Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Clone Wars Review: Heroes on Both Sides

Su cuy'gar, everyone, and welcome to another Star Wars: The Clone Wars review!

Honestly, I can only talk about how awful this season is so many times before it gets stale, so I'm just gonna talk about the episode. For an episode entitled "Heroes on Both Sides", I was expecting a heck of a lot more action. Nobody does anything particularly heroic, we don't really see that there are any "heroes" on the Separatist side, and we know of the heroes of the Republic only because they've been previously established as heroes. Kinda false advertising, if you ask me.

And kudos to the writers for asking the questions we've been wanting since Season 2 (Are we doing the right thing? Are we doing it for the right reasons? Who is it, exactly, that we're fighting?), but better late than never, I guess. (Personally, I've been asking questions of this show like "Where are the Coruscant Guard" and "Why did Lucas and Filoni let such ineffectual writers work with this show", but haven't gotten any answers.) Although considering this episode apparently takes place in the middle/towards the end of the war, I guess now is as good a time as any. The jist of the Clone Wars is essentially the Jedi enter a war, and as it drags on, they begin to question the how and who and why, but when they finally discover the answer, it's too late. I suppose the first two seasons are essentially supposed to be that beginning period where the war has just begun, and most of the Jedi haven't begun to question the motives or consider alternatives, as Palpatine so deftly pulls the strings of his galactic puppet show, leading the Republic to its downfall. And, considering that Lucas and Filoni talk of more seasons (As in, plural, so we're at least getting a season 4 and a season 5, and perhaps a 6.), I guess now is a good time to establish changes in the war, from facing a clear-cut evil to a mysterious enemy among the Jedi, as the Dark Side continues to take its hold on the galaxy.

But... it's just NOT VERY INTERESTING. I am truly sick of all these diplomatic missions, just get to the friggin' action already! With the way I just described it, you'd think this "turning point", the fulcrum of the lever that is the Clone War, where lines blur and black and white become hues of grey, would be a little more epic! On a grander scale, with more war! It's not! It's boring! There are huge plot points happening here, and nobody's paying attention because it's JUST NOT INTERESTING!

Here's how I think this episode SHOULD have played out:
(Note: It's been established that not all Seppie fighters are droids. The books and comics and even the 2003 cartoon detail more warriors than just droids, a good example being the Quarren Isolation League who fought in the Battle of Mon Calamari.)
During a battle on a Separatist planet, Ahsoka, a Separatist commander, a few Seppie foot soldiers and a small group of clone troopers get trapped in a network of caves miles beneath either of their bases. When they all come to, the clones and soldiers start fighting, but Ahsoka realizes that the only way they will get out of this situation alive is if they work together. While they try and find a way out, Ahsoka and the commander talk about their factions' different points of view, and the clones talk to the soldiers about similar topics. At first, the two groups hate each other, but they soon agree to disagree and eventually become friendly with each other, at one point the Commander saving Ahsoka's neck (Somehow.) Eventually, they find a way out. Ahsoka is able to convince the commander to surrender because the Republic has greater numbers and firepower, and the two part. Here, this could go one of two ways: Either the commander could say that he'd fight to the bitter end for his planet's freedom, but he admits that he does not want to fight against his newfound friend. Or, the commander returns to his base and orders a cease-fire. This can either end with the planet deciding to remain neutral, or the commander being killed by Dooku for his failure. Or both. This idea can be tweaked and messed with how you like, but whatever way you slice it, it'd be a heck of a lot more interesting than THIS.

Alternately, you could have a situation where a clone trooper/officer (Rex would be a really good candidate for this) and a member of Death Watch are stranded on a planet/moon during a space battle. Same situation, they have to work together to survive, but they talk about Mandalorian heritage and virtues, exchange a few Mando'a swearwords, and realize that they're fighting for very similar ideals, and their only real difference is the faction they swear loyalty to. Again, they eventually get off the planet/moon, go home, but remain friends of an enemy. (Alternately, if it ends up not being Rex, the trooper could defect and join Death Watch, setting up some REALLY interesting episodes later when Death Watch fights the trooper's old squad.)

Man, I should write for the Clone Wars show. Who writes this garbage? I should replace them.

Anyway, for the time being, all I can write is reviews of ridicule, and that's exactly what I am going to do for the time being. So let's dive right in to Heroes on Both Sides!

Search your feelings, you know it to be SPOILERS!

