After an inconsistent first year — but one clearly moving along an increasingly strong track — season 2 of star wars the clone wars found the series more focused and consistently delivering clever and entertaining episodes.
The season was subtitled Rise of the Bounty Hunters in promotional materials, though that title was a bit misleading. Yes, bounty hunters figured into several episodes and plotlines, but there was no through-line involving them and the majority of episodes this season didn’t include bounty hunters at all. But put aside the over-zealous promotion and there was plenty to love this year.
The season began with three episodes making extensive use of cad bane, the super cool bounty hunter introduced at the end of Season 1. Bane continued to be a cold, calculating and compelling villain and was involved in an especially clever battle sequence in “Cargo of Doom”, where the gravity was turned off inside a ship, even while anakin, ahsoka, Bane and their Clones and Droids fought on.
It was a bit surprising that Bane, after those first three episodes, wouldn’t be seen again this season. But George Lucas, Dave Fill-in and their collaborators seemed to be very intent on expanding The Clone Wars world this year, and few villains would be used in more than one story arc. Meanwhile, the main villains from Season 1 – count dock, general grievous and asjss ventress– either barely appeared or in Ventress’ case, weren’t seen at all. However, Grievous’ big spotlight episode was a standout, as “Grievous Intrigue” managed to make the character into a far more formidable and dangerous villain than we’d seen previously.
The highlight of the season was the four part Geonosis storyline, beginning with the wall-to-wall jaw-dropping battles of “Landing at Point Rain.” Want to see lightsabers, flame throwers, explosions and death in Star Wars and proof that these wars were, well, WARS? Look no further than this episode. The introduction of zombie-fied enemies as this story arc progressed was a striking and dark turn for the show, delving far into horror movie terrain. It was all capped off by my favorite episode of the season, “Brain Invaders,” which juggled a lot of elements extremely well, including Ahsoka’s attempt to stop a possessed Barrios and our first real hint at Anakin’s dark future, as he uses the Force to torture a prisoner – the use of “The Imperial March” in this scene was perfect.
We got an increasingly varied look at how different elements would respond in a time of war as the season progressed. “The Deserter” told the intriguing story of a Clone Trooper who decided he wanted no part of the war, even if he was supposedly bred to fight in it, while the three-part Mandator storyline let us know that not every planet had sided with the Republic or Separatists and that some wanted to remain completely out of the conflict.
That Mandalore plotline was one of two story arcs this season that delved into elements connected to the iconic boba fett. There were some really cool moments in “The Mandalore Plot”, as we got to see several Mandalorian “Death Watch” members, dressed in that awesome armor, battling obi-wan. But it must be said that the strongest episode of this trilogy, “Voyage of Temptation”, didn’t prominently involve the Death Watch at all, but rather had some of the show’s best character moments for Obi-Wan, as we learned more about his past and satine, the woman he almost gave up his life as a Jedi for.
The season ended with the three part storyline introducing Boba Fett himself to the series. In some ways, it couldn’t live up to expectations, given how much fans — myself included — have built up the legend of Boba in their minds, and it was also a bit odd to have the mostly comical, R2-D2-centric “R2 Come Home” right in the middle of the storyline (it was actually a fun episode, but its placement undercut some of the tension). Still, the finale, “Lethal Trackdown”, had some excellent moments, especially involving ahsoka and aurra sing.
Some of the single-episode stories were on the weaker side. The two Padme-centric episodes, “Senate Spy” and “Senate Murders” were appreciated for attempting to tell a different type of story, but ultimately weren’t completely successful, while the Ahsoka-led “Lightsaber Lost” felt a bit lacking – though it should be noted that Ahsoka had some great moments throughout the season, particularly in “Brain Invaders” and the aforementioned “Lethal Trackdown.”
In general, the way the show would increasingly tell vastly different types of stories within this world was very commendable, even when the episodes weren’t home runs. It certainly was hard not to enjoy getting to see what a Godzilla/King Kong type story would be like in Star Wars in “The Zillo Beast” two-parter.
Overall, season 2 of the clone wars was decidedly darker than the first year. The most ridiculous and frustrating slapstick aspects of the first year were either completely discarded or downplayed to a dramatic degree. The Battle Droids were not used nearly as much, and even when they were seen, they were rarely as unbearably silly as they once were – and lo and behold, Jar Jar didn’t make a single appearance this season! I don’t think many were missing him.
Meanwhile, some rather shocking moments occurred in several episodes. We saw a Jedi prisoner of Cad Bane’s tortured to death on screen, while Aurra Sing shot an unarmed, helpless prisoner to prove a point. Two teenage girls (albeit Jedi padawans) were forced to kill Clone Troopers, after they became possessed. Geonosian soldiers were set on fire by Clone Troopers, and the ones withering in pain were shot to death – and there’s no way some little kids weren’t freaked out by the zombified Geonosians, who could take a laser blast to the head, and still keep coming with the same blank-eyed, spooky look on their face. This was intense, sometimes grim stuff – but it didn’t come off as gratuitous or out of place, but rather as part of a series embracing more of the dark elements that would accompany some of these characters, and the specific situations they were in.
While the show still didn’t involve long term ongoing storylines, there were small moments, hints and callbacks to previous scenarios, that began to hint at a future that could take The Clone Wars into a slightly more serialized place – and as the show becomes ever more assured and involving, I would be happy to see it go in that direction.
end of season 2