After the political intrigue of ‘Senate Spy’, ‘Landing at Point Rain’ put both the clones and the war back into The Clone Wars. This episode serves as the opening chapter in a Geonosis-based story arc much in the same way that the invasion of the beaches of Normandy starts off Saving Private Ryan – lots of dirt and death. Could the episode title be an oblique reference to the Spielberg movie?
With the fortune cookie of “Believe in yourself or no one else will”, Mr. Newsreel alerts us that with the Republic forces spread out to track down Grievous, several Separatist planets have gotten uppity and cast off Republic occupation, including Geonosis, now boasting defensive shields over their new droid foundries. Not content to simply destroy the industrial base and capture Poggle the Lesser, the Jedi plan a full invasion to retake the planet, and have sent three Jedi generals to lead the attack: Ki-Adi-Mundi, making his The Clone Wars debut, Obi-wan Kenobi, getting jaded about the seeming endlessness of the war, and Anakin Skywalker, with Ahsoka, keeping a competitive tally of their kills from a recent space battle. In their briefing, overseen by holographic Palpatine, the Jedi plan their strategy, which is reminiscent of what will be used at Hoth decades later: drop in some ground troops and heavy armor, walk under the shield and blow it up, and capture Poggle the Lesser to stop Geonosis’ continued support for the Seps. A little foreshadowing that Skywalker’s icon on the holoboard is red? Ahsoka points out a giant defended wall, but her master mentions that they won’t be going over there.
The invasion starts, with Y-wings taking off, and flying cover for the gunships carrying the troops and tanks (AT-TE walkers.) Cody, who missed the first battle of Geonosis, asks Obi-wan what it was like, and the veteran general recalls how he served as entertainment for the bugs. The gunships come under heavy fire, and just after a random no-name clone says “Good thing the bugs can’t aim”, his gunship goes boom. In the heavy battle to approach the landing zone, Skywalker’s gunship is shot down, and he and Ahsoka and Rex scramble out, and start attacking Geonosians on the ground, but have lost all their tanks. Cody’s ship reaches the landing zone, and he sets up a defensive perimeter with the walkers and gunships, but Obi-wan’s gunship is shot down before he can arrive.
Ki-Adi-Mundi’s group also takes heavy losses, and is forced to land far away. When Rex receives word that Obi-wan can’t provide additional cover for them because he’s been shot down, Anakin first gets angry that Obi-wan can’t help him, while his Padawan feels concern for Obi-wan’s safety. Popping out of their trench, the Jedi and Rex go over the top, and charge the Geonosians, and move on. Boil and Waxer, two of Cody’s men last seen on Ryloth, get sent to Obi-wan’s crash site and pull the injured Jedi and another clone from the wreckage and limp back to the landing zone, now holding off the survivors in a circle-the-wagons type perimeter. But at least Obi-wan recognizes the two clones on sight, and back in the perimeter, collapses against some boxes.
Ki-Adi-Mundi, cut off, tries calling in for air support, but Yularen’s squadrons are busy with other parts of the invasion, and the coneheaded master opines that the enemy knows their every move. Needing to reach the landing zone, Ki leads his able troops through a set of caverns – and when it gets too quiet, his forces realize it’s a trap, as Geonosians swoop in and start snatching up the clones.
Meanwhile, Anakin and Ahsoka show up at (you’ll never guess!) the well-defended wall, and come under fire. As they bicker about it, several clones get pasted. Finally, they come up with a strategy to climb up the adjoining cliff and take out the droids on top then blow the wall with detonators, leaving the clones below to cover them. Putting their plan into action, Anakin starts keeping score again of clankers fragged. Anakin and Ahsoka finish off the droids and as they wonder how to enter the wall to set the explosives, two destroyer droids pop up, and the Jedi show off their awesome defensive teamwork, covering each other’s backs, while Rex, having somehow climbed up, slides through a roller’s shields and pops a cap in its noodle. Anakin slips under its partners and slices it up, and a poor solitary battle droid pops up out of a hatch, and is given two satchels of bombs and pushed back down. Rather than telling his commander to jump, Anakin and Ahsoka Force-toss Rex off the edge, and dive after him as the wall blows up. Landing safely, the two catch Rex with the force then Force-push the falling debris field out of the way.
In the tunnels, Ki-Adi-Mundi grows weary of the dangerous close-quarters battle and calls up his flamethrower troops. Can you show sentients being burned to death in this cartoon? Sure you can, if they’re giant bugs! Cody’s landing zone is about to be overrun, and even injured Obi-wan lights his saber to make a final stand when air support finally comes in, allowing Anakin, Ahsoka, Ki-Adi-Mundi and their surviving men to reach the square. Landing accomplished and the Republic forces regroup and plot their attack.
Anakin, Ahsoka, and an ever-diminishing bunch of running troopers charge through the shield, and take out the sensor station, allowing Ki-Adi-Mundi’s walkers to march in and shoot up the shield generator. With the shield gone, the gunships land with the rest of the troops and mop up the rest. Some Geonosians are lucky enough to surrender. As the wounded Obi and Ki limp back to gunships for a trip to a M*A*S*H unit, Ahsoka pesters Anakin for his score – 55 to her 60. Anakin tries to add in calling the air strike to his count, while the more mature Obi-wan doesn’t approve of their game, but Ki-Adi-Mundi trumps them all with his announcement of “65. What do I win?” Anakin backs up and awards the Cerean his everlasting respect, something that Obi-wan notes is only rarely given.
This episode was all about military action, so much so, that it inspired me to go back and play some of the Geonosis levels of Republic Commando. The air battle was pretty intense, rivaling the scenes from the movies, with the sheer level of things happening. However with our heroes flippantly keeping score as if it were just a game, and even making Rex’s need to escape from the wall as almost a practical joke played on him, it doesn’t quite balance out with the losses suffered by their side. I’m sure they’d get a bit more respect from their clones if their score was based on how many lads made it through the mission. With the focus of the episode on the fight to regroup at the landing zone, their actual mission to knock out the shields was more an afterthought. Going back to the fortune cookie, believing in yourself is one thing… Believing in bringing sufficient forces and flamethrowers seems to be the better lesson. ‘Landing at Point Rain’ reminds us that war is both broad in scope, with massive invasion battles, and personal, with different individuals treating the fighting, victory and loss in different ways.