Star Wars: The Last Jedi (official trailer)

Well, this has really made me very excited for the new Star Wars movie!

I’ve watched this thing through twice now, and while overall I don’t think it tells us anything we hadn’t already surmised, I am nevertheless really interested in where the story is being taken for the middle arc of the trilogy.

Sure, we have Rey training with Luke, and they seem to be going on some kind of journey of discovery, stuff that we’d pretty much surmised from the teaser trailer. But this whole business with Rey and Kylo Ren seeming to team up? Is Kylo Ren going to kill Leia? What’s up with Finn, is he back with the First Order, or is it some kind of ruse? That fight with Phasma looks like it could be pretty epic, but could it lead to his return, somehow?

While we’re at it, let’s take a look at the new poster for the film:

So Luke is very much front and centre, with Rey and Kylo Ren flanking General Leia in a manner that makes me think this film is going to be very much a story driven by matters of the Force, and the war between the First Order and the Resistance will take a bit of a back seat. Leia has some overlap between these two spheres, of course, so her prominence over Poe and Finn seems to be justified there. Will Kylo have to kill Leia as part of his training under Snoke, only to turn his back on the darkness and team up with Rey as a penance? I can’t honestly see Rey willingly joining with him if he’s still evil, but maybe there will be a lot more grey in this film than meets the eye…

I purposefully avoided everything except the trailers for episode 7, and found myself enjoying the film more as a result. I’m therefore doing the same again, so I’m hoping that I’ll walk out of the cinema on 15 December feeling just as fresh as a result!

Star Wars at 40!

Star Wars at 40

Unbelievable, really!

I’ve been a Star Wars fan for as long as I can remember, and despite the fact that the original trilogy is actually older than I am, it’s still my favourite collection of films. The original, A New Hope, is without a doubt the top of my list, not least because it started it all, but because of the breadth of the hero’s journey that we’re treated to.

There isn’t really a lot that I can say that hasn’t already been said, either on my own blog or elsewhere across the internet, so I thought I’d mark the occasion with a brief nod to some of my past blogs about the franchise, before putting my feet up and watching for the billionth time the movie that started it all…

Star Wars (random musings for May the Fourth)

The Star Wars Special Editions

Ewoks!

The Force Awakens (first impressions review)

Heir to the Empire

Crimson Empire

May the Force be with you!!

Star Wars new canon musings

Hey everybody!
It’s been a bit of a Star Wars week here at spalanz.com, and today I thought I’d talk about some various musings that I’ve been having about the franchise, with the new books and comics as well as thoughts on the new and up-coming movies… It’s going to be a ramble, but let’s begin!

Episode VIII: The Last Jedi
I’m really intrigued about what’s going to happen in this film. Something that I like the idea of is how VII mirrored IV so much, VIII might actually begin by imitating V before vectoring off really onto its own thing. There is a lot of footage in the trailer that shows the Resistance seemingly under attack, and I like the idea that this is an escape sequence much like the Battle of Hoth, where we may see a lot of similar story beats to the earlier movie.

We’ll also have a lot of Rey being trained by Luke and, if VII can be relied upon, Kylo Ren being trained by Snoke, which will somewhat follow the theme of Luke being trained by Yoda. But what else could we see? Some stories have been circulating that speculate the film starts with Leia meeting Snoke in a sort of meeting-of-minds, and she has to be rescued by the Resistance. I suppose the scenes that I thought of as an escape could equally be a rescue.