So Tom Kane sets up the episode by showing us how the war seems to have no end in sight, and that clones are suffering casualties in the war, but instead of watching cool things like THAT, we are taken to an emergency session of the Senate to "determine the true cost of the war". Again, I'm getting a distinct feeling of cocktease from this, because with this opening narration, the show is basically saying to us, the viewers "There's a huge war going on with action and violence and death and plot, but we're not going to show you that. Instead, have the same exact session of the Senate we've rehashed a hundred times in this show about how the war is costly and/or wrong!"

The Senate session this time is, again, about a bill to create more clone troopers for the GAR. Normally, I would hate this kind of rehashing of plot points, but then I sit back and think- Bills and proposals in our government many times take weeks, months, sometimes years to get through. In these years, the bill/proposal in question is brought before our own Congress and President (Or local government, depending on what the bill/proposal is designed to affect) a number of times if it does not succeed the first time. So far, the bill to create more clone troopers has yet to succeed, so it only makes sense that supporters of it are trying to get it to pass.

So the villains in the Senate (Such as the Trade Federation reps and the Kaminoan rep) are trying to push the bill, when Padme steps in and says it's not a good idea. Since apparently the Seppies can't be negotiated with, we get another chant of "vote now, vote now" before Bail steps in and suggests tabling the bill. Which is exactly what happens. After the session, a Muun (Banking Clan) rep and a Nemoidian (Trade Fed) rep convene with a representative of an unnamed planet (He's a minor character, so it doesn't matter where he's from), determining that Padme Amidala is the problem, being one of the few voices of reason in the Senate. Unnamed rep offers to hire someone to deal with her, but the Nemoidian turns him down, saying that doing so is more difficult than he might realize. (Haha, Episode II reference.) Then the Muun and Nemoidian have an interesting bit of dialogue I'd like to share with you.

Muun: "Gentlemen, the Banking Clan and the Trade Federation are about business, not violence."
Nemoidian: "In this case, our business IS violence."
Muun: "Precisely."

I just find it interesting that the Muun says one thing, the Nemoidian more or less contradicts him, and the Muun agrees with him.

The two then determine that perhaps it is time for some "unexpected bloodshed" on Coruscant, citing the planet's false sense of security and that, were the planet attacked, the Republic would fall to pieces. When we cut back to the Senate, Padme is talking to Anakin, who is sporting a new look. Personally, I dig Anakin's new style, it's got more conventional Jedi robes (Which we don't see Jedi in anymore), and Anakin's grown his hair out a bit, which harkens closer to his style in Episode III. Following them is Ahsoka TanWHOABOY, did SHE grow up fast. Ahsoka's sporting a new look as well, with slightly taller montrals and longer head-tails, showing that she is, in fact, growing up a bit. But then this sort of brings up the issue of timeline; when does this all take place, and how is it, in such a short period of time, that Ahsoka grows three inches and a bra size or two?

Now, before you all jump on me, rabidly yelling "AAARGH TIMELINE SCREWUP FILONI SUCKS", let's think about this rationally for a few minutes, 'cuz hey, maybe there's an answer to this mess.

However! To understand anything relating to the passage of time in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, you must first understand the timeline in which this series takes place, and how events fit into this three-year period. So if you haven't already, I highly recommend you read my Making Sense of Star Wars: Timeline of The Clone Wars segment, as I will be using terminology (I.E, Early War, Year 3, etc) from that post and essentially be assuming that you read that segment, so don't come crying to me if THIS explanation makes no sense if you didn't read the Timeline segment first.

If you were too stupid to figure out that the underlined title above was a hyperlink, click here to go to Making Sense of Star Wars: Timeline of The Clone Wars.

Now, concerning Ahsoka's age...
It's been established by a number of canon sources that Ahsoka is fourteen years old by the time Anakin takes her as his padawan learner. (George Lucas said once that she was eleven when the series begins, but we all know he's slowly growing senile from all the Star Wars he's been involved with over the years.) Now, the Clone Wars span three years, as discussed in MSoSW:TotCW. Assuming she's fourteen in the film, she very well could have turned fifteen in Season 1, as early as the first or second episode (Who knows, maybe she became a Padawan right before her birthday) during the beginning/middle of the Early War year, then turned sixteen in the beginning/middle of the Mid Year war. This does raise the question of why nobody has noted that she's grown older, but to be fair, I don't think anyone has ever had a formal "birthday", per se, in Star Wars. So, by that logic, Ahsoka, with her new outfit, montrals, bust and all, is now sixteen in this episode. This does leave us with a small time gap placed before the events of this episode, given that nobody grows that much overnight, but that's fairly negligible for the purposes of this writing.

