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.
Padawan Lost (2011)
Season 2, Episode 21. Written by Bonnie Mark, directed by Dave Filoni.
“Without humility, courage is a dangerous game.”
Battling for control of the crucial Outer Rim planet of Felucia alongside Anakin Skywalker and Plo Koon, padawan Ahsoka Tano becomes separated from her scouting party. Kidnapped by Trandoshan slavers, the young Jedi is transported to a distant jungle moon where she is released to be the prize in a ritualistic hunting party…
Yes, the two-part Season Two finale of The Clone Wars brought its own touch of darkness to the proceedings. Showrunner Dave Filoni returns to the directing chair, tipping his famous hat firmly in the direction of Nimrod Antal’s underrated 2010 threequel, Predators (or perhaps more properly, the universe of Predator novel and comic spin-off fiction which predated that entry).
Dumped into the undergrowth with a pair of less-skilled warriors, our heroine quickly finds herself alone. She’s discovered at this point by a trio of Jedi younglings who’ve been similarly abducted and have so far managed to evade the regular attentions of the hunters.
The jungle locale lends itself to some gorgeous framing, lighting and incidental animation. Although since we’re at the tail end of the second season here, the character design is showing its age compared to some of the episodes we’ve already seen in the chronological watch-through.
Much like Bossk from earlier in the run, the Trandoshans speak Basic (ie English) here. But a nice touch is the array of primal battle cries and hunting calls they use to one another, perfect for communicating between themselves in a wild environment.
We’re also treated to an insight into their mentality with a glimpse of the Trandoshan hunting lodge. While sight of a skinned Wampa adorning the throne of clan-leader Gamac is only to be expected, the three Wookiee-hides hanging side by side on the wall (all of these with the heads still-on, naturally), should raise an eyebrow with fans of all ages.
The only real downside to our tropical excursion is that the presence of Ahsoka Tano herself telegraphs the ultimate outcome, somewhat. Redshirting new characters is an intermittent problem with an ongoing show of this nature, but narratively bulletproofing the central ones can be equally troublesome.
On a more technical level, the luscious animation here means that we never quite get the feeling of claustrophobia that the story needs. Because it’s difficult to immerse oneself in the tension when there are Trandoshan Convorees (amazingly cute owl-monkeys) to gawp over…
Wookiee Hunt (2011)
Season 2, Episode 22. Written by Bonnie Mark, directed by Dave Filoni.
“A great student is what the teacher hopes to be.”
As Anakin Skywalker pores over galactic maps in the hopes of unlocking a clue as to his padawan’s whereabouts, Ahsoka’s stranded group of renegade youngsters gradually diminishes. But the hunt waits for no Trando, and a dropship brings new prey for the next round. Taller, hairier, angrier prey…
Because what’s Star Wars without Wookiees? And what are Wookiees without the one and only Chewbacca? Everyone’s favourite furball looks very ‘solid’ in this early appearance, but The Clone Wars was never one for the photo-realistic look of characters (least of all with hair), and this was still a huge leap forward in its time.
The characterisation of Chewbacca himself is note-perfect, and even in his stylised form it’s always clear exactly which Wookiee we’re hanging out with. That said, it sounds like his roars and grunts of dialogue have been mostly lifted from the existing Lucasfilm sound library. None of it’s repetitive as such, but the patched-together nature means that his lines can veer wildly in tone mid-‘sentence’. Sound designer Ben Burtt ensured that in the Star Wars movies, Chewie’s speech – while unintelligible to the audience – was always emotionally understandable. Here that’s a little more stretched.
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But the main attraction of this episode is watching Ahsoka and Chewbacca team up to kick some lizard ass, and in that endeavour it does not disappoint. While the action is always tonally consistent with the rest of the show, our heroes each display a ruthless streak in dealing with those who’ve earned the most abrupt form of justice.
The finale’s finale comes when General Tarfful leads a rescue party to find Chewie, assisted by the bounty hunter Sugi and her crew, and we watch what a gang of annoyed Wookiees can do to a bunch of slavers caught on the hop. The closing moments see the Chewie and Tarfful sharing a moment back on Coruscant with Yoda, a touching precursor to Episode III.
Although given their adventure in the jungle, presumably Chewbacca owes Ahsoka a life-debt now, right? Because if she didn’t earn one for saving his fur here, I can’t imagine what happened with Captain Solo to cement that bond…
Join us next time for some undersea adventures, as The Clone Wars enters its ‘challenging phase’…