Leia is said to have an expanded role in VIII, which is excellent because she wasn’t in VII nearly as much as she should have been. But I guess we needed to see the next generation established. The idea that she meets with Snoke could be interesting as, like the rest of the world, I’m deeply intrigued as to who he is and how he fits into the world. I’ve said it before on this blog, and I’ll reiterate here: I don’t believe Snoke is somebody who we’ve met before, insofar as I don’t think he’s a clone of Palpatine/Anakin/Jar Jar, or whatever. I do think he’s a completely new creation, though he does seem to be known to Leia and Han, given their exchange before Han leaves for Starkiller Base in VII. I’m intrigued as to how he fits into the First Order hierarchy, as I would have expected to have seen him somewhere in Bloodline if he’s a major player. (Well, maybe I did!) Whoever he is, though, it needs to be fully explained in the movies, as the vast majority of moviegoers aren’t following the comics and novels and cartoons and everything else, and Disney knows this. The movies need to be able to stand on their own, and so I’m confident that we’ll be getting a full reveal in either VIII or IX.

Again sticking with the parallels with V, I think the climax will have an “I am your father” style explanation – though obviously, he won’t turn out to be Rey’s father or anything like that…

The mystery of Rey is, I think, perhaps the best thing to be coming out of the sequel trilogy so far. While I know plenty of people are rabidly chomping at the bit for anything, I think it’s being done really well in that I’m intrigued, but I find her interesting enough on her own terms that I don’t need to know who her parents were. Does that make sense? She’s great enough on her own terms, and I love that about her.

The new EU
This brings me on to something in general about the EU right now, though, which is a continuation of something I mentioned the other day. So far, we’ve only had two movies from Disney, but they’ve been movies that tell pretty decent stories, and which have succeeded in drawing me in to the universe they have created. Bear with me here…

The Force Awakens lands us slap-bang in the middle of the galaxy some 30-or-so years after Return of the Jedi, and while the interpersonal story of the main characters plays out pretty much okay, we’re left with so many questions about the state of the universe that we’re now in. Rogue One returned us to a more familiar time period, but has shown that there are so many questions that we thought we knew the answers to, but it turns out we barely scratched the surface there. While it can be irritating to a lore nerd such as myself to suddenly not know where we are in the universe, I’ve noticed that I’m actually starting to pore over all of the stuff that I can get my hands on once again, such as the Visual Dictionaries, and branching out into the YA books that I would usually avoid.

Basically, Disney has made me enthusiastic about Star Wars once again.

There is, however, a “but” coming…
Despite the fact that I’m now really intrigued by the new setting, including that for Rogue One, which has shown us a new way of looking at the time period of the original movie trilogy, I’m finding it difficult to stay enthusiastic about the new EU when I begin to devour the offerings we have that flesh out this landscape.

I’ve been particularly hard on the Aftermath trilogy (you can see exactly how harsh by checking out my blog reviews here, here and here!) However, I’ve been thinking again recently, and I’m fully prepared to completely re-evaluate those opinions in the light of anything we learn at the end of Episode IX. I think it’s very likely that there will be a number of things mentioned in passing during those books that will prove to be important later – not just the interludes, but a lot of the general story will likely make more sense when we’ve seen the whole trajectory of the sequel trilogy.

The rest of the novels that I’ve so far read from the new canon have been very much a mixed bag, with Heir to the Jedi being a particular favourite, but only Bloodline standing out for me as the absolute best and most important of them all so far. I don’t think I’ve read anything from the new canon that has managed to capture the feel of this new, Force-Awakened universe more than this book, and cannot recommend it enough to even the casual fans of the franchise. The others tend to fall into something of a “meh” category of general tie-in fiction that is really neither good nor bad, but overall you’re not missing anything by not reading it. This is in stark contrast to some of the Legends books, which often form important leads-in to films or provide important explanations of plot-points. Maybe the Disney films are too reliant on themselves to tell their story, leading to the novels not having a great deal to cover?

The comics from Marvel have, so far, been the single most consistent let-down in all of this, however. While a lot of my criticisms of the new canon can perhaps be explained away with “well, it’s still early days yet – Dark Horse and Del Rey had years to build up their lore!” (which is, incidentally, true), I feel that Marvel in particular has so far been playing so fast and loose with Star Wars in general, that it’s really wearing me down as a consumer. At the time I’m writing this, I’ve read probably half of the total content they’ve put out, and cannot think of a single issue or series that I can put my finger on and say, “that was great”. The Vader ongoing series was probably the closest we get to that, though I have only read half of it up to this point. The general ongoing series had a fantastic issue #1, and went downhill so quickly it was unbelievable. We’re now being treated to Han and Leia racing around a Star Destroyer as serious wartime adventure, and I just can’t believe they got rid of stuff like The Wrong Side of the War and replaced it with this!