Anyway! Getting back to the episode!

The three talk about how peace is the right way, Jedi need to look for peaceful solutions, Anakin argues that politics isn't his role. When Ahsoka brings up advising the Chancellor, Anakin hastily suggests that Padme teach Ahsoka about politics. In a previous review, I had mentioned that political allegory really doesn't have much place in Star Wars, but Ahsoka said something that I honestly think rings true in our own world, and our own wars.

"Truthfully, I don't understand any of it. I know the Separatists are evil, but all anyone argued about was banking deregulation, interest rates and, well... Almost NOTHING about why we're fighting in the first place."

Anakin's response is, in my opinion, rather fitting, and fits with his character, which keeps the political undertones firmly grounded in Star Wars fiction instead of the episode becoming a watered-down attack on our own government. However, I can't help but wonder how many people on our side of the wars we fight actually share his view.

"War's complicated, Ahsoka. Let me simplify it. The Separatists believe the Republic is corrupt... but they're wrong... and we have to restore order."

I'll let you draw your own conclusions from that, but honestly, it makes sense that that's what he believes. Padme thanks Anakin for his help and leaves, taking Ahsoka with her, saying she's going to teach her about politics.

Oh good, so we're going to focus on Anakin and the 501st again? HAH.  HIGHLY unlikely.

We cut to Dooku talking to Grievous on his flagship, about the Senate. Y'know, 'cuz Grievous is such a political being. They talk mysteriously about some mission Grievous is going to enact, before we cut back to Padme's apartment, where the two are talking about how talking with the Seppies is illegal, and how it's a shame the Jedi can hold "aggressive negotiations", but peaceful ones can't prevail. The two devise a plan to visit Padme's Seppie friend via smuggling Padme behind enemy lines. Ahsoka then has an interesting line of dialogue, saying that Padme and Anakin have more in common than they think, and it's no wonder they get along so well. Padme just shrugs it off. I find it amusing that Ahsoka hasn't read any more into their relationship, at the very least coming to the conclusion that they at least like each other. For such an intuitive (sometimes) padawan, Ahsoka can be pretty dense sometimes.

Cut back to Grievous, where he plans to deploy the "Infiltrators", droids designed to infiltrate (natch) the most secure places on Coruscant. But what will these villainous creations do?

We won't find out at the moment, because Ahsoka and Padme are on their way to Raxus! Their ship lands, with the idiot droids not noticing the Togruta and Senator among the passengers. The two meet up with Padme's friend, Mina Bonteri, a Separatist senator. (Huh. Didn't know THOSE existed.)

Actually, for all the bashing I do on this season, this episode does bring up a few interesting plot points and answers some questions; specifically, how Dooku and Palpatine keep the Seppies under their thumb, and why the Republic doesn't attempt peace talks with the individual planets. Reason being, they have a setup that isn't so different from the Republic, with a Senate and whatnot, but the man in charge still calls the shots. Doesn't make up for the complete lack of any kind of action, but it's nice to have some clarification.

Mina warmly greets the pair, and takes them to her home. I actually kind of like Mina, as she kind of strikes me as the kindly grandmotherly type, which does show a different side of the Separatists. The side that is still human, not necessarily evil, the side that really does believe that the Republic is corrupt, but aren't all bad guys. We're introduced to her well-dressed son Lux, who doesn't appear to be much older than Ahsoka. Amusingly, Ahsoka isn't fond of Lux, giving him a strong glower when he tries to take her bag.

When they go inside, Ahsoka makes a blunt comment about the Seppies being responsible for the war, but Mina brings up a good point- The Separatists feel the same way about the Republic, that it's corrupt, and not doing the right thing. Mina mentions how clones killed her husband, and Ahsoka sees herself out.

Way to make everyone feel awkward, Ahsoka.

Back on Corsucant, the "cleaning droids" arrive, much to the pleasure of the Coruscant GuaWAAAAIT A MINUTE.

I refer you to my review of the episode "Assassin"  for my full reaction. However, Filoni, I'm still VERY sour that you insist on relegating these awesome characters to mere cameo appearances. I DO NOT APPROVE.

