It’s been a while since my last foray into the Clone Wars cartoon series, so it’s time I finally get round to finishing off my look into this stuff!
Season Four, subtitled Battle Lines, ran between September 2011 and March 2012, and feels a bit to me like it has a much narrower focus than previous seasons. I think it comes from the fact that there are some longer stories that cover more episodes. After last season’s delve into the lore and seeing things other than the war, there are a lot more stories that take us back to the front lines this time around, starting off with a three-part story taking place on Mon Calamari.
We get far too much Gungan nonsense going on this time around, along with quite a bit of disappointing droids hijinks on a variety of planets as they attempt to reunite with the Jedi. Some of these just feel so profoundly out-of-place in a Star Wars story, I just despair. But anyway.
There’s a fairly long arc set during the Battle of Umbara – the planet from whence Palpatine’s aide Sly Moore hails – which is just kinda weird, if I’m honest. We get to meet the overbearing Besalisk Jedi Master, Pong Krell, whose leadership style is rather different from that of Anakin, Obi-Wan, or any of the others we’ve met so far in the war. He treats the clones more like droids – some bizarre treatment when you consider how he treats established leaders like Rex. The story continues, and we learn that Krell has actually foreseen the end of the war, and the triumph of the Dark Side, so has thrown his lot in with Dooku. He attempts to wipe out the clones on Umbara, but Rex and the others manage to prevail.
Krell is a very strange chap, and I think it’s a bit too obvious at times that he is, in fact, a wrong ‘un, but still. The whole storyline takes place over four episodes, which is a bit of a breakout for the series overall, which hasn’t really seen story arcs take more than three episodes so far.
Speaking of three-parters, we get to see the Zygerrian slave-trade as Anakin and Obi-Wan go under cover in order to discover the whereabouts of some Togruta colonists Dooku has sold into slavery. There should be a lot here, between the fact that Ahsoka is a Togruta herself, and Anakin’s child enslavement, yet we really only get some bloody annoying “just in the nick of time” convenience, along with Ahsoka generally being her
annoying perfect self. Oh, and Anakin’s flattery of the Zygerrian queen is nothing short of embarrassing. But this is kinda what we’re led to expect from the series at this point, I suppose…
Zygerrian slavers have a long history in the lore of Star Wars, dating back to the West End Games RPG in 1987, and I’m pleased to say that the feel of the species in this cartoon is perhaps one of the most faithful re-uses of existing lore I’ve yet seen. So there is that positive element to all of this!
We have another four-episode arc up next, that sees the return of Cad Bane to the series. A sniper kills Obi-Wan, and is subsequently caught and imprisoned. Only, the sniper is actually Obi-Wan, who undergoes some weird genetic enhancement to have the facial features of the sniper, a chap named Rako Hardeen. Why? Well, because Hardeen is part of an upcoming Separatist plot to kidnap Palpatine. In prison, Obi-Wan makes contact with another part of the plot, the hilariously-named Moralo Eval, who along with his cell-mate, Cad Bane, plots to break out of prison. When a gratuitous appearance by Boba Fett (again voiced by Daniel Logan) provides the diversion they need, Eval, Bane and Obi-Wan break out of prison by pretending to be corpses. They cross the galaxy to Nal Hutta for reasons, then continue on their journey to Count Dooku on Serenno. Meanwhile, the Jedi Council let Anakin in on the secret that Obi-Wan is actually still alive, lest he cock up their overly-elaborate plans.
On Serenno, Dooku has already assembled a team of a dozen or so bounty hunters, who go through some insane Hunger Games style elimination process in order to go on the job to kidnap the Chancellor. The whole episode is just highly unnecessary, but I nevertheless found myself enjoying the total unnecessary-ness of it all after a while. On Naboo, Palpatine arrives to preside over the Festival of Light, and the kidnap attempt is thwarted, with Bane discovering he has been duped by Obi-Wan and vowing to have revenge. There is a very interesting part of the finale to this arc where Anakin rails against the Jedi Council for keeping things from him, and while I actively dislike Anakin as a character, I thought it was nevertheless interesting to see this sort of thing as it later helps inform his arc in Revenge of the Sith.
The final few episodes of the season also form something of a loose collective, as we once again return to the Dathomiri storyline from last season. First up, we have Asajj Ventress and Mother Talzin defending Dathomir from a vengeful Dooku, in an episode that involves zombie Nightsisters. Why? Who the hell knows why. When Talzin and the old leader of the Nightsisters, Old Daka, are both taken out of the fight, said zombie Nightsisters are decimated, as are the normal sisters, leaving Asajj as the sole survivor, it seems. With her life in ruins, we next see her teaming up with the recently-escaped-from-prison Boba Fett, and none other than Dengar! Erm… It’s a bit of a pointless episode, though towards the end we do see Asajj actually begin to re-evaluate her place in the galaxy, and I think it’s an important thing to note, because it turns out that she’s one of the very few Star Wars characters who have genuine character development – something we have seen previously in the Legends universe, of course…
Savage Oppress has been searching for his brother in the Outer Rim, and he finally tracks him down to the junk planet of Lotho Minor. Maul, it seems, has lost his mind in the years since Obi-Wan cut him in half – understandable, as I’m sure anyone who has been cut in half can attest. He’s also running around on some hilarious metal spider-legs. Oppress brings Maul (who is voiced by Sam Witwer, incidentally, who has previously voiced The Son in the Mortis trilogy, and also portrayed the Secret Apprentice back in The Force Unleashed) back to Mother Talzin who, with her weird Nightsister magic, manages to bring back some sanity and reduce his weird Drider-like conveyance to a simple pair of legs, and with that clarity comes the cold determination to wreak his vengeance on Obi-Wan.
The Jedi learn of Maul’s re-emergence onto the galactic playing field, and Obi-Wan pursues him “to correct his mistake” – because it’s now a mistake to kill Sith Lords, apparently. Meanwhile, Asajj learns of a bounty on Savage Oppress, and tracks the brothers as they capture Obi-Wan. The Jedi and the former dark acolyte team up to defeat Maul and Oppress, and there’s a really nice feel to their relationship here that echoes their earlier dialogue in season one on Crystophsis.
Needless to say, Obi-Wan and Asajj escape them, though Maul is convinced that they will meet again…
So there we have it! Season four in a fairly hefty nutshell. And nuts are, I think, highly appropriate in this situation. I finished watching season four at the weekend, but if I’m honest, I still don’t really know what I thought of it. I mean, some of it had some really interesting ideas, while some of it was also really quite awful, with the overall feeling being one of mediocrity. I thought it was an interesting development that the arcs were getting longer, and things like the last four episodes, while they contained two distinct storylines, nevertheless fed into not only each other, but also reached back into season three in quite a nice and cohesive way. In this respect, I think the season is actually really quite interesting, and almost transcends the cartoon genre, you know?
Time for my top three, though… urgh, this is a difficult decision, but:
1. Crisis on Naboo
3. Darkness on Umbara
Honestly, that third-best slot could have gone so many different ways, as there are a lot of episodes that are on a similar par. Crisis on Naboo is actually really interesting, not just because Naboo is one of my favourite locations, but because of the culmination of the plot to abduct the Chancellor. And Revenge was just great to see Obi-Wan and Asajj working together on something. There’s definitely a tension between the two of them, and it’s probably the thing I’ve most enjoy seeing from this entire four-season foray into the cartoon so far!
So there we are, four down, one (and a half) to go! Stay tuned for season five, which I hope will be coming much sooner than seven months down the road!