First world problems, for sure, but I think we deserve better stories than this dumbed-down junk. The time period of the original trilogy was a period of civil war, according to the opening crawl of the movie that started it all – how about seeing some actual war stories, rather than this inane rubbish about three people hijacking a Star Destroyer, or the ongoing boredom of Han Solo’s not-wife.

For me, part of the problem with the ongoing series from Marvel is the fact that there doesn’t seem to be a plan for the story these books are telling us. The time period between IV and V was always set at three years, in-universe, and was replete with “just another story” about Luke and the gang going up against the Empire, having a series of narrow scrapes, but always winning in the end. Sure, that’s the adventure serial type of story that inspired the movie in the first place. But when you just have endless one-shot storylines that have that “and they all lived to fight another day” ending, it’s kinda pointless. One of the main selling-points for removing the expanded universe as it was, was that they could start to tell more cohesive stories in the EU, but I’ve not yet seen any real evidence of that from Marvel. Yeah, the monthly books have had some nice interlocking connections, but nothing important has happened, and it’s all just much of the same junk that Marvel pumped out in the 80s.

I have been expecting a coherent narrative across the comics that ties in with the films, and any other novels that take place at the same time period. So far, the only consistencies seem to be that Dr Aphra has shown up as Darth Vader’s groupie, and Han Solo’s annoying not-wife seems to have grafted herself on as Leia’s informal attache. We don’t really have a stable of characters that Marvel has created, including villains for the rebels to go up against, so it all feels like so much diaphanous rubbish.

Are you familiar with the Republic ongoing series from Dark Horse, which ran for over 100 issues and spanned the period from Phantom Menace well beyond Revenge of the Sith? The series had a somewhat bumpy beginning as it followed Ki-Adi-Mundi on a variety of throwaway adventures that meant nothing in the grand scheme of things, before it introduced the Jedi Knight Quinlan Vos and his erstwhile padawan Aayla Secura. While their adventures were interrupted with other issues, the series really picked up steam when John Ostrander and Jan Duursema were telling the story of these two, and a whole cast of recurring faces began to pepper the pages, to the point where now, if you read the whole lot, you get a wonderfully cohesive narrative arc that actually serves as a counterpoint to the prequel movies themselves.

My point is, Star Wars comics can be better than this! First of all, we don’t need big-name movie characters in Star Wars books in order to make them interesting, not least because those stories tend not to have any real sense of danger to them. We know Leia is always going to survive any and all stories set between A New Hope and The Last Jedi, because she is in those films. Showing Leia at death’s door in the Annual #2 had absolutely no sense of drama to it, because we know she’s fighting fit again in Empire. So why not focus on a larger cast than just the movie three, and put them in danger, instead?

It would take no imagination to come up with stories involving other rebel agents – agents in the mould of Cassian Andor, for instance – who might well serve alongside Luke on a dangerous mission to uncover a supply train that the rebels desperately need – medical supplies, whatever – and then put that rebel agent in the spotlight for the next arc where we follow a commando team on an undercover mission into an Imperial arms depot. Maybe that agent survives, to become a more regular fixture in the ongoing series, or maybe he dies heroically, and his protege makes it back to Yavin with the news, whereupon she can become a more regular character. I came up with that in the about-fifteen seconds it took to type. There are more people in this universe, and more stories to be told, than the adventure of Han and Leia’s race around a Star Destroyer to see who can be called captain of the bloody thing!

