It’s that time of year again: time for the fifth season premiere of The Clone Wars. You’ll remember from last season that Darth Maul is back, and he’s kicking off Season Five with a vengeance.
“Revival” continues the thread that was left off with last year’s season finale: Darth Maul and his brother, Savage Oppress, are running around the galaxy, causing all sorts of problems for the Jedi. After a successful attack on a space station, Maul realizes that it’s not enough: he and Savage need a singular plan if Maul is going to get the vengeance that he wants. A brief “lesson” demonstrates to Savage the nature of his apprentice relationship with Maul, clearly establishing the Sith as the master, and then they’re off to Florrum where they recruit some of the pirate Hondo Ohnaka’s men to join their cause.
It isn’t long before Obi-Wan Kenobi and Adi Gallia show up, but fairly quickly it becomes Obi-Wan and the pirates versus Maul, Oppress, and their small army of pirate traitors. Obi-Wan and Hondo manage to route them, forcing Maul and Savage to flee and fight another day. Back on Coruscant, Palpatine and the Jedi decide that their focus needs to be on winning the war against Dooku and Grievous, and not worrying about Darth Maul, despite Obi-Wan’s protests.
All in all, it was a good episode, if not exactly anything earth-shattering. In terms of the overall narrative of the series, it seemed to serve the purpose of reminding the audience of where we left off, which was nice, but did very little to actually progress the story. That’s not a bad thing, though, and honestly, I felt like tying the start of this new season to the end of the last made this premiere the most satisfying since Season Two’s two-parter of “Holocron Heist” and “Cargo of Doom” (which essentially did the same thing since they focused on Cad Bane, who featured prominently in Season One’s “Hostage Crisis” finale). I think the only reason it may not have felt as gratifying as that premiere was because it was a single episode, as opposed to every other year where the show has debuted two episodes on opening day.
That little nitpick aside, there was a lot of stuff to like in this episode. I loved the opening newsreel and getting to see a small taste of Maul and Savage’s rampage through the galaxy, killing at least a couple of Jedi in the process. These guys really are game changers in this series, and it’s nice to have a dark side element floating around that isn’t directly related to the Republic/Separatist conflict. I love big clone battles as much as the next guy (“Landing At Point Rain” remains my favorite episode of the series), but I’ll admit that the massive battle arcs were beginning to get a “seen it” feel to them. That we can now have episodes that focus on other elements that affect the war — be it the Brothers Maul, Mother Talzin, Asajj Ventress, or hell, even slavers — give it the kind of diversity that I think The Clone Wars needs to keep it fresh.
And though bringing Hondo Ohnaka back might not seem in the spirit of “freshness,” it was pretty nice seeing the old pirate again after sitting out for two complete seasons. I’ll admit, I’m a fan of this character, and though I wouldn’t want him showing up every week (or for more than a couple episodes per season), I thought he was well utilized here and was a welcome return to the show. I loved his mention of the Jedi losing the system, which was a nice little nod to the plot line of the rumored Young Jedi show that was previewed to a select few at Celebration VI a couple months ago.
I also like Palpatine’s machinations at the end, trying to deflect attention away from Maul and Oppress. It’s good foreshadowing to the Maul and Savage vs. Sidious duel previewed in the Season 5 trailer, clearly showing that the Sith Master has other plans for his former apprentice.
A couple of other nice touches that I enjoyed: the blue Snaggletooth was a fantastic nod to the early Kenner figure. And I dug how everyone assumed Maul and Savage were Jedi “gone rogue” because they had lightsabers, showing the average person in the Star Wars galaxy has very little real knowledge/experience with the Jedi or their history and lore.
At this point, to talk about the animation quality or the voice work of Clone Wars feels repetitive of what I’ve been reading in reviews for the last couple of years: as always, it’s top notch and light years beyond the quality of earlier seasons. The show really has developed into a more mature (though, still okay for the younglings at home), serious vision of Star Wars, or at least as mature and serious as you can do on a children’s cartoon (though, I’m trying to remember a cartoon from my youth that had quite as many dismemberments or gorings that this show has).
All in all, I’d say this is a better start to the season than in previous years, with the overall production quality hanging right in there with what fans have come to expect from this series. And though there is nothing monumental in terms of plot development, it is still quite a few notches ahead of “poisoned tea” or “Senate debates,” with a high action quotient, good use of reoccurring characters, and plenty of fun nods to long time fans (even though the EU fanboys will be screaming over another discrepancy between this show and the “continuity” of their beloved lore). After watching it a couple of times now, I’m happy, if not blown away, by the premiere and am glad the show is back. If the rest of the season can match or exceed the bar set by this one episode, it’ll be the most balanced season since the second, which in my opinion, is a very good thing.
PHOTO SOURCE: Star Wars the Clone Wars on the big screen