TV Review: Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Season Two (2009-2010)

The second season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars improves on every aspect of the first. Most of my criticisms of the first season were dealt with throughout this second one. No more lacklustre stories. The show has a new confidence, its creators ready to contribute important stories to the Star Wars mythos. Not only that but the animation has grown in leaps and bounds, making the show even more beautiful than before. The first season is the show’s creators trying the boots on; the second is them running at full speed.

The aspect that is most notably improved from the first season is the disappearance of almost all of the major villains of the saga. Count Dooku, Asajj Ventress, and General Grievous are rarely, if ever, seen. This is a huge boon to the second season. The new villains that we get are more exciting, vicious, and well executed than these other characters. Not only that, but because these villains don’t appear in the films, there is a genuine sense of drama. You might be watching their final battle. Particular favourites for me continue to be Cad Bane, Pre Vizsla, and Hondo Ohnaka.

Cad Bane continues to thrill in season two.

Cad Bane continues to thrill in season two.

Ahsoka Tano continues to impress this season. The element I was most nervous about going into this show, the concept of Anakin’s own apprentice, continues to be one of my favourite elements of the show. She is a unique character among the Star Wars gallery, and whilst this season never delves too far into her inner psychology or past, she proves to be an adept and fascinating character.

The show's Anakin Skywalker has trumped Hayden Christiansen for me as the definitive version of the character.

The show’s Anakin Skywalker has trumped Hayden Christensen for me as the definitive version of the character.

It also impressed me just how much I like Anakin Skywalker in this show. For me, now, the Anakin of this show is the Anakin that I think about. For me he is the definitive version of this character. You truly see how likeable he is, his friendships with the other Jedi, and just legendary a hero he is in the ongoing war. You get no sense of this in the prequel trilogy, just that he’s a bit whiny and occasionally kills someone, showing the looming dark side. The series thus makes the prequel trilogy retroactively that much better, expanding on elements of the character that should have been in the prequel trilogy.

On the whole, the thing that I like most about this series is that it proves that the prequel trilogy era has some worthy stories and contributions to the overall canon. For years I hated the prequel era, based solely on the films. But after watching these first two seasons of The Clone Wars, I have nothing but love for this era. It truly is one of the most dynamic and exciting times in the Star Wars canon. The storytelling has the potential to be top-notch, and it often is in this show.

"Children of the Force" sees Cad Bane kidnapping force-sensitive children so Darth Sidious can train them as Sith Lords.

“Children of the Force” sees Cad Bane kidnapping force-sensitive children so Darth Sidious can train them as Sith Lords.

The opening trilogy of episodes, “Holocron Heist,” “Cargo of Doom,” and “Children of the Force” fulfil the season one finale’s promise of Cad Bane. In this trilogy he truly makes his presence known to the Jedi at large, and proves once again that he is one of the most exciting and promising original characters from the show. You see in these three thrilling episodes just how much of a match he is. I particularly liked the sequence in which Cad Bane and his droid army fight Anakin and his clones in zero gravity.

"Weapons Factory" and "Brain Invaders" gives Ahsoka Tano and Bariss Offee a chance to shine amidst the chaos of the Geonosian campaign.

“Weapons Factory” and “Brain Invaders” gives Ahsoka Tano and Bariss Offee a chance to shine amidst the chaos of the Geonosian campaign.

The season’s high point comes in the form of a four-episode story arc dealing with the Geonosian campaign. Like the Ryloth trilogy from the first season, it shows in minute detail the entirety of the campaign from several different perspectives, and each episode makes its own great story in the larger scheme of the plot. However, in animation, plotting, and design this trilogy completely blows Ryloth’s out of the water. “Landing at Point Rain” has become my favourite episode of the series. It’s basically the show’s take on Apocalypse Now (1979) and you can feel the imprint of Vietnam War cinema all over it. The battles in this episode outdo every other battle the show has detailed so far. There are moments that will take your breath away. Non-stop action! “Legacy of Terror” and “Brain Invaders,” the latter half of the story arc, is a mish-mash of Aliens (1986) and the zombie cinema of George A. Romero. They’re fun, scary, and intense. You can tell just how much fun the creators of the show had. The story arc also sees Jedi Luminara Unduli returning, and she’s well used here. Her apprentice Bariss Offee is in tow, another great character. However, the arc’s greatest strength is Ahsoka Tano – you really get to see how proficient she is as a Jedi here. Tano fans will find these few episodes among their favourites.

General Grievous returns in the great episode "Grievous Intrigue."

General Grievous returns in the great episode “Grievous Intrigue.”

The season also sees General Grievous return in a two-episode story arc. This story arc seems to realise the dramatic downfall of using the film’s villains. Because these characters appear in Revenge of the Sith (2005), it’s very clear they’ll survive the series. However, this two-parter doesn’t suffer from this problem, and it’s great seeing Grievous strike again. The second of the two episodes, “The Deserter,” is one of the better episodes focusing on the lives of clones as Captain Rex finds a deserter clone, and together they discuss the realities of war and the individuality and purpose of clones in general. It’s thought provoking and emotional, and makes for a great episode.

The Mandalore Trilogy sees the introduction of Pre Vizsla and the villainous Death Watch.

The Mandalore Trilogy sees the introduction of Pre Vizsla and the villainous Death Watch.

The Mandalore trilogy, in which Obi-Wan Kenobi is assigned to protect Duchess Satine from assassination on her home planet is a great story, and provides some rare character development for Obi-Wan as we delve into the pasts of these characters. The trilogy also introduces the powerful Death Watch, a great new set of villains lead by Pre Vizsla, voiced by Jon Favreau. These Mandalorian warriors are a great match for the Jedi, and whilst the trilogy doesn’t completely fulfil the potential of this idea, I am sure we will see the Death Watch return to trouble our heroes again.

Hondo Ohnaka returns in "Bounty Hunters," a remake of the classic film Seven Samurai (1954).

Hondo Ohnaka returns in “Bounty Hunters,” a remake of the classic film Seven Samurai (1954).

Season two also produces a great one-off in the episode “Bounty Hunters,” which is a remake of the classic Japanese film Seven Samurai (1954) directed by Akira Kurosawa. Kurosawa was a major influence on George Lucas and his film The Hidden Fortress (1958) provided inspiration for Star Wars (1977). The episode shares much of what made Seven Samurai such a brilliant film – great characterization and thrilling action. The episode also sees the return of villain Hondo Ohnaka, a charismatic and treacherous villain. It’s always fun seeing him at work.

Boba Fett returns to exact revenge on Mace Windu in the season finale.

Boba Fett returns to exact revenge on Mace Windu in the season finale.

The season finishes strongly with an excellent three-part storyline that sees the return of Boba Fett and his quest for revenge against Mace Windu, who killed his father Jango Fett in Attack of the Clones (2002). I was a bit weary about these episodes, as one of the things I love about Boba Fett is his mystery. It’s what makes him my favourite Star Wars character. Seeing his origins in Attack of the Clones really annoyed me, but once again this show makes the prequels retroactively that much better. Boba Fett and Aurra Sing make for some captivating villains, full of complexity and nuance. I hope we see more of Boba Fett in future seasons of The Clone Wars.

The Clone Wars sophomore season disregarded all of the problems of the first season and just provided home run after home run. Whilst the show still doesn’t develop an overall storyline that carries the season, the individual storylines are are always at least good and often great or outstanding. The show is progressing with a confidence that wasn’t there in the first season. Hopefully with the possible addition of an overall storyline to each season, The Clone Wars can continue it’s incredible success.

9/10

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