|Things don't go according to plan for our Jedi heroes in Slaves of the Republic.|
Heading up the chart and into position four of our top five episodes, co-inciding with the launch of the complete fourth season of THE CLONE WARS on Blu-ray and DVD this week, there were many great episodes worthy of consideration: the fun of Asajj Ventress and her new cadre atop a mad underground bullet train in Bounty, the developing water war action of Gungan Attack and the prison busting antics of Cad Bane and a disguised Obi-Wan in Deception, but the ultimate selectee had to be the depthful and dark-themed second episode of the Zygerrian Slavers arc, as an angry Anakin and his friends have to stop a new slave empire from coming into being: Episode 12’s incident-packed Slaves of the Republic.
And here's five reasons why it made the grade:
1. The welcome return of Henry Gilroy. AWOL since the early to mid-point of Season Two-his absence not really officially explained- Gilroy’s scripting talents in capturing the best of the animated THE CLONE WARS heroes has been missed lately, so it was great to see his return, as his exciting and dark tale, which first launched the Dark Horse comic range for the series, gets a deserved, and ever bigger scale adaptation, with the help of Supervising Director Dave Filoni and additional writer Steven Melching. Slaves of the Republic has several key character scenes that give it an extra level of sophistication-the intriguing relationship between Anakin and the Slaver Queen, Miraj Scintel, and the emergence of the Zygerrian traders as a very nasty band of clever and resourceful villains, with a major league grudge against the Jedi for destroying their decades old rich slave empire. There’s also some clever observations/references made about the Jedi and the state of the Republic in which they serve during this time of war, giving Slaves, as the middle episode, the depth needed to make the concluding episode, Escape from Kadavo, such a crowd pleasing, all-action success.
2. It’s beat up Obi-Wan time! Our venerable and resourceful Jedi Master does not have a good time of things this season protecting the galaxy, and this particular story arc puts him through the emotional and physical ringer. He’s whipped, beaten up and made to suffer worse than anybody else caught up in the mission, watching Togrutan slaves die around him, with more of their lives threatened if he doesn’t take the punishment for being captured. Fortunately, despite the gloom, Kenobi, and the also captured Rex, separated from Anakin within the hot and dangerous mines of Kadavo, have a kick-ass fight back against their jailers by the story’s final part.
3. A rescue gone wrong. The classic action sequence from RETURN OF THE JEDI where Luke becomes a one man army and, with a little help from his friends, rescues Han and ends the life and career of Jabba the Hutt’s mercenary empire was truly one of the most exciting, rip-roaring and iconic sequences of that 1983 movie. Enjoying making welcome nods or adding new spins/twists to the Classic Trilogy in THE CLONE WARS, a similar scene/tribute occurs in this episode. Our heroes are in their places at the right time and place-Artoo’s there on the Zygerrian Queen’s balcony shooting the Jedi’s lightsabers into the air, and Captain Rex is ready to blast away. But, unlike what happened with Luke and co., it all goes spectacularly wrong for our small band of powerful heroes, the opponents seen here are not the dopey and mostly ineffective thugs of Jabba's court: the Zygerrians prove ruthless and determined, using en masses tactics and almost equal weaponry to subdue our heroes. It’s a terrific moment showcasing the darker flip side of the Prequels where nothing quite goes according to plan and the enemy forces are sometimes far more edgily formidable and dangerous. It’s an exciting but grim moment when Anakin, last Jedi standing- the powerful Jedi without fear- is eventually felled by the overwhelming guards and their intensely painful laser whips.
I can just imagine Dave Filoni and Henry Gilroy, along with director Brian Kalin O’Connell, sitting together in the episode’s pre-production, rubbing their hands with glee as to what horrific and dangerous predicaments they could put our heroes into this time…
4. Not for the kiddies? Pretty daring adult story material is shown in this episode/storyline for what is basically a young audience/family time slot, but it's all carefully directed, with nothing too lingering, to avoid being overdone and scary. Such strong elements, though, may have been the reason for the episodes undeserved, but ultimately low, US Nielsen ratings. There’s the always-uncomfortable aspects of slavery, whippings, beatings, electrocutions, cold-blooded murder (Obi-Wan watches helplessly as a group of male and female Togrutans are ejected to their doom) and even a moment where Anakin, in the course of heroically recuing the prisoners and taking out enemy gun emplacements, spears a Zygerrian warrior through the chest. Strong stuff, sometimes gloomy (as all the best fairytales are-check out the ending of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK!), but ultimately necessary in telling a compulsive and dramatic story with a subtle moral message at its heart, in a season becoming ever darker building up to the events of EPISODE III.
5. Slavery. A very adult topic and a theme only partially talked about in the Prequel films, most notably EPISODE I and Shmi and Anakin’s Skywalker’s life as slaves to Gardulla the Hutt then Watto. Considering the awful, sometimes hopeless situation the resourceful Anakin sometimes found himself in as a child, I was hoping that such feelings of dark resentment and anger would indeed lead to his initiating a slave rebellion on Tatooine, as well as getting the chance to meet up with Shmi, during EPISODE II. His all-important reunion with his mother did indeed eventually happen, but the slavery aspects of the characters plotline seemed to disappear by the time Anakin’s path to evil-dom was assured in EPISODE III, though fortunately they hadn’t been forgotten about for THE CLONE WARS, which has more of a chance to explore and further develop other aspects of Anakin’s past history and how it has shaped his personality past, present and future. So well done for that, Team Lucas/Filoni.
Note: a director's cut of Escape from Kadavo is available on both the Blu-ray and DVD versions of the Season Four box set.
Get hold of the STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS - THE COMPLETE FOURTH SEASON here: