Throughout this entire second season of The Clone Wars, I’ve only had one constant complaint: the portrayal of R2-D2. Right from the start, R2 would just pop into stories for no reason, appearing out of nowhere whenever the heroes needed help. And now we know the reason. He’s Lassie! That’s right, everyone’s favorite astromech – the droid with a mission, the original “size matters not,” the guy who repairs hyperdrives while swearing at C-3PO – is pretty much a collie with gadgets. (Note to self: pitch “Gadget Collie” as a 6-episode limited series for the Disney Channel.)
And granted, Star Wars has always treated R2 as a convenient little Swiss-Army droid – did Han need to bring R2 to Endor? Did Padme need to bring R2 to Geonosis? But he seemed particularly out of place whenever he showed up in The Clone Wars, where main characters are routinely absent from the stories. The Zillo Beast twofer managed to use R2 well, but now we’ve got a whole episode devoted to him, with just a few moments of Bobangst Fett throw in for good measure. Is it too much of a good droid?
Short answer: nah. R2 is loads of fun in this episode, and at times, he’s downright badass. Unlike his holier-than-thou Jedi friends, not to mention the wusstacular C-3PO, R2 has no qualms about trying to kill in his enemies in cold blood. And he hums while he does it. Apparently, the D in his name stands for Don’t Mess, Mother&^%$er. Plus, his presence makes perfect sense, since it starts with him where he should be – as the co-pilot of Anakin’s souped-up starfighter. (By the by, we haven’t seen that Twilight ship in a whlile – is it off the show? A victim of negative name association, perhaps?) R2 even gets to say a beep-boop version of “I have a bad feeling about this,” which is all sorts of awesome.
I wasn’t quite so impressed with Mace Windu this time around, even though he’s been such a hoot for the past few episodes. Here, he’s constantly misinterpreting R2’s actions, which is more annoying than funny, and – there’s no nice way to put this, so I’m just going to say it – he looks intensely constipated. Get this man to the Emperor’s throne room, if you know what I mean. On the other hand, Anakin’s comes off as pretty endearing, since he cares about R2 and has faith that the droid will come through. Maybe that’s not the Jedi way, but dammit, this is R2-D2! We like him, and we expect our heroes to like him, too.
But after our little R2-detour, it’s back to Boba and his merry band of Truly Terrible Individuals in ‘Lethal Trackdown,’ which has to be the lamest episode title yet. Oddly enough, lil’ Fett doesn’t do much (he’s mostly just along for the ride), but the supporting players make the most of their appearances. Aurra Sing really stands out as the first Clone Wars character to actually seem sexy – and better yet, she’s well-aware that she’s got it goin’ on. Aurra uses both her arse and her arsenal to get what she wants, and the way she plays with Hondo Ohnaka is brilliant. He knows she’s using him, and she knows he’s knows, making their interactions funny, unpredictable, and refreshingly adult.
Hondo also has a sweet and totally disarming moment with Boba Fett, showing that there is honor among thieves. Forget Anakin, and forget Cad Bane – Hondo is the new Han, and I can’t believe I never noticed their similar names before now. The other new star is, of all people, Plo Koon, who channels Alec Guiness in all the right ways. I can nitpick some of his decisions (why did he go undercover with a giant Jedi emblem on his ship? Why did he bring Ahsoka to a strip joint?), but it’s hard not to love the way he took down a roomful of baddies just by igniting his lightsaber. Later, during a faceoff with Aurra Sing, he doesn’t even break a sweat. This is one tough dude.
And Boba Fett? Not so tough. In fact, he’s more whiney than anything else, which apparently is the default setting for any Star Wars character under the age of 20. But the episode smartly contrasts Boba with Ahsoka, who makes a welcome return to the spotlight. They’re both impatient, and they’re roughly the same age, but Ahsoka tries to learn from her mistakes, while Boba seems determined to ignore his. Case in point: Ahsoka has a fantastic scene in which she uses her Jedi abilities to hone in on the conversations around her – a trick she may have picked up from Master Sinube a few episodes back. Boba, though, simply gets more and more frustrated from his disastrous attempts to kill Mace Windu. In the end, he’s lost everything except his vengeance, something which Mace can’t relate to at all. It’s a beautifully complex finish, one that avoids a happy resolution and gives us something to chew on during the long wait until Season 3.
‘R2 Come Home’: +