Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Clone Wars Review: Episode 5.02 “A War on Two Fronts”

By Chris Seekell 

This review is different than my previous ones. Usually I write them after only seeing the episode once, and before I discuss it in detail with other people and read other reviews. That way it is purely my own thoughts and initial reaction. However this weekend I didn’t get to writing right away, and I have seen the episode a few times, read some reviews, and even been on a couple podcasts discussing the episode before writing this. So this review is not only my thoughts on “A War on Two Fronts”, but my response to things I have heard other people say as well.

After watching the episode a few times, the highlight for me is the animation. Onderon was animated masterfully. I really enjoyed the initial sequence of the Jedi and Rex landing on the planet and walking through the jungle. The detailed vegetation sitting in a moderate fog beneath a starry sky was a fantastic environment. The ruins that the Rebels inhabited was also animated well, and the capital city Iziz was impressive. It was great to see full-flowing robes on the Jedi characters.

Getting to the plot of “A War on Two Fronts”, there was a lot of confusion surrounding the politics of the situation. A question that many people including myself had, was if Onderon has just succeeded to the CIS, why was it represented in the Separatist Senate a few seasons ago by Mina Bonteri? After paying close attention to the information in the episode, I believe this is not an issue. It was stated that the “King” of Onderon decided to align the planet with the CIS at the outbreak of the war. So this planet has been under Separatist control for at least two years. Because Onderon politically aligned with the CIS, instead of being conquered by the droid army, it was given representation in the Senate. 

As a senator, Mina Bonteri attempted to negotiate peacefully with the Republic, however her attempts at brokering a treaty with the help of Padme Amidala were thwarted by a terror attack on Coruscant that made the Republic Senate unwilling to cooperate. This clearly illustrates that while the Separatist Senate may have administrative jurisdiction over their member planets, the military is controlled by Count Dooku, who has complete power to authorize attacks without notifying his Senate. 

This is the climate that existed when Lux Bonteri enters the story. After his mother was killed by what we can assume to be Separatist agents masquerading as Republic forces, to silence any further attempts at peaceful negotiation, he spun out of control and joined the Death Watch. However after witnessing the group destroy a peaceful village, he fled back to his homeworld of Onderon. This is where a change happens in his character that is difficult to understand. Why didn’t Lux follow in his mother’s footsteps and enter the political scene? 

For some reason he decided that Onderon should not be part of the CIS, and joined a group of rebels. When he told them that Ahsoka was the reason why he was there, did he merely mean that she had saved him from Death Watch, or did that have a deeper meaning? Perhaps she has shown him that there are good people on both sides caught up in this conflict, and he doesn’t want to support either side’s attempts to bring harm to the other. 

Additionally there is also the subtext that the current King of Onderon isn’t the “true king”. While living on Raxus, Lux could have become oblivious to the state of his people back home. Upon returning following his soul searching excursion to Death Watch, he could have discovered that the planet was in rough shape under current leadership, and made the decision to join the resistance. It will be very interesting to see how all of this plays out in future episodes. “A War On Two Fronts” did nothing but establish the current position of the characters and raise questions about the plot. Hopefully there will be more development soon and these questions will be answered. 

An interesting subplot to this episode was the romantic tension between Lux and Ahsoka. From the very beginning, eye contact indicated there was something going on. Personally I would rather not see anything develop between Lux and Ahsoka, because I don’t respect Lux and know things will very likely not end well. However there is an opportunity to add to Ahsoka’s character here, and hopefully this situation will pay off by moving her to an intriguing place. 

While initially Lux seemed like the one who was “into” Ahsoka in previous seasons, clearly now Ahsoka is the one doing the crushing. Perhaps the introduction of the character Steela Gerrera had something to do with this change. Seeing Lux interact in a familiar way with another woman may have been enough to bring subconscious feelings to the surface, and those feelings were so obvious that even Anakin noticed it. Meanwhile, Steela herself also seemed to be wary of Ahsoka’s relationship with Lux. This love triangle will certainly be entertaining to follow in future episodes. 

Trying to understand the plot in this episode was really the only thing that held my attention however. The main storyline of the Jedi and Rex training the rebels was lackluster and slow at points. There was just not enough emotional resonance for me to care for characters like Saw and Steela. We have no idea what their motivations are for opposing the CIS. We are led to believe they are heroes because they are fighting alongside the Jedi, but they have not been shown doing anything heroic at all. In fact they don’t even know how to fight adequately. Both Saw and Steela are headstrong and emotionally unbalanced, illustrated by their contentions with Lux and Ahsoka. 

The plot of them showing mild frustration, then overcoming the droids easily was very weak. It would have been much more emotionally gripping if they had sustained heavy losses in that battle, and then regrouped and successfully pushed forward. That would have made their victory mean a lot more. The fact that Lux over eagerly jumped up on top of a tank’s cannon and then fell on Saw in training, and then completed the maneuver in actual battle just doesn’t make sense. Nothing changed in either of their characters between these events. 

The progression of Steela’s character also had no logic. Earlier in the episode she was shown frustrated at being unable to roll a grenade under a destroyer droid, then to Ahsoka’s chagrin sniped a floating droid head out of the air. In the battle, instead of overcoming her frustration, Steela merely used her blaster skills to free a herd of domestic animals who trampled droids. Again there was no change in her character. 

While Ahsoka and Lux had odd yet interesting subplots, and Steela and Saw didn’t make any sense, Anakin Skywalker probably was the most well done character in this episode. At the beginning his dialog with the council about using rebels as a weapon against the CIS was very interesting, and ironic considering his impending future of crushing rebellions. It was also great to hear him use the line, “Impressive, most impressive.” Anakin may be a dark horse in this arc. While Ahsoka and the Onderonians seem to be the more obvious players, the fact that Anakin is witnessing two main plots of his life play out before him, rebellion and Jedi romance, might have an interesting effect on him. 

The action and music in this episode were subpar. There was also absolutely no wit or flow to the dialog. By itself, this episode was very weak, however all of the questions and scenarios it brought up indicate more engaging episodes in this arc to come. But ultimately if this arc is going to be good, it needs stronger character performance and development, and a plot that is more relevant to the overall stories of the main characters and the Clone Wars. I am optimistic that we will see improvements in these areas as things intensify.


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