|Asajj Ventress leads her sisters into battle in THE CLONE WARS Season Four episode Massacre.|
The Fourth Season of THE CLONE WARS makes its Force-ful impact on Blu-ray and DVD from this week and, as is customary this time of year to tie-in with the most-welcome release, STAR WARS AFICIONADO presents its top five pick of favourite episodes from 2011/2012. Starting from the bottom up (and that's not in the derogatory sense!), there were so many episodes worthy of position five: the fun of wayward buddies Artoo and Threepio in Nomad Droids, the exciting climactic episode of the Mon Calamari saga, Prisoners, and the return of the Death Watch in A Friend in Need, but the zombie-fied action fest of Katie Lucas's episode 19, Massacre, won the day, and here's five accompanying reasons why...
1. General Grievous stamps back. Having been quite soundly and controversially defeated earlier in the season by the brave Captain Tarpals and the Gungans in the Naboo set Shadow Warrior, cyborg wheezer General Grievous, as always well vocaled by Matthew Wood, gets to reclaims his mettle, evil mojo and deadly skills in this episode as an effective and bloodthirsty leader of the Separatist Droid Armies, under orders from Count Dooku and going into tyrannical battle against the supernatural talents of the Nightsisters of Dathomir. Lightsaber waving and back stabbingly back to his best, Grievous is right at the centre of the STAR WARS Prequel evil-dom in some terrific killing machine action sequences within the visual storytelling, of which, by its big body count end, you kind of feel sorry for the many defeated young Nightsister warriors, alive and dead, that have fallen under his bladework.
2. Sorcery, witchcraft, voodoo and sympathetic magic. An arena that the STAR WARS live action films stayed away from, but which has gone on to enjoy great success within the animated storytelling of THE CLONE WARS in recent seasons, most notably developed by series staff writer Katie Lucas. It's also proved a fine and handy plot device capable of bringing popular saga characters back from the dead, too, like maniac torso Darth Maul, and awakening the skills and physical powers of new ones, like Savage Opress, used as a most lethal and brutal weapon against Count Dooku by his sworn revenge-fuelled enemies Mother Talzin and Asajj Ventress. This time around, Talzin uses her incredible gifts, and some of Dooku's previously kept genetic material, to unleash a deadly spell on him via a voodoo doll, attacking the Sith Master from within his luxurious home world property on Serenno. Dooku almost succumbs to their deadly powers of mental attack and sympathetic magic, his streamlined evil face suffering the worst case of bubonic plague spots I've ever seen, but he eventually manages to fight back against such considerable powers in a very well handled sequence from director Steward Lee, which proves a testament to the Count's faith in the Force and as a dark servant of the Sith.
3. The destiny of Asajj Ventress. Ahoskas' favourite "hairless harpie" had a pretty rough time of it last season three (all together now: ahhhh...). She was once Count Dooku's golden girl: his most experienced and vital killing machine and Sith wannabe during the beginning of The Clone Wars, then he was forced to abandon her on the orders of the shadowy presence of Darth Sidious, presuming her dead in battle against determined Jedi foes Anakin Skywalker and Obi-wan Kenobi. Returned to her adopted home world on Dathomir and back into the bosom of the witch sisterhood that natured her, Ventress would regain her independent lady fire and chose a new pawn which she herself could train and control in revenge against Dooku. But her plans went awry when the unleashed Frankenstein of hers and Mother Talzin's creation- Savage Opress- proved to have reins too difficult to master, and once more tasting defeat returning home to lick her wounds and rejoin the sisterhood. Now, cataclysmic events destroy everything she once held dear, and Ventress is forced out in to the stars in exile, when General Grievous and an overwhelming droid force delivers the ultimate payback on her world and people on Dooku's behalf. In many ways, series writer Katie Lucas has become the creative alter ego for Ventress, putting her into many intriguing dramatic new scenarios which have enriched and deepened the red lightsaber wielding character beyond her original days as a fierce but slightly underdeveloped action figure for our heroes to fight in the shows early season. From the end of Massacre onwards, Ventress becomes a bounty hunter for hire at the edge of the galaxy, seemingly becoming more at one with herself and her past, as a series of events leading to the return of the savage and unpredictable Darth Maul see her form some intriguing new partnerships from Season Five onwards...
4. The Army of the Dead. Michael Jackson's Thriller gets a whole new interpretation in the STAR WARS universe as the ground of Dathomir shakes and the rotting corpses come out to play against the heavily armed forces of the Separatists in a classic sequence. Some of the impressive sequences here reminded me of the Pygmy mummies, whose appearance in the jungle sequences of THE MUMMY RETURNS certainly enlivened that film greatly in my opinion, as they wreaked havoc on our heroes and villains. And I loved the similar looking creatures appearing in this episode, as the little female devils, with their eerie and childlike disintegrated forces ran enthusiastically into battle destroying droids left, right and centre. If only these gals had been in RETURN OF THE JEDI instead of the Ewoks! Ultimately, the only creature that proves unstoppable to them is General Grievous, whose lightsaber skills and combat dexterity prove too great to circumvent.
5. Back to Dathomir. Amongst the many varied worlds old and new making their appearance in THE CLONE WARS Season Four, Dathomir is one of the former that's great to see again, as the series continues to refine and further develop worlds we never got to see in the live action universe. After its moodily effective debut in Season Three's finale episodes, the mysterious and misty red skied world-the ultimate Halloween environment- gets to show more locales and civilisation history amongst this adventure's well-staged and exciting action, horror and visual comedy moments. Surely, the writer, director Steward Lee and the animation designers have never had so much funny using the various old and new locale palettes available to them to mix classic STAR WARS adrenaline action with creepy scares.
An extended directors cut of Massacre can be found on the new THE CLONE WARS: THE COMPLETE SEASON FOUR Blu-ray and DVD sets. Get yours here:
Star Wars Clone Wars - Season 4 [DVD]: Amazon.co.uk: Film & TV
Star Wars Clone Wars - Season 4 Blu-ray Region Free: Amazon.co.uk: Film & TV