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Wednesday, 19 October 2011

"THE CLONE WARS" SEASON THREE. SWA's TOP FIVE EPISODES. NO 4: "HUNT FOR ZIRO"

Love on the run! Ziro the Hutt and Sy Snootles escape Nal Hutta in HUNT FOR ZIRO.

As the Third Season of THE CLONE WARS makes its mark in Blu-ray and DVD sales across the world, our countdown of the top five episodes of that year continues with Number Four: the light hearted but surprisingly action packed adventure HUNT FOR ZIRO, set within the murky climes of the Hutt empire, where love and hate share a very fine line indeed when you're a Pa'lowick!

Here are five reasons why this episode makes the deserved grade...

1. Strong storytelling balance. Effectively making fine use of characters and locales from both sides of the STAR WARS saga coin- this was by miles one of the best early episodes of an easily noticeable unbalanced start to Season Three- HUNT FOR ZIRO contains a very strong mix of comedy, drama and adventure locked down in a far more audience pleasing way than it had been in several prior poorly conceived tales set on Mandalore. Steve Mitchell and Craig Van Sickle's wide ranging, busy chase story was quite original, providing fans with compelling moments as it moved from planet to planet on the kind of epic scale that STAR WARS deserves in any format its realized in. Also, most importantly, it effectively made fine use of the series continually building animation strengths in terms of scale, backgrounds and character inter-action.

Loose lips! The return of musical entertainer Sy Snootles!

2. Sy Snootles. She may have been one of the least expected characters to make her way from the Classic Trilogy into the Clone Wars universe, but her return to the saga soon proves most welcome, infusing the show with some much deserved fun and showing us a whole new dark side femme fatale to her personality by story's end. Building further on her vocal versatility within the series, Nika Futterman-also the seductively evil Asajj Ventress- is a superb choice to play Snooty, whose on-screen visual entrance within the episode comes with a terrific song and dance number that more than pays a few nods to Kate Capshaw's Willie Scott in the opening of INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM. From then on, she gets to manipulate some very dumb Gamorrean guards and frees her ex-lover Ziro the Hutt from his prison on Nal Hutta so that they can run off to Teth and retrieve a vitally needed diary of dangerous information on the Hutt clan. It's at that point that Sy reveals her true colours and surprises the audience as someone you certainly don't want to cross, in an unexpected and classic moment for the series.

3. Nal Hutta. Finally, we get to explore the weird and wonderful world of the Hutts: its swampy landscape and the darkly humorous crime cartel empire/motive rationales of the creatures themselves-beings who mix their love of entertainment as easily as ordering their victims to death! And, as briefly introduced in the previous Threepio and Artoo tale Evil Plans, we now get to fully see a wide and distinctive vaiety of THE GODFATHER/Italian gangster visually inspired monsters, too (even down to one of them bearing the fine facial caricatures of Marlon Brando himself!). Though probably the grossest of them all has to be Ziro's mother, Mamma the Hutt-truly one of the most outrageous creations yet seen in THE CLONE WARS-even more so than Ziro first was in the series feature film pilot. So effectively brought to life on-screen was Mamma, covered in horrible symbiotic bugs (Ugh!) and flies, with a deep androgynous voice, that I felt visibly repulsed on first viewing and almost thought I could smell her vile pores even off screen when she talks to Obi-Wan about where Ziro has escaped to. Kudos to LUCASFILM ANIMATION's inspired team on bringing to life such a memorable, if repellent, creation...

Obi-Wan and Quinlan Vos meet the Hutts.

4. Quinlan Vos. This almost Han Solo-esque figure of the Jedi Order, first seen in the DARK HORSE COMICS, provides a welcome breath of fresh air with his introduction to the series, not only for the viewers but the shows writing staff as well, who surely wanted to add a bit more variety in the way they wrote for the members of the all so very serious keepers of the peace. Here was a Jedi not only looking and behaving differently than expected, despite retaining their incredible skills and abilities, but also possessing a healthy heart and a sense of humour. A veteran of battles, skirmishes and infiltration within the Outer Regions, this story gave Vos some great sequences to partake in, whilst his interactions with Obi-Wan Kenobi on both Nal Hutta and Teth are lively fun. Here's hoping he comes back for more episodes in the not too distant future-wouldn't it be great to see him and Obi re-teamed and taking on the returned Darth Maul next spring?!

Sky battle! On Teth, Obi-Wan confronts Cad Bane.

5. Jedi versus Bounty Hunter! One of the most exciting large scale action sequences of any CLONE WARS episode, but on a smaller and more intimate footing, as Quinlan Vos and Obi-Wan Kenobi take on the creepy Cad Bane (unnervingly voiced once more by Corey Burton-master of the STAR WARS animated villain speak!) and his robot servant Todo within the treacherous and geographically changing, and challenging, mountain climes of Teth (a fine planet from THE CLONE WARS pilot movie worthy of a return visit). It's a very cool, fast paced sequence of tense and suspenseful events, full of inventive hand to hand combat, lightsaber clashing, Force leaps and pushes, flame thrower discharges and blaster fire, in which we see Cad Bane continue to give as good as he gets-himself seemingly quite skilled with a lightsaber!- in the kind of combative ways superbly thought out and choreographed that I wish we could've seen Boba Fett do more of in the Classic Trilogy. Bane's flying droid pest/partner in crime, Todo, also proves a thoroughly rotten little douche bag, too- an equally tricky little customer to pin down in a fight. Here's to future Jedi/Bane showdowns, though whatever THE CLONE WARS writers/animators come up with next surely has a lot to live up to after what's been shown here!



Season Three of THE CLONE WARS is now available on Blu-ray and DVD from WARNER BROTHERS HOME VIDEO.

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