We’re into the swing of things now, and this time I’ll be talking about three episodes, two from season 3 and the first episode of season 1. Why those three in particular? That’s because I made the incredibly arbitrary decision to review these episodes in their chronological order rather than their airing order, thanks to the helpful list on Starwars.com.
Unlike the previous two episodes and the three that follow, these three have almost no connection to one another, so I have a feeling I might be in for a long on here as I discuss the themes, the newly introduced elements and how the series repurposes the content from the old canon into this new continuity.
S3, E01: Clone Cadets
The opening episode of season three is another Clone-centric one. As thus far, these episodes have been the ones I’ve felt the most strongly about. The entire episode takes place on Kamino, as we’re introduced to a trainee group of clones by the name of Domino Squad.
Right away we get a glimpse into how these clones are trained up and the imperfections of the process. Jedi Master and member of the Council; Shaak Ti oversees the training of the cadets along with two bounty hunters who act as drill sergeants.
Shaak Ti is one of the many reoccurring Jedi that we see during the Attack of the Clones and is present during the battle of Geonosis at the movie’s climax. She, like many other Jedi, found themselves getting fleshed out and expanded upon during this series. Ti is funnily enough a character who had several different deaths throughout the old canon.
Finally, her ultimate fate being met by Vader’s secret apprentice Galen Marek during the events of the Force Unleashed video game. Before all that was wiped away.
She’s not the focus of this episode though. The point is showing what makes the clones such an effective army, and how the most important element of their training is teamwork and the understanding between them all. As this episode opens, the members of Domino Squad are selfish, disorganised and being described as rejects by their drill sergeant.
The fate of reject clones being that they are sent to be maintenance workers in the cloning facility. An example of which we see with the hunched, scarred clone by the name of 99. While not physically able, it’s apparent that him not being able to do the thing he was bred to do is the biggest shame for a clone.
Hence why he does everything he can to push Domino squad to pass their graduation exam. We learn that, as Jango Fett’s DNA is being used over and over, it is degrading. Which is resulting in these clones with much more individuality than the troops seen during the early stages of the war.
It’s weird, because it’s their individuality that end up making the squad more effective in the end of the episode. Before they can take their exam, we see another team; Bravo Squad take the test and perform perfectly. They’re in complete sync in everything they do, even when mocking Domino Squad who have to follow them in the simulator.
They’re described as perfect, but they’re ironically much more like the droid army that they’re training to fight against, as opposed to the different personalities that make up Domino. The members of the squad all seem resigned to their fate to fail, but through a variety of different motivational events that happen to them, they do pull together and realise what it is they need to do to succeed.
In the end it’s their creative, unclonelike thinking that allows them to graduate despite the odds being stacked against them.
This episode is fashioned in the style of college movie or an underdog sports movie. It’s about a bunch of rough individuals learning to come together to function as a unit, one something more than the sum of its parts. And throughout the process, the clones who don’t have already nicknames, discover theirs. Giving some insight into how that happens.
The episode ends on a strangely somber but triumphant tone, as the cadets pass their graduation exam, but only in order to be shipped off to the front line, and most likely meet a grizzled fate on the battlefield.
This is a great episode, one that continues to focus on the clones and their individuality as people and not just faceless cogs in a great machine of war. The tone is one of camaraderie and coming together, only mired by the reality that most of them will ultimately die.
S3, E03: Supply Lines
War on Ryloth, the Twi’lek home planet. We are introduced to Jedi Master Ima-Gun Di and Twi’lek freedom fighter Cham Syndulla as they try and evacuate the civilians from the oncoming droid army.
This is the first episode that we’re introduced to this new creative choice by the show that all Twi’leks have french accents. Star Wars associating certain accents with certain alien species isn’t a new thing, but it’s something the Clone Wars series doubles down.
However, the main focus of this episode turns out not to focus on the battle on Ryloth. Instead we’re following Senator Bail Organa, accompanied by Jar Jar Binks. I’d kind of forgotten Jar Jar was a thing when he showed up. I have no resentment towards the character that some people seem to, but I do think he seems like a character t very out of place with the rest of the characters that surround him.
Organa is on his way to Toydaria to negotiate with their king over using their planet as a staging ground to resupply the people of Ryloth. While Toydaria have remained neutral in the war so far, the appearance of Nemoidian representatives of the Trade Federation turn it into a matter of them picking a side.
