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.
The Gathering (2012)
Season 5, Episode 6. Written by Christian Taylor, directed by Kyle Dunlevy.
“He who faces himself, finds himself.”
The war is taking its toll on the Jedi numerically as well as spiritually. If the order is to survive the conflict at all, new younglings must be trained. Ahsoka Tano escorts six such recruits to the ice world Ilum, for an expedition known as ‘the gathering’…
The Clone Wars takes a deliberately kid-friendly turn now, as a healthy assortment of familiar species are shepherded to seek the Kyber Crystals for their future lightsabers. It’s a great fit for the series in general, yet seems a little out of place in its proximity to arcs featuring guerilla warfare and the reanimated dead.
Naturally, the seeking of the gems is more than just a foraging exercise, testing moral fortitude as much as ingenuity. Our heroes learn about courage, faith, patience and teamwork, with the episode carrying more notes from The Wizard Of Oz than from the cave on Dagobah.
In addition to this, Ahsoka gets some firm and much-needed character development away from Anakin Skywalker, cueing up the season finale. But this episode, indeed this arc, belongs very much to the youngsters…
A Test Of Strength (2012)
Season 5, Episode 7. Written by Christian Taylor, directed by Bosco Ng.
“The young are often underestimated.”
Ahsoka’s charges begin the process of learning to build a lightsaber, but the sudden appearance of a pirate ship halts lessons in their tracks. Education turns into survival as Hondo Ohnaka has been lying in wait, knowing the black-market value of the crystals aboard this ship…
The action heats up now, with the element of danger overtaking slightly more than it probably should. The previously playful anti-hero Hondo is now apparently ready to murder six children and hand their Jedi mentor to the Separatists – all in the name of turning a profit.
Moreover, in their collective efforts to escape the marauders, the Jedi gang end up utilising none of the mindful lessons learned in the caves of Ilum. Perhaps this is the real hands-on message, but it feels at odds with the previous episode. However, the tension is certainly high enough here that Christian Taylor’s characterisation is evidently working.
‘A Test Of Strength’ sees the Star Wars debut of David Tennant, voicing the lightsaber architect and instructor droid, Huyang. Automatons have always had an abundance of personality in the Galaxy Far, Far Away, but the good doctor rather overacts here. Then again, the droid has been teaching Jedi to assemble their blades “for a thousand generations”, so he’s bound to have picked up a few glitches…
Bound For Rescue (2012)
Season 5, Episode 8. Written by Christian Taylor, directed by Brian Kalin O’Connell.
“When we rescue others, we rescue ourselves.”
In expelling the pirates, Ahsoka Tano finds herself at Hondo Ohnaka’s mercy, while the young Jedi are stranded alone aboard their cruiser. Obi-Wan Kenobi promises to assign Commander Cody to the rescue, but will they be patient enough to await his arrival without mounting a rash mission themselves..?
And so the tonal barometer swings back the other way, with the Jedi Minipops landing on Florrum and infiltrating Hondo’s base by posing as members of a travelling circus. Using their enhanced coordination and athletic abilities to convince the ringmaster they’re acrobats, we’re treated to a performance which fits perfectly with the storyline yet is infuriatingly twee.
Back above the atmosphere, Cody’s mission is put on hold due to the arrival of a Separatist attack fleet. The Republic Star Destroyer is boarded, and as the audience are willing the circus-escape to completion, Obi-Wan ends up duelling General Grievous. Again. Every clash of their sabers waters down the final battle in Revenge Of The Sith.
‘Bound For Rescue’ is a colourful episode which thankfully manages to dial back the sense of impending menace, albeit a little too far.
A Necessary Bond (2012)
Season 5, Episode 9. Written by Christian Taylor, directed by Danny Keller.
“Choose your enemies wisely, as they may be your last hope.”
The young Jedi escape the pirates’ clutches, but the mercenaries are soon in pursuit. Complicating matters further, General Grievous’ troops have invaded Hondo’s stronghold, as part of Count Dooku’s revenge for his previous kidnapping. Now it appears that in order to get off-planet, Ahsoka will need to rescue the very brigand who recently held her captive…
Finally, a more even balance between adventure and danger is struck. We have no problem believing the Separatist forces to be brutal in their execution of orders, and Grievous himself chasing down a bunch of kids feels completely in-character.
While the about-turn of the Jedi rescuing the pirates may initially seem laboured (remember that Hondo was prepared to have them all killed several hours earlier), it’s a fitting turn as an uneasy respect is earned and order is largely restored. We also get to see what happened to Boba Fett’s ship, Slave I, after it was apparently destroyed at the end of the second season, even if its owner hasn’t yet reclaimed it.
Rumour in 2012 held that this arc of episodes was a test run for a spinoff series featuring the Jedi younglings. Given that The Clone Wars had quickly outgrown its Cartoon Network roots, that was potentially a sound idea. Alas, it never came to be, and the fates of Petro, Katooni, Byph, Ganodi, Zatt and Gungi remain an intriguing, speculative blank…
Join us next time as things take an existential turn, while the audience are reminded not to judge heroes by their size…