‘Innocents of Ryloth’ is the middle chapter of a three-part story involving the liberation of the Twi’lek homeworld of Ryloth during the Clone Wars. Last time we saw Anakin and Ahsoka break the blockade around the planet, and now we see Obi-wan and Cody start the ground assault, to clear the way for Mace Windu to make a full landing of troops. So does this make it The Empire Strikes Back of the trilogy – only if by Empire, we mean Republic.
Our pre-show fortune cookie is “The costs of war can never be truly accounted.” I wonder if the Banking Clan knows that. Anyway, in the opening setup, we learn that the Wat Tambor’s separatist forces are being brutal to the Twi’lek population – how brutal? A battle droid is shown kicks one of the captive kneeling Twi’leks. That’s brutal! Mace Windu and Obi-wan are up in orbit in a group of landing craft, and Obi’s job is to secure a beachhead, and he sets off with the line “Time to meet the natives”. Is Obi slipping back into his “pathetic lifeforms” point of view? Mace can’t land the bulk of the troops to take back the capital until Obi-wan takes out the Sep’s proton cannons (which are not actually souped-up Ghostbuster weapons). Obi-wan reminds Cody that this time, we’re going in for minimal destruction – after all, this planet is someone’s home (unlike Cristophsis?), and Cody refers to the Twi’leks as “tail-heads” – someone skipped the mandatory cultural sensitivities class in Republic Army school, I think. Mace’s fleet drops off Obi-wan’s gunships, takes a beating from the proton cannons, and retreats.
Meanwhile, we switch over to Ryloth’s Wild Kingdom and watch two giant scavengers tear apart a giant flying bug corpse. Back to the show, the gunships land, and the troops head through the woods toward an occupied village. Kenobi’s now played The Force Unleashed, so he tries using the Force to guide some droid-busting grenades into the weapons emplacements on the edge of town. Win! Cody rounds up some of the boys and heads out to recce the town and the Seps. These guys get names: Boil, Waxer, and Wooley. Having a name is good right? Yoda had named clones with him and they lived through their episode. But Ahsoka had named clone pilots and they died. Meanwhile, rotund droid commander TX-20 also sends in some probe droids to recce the town and the clones. They don’t have names.
Cody leads his squad through the abandoned town and gets philosophical about cities – buildings are just buildings, but inhabitants, they make a city. Didn’t the greasy spoon cook in Muppets Take Manhattan say something similar? Boil and Waxer wander off, and Cody and Wooley scout out the proton cannon emplacements. Oh noes! TI-99 is using the captives as a human.. err.. Twi’lek shield around the guns.
After the commercial break (where we see the red-tinted Cad Bane ad), a probe droid spies on Cody reporting back to Obi-wan, and relays a recording back to TRS-80. Meanwhile, Waxer and Boil find a Twi’lek girl hiding in the abandoned city, and manage to befriend her, taking off their helmets to show that they are organic, and not droid. They also give her a snack, which looks suspiciously like the taquito that Yoda digs out of Luke’s survival pack on Dagobah. The little green Twi’lek, Numa, even eats the ration in the same fashion. Boil jokes “Aw, you made a friend. Mission accomplished” to his pal, but as they head out, Numa follows, calling them “Nerra”.
Knowing that he is facing Obi-wan, THX-1138 checks on his backup plan, a bunch of starved caged gutkurrs, those same giant scavenging beasts seen in the wild earlier. Boil and Waxer continue checking out the city, and debate the fate of little orphan Numa – what’s going to happen to her once the battle is over and the clones leave? She plays hide and seek with them through the town, leading them to the partially destroyed ruin of her house. Inside, the clones try to console her with a stuffed toy found inside. Numa has two daddies!
When the probe droid overhears that General Kenobi and the clones are moving out, droid commander T-1000 lets slip the dogs of war, those nasty gutkurrs, which are a cross between giant fleas and velociraptors. They run through the town, and Waxer and Boil are forced to barricade themselves in Numa’s house. Maybe they should call for backup? Nah, then they’d have to report Numa. Hey! These flea-lociraptors are blaster-proof! But don’t worry, Numa’s house has an escape tunnel. Elsewhere in town, Obi-wan leads the troops and the beasts charge down the streets, mowing down several no-name clones. A little help, General Kenobi? After a bunch of his men get pasted, Obi-wan steps up and casts “Charm Monster”. All the gutkurrs fail their saving throws and follow Obi-wan into a dead end, at which point, he signals Cody to fire on the stone bridge at the entrance to the passageway, trapping the rhino-sized bugs behind the rubble. Obi-wan leaps from bugback to bugback to safety. No need to call in Rico and the Starship Troopers. Boil and Waxer show up with their little green friend, crawling out of a manhole that is part of a tunnel network under the town, which will conveniently also get them close to the proton cannons.
Obi-wan, Boil, Waxer, and Numa set off in the tunnels, while Cody and the rest of clones set up a frontal assault diversion. Sneaking into the base, Obi-wan comes across a hapless battle droid scrubbing the floor of the gutkurr cage. This droid seems to have drawn the short wire in life, but Obi-wan just locks him in the cage, and droid conveniently doesn’t signal for help. Cody’s diversion draws the fire of the droid army assembled at the base, and Obi-wan slips in and starts freeing the hostage Twi’leks who run down into the tunnel. Numa’s blue father (note: actually her uncle, but how are we to know?) is one of them and the family is re-united. Boil and Waxer tell Numa, “Don’t be afraid. We’ll be back” and head up and help Obi-wan take over one of the proton cannons. I’m sure that’s what they also told the Wookiees later on. Anyway, the Jedi destroys the other proton cannons, with Boil and Waxer reloading his cannon – watch your hands, boys! The droids realize they are being attacked from inside, and TJ-Hooker, driving a tank, takes out Obi’s cannon, knocking him and his two clones down. Numa sees her friends in trouble and rushes out to help them. TRL-Live drives in and aims his tank at Numa and Obi-wan at point blank range, trying to force a surrender. Inspired by Numa’s bravery, the other Twi’leks rush out of the tunnels and pull TTFN from his tank, and rip the stubby droid apart with their bare hands and lekku.
With the droids defeated and the proton cannons silenced, Mace Windu is able to safely land the fleet of troop transports and starts unloading the heavy equipment, needed to retake the capital. Before leaving, Numa calls out to Waxer and Boil and calls them Nerra once again – which Obi-wan translates as “brother”. Not father. Numa has two brothers.
What I liked in this episode is the individualization of the clones – Boil and Waxer probably didn’t take any classes on babysitting at Kamino, but end up doing a pretty good job caring for little orphan Numa, despite the language difference, and actually discussing how to best help her after the battle. Both Cody and the Tactical Droid T-a-drink-with-jam-and-bread show some arrogance, with the droid claiming to Wat Tambor that he is always right – but backing it up with smarter strategies that seem rather original for battle droids, like using starving blaster-proof beasts as an attack force instead of his own droid troops. Cody’s disdainful reference to the locals as tailheads could be a sign of the seeds of future Imperial policies being sown. Obi-wan’s role was a mixed bag – it was cool to see him mind control the flea-lociraptors, but maybe he should have tried it before losing so many men. Numa was cute as scared child, biting Boil’s finger before she trusted him, and prying Obi-wan’s hand away when he shields her eyes as the mob takes out the tactical droid. And once again, having a name works in your favor.
All in all, I give it: