Originally I had planned to go through this season episode by episode over the course of a few posts, basically covering each disc in the DVD set. But then I got extremely caught up in the show, which has proven much to my surprise to be extremely bad ass. So my plan to stop every four or five episodes to reflect on them all has been scrapped. Which is good, because I’m somewhat lazy…
This season opened up a galaxy at war in ways that the movies, I suppose, could not. Just as at their core the original trilogy were about Luke’s journey from humble farmer to galactic savior the prequels had to focus on Anakin’s transformation from humble slave to galactic butcher, leaving the war to serve as a back drop. Not that I’m saying it they did it as well as the original three, which did a nice balancing act of Luke’s personal arc and the Rebellion. It was, in my opinion, the prequels’ seeming unwillingness to let events unfold without Anakin, Obi-Wan or Padme’s involvement that robbed the films of any real scope. It’s hard to REALLY feel bad about the Jedi getting murdered because aside from scenes in the Jedi Council we’ve never spent anytime with them. Even that time isn’t used to get to know them as they are more or less props while Yoda and Sam Jackson yammer on about prophecies and Sith and whatnot.
Clone Wars does a commendable job of frequently sidelining the films’ main characters and taking advantage of the larger, passed over world they inhabit. Ahsoka of takes the reigns of an episode, as do Clone commanders Rex and Cody. It is through the eyes of these and other characters, usually Jedi, that we see the full extent of this conflict.
As this is a cartoon and one that is certainly aimed at younger viewers I found myself impressed by some of the ideas they touched upon. In the episode, Trespass, Obi-Wan and Anakin try to broker a peace between a bigoted chairman and the indigenous race, the Talz who inhabit a world he claims sovereignty over. This sort of ignorance is something common place among Star Wars villains but Chairman Chi Cho represented a Republic world, bringing an interesting “The good guys aren’t always right” angle to the story. On a similar note, the episodes Jedi Crash and Defenders of Peace have a tribe of pacifists accusing the Jedi of being as bad as their enemies just by participating in a war, even if their goal is to restore peace. These looks at racism and guilt by association are interesting to see in a kid’s show where the lines between good guys and bad guys never tend to blur.
The level of violence in the show should also be commended. In addition to human and alien characters dying in battle, usually at the hands of soldiers, we have people getting straight up murdered. The dangers of war and the evil the galaxy’s seedier characters are capable of is never shied away from, which brings me to Cad Bane, possibly the coolest addition to the Star Wars universe despite being morally reprehensible. This series has always had a fascination with bounty hunters and Cad Bane is a worthy addition the ranks of the Fett boys, the gang from The Empire Strikes Back and even pathetic old Greedo. Bane is ruthless and, unlike most of the bounty hunters show in the films, a well spoken adversary with more to his character that just a cool look. His introduction and easy getaway in the season closer suggests we’ll (or rather I’ll since I’m playing catch up here) be seeing more of him and his crew in the future.
This is all very much a glossing over of a show whose merits I can’t stress enough. Even the Jar Jar episodes have their moments of being tolerable, even enjoyable. The constant new locations, races and villains keep the show fresh. It’s good to see that the writers on this show had the foresight to realize that seeing Obi-Wan and Anakin versus General Grievous and Count Dooku every week would make for repetitive and boring television. There is more going on in the wonderful sandbox than just the personal trials of a handful of individuals which is, again, something that the movies didn’t quite get across.