I’m beating on the comics quite badly now, and I’m very aware that there are still plenty of these books that I’ve not yet read. I think it would be hilarious if the next arc I pick up is the best thing I’ve read from the new canon since Bloodline

This blog is already getting pretty hefty here, and the tone has been somewhat whiny in parts, so I think it’s time to draw it to a close. In conclusion, then, I think the movies are doing a tremendous job of setting up a new world order, of sorts, and I’m incredibly intrigued by how they’re managing to change the Star Wars universe for the better. The novels have been hit and miss, though everyone should head out and read Bloodline if they haven’t already done so. And while I’ve yet to read a new comic that I like, I remain optimistic that there may be an arc out there that I can finally say, that’s fantastic!

Please feel free to share your own thoughts in the comments section below, I’d love to get other peoples’ opinions on this! We’ve been in the new EU for almost three years now, and I’m interested to see what you fine folks make of the state of things!

Star Wars comics catch-up!

Hey everybody!
Continuing the theme from earlier this week and the classic Assault on Hoth, I thought I’d take some time to talk about the quick catch-up I had with the Star Wars ongoing series from Marvel. Despite collecting up issue after issue, I’d not actually read any of the new series for over a year, so it’s time I try and make the long slog to catch up with what’s going on…

Star Wars Rebel Jail

First up, then, we have Rebel Jail, which comprises issues 16-19 of the ongoing series, and is framed by two more stories “from the journal of Obi-Wan Kenobi”. Rebel Jail takes up where Vader Down left off, as Leia and Sana (yeah, Han Solo’s not-wife) deposit Doctor Aphra on a secure Alliance jail that is positioned ridiculously close to a sun for security. Only it’s not so secure, as the facility is infiltrated by a mysterious figure who turns out to be the guy sent to infiltrate Coruscant in the first Star Wars Annual, Eneb Ray. Turns out he was trying to make Leia into the leader he believed the Alliance needed, by forcing her to kill the Imperial prisoners held there.

The story was a bit of a let-down, particularly seeing as how it was drawn out over four parts. I did like how the Annual was brought into this universe, as I was beginning to wonder if these things would ever amount to anything, so that was good. (My only previous experience with such things has really been the DC annuals, which tend to be side stories at best). I’m disappointed that Sana Starros is still around, however. The character is constantly made out to be a mercenary and only hanging around because Leia is paying her for her services – but we already have that storyline in Han Solo at this point in the timeline. I would have preferred to see a few more real rebels fleshed out into the background, and maybe even get some folks like Toryn Farr in on the pre-Hoth action, you know? While they could be downright silly at times, Bantam often made an excellent effort to integrate these characters across all points in the timeline, building up a proper stable of characters that all felt part of the mythos. I get that Sana is a scoundrel, and we’re probably expected to respond better to her than a rebel operative, but it just feels a bit redundant somehow.

The two Obi-Wan stories, while nothing particularly special in and of themselves, are still notable for the really cool artwork that show an aging Obi-Wan that is part-way between Ewan MacGregor and Sir Alec Guinness. Issue #15 introduces the Wookiee Bounty Hunter, Black Krrsantan, who has already made an appearance in the Vader ongoing series that took place correspondingly later in the timeline. There was a reference to his being on Tatooine in that story arc that is now resolved here, anyway, and I really had a bit of a thrill from getting that connection! Something that Marvel can never be accused of is bad continuity in major series like these, and their multitude of crossover events show that they are dab hands at placing little tidbits like these across their products, which do help to make the whole thing feel like a cohesive universe. Issue #20 really pulls the two previous Journal entry stories together, as Black Krrsantan faces off against Obi-Wan in the Dune Sea. We also get a fairly surprising insight into the relationship between Obi-Wan and Owen Lars, which I kinda want to see more of. I mean, I get that Owen is hostile to Obi-Wan to protect Luke from him, but I’d like to see how their relationship managed to get to that point, you know? Presumably Owen didn’t go overnight from that final scene of Revenge of the Sith, where he takes delivery of the newborn Luke from Obi-Wan, straight to pounding his fists around and shouting til he’s purple for the crazy old wizard to stay away from his family, you know? Anyway!

