This week on The Clone Wars: Darth Maul is actually compelling to watch in "Eminence." If you like your episodes peppered with fan service (minus the cheesecake), this is it. 22-minutes of pure love to fans of the show (and the franchise), this episode brings us back to Darth Maul and Savage Opress with a healthy dose of organized crime and Mandalorians. Also, Hutts, and Gamorrean arm wrestling. Want to know more? Damn right you do! More after the break.
I have to give credit to the producers of the show to make us wait for "Eminence," Darth Maul was last seen in the season premiere back in September! Since we last saw the Maul brothers in "Revival" they were defeated, left drifting in space and, surprisingly, near death. In Savage's case, he was quite literally disarmed after his last conflict with the Jedi.
The plot: Pre Viszla picks up Darth Maul in the cold reaches of space (shades of ALIENS) while Darth Maul decides it's time to run a massive organized crime syndicate. The Maul Brothers and the Mandalorians tackle the Hutts, Black Sun, and other organizations while everybody is planning on stabbing everybody else in the back. Also, cameos galore. If you're a fan of creatures and bounty hunters, this is your week.
If season 5 were aired in 2008, you would all still be watching this show. The ratings continue to dwindle, but the action and the obvious passion for all things Star Wars burns through every frame of this episode. We've got Anoobas. We've got Mandalorians. We've got Darth Maul with real (fake) legs. In just over 20 minutes, we get way more fun and "DID YOU SEE THAT?" moments than we did in nearly all of season 4. Naturally Hasbro has been slowly stepping away from new animated toys since 2012, which is increasingly infuriating seeing how just about everything we saw on screen would make an amazing action figure. Heck, this entire episode feels like it was made to bring back lapsed fans and sell them $250 in toys at a Midnight Madness event.
While Gascon brought us vulnerability and humanity, everybody in "Eminence" is bent on one-upping each other and being the baddest-ass badass they can be. As in "Revival," Darth Maul asserts his dominance over not only his brother, but everybody. By removing the protagonists, this Jedi- and clone-free installment allows the bad guys to be bad guys and most importantly, win. Seeing your villains neutered by having to lose or run away week after week is easy to get behind as a kid, but older fans generally would prefer to be surprised... and when you're dealing with a character who's technically been dead since 1999 you get a lot of wiggle room.
The only problem with episodes like this is that most "cool" villains are also totally humorless. The Hutts provide a tiny glimmer of comic relief, and even then the beat didn't click as amusing so much as it painted a character as sympathetic. While an all-out war with horde of flying Mandalorian troopers attacking everything in sight was something fans have dreamed of for years, they won so easily that it was really hard to take in that you were actually watching friggin' Mandalorians storm Jabba's palace. It's unreal. And since Darth Vader wasn't involved, seeing several groups of bad guys whip out their lightsabers to establish who's got the most Force actually rings true in what might have otherwise been a cliche episode.
As much as I loved D-Squad and will rewatch those episodes constantly, this episode really should have been #100. It feels like the entire series was building to this, with the skirmishes on Mandalore and last season's Bounty Hunter episodes taking us through, step by step, to the return of Darth Maul and pretty much the entire massive conflict we're about to see go down. Or so I hope. My only fear at this point is that there's virtually no way that the next few episodes can deliver on the promises made this week. Or can they? (I can hope!)
Takeaway from this week:
Toy request list: Darth Maul's new outfit with normal robot legs. Pre Vizsla's new costume. Bo-Katan, because the Mandalorian woman would sell like nobody's business. These characters not having figures is Hasbro leaving money on the proverbial table.
Gamorrean Guard arm wrestling? I can't believe it! See, something for you, me ca. 1984.
Brief Bounty Hunter battle between the Mauls and Dengar's group from last season. I'm glad they're still out there!
This episode had everything but the kitchen sink. Well, and the Fromm Gang. If they shoehorned them in there I would be unable to write this due to my dying happy.
Five stars ***** because someone made exposition compelling and wasted no time appealing to my more base interests. This episode must have cost a ton as we went from planet to planet in such a rapid-fire manner that my head was spinning. I feel like we got an entire arc's sets and characters in just one episode. What's nex?t I can't wait to find out!
Next time: More of the same, I hope, in "Shades of Reason." Strap in, fanboys, your suffering is going somewhere!
See you then!