The Clone Wars review: ‘Storm Over Ryloth’

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The inherent problem with The Clone Wars is that the main characters are never in any real danger. We’ve all seen the movies, and we know Anakin’s not going to die. We know Obi-Wan’s not going to die. We know Padme’s not going to die (I mean, we know she is going to die, but not until her iddle-widdle heart gets broken and she loses the will to live). Thankfully, the Clone Wars writers also know this, so they load the cast with vulnerable secondary characters… most notably Little Miss Spunkadelic, Ahsoka Tano.

I’m gonna come right out and say it: I like Ahsoka. I like her non-whiny attitude, how she notices Anakin’s affection for Padme, and that she can be witty without being hammy (as opposed to, say, Obi-Wan, who never met a smirk he didn’t like). And – this is gonna sound cruel – I like that she can die a fiery death. Not that I’d want her to, mind you, but the very possibility of it happening adds some much-needed tension to the show.

With that in mind, I’m happy to report that ‘Storm Over Ryloth’ puts Ahsoka in peril right from the get-go. She’s leading an attack against a Separatist blockade and, as luck would have it, falls straight into a trap. Then she refuses to retreat, and soon enough, ships start exploding, clonetroopers start dying… and Ahsoka realizes she made a mistake. But by then, the kamikaze vulture droids (yes, kamikaze vulture droids) are raining down, and all hell breaks loose. It’s a taut, exciting space battle, and it’s beautifully executed – probably the best first act I’ve seen all season. And it sounds as good as it looks – the effects editors really went the extra mile. Even on my craptacular TV, this does not sound like a kiddie show.

The episode also marks the triumphant return of Admiral Pornstache, though he quickly gets the crap kicked out of him by an incoming ship. This might seem dramatic, but for those of us paying attention (and granted, there aren’t that many of us), it’s not a big deal. Y’see, Admiral Pornstache is actually Admiral Yularen, who can be seen in the background of A New Hope. So there’s little doubt that he’ll live to shave another day.

Admiral Pornstache

Ahsoka also escapes the line of fire, but she’s pretty depressed about how many soldiers were lost – and there’s some impressive, expressive character animation here. I genuinely felt bad for Ahsoka, who looks like she’s doing everything in her power just to keep from crying. Anakin also has a nice moment, as he tries to console his Padawan while simultaneously instructing her in the ways of command. It’s a fine message, though I couldn’t get past the question of Why the hell did they give a fourteen year-old such a tough job? Anakin was nearly twenty when he got his first assignment, and that was just to protect a scantily-clad Senator. Is putting Ahsoka on the front lines, by herself, really the best strategy? When I was fourteen, I could barely remember my locker combination. And it didn’t help that Ahsoka was totally out of her league, having gone up against my favorite new Sep, Captain Mar Tuuk.

Here’s what’s different about Captain Tuuk: he’s a Neimoidian, yet he seems to possess a working brain. Put another way, this dude rocks. He’s intelligent, patient, and – get this – actually studies his enemies instead of letting them surprise him. (See: General Grievous.) Plus, I love how he had some sort of Patton/Rommel relationship going on with Anakin. I half-expected him to stand up and shout “Skywalker, you magnificent bastard, I read your book!” According to the episode guide, the original script had Captain Tuuk getting killed off, but the producers liked him enough to keep him alive. Smart move!

Mar Tuuk

Speaking of tactics, while it’s true that Ahsoka’s main strategy was taken from the EU (and I do hope that Tim Zahn got thanked in the credits… they were squished way too small for me to read), the rest of the episode clearly modeled itself on the OT. (This is a good thing.) The visual cues came fast and furious, and though I doubt I noticed every homage, I caught unmistakable references to:

  • The Rebel hangar on Yavin.
  • The escape pod jettison.
  • Troopers running in the Death Star.
  • Rebel pilots reporting in.
  • “Prepare for ground assault.”
  • The hologram disappearing as it’s hit by an asteroid.
  • The A-wing colliding with the Star Destroyer bridge (very cool.)

Less cool was the lack of exposition. Maybe it’s me, but I never understood what exactly the Separatists were trying to accomplish. All we’re told is that the Confederacy is starving the citizens of Ryloth… with no explanation given for why anyone would commit such horrible, horrible cruelty against such sexy, sexy aliens. The StarWars.com webcomic indicates that it all started as an internal squabble between Separatist leaders (I think). Here’s hoping it was vague on purpose, and that their motives will be explained eventually.

The other problem with the episode was that, after washing out as a squad commander, Ahsoka is sidelined, while Anakin goes off on a Hazardous Solo Mission™. Everyone seems very concerned for his safety, but… c’mon. It’s Anakin, folks. As I said before, we know he’s gonna get out of it alive. (Though his plan, it must be said, is awfully cool). With that suspense thrown out the window, we’re left wondering about Ahsoka, and whether she’ll crack under pressure or redeem her earlier blunder. Guess which happens.

