By Chris Seekell
Oh brother... There are two types of episodes that are fun to review, ones that are mind-blowingly epic and ones that just leave you scratching your head. This episode made me want to scream like insectoid Maul. It had so much potential, it had so much hype, and it had so many eyes watching it. I know there are a few people that really enjoyed this. Katie Lucas is a good writer, but I feel like she wrote this episode to a minority of fans who liked a certain type of story-telling, and that type is not necessarily classic Star Wars. I am really risking writing an extremely negative review, so I'm just going to get all the positives out of the way first to be objective, then I'll get to the meat.
This episode started really nicely. After watching a film and 86 episodes start with the generic yellow Clone Wars logo, I was really pleased that they shook things up a bit and colored it red for this one. As soon as I saw it, I was expecting a transcendent episode, possibly the best Star Wars since Revenge of the Sith. There were some really awesome visuals, like the ship that Savage hijacked. I really liked how it landed on 4 hydraulic legs in a slightly awkward manner. The animation of the dump planet was also pretty good. The sequence with the "fire breathers" was very well done and included great animation and editing. I also like all of the choral bits injected into the musical score. One other thing that I was pleased to see was a short scene with Ventress that tied this episode to the previous one a little and kept continuity in this arc.
Now onto that other stuff. For me, as the episode progressed it became stranger and more pointless. I will start with the plot. What was the point of this story? Seriously, it just wasted 22 minutes establishing the fact that Darth Maul, one of the most ingeniously conceived characters in Star Wars history, is not only alive, but completely mental. This episode completely hinged on the big reveal of Maul, and it caused all of the previous scenes to be very boring. Half-way through the episode it hit me, Katie Lucas had 44 minutes to tell a brand new story about one of the coolest characters in the prequels and at least half the episode consisted of Savage Opress walking around and disposing of various mediocre obstacles and chatting with a talking snake. Does she seriously think that Star Wars fans would rather see a talking snake than Darth Maul? I apologize for being so direct, and I never do this, but I find this to be really insulting. I'm glad that some people enjoyed it and my displeasure should not take away from their satisfaction. But for me, personally, I felt like I was watching some creepy spoof of the Jungle Book. As soon as I saw that thing's mouth move and a voice came out, this episode started going downhill fast.
I am a little pleased to see Anakin and Ahsoka show up again, but only a little. In my opinion they added absolutely nothing to this story. What was the point of them even being in it? I know it's set-up probably for the next episode but the several scenes with them totally messed up the pacing of this episode for me. And I really didn't like the use of the Force theme when Anakin was talking about sensing one or both of the brothers. Why would the Force theme be used there? It should have been a theme that had dark underpinnings. And Ahsoka calling her master Anakin was even stranger. I can't remember if this is the first time or not but I found it really out of place. The scene with Dooku and Grievous at the beginning was probably included for some set-up, but I also found that to be a bit superfluous.
I am really shocked that Katie Lucas of all people would write an episode as lacking in character development as this one. And I am not hating on her, just being objective. I respect her greatly, and she has written some of my all time favorite episodes. But as constructive criticism, this was definitely not her shining moment. Nothing changed; Savage found Maul and we all discovered how crazy the fallen Sith now is. There was no moving from point A to point B like with Ventress in many of the episode featuring her that were written by Katie. Savage's character was completely rigid, the snake served no purpose, and Maul's character could have been written by a 5-year-old. They decided to make Maul into a scatter brained, hysterical household vermin who could barely put a sentence together and was more manic than a fickle pickle in a Jar Jar of jogan fruits. Now I would have understood this if he had shown up in the beginning of the episode and then went through a progression to regaining his sanity towards the end, but to waste that much time to get to that point and then only leave one more episode in his possible lifespan was in my opinion very irresponsible.
There was just so much weirdness in this episode between the snake and the insectoid Maul and the strange pacing. And this might be the fault of over-zealous marketing, but there was absolutely no suspense. We all knew that the real story wouldn't start until Maul showed up; so the long depiction of Savage's search for him made no sense. Again, if Savage had learned something new about himself or the Force in that time, or had changed as a person, it would have added to the story. But all it ended up being was a quest video game. He went from here to there, and did this and did that. He didn't even do anything really mind-blowing. Sure it was interesting to see him choke a girl in a bar and slaughter a few scavengers, but seriously? This guy is one of the most awesome Sith in the series and all he is given to do is pick on mediocre beings? It would have been just as relevant to merely infer that he had done those things and then move onto the good stuff. For instance, he could have had to take on a fire breather. The climax of the episode was him getting unsuccessfully "Mauled" by a bionic insect. And again, we all knew that he would survive because it was obvious who the insect was. I believe the only people who could have been really emotionally invested in this episode are people who haven't even seen a minute of Star Wars. It all was extremely predictable and non-engaging.
Well I think I have criticized this episode enough for one article. I will leave with these thoughts. We came into this episode wondering how Maul had survived. We came into this episode wondering how he would play into the overall story. We came into this episode expecting to see the character we loved from Episode I to have one last hurrah. I will be honest, I was skeptical of this idea to bring him back, and only cautiously optimistic that they could pull it off. What I was not expected to see though, was not a single attempt to give this episode a stitch of relevance. Now I understand that there is one more episode, and I fully expect some type of interesting resolution and explanation for this, but this is television, and you can't just pile all the plot in part 2 and expect people to be satisfied with part 1. This episode was a disaster, and I was not even close to being impressed with it. I really hope that the next episode is so epic that all is well that ends well, but it will take a lot to salvage this. Just when I thought they had hit their stride, the Clone Wars team has lost me again.