Taking a total turn away from where The Clone Wars was going, "A War on Two Fronts," takes us to a place which the Expanded Universe invented almost 20 years ago with the planet Onderon. Ulic and Cay Qel-Droma fought Beast Riders there, and now Anakin and Obi-Wan are bringing us on an adventure where they're training insurgents with philosophical debates over if this is training terrorists or helping people free themselves from the enemy. Shades of classic Star Trek and real-world politics paint this episode, which also shows Ahsoka fawning over the returning Lux Bonteri. Read on for more of S05E02, spoilers and video await you!
The Darth Maul storyline is on hold while we jump over to this other planet for a four-part series. Now we get to see Rex do some cool stuff while Ahsoka gets a little jealous over Lux Bonteri, the little snot who you might remember from some of Padme's episodes a while back and last year's pretty swell Mandalorian storyline. A former Separatist with no real love of the Republic, he's now fighting with the natives of Onderon to get rid of yet another droid army. (So far, there's no villain of the week, just the same robots we're sick of seeing every week.) What we do get are training sequences and what seems to be Droideka Bocce using explosives. Cute.
If you missed this episode, I doubt there's much going on here that won't be conveyed by next week's opening. There wasn't a heck of a lot of story here, just 22 minutes of jungle-based exposition and Mako-infused Onderon fighters in a jungle with lots of robots.
Now that we're on Onderon (read more in the excellent Tom Veitch Tales of the Jedi comics from 1993), we're getting treated to a bunch of awesome new designs which would make for great toys. Big creatures, amazing armor, and a new disguise for Captain Rex where he sheds his Clone Captain armor for something which blends in a little more with the people of this fine planet. So far we haven't heard much about the planet's fairly awesome mythology, namely that it touches its moon and creatures migrate from one planet to another through the touching atmospheres, but maybe that was ignored for being a little far-fetched. (What do I know?)
The episode re-introduces Lux as a freedom fighter, a diplomat bickering with the warring factions of Onderon over what's better: a show of force, or diplomacy. Neither has won out yet but given the amount of humanization we're getting for Lux all of a sudden, I can't help but wonder if someone behind-the-scenes is measuring him for his red shirt for an upcoming episode. The rebels are hiding in the jungles of Onderon, plotting to break into a large city and blend in with the populace before, presumably, bringing it down from the inside. I'm going to start taking bets on if they get caught by the Separatists next week, or the following week. We just know it's going to happen.
The Jedi and their group get caught by some probe droids (which play classic Probot sound effects) and win, and then we see them break into the city Iziz for future fun and excitement. I should point out that Ahsoka's minor jealousy during the training montage is probably meant to serve as a reminder (or perhaps foreshadowing of a future lesson) from Anakin regarding letting go or relationships or something, because eventually that's going to be a thing. I realize relationship problems aren't the most exciting thing, but there's another banking episode scheduled for Padme on the sixth episode of the season, and I'm saving up all my eye-rolls for that. Seeing Ahsoka grow up a little bit is one of the few things we have on this show to show time progressing, as this and character models are some of the few indicators of just what order we're supposed to watch the episodes in since somebody put the episode order in a blender and hit "puree."
In addition to trotting out what seems to be a more dynamic Yoda animation model for another go-round, Anakin, Obi-Wan, and Ahsoka all have new robes which seem a little stiff. Cloth simulation isn't easy, you'll note most character designs rid themselves of things like sleeves in exchange for armor to save the artists a bit of work. (If Hasbro can't get a good cloth hood on its figures after eight or so years, I'll give these animators a break.) As the show progresses we're seeing the animators showing off a bit more, but some things work better than others. I'm glad to see them rise to the challenge rather than simply work around their limitations, but it can look awkward in spots.
The episode lacks the cameos and fan-gasms of last week and does a decent job of setting up the next episode or three. Unfortunately the series has abandoned stand-alone episodes which means that we're seeing some serious story decompression, I appreciate having something to watch but I have no doubt that the bulk of this episode could have been summed up in a "Previously on The Clone Wars segment in next week's episode and you'd have not missed a thing.
The continuity on The Clone Wars is tough to figure out, an official timeline seems elusive and even though we were promised mostly sequential storytelling from now on, Adi Gallia is alive and well in the first few minutes of the show after being cut down by Darth Maul's raid last week. Is this a sign of time, or an error? I have no idea. You figure it out, I've got other columns to get done for you people. Hope you enjoyed this one, and if you have any other things you'd like to see featured here just say the word!
If you're going to force me to give this episode a rating, let's go with ** two stars. By itself it doesn't do much and it works as serviceable exposition, but I found myself wanting higher stakes or a new villain. Squads of droids doing whatever it is droids do get boring fast, and frankly, I can't help but see these episodes as things which exist to sell people toys and licensed products. I need more bad guys, dagnabbit!
Next Week: "Front Runners!"
See you then!