All in all, this was a very sober installment, especially considering the non-stop WTFery of the previous two episodes. Still, with a great new villain, a killer first act, and loads of stylish details, ‘Storm Over Ryloth’ is a solid intro into the final arc of the season.

Grade: B+

Next week: Now entering… the Twi’lek Zone!

14 thoughts on “The Clone Wars review: ‘Storm Over Ryloth’

  1. Nobby

    Couldn’t agree more, old fruit.
    Once again you’ve nailed the essence of why this is one of my favorite episodes to date. I truly think the animation and writing have improved dramatically over the season. Either that or this series has grown on me like a happy, happy fungus.

  2. Clark

    Admiral Yularen’s career must have hit a shoal somewhere as he’s wearing an Imperial Security Bureau commander’s uniform while assigned to the Death Star. :/

    It would have been much more interesting if his last name was, say, Dodonna. Someone with actual lines in the OT.

  3. Toph

    Clark, it would be neat to see more OT officers.

    Stooge, I pretty much agree all around. I, too, like the smart Neimodian.

    I’ve always kind of hoped Nute Gunray is a financial genius who was just waaay outside his realm of expertise in the PT. And I’d love to see some more intelligence out of Grievous, too.

    Sometimes I can’t help but think of TCW as in-universe Republic propaganda.

    Here’s hoping next week…

    (a) is just as good,
    (b) gives some rationale for the occupation aside from “we’re the bad guys and we like to make people suffer,” and
    (c) stays true to Ryloth’s tide-locking.

    (Oh, and what was up with Ahsoka’s R7 astromech? SEVEN!?!?)

  4. HollywdLiz

    “Skywalker, you magnificent bastard, I read your book!”

    LMFAO! I don’t watch this show, but that nearly made me do a spit take. I’m enjoying these reviews despite never having seen an episode!

  5. ImperialGirl

    “Skywalker, you magnificent bastard, I read your book!” almost got me into trouble for laughing at work. need to not do that. Also need to make sure I catch this in reruns.

  6. Toph

    Another visual homage: Ahsoka’s squadron skimming across the Venator was very reminiscent of Ep. III’s opening shot…

  7. Sarlacc-Pitt

    Excellent stuff, Stooge! I caught some of the OT homagery as well. Very cool. I hope that something cool eventually happens with Ahsoka… hopefully she won’t just be another Order 66 casualty… BORING!

    “with no explanation given for why anyone would commit such horrible, horrible cruelty against such sexy, sexy aliens.”

    LOL!

    I thought that the Ahsoka/Anakin “consoling” scene was really well done as well. I think the voice actors have done a really good job.

    “We know Padme’s not going to die (I mean, we know she is going to die, but not until her iddle-widdle heart gets broken and she loses the will to live).”

    Hyoid bone. ;P

    Lovin’ the “Special Guest Star” posts… keep up the great work!

  8. jawajames

    Stooge, another fine review!

    re Clark’s: Admiral Yularen’s career must have hit a shoal somewhere as he’s wearing an Imperial Security Bureau commander’s uniform while assigned to the Death Star. :/

    i was thinking about this yesterday, and realized that perhaps he’s more than just the ISB cheese on board the Death Star – he might Vader’s main spy inside the ISB. Skywalker knows Yularen as a competent leader. Vader could easily keep Yularen around as one person whose judgment he respects… and get him transfered to the ISB to keep tabs on it for him… and keep people like Tarkin under greater scrutiny. publicly, he looks like he was demoted in his transfer.. but secretly, there’s more than meets the eye.

  9. Stooge

    Thanks everyone!

    Clark and Toph — I think we’re gonna see more and more of these continuity flubs as the show goes along… GL seems to be rewriting the EU in his own image. Maybe, when it’s all over, TCW will be considered its own “infinities” brand (I like the Republic propoganda idea!). But more likely, it will have kicked off a new era of creative retcons. As jawajames showed, it can be done!

  10. Granny-Wan

    I like the fact that we know they not going to die, it takes me back to the days of old when the heroes never got killed!

    Nice review!

  11. Toph

    “I hope that something cool eventually happens with Ahsoka… hopefully she won’t just be another Order 66 casualty… BORING!”

    Yes, it’s an interesting question. I’m not sure I could buy that Ahsoka was alive as of Ep. III….

    The big question is, when will the show *end*? It started at an arbitrary point a little ways into the war… I hope it doesn’t end in the same way.

    The question is whether they can really close off a kids’ TV show by saying “OK, so basically, all the ‘good guys’ kill each other. The end! Now watch [insert CW show here]!” Yet I just don’t see any way around it… and I really, *really* hope they don’t try to find a way out of it. That would just cheapen the significance of what’s going on.

    Imagine if the final story arc was the hunt for GG… we leave Anakin behind on Coruscant, follow the clone mission (not Obi-Wan) to Utapau… and then the final lines are:

    Cody: Oh, by the way, I think you’ll be needing this.

    Obi-Wan: Thank you, Cody. Now let’s get a move on. We’ve got a battle to win here.

    [rides off]
    [**beep beep beep beep…**]

    CREDITS

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