Saturday, March 17, 2012

Clone Wars Recap S4 E22: Revenge (Finale!)

Season Four of the increasingly ambitious Clone Wars has finally reached its end with the long promised return of short-lived, neatly-sliced, fan-favourite Darth Maul. At the end of last week's episode Brothers we got our first look at how insane and twisted the cobbled together Spider-Maul had become, and now this week's show aims to give us a scant 22 minutes of Maul's actual revenge on a floppy-haired Kenobi.

Will it live up to the hype? Join me after the jump where I will regale you with the truth...

I'm a little bit disappointed.

Which by no means is to say that you shouldn't eagerly consume this episode - Clone Wars, like sex and pizza before it, is still good even when it's bad. I love the show, and this episode certainly has enough craft and flair to keep you engaged. You must watch this one... I just find some of the choices to be a little weak.

And I'm not a logic guy when it comes to fantasy fiction. My disbelief can be suspended, stretched and outright abused. I'm happy to see some liberties taken if it makes for a good story. But this episode made me scratch my head on a number of occasions. Let's indulge this rare moment of nerd clarity and examine the inner workings of Maul's return.

We begin on Dathomir - now a deserted graveyard strewn with Nightsister and battledroid bodies left over from a few episodes again. Beefy yellow Savage Oppress has brought his reluctant and still bugnuts brother Maul to meet with sole-survivor Nightsister leader Mother Talzin who, known for her supernatural transformations, might be able to whip him into shape. She coaxes Maul out from his hiding place amid the shipping containers, lays him down on her subterranean stone slab and begins to transform him into something else...

Now here's the first missed opportunity, and I believe it's where the episode could have become a classic. Back in season three when Assaj Ventress laid down on the slab to receive some Nightsister magic she experienced a series of flashbacks which told her origin. We saw her snatched away as a child, her former master killed etc. Now, considering the circumstances in which we last saw Maul in the Phantom Menace, no other character is crying out for a flashback as much as he is, and yet they failed to do it.

I would have loved to have seen a brief Clone Wars retelling of Maul killing Qui Gon and Obi Wan cutting Maul in half. I would have liked to have seen him barely alive and broken at the bottom of the shaft, seething with rage and agony, and being swept up into the garbage where he would eventually be dumped on the junk planet. It would have been wonderful fan service and given weight to what he's been through.

But no... Instead Maul's survival is only explained through some brief dialogue. His rage kept him alive. Move on. That's all you need to know. Now I'm eagerly anticipating Clone Wars season 7 where Jango Fett miraculously returns because he was super pissed off that Mace Windu cut off his head.


If you're astute then you'll know from trailers and promo stills that in this episode Maul shifts from shambling spider body to sleek mechanical legs - highly reminiscent of his previous "what if" comic book appearance. What shits me about this is that it turns out to be all part of Mother Talzin's transformation. Using her dark magic she disconnects him from the spider body and summons the debris from the battle and uses it to create and fuse together a set of hi-tech looking legs. I am absolutely bewildered that the writers would choose to adopt a supernatural explanation for a clearly technological solution. In fact I'm amazed that Mother Talzin needed to enter into this at all - I would have rather have seen Savage solve this somewhere else.

Because this is the other odd part of the story... What is motivating Mother Talzin? What does she hope to achieve? Because she saved, and seems to care about Asajj, and yet she also created Savage who has turned out to be a bitter enemy of Asajj (who is seen in the next scene in her bounty hunter role choosing Savage as her next target). And considering that the rest of this episode is going to have Talzin's beloved Asajj fighting both Savage AND the newly rescued Maul (spoilers!) why on earth is Talzin helping them? After saving Asajj a couple of episodes ago, she is now creating another monster for her to battle with. It makes zero sense to me and if you have an explanation I've missed then I would love to hear it.

But it's all far more straight forward from here. Maul's memories are slowly returning and he wants revenge on poncey beardy Obi Wan. He draws him out as economically and time-efficiently as possible - Savage and Maul arrive on a peaceful looking planet and start slaughtering innocents. Maul then makes a statement over a telephone call? TV? The Internet? That goes directly to the Jedi Temple, promising that the killings will continue unless Obi Wan shows up alone for a re-match.

It's hard to go on from here once you use this device. For me, it's kind of a story killer, because if it fails, why don't they just go to another planet and start killing people until Obi Wan shows up? Why don't they just kill a hundred children a day until Obi Wan cuts himself in half. Why not do this in every show ever? I wish they'd found a better way.

But, predictably Obi Wan shows up and starts to get the piss beaten out of him again. But if you were hoping for one of the epic Star Wars one-on-one duels with pulse-pounding music etc then you may be disappointed. Any sense of honour is quickly dispensed with as Savage joins the battle and they quickly take Obi Wan down. This then leads us to a claustrophobic and bland shipping container filled room inside the junk ship, where they essentially push Obi Wan around and punch him into things.

This is a problem for me, because I think that Maul without a master is just a thug. In Phantom Menace he was a pawn in a giant space opera. He had a purpose as his puppet master pulled the strings. He was part of something massive. Here, however, he is just a thug who randomly kills civilians and bullies Kenobi. His intent is to cut him up and make him suffer as he has (or so we're told - I'm still pissed we didn't see the post-halving suffering for ourselves).

But enter our Deus Ex Machina Asajj Ventress who arrives to claim the bounty on Savage and ends up saving Kenobi in the process. As the ship takes off it now becomes a two-on-two lightsaber duel with a constantly quipping Asajj and Obi Wan combining forces to hold off the avenging brothers. There's some very cool moments, but it never really feels like anything of consequence is going to happen - it feels doubtful that they'll kill Maul off after jumping through so many hoops to bring him back.

Eventually Obi Wan and Asajj escape in the front half of the ship, leaving Maul and Savage to stew in the abandoned back half. And in our final leap of logic, when Savage asks Maul if they will pursue, Maul's pretty laid back about it all. "Nah.... forget it... I can wait it out." He goes from fuelled with revenge to "I'll bide my time" in a matter of seconds.

And that, unfortunately, is less story motivated than it is series motivated. By nature, Clone Wars drip feeds us the stories that we are most interested in. For example we saw John Favreau's Mandalorian leader Pre Vizla in series two, and then waited two years for his one episode return in season four. Similarly, this whole Savage/Maul incident has been brewing slowly for over a year, and I doubt we'll see Maul again until late next season, if at all. I love the scope and variety of the series, and its ability to tightly focus on specific characters and factions when it chooses to, but these big events often leave us hanging with little closure.

Not the most positive of reviews to end with, I know, but I will close by saying that the series - as a whole - has been phenomenal and it is easily still my most anticipated television show. I can't wait for season five.

1 comment:

  1. all I have to say about this is "Goddam Kenobi plans" They are seriously there worst