I’m kinda surprised, jumping into season 4, the series feels like it’s kind of regressed in some regard. These opening six episodes of the season seem to be going back to the tone and content of the earlier parts of the show. Albeit with much better art and animation. Being more of an anthology and less self serious about telling an ongoing story.
It’s not to say I’m disliking what I’m seeing, I just kind of assumed the series would continue getting darker and leaning into telling longer-form narrative as it aged. Although this season still has plenty to go to still get me all worked up.
Season 4, Episode 04: Shadow Warrior
We just ended the previous grouping of episodes dealing with the breakout of a Civil War, a story I wasn’t too enthusiastic about, and now we find ourselves on Naboo. Dealing with almost the exact same situation. I actually spend the first half of this episode pretty annoyed with it. I won’t repeat what I’d written in my notes.
Not only did it seem like it was just reusing the same ideas and stories from episodes they’d already told, it was a story that the preceding three episodes had just got finished telling. Although the whole Gungan uprising thing falls kind of short when we realise that the leader of the Gungans is being mind-controlled by his advisor, some witchdoctor looking guy. so we dodge that bullet.
One thing I have appreciated The Clone Wars for is how it shows aspects of the force that appear in the lore outside of just the Jedi and the Sith. This Witchdoctor is working for Dooku, but he obviously has some power over the force to create objects that allow him to cloud the mind of others and force them into a pointless civil war. It’s similar to the powers wielded by the Nightsisters.
The whole brainwashing thing is quickly and mercifully rectified, although it comes at the cost of the Gungan leader, who is taking a knife to the side. An attack he survives, but one that leaves him unable to call off the assault on the city of Theed. It’s at this point that Anakin and Padme realise that Jar Jar is the spitting image of the boss, and tell him to pose as the Gungan leader to cancel the attack.
Whoa, whoa, whoa. I’m sorry but isn’t that kinda racist? To the human eye Jar Jar might look exactly like the leader, but through Gungan eyes, they might be totally different… Or not, considering the plan works perfectly.
While the other Gungans quickly call off their attack when Jar Jar bumbles his way through and tells them to stop, he quickly finds himself being forced to play diplomat almost right away as the Gungans suddenly play host to General Grievous. There to wonder why the attack didn’t go on as planned, Jar Jar is forced to play for time while the other Gungans come up with a plan. Again, haven’t we seen this exact same story before? With Jar Jar being forced to play diplomat to buy time for the heroes?
To be fair to him though, he does play the role relatively well. It’s just all through a haze of slapstick comedy, as Jar Jar plays with his chair and constantly falls out of his fake voice. Something that leaves Grevous kind of dumbstruck by the whole situation. Honestly, it’s a good thing Grievous is just about as incompetent as Jar Jar is. Because he’s none the wiser about his entire army getting shut down while he’s being played like a fiddle by the town fool.
With his army gone, the General, as formidable as he is, is still captured by the Gungan army. The decisive move being made by Captain Roos Tarpals, the Gungan captain from the battle scenes of The Phantom Menace. Who sadly sacrifices himself to ensure the capture of the cyborg.
Meanwhile, Anakin has been chasing down the witchdoctor through the swamp, right into a trap set by Count Dooku. Who himself has been ordered by Sidious to capture Skywalker and trade him back to the Gungans for General Grievous. And we get a rare one on one battle between Anakin and Dooku. One that seems more even than either time they fight in the movies, although when it seems like Anakin might be getting the upper hand, Dooku brings four Magnaguards into the battle, and five on one odds ends up being too much for even the chosen one by himself.
Padme, to her credit, seems far more hesitant to make the trade for Anakin than Anakin himself would be if the situations were reversed. Considering the impact the General’s capture could have on the war. Although she doesn’t really get the opportunity to actually have an actual moral dilemma over it considering both Jar Jar and Gungan Boss Lyonie urge her to make the exchange right away.
The episode ends with Jar Jar getting props from both Boss Lyonie and the Naboo Queen for preventing a civil war on Naboo for a second time and Anakin most likely being salty for getting utterly trounced by Count Dooku. Although that last part’s probably just my own head cannon.