And so a good chunk of this episode turns into one of debating ethics, morality and trade routes for the benefit of one planet over another. It’s the exact thing people made fun of the prequels so much for back when they first came out. Funnily enough, here it works.
The Toydarians portrayal here feels like one giant apology for Watto in episodes I and II, as what many saw as an anti-Semitic stereotype of the jewish people. Here, the king and his council are all incredibly altruistic as a people and as a government. Still having varying degrees of jewish accents to their speech, only this time displaying all the positive and tenants of their faith that jewish will live by in reality.
In the end, the Toydarian king refuses to help the Republic publicly to avoid jeopardising their relationship with the Trade Federation, but agrees to help them in secret. Thus we get a scene of Jar Jar saving the day by being a fool during a dinner to distract the Nemoidians.
Meanwhile, the Twi’lek’s are making a last stand against the droid army. Master Di plans to bottleneck the droids, allowing Syndulla and his people to escape over the mountain while the Jedi and his men can only hope that the Republic aid can arrive in time.
Something that surprised me though was that Ima-Gun Di’s last stand turns out to be just that, and he is blasted down by the oncoming droids just as he receives the alert that the support has arrived. Although I’m not sure I should be all that shocked when his name is literally I’m Gonna Die.
It’s times like this I’m glad that the Clone Wars doesn’t shy away from things like death and the real cost of war. War is a terrible thing and people die during it, sugar coating it for this series would reduce its impact by so much. This was a cool episode, introducing some new elements to the Twi’leks and the Toydarians for me, fleshing the later out somewhat into something more positive than the movie’s representation of them.
Star Wars has had a bad habit of making all members of certain races inherently bad. It’s nice to see this episode fleshing out and making its galaxy feel much realer.
S1, E01: Ambush
The final episode I’m talking about today is actually the very first episode of the series proper. Following Organa’s very earnest showing on Toydaria previously, the King agrees to renegotiate their neutrality with the Jedi, thus this episode begins with Master Yoda going to meet with him on a neutral moon.
One of the strange quirks of watching this series out of order means that I get to see how much the animation improved between the 1st and 3rd seasons. Also, some of the minutiae of the events don’t quite match up with the episodes that come later. But it ultimately doesn’t matter.
As the title of the episode implies, the events of this episode revolve around Asajj Ventress ambushing Yoda and trying to convince the Toydarians to joint the Separatists instead. Doing this through the medium of playing a deadly game of cat and mouse with Master Yoda, who has crashed down ion the moon in an escape pod with only three clone troopers for support.
Not that he needs them. This entire episode can be summed up by “Yoda fan service”. It’s all just Yoda being a mischievous little muppet one minute, a badass warrior the next and a wise, insightful mentor figure shortly after that. He ultimately has no problems getting through the droid army and meeting with the Toydarian King.
Even when he comes face to face with Ventress, it’s quickly apparent she is severely outmatched and left with little option but to flee, all while Yoda tries to give her some advice like the iconic cinematic mentor figure that he is.
While this episode nails everything we love about Yoda from the original movies and the prequels. It also doesn’t contribute whole lot of anything else. This episode being the first one after the movie, it feels like its rehashing the events of that already, replacing the plan to sway the Hutts with a plan to black the Toydarian’s and you’re telling the same story.
The tortoise and the hare analogy hardly feels worth making at this point. But this episode, being the first one out of the series felt pretty by the numbers and safe. It was an episode of reminding everyone why we love Yoda, and achieving that perfectly. But otherwise doesn’t feel all that important.
My favourite episode of this part was definitely Clone Cadets. I like the focus on the clones as individuals and showing how they find their sense of self in a world where everyone looks and acts exactly like them if they let them. It’s the pick of the bunch. Supply Lines is also pretty good, although if you’re a Jar Jar hater then this one might rub you the wrong way. I’d say you can probably skip Ambush entirely as it doesn’t add anything new to the lore and simply gives us a reaffirmation that Yoda is one of the great fictional characters of all time.
Next time, I’ll be digging into my first real multi parter, the movie notwithstanding. If you want to watch along, I’ll be watching Episode 2, Episode 3 and Episode 4 of Season 1; Rising Malevolence, Shadow of Malevolence and Destroy Malevolence.