5: Rookies

Rex and Cody team up with a unit of rookie clones to fend off an attack by droid commandos.

The clones are probably the most important characters of the entire series and 'Rookies' was the first episode to really showcase them. It's essentially a one man show for Dee Bradley Baker, who really had the toughest job of the entire cast, voicing multiple characters (over half a dozen in this episode alone) who all had the exact same voice. 'Rookies' may not be as strong as later clone-centric episodes, but it works well as a solo mission for Rex and Cody, as well as an introduction for Fives and Echo, who will go on to have larger roles later in the series. One of the things about this episode that caught my attention when I first saw it was the amount of death involved. Fives and Echo are the sole survivors of their unit, everyone else is killed. Clone Wars may be a kids show, but it doesn't shy away from the cold hard truth that people die in war.


Episodes 6-7: Downfall of a Droid/Duel of the Droids

After a battle with the Separatists, R2-D2 is lost and falls into the hands of General Grievous. Anakin, Ahsoka, and new droid R3-S6 set out to rescue him.

This is another one that would've worked better as one episode rather than two. The opening battle was good, and the final one at Grievous' base was even better, but everything in between was just "ugh". I've never been too keen on stories centred around the droids. I just don't have the affection for them that most people do and this story did nothing to change that. Also, what was with the music? It sounded like something more suited to a Bond movie than Star Wars.

Episodes 8-10: Bombad Jedi/Cloak of Darkness/Lair of Grievous

The capture and escape of Separatist leader Nute Gunray leads Jedi Master Kit Fisto and his hot headed former Padawan to the lair of General Grievous.

Unlike other story arcs, this one is three separate stories that all lead directly into each other. The first is a Jar Jar comedy episode that teams him up with C-3PO, a marriage made in entertainment hell. Worse still, it has Padme lured into a trap by Separatists and taken prisoner, which is exactly what happened in the last episode featuring her. I know she is shown to be resourceful enough to escape on her own, but it is frustrating that she is mainly being used as a damsel in distress. The Jar Jar free 'Cloak of Darkness' is a lot better, which is not at all surprising considering it was written by the great Paul Dini (Batman: The Animated Series). Ventress tries to free Gunray, leading to a confrontation with Ahsoka and Luminara Unduli, another one of those prequel Jedi finally getting some shit to do. The Star Wars saga is such a sausage fest the majority of the time it is great to have stories where the primary heroes and villains are all women. The final part shines the spotlight on another prequel Jedi, the awesomely named Kit Fisto, and sends him into General Grievous's Saw-ish... okay Home Alone-ish trap laden fortress. I'm not a big fan of Grievous, his constant coughing and cackling is too close to pantomime for my taste, but he was used well here.

Episodes 11-12: Dooku Captured/The Gungan General

Obi-Wan and Anakin, along with Count Dooku, find themselves prisoners of the pirate Hondo Ohnaka.

'Dooku Captured' is a pretty great episode, primarily because it introduces us to the second greatest Star Wars character of all time: space pirate Hondo Ohnaka. This is also a great story for some prime Anakin/Obi-Wan banter, which only gets better once they are handcuffed to Count Dooku and have to escape together. The three of them make an entertaining trio. Sadly, the second episode throws in Jar Jar and his painfully unfunny slapstick antics. What really grinds my gears about Jar Jar is that, not only is he about as funny as child cancer, but everyone just puts up with him no matter how much trouble he causes. His antics in this episode actually get people killed and not once does anyone call him out on it. They just shake their heads and move on.


Episodes 13-14: Jedi Crash/Defenders of Peace

After a skirmish with the enemy, Ahsoka, Rex, Aayla Secura, and a badly injured Anakin crash land on a neutral planet where the Separatist are planning to test a new weapon on the peaceful locals.

This is one of those stories that wants to say something deep and meaningful about the nature of war, but then quickly gets bored of itself and decides to just have a lot of shit blowing up instead. Whatever point the leader of the pacifists was trying to make about the Jedi being no different from the people they are fighting is rendered moot when the Separatists show up and instantly start proving the pacifists wrong be being unashamedly evil. George Takei even seems to pronounce the name of his character, Lok Durd, as "Not Good". Quicker than you can say "Ghandi Unleashed" the pacifists turn their backs on their pacifist ways to fight with the Jedi to defeat the Separatists.

