The Rise of Skywalker is almost here, and it’s supposedly the conclusion to the Skywalker Saga. So, I’ve decided to attempt a full canon rewatch before it releases, reviewing each chapter as I go. That’s all the movies, as well as the Clone Wars, Rebels, and Resistance TV series. We continue with Season II of Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
Season 2 of The Clone Wars isn’t exactly perfect, but it does a great job of addressing some of the issues of season 1, while adding some excellent pieces of lore to the overall universe. It also continues the trend of putting the prequel trilogy to absolute shame in terms of scope and overall quality. It gives us cool new villains, a somewhat more apparent overarching season plot (or at least a couple of smaller ones that feel less disjointed), and some absolutely stellar character moments. Let’s dive in.
The season starts with, well, season 2 episode 1. Yes, the episode order is still all out of whack, but one good thing about season 2 is that it begins with the actual season premiere and ends with the actual season finale. The first episode of the season introduces us to a brand new character, bounty hunter Cad Bane. Well, he’s technically a brand new character because this is his actual introduction, but not his first appearance as the episodes aired. For whatever dumb reason, season 1 episode 22, which aired as the season 1 finale, actually belongs in the middle of season 3. That episode directly sets up a story in that season, and renders Cad Bane’s first appearance (as well as a couple of other characters) nearly nonsensical. Fortunately, the internet is a thing, and we can watch this stuff in order now, so hooray!
Cad Bane is a blue guy with a cowboy hat. A very stereotypical bounty hunter cowboy type character, except he’s one of those blue skinned, red eyed dudes first seen in the classic Cantina scene in A New Hope. This dude doesn’t have any special powers or anything, he’s just slick as heck, plenty apt as a fighter, and gets around with a bunch of neat gadgetry. His first arc revolves around him being hired by Darth Sidious to steal a Jedi holocron that would tell him where every potential future Jedi lives. Several awesome action sequences and clever tricks later, Bane succeeds in his mission, and the future emperor starts kidnapping babies to run some sort of experiments on them. His goal is to raise an army of not-quite-Sith (there can only be two, after all) evil folks to ensure his everlasting rule over the galaxy. It’s honestly really disturbing to watch babies get kidnapped, and Palpatine really shows off his brutally evil side to great effect here.
Another cool thing about this episode arc is a scene where Anakin visits Palpatine in his office with Ashoka, and Palpatine shows Ashoka nothing but utter disgust. He clearly doesn’t like her, nor does he like his future apprentice hanging around with such an obviously positive influence, and this one brief scene just speaks volumes. Not to keep harping on the prequels lack of quality, but man, this show sure does know how to make Attack of the Clones look bad. (not a challenge, but whatever. MOVING ON…)
The season’s overall theme seems to be primarily about bounty hunters. After the Jedi foil Cad Bane and save the future younglings (I hate that word), the next arc takes us to a planet that’s been overrun by Separatist control. This is a story you’ve seen about a billion times if you’ve ever watched a modern narrative driven cartoon series, but it’s done so well here I actually can’t be mad at it. There is a town of farmers who are being extorted for their crops by a local band of pirates. They can’t fight on their own, so they hired a band of bounty hunters/mercenaries to protect them. The Jedi and clones who happen upon the village decide to stay and help the farmers learn to defend themselves with farming tools and whatnot. It’s all very adorable. That is, until we find out who is behind the pirates attacking the town.
This freaking waste of space is here again to destroy any semblance of entertainment I may have been getting out of these episodes. The new bounty hunter characters introduced here are great. Anakin training the farmers is fun. The battle sequences are a good time. Hondo and his stupid face and ridiculous accent ruin all of it. Ugh.
Anyway, once that diversion is over, we take a break from bounty hunters and we spend some time with the Clone Wars take on the Matthew Broderick Godzilla movie, except, you know, not really bad. The Republic attempts to win over the Dugs (the species that podracing champion Sebulba belongs to) by launching this new EMP type bomb at a droid army invading their homeworld. The bomb works, but it also wakes up this giant monster called the Zillo Beast that’s apparently been resting comfortably underground for decades. The Dugs want it dead, and the Jedi think that’s ridiculous since it’s a unique species and probably the last of its kind. They launch an attack to protect the Dugs and hopefully knock the thing out so they can move it to an uninhabited planet to thrive on its own. In the process though, they learn that the beast has basically impenetrable armor all over its body, as in Anakin goes to stab it in the foot and his lightsaber literally bounces off the thing. The look on his face matched my own because I don’t remember this episode at all, and I certainly don’t remember ever seeing a lightsaber bounce off something before. So that’s cool.
