Subtitled as “Rise of the Bounty Hunters”, the second season of The Clone Wars certainly increases its focus on the sinister underbelly of the Star Wars universe with appearances from Cad Bane, Aurra Sing, Hondo Ohnaka and Boba Fett. While there are still episodes that focus on the battlefield drama of the Clone Wars seen often in Season One, there seems be a greater variety in the episode types with a number of key stories focused on the Senate and Mandalore. The series continues to delve deeper into the mythology of the movies, exploring off-screen moments such as Boba Fett’s mentorship, the second battle of Geonosis and the Mandalorian Civil War – all plot threads that will be picked up in other expanded universe materials.
We have reviewed and rated each story-arc in the season, and will provide an overall score for the Season Two boxset.
2×01 – “Holocron Heist”
2×02 – “Cargo of Doom”
2×03 – “Children of the Force”
Kicking off Season Two in style, this solid three-part adventure continues to showcase Cad Bane as a worthy adversary for the Jedi, constantly outsmarting them even when it looks like they have him beat. It is also exciting to see Darth Sidious take on a more active role, employing bounty hunters to achieve his goals. The three episodes flow together nicely, resulting in an engaging storyline that increases in momentum with each installment. I particularly enjoyed the sequence on Mustafar in “Children of the Force”, subtly foreshadowing the climactic duel between Anakin and Obi-Wan on the same planet. This focus on bounty hunters is a refreshing change in narrative, immediately distinguishing Season Two from its predecessor.
Score – ★★★★ ½
2×04 – “Senate Spy”
2×05 – “Landing at Point Rain”
2×06 – “Weapons Factory”
2×07 – “Legacy of Terror”
2×08 – “Brain Invaders”
At five episodes long, this is the longest ongoing story-arc seen in The Clone Wars so far and yet it manages to remain entertaining thanks to its constant changes in tone and genre. Initially in “Senate Spy”, we’re treated to a cute look at Anakin and Padmé as a married couple and how their work lives constantly impact on their personal relationship. Subsequent episodes move the focus onto the renewed conflict on Geonosis, echoing the events of Attack of the Clones but with a grittier focus on infantry combat. As a result, there is a greater emphasis on the casualties of war, with the Geonosians presented as horrific combatants dragging clones off to their deaths.
Ahsoka is also given more spotlight in these episodes as she finds herself in a friendly rivalry with Luminara’s padawan, Barriss Offee. She seems to be learning both good and bad traits from Anakin, which worries the other Jedi masters. Again, there is another shift in tone as the final two episodes introduce a mind-altering parasite that connects the living and the dead to the Geonosian hive mind, evoking a horror movie vibe as the Jedi face off against these “zombies”. These unexpected twists and turns keep these episodes engaging throughout and demonstrate the versatility of the programme and how it can tell such varied stories during wartime.
Score – ★★★★
2×09 – “Grievous Intrigue”
2×10 – “The Deserter”
Returning the focus back to General Grievous after an extended absence, “Grievous Intrigue” feels reminiscent of the Season One episodes featuring the character, as he once again attempts to outsmart the Jedi before it backfires and leads to him escaping by the skin of his teeth. While the basic plot feels formulaic, there is a brilliant fight sequence between Grievous and Obi-Wan that culminates in them hanging onto the walls of a destroyed corridor above the vacuum of space. While the second episode “The Deserter” follows Grievous’ escape to a nearby planet, it focuses more on the story of a clone that has discharged itself from the war and started a family. Brilliantly written, this episode explores the humanity of the clones and the way they have been used as cannon fodder for the war without thought for their needs as living beings. The series has always done a great job at distinguishing each clone as individuals (through names, hair, tattoos, etc.) and Dee Bradley Baker somehow manages to make them sound unique when they all talk together. I really like it when the series explores the ethics of breeding clones as an army, so this episode really stood out.
Score – ★★★★
2×11 – “Lightsaber Lost”
Riffing on the iconic fable of “The Tortoise and the Hare”, this single episode adventure features the impatient Ahsoka partnered with elderly Jedi Tera Sinube in a hunt for her stolen lightsaber. The juxtaposition between youth and experience works brilliantly in this episode and Ahsoka is given the opportunity to grow as a character outside of Anakin’s shadow. The chase sequences through the underworld of Coruscant were exhilarating and probably the most cinematic action scenes seen in the series since the equally impressive train chase in the Season One episode, “Destroy Malevolence”. A refreshing departure from the typical war-centric stories, this was a neat take on the film noir genre with a Star Wars twist.
Score – ★★★★ ½
2×12 – “The Mandalore Plot”
2×13 – “Voyage of Deception”
2×14 – “Duchess of Mandalore”
This intriguing three-part adventure revisits the concept of pacifism during wartime, first explored in the Season One episodes “Jedi Crash” and “Defenders of the Peace”. Here the Republic and the Jedi are presented as negative influences on peace, just as willing to occupy and influence neutral planets as the Separatists. From Duchess Satine’s point-of-view, anyone engaging in the conflict is at fault, and while it is a simplistic view, it provokes an interesting debate on war and those who propagate it. Palpatine continues to manipulate both sides of events as the ultimate puppet-master, but this trilogy is most notable for debuting core elements to the series’ overall mythology, such as: the Mandalorian Death Watch, the Dark Saber and Duchess Satine. It is great to see Obi-Wan get some focused character development and to witness his own doubts and temptations about leaving the Jedi Order. It adds a human side to the character, who primarily serves to punctuate the action with dry sarcastic barbs. Where Anakin acted on his impulses with Padme, Obi Wan chooses duty over love with Satine. Again, the Jedi are portrayed as antiquated and out of touch, as its rules over attachments appear instrumental in its own downfall.
