And so we come to Numero Uno of STAR WARS AFICIONADO's THE CLONE WARS Opening Season favourites. So many highlight episodes to consider, with so many highlights scenes. But it would be the series tenth episode, still making an impression five years on, that generates the most impact- the series then most dark and brutal episode yet, giving the series a more sophisticated and atmospheric palette to its storytelling. EPISODE III monster General Grievous finally gets the spotlight in the darkly macabre story, which is also a subtle morality tale of how absolute power corrupts absolutely: the fan-favourite Lair of Grievous.
1. Atsushi Takeuchi. One of Japan's rising star mechanical designers and anime directors, Takeuchi's sadly one and only (so far?) foray into the STAR WARS universe is a triumph- full of dark, foreboding atmosphere and building dread within its great angles and fast paced visual storytelling (alongside another winning script from then story editor Henry Gilroy, who has the great idea of not having our main Jedi characters present, instead bringing in other not so well known characters, and a small party of soon dead meat Clone Troopers, to add a heightened sense of danger and vulnerability to the story, cutting them off from the outside universe). The series was now starting to become more sophisticated in every area, no doubt helped by the presence and skills of Takeuchi.
Celebration Japan: The Lair of Takeuchi | Star Wars Blog
2. General Grievous. The chesty coughster with the lightsaber killing edge has failed to impress Count Dooku after several prior missions against the Jedi, so the nefarious Serenno-based manipulator lays a kill-or-be-killed trap for the the droid general, to see if he can improve and win his further favour, within its very own palace of the dead on the fog shrouded world of Vassek.
This is a great chance to officially discover more about the intriguing character beyond what was first seen in the Expanded Universe- the cyborg who loves and lives to kill (and more for actor/sound designer Matthew Wood to sink his Transylvanian voice-accented teeth into). We see Grievous's original humanoid warrior visage before voluntarily surrendering himself to technology, and get further insights into his demonic and vicious character and its personal motivations, via his sparring with his medical droid EV- A4 - D (Sound Designer David Acord doing his best Paul Lynde impression). The look of Grievous "castle of death" also tells us a lot about this harbinger of death, full of traps amidst a visual look of steel and gothics that wouldn't be out of place in HELLRAISER, whilst his "pet" roggwart, Gor, shows similar trappings to its master, its flesh covered in armour, and always thirsty for the kill.
Watch "Lair of Grievous " - The Clone Wars Episode Featurette #1.10 | StarWars.com
3. The return of Kit Fisto. The Prequel saga's favourite smiley Nautolan Jedi (nicely voiced by Phil LaMarr), though seen briefly in THE CLONE WARS movie's opening newsreel monologue, finally gets his own story vehicle (plus a Starfighter and Astro Droid!), of which he's in for the fight of his life whilst trapped in his dungeon-like labyrinth against the unrelenting and taunting General Grievous, whilst also looking out for/reining in his former Padawan learner, the hotheaded Mon Calamari Nahdar Vebb, whose skills are formidable but show stray leanings towards the Dark Side with his subtle arrogance and use of Jedi powers beyond an acceptable point.
4. Nahdar Vebb. Ever since we first saw him and his race in RETURN OF THE JEDI, fans have had a warm palace in their hearts for the Rebel leader Admiral Ackbar and his salmon-like Mon Calamari race. So to see finally see another one of their ilk, this time in animated form (voiced by Tom Kenney), and as a Jedi, was both a wonderful tribute to the Classic Trilogy and an intriguing development and prospect for storytelling-nicely realised by Takeuchi and his team. Game but over-confident that they can trap or end Grievous's existence, this former Padawan soon proves himself as being out of his depth to his former master, Kit Fisto, and sadly too inexperienced in life and as a Jedi to fight Grievous. The final moment where Grievous sneak blaster shoots Vebb is shocking but not unexpected for the audience.
In writing and creating the character of Vebb, THE CLONE WARS team paint an intriguing picture of how the Jedi, especially the younger ones, are starting to change with their forced partaking in the galaxy-spanning Clone Wars, taking some of them once step closer to the trappings of the Dark Side, and inevitable extinction.
5. Lightsaber duels. This episode's full of 'em, and all spectacular. Fisto and Vebb's opening clash against their multi-limbed, multi-saber adversary is exciting enough, especially when Fisto manages to seriously injure the General (its always creepy seeing Grievous doing his Linda Blair/EXORCIST-esque spider-walk!), but the Nautolan's later solo duel outside the misty environs of the castle, is brilliantly realised, our big eyed friend almost holding his own if it wasn't for the additional arrival of the cyborg's staff wielding Magnaguards. Thankfully, through some agile trickery and tactics with his trusty Artoo unit, Kit Fisto manages to live (and eventually die) another day...
Coming October 15th to Blu-ray and DVD: STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS - THE COMPLETE SEASONS ONE TO FIVE.