The fifth season premiere of The Clone Wars, "Revival," brought us some familiar faces, improved animation models, and a bit part to knock your socks off! The return of Darth Maul continues, and this time around they're joined by some familiar faces which haven't been seen on the show before. Numerous spoilers and links to the full episode await you after the break.
That's back on now and I have to say it's odd that the toy line is sort of... how do you Americans say... dead as a doornail? The first wave of the year was boring. As were waves 2, 3, and the one-figure wave that is wave 4. It's no wonder the line isn't doing anything in the back half of 2012 because the last "new" figures look exactly like the old ones, and the episodes aren't probably very inspiring to kids. The first season of the show had wonderful guest voices for parents to decode and big bright colors for the kids. Stories were snappy, spanning one or two installments, and the show's head was kept away from its own butt. (This is, of course, important despite the comedic effect of butts, specifically farts, in American comedy.)
This all fell apart as things went on, and it has since mutated from a show kids might watch to a show that's pretty much exclusively for hardcore "I sat through the prequels and I demand to be entertained" Star Wars fans like you, and like me. In the process we got to see some really cool stuff, some decent attempts at comedy, and my personal favorite: some of the worst storylines on a kid's show ever. We've since recovered with some cool stuff, and now the show is going out of its way to give us a collage of the entire franchise. The season premiere included the Sears Snaggletooth walking around, the cyborg Darth Maul from Visionaries (redesigned a bit), and one of my favorite new entries to the Star Wars Expanded Universe, Hondo Ohnaka. He's great! Jim Cummings' voice work is fantastic and brings that cartoon quality that this show tends to lose because other than R2-D2, C-3PO, and even Jar Jar Binks, there's not a lot of levity. There's a lot of bank regulations, but this is an increasingly heavy show despite now being, officially, a Saturday morning cartoon.
The episode itself managed to do the unthinkable, and that is to complete the de-fangification of Darth Maul. Sure, we saw him as an insane cyborg spider last year, but I could forgive that as an excuse to explain away why we haven't seen him in ten years. Plus maybe it was a reference to Mojo, I can't fault that. As a largely silent killer, we as fans could fill in the blanks and project our desires on the character. As a TV villain, he's becoming... well, a TV villain. He talks a lot, he explains the obvious, and he's starting to show limitations as a baddie. In this week's episode, he whines "It's too soon, my plan isn't finished yet!" Is it? Is that why you're running away now? It feels a little sloppy, and the poor guy still can't find a shirt.
The entire episode has the tone of a crime procedural, with Darth Maul and Savage Opress knocking over some space warehouse run by some dude who hands out exposition in a folksy manner that, frankly, only a warehouse manager could do. Obi-Wan Kenobi and Adi Gallia find out it was the work of the Maul Boys and chase them down, but they're busy trying to recruit pirates into their "Crime Lord" army. Lacking in any humor whatsoever, it's a good thing that we can juice the pirates' leader for a bright spot in this altogether joyless episode.
Hondo Ohnaka (through Jim Cummings' performance) is consistently one of the brightest spots on the show, providing a (if you'll forgive the pun) animated counterpart to the increasingly stiff and humorless everyone-else-on-the-show. His pirate crew got an upgrade, with new character models for his crew as well as some fairly distracting bandannas across their faces. Who the heck are they hiding from? Did they lose a chunk of their jaws? I have no idea, but I did like seeing new chunks of armor and new faces (that we'll never see in figural form) in the crew.
If I read the credits correctly, Mr. Cummings also voices the Warehouse Supervisor... or Blue Snaggletooth! Modeled after the original Kenner action figure, this character has a southern accent which to my untrained ear and largely uninformed eyes comes off like Roy Blount Jr. or Andy Griffith. I'm not sure what the intent was, but I love the fact we're now canonizing some of the stranger official-but-not characters of the Star Wars universe. Take note, he's got a full head of black hair like the original, not the lighter hair with a bald spot like the 2004 Kmart exclusive release. The character exists mostly to add exposition in a guy-loading-boxes-on-a-dock-talking-to-the-cops kind of way, but in The Clone Wars this sort of thing comes off as a refreshing change of pace from the way the Jedi Council always seems to just have the data on hand and tells us whatever it is we as the audience needed to know. It offers nothing to the plot, beyond making cranky old toy collectors like me super-pleased to be acknowledged.
At this point in the series, I would love nothing more than to find out Darth Maul is a clone himself, a failed replica of a once-great warrior who fails to achieve the greatness of his namesake. (Also, because I love characters as a microcosm of the franchise as a whole.) This is Maul's third appearance on the show and it looks like we've got one or two more on deck before (presumably) Darth Sidious kicks his butt into oblivion or obscurity for use in a future Star Wars television project. The episode is, on the whole, tasting sightly of filler much in the way that the show has increasingly padded storylines to 3 or even 4 episodes rather than cutting down on the fat and getting us a nice 2-parter. As a fatty treat goes, it's enjoyable and worth watching, with great animation and dark designs which should delight long-time fans of the franchise while the premise and story take away a little more of the franchise's mystique. Less is more, particularly with the likes of Darth Maul and Boba Fett. This episode is quite watchable but I really don't know what the heck it is Darth Maul really wants beyond, maybe, a piece of the rock and a slice of the pie, to spit out of the window of his freighter and not have the wind blow it back in his face.
Let's give it an arbitrary three stars. Add a fourth if cameos and casting mean much to you, but knock it down to two if advancing the storyline is paramount.