Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Clone Wars: Season 3, Episode 1 -- "Clone Cadets"

Another sad, depraved rant on The Clone Wars, looking at each episode from an adult fan's perspective, by someone who should really go outside one of these days.

Forty-six episodes in and Rookies still remains the highlight of the bunch, a story that avoided most -- if not all -- of the show's continual problems. Despite Rookie's popularity, it's still surprising to see both episodes of The Clone Wars' season premiere dedicated to Domino Squad -- but it's cool to see that the show is listening to its fans.

Each story serves as a bookend to Rookies -- Clone Cadets shows Domino's struggle to pass basic training, while Arc Troopers continues the story of the squad's survivors. Neither episode is on par with Rookies -- but of the two, Clone Cadets gets closer to equaling its predecessor.

Both stories are hindered by an almost complete lack of dramatic stakes. Rookies worked because the fate of each clone was always in question. Their deaths, save one, were sudden and unexpected. Being a prequel, Clone Cadets can't create any real conflict, while Arc Troopers telegraphs the fate of each character and features no surprises.

Clone Cadets still works because, like Rookies, it knows how to tell a story in twenty-two minutes. Also, both episodes prove that dialing down the scale of the action scenes doesn't necessarily make them less exciting. And something about these five characters brings out the best in the writers: the dialog here is largely solid, and some of the jokes are actually amusing (personal favorite: "Oh yeah, and we look nothing alike, either...")

I actually dreaded watching the episode due to its obvious "you can do anything if you work together!" moral -- but it works due to a new character, 99, and the concept of clone rejects: aberrations in the cloning process. The Kaminoans and the Jedi have no qualms putting these deformed clones to hard labor. It's a chilling idea -- one that is, unfortunately, handled with kid gloves. The conclusion of the story is neat, uncomplicated, and all together too cheery -- but there's room for further stories that are a bit darker. A bit more honest.

One last complaint: the bounty hunters training these clones are two big piles of suck. The way I see it, bounty hunters are the baddest mothers in the Star Wars universe. How bad, you may ask? I'll put it to you this way: Samuel L. Jackson had to settle on being a Jedi. That's how bad

Bric, the story's main antagonist, has all the presence of a failed, overweight high school football coach. I thought he was going to tell the clones to take a lap or a salt tablet or something. Then there's his counterpoint, El-Les, who looks like he's ready to break down and cry at any moment. And let me tell ya', that French accent ain't doing him any favors, either.

Come on, I know this a kids' show -- but these characters are supposed to be intimidating. If the people making this show don't instill a healthy fear of intergalactic bounty hunters in our children when they're young, who will?

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