The fourth season of The Clone Wars is subtitled ‘Battle Lines’ and it certainly feels like this season delves into some of the notable conflicts of the war with the underwater battles on Mon Cala and the mass casualties under General Krell’s leadership on Umbara. The second half of the season puts Obi-Wan Kenobi through the wringer as he is beaten to a pulp, held prisoner, fakes his death to pose undercover and comes face-to-face with his greatest enemy. The increased focus on characters who do not have a fixed ending, such as Asajj Ventress, Savage Opress and Darth Maul, energises the series greatly and gives an unpredictability to those episodes.
We have reviewed and rated each story-arc in the season, and will provide an overall score for the Season Four boxset.
4×01 – “Water War”
4×02 – “Gungan Attack”
4×03 – “Prisoners”
Opening the season is this action-packed three-part adventure centred on the underwater civil war on Mon Cala between the Mon Calamari race and the Quarren as they dispute the validity of Prince Lee Char’s claim to the throne. A pleasant departure from the ground and space battles seen in previous seasons, this nautical-centred storyline also features a familiar face with the first appearance of Admiral Ackbar (seen here under the rank of Captain). With its underwater setting, there are some nice set-pieces as Anakin and Padme must struggle with the challenges of fighting enemies that can breathe freely without the need for apparatus.
The episode also features Jar Jar Binks and the Gungans as the series continues its attempts to redeem the much-despised character, whilst also showcasing the wealth of amphibian races located in the Star Wars universe. I also quite liked the ruthless nature of the shark-like Karkarodons and their leader, Riff Tamson. Gloriously evil from the outset, Tamson meets an explosive end in a homage to Jaws (“smile, you sonovabitch”) that shocked me with how gory it was for a cartoon. A solid start to the season, this storyline managed to reinvigorate the familiar Republic vs. Separatist battlefield through its unusual aquatic setting and the diversity of its warring factions.
Score – ★★★★
4×04 – “Shadow Warrior”
The Clone Wars’ redemption of Jar Jar Binks and the Gungans continues in this short single episode adventure which sees the underwater race capture General Grievous against all odds. Binks himself is slightly less clumsy and irritating than in his big-screen appearances as he continues to fall backwards into success, although the main highlight in this story is General Tarpals and the sacrifice he makes (even if it is immediately undermined by Padme releasing Grievous to save Anakin). Succinct and surprisingly emotive at times, “Shadow Warrior” is a great example of how The Clone Wars delves into the corners of Star Wars’ prequels to tell interesting stories about some of its most divisive characters.
Score – ★★★★
4×05 – “Mercy Mission”
4×06 – “Nomad Droids”
With a plot focused on C3PO and R2D2 having adventures on strange planets, this two fun two-part storyline evokes memories of the opening fifteen minutes of A New Hope, which saw the droids stranded on the sandy dunes of Tatooine. The two episodes feel like a remix of the droids’ best moments from the original trilogy, echoing key moments from Endor and Tatooine whilst also paying homage to classic children’s stories such as Gulliver’s Travels and The Wizard of Oz. It is a change in tone from the typical ‘high stakes’ events occurring in most Clone Wars episodes, but it also reflects the lighter sense of humour present in the Star Wars universe, which the two droids often represent onscreen. Anthony Daniels has reprised his role as C3PO in all Clone Wars episodes to date, but this two-parter gives him the spotlight with the majority of the dialogue duties, with his performance reaffirming why the fussy protocol droid is still beloved after all these years.
Score – ★★★ ½
4×07 – “Darkness on Umbara”
4×08 – “The General”
4×09 – “Plan of Dissent”
4×10 – “Carnage of Krell”
The episodes that best showcase the harsh realities of the Clone Wars are the ones that focus on the clones themselves. Often depicted as expendable infantry troops to support the Jedi commanders, The Clone Wars goes some lengths to depict the clones as individual personalities despite the fact they all derive from the same genetic template. While most Jedi respect their troops and form a kinship with them, this four-parter demonstrates a more callous approach to the commander / trooper dynamic that reflects a similar disparity seen during real-world wars.
Dee Bradley Baker deserves a shout-out for his impeccable work voicing all the Clone Troopers, managing to make conversations between multiple clones sound fluid and natural despite providing all the voices himself. Captain Rex is given the spotlight as he is torn between his loyalties to the chain of command and his loyalties to his fellow clones. As the clones are continually put into dangerous situations by General Krell’s reckless tactics, I found myself willing the clones to “do an Order 66 on him”, which proves how effective the show has been in getting me to care about the clones. Possibly one of the series’ strongest story-arcs to date, this was remarkably mature and thought-provoking storytelling.
Score – ★★★★★
4×11 – “Kidnapped”
4×12 – “Slaves of the Republic”
4×13 – “Escape from Kadavo”
When a group of Togruta colonists are kidnapped and forced into slavery, the mission becomes personal to both Ahsoka and Anakin. For Ahsoka, she feels determined to rescue her people whilst Anakin is reminded of his own past as a slave. This three-part storyline reaffirms Anakin’s hatred for slavery and how his emotions can lead him to flirt dangerously close to the Dark Side, much like when he massacred the Tusken Raiders in Attack of the Clones. There are hints of that here when Anakin uses the Force Choke on the Zygerrian Queen and he seems particularly on edge throughout the storyline
All three episodes are tightly-plotted and form an effective trilogy as the Jedi hunt for the missing colonists; I really enjoyed the complexity of the Zygerrian Queen’s relationship with Anakin and how she seemed to genuinely hold some affection for him. As with his appearances in “Nightsisters” and “Witches of the Mist”, Count Dooku is genuinely threatening here – seemingly fed up with his constant run-ins with Anakin and Obi-Wan – and as a result, the brief duel between him and Anakin ends up being surprisingly tense. Obi-Wan gets the short end of the stick in this story-arc, not only taking a beating from Darts D’Nar to stall for time in “Kidnapped” but also ending up as a slave in “Escape from Kadavo”.
