Every now and then, The Clone Wars throws me for a loop. That happened a few times during this episode, starting with the setting. We’re back on Christophsis, the abandoned warehouse planet, and apparently there are some civilians in trouble. High above the planet, in outerrrrrrrrrr spaaaaaaaace, Anakin Skywalker leads a squadron trying to deliver humanitarian (alientarian?) aide. Naturally, I figured that he was returning to the site of his great victory from the Clone Wars movie. I figured wrong.
Turns out, this is a flashback episode, and it takes place even before The Hidden Enemy, which itself was a prelude to the theatrical film. And the point of this episode is to introduce us to Admiral
Pornstache Yularen… the, uh, guy we’ve seen a bunch of times by now. Here, at least, he’s given a few bits of backstory and does more than simply stand around and act concerned. (Though he does that, too.) Still, devoting so much screentime to a stuffed shirt doesn’t exactly qualify as Must See TV.
Less dull was Admiral Trench, one of those rare baddies whose main asset is his intelligence. I love smart villains (is anyone else secretly hoping for a return of Neimoidian Captain Mar Tuuk? No? Only me?), and it’s a fun change of pace to watch a character just sit around and think. And Trench, bless his spidery soul, knows that he’s smart. So when he talks to our heroes, he clicks his teeth and takes a mocking tone similar to The Emperor in Return of the Jedi. Who can resist an ego like that? Plus, Trench continues the tradition of great Star Wars villain voices, and special props must be given to Dee Bradley Baker for his guttural, accented performance. Baker is already a show MVP for voicing all of the clones, but he really lets loose with Trench, and it’s fantastic. He sounds like the unholy lovechild of Sean Connery and Shelob, and I truly apologize for putting that image in your head.
Voicework may seem like a minor detail, but it’s the small stuff that stands out in this episode. A lot of the action takes place on a long, thin ship, and the “cinematography” (is there a word for animated camerawork?) really gives it a tight, claustrophobic feel. The sound department also steps up, with a series of radar bleeps that add to the sub-light submarine atmosphere. There are also some cool visual touches, like clone helmets which resemble mini-TIE fighters, and a glimpse of what appears to be Admiral Trench concept art.
And, yeah, there was a cloaking device, which has apparently annoyed both tech-heads and continuity buffs – but it didn’t bother me, mostly because the cloaking effect looked very snazzy. Instead, it was a specific plot point that, as I said, threw me for a loop. And I can’t do it justice without resorting to spoilers… so here goes: Trench gets killed off! My reaction was a big heaping What? , served with a healthy side of Why? Granted, he supposedly escaped death earlier in his career, so maybe he’ll be brought back… but his exit seemed pretty final. There have been better Clone Wars episodes, to be sure, but for fans of good villains, this one may just be the most heartbreaking.