Score – ★★★★ ½
2×15 – “Senate Murders”
Reminiscent of an Agatha Christie murder mystery, “Senate Murders” shines the spotlight on Padme Amidala as she attempts to solve a ‘whodunit’ conspiracy in the heart of the Senate, complete with a Poirot-inspired detective on the case. As with the ‘Mandalore Trilogy’ before it, there is a focus on politicians working to solve the Clone Wars conflict whilst the fighting occurs elsewhere, showcasing the bureaucratic aspect of war. It is a refreshing change of pace from the typical episode format and allows Padme to develop as a character in her own right, separate from her relationship with Anakin. It is also interesting to see her working alongside Bail Organa and watching their friendship on-screen, giving some context behind his decision to eventually adopt her daughter as his own.
Score – ★★★★
2×16 – “Cat and Mouse”
This prequel episode takes place before the events of “The Clone Wars” movie, and is actually the first episode of the series if you were to watch it in chronological order. As a result, this episode revisits the Battle of Christophsis again but this time from another angle, focusing more on aerial space combat, which is my least favourite type of episode! “Cat and Mouse” feels like a retreading of old storylines – highlighting Anakin’s knack for turning risk into reward, as well as presenting him as a maverick amongst the Jedi. There isn’t really anything new here, and it just seems to upset the momentum of the previous episodes by looking back at an earlier, resolved conflict. The design for Admiral Trench is great though, creating a fearsome foe for the Jedi in the form of a talking Tarantula alien.
Score – ★★★
2×17 – “Bounty Hunters”
George Lucas has openly admitted to being inspired by Akira Kurosawa when he made Star Wars, specifically citing The Hidden Fortress as an influence. This episode of The Clone Wars also pays tribute to the legendary director by referencing his most famous work, The Seven Samurai. I am a huge fan of The Seven Samurai and how it has influenced movies as diverse as The Magnificent Seven and A Bug’s Life. “Bounty Hunters” follows the same basic plot as the movie and has a ragtag group of bounty hunters and Jedi attempting to protect a farming village against pirates. I really liked the visual design of these friendly bounty hunters, particularly Seripas and Embo, and the story itself remains as timeless as it always did. The honour and code of the Jedi closely resembles that of the Samurai, so this direct homage to Kurosawa’s work feels particularly apt.
Score – ★★★★ ½
2×18 – “The Zillo Beast”
2×19 – “The Zillo Beast Strikes Back”
Continuing with the theme of genre-inspired episodes, this two-parter introduces the Zillo Beast; a Kaiju monster that lives beneath the surface of Malastare. As the last of its kind, the Jedi attempt to save the Zillo Beast from extinction but don’t count on Chancellor Palpatine’s plans to harvest the animal for its impenetrable armour. While the episode has the blockbuster nature of a Godzilla or King Kong movie, it also shares the same sense of tragedy as the beast is eventually overcome by man. The extended use of Mace Windu in these two episodes highlighted to me just how unique Samuel L Jackson’s voice is, and how difficult it is for the voice actor to replicate it. While Terrence C. Carson does evoke the stoic grumpiness of the character, it lacks the same righteous attitude and effortless cool that Jackson brings to the role in live-action. It was interesting to see him clash with Palpatine, foreshadowing his eventual demise in Revenge of the Sith.
Score – ★★★★
2×20 – “Death Trap”
2×21 – “R2 Come Home”
2×22 – “Lethal Trackdown”
Concluding the season is a trilogy of episodes that reintroduces Boba Fett as he attempts to get revenge on Mace Windu for killing his father on Geonosis at the end of Attack of the Clones. Mentored by the odd couple of Aurra Sing and Bossk, Fett poses as a clone to assassinate Windu and it’s really interesting to see the complex relationship he has with the other clone cadets – a mix of brotherly love and self-loathing. These episodes are essential viewing for fans wanting to join the dots between Boba’s appearances in the prequel and original trilogies.
“Death Trap” is the strongest of the three episodes, tightly plotted and surprisingly tense as Boba nearly succeeds in his mission. “R2 Come Home” offers a peculiar mix of Home Alone and Lassie Come Home, showcasing just how awesome and capable R2D2 is as he defends Anakin and Mace against the bounty hunters. “Lethal Trackdown” switches the perspective by bringing Plo Koon and Ahsoka into the mix, and while it lacks the same impact as its earlier installments, it highlights the alternate mentor relationship between Plo and Ahsoka.
Score – ★★★★★
Season Two moves away from the battlefield to showcase the action away from enemy lines, focusing on bounty hunters and mercenaries who attempt to profit during war time. As with Season One, the episodes are fast-paced and filled with strong characterisation. The rotating cast keeps the stories feeling fresh and exciting, whilst giving lesser-known characters the opportunity to standout from the crowd. While the first season drew comparisons to old fashioned news-reels and war movies, there is a broader feel to this second season with episodes influenced by works as diverse as Agatha Christie, Godzilla, Akira Kurosawa and even, Lassie Come Home. These homages result in an eclectic set of episodes and serve to break up the monotony of the usual war stories.
My favourite stories were the multi-episode arcs, most notably the “Boba Fett trilogy” at the end of the season and the five-episode run between “Senate Spy” and “Brain Invaders” which told the story of the second battle of Geonosis, but using different characters and perspectives in each episode. Aside from the flashback episode, “Cat and Mouse”, there wasn’t a weak episode in the bunch, although I am hesitant about Season Three as I have read that the first half of the season features a lot of prequels and sequels to existing episodes, which I have found to be the weakest ones in the past. Regardless of that, Season Two proves itself to be an improvement upon an already solid first season, demonstrating more versatility and innovation in the series’ storytelling and how it delves deeper into the rich and rewarding continuity of the prequel trilogy.
Season Two Score – ★★★★ ½
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