Back on Raxus, Lux strikes up a conversation with Ahsoka. He mentions that Ahsoka is a Jedi, and that he used to be told that Jedi were good, but now that the war has begun, he doesn't know if that's the case. Ahsoka responds by asking if she's the first Jedi he's met, saying "Look at me. Not so bad, am I?" To which Lux gives her elevator eyes (And giving the audience a good look at her new outfit), responding "No, not bad at all." Ahsoka rolls her eyes, annoyed, saying that, whether they're Republic or Seppie, boys will be boys.

Hun, you just came back from your last episode significantly sexed-up. You basically stood there, posed, and ASKED him to get a good look at you. What were you expecting, a friendly handshake?

Lux turns around and asks her how many Seppies she's met. She admits that, aside from military officers, she hasn't met any. Lux amusingly asks her if he's "so bad", to which she respondsOHWAIT jump cut to Padme and Mina.

Padme "senses Dooku's dirty hand in all of this", to which Mina responds that he only leads the Senate, not the entire universe.

OH lady if only you knew who DID lead the entire universe.

The two talk about how they agree how the war needs to stop, and Padme tells Mina of her plight. Interestingly, the Separatists are in a similar situation. Padme advises that Mina suggest peace talks with the Republic, and Mina agrees. Padme sees Lux and Ahsoka outside, talking, and Mina and her old friend toast to peace, and to hope.

Lux/Ahsoka. I can just sense the horrible, horrible fanfiction being written at this very moment.

Actually, bad fanfic aside, this would be a very interesting plot point, if Ahsoka and Lux fell in love. Screw Romeo and Juliet, we've got a GALACTIC CIVIL WAR going on, that oughta step things up a bit for a romantic subplot.

Later, at the Separatist Senate, Mina is suggesting peace negotiations, but is met with strong resistance. Dooku mentions that they need to vote for anything to happen, and when the votes are counted, it seems the ayes have it- Time to open peace negotiations with the Republic and end this war!

Wait, what?

Back on Coruscant, The Banking Clan and Trade Federation are planning their attack, and on Raxus, Ahsoka and Padme finally depart for home. Ahsoka and Lux say goodbye, hinting that Lux has a thing for Ahsoka.

Back on Coruscant, the Infiltrators are doing their job. Grievous orders them to initiate Phase II of the plan, and the droids converge to a single point after a commercial break. The droids drive up to get past the security check, headed by Commander FoxHEEEEY WAIT A MINUTE.


The droids, with fake work orders authentic enough to fool the Commander, get past the security check. Fox doesn't even catch that the droids, programmed for "generator maintenance", are going the wrong way.

Why, Fox...? Why didn't you catch that..?


*muffled crying*

Anyway, in Palpatine's office, Palpatine is sporting a new robe. They talk about the peace vote, and Palpatine mentally puts Bonteri on his hit list, saying that he'll put the vote on the floor. Down in the generators, the Infiltrator droids kick some serious ass and kill the entire maintenance crew and, while the vote begins to go through, the Infiltrators set themselves up on the generators and detonate, which cuts power across all Coruscant. DUN DUN DUUUUNNNN, CUE THE OMINOUS RED LIGHTS ON BACKUP POWER.

Without power, Coruscant is thrown into chaos. Palpatine ends up deregulating the banks, and Padme returns Ahsoka to Anakin like a borrowed Pokemon. Anakin chastises her for going to Raxus to meet with Bonteri, saying that the Republic has eyes and ears everywhere and that her trip was dangerous and illegal, saying she'd gone too far. Ahsoka says that Anakin would do the same, but Anakin says she's gone too far. We end with Ahsoka mentioning that the politics of the war aren't as black and white as she once thought, and on that, we roll the credits!

Okay, so, admittedly, this wasn't a bad episode. In truth, I would go so far as to say it was GOOD, but... It's ill timed. If the Lucasfilm team honestly wanted to sell this episode, they would have put it in the middle of episodes centering on the goddamn CLONE WARS. Heck, we don't even know what's HAPPENING in these galaxy-ravaging conflicts anymore, other than what the Senate has to say, and they're all idiots! Can we PLEASE be done with the filler and get back to the actual war? PLEASE? Yes, this episode brought up some interesting plot points/plot devices, but it just wasn't that interesting. And it's on the tail end of uninteresting filler. The only clones that showed up were just STANDING AROUND. For it to be a "Clone War", you need both clones AND war. Take either one of them away and it's not the CLONE WARS anymore.

All we're asking for is Star Wars. That's all we want, Lucasfilm.

Until next time, k'oyaci!

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