Star Wars Last Flight of the Harbinger

The Last Flight of the Harbinger is next on the list, starting with a bit of a prologue as we follow Sergeant Kreel (the Games Master from the Showdown on the Smugglers’ Moon arc) leading an elite group of stormtroopers against the rebels. I don’t actually know if this is meant to replace the notorious 501st regiment “Vader’s Fist”, but it’s certainly built up as an elite group of soldiers who are hard-as-nails, so who knows.

The rebels are attempting to break through the Imperial blockade of the planet Tureen VII, and the only thing big enough to break through with is an Imperial Star Destroyer. Leia, Luke and Han manage to steal the ISD Harbinger, forcing its crew to abandon ship, then pilot the war machine through space and straight at the cordon of the planet. When Imperial High Command hears of this, Vader sends Kreel and his men to recover the ship, which is inexplicably flying at sublight speed across the galaxy. The stormtroopers infiltrate the ship, but cannot re-take the Harbinger before the rebels fly it directly at the Imperial ships above Tureen VII.

While Rebel Jail was a bit drawn-out, this storyline was pretty much one of the worst kinds of goofy story I’ve yet encountered in the new canon. Allow me to ramble for a moment…

First of all, the entire five-issue arc seems to have hinged upon the idea of “Hey, you know what would be cool? If Luke and the gang hijack a Star Destroyer!” So we have a blockade of a planet that is apparently impregnable – the actual cordon, like so many comic-book planetary cordons, is in a ring around the equator, and does not exist in three-dimensional space. You know those blockade runners that are so prevalent in the universe? Why not just use one of them? They have “blockade runner” in their name, they might be built for this very task. Nope, we’ve got half a dozen people stealing a Star Destroyer, and also successfully managing to fly it with that many people, too…

Secondly, Han and Leia have a foot race around the ship to see who will be the captain. It actually features as the cover art for one of the issues, too. I can’t even begin to explain just how inane this event is, so I’ll just leave it there.

The story is also just another one of these throwaway things, which is beginning to irritate me about almost the entire new expanded universe so far. I won’t get into full-blown rant here, because this blog is running kinda long already, but suffice it to say, the only book that seems to be anything more than “just another adventure for Luke and the gang” is the excellent Bloodline. There are just so many books and comics coming out that really seem to have no impact on the greater Star Wars storyline, it’s honestly beginning to depress me as a Star Wars fan, and probably the single biggest reason why I’ve not picked up any of the new comics in over a year.

It’s a similar story with the Star Wars Annual #2, which sees Princess Leia injured during the line of duty on Skorii-Lei, and helped by a new character called Pash Devane. Pash is kinda interesting, as she’s not your usual female comic book character, but rather a heavily-muscled type who was forced out of her career as an engineer when the Empire came, and now survives by doing menial labouring. Pash at first expresses apathy towards the Rebellion as well as the Empire, but we get a typical Leia story that sees the Princess change someone’s mind. It’s the usual kind of throwaway story that I mentioned earlier about these Annuals, but worth mentioning just for the different depiction of females in the universe.

The next arc in the ongoing series is, I believe, a longer Obi-Wan Journal, so I’ll leave that for another time. I’ll be back soon with some more musings on Star Wars comics, catching up with the Vader storyline!

Rogue One, again

Hey everybody!
At the weekend, I finally sat down to give Rogue One a second viewing, having bought the DVD weeks ago but not really being in the mood for it up to now. Well, I have to say, I enjoyed it just as much this time around as I did back in December!