They manage to subdue the beast, but Chancellor Palpatine decides that they need to bring it to Coruscant for testing first so they can make super armor of their own out of the thing’s skin. He exerts his power over a local scientist in order to have them kill the beast, which the Jedi very specifically do not want to do, but in the process the beast gets loose and runs amok in downtown Coruscant. It’s pretty neat, and genuinely sad when they eventually find a way to kill the beast to stop any further loss of innocent life. Pretty by the numbers stuff, but effective stuff nonetheless. That is until the very end of the episode when Palpatine has the monster taken away to be cloned. So that’s two big bad evil schemes Palps has cooking up this season. That’s some good villainy right there.
Before the next major arc, we get an episode where we get to spend some time with Anakin and Padme as an actual couple. Things started out relatively nice (again showing way more natural chemistry than their movie counterparts) but then they start getting into arguments about Anakin being a Jedi, then Anakin gets all jealous of Padme’s ex boyfriend like some crappy sitcom character, and the whole thing is just kind of blergh. But I don’t mean to say that as a shot against the show. Those two have a crappy relationship. They don’t actually know one another as well as a married couple should, and it shows. I’m a big fan of the way that the show doesn’t just portray them as this happy in love couple whose only problem is that their relationship is a big dumb secret.
Anyway, back to the action. By the time episode 5 rolls around, we go back to Geonosis, the planet the end of Attack of the Clones takes place on. As with most things Attack of the Clones, I hate Geonosis. I hate the stupid bug creatures, I hate the weird yellowish color everything there is, I hate all of it. I also hate this dumb zombie plot. I’m not going to lie, I kinda checked out for of most of this arc, but basically the bug queen uses some sort of mind control creatures on her minions, and it’s somehow creating zombies or something. Whatever.
What was interesting about this arc is Jedi Master Luminara and her padawan Barriss. Barriss and Ashoka are placed together to handle some stuff together and they make a neat team. There’s this one scene though where they are sitting down together and talking about what the role of the Jedi might be after the Clone Wars are over, and Barriss is a bit surprised to hear what Ashoka has to say about her master. She says that Anakin is a bit “radical” and “my master will always do what needs to be done. I’m not sure how peace time will agree with him.”
That right there is good setup and foreshadowing. If you didn’t know Anakin’s ultimate fate, you would think that’s just a perfectly natural half joke about Anakin’s personality. But knowing the full weight of what the future brings, that line is perfection.
So these zombie parasites are getting all the clones, and eventually one of them gets Barriss, so Anakin (off screen) gets information out of a prisoner on how to stop the menace. Anakin clearly tortures the guy, lending further weight to Ashoka’s assertions about Anakin’s personality. Barriss temporarily breaks free of the parasite and begs Ashoka to kill her, and I don’t know if you noticed from reading this but that’s a whole lot of dark for a kids show on Cartoon Network. Everyone was fine in the end, but yikes.
Now though, it’s time for the good stuff. And I mean the REALLY good stuff. Now we’re heading to Mandalore.
Mandalorians have a huge fanbase in the Star Wars universe, one which I never really identified with. They look neat I guess, but Jango Fett and Boba Fett didn’t really do much for me when I saw the movies, and that was pretty much the extent of my knowledge on Mandalorians. Now we have a Mandolorian TV series, and plenty of Mandalorian characters to enjoy, but when The Clone Wars aired, I knew very little about them. I knew their armor was a big deal, and culturally significant to them, and I knew they were a warrior race. So when we got to Mandalore in Clone Wars and their leader, Duchess Satine, was in charge of the prosperous Mandalorian pacifist society, I was immediately taken aback. Jango Fett certainly wasn’t a pacifist, and that wasn’t very long ago. Fortunately, this was dealt with almost immediately.
We learn a couple of things at the beginning of this arc. One is that Mandalorians USED to be a warrior race, but had since changed to a more pacifist society. Not all Mandalorians agreed with this move, so there’s a small extremist sect living on one of the planet’s moons that call themselves Death Watch. They wear the traditional Mandalorian armor, love violence, and are kind of jerks. We also learn that Duchess Satine has a history with Obi-Wan. This history is doled out in small doses over the next couple of episodes.
Early on in the first episode, someone from Death Watch makes an attempt on Satine’s life. He tries to get away, but ultimately fails. He isn’t captured though, he kills himself. On screen. Tosses himself off a building, survives the fall and dies on the ground. For the most part, this arc isn’t written like it’s a kids show on Cartoon Network. It isn’t Game of Thrones or anything, but it’s written like it’s just a TV show, which is really cool.
Anyway, let’s get on with things.
First, there’s the overall plot. It’s all basically a way to get Obi-Wan to fight Death Watch. It’s cleverly told, and really well choreographed, but it’s the other stuff on the side that makes this arc so special. Before I get to that though, I have to point out that this is where we get introduced to the Dark Saber. We don’t learn much about it except that it was “recovered” from a Jedi temple, and it’s basically a lightsaber with a black blade. It’s ultra cool, and its mythology gets fully explained years later in Star Wars: Rebels.
