One of greatly utilised aspects of this being an anthology series is that it can string a series of seemingly different stories together, that are all tied together by a single narrative thread. Something done to great effect here in three episodes that don’t really have anything to do with one another, except for the stories revolving around one troublesome Nemoidian.
Here’ I’ll be talking about episodes 8, 9 and 10 of the first series, but if you want to catch up with what I’ve watched so far in this chronological journey of the Clone Wars, then look no further than this here link.
Season 01, Episode 08: Bombad Jedi
One thing I’ve really come to appreciate about what I’ve seen of the Clone Wars so far is its ability to embrace and re-contextualise all aspects of the Star Wars franchise. Making the best out of what it’s got and not really trying to brush any of it under the rug. And in most aspects, it’s made it better. Of course, I’m beating around the fact that this a Jar Jar Binks, focused episode. Not the first one I’ve spoken about, but the earliest one that was written and aired.
Personally, I’ve never really had any major issues with Jar Jar. I feel he served a purpose in The Phantom Menace and I actually love to do impressions of him at my friends to infuriate them. If I did have one major issue with the character though, it’s that he feels so out of place compared to basically every other character in the franchise in terms of tone. Except maybe L3-37 from Solo, who also feels like a character out of tone with the series of the series, just for different reasons.
That being said, while Jar Jar’s almost super-powered clumsiness is still a thing in this episode, it’s no the thing that saves the day. Rather, the writers of the series give him an actual, genuine skill and character quirk that makes his heroism in this episode feel like it wasn’t just accidental. Which is one of the absolute worst ways a writer can get themselves out of a situation outside of a full on comedy.
I’m getting slightly ahead of myself through. The brunt of the conflict in this episode is between Padme and her old family friend; Senator Onaconda Farr, the Rodian representative. He reluctantly betrays Padme to the Trade Federation while she is visiting Rodia in order to satisfy Nute Gunray’s weird hate crush on her and to assure Rodia gets the aid he feels the Republic has been failing to provide them.
With Padme captured and no way of calling for backup, it’s down the most unlikely of duos to rescue her: Jar Jar Binks and C-3P0. Never did I dream of a time where I felt Threepio was the best shot in a room to save the day. As proven by Jar Jar’s comedy stylings that manage to destroy their own ship. As crazily out of touch as Jar Jar’s antics are, it’s contrasted with Padme, who once again proves she is the most competent character in the series, breaking herself out of prison almost right away.
During Jar Jar’s rescue attempt, the droid’s mistake his haphazard disguise of a cloak for him being a Jedi. Hence the title. Which scares the hell out of Gunray, who has come to Rodia himself to gloat at Padme. Y’know for all of Jar Jar’s antics, Gunray is just as much a weird and over the top character. He’s such a moustache twirling villain, that I can’t help but be impressed with how little shame he has about not even hiding the fact that he’s going to screw the Rodian senator over after he’s got Padme off world.
The episode ends with Jar Jar saving the day, but remember me mentioning at the top that the writer’s gave him an actual skill, one that makes sense for his character and one that will persist into future episodes. Thanks to Jar Jar’s empathy and goodwill towards pretty much everyone he meets, he’s able to quickly understand and befriend a giant water slug living underneath the Rodian Palace, and through that is able to sow enough chaos until the clones arrive and arrest Gunray.
The absolute worst outcome for this episode for me would be if Jar Jar had saved the day through random happenstance, thanks to some Rube Goldberg style outcome to one his many pratfalls. Thankfully, that’s not the case and end with this being a pretty strong episode.
Season 1, Episode 09: Cloak of Darkness
Following the arrest of Nute Gunray, we follow his transfer as a prisoner of the Republic, going to a totally different set of characters but him being the focus of the story. We find ourselves on a prison cruiser, transporting him deeper into Republic space and out of Separatist reach. Overseen by Jedi Master Luminara Unduli and Padawan Ahsoka Tano.
I get why they’re doing it from a writing perspective, but I wonder what the in-universe explanation is for splitting Jedi up with their Padawans so often. I thought the whole point of the Master/Padawan relationship was they remain together at all times, for teaching and to back one another up.
Anyway, Master Unduli is a Mirialan, one of my favourite races from Star Wars lore, and much more of a classic Jedi with how she carries herself. Wise, patient and insightful. It’s weird, seeing her and Ahsoka bounce off one another, she seems like she’d be a much more fitting teacher for the young Togruta.
The plot of this episode focuses on the Separatist plan to either liberate Gunray or silence him permanently, lead by Asajj Ventress, who is in full assassin mode here. Something I feel she’s much more adept at doing rather than leading droids in an army. But that’s not what I want to talk about for this episode. What I want to mention is the mixed messages this episode seems to be putting forward in regard to what it means to be a Jedi.
Right from the get go, Ahsoka takes on an aggressive, threatening approach to interrogating Gunray. Something Luminara immediately reprimands her for. Using fear and intimidation is not the Jedi way. Yet Ahsoka brushes it off, claiming it as simply an act to get information out of the cowardly Nemoidian. I’m sure it was, but it show further how atypical both her and Anakin are as Jedi.
Luminara is more old school in the wise old wizard approach to being a Jedi, like the genesis for the entire concept of Jedi came about with its basis in the fantasy genre and all that. At this point I felt like the episode was going down the path of teaching Ahsoka a lesson about humility and that Jedi are not all-powerful arbiters of fate. Especially considering how crazy self-confident she is when facing Ventress alone.
