This week on The Clone Wars: Scream at the heavens over the amazing stuff that you'll see in "The Lawless." Resolving many loose threads and justifying a few previous fairly dull episodes, this week's installment brings back a variety of familiar faces while giving fans (and especially fanboys) a Mandalorian battle so spectacular that it should have been held back for the series finale. While the D-Squad arc mixed adventure with a bit of an existential crisis, this series Darth Maul's arc (seemingly) wraps up reminding you that the saga is still quite capable of punching you in the gut and killing off a major player if it feels it necessary. If you watch only one episode this year, make it this one. I don't care if you hate this show. You're a Star Wars fan and you need to see this. More (as in spoilers) after the break.
Pretty much everything I liked about this series is on display with "The Lawless," all packaged and wrapped up in a story that I would imagine fan fiction writers would dare not try to concoct. This week's players include Darth Maul, Darth Sidious, Savage Opress, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Satine, Korkie, and our new girlfriend Bo-Katan. It's really quite spectacular, and this four-part series (which started last year with the season premiere) really benefitted from a split to give the initial story time to settle and be kicked around in our imaginations before everything exploded all over my TV.
The plot: Not everything gets wrapped up, and while loyalties are given their run we also get the kind of battles I never thought we'd see after having sat through "Corruption" and "The Academy," although echoes of those episodes serve as part of the backdrop of an on-screen Mandalorian Civil War. There's a red-armored trooper with Darth Maul-style horns. Heck, there's a whole "Maul" squad blowing the ever-loving daylights out of everything in sight, while what's left of Death Watch descends from huge drop ships and those jet pack rockets are just flying all over the place. Much like last week, if you saw this back when you were 10-14 you would not shut up about it for months.
One notable yet bizarre thing about the serialized nature of The Clone Wars is that during a story arc, which are now seemingly 4 episodes as required by law, the perspective will shift from one week to the next. For the last two weeks it was mostly about watching Darth Maul's story, but the camera's sympathies this time clearly lay with Obi-Wan Kenobi. His appearance marks a giant nostalgia bomb, with the return of Anakin's awesome ship the Twilight, Rako Hardeen's suit (itself descended from a McQuarrie Boba Fett concept), plus numerous lines of dialogue and situations recalling the "Death Star" chunk of the original Star Wars movie. If you're the kind of person who bathed themselves in Star Wars lore for a significant part of your life, this rescue mission-gone-wrong does not disappoint.
It would seem Maul's goal this week is not to merely defeat Obi-Wan, but to humiliate him. He allows for the escape of Satine to whip out her intergalactic cellular phone to contact the Jedi, who forbid Republic involvement. That's where the Twilight comes in, giving us one last look at arguably the single greatest never-made-into-a-toy-dagnabbit-Hasbro-I-hate-you vehicle of the entire series. Obi-Wan pulls off the stolen trooper armor gag swimmingly, with similar photography recalling Han Solo's scheme from the original movie. He quickly locates and frees Satine, but is captured during their escape process so Maul can, metaphorically speaking, stick it to Kenobi's gal pal in the worst way - by killing her in front of him. Maul has never looked happier.
The editing of the final battle shapes an incredibly cinematic experience, arguably wasted on Saturday morning. We cut from flying Mandalorians to Sith vs. Sith vs. Sith to Obi-Wan in Mandalorian armor with a lightsaber just attacking stuff all over the place. The final six minutes of the episode is epic in scope, showcasing a planet collapsing upon itself while Darth Sidious (the late Ian Abercrombie, to whom the episode is dedicated) cleans up his mess with the Maul brothers and shows the audience why these characters are right to be terrified of the Sith master. While it appears Savage Opress is killed, Darth Maul is alive and screaming as the episode ends, implying that the events of the short comic story "Old Wounds" may still be in play as Lucasfilm retcons the Expanded Universe (and film backstory) as the series barrels along to whatever conclusion exists down the road.
Takeaway from this week:
Arc casualties: Mandalore's neutrality, Satine, Savage Opress, Pre Vizsla, Adi Gallia.
Arguably the most action figurable episode in ages with numerous Mandalorian trooper variations, including one which (when I saw a snippet of it at Celebration VI) I had mistaken for Darth Maul in armor due to the horns. I'd still buy that figure and so would you.
It seems everybody can fight with two swords now.
I assume this may be the final appearance of Darth Sidious on the show, but if it isn't, at least Ian Abercrombie had one Hell of a farewell episode.
Next time: Anakin and Ahsoka return to investigate "Sabotage." By my count, six episodes remain for this season... assuming season 6 is indeed still happening, since it reportedly will no longer be on Cartoon Network next Fall.
See you then!