This week on The Clone Wars: things happen! Not extent to wallow in and repeat exposition, the oddly named "The Soft War" bring us more action, more character, and actual events that you can recount as being different from the events you have seen previously. It's almost like we're spoiled! Ahsoka gets to be cool, Steela gets to show off, and we get to see some one-way shielding, which is apparently now a thing. As always, spoilers and video await you!
One problem with the Expanded Universe is decompressed storytelling. Back in the day, you had 30 (or 60) minutes to tell a story on television, but the advent of anime and the popularity of ongoing stories on some shows like the 1990s X-Men cartoon allowed for more serialized plotting, which resulted in serialized plodding. Thankfully, this week is one of the token episodes in a 4-parter which drives things forward toward their inevitable conclusion... which will be next week. For now, just watch this one.
This one is worth seeing, even if (and especially if) you haven't seen previous installments. The recap and episode may be sufficient for backstory.
Thankfully "The Soft War" brings in hard action, as we get to see several episodes worth of stuff take place over a few minutes. Steela's brother Saw goes off on his own to rescue the old King of Onderon, there's almost a public execution, we meet a new droid in charge of the whole separatist operation, and we get to see the sci-fi equivalent of a guillotine.
It's great to see another awesome voice actor this week, with David "Beast Wars Megatron" Kaye as General Tandin. He's your typical military commander type, and he's got the mustache to prove it. He's in charge of the troops, and over the course of the episode we meet him, get introduced to his loyalty to the state, and see this develop to loyalty for the throne. It's nice to see him drive the story forward, although this week we're basically in Star Wars-in-name-only territory as Ahsoka's in the background and pretty much any major player from the saga is off-planet. If you got to know and like the Onderon revolutionaries from previous weeks, you'll probably enjoy their conversion of the people to their cause, plus Tandin actually has a decent command of the screen when he's around. So who's taking bets on Tandin being the new king by the time this story ends?
We were teased that we'd meet a new villain this week in Super Tactical Droid Kalani. What a waste that was! Tactical Droids have been pretty cool over the course of the show, with unique voices, special decoration, and generally interesting personalities. Kalani is effectively more of the same, except decorated to match the other gold stuff on Onderon and he just sort of sits there. I appreciate the new head design, but I really loved the older ones seen on TX-21 and his ilk quite a bit. He served as a decent counterpoint to Tandin, but lacked the presence needed to really sing as a memorable baddie.
Seeing new members of the resistance, and indeed more than 4-5 people on screen at once, makes this seem like a much more lively planet than we've seen before. A handful of rebels and some robots running around at night just doesn't have the same impact as a crowd standing at a public execution, during which we get to see Ahsoka struggle with a mandate to not interfere in the planet's revolution. I can't help but wonder if this is a dry run to see how fans will accept a Star Wars story with minimal involvement of the principle cast, which is something that basically started grating on me as the comics wore on. It does work as a narrative device, though, to keep Ahsoka in the background. Back in 2008 fans were begging for an episode without her, and now we're actually rooting for her to show up and save the day. Watching the internal struggles on a planet's civil war is probably great as a microcosm of the original trilogy's overarching revolution thread, but here it's a bit of a drag when we spend too much time away from the clones and wars we were promised in the show's title.
I think three stars *** is about right, with this being the second-best episode of the season to date. It's bizarre to see more and more distance put from the audience and the main cast, but well, that's modern TV for you.
Next Week: the story concludes with "Tipping Points!" With Hondo! (And then we get a Padme episode on banking. Because nobody likes you.)
See you then!