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.
Season 4, Episode 11. Written by Henry Gilroy, Steven Melching, directed by Kyle Dunlevy.
“Where we are going always reflects where we came from.”
An artisan colony of Togruta have established a peaceful society on the planet Kiros, choosing peace and creativity over weapons and conflict. Declaring themselves neutral in the war as it sweeps across the galaxy, their pacifistic resolve is tested when Count Dooku arrives with a Separatist war-fleet, offering ‘protection’ from Republic interference. When the Master Yoda has no contact from the Togruta for a week, Anakin Skywalker, Ahsoka Tano and Obi-Wan Kenobi are sent to investigate. When they arrive, they find the colony deserted…
And so, back to the thorny issue of pacifism now, and how much good that stance will do in the face of occupation – or in this case, abduction.
The arc is co-writen by series regular Henry Gilroy, adapted from his six-issue ‘Clone Wars: Slaves Of The Republic’ comic series, published by Dark Horse in 2008. While the basic story outline and locations remain the same, certain concessions have been made for the transition to television.
After a brief setup, the episode launches straight into the action with a speeder chase on Kiros followed by a pitched battle between Republic and CIS forces. Zygerrian slavers are introduced in the shape of the wolf-like Darts D’Narr, who also specialises in the acquisition of rare creatures.
Anakin’s instantaneous reaction to the practice of captivity and slavery (despite what we saw of his childhood being relatively benign) sets the tone for his hot-headedness throughout. It’s a nice touch that Obi-Wan and Ahsoka realize he’s going to need emotional support as well as physical backup during this ordeal, and provide it with unquestioning understanding.
A fantastic split-sequence where Anakin and Ahsoka disarm a series of bombs on the planet’s surface while Obi-Wan goes hand-to-hand with Darts in the cruiser above feels very much like a segment of a video game, a fitting touch for a CGI animated series…
Slaves Of The Republic (2011)
Season 4, Episode 12. Written by Henry Gilroy, Steven Melching, directed by Brian Kalin O’Connell.
“Those who enslave others inevitably become slaves themselves.”
Republic bio-scans reveal that the Togrutan population is no longer on Kiros. Realising that Zygerrian involvement points toward an alarming conclusion, the Jedi Council enlists Anakin, Ahsoka and Obi-Wan to travel to Zygerria and investigate the matter further, posing as a group of slavers attending an auction…
It’s here that the limitations of the medium begin to be hinted at. While this arc can obviously be enjoyed by viewers who haven’t read the 2008 comic, those who have will take note that originally it was eight million Togruta who were kidnapped from their planet to be sold into mass slavery – a number so unfeasibly large that any attempt to uncover the plot would be met with disbelief rather than outrage.
READ MORE: Star Wars Adventures #19 – Comic Review
In this episode, we’re informed that it’s 50,000 people who’ve been forcibly escorted off-world. It’s still an insanely large number of course, and crucially it’s still one that the animators have no real means of visually translating.
Meanwhile, we’re treated to a couple of cinematic homages. The confrontation in the auction-arena between the Jedi and Zygerrian guards makes several nods toward the one at Jabba’s sail barge in Return of the Jedi. And on a slightly more subtle level, Queen Miraj Scintel’s castle bears more than a passing resemblance to the Tyrell Corporation headquarters in Blade Runner – a subtle confirmation (if it were needed) that this is the epicentre of enforced servitude on a truly industrial scale, where slaves are seen as objects rather than people.
Truth be told, the episode is probably more heavy-handed than it even needs to be with the ‘slavery is bad’ message, but this at least gives rise to some outstanding counter-aggression from the captured Jedi. When Anakin begins to Force-choke the smug slaver queen, it’s difficult not to cheer him on…
Escape From Kadavo (2012)
Season 4, Episode 13. Written by Henry Gilroy, Steven Melching, directed by Danny Keller.
“Great hope can come from small sacrifices.”
With their undercover-antics rumbled almost as quickly as they began and hopelessly outnumbered, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Captain Rex have been sent with the Togruta to perform hard labour on Kadavo. Back at Zygerria, Anakin is blackmailed into working as Queen Scintel’s bodyguard to ensure the captured Ahsoka comes to no harm. But Count Dooku is not at all pleased with this turn of events, resolving to confront the queen and remove the Jedi involvement, permanently…
This third act is effectively the all-action showdown set up by the previous two episodes, inevitably ending in yet another no-score-draw duel between Anakin and Dooku.
The battle turns into a rescue mission, with the fate of 50,000 souls at stake (or slightly fewer, given that the Zygerrian warden Agruss is happy to randomly kill a few prisoners here and there, just to prove a point to Kenobi). But when the day is finally won, as we knew it would be, the number of Togruta we see actually being liberated is somewhere under 20.
Animation costs money and has its limitations, obviously, but the implication that the other 49,980 were moved from the work-camp to Republic Star Destroyers all off-screen robs the victory of any sense of achievement.
Ultimately this has been a solid character-building adventure for Anakin and Ahsoka, but the Togrutan leader’s promise to hereby join the Republic falls a little flat. They’re still going to be a pacifist art-colony after all, and since the Republic intervened on their behalf when they were neutral, what’s really changed?
A Friend In Need (2012)
Season 4, Episode 14. Written by Christian Taylor, directed by Dave Filoni.
“Friendship shows us who we really are.”
In a bid to end the war peaceably, a meeting between Republic and Separatist delegates has been arranged, with neutral Mandalore chosen as the venue. Padmé Amidala, Bail Organa and Mon Mothma begin fractious talks with their confederate counterparts. But when junior senator Lux Bonteri arrives unexpectedly, his open accusations of murder against Count Dooku see him removed from Duchess Satine’s throne room. As he’s taken into CIS custody, Padmé is worried that Lux will be surreptitiously executed, and sends her bodyguard Ahsoka Tano to oversee his safety. But Lux has ideas of his own as to how the situation can be dealt with…
Although Lux Bonteri has, so far, not proved a particularly exciting addition to The Clone Wars, he acts as a bridge here. Re-acquainting the audience not only with Mandalore but the Death Watch terrorist group is advisable, given the important roles they’ll play in the series’ near future.
Jon Favreau returns as the voice of cult-leader Pre Vizsla, dialling up the megalomania one more notch as his group of Mandalorian malcontents act like the outlaws they are, destroying a remote village just for the hell of it. And although she has a relatively second-tier role here, we also meet the warrior Bo-Katan as part of the clan, voiced by Battlestar Galactica‘s Katee Sackhoff. As with the group, she is due to become a character of some interest as events unfurl.
As standalone episodes go, ‘A Friend In Need’ does a great job of painting in background political exposition without getting too bogged down in senatorial sniping. And watching a Jedi and a Mandalorian go blade to blade while everything burns around them is always going to be fun.
It almost makes up for the return of Lux Bonteri…
Join us next time as deep cover takes on a new meaning and we meet the slimiest villain of them all…