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.
Secret Weapons (2012)
Season 5, Episode 10. Written by Brent Friedman, directed by Danny Keller.
“Humility is the only defense against humiliation.”
Suspecting an imminent attack, Republic Intelligence pinpoints the source of an encrypted Separatist transmission thought to contain crucial details. The Jedi Council assembles ‘D-Squad’, a special unit consisting of droids previously paired with Jedi, to travel to its location and steal a decoding chip…
Much like the previous arc in The Clone Wars, this is aimed at the younger end of the audience. While that’s great in principle (the show aired on Cartoon Network, after all), it seems to mean that ‘Secret Weapons’ opens with a lot of visual humour, along with a heavy-handed implementation of the themes of trust, patience and prejudice.
The four astromechs (including R2-D2) who comprise the team are joined by pit droid WAC-47 and are led by Republic Colonel Meebur Gascon, a diminutive Zilkin with a huge chip on his shoulder. Cue a lot of bickering that segues between comedy and earnest lecturing.
It’s a brave choice, however, to go on a lighthearted adventure with mostly new characters this far into the series’ development. The Jedi, Sith, clones and senate are put largely to one side as we’re reminded that heroes come in all sizes. Even if some of them are also quite annoying…
A Sunny Day In The Void (2012)
Season 5, Episode 11. Written by Brent Friedman, directed by Kyle Dunlevy.
“When all seems hopeless, a true hero gives hope.”
With the CIS hardware acquired, D-Squad race home to Coruscant to crack the Separatist transmission. But a comet shower pulls their ship out of hyperspace, and the resulting damage leaves our heroes stranded on the nearest desolate planet…
And so, writer Brent Friendman takes an already irregular premise and sprints right out into the left field. With its featureless salt-flats debuting long before The Last Jedi’s Crait, Abafar is the perfect place for an existential crisis.
Crossing a different cultural bridge, it’s also worth noting that with no sun visible in the sky, the whole thing has the artificial air of a sound stage, the likes of which would be seen in vintage Star Trek episodes as alien worlds were assembled on a televisual budget. Meanwhile back in the Galaxy Far, Far Away, Colonel Gascon’s complete meltdown occurs in very short order, even for a planet where it’s difficult to keep track of time. Although again, exaggeration is key for these episodes.
Bonus geek points are awarded for the discovery of a previously crashed shuttle, containing the skeletal remains of what appears to be the much maligned Jaxxon from Marvel’s vintage Star Wars comic line. Grim, but amusing…
Missing In Action (2012)
Season 5, Episode 12. Written by Brent Friedman, directed by Steward Lee.
“A soldier’s most powerful weapon is courage.”
Discovering a settlement nestled under the ground-line, D-Squad must find a way off planet if they’re to complete their mission. But a brusque encounter at an eatery leads the gang to a familiar face…
Viewers who perhaps grew impatient with the ponderous pacing of the previous episode will be glad that the action is finally ramped up now. The CIS presence on Abafar for a mining operation is one thing, but when Gascon discovers a Clonetrooper in their midst, this can only end one way.
Our hidden hero has PTSD-induced amnesia, a different play on themes of duty touched upon in ‘The Deserter’. Although eyebrows are raised when Gascon assures ‘Gregor’ that by working for an exploitative diner owner, he’s effectively “a slave”, and should come back to the Grand Army Of The Republic instead. Well, quite.
And this isn’t just any old clone, he’s a Republic Commando – the special ops troopers which were the subject of Lucasarts’ 2005 video game. While this particular character didn’t feature in that title, nods to the game are firm and knowing. What’s more, the Tatooine lite building structures and bleached out, minimalist colour scheme are both reminiscent of Lucasarts’ 1995 FPS, Dark Forces. Everything points to a trigger-happy ending…
Point Of No Return (2012)
Season 5, Episode 13. Written by Brent Friedman, directed by Bosco Ng.
“You must trust in others, or success is impossible.”
Escaping the bleakness of Abafar, D-Squad are surprised to find a Republic cruiser in orbit above. Captured by the CIS, the ship has been converted into a giant bomb using rhydonium mined from the planet below. Uncovering plans to detonate the weapon at a Republic strategy conference near Carida, the droids must find a way to foil the Separatists…
The jokes have just about petered out at this point, and the comforting return to space puts the story back on an even footing. Still a very droid-heavy episode, we’re introduced to a selection of Republic automatons ignored by the Separatists, essentially refugees who join forces with D-Squad to save the day.
Regardless of how its outcome is evaluated, a true experiment is never itself a success nor a failure: it is an experiment. And in that respect, these episodes show what happens when the The Clone Wars points the spotlight away from the Jedi and challenges its audience a little.
D-Squad are cued up for future adventures, but the show was already nearing its end by this point. Although it would be nice to see the gang appear in Star Wars Adventures…
Join us next time as we return to the return of Darth Maul, where things are coming to a head on Mandalore…