That’s not really what happens though, As Ventress escapes, Luminara orders Ahsoka to stay and defend Gunray while she goes to face Ventress alone. Torn over whether to follow orders or not, believing the much more experienced Jedi won’t be able to defeat an opponent that she herself was super cocky about defeating earlier in the episode. It’s the guard who will eventually turn out to be a traitor that convinces her to go.
Now here the point where, normally, Luminara didn’t need any help, and Ahsoka’s overconfidence would result in Gunray escaping. She’s learn a lesson, and yadda yadaa. That’s not what happens though. Ventress does gend up having Luminara dead to rights, and Ahsoka’s sudden appearance saves her life. And that’s what confuses me about the message of this episode. Ahsoka’s continued disregard for orders ends up saving the Master’s life, who herself gains a new respect for the Padawan as a result.
It seems that Ahsoka has quickly inherited Anakin’s trait of being able to justify doing whatever the hell he wants, as long as it’s outcome is positive.
Which is fine, but it’s Luminara’s total turnaround on her approach to Ahsoka that leaves me scratching my head at the end of this episode. She tells Anakin he should be proud of his Padawan, the same Padawan she was reprimanding for using intimidation, being full of herself and disobeying a direct order earlier int that very episode.
This one really felt like it was setting itself up for a message at the beginning before totally forgetting about it somewhere in the middle in favour of making Ventress about as cool as she’s been throughout this series series so far. When choosing between one and the other, I’m not sure which I’d go for. We don’t set to see the villains being effective enough for my liking.
Gunray escapes by the way.
Season 1, Episode 10: Lair of Grievous
Okay, so if I was getting mixed messages at the end of the previous episode in terms of the way a Jedi is expected to behave and carry myself, than this episode confuses that even more by making it the very blatant message behind the whole story, how aggressiveness and overconfidence can be the downfall of a Jedi, one way or another. I guess Anakin and Ahsoka are except from those rules though.
Anyway, Lair of Grievous stars Kit Fisto, a fan favourite Nautolan Jedi Master, made famous for that big old smile of his that ended up becoming his most iconic trademark in anything he showed up in going forward.
Fisto is leading a team of clones, along with his former Padawan; the Jedi Knight Nahdar Vebb, a Mon Calamari. The Republic has tracked Nute Gunray’s escape shuttle to the spooky looking planet of Vassek. Fisto is sent to investigate. As the team enter the facility they find that something doesn’t feel right. The whole design of the place looks like something out of a horror movie. It’s when they encounter a hologram of the escaped Gunray that they realise they’ve walked into a trap. But the big question is; a trap for who.
Which is the cool twist of this episode. A few posts back I posed the question as to why exactly General Grievous was allowed to continue acting as the Supreme Commander of the droid army when he seemed like a bumbling incompetent in every other episode we’ve seen him in. Almost as if taking my question on board, we see Dooku has created a scenario in which Grievous unwittingly walks into his own secret base to find two Jedi and a clone platoon.
Dooku double crosses Grievous, creating this win-win situation, where he’ll either take a Jedi Master off the board in this war, or Grievous wasn’t the leader they needed anyway and he’ll be out his their hair. It’s a cool episode that once again highlights what a scary monster Grievous can be when used properly and not pitted up against the plot armoured heroes of Anakin or Obi Wan.
Outside of this, we see Nahdar Vebb being overly aggressive and taking his frustrations out on the clones accompanying them when things go wrong. Something Kit Fisto gently reprimands him for. “Those who have power should restrain themselves from using it.” Y’know the kind of thing Luminara should have been parroting at Ahsoka.
The rest of the episode plays out as a game of cat and mouse, with Grievous escaping them and taking control of the facility. There are ton of horror movie motifs used through the episode in terms of the setting and Grievous himself, who scuttles around in the dark like a giant spider after having his legs cut off. It’s moody and I liked it a lot.
Ending with Vebb locking his former master in the control room and facing Grievous himself, something that ends poorly for the young Jedi as the Cyborg proves too much for him to handle. Before Fisto escapes, he duels Grievous in a much closer contest, but jumps aboard his starfighter with his trademark smile when the General’s Magnaguards show up to assist. The smile seems a little ill timed considering his former Padawan and his entire unit have been wiped out. But the guy knows how to stay on brand, I’ll give him that.
The final scene features Yoda reiterating the core message of the episode; in that fighting a war, the Jedi are at risk of losing themselves and what they’re supposed to be about. It’s something I’ve also mentioned before, in that some Jedi seem to relish their wartime role more than others, being much better Generals than they might have been Jedi before the war.
Anakin and Ahsoka included based on what we’ve seen so far in the series. Although both of them have been exempt from criticism thus far. I’m sure that as we go forward there will be an increasing amount of foreshadowing surrounding Anakin’s behaviour and what he will eventually become. We’ll be buried in it by the end.
These were three, very cool and very different episodes. Jumping around different settings, characters and tones but with a single connective thread linking them all together. It’s a cool use of the anthology format that benefits from these episodes all being aired in chronological order, rather than them jumping around. As was the impression I had of the series when it began.
I would have been a little more dubious about the lack of a message in Cloak of Darkness. However, the fact that it is followed by an episode which ends my making that exact same point makes me wonder if some aspects of the episodes were altered during the later stages of development, because the writers didn’t want two episodes back to back preaching the downfalls of being a cocksure Jedi. It might have been a bit much.
They’re all good though, even the Jar Jar one.
Next time, I’m just doing the two episodes:
Season 1, Episode 11: Dooku Captured, and
Season 1, Episode 12: The Gungan General