Episode 15: Trespass

Anakin and Obi-Wan investigate the disappearance of a clone security force on the ice world of Orto Plutonia.

The Republican forces set up a base on an ice planet that is attacked by hostile locals. Hmmm, now where have I seen that before? This is a typical filler episode with a predictable plot about the heroes encountering some natives who they think are hostile, only to discover are actually peaceful, but then some prat amongst them refuses to see the natives as anything but savages and provokes a war, which is quickly resolved when that character dies and someone more level headed takes over.

Episode 16: The Hidden Enemy

While battling the Separatists on Christophsis, Anakin, Obi-Wan, Rex and Cody realise there is a traitor in their ranks.

One annoying thing about Clones Wars is that events were not always shown in chronological order. For example, this episode actually take place before the feature film. It isn't as big an issue here, but there are episodes later on where dead characters suddenly show up alive again. This is an okay episode that does raise some interesting points about the nature of the clones and how they are essentially a slave race press-ganged into fighting a war none of them have any say in, but it never really gets the time to fully develop those ideas. I think I would've enjoyed it more if the focus had been squarely on the hunt for the spy. The fight between Anakin, Obi-Wan and Ventriss is nothing but filler action designed to keep the Jedi busy while Rex and Cody play detective.


Episodes 17-18: Blue Shadow Virus/Mystery of a Thousand Moons

Padmé and (ugh) Jar Jar discover that a Separatist scientist is secretly developing a bio-weapon on Naboo. 

A silly "stop the virus" story with a truly lousy villain in Dr. Vindi (Michael York), who ticks every mad scientist cliche in the book, right down to absurd German accent. He even has one of those massive secret labs that bad guys are always able to construct without anyone ever discovering it. I'd love to know who their contractors are. Once again Jar Jar's antics put people in danger and yet all anyone will say is "Hey, these things happen in a war zone". But what's really frustrating about this two-parter is how the climax of Part I, where the heroes manage to stop the virus from being released just in the nick of time, is made completely redundant by the start of Part II, where a random droid pops up and releases it anyway, dooming us to endure another 25 minutes of absurdity.

Episodes 19-21: Storm Over Ryloth/Innocents of Ryloth/Liberty on Ryloth

Republican forces fight to liberate the planet Ryloth from Separatist control.

Like some previous arcs, this one is really three different stories that all lead directly into each other as we follow the Republic's mission to liberate Ryloth from three different perspectives. The first episode follows Ahsoka as she and Anakin attack the Separatist ships blockading the planet, the second sees Obi-Wan and a pair of clone troopers try to save a group of villagers while destroying some enemy canons, and the final part centres on Mace Windu as he teams up with a local resistance leader, Cham Syndulla (father of Rebels' Hera), to liberate the capital before the enemy destroys it. All three episodes are Clone Wars at its most formulaic. Everything we've come to expect from the series is here: bonding moments for Anakin and Ahsoka, clones getting to show their individuality and humanity, and lots of scenes of droids getting blasted and smashed while Jedi jump around a lot.

Episode 22: Hostage Crisis

Hoping to free Ziro the Hutt, a group of bounty hunters, led by Cad Bane, seize control of the Senate Building and take several senators, including Padme, hostage.

And so the first season comes to a close with this lazy rehash of Die Hard which pits Anakin's John McClane against Cad Bane's discount Hans Gruber. It's not all bad. The scene where Anakin entrusts Padme with his lightsaber, a Jedi's most important possession, to show how much she means to him is rather sweet. I never bought into this relationship in the prequels due to a mixture of poor writing and the complete lack of chemistry between Hayden Christiansen and Natalie Portman, but TCW has none of these problems. This is then followed by one of the funniest scenes of the entire series as Anakin Skywalker, Jedi Knight, General of the Grand Army of the Republic, future Dark Lord of the Sith, hides under his wife's desk so no one will catch them smooching.



Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011 More Mark Greig

2 comments:

NomadUK said...

So, at this point, it appears that skipping the feature film and the entire first series is no bad idea. Does it get better?

Mark Greig said...

Oh yes, it gets a lot better. The second season is stronger than the first, but it's season three where the show really starts hitting its stride.