This week on The Clone Wars: the battle on Onderon ends! "Tipping Points" brings us a bunch of action and resolution, speeding things along to a swift conclusion. The four-parter gave us our first look at Onderon in animation while shoving all our major players to the background. Was it worth sitting through? Let's discuss! As always, spoilers and video await you!
This episode was a nice dessert after about three courses of salad. Naturally you have to get to know your characters before you can really get anything out of their actions, but this week's slam-bang conclusion packed in illegal weapon shipments, flying beasts, Separatist Gunships, regicide, sacrifice, and much more in about 22 minutes. I'd say it all went quite well, plus we shifted from a dark and murky setting to much brighter, easier-to-see backgrounds!
OK, so you watched the episode now? Good, lets move on.
With no more pieces to put on the board, the game moves along swiftly without much time for the viewer to catch his or her (OK, his) breath. If you weren't already pretty familiar with the story, I can imagine this would be a confusing 22 minutes of television. For those of us who watch every week, though, it was nice to see things finally move ahead and after a quick introduction that reminds us Ahsoka is hanging around to observe the action, we get moving with a Star Wars tale that, while entertaining, is more or less a tangent in the saga which doesn't really add to the lore of a galaxy far, far away. Onderon was the home of a Dark Side of the Force uprising, and unfortunately there's really no allusion to this in the entire arc. (See: The Freedon Nadd Uprising.)
The episode kicks off with a message from the deposed King Ramsis Dendup turning the citizens against the inept Battle Droids, which shows that the real moral of the story is "Maybe you stupid mouthbreathers should try giving a crap, for a change." The people in the market managed to turn on the droids immediately, and a large lizard sat on one before mugging the camera. Oh ho ho. Heck, even Count Dooku's indifference to the planet is revealed as any real resistance is more trouble than it's worth. "What's that? King Rash isn't doing his job? OK, fine, shoot him and let's pull out. Pick up a pizza on the way back, won't you?" Taking over a planet is likely tough work, maybe you should try a little harder than sending six or seven ships and a fancy gold and black robot to run an entire planet? I mean, I'm no budgeting genius.
With minimal development (and screen time) for the bad guys, we get to see the old king build Steela Gerrera up into an important symbol for the upcoming skirmish, making her the hero to the audience in lieu of, well, the entire main cast. She's like Princess Leia, a smart revolutionary who isn't afraid to get her hands dirty. (She's also like Hot Rod or Hot Shot from Transformers except more likable and competent, respectively.) Seeing how sci-fi and indeed genre fiction as a whole lacks strong female characters, Steela has been a shining beacon in an otherwise drab storyline, an interesting character who isn't 93% sex appeal plus largely reveals the skills to pay the bills. So naturally she gets killed in a freak accident where you can probably place at least some of the blame on Ahsoka, particularly if you're Saw and the series runs long enough where they need to bring him back for some revenge episode. It's an interesting twist for a kid's show, because as this episode progresses it seemed more likely that King Ramsis might just hand her the crown when all was said and done. Kudos to Chris Collins and the writing crew for playing with expectations here, although, well, someone probably had to bite the dust so the show doesn't completely lose any and all stakes for future life-and-death drama.
It's hard to wonder how much we're supposed to be delighted that Lux Bonteri has decided to represent Onderon and steer it toward the Republic as the story winds down. At this point I'm assuming every time the writers put in a reference to how they're joining up with the Empire-to-be, they're giving everybody that dose of much-needed irony in the morning. As an actual Saturday Morning Cartoon, I don't suppose that the normal viewer will be taking this episode too far outside its context in the series, but when you're dealing with a narrative which has shown us what happens months (and years) down the road it's strange to think that we're dealing with a show that, for all intents and purposes, has no real happy endings. On the grand scale, glass is permanently half-empty. If the Separatists win, our heroes are sad. If a planet decides to stay neutral, our heroes are still sad. If the Jedi convince someone to join the Republic, we know the Empire's going to screw them later and (in theory) we're sad. At this point, it seems the only real winners in this series might be the increasingly delightful Hondo Ohnaka's pirate crew.
So we get our battle and the good guys win. The bad guys lose, but the good guys lose too. And Hondo Ohnaka? He made a ton of cash dropping off illegal rocket launchers, further cementing him as my own personal new hero and arguably the most interesting part of the series this year. Let's be glad he's doing more, a not-really-good-but-not-really-bad character who I'd love to see more of on TV or in comics. And in stores. Nicely done, Lucasfilm.
This is the best overall episode of the arc, but if you watch it without one or more of the previous episodes you'll probably feel you're missing something. Thankfully, it's a satisfying conclusion to the entire story. Let's give it *** and a half * stars, and be happy we're moving on to something new.
Next Week: "The Gathering." Hey wait, what? Wasn't it supposed to be a bank episode? You mean Cartoon Network mixed up the order of episodes? Hey, great! I can live with that. This is one of four episodes shown to kids at Celebration VI and focuses on Yoda's younglings and is rumored to set the tone of a possible future kid-oriented spin-off. I hope it's good! Or at least maybe Hondo will show up. How about it? Who's gonna start the Hondo Fan Club?
See you then!