Apr 19, 2012

[TV] Star Wars: The Clone Wars - Season 3

It often surprises me how much Star Wars related content I have on this site. I mean seriously, I post a LOT of Star Wars reviews covering the movies, the books and even the infamous Holiday Special. Seriously. And this is despite the fact that I consider myself a Star Trek fan first.

I guess it has more to do with how Star Wars has become nicely light and comfortable entertainment for me. At the end of a stressful work day, I can easily settle in to read a Star Wars novel just to pass the time. Or on weekends, I can be busy typing away at my computer with another episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars playing on our TV. With Star Trek I need a heck of a lot more focus, something we always feel that we never have enough of given all of the different things that keep us busy day after day.

And this cartoon best exemplifies my take on the Star Wars universe. Sure it's a kid's show and it is generally oriented for that target market but it's still fairly entertaining and a decent way to pass a Saturday afternoon (in terms of when I actually get to watch it). It's not meant to be Shakespeare or anything like that, but it's not totally stupid to make your brain feel like so much mush.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars is a CGI-animated series created by George Lucas and aired on Cartoon Network. The third season aired between 2010 and 2011 under the tagline "Secrets Revealed".

The season started interestingly enough with clone-centric stories involving cadet troopers and eventually the 501ist. But then they decided to take a horribly sharp turn by following up with a Jar Jar Binks (Ahmed Best) story - and you know how everyone just loves a Jar Jar story. The season goes on in this manner with a bunch of different one-shot stories, which seems pretty different from the approach in previous seasons where a big story arc kicks of the action.

It isn't until mid-way through the season that we go back to more "epic" storytelling, and in this case a rather dark one to boot. We finally go back to following the life of Asajj Ventress (Nika Futterman) as Darth Sidious finally orders Count Dooku (Corey Burton) to eliminate her given she is perceived to be a growing threat. This arc brings us to the mysterious world of Dathomir where we are introduced to the Nightsisters (somewhat kin to Ventress) and eventually Savage Oppress (Clancy Brownwn), the clan brother of Darth Maul from the first movie.

This story is eventually followed-up by one involving strangely powerful Force users who seem to have their own purposes in this conflict, which was rather interesting given it helped stress the presence of other Force-sensitives in the galaxy outside the Jedi Order and the Sith. Plus later in the season was had a younger Tarkin (Stephen Stanton) involved too, which was sort of fun.

And that's what this season felt like once it got its act together - a fun attempt to somehow bring back older fans who knew more about the Star Wars universe beyond Jar Jar Binks and Ahsoka Tano (Ashley Eckstein). And the effort to involve characters who would later take on larger roles in the movie franchise was definitely an interesting move. One could argue this was rather underhanded, but hey it's television. You take what you can when you can manage it.

Return to Dathomir
Return to Dathomir (Photo credit: jbj)
The darker tone that truly begins with the Nightsisters storyline really gave the show a bit more edge and really brings into question for how much longer the show can retain a kid-friendly focus. We know this series will eventually lead to the events in the third movie and that wasn't exactly a happy little story either. As the war drags on, there's an inevitable growing sense of fatigue and despair, one that the writers are mildly alluding to with the changing tone of the series.

The show really needs to get a better sense of focus in terms of where it's eventually going to lead to. I'm sure the writers have a big plan in their minds as we work our way to the supposed final fifth season, but for now it's just not coming to me. While I enjoy these larger story arcs, it still doesn't feel like some master plan is coming to fruition, as was implied by the time the third movie came out. This either means that Darth Sidious is amazingly skilled at non-linear plans using chaotic models or he's just been playing things by ear and hoping things will turn out for the best. And while I know hoping to see a better sense of the master plan may be outside the scope of a children's show, but clearly the writers are not treating this creative undertaking solely in that respect. And thus I feel justified in hoping for a little more meat on these dry story bones.

Still, the series continues to deliver on a lot of fun animated action, more Jedi goodness from when Jedi where still pretty much everywhere and the occasional bit with Master Yoda getting off his chair. And that is always going to be guiltily fun, even if it still conjures images of his original Muppet construction.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars may just be at the beginning of the possibility of maturing into a better show at this point in the season, but maybe I'm hoping for too much. Still, let's reward their efforts with 4 creepy mystical abilities of the Nightsisters out of a possible 5.

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