So we’re sticking around Geonosis for a while, huh? I suppose it makes sense. Season 1 included a little virus-fueled trip to Naboo, and now that we’re in Season 2, it’s time to mine those Attack of the Clones locales. At this rate, the Ewoks will show up in Season 6, in what will be billed as their triumphant return to animation. Yub nub, Cartoon Network. Yub nub.
Speaking of Ewoks, ‘Weapons Factory’ has some unmistakable homages to Return of the Jedi, including nods to Admiral Ackbar’s hologram briefing and Han Solo’s AT-ST ruse. The titular factory even has a reactor core very similar to the one on the second Death Star, a very cool touch which gives the scene an immediate sense of danger. We know what these reactors are like when they explode.
Back to my original point, this episode is on Geonosis, populated by Geonosians, who buzz around and squint their oversized eyes… and truth be told, they make great enemies. They’re probably the most alien of all the aliens in the movies, and they can be downright eerie when they want to. When our heroes tiptoe through the Geonosian catacombs, it’s some of the creepiest moments we’ve seen since last year’s ‘Lair of Grievous.’ This ep also continues the stylish, supercool battle scenes from the previous installment, and I’m happy to report that the writers are still finding creative new ways for Jedi to dispense with battle droids. More importantly, the visuals just get better and better. Exterior shots look dirty and washed-out, and the action scenes have a quasi-realistic feel to them. At one point, when a group of troopers get blasted to bits, the “camera” also gets hit and falls to the ground. I believe the technical term for that effect is dayum.
Really, though, this ep is a study of competing Jedi styles, with Anakin and Ahsoka in one corner versus Luminara Unduli and Barriss Offee in the other. We haven’t seen many Padawans in the show so far – in fact, the only one I can remember was that Mon Cal dude from ‘Lair of Grievous,’ who was so prone to anger that he made Anakin look like Gandhi. (A quick Wookieepedia search reveals that this aggressive fishfry was a full-fledged Jedi who didn’t receive enough training. Whatev.) In that case, ‘Weapons Factory’ marks the first time we’ve seen a Jedi apprentice who actually acts like a Jedi. Barriss Offee may be a bit square (as Dave Filoni deadpanned in his episode commentary), but compared to Anakin and Ahsoka, she comes off as a true professional. Even in their first scene together, Ahsoka argues with Anakin, while Barriss bows to Luminara. The contrast is pretty stark, and not very flattering to Ahsoka.
Anakin also suffers in comparison to the cool, calm, and collectible Luminara, and The Clone Wars continues to do a nice job of using Ahsoka to illustrate Anakin’s failings. He doesn’t botch the mission, like he did a few weeks ago opposite Cad Bane, but his attachment to Ahsoka is clearly un-Jedilike. Still, it’s hard to blame Anakin, because I’d also miss Snips if she was gone. Like a Togruta Audrey Hepburn, I’ve grown accustomed to her face. It’s a neat trick that the show is pulling off – on the one hand, it’s critical of Anakin’s character flaws, which will obviously haunt him down the road. But on the other hand, Filoni and company are daring us not to like Ahsoka, which makes it very easy to sympathize with Anakin’s decisions.
Solid character work and terrific action sequences – what’s not to like? For my money, ‘Weapons Factory’ is Season 2’s best episode yet.