What an odd season The Clone Wars recently finished. I’ve come to love this show, which evolved into something cool and fun for Star Wars fans, both old and young, by its second season. But Season 3 was incredibly disjointed, with a very clear split between the first, painfully slow half, and the exciting and rather awesome second half.
Things started off great with a two-parter focusing on Kamino and the Clone Troopers introduced in Season 1’s “rookies.” These were emotional episodes, and included an epic attack on Kamino led by general grievous and asajj ventress. But then, as if a harbinger of doom, came jar jar binks. Okay, to be fair, Jar Jar himself was hardly the biggest issue (and only appeared the one time), but his episode, “supply lines,” was the beginning of a slump for the show. One episode after another focused on politics, trade blockades and other aspects of the Star Wars universe few would name as a favorite. For me, it’s fine to have an episode like this once in a while, but to have so many in a row really killed the momentum the series had at that point.
It’s not like there were no good stories being told here – “heroes on both sides” for instance was very intriguing, as we met a couple of good-hearted Separatists and ahsoka began to re-examine her perception of what had been, until then, clear cut lines in the sand. But again, there were far too many of the same sort of episodes packed together, and some of them, such as “corruption” and “pursuit of peace,” were decidedly weak, especially compared to how good The Clone Wars had shown it could be by this point. Sad to say, but it wasn’t hard to notice that those two episodes, among others during this period, were Padme-centric ones, a character who just doesn’t seem to work very well here, at least not when she’s at the center of the action – or lack of action, as it were. At least she had her moments in the decent “assassin,” which saw Ahsoka protecting padme from aurra sing.
“Assassin” was a good episode, but it highlighted another source of frustration in the first half of the season – the completely random order in which we were seeing events. Going back to Season 1’s “hidden enemy,” the show had thrown in an occasional flashback (or “prequel”) episode, which continued with the season premiere, “clone caddets.” But it began to get very frustrating as Season 3 went on, as we realized we were seeing a lot of events completely out of order, including several episodes set before ziro the hutt was broken out of prison by cad bane way back in the Season 1 finale. It made things needlessly convoluted, if you tried to figure out the timeline of the series so far.
And then, thank the Maker, the second half of the season began at the start of the year. And it was like a switch had been flipped. The introduction of savage opress had been hyped for months, but instead of disappointing, it was excellent – truly a standout storyline for The Clone Wars. This trilogy of episodes put the focus on the villains, including Asajj Ventress and count dooku, and helped make them far more complex and fascinating characters (and showing Dooku at his most bad ass), while also crafting a formidable new villain in Opress. A lot of credit to Katie lucas here, who wrote these great episodes, which managed to make Opress a guy with a sympathetic history, rather than simply the “monster” (as one episode was titled) he was physically transformed into.
I’m still geeking out over the Ventress vs. Dooku vs. Opress lightsaber fight in “witches of the mist,” which may be my favorite episode so far of the entire series. I’m still wary of what seems to be the actual return of Darth Maul, if that’s what we truly saw at the end of this storyline, but right now I’m more than willing to see where it goes, since these episodes were so terrific.
The rest of the season was made up of several more two-three episode arcs, all of them cool and involving in their own way – and all, apparently, being told in chronological order! The Mortis trilogy was The Clone Wars at its trippiest, as Anakin, Ahsoka and obi wan visited a strange place where a father, son and daughter seemed to be physical representations of the Force, both the light and dark side. There were fascinating visions for our main characters, which brought us our first Clone Wars gui gon jinn appearance, while giving both Anakin and Ahsoka looks ahead at their future in a very compelling manner.
The Citadel trilogy was a much-appreciated return to basics, as our Jedi heroes and a band of Clone Troopers attempted to rescue even piell from a Jedi prison the Separatists had gained control of. There were some terrific battle scenes here and the introduction of tarkin and his relationship with Anakin gave us some interesting insight into the history of the future Grand Moff and Sith Lord.
- Lastly was the two-partner that ended the season, as Ahsoka was taken captive by Trandoshans, so she could be hunted for sport. This Star Wars take on Predator was dark and thrilling and playing for keeps, and led to the Clone Wars debut of chewbacca. And while Chewie was more a supporting player than the star, he still got some cool moments, while Ahsoka proved again that she can be incredibly formidable – and lethal – when she needs to be.
Looking back at the entire season is so jarring, as the first half feels so different from the second. If I were looking at just the episodes that aired since January, things would be quite different when it comes to my rating for the season, as they displayed a show firing on all cylinders. But it’s not like we can just forget those days of episodes involving storylines about high interest rates and poisoned tea. Though I do want to note just how beautiful this show looks now, as even the dullest episodes often had striking, atmospheric imagery, as we ventured into different areas of the Star Wars universe.
I’m pretty optimistic about where The Clone Wars goes next. Supervising Director dave filoni has acknowledged the less than beloved reaction to the episodes in the fall and hinted that what’s to come is much more in line with the second half of Season 3. I’d like to believe that he, George lucas and everyone involved have gotten those type of episodes out of their system (or at least needing to do so many of them!) and the episodes that aired since January certainly prove once again just how strong this series can be.