To say that the season premiere of Clone Wars raises the stakes on this show would be an understatement. It raises the stakes, the bar, and anything else you can think of being raised.

I’ll try to be as spoiler free in this review as possible, but small things may slip out. You are hereby forewarned.

No doubt, you’ve all seen the teases for this episode, all of the clips and trailers and you know the set up. Darth Sidious needs a holocron and its accompanying data crystal. The crystal contains all of the names and whereabouts of every force sensitive child in the galaxy that the Jedi Council is aware of. In the context of us knowing what happens to the Jedi and what Sidious’ plans are, it’s a pretty logical bit of information he’ll want, especially since those individuals could still grow up to be formidable force users, with or without Jedi training.

He goes to the one man in the galaxy who has no compunctions about doing whatever needs to be done in order to complete the job at hand: Cad Bane. Mark my words, Bane’s popularity is going to skyrocket. He is cold and calculated and he’s both fun and horrifying to watch. He has no qualms with sacrificing allies, torturing prisoners, or killing innocents. In fact, he does all three in this premiere and it’s exactly the sort of direction the series needed to go to continue winning over the jaded fanboy contingent.

Boba Fett is no longer the baddest Bounty Hunter in the Star Wars mythos. It’s Cad Bane, and he’s here to stay. (In fact, I would guess that he would rival Fett's popularity if he found his way on the live action show.)

This pair of episodes had everything I loved about season 1 turned up to 11. The action was intense. There are a number of action set pieces, starting with a battle on Felucia and it doesn’t let up. There are lightsaber battles, ship-to-ship combat, shootouts, etc. and it’s all breathtakingly rendered.

The animation was truly amazing and really has taken a leap forward. The characters were incredibly more expressive, the environments were richer, and the motion, camera work and lighting were a cut above season 1.

The signature Star Wars comedy was in place, starting with one of my favorite new additions to the Star Wars mythos, Todo-360. Todo, voiced brilliantly by Seth Green, is Bane’s “Techno-service Droid” and is every bit as effeminate as C-3P0 but is every bit as charming and funny as R2-D2. I truly wish he could have been in more episodes.

The writing was top notch. Paul Dini wrote the first half, George Krstic wrote the second half, and it gelled into an incredibly excited, satisfying story arc. In fact, I think Warner Brothers would have much greater success releasing the animated film if it was this pair of episodes expanded into a feature that they put in theatres. The reason Duel of the Droids was one of my favorite episodes last season was that it really illustrated Anakin’s faults through Ahsoka and her training, these two episodes give us an exploded view of that relationship and it has moved up on the scale, both in good ways and bad.

I'm very grateful that Dave Filoni and his team care as much about the Star Wars mythos as I do.  They've injected a level of detail and care that I could only hope people are willing to pay attention to and it has not gone unnoticed.  This episode was the icing on the cake.  Well played, sirs.  Well played.

Clone Wars kicks off officially tonight on Cartoon Network with the premiere of Season 2.

To catch up on Season 1, buy the full set on DVD at Amazon.

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Tags: Television , Clone Wars , Top , Star Wars , Toons