By Chris Seekell
Meesa hope yousa enjoy deesa review of Shadow Warrior! ...but seriously the fourth episode of Clone Wars Season 4 was certainly the deepest exploration of Gungan culture since 1999. Those fans who favor the darker themes of Revenge of the Sith, or the drier, wittier humor of the Original Trilogy, probably won't find this episode to be very entertaining or compelling. But aside from the wackiness, there were many aspects of Shadow Warrior that were of a high level of quality. And as a consolation for the fans who can't stand anything related to Jar Jar, we did see a few Gungans get impaled.
I'm going to start off by letting everyone know that I didn't find this episode compelling, epic, suspenseful, or engaging on either an emotional or intellectual level. However it did strike me as entertaining, humorous, and interesting. Thus I'm not going fill this review with loads of criticisms that negatively compare Shadow Warrior to Landing At Point Rain or the Empire Strikes Back, because that would be unfair. Instead I'll focus more on the positive achievements of this episode, and reserve my criticism for incongruous plot elements.
Through the first 3 seasons, the Clone Wars has shown us a few Gungans outside of Mr. Binks here and there, most notably in the Blue Shadow Virus duology and the episode Children of the Force. But it wasn't until the second episode of the current season, Gungan Attack, that the full scale of the species was unleashed. Shadow Warrior both built on the character models and improved underwater animation of the previous Mon Cal trilogy, to bring us an in-depth depiction of the Gungan way of life.
Starting with land elements, Naboo's swampy forests have never looked more alive, as they bared the detail of the jungle on Count Dooku's planet in last season's episode Nightsisters. Seeing the Gungan army and its weaponry assembled on the plains was very reminiscent of The Phantom Menace. The giant head carved into the cliff was another visually interesting element.
But even more impressive, was the animation of Otah Gunga and the surrounding watery depths. We saw a glimpse of the submarine city in Gungan Attack, but the expanded shots of the spherical metropolis rivaled its depiction in the Phantom Menace. I also really enjoyed seeing the Bongo sub design in the Clone Wars, being one of my favorite vehicle designs from the prequels. The shot of the sub emerging from the swamp went a long way to establish realism in the environment.
Moving on from structures to character models, I thought the team did an excellent job animating Padme's royal warrior outfit. This model allowed for more facial expression than any previous incarnation of the senator. They also captured Captain Tarpals flawlessly. Not only were his physical attributes and voice spot on, but his unique mannerisms were reproduced well. It's interesting that they chose to kill off his character in this episode, but the way they did it put his sacrifice right up there with Hevy, Ima-Gun Di, and 99's in my book.
I'm sure for most fans, though, the return of General Grievous was the highlight of Shadow Warrior. And he was his usual intimidating self, killing Gungans left and right. But aside from his presence, Grievous' depiction in this particular episode didn't really impress me. His animation doesn't seem to have been improved since the beginning of Season 3, and we didn't really learn anything new or interesting about his character.
Another Separatist addition to this episode was Count Dooku, who rushed in to save the day for Darth Sidious by overpowering Anakin and capturing the Jedi. This whole sequence seemed extremely odd to me for three reasons. Firstly with every additional time Dooku and Anakin duel, the meaning behind their battle in Revenge of the Sith decreases, secondly, if it's so easy for Count Dooku to capture Anakin, why hasn't Dooku tried this before, and finally, why would Anakin risk putting himself in such a compromising situation? Is he really that bold at this point in the Clone Wars? This turn of events would have made more sense if it was another Jedi who was captured, like Aayla Secura.
Ultimately, after looking beyond this weird plot element and the overall goofiness of the episode, Shadow Warrior still holds up as a solid addition to the Clone Wars series. The humor and depictions of characters like Jar Jar, Padme, and Captain Tarpals were decent, the animation was fantastic, and the exploration of the Gungan culture was interesting. Neither as epic as Water War, nor as deep as Overlords, this episode exists as a sole fun episode in a long series of fast paced, action-heavy stories. I enjoyed it for what it was, but look forward to more compelling and detailed knock-your-socks-off adventures to come as Season 4 rolls along.