Also, I’m not actually all that sure what the title to his episode is referring to. Calling it something like Diplomacy or Prisoner Exchange might have made more sense. Had I watched this in the first or second season, I would have most likely praised it for it’s continues portrayal of Jar Jar as a character who can contribute. Now though, I feel like this series has moved past this kind of story and could really do better.
Season 4, Episode 05: Mercy Mission
The Republic are on a mercy mission to the planet of Aleen, home world of the Aleena. The most notable example of which before now was Ratts Tyerell; the podracer from Phantom Menace who violently exploded when crashing into a stalactite. Who I mostly remember for making that pig squeal while doing so. He didn’t even have a cool podracer.
This is a C-3PO and R2-D2 episode, as they find themselves in amongst Republic forced to aid the repair efforts of the planet, which has been suffering terrible earthquakes. Threepio specifically is there to translate between the clone troops and the native Aleena who apparently speak no basic. And right away, I’m going to point out that this part of the episode was very obviously inspired by the Ewok sections from Return of the Jedi.
A diminutive, “cute”, tribal-like species that take a shine to the droids and whose only method of communication with the humans in the group are via Threepio’s functions as a translator. It’s the same situation, even with clone Commander Wolffe playing the Han Solo role of not wanting anything to do with either the natives of the planet or the golden plated droid who won’t leave him alone.
I’ll also point out here that it looks like all of the clones have gotten a visual redesign. On top of looking more detailed and less stylised than their older armour, their designs have been brought up to speed to look more like the armour worn by the clones during Revenge of the Sith. A reminder of the looming endpoint for the series that draws ever closer. This new look is great, considering all of those clones were CGI in the movie and a physical set of armour was never made, then it tracks that they’d look spot on in this series.
Actually, as the series has aged, I have noticed that the art for all of the characters has subtly changed little by little , becoming more realistic looking and moving away from the more stylised look of the earlier series. Making look closer to live action and less like a cartoon. Which I’m all for.
Through a series of shenanigans, the droids stumble upon a large vault in the ground, once sealed by a large golden disk. A cover that is now sat partially open. So obviously, Threepio falls down right away. Quickly pursued by R2. It’s from here that things start to get a little weird. The two droids are challenged by a group of subterranean tree people, who speak basic for some reason, when the surface swelling natives do not…
Anyway, the crux of the drama on the planet is that the air over ground and the air underground don’t mix. And whatever event knocked the vault open is causing the bad air to seep into the opposing ecosystem and slowly poison it. So obviously these underground tree people are causing earthquakes as retaliation for what they believe is the surface dwellers act of war. Not being able to physically go above ground themselves to do anything about it.
Once again, I get heavy shades of a story already told in the series. Thinking back to the season 2 episode: The Zillo Beast, in which the Dug people were poisoning their own underground and causing problems with the race that lived below them. Although, that was a Kaiju, which could really come above ground and cause some havoc. Where this story is all one big fat homage to Alice in Wonderland.
While lost on the pair of droids, there is an ethereal, fantasy-like feel to everything in this underground world, being totally alien in comparison to the relatively barren terrain above them. With fairie-like sparked flying around them like fireflies, the pair of droids stumble their way into the lair of the subterranean’s leader. She’s something of a trickster queen, seeming like something of a combination European folklore and a combination of several characters from Alice in Wonderland. She talks mostly in riddles to the pair, the strangeness of which is hilariously lost on Threepio and R2. As Threepio is simply too busy blabbering in constant Threepioisms instead.
After convincing her they are there to help, she has them answer a riddle to escape. To which the answer is river (because the answer every riddle ever asked in fiction is either river or time), the pair are ejected from the underground world and are able to seal the vault, being things on the planet back to their status quo. Doing this all with the rest of the clones being totally oblivious what what has just happened beneath them.
I mean, Threepio is very interested in telling Wolffe about it, but he couldn’t care less.
Season 4, Episode 06: Nomad Droids
In a surprise follow-up to an episode that felt like seemed just about as one-and-done as any episode had before, we continue our story with C-3PO and R2-D2. The pair are now on a Republic cruiser, returning to Coruscant to get back to their regular duties. In fact, Padme is rushing them back for some diplomatic dinner. Which made me wonder; certainly the Republic army has thousands, if not millions, of translator and mechanic droids at their disposal. Why exactly did it need to be these two droids going on a mission? Oh right, this is a television series.
