Sunday, November 20, 2011

Quite A Bit More Adult, The Clone Wars Season Three Brings Real Darkness To The Star Wars Universe!

The Good: Tone, Overall story
The Bad: Lack of significant character development, Animation, Continuity
The Basics: While the third season of The Clone Wars is finally engaging enough for adult audiences, it lacks enough substance of character to enthusiastically recommend to adult audiences.

For those who have not followed my many reviews, I have not been wowed by The Cartoon Network's The Clone Wars. The animation is not as impressive as it ought to be, the character development has been ridiculously low and the explicit themes at the outset of each episode are very clearly geared toward children. So, when I sat down to watch the third season DVD set of The Clone Wars, it was with remarkably low expectations. The Clone Wars Season Three still suffers from the ridiculous title cards and has the same lame animation, but this season is much darker.

Filled with political messages, more gore, violence and some stronger sexual undertones, the third season of The Clone Wars finally seems ready to part with the child audience and commit to being for the adults who grew up on the original Star Wars Trilogy. To wit, The Clone Wars Season Three features several episodes before the appearance of Ahsoka Tano and when she does appear, she is less Anakin's padawan and more her own person.

In the third season of The Clone Wars features more arcs that build more complex stories and an increased sense of continuity . . . within the series, if not the franchise. The Clone Wars - the current series - seems to exist in complete denial of the Cartoon Network's earlier venture (Volume 1 is reviewed here, Volume 2 is reviewed here!), which had a few different plot points than this series. The most relevant difference comes in the character arc of Asajj Ventress, who gets a burn notice in this season and is the subject of the penultimate arc of the season. In the earlier series, she was killed by Anakin and the third season of The Clone Wars tells a very different story.

This season of The Clone Wars features the training of the Domino Squad of Clone Troopers. The troopers seem less competent than the other units to be trained on Kamino. After learning how to work as a group, the Domino Squad returns to defend Kamino from an all-out assault by Asajj Ventress. Following that, the war turns toward politics with Bail Organa making a diplomatic mission to get support for the planet Ryloth by going through the Toydarians. The Separatists then hire Greedo to take a political hostage, that Ahsoka must then rescue.

The politics of corruption are explored then when the series returns to Mandalore. There, Padme discovers the planet to be mired by corrupt politicians and Ahsoka makes a trip there to teach some students and find the root of the corruption plaguing the neutral system. Ahsoka then tries to protect Amidala from an assassination attempt by Aurra Sing, whom she thought dead from the prior season. Cad Bane re-enters the narrative when he takes C-3PO and R2-D2 hostage as part of a Hutt plan to destroy the Senate.

Padme gets her opportunity to fight for peace through a clandestine mission to a Separatist world where she has a friend. When the Separatist government makes motions for peace, Cad Bane's droids knock out the Republic Senate's power and makes it appear as if the deregulation of the banks is a necessary step in continuing the war at any cost.

In the wake of an unlimited budget for the war, Darth Sideous orders Dooku to kill Asajj Ventress. Dooku leaves Ventress for dead and when her body is recovered, she takes a trip to a planet run by a powerful coven. Joining with the Nightsisters, Ventress trains an assassin of the same species as Darth Maul to have her revenge upon Dooku. In the wake of Savage Opress kidnapping and killing the Toydarian King, Obi-Wan, Anakin and Ahsoka find themselves in a spatial anomaly, Mortis, where Ahsoka is infected with the Dark Side. The conflict on Mortis leads to a confrontation at the Citadel fraught with danger.

In many ways, The Clone Wars Season Three seems to be about capitalizing on that has worked for the franchise best before now, as opposed to making genuinely new stories. The appearance of Savage Opress is an excuse to do more with Darth Maul in a thinly disguised plotline that seems more of an exercise for fan animators than genuinely good storytelling. The popularity of bounty hunters is capitalized on through the reappearance of Cad Bane and Aurra Sing, as well as the appearance of Bossk. The use of Carbonite seems especially cheap, considering its use for freezing people was supposedly pioneered in The Empire Strikes Back.

That said, this season is solidly entertaining and it illustrates a much more realistic sense of the consequences and reach of war than the prior seasons did. Instead of being a parody of Star Wars, the third season of The Clone Wars has the scope and political acumen of an adult commentary on the nature of war. In fact, during one episode, all I could think was that it was unfortunate George Lucas and his team had not made similar statements back when they might have mattered, like 2003. It's much easier to make the edgy political statements when the Administration has changed.

While the sense of continuity within the series increases, it is at conflict with the prior season. That said, the resolution to the third season of The Clone Wars seems to be clearing the way for the fourth season of The Clone Wars to have greater continuity to Revenge Of The Sith. Most notably, the role of General Grievous needs to be expanded to make him seem like a legitimate threat, as he was at the beginning of the final film.

On DVD and Blu-Ray, the third season of The Clone Wars has featurettes that explore some of the new characters, aliens and the role of this season in the overall Star Wars mythos. Outside one of the later episodes, Anakin is not truly focused on and his character does not truly develop, save in the Mortis arc. But the Mortis arc gives the season just enough character to engage adults.

More than any of the prior seasons, The Clone Wars Season Three engages adult viewers and makes it a worthy investment for Star Wars fans.

For other Star Wars reviews, please visit my reviews of:
The Star Wars Saga
The Clone Wars
The Clone Wars - Season One
The Clone Wars - Season Two


For other television reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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