Monday, May 03, 2010

Star Wars: The Clone Wars - 2.20-22 - 'The Boba Fett Trilogy'

Boba Fett teams up with Bounty Hunters to seek revenge on Mace Windu.

What worked? Bringing Boba Fett into The Clone Wars to close out Season 2 was a great idea. His mere presence in the mix was enough to bring an air of much needed over-arching story continuity to the show, and his revenge motivation gave some of the proceedings a very welcome level of dark gravitas. Additionally, the episodes provided us with a good tapestry of character-use, bringing various protagonists and antagonists into the limelight at different times and using them all well. What didn't work? While the fluctuation of tone from episode to episode was a bit of a distraction when viewing all three in succession, the only true disappointment here was that the character depth seemingly promised by the first episode (2.20 [Death Trap]) wasn't followed through to any satisfying moment of dramatic climax in the last (2.22 [Lethal Trackdown]). Also, what was up with Bossk speaking English (basic)? Blehk! I want my Bossk subtitled, thank you very much!

The story itself was thin, but sufficient enough to connect the various action sequences and intrigue. The slow, suspenseful pacing of 2.20 (Death Trap) was particularly well executed and had the secret of Boba's identity been better kept, his reveal as one of the clone cadets would have been even more fun. Still, including him as a spy amidst the cadets was clever and paid off nicely with his having to betray his "brothers." While Boba's plan to blow up Mace was rather quickly thwarted, watching the bounty-hunter-to-be take more and more desperate (and destructive) actions to achieve his ends was impactful and appropriately disturbing. Seeing cadet training in action was equally cool, as was viewing the Jedi and the older clones from the awe-inspired cadet point of view. It was a bit surprising to see Aurra Sing let the other cadets (with whom Boba escaped) go so easily, but I suppose blowing up an escape pod full of children would be just a bit too dark for this show. Still, perhaps a failed attempt at sending them spinning off into uncharted space would have been a nice way to keep the character threatening without visualizing murders.

We as viewers of course already know Boba's motivations, but watching Mace put two-and-two together upon seeing Jango's helmet was an effective sequence and the best part of the next episode, 2.21 (R2 Come Home). The later scene where he recounts what happened in Attack of the Clones to Anakin was a telling bit of characterwork for Mace, but would have been far more effective had Mace continued to offer his view on the necessity of his actions rather than simply review known events in a somewhat regretful manner. The second best parts of the episode offered us a look at the curious relationship between Boba and Aurra Sing. Watching Aurra lead Boba down a dark path, and watching Boba take the first uneasy steps toward following her down that path, made for some compelling internal struggle from Boba, but these scenes, too, may have been better served had they offered us more a glimpse into Aurra's views and her rationale for taking on Boba as a team-member (as well as Boba's need to be accepted by here). As is often the case with this show, the surface relationship is there -- and it's a clear, interesting one -- but the depths of what makes these people tick are only ever hinted at, rather than explored to a satisfying extent. But the bulk of episode 2.21 was devoted to R2-D2 hijinx and heroics -- a not unwelcome, but oddly placed, bit of subject matter. The R2 story here (wherein the little droid proves his Anakin-encouraged/allowed personality to be a benefit) could have made for a great, fun standalone episode. But sandwiched between two far more dramatic episodes, the comic relief primarily served to undercut the impact of Boba's overall storyline, taking the focus away from his character to a hurtful degree. To reiterate, I have no issue with any of R2's story in the episode, and actually enjoyed much of it (particularly his protecting of Mace and Anakin from the Bounty Hunters by sending debris tumbling their way), but as presented, the material diluted 2.20's careful build-up of tension (perhaps intentionally for the kiddies watching) at the unfortunate muddling of the central Boba Fett story-arch's cohesion and clear narrative through-line.

2.22 (Lethal Trackdown) does a good bit of work refocusing the narrative back to Boba, but ultimately unravels after a great start. What should have been a progression to the climactic dissolution of Boba and Aurra's relationship is here reduced to one solid moment and the sudden run away by Aurra. Rather than have circumstance simply force Aurra to show her true colors and abandon Boba -- it would have been far more dramatically satisfying to watch the characters come to the conclusion that they were incompatible. I'm not saying Boba needed to be a hero at all -- but choosing to distance himself from Sing, or watching Aurra choose to ditch Fett (of her own free will and not because of a Jedi attack) would have been the climactic character pay-off this trilogy of episodes deserved. The good news here is that the other stories this episode wove together in place of a solid Boba/Aurra character pay-off were damn good, even if they were culpable for over-stuffing the narrative. Bringing Hondo back once more was a nice touch, and seeing him walk the line between good and evil was a welcome change of pace, giving his character a lot of potential in the future for roles on both sides of the conflict. Knowing he had a history with Jango, also makes him a potential player in future Boba story-archs as well. Equally compelling was Ahsoka and Plo Koon's journey into the Coruscant depths and eventual run-in with Aurra. Both Jedi's characteristics were well-mined for good character moments, and I hope we see more of them working together soon. The Coruscant depths, meanwhile, were an area I'd never thought we'd see visualized. I'd figured the seedy bars of Attack of the Clones and a few of this season's earlier episodes were the closest we'd come to seeing the underworld described so effectively in Timothy Zahn's (and many others') Expanded Universe novels. But here, the visuals were journeying down into Coruscant were some of the most effective in these episodes, and I hope further trips to these places in future episodes yield even more dangerous results than the scum-filled (and surprisingly colorful) nightclub we were presented with here.

As a final note, the action at the end of 2.22 was superb, exciting, and cleverly choreographed - helping to fill the gaping void of an emotional climax with a stirring visual one. But the great action comes amidst a rushed third act. The last moment between Boba and Mace was particularly laughable due to how rushed it was. When a character spouts out in anger that he knows he's done wrong... well those two things just don't fit well, do they? A more distrubed, bitter, SLOWER, line delivery from Boba could have been chilling here, and could have served to unsettle Mace Windu in a way not witnessed in the show's slapdash treatment of the scene. Had this moment been handled better and/or more powerfully, it could have raised the entire trilogy of episodes up a level and left viewers on a far more memorable note to close the season. Sadly, the story runs away as quickly as Aurra did minutes earlier. Yes, Boba is captured (for now) --- but I wish they'd given us some kind of more impactful character conclusion to the arch, be it Mace second-guessing his usual confidence or Boba deciding he works solo from now on. Ultimately, these were a fairly solid set of episodes with a great variety of good ideas, but some frustratingly poor choices in character development and story-arch execution keep them from becoming series classics. This show is making all the right moves and telling all the right stories -- it just needs to tell them a bit more carefully...

2.20 Death Trap: 4 stars
2.21 R2 Come Home: 3.5 stars
2.22 Lethal Trackdown: 3.5 stars

Stay tuned for a Season 2 round-up and overall score!

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