The first season of Star Wars - The Clone Wars is officially over! I was pretty psyched when this was announced a couple of years ago, but the prequels left more than its fair share of fans who were nervous about the series. How would a series based on the derided prequel trilogy actually fare? The answer; not bad at all. For those who missed, here are my thoughts on what you should seek out and what you should avoid from the first season.
Best Episode: "Jedi Crash" & "Defenders of Peace"
This awesome two-part story was by far the best this season. Anakin, Ahsoka, and Aayla Secura crash land on the uncharted world of Maridun, which is occupied by pacifist Lurmen refugees from Mygeeto. The episode explores the cost of war and the point at which war is necessary. It was nice to see Aayla Secura shine here in both episode. The Lurmens also ended up being one of the more interesting and likable species to be spawned out of the whole prequel era. At the risk of sounding like a wuss, I thought they were pretty cute.but they were useful too. So, take that Ewoks and Gunguns! The obvious nod to Akira Kurosawa's work, (one of the major influences Lucas cites on his directorial style) via the peaceful Lurmens was a nice touch. The Irish accents for the Lurmens were cool too.
Worst Episode: "Bombad Jedi"
I dare you to find a worse episode than this. I double-dare you! From the title alone, you can guess who manages to fumble his way into the series. Mix in a little C-3PO and Padme, two of my least favorite characters, and you get a big ball of useless on top of it all. Jar-Jar just serves to add insult to injury. While I'm sure someone out there likes Jar-Jar, the universally accepted truth about this character is that he takes away more from the Star Wars experiences than he actually adds to it. Way more. Jar-Jar somehow manages to rescue Padme and C-3PO from the clutches of Nute Gunray by convincing the enemies of freedom that he is a Jedi? Yeah right.
Best Hero: Ahsoka Tano
One of the biggest question marks going into the Clone Wars movie and following series was that of Anakin's "new" padawan Ahsoka Tano. In the movie she comes off as being that obnoxious tween you just love to hate and hate to love, and that assessment is one born out of excessive niceness. Let's face it; she was whiny. Despite the obvious continuity and canon issues she brings up just by appearing in the show, Ahsoka was one of the most surprising and well developed parts of the show this season. Several episodes showcased the potential for this character, especially in "Cloak of Darkness" where she and Luminara Unduli square off with Asajj Ventress and win. I'll admit that part of my interest in this character is the desire to find out what exactly happened to her, but for now she will just remain a solid addition to the Star Wars expanded universe. As Palpatine comments in The Phantom Menace, I look forward to watching her progress in the coming season.
Worst Hero: Anakin Skywalker
And then there's Ahsoka's Jedi Master... Anakin, Anakin, Anakin. Not only did your chin dimple detract from nearly everything you said and did throughout the first season, Anakin comes off as being a pretty lame hero. He is taken out of commission just as many times as he is saving the Grand Army of the Republic from assured defeat. Just check out the episodes "Dooku Captured" or the season finale "Hostage Crisis" for your dose of heroic lameness. I know Anakin is the central character in this series, but he fails on almost every level. He comes off more as a bumbling intergalactic fraternity brother than a Jedi General. Plus, he does have a creepy old man vibe around him in most of his scenes with Ahsoka. Anakin already has some hormone issues. Add the stress of war and a tween wearing clothes that practically scream "jail bait", it isn't hard to make a mental leap that Anakin might have eyes for his young student. Prove me otherwise.
Best Villain: Count Dooku
He's a pompous, arrogant, egalitarian Sith Lord who just happens to be the leader of a massive galactic uprising. What's not to like about this character? Woefully underused in the Prequels, this mistake has been corrected in multiple Clone Wars related media outings such as video games, comic books, novels, and now the first season of the show. Dooku fits the bill of a scary old man that we all have an irrational fear of. He's sleek and well-mannered unlike the rest of the Separatists. While most of the villains in this series cannot and should not be taken seriously, Dooku remains the real threat thus far. See him shine in "Dooku Captured" or in "The Gungan General" in all his Sith-like glory. While he ultimately gets chumped by his Sith successor Anakin in Episode III, this series can help define the character beyond the lame sendoff in the third movie.
Worst Villain: General Grievous
Speaking of villains you can't take seriously, General Grievous is probably the most grievous offender of all (pun most certainly intended). Out side of the awesome "Lair of Grievous" episode, the poor droid general is treated about as well as a slapstick background character in a poorly written Jar-Jar routine. Here is a cyborg general who is supposed to be the baddest of the bad on the entire galactic block. Really? Then how come he gets schooled regularly in just about every appearance. This isn't just a problem with the television show; his bumbling exploits have been unfortunately cataloged throughout the expanded universe. If Grievous is a badass, make him a badass! Let's hope the next season will avoid Grievous clunkers like "Destroy Malevolence" and "Duel of the Droids." Grievous is not a simple henchman, but a deadly villain that needs to be used to his fullest potential. At this point, it seems like he can't pull of a victory for the "W" column to save his own life. Let's hope we see a renewed interest in making this character live up to his evilness.
I realize that when it comes to Star wars I am a hugely biased audience. Yes, I am one of those few fans who truly loved the prequels as much as the original trilogy. In nearly every novel, comic book, video game, or other media I can find something redeemable. That's why I have and will continue to be a dependable bankroll for George Lucas for years to come. But... I really loved this season. I generally had to catch the repeater episode that aired on Sunday nights, but the show was jut a treat to watch as a huge fan of Star Wars. I could watch endless seasons of the Clone Wars. The Clone Wars era provides a wide enough canvas for so many stories. I would say that if you are reading this and the prequels turned you off of your love of appreciation of Star Wars, give this animated show a try. It is surprisingly good and consistent. Not every show is perfect, but I think this show really pegs the feel of the original trilogy. The Clone Wars are epic is scope and the future looks bright for Season 2, which is shaping up to focus on the recently introduced bounty hunters, including the ultra-cool looking yet yet less than fully realized character Cad Bane.
The second season should start sometime in the fall. Until then, we have the DVD release to look forward to. Check the show out and visit the official website. Oftentimes, there are several episodes available for your viewing pleasure. Data Clips provide accurate Cliff Notes versions of each episode as well.
Happy viewing and may the force be with you!
(You have to end an article about Star Wars somehow...)