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“Rookies” — S1/E5

The Clone Wars Rookies

The Clone Wars has answered my prayers, if only for the better part of twenty minutes.

How about them commando droids? It’s in the upgrade of the mostly useless Federation droids that “Rookies” decides to get wise, however the fifth episode in this first season also benefits from a thematically consistent arc on sacrifice and desperation — and that’s despite the on-the-nose opening parable about experience building confidence.

The Republic’s outpost on the Rishi moon is one boring place, so long as you never venture outside to contend with the giant eels. It’s the base’s same low-key happenings that General Grievous plans to exploit when springing his latest assault on the Republic: taking the outpost by surprise with a stealth strike force, thereby providing an entry point for Confederate forces to invade Rishi’s neighbor, Kamino, and capturing the wellspring of Republic clones in the process. The BX-series of droids is a marked departure from a show that’s thus far made few qualms about the broad strokes in which it’s painting, yet for all the episode’s back-patting and audible compliments, at least its characters are using their brain circuitry.

Some of them anyway. As its title makes clear — again, more than obviously — some of the Rishi base’s newest Clone troopers are pretty green. Thankfully, Captain Rex and Obi-Wan’s pal Commander Cody are on their way for a routine inspection, hopefully kicking some rears into gear, too. As the series has done on numerous occasions already, the episode re-appropriates filmic moments into its own storytelling. This time, “Rookies” riffs on Han Solo’s stilted conversation with Imperial offices in A New Hope, right down to taking lines wholesale and putting them in the mouth of a BX commando. The reference isn’t particularly flattering for Confederate forces — it’ll take more than easy humor to give more than two craps about the droid forces — but it does offer the series a chance to poke fun at the “Roger, roger” stupidity of battle droids, and that’s a creative choice I’ll rarely balk at.

Just as the Rishi outpost represents the Old Republic’s watch, its fallen soldiers humanize that necessity of security. While Hevy, Echo, Fives, Droidbait, and Cutup are by and large forgettable clones, Hevy’s sacrificial detonation of the liquid tibanna is a harrowing distillation of the base’s destruction for a greater cause. Grievous’ sneak attack is ultimately thwarted when the Rishi outpost’s explosion garners the attention of Republic forces. Anakin and Obi-Wan, whose roles here are reduced to brief patches of war room banter, introduce an excess of auto-erotic stimulation by the episode’s end. Both their gratitude as well as Captain Rex’s soapbox induction of Echo and Fives into the 501st legion hit their points home much too strong. At the same time, it’s essential that the series recognize  moments of valor and courage are what distinguish its players. In the Clone Wars, where Confederate casualties ring up more like an endless list of sales receipts, it’s sensible that the Republic humanize its losses and victories. In the case of “Rookies,” doubly so.

Stray Observations:

  • In case you’re wondering, those Han Solo lines the commando droids borrow are “Negative, negative” and of course a perfectly awkward “Everything’s fine here. Thank you.”
  • Today in analogies: Rishi moon : Republic forces :: Endor moon : Imperial forces
  • Some solid callbacks to John Williams’ musical cues here. I caught more than a whiff of the Federation’s invasion march from The Phantom Menace and notes from Attack of the Clones’ “Arena” battle.
  • Staying with callbacks, those “meteors” the commandos arrive in seem kinda sorta maybe familiar to the “meteorites” on Hoth.
  • According to Obi-Wan, the Republic has an “invasion alarm.” One can only hope drunk clone troopers get bored and sound it in the middle of the night.

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