Anyway, this episode continues the trend of being weirdly referential to other media, but cranks it up a couple of notches while it’s going at it. While the early Clone Wars series was an anthology, this episode in itself seems like a mini anthology, as the two droids find their cruiser besieged by General Grievous. It’s kind of funny, while this is the typical kind of thing we see in an episode of this show, it’s all happening in the back ground, as we focus purely on the two droids as they look for a means of escape.
Rather than use an escape pod, R2 decides to hijack a Y-Wing from another astromech droid, taking off after Threepio clambers into the cockpit, forecasting their doom all the time. After a brief dogfight, the droids are shot down over another planet with tribal inhabitants. One that possibly has some link to Republic space considering they speak basic. I should really stop pointing that out. But I find myself low-key annoyed that this series seems to refuse to use subtitles whatsoever, in favour of making almost everyone speak basic unless they have a reason to do otherwise.
It’s at this point we find ourselves paying homage to Gulliver’s Travels, as a ground of tiny natives attack the droids and pin them down with ropes. When meeting their tyrannical leader, Threepio accidentally knocks R2 over and squashes the fat tyrant. Much to the delight of the other natives. They try to make Threepio their leader, an honour the droids seems totally disinterested in. Instead, he does them the solid of introducing democracy to them. It doesn’t go well.
Also, hilariously, R2 spends the entire rest of the episode with smashed up alien all over his chassis.
After leaving this planet, they quickly crash on another undeveloped planet. This one is a big old reference to The Wizard of Oz. Off the back of R2 squashing a wicked overlord and being deemed a savour, they find themselves captured by another native race and brought before a giant, booming hologram of their all-powerful leader. Something we and the droids immediately recognise as off-world technology.
And while Threepio talks the head off of the leader, it doesn’t take R2 long to find the secret panel projecting the hologram and uncover the group of Pit Droids within, all with wise guy voices and relishing being on top for once. It’s a revelation that doesn’t go well for them, as the natives all pour in and quickly destroy all of the technology within. So these two droids are standing two for three in terms of destroying lesser developed civilisations if my count is correct.
Before they can figure out what to do next, the power cores of both droids begin to run dry. Which might have been a touchingly sad end to the pair’s tale, as they shut down together, as we saw them for the very first time. Of course, that’s not how things are going considering how integral these to character are to the very future of the Star Wars universe. And they’re quickly discovered by a couple of Weequay pirates who tracked their ship to the planet.
Upon reactivating their power restored, they find themselves being thrown into a droid fighting pit. Although they seem slightly outmatched, as tenacious as R2 is, the end once again seems nigh. If not for the most unlikely of rescuers: General Grievous. Fresh off his victory against the Republic cruiser before, we bring things full circle and the cyborg orders his crew to fire upon the pirates for little more than shits and giggles.
Blowing a hole in the hull of the ship, the two droids are sucked out into space and manage to land in the Separatist flagship’s hanger. Where they are promptly captured and sent to the incinerator. Another untimely death is spared to them though as Plo Koon and a Republic fleet assault the ship and liberate the Jedi and Clones being held on board. Wolff’s disbelief at the two droid’s sauntering in from the bowels of the ship is pretty funny.
Although he doesn’t find it nearly as amusing when he’s forced to listen to C-3PO’s rambling debrief.
These were three very goofy episodes. Far more so than I was expecting from the series at this point in its run. I was a little concerned with the events of the first one which seemed to be heavily recycling events from previous episodes, but ended up becoming something else and giving Jar Jar another chance to be entertaining. Like I mentioned in the review of the episode though, it was pretty forgettable.
The other two episodes were pretty wild though. Very silly and almost a little too cartoony for the Star Wars lore, the pair of droids bouncing from bizarre situation to bizarre situation in pretty quick succession. All of which found their inspiration in classic literature such as Alice in Wonderland, Gulliver’s Travels and The Wizard of Oz. They were certainly something different for the series, and a nice crack at a bit of alternative storytelling in the series. In the end though they are just curiosities, albeit entreatingly goofy ones.
Because that’s what these three episodes are; of little consequence to the greater story, but ultimately pretty charming and cute in their own right.
Next Time we’re getting into a four part story arc, so I’m going to break it down into two parts. Starting with:
- Season 4, Episode 07: Darkness on Umbara
- Season 4, Episode 08: The General