With Disney’s announcement Monday that it would be canceling The Clone Wars after this season — its fifth — and not a day after I reviewed its very first episode, it’s safe to say Dad was right. I really do kill everything.
It’s only the second episode, but “Rising Malevolence” [named after yet another warship the Confederacy decides to waste on General Grievous] already has some changes. Instead of “Ambush’s” opening crawl, two paragraphs of Flash Gordon-styled voiceover are thrown at the viewer to process in no more than ten seconds. Confederate surprise attacks! Plo Koon! Secret weapon! It’s a lot to take in; not because the material is deep or complex, but because they’re chucking it at you so damn fast.
When Master General and Jedi Power Battles Superstar Plo Koon and three Republic attack cruisers stumble upon the location of a secret Separatist weapon, he contacts Anakin, stationed at the nearby Bith system, for assistance. Unfortunately, Anakin must tend to his apprentice Ahsoka at the behest of the Jedi Council and several inconsequential strictures and regulations. Which really sucks, because Count Dooku and General Grievous on board the Malevolence jam Koon’s transmissions and disable the Republic fleet’s weapons, decimating the ships and forcing the crew to jettison to safety in their escape pods with minimal life support and weak communications.
But Grievous isn’t done yet. He sends out a tactical team — in the loosest sense of “tactical” — and a Droch-class boarding craft to eliminate the remaining survivors, lest Plo Koon warn the Republic of the Separatists’ dreaded new ion cannon. Ahsoka, revealing that Plo Koon was once her master before Anakin, petitions the Jedi to help them the fuck out. Anakin shoots Ahsoka down, reminding her to recognize her place in the Jedi Order and to do as she’s told. That is, until Anakin reveals he’s down with her plan all along, zipping off to the Abregado System in their junky Falcon rip-off du jour, the Twilight. Agreeing to the Council’s request is one thing, Anakin says; how you get that done is something else entirely.
Ahsoka’s presence in The Clone Wars film, and now the series, is troubling because she’s really just doubling the role Anakin should be playing. Making her Anakin’s apprentice deflates his characterization, too because as “Rising Malevolence” already shows, being a “Master” to anyone forces Anakin to be too responsible. It’s not enough to underdevelop Anakin and Obi-Wan’s relationship; Anakin needs a half-baked relationship with his own apprentice now, too. That said, Anakin’s logic here also makes for an interesting dynamic, one that introduces (too little, too late for the Prequels) an alternative characterization of Anakin that ventures beyond pouting and immature explosions of severe violence. He can get shit done while still being rebellious. If nothing else, it’s a nice homage to the late Qui-Gon Jinn’s personal philosophy.
Anywho, the droids converge and take out an escape pod, sending the clones inside flying out into space to suffocate. Brutal. Then follows a pretty measly action sequence where Plo Koon sluggishly bats away the droid team’s laser blasts before using the Force to… throw a clone trooper at the boarding craft for cover fire. Cool? Anakin and Ahsoka arrive shortly thereafter, and R2 fixes the Twilight’s hyperdrive just before the Separatists can fire their ion cannon on them. Steven Melching must’ve had The Empire Strikes Back playing in the background when he wrote this one.
Okay, so what happened here? Count Dooku is once again frustrated with Grievous fucking things up. The Jedi Council is solely comprised of holographic desk-jockeys. The Republic now knows about the Separatist’s weapon and… that’s it, really. Anakin and Ahsoka come to some lame agreement about sharing the blame for breaking the Council’s rules, but the moment feels more like redundant characterization than actual development. At least “Ambush” had some half-interesting ideas about individuality. Here we just hear more from the uninteresting shoe-horned biography of the galaxy’s #1 Mary Sue.
- Sixth-grade me did not imagine Plo Koon sounding like a Halo Elite with that elaborately deep voice.
- I love how much this episode tries to hype up a “secret” weapon that wasn’t that impressive in Empire. In Episode V, the ion cannon looks and does exactly what it sounds like. In The Clone Wars? It’s a superpowered weapon that shoots out electric sparkling jellyfish.
- Maybe I’m picking nits here, but those Droch-class “juicers” the battle droids used seemed pretty conveniently-sized to pincer the Republic escape pods. They’re used for more than boarding escape pods though, yes?
- Since when did Anakin become a bureaucrat? Sure, part of his scolding Ahsoka for breaking from the Council’s orders was for show, but he felt a little too snippy. A little too Obi-Wan.
- The latest in PG-rated death threats: Count Dooku’s “I want all those life pods destroyed…”
- Grievous is ridiculous in “Rising Malevolence.” Moreso than Revenge of the Sith. He’s hacking up his lungs and bitching out battle droid crew members even as Dooku tells him how much he fucked up. He’s Dooku’s pathetic, half-robot, goofy lapdog.
- On that note, there are way too many apprentices. Anakin is Obi-Wan’s former apprentice; Ahsoka used to be Plo Koon’s; now she’s Anakin’s; Grievous and Dooku. The Clone Wars is running a FREE APPRENTICE OFFER at its yard sale. I miss Darth Maul.