Now that Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Season 6 is available to those of us who refuse to sign up for Netflix (curse you, Walt Disney!), I purchased my season ticket and have been watching them one-by-one via Amazon.com’s streaming portal on Fire TV.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last paragraph for my final, unblemished assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
This new (and presumably final) season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars certainly begins with a ‘bang’ as Jedi General Anakin Skywalker and two previously unseen and unheard of Jedis mount a major offensive against the Droid Army still under the command of Count Dooku (from afar, of course, the coward!). The action opens up ferociously as the Republic Forces are about to outmaneuver the Separatists on board a massive ringed space station … only, at the last possible moment, something goes terribly wrong: a decorated Clone Trooper suddenly turns his weapon against a Jedi Master and shoots her dead. (Parents, don’t fret: the deed is relatively concealed with the way the shot is animated, though the effect remains the same.)
Realizing that the battalion has lost its cohesion in the immediate aftermath, Skywalker orders a retreat so that he can have his soldiers regroup while tasking Captain Rex and Clone Trooper Fives to remove Tup -- the involved clone – from the conflict. What they learn in these fleeting moments is that Tup appears to be suffering from some unusual neurological illness: he simply keeps repeating the phrase “good soldiers follow orders” and dipping in and out of consciousness. There is some speculation that perhaps the Separatists have perfected a new weapon that forces a soldier to turn his weapons about in an act of friendly fire, but the rumors are never substantiated. Once the trooper has been fully sedated, Skywalker demands he be taken back to the planet Kamino for further medical testing.
Once Count Dooku is briefed on this development by his officer in-the-field, he’s convinced that the Republic may have unearthed elements of a sinister plot put in motion by his boss, Master Sidious; with no other alternative, he insists that the droids must seize Tup from the enemy and deliver the clone personally to him so that they may conduct their own investigation.
If any of this sounds a bit confusing, then let me admit I had to watch this one twice to be absolute certain I caught all of the relevant details. In fairness, this isn’t to imply that I found it hard to follow – it’s a fairly straight forward premise; however, there is an awful lot of action (sabre fights, blaster-play, and the like), so I wanted to be certain nothing had slipped by in all of the pyrotechnics. (It hadn’t, but there were a few nice character moments I noticed on the second pass through.)
So far as I’m concerned, the episode – titled “The Unknown” – is possibly one of The Clone Wars more ambitious outings. Without a doubt, it contains some of the most creative animation sequences I think they’ve tried since beginning the show five seasons ago; there are two particularly impressive sequences which involve a constantly roaming perspective as the camera essentially floats through zero gravity alongside the characters moving through it. (Great work, too, as it’s massively much more interesting than parking the view in one spot and letting all the action unfold.) Also, the central theme at work here – that there may be a grand conspiracy lurking somewhere inside the Clone Troopers – is far more ‘adult’ fare than what some of the The Clone Wars has explored.
The downside here?
Well, because the emphasis remains on serving up one terrific action sequence after another, there really is no central character to all of this particular tale. One of the key strengths to this particular incarnation of the Star Wars universe is that, with a broad ensemble of characters, the arcs have been fairly character-specific. For example, Ahsoka Tano’s various arcs kept a great deal of the narrative focus on her point-of-view, and that effort helped ground the storytelling in one unique perspective. As much as it tries, “The Unknown” really isn’t so much about a single character as it is the recounting of these events.
Necessarily, Anakin Skywalker seems to take center stage whenever he’s present; yet when he’s not the drama tends to flip between Tup, Fives, and Rex’s different points of view. Dooku gets a little screen time – nothing all that grand, but he is the only true villain who gets to chew scenery here; but most of his appearances are obligatory to the developing plot.
Once viewers get past that little bit of narrative disconnect, the events unfold pretty spectacularly. But – because of this uneven focus – I suspect others might need to do as I did and watch this one twice. An awful lot happens in these 20+ minutes; and I can say with solid conviction that you do need a firm grounding in these details in order to better appreciate what follows in the next three episodes. (Think of this as the first chapter to a four-chapter novel, and you’ll understand where I’m going with it.) For those who are aware of the events from Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, “The Unknown” serves to bring some heavy foreshadowing to the table … and it does so quite excitingly.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Thank our lucky stars that these last episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars are finally seeing the light of day. I, for one, will miss this time spent in that galaxy far, far away once I’m done with them; and I’ll definitely be purchasing the DVD set once it streets. (No dates have been announced.)
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