I've long felt that Attack of the Clones and The Empire Strikes Back are sister films, tied together with similar themes, motifs and struggles. This episode of The Clone Wars unites the looks and themes of these film episodes of Star Wars but from a twisted version fueled by the Dark Side.
This episode picks up where the Season 3 finale left Savage Opress, on his search for Darth Maul. He's on some backwater planet that has visual cues right out of Attack of the Clones, even recreating sets and characters from Dex's Diner. (I was actually hoping it would be Dex's Diner, after Pong Krell I need a likable Besalisk.) Savage is searching for his brother, questing for him at the behest of Mother Talzin (much like Luke is sent to Dagobah by Obi-wan), and it leads him to a planet called Lotho Minor.
Lotho Minor is the dark side's equivalent of Dagobah. Where Yoda's exile is on a planet steeped in nature, allowing him to live a quiet, dignified life off the land, Lotho Minor is a scrap heap, a burning world. Scavengers and snakes are everywhere, and Darth Maul has spent his life amongst the wreckage, forced to wallow in his anger and hate.
Yoda spent his time in exile in focused quiet. Maul spent it living in a hole like a broken insect.
I'll be honest, this episode provides no answers. It raises more questions that, I hope, can be answered in the next episode.
Understandably, Maul is lost, confused, and thirsty for revenge.
A shockwave in the force alerts everyone, Dooku, Asajj, Yoda, Obi-wan, and Anakin, that something sinister is brewing.
There is a lot to like in this episode from a themes and Star Wars lore standpoint. It was incredibly satisfying on that level. As far as the action and the actual motions the characters went through, it felt a little bland and by the numbers. Before the episode started, I felt assured that we'd see two acts of Savage's quest for Maul, then in the third act he'd find him. We'd then be teased for the finale. This was so by the numbers, I predicted it before the episode even started.
I'm not saying this is a negative, I'm just saying the risks they were taking in this episode didn't necessarily have to do with the telling. Which is fine, since they took some very compelling risks elsewhere.
For starters: Darth Maul's spider-body.
The entire single sequence Maul appeared in was creepy, unnerving... It just felt as though the captured the unsettled spirit of the primal madness of the dark side and put it on screen and I liked it very much.
This is one of those episodes that was solid in its way, but doesn't work as a standalone. It has to be coupled with the knowledge that something is coming next, that so much came before it and something is coming next. Taking that into account, it did exactly what it was supposed to do: bring back Darth Maul to the Star Wars universe in a way that'll send shivers of unsettling fear down your back.
As for the technical aspects of this episode, it felt top notch as always, but I really want to download it on iTunes to really immerse myself in it. I won't have to deal with those annoying lower-thirds, glaring ratings boxes, promos for what's on next... They're really disrespectful to the artistry on display and I can't wait to see this episode in HD. I want to see the detail on the scavengers, and on Darth Maul's body. I want to see the firebreathers on Lotho Minor up close on my monitor in all the detail it deserves... So, yeah, I'm going to have to buy it on iTunes tomorrow.
The more I watch the SD cable signal on my HD tv, the more I hate watching this show on a television, but this is as soon as I can see it.
The season finale airs next week.