Overall, this is another refreshing story-arc that develops the series beyond its simple ‘battle of the week’ format and explores how the slave trade prospered under the Empire.
Score – ★★★★ ½
4×14 – “A Friend in Need”
Proving that you don’t need multiple episodes to craft a compelling and dramatic story, “A Friend in Need” is an excellent Ahsoka-centric episode that also develops the ongoing Mandalore Civil War arc introduced in Season Two. Picking up plot threads from last season’s “Heroes on Both Sides”, the episode sees the return of Lux Bonteri as a potential love interest for Ahsoka and also sees the return of Death Watch and the Darksaber. It’s a fairly intense episode and again tells a story that feels more mature than its cartoon visuals suggest. Talking of visuals, the planet of Carlac is absolutely beautiful and has a distinct Asian influence with its snowy landscapes and cherry blossom trees – it’s one of the more serene-looking environments seen in the series.
Short and sweet, this episode is very effective in re-establishing Death Watch as an independent faction within the Clone Wars with an entirely different motivation to the Republic, Separatists and Bounty Hunters. Given how Bo-Katan Kryse and the Darksaber are still relevant even now in The Mandalorian, these plot threads will continue to become more prominent over time.
Score – ★★★★ ½
4×15 – “Deception”
4×16 – “Friends and Enemies”
4×17 – “The Box”
4×18 – “Crisis on Naboo”
Returning the focus to the underbelly of the Star Wars universe, this four-part adventure focuses on an undercover Obi-Wan Kenobi attempting to infiltrate a group of bounty hunters to prevent a plot to kidnap Chancellor Palpatine. Over the course of the four episodes, Obi-Wan allies himself with Cad Bane and it is interesting to see the relationship between undercover Jedi and bounty hunter develop. One of the strongest episodes, “The Box” is a curious homage to the sci-fi horror Cube and sees a group of bounty hunters put to the test in a computerised environment filled with death traps.
While the undercover element is intriguing enough on its own, the most significant element of this story arc is the way the Jedi Council withholds information from Anakin regarding Obi-Wan’s “death”, setting the seed for his trust issues and eventual turn towards the dark side. With Dooku attempting to capture Palpatine here, it left me wondering whether he knew that his master Darth Sidious and his rival, Chancellor Palpatine, were one and the same. This episode seems to imply he doesn’t as I’m unsure what his endgame was once Palpatine had been kidnapped. Ironically, Palpatine is eventually captured by Dooku at the start of Revenge of the Sith and it ends up costing the Count his head…
Overall, this was a really strong story-arc with decent momentum across all four episodes.
Score – ★★★★ ½
4×19 – “Massacre”
4×20 – “Bounty”
4×21 – “Brothers”
4×22 – “Revenge”
This four-part adventure can be split into two halves, with the initial two episodes showcasing Asajj Ventress’ continued development as a character as she finds herself alone without the guidance of the Nightsisters or Count Dooku. It’s interesting to see her wind up as a bounty hunter working alongside the likes of Boba Fett, Bossk and Dengar. As a character, she has become much more compelling to watch ever since Dooku betrayed her as his apprentice and I like how she has become more morally grey as the series goes on. The sequence where she teams up with Obi-Wan Kenobi against Savage Opress and Darth Maul was extremely satisfying and demonstrates just how far the character has come over the past four seasons.
The second half of this four-part adventure focuses on Savage Opress’ attempts to locate his missing brother: Darth Maul. In perhaps the biggest addition to Star Wars mythology since Ahsoka Tano, the series resurrects Maul after his apparent demise in The Phantom Menace and fits him with a cybernetic bottom half. His survival was due to his immense hate for the Jedi and Obi-Wan, in particular, with the power of the Dark Side allowing him to remain alive and hidden on the waste planet Lotho Minor. This version of Maul is much more verbal than Ray Park’s version of the character, giving some actual depth to what was essentially a cool character design in the movie. The confrontation between Maul and Obi-Wan immediately justifies the character’s resurrection and establishes Maul as the credible threat he deserved to be.
Rife with fan-pleasing moments and important additions to the Star Wars canon, this season finale just cements The Clone Wars’ position as essential viewing.
Score – ★★★★★
Season Four saw an increased focus on long-form storytelling with just eight stories told across the twenty-two episodes, and it resulted in some really powerful stories. Plot threads from Season Three were developed nicely with the Asajj Ventress / Darth Maul story-arc standing out the most and providing yet another solid season finale. This season felt well-balanced with a mix of stories, each with a unique focus such as the Jedi, Sith, Bounty Hunters, Clone Troopers and even the comic relief, like Jar Jar Binks and the droids. For me, the highlight was the season finale and the return of Darth Maul, but there were a number of high points throughout the entire season such as the ‘General Krell’ and ‘Obi-Wan Undercover’ storylines. Despite its cartoon visuals, the series still manages to maintain a mature tone and a hefty body count, making it very accessible to an older audience. With two five-star stories, this might be the best season of The Clone Wars yet!
Season Score – ★★★★ ½
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