For all the complaining that's been done about the penultimate episode of The Clone Wars - Season Four, I truly believe the Season Finale will do right by all those complaining.
Since I'm not allowed to review with spoilers, I'll have to speak in generalities about the episode.
Based on the clips that have been released (you can watch one here and another on EW), I don't think it's spoiler territory to say that Darth Maul gets his wits back about him in a desire to enact his revenge. At the end of the last episode he was broken, mentally and physically, but he has a renewed sense of... purpose.
This episode is brutal and dark, much more so than the last. Lives are at stake. Lots of them.
The lighting in this episode is fantastic. You can get a taste of the lightsaber dueling in the EW clip and the fire in the other clip that this episode is dark all the way through. There's no hint of light or goodness, not in the story, not in the visuals, and certainly not in the lighting. This episode drips red with blood from start to finish and it's the darkest episode of the show we've been privy to.
We're given the rematch we've all hoped for since 1999: Obi-wan Kenobi and Darth Maul. There are many more players on the field in this episode, though, creating a team dynamic I never thought we'd ever get to see on this show. Truly, the enemy of my enemy is my friend is a meaningful opening fortune cookie. It instantly reminded me of Dick Tracy, though. (I love that movie.)
Matching the darkness, there's a kinetic energy to the facial animation that just exudes anger, hatred, or calmed fear, depending on the character. The animation on Darth Maul is particularly excellent. From the bizarre gait of his robotic legs to the menacing, arrogant sneer he seems to speak through, he is a broken, furious version of the calm and collected Sith lord we loved to watch so much in The Phantom Menace.
The acting and the dialogue in this episode are razor sharp. Sam Witwer nails a much more collected Maul and James Arnold Taylor brings a gallows humour to Obi-wan that brought a smile to my face over and over again. Clancy Brown also shines as Savage (even enduring a gag about the name.)
This episode is a game changer for the show. When you watch it you'll see what I mean. Especially since you see, more than any other episode (except for Pong Krell perhaps), Davie Filoni playing with the line in the Revenge of the Sith crawl, "There heroes on both sides. Evil is everywhere."
My favorite moment of the episode, aside from Obi-wan's barbs and the beautifully choreographed fight sequences, was the parting shot. I can't tell you what it is, but it is going to change the tone of the show in ways I can't even begin to fathom. I mentioned an episode earlier this season (in the middle of the Slavers arc) being the Empire Strikes Back of The Clone Wars, but this ending, with the months long wait between episodes, embodies it much more fully. And I did an interview with Sam Witwer that will be appearing here and on Huffington Post about the havoc he'll be wreaking next season. The Clone Wars, the conflict and the show, are changing for good after the events of this episode.
And it's going to be a very long summer for all of us.
For those upset about Darth Maul coming back, I would implore you to just accept it and move forward. These are fascinating stories and you could just count them as Elseworlds stories if you don't like the idea of him coming back.
This two part arc is also a great jumping on point for the series. One could watch "Brothers" for free on StarWars.com (or download the gorgeous HD version on iTunes) and then watch the finale and be set to dive into the show from here on out. It's not likely to disappoint.
The season finale airs at 8:00 p.m. ET/PT Friday, March 16th on Cartoon Network.
(Though I'd immediately download the HD version on iTunes. This episode is that good looking.)