So, this arc does some great storytelling for both Obi-Wan and Anakin, and it does it in some really cool ways. Let’s start with Obi-Wan. As the story unfolds you learn that Obi-Wan was totally in love with Satine back when he was stationed on Mandalore with Qui-Gon as a padawan. Obi-Wan ultimately chose the life of a Jedi, and while they’re friendly at first, there’s definitely some friction between the two of them, which is expertly written and acted by all parties involved.
There’s a party where Satine introduces her friends to Obi-Wan. It goes like this.
“I assume you’re acquainted with the collection of half-truths and hyperbole known as Obi Wan Kenobi”
“Your highness is too kind.”
“You’re right, I am.”
Seeing Anakin confront Obi-Wan and sort of tease him a little bit about having feelings for her was really fun too, but while it’s great for a chuckle, when he follows it up by saying that Yoda always talks about not having attachment, but leaves out the undercurrent of remorse, it kinda heartbreaking. Obi-Wan has always been a really cool character, but he’s never been all that deep, you know?
Eventually Satine is captured and Obi-Wan goes to save her. She breaks free and Obi-Wan has the guy dead to rights, as does Satine with his blaster, and this guy plays the scene perfectly. Obi-Wan can kill him, but violence pretty much goes against everything Satine believes in, so if he does it, it will probably make things between him and Satine pretty not good. This is amplified a bit because before Satine broke away, Obi-Wan told her if she had asked, he would have left the Jedi Order to be with her. Meanwhile, Satine has a blaster pointed at the guy, and he tells her she could absolutely shoot him, but that would just prove to her people that she’s a hypocrite.
This points to a larger conversation this arc tackles that really impressed me. There are clear good guys and bad guys here, but they handle their ideologies with a lot more gray than that. Time and time again they raise the arguments for both sides of violence, and it’s handled astonishingly well.
Anyway, back to the standoff. Obi-Wan can’t kill him because he doesn’t want Satine to hate him. Satine can’t kill him because she’s a pacifist. Both of them want him dead though, they just can’t bring themselves to do it themselves. Then a lightsaber bursts through his chest and he falls down dead.
Anakin casually walked behind him and straight up murdered him, then nonchalantly explains why he did it with an honest to goodness smile on his face, all while the imperial march faintly plays in the background. It’s played flawlessly, and I honestly didn’t see it coming.
This whole time, we know that Anakin is secretly married to Padme, and he keeps this a secret from his best friend and mentor Obi-Wan not just because it’s against the rules, but because he doesn’t think he would understand. But during this arc, Anakin gets to see that Obi-Wan would understand, because he was in love himself at one point. We learn about Obi-Wan and Satine’s history via Anakin, and it’s as clever as it is effective.
This arc did so much right it’s unbelievable. These three episodes alone make this season worth watching.
Sadly, things go a bit downhill from there. The final arc of the season introduces us to young Boba Fett. We get to see how he’s been living his life after his Dad Jango Fett was killed by Mace Windu. Boba keeps saying he was murdered, but it was a battlefield. He was killed. He was also kind of a dick, so yeah.
I’ve said before, I don’t like picking on kids voice talent, but man, this Boba voice actor is not my cup of tea. It’s the same kid who played him in the movie, so points for continuity, but thumbs down for delivery.
We meet another bounty hunter named Aurra Sing in this arc. She was a new character introduced in The Phantom Menace who was touted before the movie hit theaters as some sort of a big deal. There were action figures, art books, all sorts of stuff. When the movie came out, she stood in the stands at the pod race. That’s it. So we finally get to see more of her as a character, and…she kinda sucks. She’s a pretty standard bounty hunter. There really isn’t anything special about her. She doesn’t have a unique style, or any cool weapons or skills, she’s just a jerk who hangs around with a crew of other hunters and Boba Fett for some reason.
Anyway, Boba has hired these hunters to help him assassinate Mace Windu (good luck with that) which eventually leads everyone to some planet where we get to meet up with Aurra Sing’s ex…
Seriously show, STOP IT WITH THIS GUY. HE’S AWFUL.
We wind up with Ashoka pairing up with Plo Koon, which is always fun, and they take down Sing and her band of morons (including Bossk from the original trilogy!), and Hondo says a bunch of dumb stuff that makes me want to punch him. It all ends with Aurra Sing’s ship blowing up in the background presumably killing her (it doesn’t), and Boba Fett confronting Mace Windu face to face yelling “You murdered my father! I’ll never forgive you!” to which Mace Windo replies “Well, you’re going to have to. Take him away.” Troopers take Boba into custody, and that’s it. This little exchange is the end of the episode, and it’s so… weird. You can’t chalk it up to the episode order either because this was the actual season finale. It just kinda stops with Windu being kind of a dick to Boba Fett. What a weird way to end.
So season 2 was ultimately better than season 1. It’s still got some low points, and Hondo won’t go away, but the high points were as good as expanded universe Star Wars gets. I know Season 3 is where we start learning more about the survival of Darth Maul, so i’m excited to get going.