I was much happier with this episode of the Onderon arc than I have been with the two episodes before it.
In “The Soft War,” King Rash, the Separatist puppet who’s been ruling Onderon, has ordered the execution of the true king, Ramsis Dendup, who he believes is behind the recent rebel excursion (see the last two episodes). The rebels decide they’re going to rescue Dendup at the execution, but Saw Gerrara, still upset about his sister being chosen as the leader over him, tries freeing Dendup early and getting himself caught. In captivity, he talks with Onderon General Tandin about how Tandin has betrayed his people by going along with the Separatists, who it turns out were only able to take over because, much like Mandalore, Rodia, and the Lurmen of Maridun in previous episodes, they had decided to remain neutral. At Dendup’s execution, the rebels initially succeed in freeing him and Saw, but end up getting caught, at which point, Tandin and his soldiers switch sides and allow the rebels to escape. Tandin is nearly captured himself during the skirmish, but Ahsoka reveals herself (and the Jedi funding of the rebellion) to free him.
Finally, “The Soft War” advances the drama in the Onderon arc. I actually found myself getting into this episode, which was less “Point A to Point B” than the previous two. It actually dealt with the story of the rebels and why they were fighting, adding layers with the introduction of Tandin and by fleshing out the Rash/Dendup situation. Although Lux is still somewhat bland, I finally started to give a crap about Steela and Saw, and if “A War on Two Fronts” and “Front Runners” hadn’t been so… lifeless, I probably would have liked this episode even more. Its only real weakness was the two set-up episodes before it, which, the more I think about them, could have likely been combined into one episode (do all of the training in “A War on Two Fronts” montage-style and replace the final battle of that episode with a trimmed down version of “Front Runners” and it would have worked a hell of a lot better).
I found it interesting that the show is bringing up the neutrality thing again. I’m starting to think that its message as a series is “You’ve got to pick sides” as bad stuff seems to keep happening to those who wish to stay out of the war. It’s an interesting stance to take, especially in light of the corruption that has been shown to be prevalent on both sides of the conflict. It all comes down to a “lesser of two evils” point of view, and I kind of hope the series actually tackles that idea head-on eventually.
The other thing I noticed is, I really like Ahsoka hanging out with the rebels. I’d always hoped that her likely death in this series would further push Anakin towards the dark side, but now I’m actually rooting for her to survive and become a full Jedi Knight at the end of the show, if only so that they can do a sequel series set during the Jedi purge where a full-grown Ahsoka is on the run with the infant Rebellion (including Steela and Saw) while they are all being hunted by Darth Vader. It probably won’t happen, but man, that’s a show that I could enthusiastically get behind.
Overall, though, “The Soft War” was better-than-average without achieving the greatness that the show is capable of. Still, if more less-than-great episodes were of this quality, I’d be much more satisfied as a Clone Wars fan all around.
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