Saturday, October 1, 2011

Clone Wars Recap S4 E04: Shadow Warrior!

I always get flack for being the Star Wars apologist. I love Star Wars with every fibre of my squandered being. See us talking one on one right now? See that glazed look in my eyes? That's right. I'm looking at you but I'm thinking about Star Wars.

So it was a heart-punch that the first three episodes of season four of The Clone Wars kind of left me cold. And damp. And soggy in places. So it brings me a surge of almost unsettling pleasure to inform you that the newest episode Shadow Warrior was ultimately a triumphant return to form, for me. Not only did I greatly enjoy the episode, but it was primarily about Gungans, and starred that floppy fish-eared rapscallion Jar Jar Binks!

So join me after the jump, where I intend to thoroughly school you on why Clone Wars is back, and Jar Jar is awesome!... This is very much a recap this time. (MESA THINKIN' THERE BE BOMBAD SPOILERS!)

Look, I didn't tell those snobby, high-falootin' guys above the jump, but I'll level with you back here where it's safe. The first half of this episode is kind of sketchy, and will probably repel Gungan Haterz, but then the episode gets so good that even the Gungan Haterz are all like, "Hoo boy! I'm going to have my gungan hate tattoos surgically removed and maybe marry me a gungan!"

The episode is set entirely on the fields of Naboo and in the underwater city of Otoh Gunga, which gives it a kind of comfortable vibe (like a pair of old pants!) complete with familiar musical cues and some iconic vehicles (BONGO! BONGOOOOO!!).

The premise is actually really good. Anakin and Padme (OOOH! K-I-S-S-I-N-G!) are investigating wild claims that the floppy gungans are aiding the evil separatists and planning a full-scale attack on the surface-dwelling dapper Naboo! That sounds like some truly crazy and libellous shit, so Jar Jar takes the love-struck pair down to see the bosses and get to the bottom of this unlikely twist!

Do you remember Boss Nass from Episode One? The big fat slobbery gungan portrayed by the booming Brian Blessed? Yeah well, he's not the Boss anymore apparently (Heart attack? Choked on a ham?) and instead we see the new, skinny and dazed Boss Lyonie who apparently is under a voodoo spell which is making him act even crazier than you'd expect.

The culprit is evil purple gungan Rish Loo has used some mind-magic to get Lyonie on side with Dooku's doodz. Rish Loo looks totally evil too, because he has a big bone through his nose like an evil moustache, and he has big eyebrows. If having big eyebrows is enough to turn you to the darkside then Jennifer Connelly must be a criminal mastermind!

Anakin sees past all this crap, but that just gets Rish's dander up and he shivs Lyonie in the gungan ribs (cold!) and buggers off in a sub! Now the Gungans still want to go and bash in some Naboo heads, so this leaves Anakin with a dilemma. He needs Lyonie to inspire them not too, but Lyonie is in critical condition in underwater bubble sick bay. But wait... what surprising turn of events is this! It turns out that the CGI department weren't just being lazy - Jar Jar Binks is actually a DEAD RINGER for Lyonie, so if he wears his hat and can stop being a clumsy dipshit for five seconds and pretend to be regal, then he can inspire peace in the guise of the king (Boss) (whatever).

Okay and that's the silliest part of the episode. Because it sounds like a bit of farcical fun, but it's actually quite insulting to Jar Jar who's protests that the two of them look nothing alike fall on deaf Republic ears. If you think it's funny then imagine what would happen if this whole scenario was reproduced with two American diplomats solving a conflict like this in an African or Asian country. "But dudes! You totally look alike! Forget your voice or mannerisms! You look the same to me! Who will be able to tell!" It plays out like some teen college comedy with Anakin as the irresponsible jock who is hiding in the bushes will pushing the humiliated nerd out into the open as a prank!

So it's silly, but it leads to one of the best scenes in the episode. The droid army turns up, and Jar Jar ends up locked in a small room with a super intimidating GENERAL GRIEVOUS who is totally pissed off that the planned battle isn't going ahead. It's a hilarious, yet tense scene, with Ahmed Best giving a stellar performance as Jar Jar - shifting comically between his regal voice and his dipshit voice - and the animation is wonderful as Jar reacts to Grievous' threats and goofs around with his chair. Finally Grievous has had enough, loses his shit and winds up outside in the rain where he is ambushed by hundreds of gungans!

Naturally, Grievous is kicking ass, but then Tarpals - the cat-whiskered Gungan Captain from episode one ("Noah again, Jar Jar! Yousa goin' to the Bosses dis time!") gets up in Grievous' cyborg grill and ZOMG! SACRIFICES his life so that the other gungans can get the drop on him! (TARPALS!!! NOOOOOOO!! WHY!!? NEVAR FORGET!!). The gungans brutally take down Grievous, covering him in those blue plasma ball thingies, and they stake him out on the ground with their staffs. It is totally badass! No shit - the gungans have captured Grievous!

At this point, I'm exhausted with delight, and I'm thinking, "Well that has to be the end of the episode, right?" No! Wrong! You couldn't be any more wrong! I'm embarrassed at how wrong  you actually are!

Because Anakin is having a sweet speeder chase with Rish Loo and he gets led into a trap set by Count Dooku and some bodyguard droids. You see, the string-pulling Darth Sidious realises that the only way to get Grievous back is to swap him for Anakin - because Padme will do anything to protect him, because OMG YOU GUYS PALPATINE/SIDIOUS KNOWS THAT THEY'RE BANGING!! Anakin gets into an epic old skool lightsaber duel with Dooku but is eventually overwhelmed and thoroughly pwned by his underhand tactics and electricity spurting gang of back-up robots/dancers.

So Padme is essentially put over a barrel! (Not literally). (Sadly). Everybody loses. The Republic are forced to exchange Grievous for Anakin and the Separatists retreat. Puppet master Sidious/Palpatine has pressed the reset button and put everyone back in their corners. BAM! A bittersweet end! I am in a satisfyingly sticky Star Wars sweat! Exhilarated and looking forward to the next one!

It's good to be back!

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