In this ongoing series, Ian Blackout revisits Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series, in a (roughly) chronological order of events and grouped (roughly) into story-arcs.
Holocron Heist (2009)
Season 2, Episode 1. Written by Paul Dini, directed by Justin Ridge.
“A lesson learned is a lesson earned.”
As Republic forces perform a last-ditch extraction on Felucia, Padawan Ahsoka Tano disobeys orders almost costing everyone their lives. Disciplined by the Jedi Council on Coruscant, Ahsoka is assigned guard duty in the Jedi Archives. At the same time, bounty hunter Cad Bane is tasked by Darth Sidious to steal a Jedi Holocron. These are kept, coincidentally enough, in the same library which young Tano now patrols with growing boredom and impatience…
So despite this journey through The Clone Wars actually beginning mid-way through the second season, we leap into the sequel strand properly now as the ongoing timeline slowly catches up (although it’s still far from plain-sailing for the foreseeable future).
The space and ground battle which opens the episode is a marked step up from earlier confrontations, and although the fight itself is still relatively sparsely populated, the animation quality dovetails into the fantastic direction from Justin Ridge. There’s an intensity to the standoff which couldn’t be matched by The Clone Wars movie, even though Dave Filoni had more troops to throw into the mix.
And we start season two with more than a little love for Episode II, as the visual nods toward Attack Of The Clones come thick and fast. This marks the animated entrance of Cato Parasitti – a Clawdite shape-shifter in the vein of Zam Wessel, and Jocasta Nu in the temple archives. There’s even a brief cameo from one of the temple analysis droids which Obi-Wan had look over the poisoned Kamino Saber Dart, only for that scene to hit the cutting room floor (although not before the droids had been green-lit for action figures, naturally).
Most importantly though, ‘Holocron Heist’ sees the chronological debut of Duros bounty hunter Cad Bane. Although he’d appeared in the initial marketing material for the first season, Bane didn’t arrive until the last episode of that run (which takes place further in the future than this story). With his long trenchcoat, wide-brimmed hat and slow, calculating drawl, this mercenary draws inspiration from Lee Van Cleef’s character in The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly. What’s more, in terms of actually getting the job done, he’s head and shoulders above what we usually see in the Galaxy Far, Far Away.
Bane’s sidekick is the diminutive droid Todo 360, voiced by Seth ‘Scott Evil’ Green. Todo is cute, flustered and comedically eager to please the one he calls master. So it’s quite a shocking moment when Bane turns his faithful droid into an unwitting suicide bomber, in a bid to distract the Jedi.
But fear not automata fans, Todo is rebuilt later in the series. There was a fan-theory at the time that this explosive end could be a recurring motif for the droid, with Bane backing up Todo’s memory before each run then inserting it into a new droid body, unaware of what had happened to its previous one – akin to the running joke with Kenny in South Park. Alas, this didn’t happen. Which is probably just as well to be fair, kids watch this show after all…
Cargo Of Doom (2009)
Season 2, Episode 2. Written by George Krstic, Scott Murray, directed by Rob Coleman.
“Overconfidence is the most dangerous form of carelessness.”
Part one of Darth Sidious’ plan was to obtain a Jedi Holocron, which Cad Bane successfully provided. Next, the Sith Lord hires the same bounty hunter to steal the Kyber memory crystal containing the whereabouts of every known Force-sensitive child in the galaxy. Again, Bane pulls this off with brutal efficiency. Now Anakin and Ahsoka are despatched to intercept the Separatist frigate which the mercenary is using to race his prize to its mysterious commissioner…
Whereas the overall mood in ‘Holocron Heist’ was one of subterfuge, ‘Cargo Of Doom’ relies much more on space swashbuckling to tell its story. And who better to send into the thick of battle than probably the two most reckless Jedi in service during the war?
While the theft of the crystal itself occurs between episodes, the ‘newsreel’ catchup at the top of the show depicts it, along with the kidnap of the Rodian Jedi Master Bolla Ropal. As is so often the case, the introduction of a Jedi the audience have never met, either before or after the war, doesn’t bode well for that character’s inclusion on the Christmas card list. And when Ropal’s death occurs, it happens on-screen and is the direct result of Bane impatiently trying to torture information out of him. This is a dark turn for the series, and not the last in this particular story arc.
But the standout sequence in this game of chase is easily the zero-gravity melee/shootout in the frigate’s hangar. It seems unusual to be remarking that weightless fighting is a rarity in a series which is frequently set in space, but there we have it. The animation cycles are already smoother by this point in production, and ‘turning off the gravity’ is a great way to have fun with the physics at play.
If anything, it’s a shame that all this brilliance is offset somewhat by a trained commando creeping around the workings of a dimly lit ship, walking straight into a protruding pipe and then grunting “switch to night vision” to the rest of his squad. The scene cuts, presumably before one of them can point out that they already did, five minutes earlier. Comedic moments are one thing, but credibility should only be stretched so far…
Children Of The Force (2009)
Season 2, Episode 3. Written by Henry Gilroy, Wendy Meracle, directed by Brian Kalin O’Connell.
“The first step to correcting a mistake is patience.”
The bounty hunter Cad Bane has managed to escape the Jedi with a memory crystal containing the locations of all the galaxy’s potential Jedi, and a Holocron with which to decode it. Suspecting the hand of their unidentified Sith nemesis, the Jedi council now look into the Force in a bid to second-guess where Bane is likely to strike first…
The streak of darkness continues for a third episode with the literal theft of toddlers, and while they’re ultimately rescued unscathed (the show has to draw a line somewhere), the image of Darth Sidious’ hologram hunched over the cradle of an infant is one of the creepiest moments yet.
The creation of an army of Force-sensitive spies is is still merely a glimpse into the Sith Lord’s longer-term plans (cf the Inquisitorius in Star Wars Rebels, set over a decade later). It’s a nice touch from writers Henry Gilroy and Wendy Meracle to show us what Sidious is up to when he’s not making increasingly fractious Skype-calls to underperforming underlings. Cad Bane may have one of the most ridiculously literal monikers in the galaxy, but at least he’s good at his job.
That said, even the resolve of a strong-minded mercenary begins to crumble when Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Mace Windu join forces to perform a triple-strength Jedi Mind Trick. As with Nute Gunray’s interrogation from a few episodes ago, it’s a hint that although the Jedi Order were dragged reluctantly into this war, they’re often prepared to bend their ethics when the lives of others are at stake.
We get glimpses of Rodia and Naboo in ‘Children Of The Force’, both of which we’ve seen earlier in the series, but both of which are improved visually with more detailed sets and dynamic lighting. Speaking of which, this is the first chronological visit to Mustafar (which had made its previous debut in Revenge Of The Sith) where we see Palpatine’s Play Centre and Residential Nursery.
In an almost flippant turn of foreshadowing, Anakin and Ahsoka arrive on the lava planet to rescue the kidnapped children. That’s not the first time this mission has been assigned to them of course, but it’s disconcerting to know it’s also not the last time Skywalker will stand on this world by the fire-lit boarding ramp of a shuttle with young Jedi on his troubled mind, as the facility begins to disintegrate around him.
Season two of The Clone Wars is sub-headed ‘Rise Of The Bounty Hunters’, and this trilogy is a great way to kick that off. Whether it’s a level which is easily maintained remains to be seen, of course. But there are more mercs on the horizon, and monsters too…