Rogue One

The film actually feels like an expanded universe story, which I thought was a bit weird at first. When Lucas was at the helm of the franchise, he was always very careful with setting and location – I recall an article somewhere back when Attack of the Clones was shooting where this deliberate choice of worlds was discussed, though it’s really quite obvious across all six of his films. In Rogue One, however, we jump around from planet to planet with not so much a careless abandon, but certainly more an eye towards opening up the universe. While Geonosis and Tatooine are both desert worlds, they feel distinctly different because they’re meant to; Jedha (and Jakku, come to think of it) could basically be Tatooine by another name. This is something that the expanded universe did a lot, providing “just another x planet” and the like. I’m not laying this down as a criticism, of course, but more an observation. I love a lot of the old EU after all!

While Scarif was a very interesting location to me, and I wouldn’t be averse to seeing more of it – both before and after the battle there – I think Jedha is by far the more interesting of all the locations we’ve seen so far. I’ve talked about how I feel Disney may be on the verge of declaring the Prequels non-canon before, but I do get a sense that, to show more of Jedha, we’d need to tread on some fairly rocky ground. The location of a Jedi temple there seems to run counter to what we know of the Order from the Prequels – indeed, the fact that there is a buried-treasure-trail of such temples as per The Force Awakens also reinforces this point. But I find it incredibly interesting that such a thing could be, and really want to know more of what was actually involved there. Was it more of a Jedi outpost? Was the Church of the Force a Thing during the Prequel era? Jedi seemed to be nothing more than an elite police force back then, so what would prompt people to worship them, and what was the attitude of Mace Windu et al to this veneration? Or does the Church of the Force not so much worship the Jedi themselves as the idea of the Force, in which case what did they think of the Jedi as people? I so desperately want to know more about this stuff, so I really hope we get these answers!

There is what I think a young adult novel coming out in the next couple of weeks, Guardians of the Whills, which features Chirrut and Baze between their time as Guardians and the arrival of Jyn and Cassian, so hopefully we’ll get some more information from that!

Speaking of Cassian Andor, I mentioned this back in December, but I’m even more curious as to this guy’s back story now. He’s apparently the head of Alliance Intelligence, though having watched the film again, I got the impression he was more a sort of go-to guy to get the Alliance’s dirty work done. This seems to be the feeling from his orders from General Draven, and I quite like the idea that he is more of a mercenary sort. I believe he’s in the other upcoming YA novel, Rebel Rising, which I also have on preorder, so it’ll be interesting to learn more about this guy.

Rogue One

Despite the fact we’re no doubt likely to be inundated with the stuff, I think of all the characters I’m not particularly interested in, Jyn Erso is top of that list. This isn’t meant as a slight on the character, but rather just because I think we learn all that we need to about her from the film, and her story is pretty self-contained there. Of course, I’m braced for plenty of tie-ins to her time with Saw Gerrera, but hopefully they won’t neglect the other stories that could be told around these chaps…

Anyway!

This is already turning into a rambling blog (my specialty), so I’ll wrap it up here. Suffice it to say, I thought the film was just as good the second time around, and even though parts of it were a bit too on-the-nose, I found myself just wrapped up in the magic of it all and enjoying the ride! Interestingly, the CGI Tarkin didn’t seem to be as good this time around, while the CGI Leia looked a lot better on the smaller screen.

I actually started to watch A New Hope immediately after, but actually didn’t see the point after the droids launched in the escape pod. I thought it was interesting because so many people talked about watching them back-to-back in this manner when it was released, as if one would greatly enhance the other, but I actually found that Rogue One, while leading immediately into A New Hope, is self-contained enough that it doesn’t actually demand such a marathon. While this is probably due to the fact that I know A New Hope like the back of my hand, and can thus fill in the entire film from memory, I thought it worth pointing out that, in my view, nothing is gained from watching them both like that.

Anyway! Great film, definitely worth its place in the series.

Star Wars: Clone Wars season four

Hey everybody,
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!

Star Wars Clone Wars

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.

Star Wars Clone Wars General Grievous

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.

Star Wars Clone Wars Krell

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!

Star Wars Clone Wars Zygerria

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.

Star Wars Clone Wars Cad Bane

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…

Star Wars Clone Wars Darth Maul

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
2. Revenge
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!