It's time for the team-up everybody wanted but nobody asked for! In The Clone Wars we kick off another story with The Disappeared, Part I. Jar Jar Binks has a girlfriend! Mace Windu is here! There's a lot of doom in a temple! You're in for a treat, folks. Read on!
In many respects Jar Jar Binks is Star Wars' own Wesley Crusher. Some kids like him, many fans were happy when he largely exited the franchise, but he got a little better as things went on and was even welcome once in a while. This week's episode reminds me of when Mr. Crusher returned to the Enterprise with a gal pal and some crazy video game in tow, matured slightly but still the same goof we've always loved. Here, we find out that Jar Jar Binks has been out seducing royalty while on the government dime - and good for him, I say! A little dimension never hurt nobody, especially since much of this installment has him returning to the accident-prone hollering pile of rubber we're all used to.
No doubt reeling from the reaction of the character 15 years past its debut, combined with a desire to put the screws to the fans, it's a wonder we even have episodes focusing on this character. Most of them have been pretty entertaining, like "Bombad Jedi." Here we see him in enhanced discussions with Queen Julia of Bardotta - if she looks familiar, she's the same species as Mars Guo. This may be a retcon, or maybe there's two names - they're Bardottan, or perhaps Phuii. Regardless, the problem is this: the elders of this Force-sensitive planet are quite literally vanishing, and she specifically requests the services of her affable dumbass boytoy. Mace Windu comes along as the straight man and source of action - and boy howdy, do we get some action.
After the queen vanishes, we're treated to
the Thugee cult the Frangawl Cult in a temple that may well remind viewers of another popular Lucasfilm franchise. The same schtick is here - prisoners are liberated from their life force and their bodies are pushed down a chute, with massive energy blasts representing their stolen life/Force energy. It's actually pretty spooky - we see frightened and weakened elders, all being guarded over by aliens in freaky tiki masks. It's effective - juxtaposing the buffoon and the strongest Jedi in the galaxy with a creepy cult was a brilliant idea - kudos Jonathan Rinzler for cracking this one. The air of history, the supernatural, and the annoying really mixed well to create what is probably the spookiest we've seen the show get to date.
I commend the showrunners and writers for taking such a big departure from the normal series narrative. We've been told that the Jedi were keepers of the peace, so seeing one of their greatest members on a diplomatic mission of sorts was a treat. The notion of Mace Windu being Jar Jar's assistant could have been played for laughs more, but we still had some great gags - including yet another failed attempt at the Jedi Mind Trick, which seems to be pretty useless outside the original trilogy. After the last two arcs I was ready to see this show end, but now I'm actually feeling a little sad. As part 1 - and the only episode so far to be labeled as part 1 - it has a great cliffhanger after we see some top-notch combat combined with Mace Windu actually using the Force to save Jar Jar from various drops or attacks. Basically, this is the exact kind of thing Anakin should have employed to save Clovis last week, only here it feels a tiny bit gratuitous and that's why I loved it. This episodes has it all - aliens, evil mystics, and the most hated character in the galaxy. I can't wait to watch part 2!
Takeaway from this week:
Reference alert: Planet Bardotta = Bridget Bardot.
A new woman is introduced - that's good! She's a hostage. That's bad.
Even though the Hasbro line is long dead, I don't believe there would be many toys made from this installment.
Despite the lack of clones and the war, there's a lot to get behind here - magic powder turns Jar Jar Binks invisible. I am sure much of the audience was envious of this power.
Next time: Tune in for "The Disappeared, Part II," and I have to assume it's going to be equally fantastic. See you next mission!