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 15. Written by Brent Friedman, directed by Kyle Dunlevy.
“All warfare is based on deception.”
The Phindian bounty hunter Moralo Eval is arrested on suspicion of plotting to assassinate Chancellor Palpatine and imprisoned on Coruscant. Fearing he could still execute his plan from behind bars, the Jedi council send Obi-Wan Kenobi to monitor him – a job which will require the most elaborate of disguises…
A fast-paced romp of an episode, ‘Deception’ opens with a rooftop sniper chase that wouldn’t feel out of place in one of Lucasarts’ Jedi Knight games. In luring Rako Hardeen – ‘the marksman of Concord Dawn’ – to take potshots at Kenobi, the Jedi fakes his own death while Yoda and Mace Windu waylay the celebrating mercenary and Kenobi steals his identity.
The suspension of disbelief required for this arc is greater than most. The procedure involves Kenobi being shaved, having temporary reconstructive facial surgery (complete with tattoos) and swallowing an electronic voice-transforming device. That’s not even as weird as all this gets.
The next act, however, involves a visit to the local jail where the super-slimy Moralo is incarcerated along with Cad Bane, Bossk and even the young Boba Fett. Staging a riot to act as a distraction, Eval and Bane escape, with Hardeen/Kenobi managing to tag along as a useful accomplice.
While ‘Deception’ may be a tad on-the-nose when it comes to living out its title, it’s nonetheless a lot of fun…
Friends And Enemies (2012)
Season 4, Episode 16. Written by Brent Friedman, directed by Bosco Ng.
“Keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer.”
With the prison break successful, the disguised Obi-Wan Kenobi finds that while Moralo Eval is willing to exploit any help he can get, Cad Bane remains more cynical. Now ‘Rako Hardeen’ will have to prove his worth if he’s to keep up with the bounty hunters as they unravel their plot against the Chancellor…
And so the next episode drops things down a gear to focus on the wider story and its implications for the secondary characters. Not least among these is Anakin Skywalker, who still believes his friend Kenobi has been killed – a conceit put in place by Yoda and Mace to ‘sell’ his death to the criminal underworld.
We see Anakin’s patience waning and fury rising in its place as he scours the seedy parts of the galaxy – effectively trailing Eval’s ship – looking for Kenobi’s murderer. At the same time, the Jedi Council grow concerned that in putting the finishing touch to their plan, they may well have unleashed the very beast who will inadvertently kill the undercover Jedi.
The whole thing culminates in a low-altitude starship chase through the atmosphere of Orondia, with Kenobi desperately trying to shake off his former apprentice without giving the game away to his new cohorts.
Bonus geek points in this episode are awarded to Kenobi selecting his new outfit after shedding prison garb, and picking a helmet purposely designed by Lucasfilm Animation as a nod to the Joe Johnston Boba Fett prototype.
And bonus bonus points are awarded for the ship the gang acquire, a Sorosuub Personal Luxury Yacht the type of which was debuted as Lando Calrissian’s ‘The Lady Luck’ in Lucasarts’ 2002 game Jedi Outcast.
Star Wars homages are that much more delicious when they’re kept in-universe…
The Box (2012)
Season 4, Episode 17. Written by Brent Friedman, directed by Brian Kalin O’Connell.
“The strong survive, the noble overcome.”
Anakin and Ahsoka are now firmly on the trail of Rako Hardeen, and doubly determined after already being evaded at close range. Meanwhile, the bounty hunters arrive on Serenno to take part in Count Dooku’s tournament – the winners of which get a place on his team for a mission that will go down in galactic legend. All they’ve got to do is pass the test…
The pace picks back up for ‘The Box’ as 13 assassins convene to win Dooku’s approval and earn some serious money. The titular box is in fact a giant interactive assault course which tests the participants to their very limits – failure means death.
There are notes of 1997’s Cube here naturally, as well as this being a Galaxy Far, Far Away precursor to the likes of Escape Room. While it’s an intriguing idea, on a wholly cynical note this requires an even greater leap of faith than Obi-Wan’s facial rearrangement…
From an engineering point of view, the layout and functionality of The Box is thoroughly unfeasible, even in a universe with faster-than-light travel and The Force. But in televisual terms, ‘The Box’ is a huge amount of fun. It’s evident that writer Brent Friedman as well as the animation team and voice cast had an absolute ball. The Clone Wars is at its most enjoyable when it’s enjoying itself.
And bonus geek-points this time go to the introduction of Mantu, a Selkath bounty hunter whose species was created for the 2003’s Knights Of The Old Republic. The gamers at Lucasfilm really are wearing their hearts on their sleeves for this arc…
Crisis On Naboo (2012)
Season 4, Episode 18. Written by Brent Friedman, directed by Danny Keller.
“Trust is the greatest of gifts, but it must be earned.”
With only six of the bounty hunters surviving their ordeal on Serenno, Count Dooku’s chosen strike-team travel to Naboo. Under Cad Bane’s auspices, the crew are to kidnap Chancellor Palpatine as he attends Theed city’s Festival Of Light celebration. But the Jedi Council are on high alert and are planning security for the event. Who will be the more prepared..?
In this fourth chapter, the tone shifts again and we’re treated to an espionage-themed adventure. Watching the mercenaries plan out the abduction of Palpatine intercut with the Jedi contingency plans leads to an outstanding action sequence where the audience knows exactly where every character is and what they’re doing. It’s an example of fine writing and finer direction.
In addition to the hi-jinks, the Jedi finally come clean with Anakin in a bid to prevent him creating chaos at the carefully stage-managed event. Understandably, Skywalker is not impressed with being kept in the dark for so long, and this episode plants some firm pegs in the ground with regard to the distrust he feels for the council by the time of Episode III.
The only real downside comes, once again, from the technological additions to the plot. In order to carry out their mission, the gang of outlaws wear holographic disguise generators, making them appear to be senate guards. This in itself we’ve seen before, used by the bounty hunter Cato Parasitti. But not only do these holograms cover and then match the beings who ‘step into’ them, they also apparently make Embo’s wide-brimmed hat completely invisible as it sticks outside the contours of the disguise. A small point but a glaring one nonetheless.
Gripes aside, the Rako Hardeen arc is a massive amount of fun. And it’s only beginning as the heat is about to be turned up on the Jedi.
Join us next week to find out if Obi-Wan’s hair and beard have grown back, or if he’ll be wearing a Jedi wig for the foreseeable future…