Sunday, 29 January 2012

Star Wars: The Clone Wars - "Friends and Enemies" Review

Star Wars: The Clone Wars - "Friends and Enemies" Review

An undercover Obi-Wan joins Cad Bane and Maralo Eval on a trip to the Hutt home planet.

January 29, 2012

Note: Full spoilers for the episode follow.

This was another solid installment of the show, as Obi-Wan's undercover mission took him to the Hutt home planet, Nal Hutta. We've seen Nal Hutta before (in "Hunt for Ziro"), but I liked this expanded look at the world and its citizens, which, not shockingly, was quite the place for scum and/or villainy.

The biggest issue here is an extension from last week – why did Anakin still not know Obi-Wan was alive? Even accepting the idea that everyone felt Anakin not knowing would better sell Obi-Wan's death as real, once Obi-Wan was imprisoned as Rako Hardeen, couldn't Anakin be told then? We see Yoda say here, "Overdo the truth is," and yet Anakin and Ahsoka still aren't contacted after that scene, endangering their own and Obi-Wan's life in the process.

That notable issue aside, there was plenty to like here. Though they were fugitives, Obi-Wan's time alongside Cad Bane and Maralo Eval let us see more of a "normal" existence for Star Wars bounty hunters than usual. It was quite fun to see them gear up at a Nal Hutta store (loved the Indiana Jones hat that Cad Bane held up at one point) and stop at a fuel station. Yes, I just said that watching characters stop for gas is fun – but this is Star Wars, and the idea of getting a bit more immersive and mundane (using interesting characters) was actually quite appealing.

It's not like there wasn't some good tension and action along the way too. My gripes about why Anakin didn't know aside, his determination through the episode was a cool aspect. And I really liked how we saw a lot more of how the stage is being set for Revenge of the Sith here – first, with Palpatine putting in Anakin's ear that the Jedi don't trust him in certain ways (while also making sure to tell Anakin he is "special").

We also got to see much more of how and why the Jedi in general and Mace Windu in particular would grow suspicious and wary of Palpatine and his motives as time went on, as Mace was clearly none too happy when Palpatine admitted/boasted he was the one who had sent Anakin to Nal Hutta, against the Jedi Council's permission. It's very cool how The Clone Wars is able to flesh out these backstories more and set the stage for what we know is to come.

- Lucasfilm
The parallels of Anakin and his son Luke being stopped by a couple of Gamorrean Guards were intriguing. Even though that scene in Return of the Jedi did establish both that Luke's powers had grown and he was walking a dangerous path, in regards to the Dark Side (as was saw him use a Force choke for the first time), Anakin, who of course will cross many lines Luke will not, still went much further. The way he casually sent those Guards fling across the room, and then choked a bartender for a prolonged period to get information, was another look at some very dark tendencies inside him.

Some well-done humor also was included this week as well. There were several mentions of Cad Bane's hat obsession, with Obi-Wan's quip about it making him stand out getting paid off by Ahsoka spotting him later and noting, "Who else wears a hat like that?" Cad Ben's exasperated, "The way I see it, you keep paying off everybody but me" line to Eval was also a good one. Plus, we got a drunken Sy Snootles cameo!

Anakin and Cad's encounter on that ship near the end was another clever variation on how to portray a fight – as they found themselves sliding and worked to keep their balance on the different pieces of the hull. And was I imagining things or did Anakin, um, knee Obi-Wan in the balls when the two of them were fighting? It sure seemed like the first Star Wars groin shot to me - at least in canon!

The end was a bit odd, as the bad guys just sort of left, and Ahsoka let them. I know she also was concerned for Anakin, but still, it felt odd, with them standing so close to her, for her not to try to stop them. But at least Anakin knows the truth now.

Oh, and since I completely missed it last week when it was established, yes, it's a great touch to see Obi-Wan use the codename "Ben" during his transmissions to Yoda and Mace Windu during this storyline.

Lastly, I wanted to acknowledge the death of Ian Abercrombie, the wonderful actor who voiced Palpatine / Darth Sidious on The Clone Wars. Abercrombie's long career included playing Elaine's boss, Mr. Pitt, on Seinfeld, iconic Batman character Alfred Pennyworth on Birds of Prey and the Wiseman in Army of Darkness ("Say the words, 'Klaatu barada nikto'"). He did excellent work as Palpatine, as evidenced in this very episode, and will be greatly missed.

(out of 10)




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