Continuing with this season’s tagline of “Secrets Revealed,” we get to see a little bit more of the bigger picture in ‘Supply Lines’, last week’s episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Just like ‘Clone Cadets’, this episode is a prequel to a first season episode – this time, leading into the season one premiere, the Yoda-centric ‘Ambush’. What’s revealed here is: Jar Jar’s performing arts talent, how the Trade Federation is still part of the Republic, the Jedi with the most appropriate name in the galaxy, and a deeper look into Toydarian culture – and we get a good mixture of battles and diplomacy.
The story: Ryloth, the Twi’lek homeworld, is under siege by the Separatists and hope is fading. Actually, everything’s fading: food supplies, fuel, ammo, and places to hide. Nikto Jedi Master Di (full name: Ima-Gun Di) and his dwindling clone troops are working alongside Twi’lek fighter Cham Syndulla against the droid forces, and can’t get supplies from their fleet. As Admiral Dao calls up the Jedi for help, his ship loses shields and his holo breaks up (reminding me of when one of Vader gets one of his holocomm calls dropped by an asteroid in Empire). The Jedi call up Bail Organa, who is tooling around, and recruit him to negotiate a deal with neutral Toydaria to use their system as a staging ground for sending relief supplies to Ryloth. (Why they can’t just use some empty corner of space to load the humanitarian supplies onto blockade runners seems like a flimsy plot issue.) But the Jedi have already sent the supplies to Toydaria, along with Representative Binks. Wishing to save the Republic from Jar Jar’s crack skills, Bail takes the job to secure the treaty. Meanwhile, Dooku learns of Bail’s mission and calls up Senator Lott Dod to thwart the Alderaanian’s chances.
Bail arrives at a spaceport on Toydaria, which is a city on a mountain spire overlooking a verdant flatland – the capital is almost like a slice of Cloud City or Coruscant towering over a jungle world. When offered hospitality but not open passage past the port, Bail brazenly pushes his way past the guards and heads with Jar Jar into King Katuunko’s audience chamber. Addressing the lavishly animated Katuunko, Bail pleads his case for Toydarian assistance for the victims of Ryloth. Senator Lott Dod shows up and reminds Toydaria of their neutrality – and their existing contracts with the Trade Federation. With the audience as confused as Jar Jar over how the heck the Trade Federation is still part of the Republic, Senator Dod explains that the Trade Federation is not affiliated with Nute Gunray or the Separatists, but running the Separatist blockade at Ryloth might cause the Seps to see that Toydaria is no longer neutral. Got it? Katuunko goes off to think and allow the senators to each make their case.
Meanwhile back at the ranch, Master Di promises to Cham Syndulla that the Republic will not abandon them. With one flank of clones wiped out, the Twi’lek resistance is trapped in a set of canyons. Di realizes that the only way to save the Twi’lek fighters and their families is to provide a final stand to buy them time to escape.
Bail calls up Senator Orn Free Taa, who comes out in a Zillo beast-sized hologram pleading on behalf of the innocent starving people of Ryloth. The Toydarian councilors point out their values of humanitarianism (or Toydariantarianism) and compassion, but weigh it against being drawn into the war. Dod points out that Ryloth is a battleground, and aiding one side, even with humanitarian relief could violate their neutrality, and the Seps could even then choose to attack the Toydarian’s allies, like the Trade Federation, which would then hurt Toydaria’s economic interests. Ultimately, Katuunko rules that the need for neutrality wins out, but then secretly meets with Bail and Jar Jar to allow them to transfer the supplies that Jar Jar bought to Republic blockade runners – if they can make sure that Dod can’t link the transfer to Toydaria.
Bail makes a plan, and Jar Jar gets a Bluetooth. Katuunko and Jar Jar host a formal dinner with Lott Dod and his staff, and after excusing himself, Bail oversees the loading of the ships. In order to keep Dod and his staff from looking out the window to see the blockade runners lifting off, Jar Jar provides quite the distraction by climbing on the table and offering an artistic tribute to Lott Dod, and promptly starts grabbing everyone’s plates and cups, dumping their food on the floor. Like a skilled circus performer, Jar Jar then juggles the dishware and using his best “Minute to Win It” acrobatic skills, tosses the dishes and goblets into an impressive multi-layered stack (Cirque du Soleil watch out!). In the background, the ships take off, though one foolishly flies on the wrong side of the building, and is seen by Dod.
On Ryloth, the clones narrow down the approach options for the droids by detonating a gunship in a narrow canyon, possibly blowing up the planet’s version of Devil’s Tower in the process. With one canyon blocked, the droids press their attack down the second fork of the canyon, and the clones and Jedi Di make their final stand – for the Republic (who can’t support them) and for the Twi’leks (who might just live another day, if only they got some food). The clones are soon overcome, and Master Di wades into battle, and his clone captain Keeli manages to survive a grenade to take out a few more droids before being shot. As Di is surrounded and lives up to his name, he hears over his comlink that the blockade runners have made it and are starting their run to drop supplies to the fleeing Twi’lek forces.
As Bail Organa is heading out, Lott Dod accuses him of masterminding the relief mission. Bail suggests that his opponent take it up in the Senate, knowing that any attempt will just get mired in procedures. Waving his fists in frustration, Dod taks off, and Katuunko suggests that his world may need to rethink their neutrality, and wishes to talk with the Jedi.
So, what went right with this episode? ‘Supply Lines’ walked a fine line between its two halves: the diplomatic front on Toydaria, and the last stand of the Republic forces on Ryloth. Jar Jar’s performance that starts off bumbling as he snags plates with funny comments and turns around to sublimely deliver a talented plate stacking. Is his clumsiness just an act?
Master Di’s last stand brings a grave counterpoint to the episode – as he builds his plan to let the Twi’leks escape, Captain Keeli immediately picks up on the fact that it pretty much means that the Republic forces will all die to achieve that objective and goes off to let the men know. It would be interesting to have seen how the clones respond to receiving orders for a last stand – but perhaps too somber for this episode. The ground battle action was pretty standard, with the opening battle showing a Sep advance in which no droid on the ground seem to get shot (like those old GI Joe cartoons where the air is filled with blaster fire, yet no one ever gets hit). Master Di gets one big hero moment where he nimbly takes out a round of droids on his own… but then after Keeli’s death, he loses composure and gets shot down without offering much capable defense.
And we get somewhat of an explanation for something which had been previously confusing in Season 2: how the heck the Trade Federation fits into the Republic though really a pawn of the Separatists.
With Katuunko’s reapppearnce, we are reminded how far the animation has come from the show’s beginnings. Katuunko just seems more vibrant and richer in style – and the depiction of traditional Toydarian values of hospitality and compassion, although having a mostly closed society really contrasts with the values shown by Watto the Toydarian junk dealer – maybe he just didn’t fit in on his homeworld.
Bail Organa shows himself to be quite the politician – omitting certain key pieces of information from his appeal to Katuunko, and working to outmaneuver Lott Dod.
Whose ‘Supply Line’ is it anyway? A couple parts of the plot jumped out at me as just not making sense in this episode. First off, why the Republic could only use Toydaria as a launch point for the blockade runners to deliver supplies to Ryloth. I get that blockade runners might have a limited range, but couldn’t they just rendezvous in space.. nice quiet, empty space? Maybe they needed an actual port facility with binary loadlifters.
Another thing is the treatment of the Twi’leks as innocents without pointing the finger at the Seps as the aggressors. Ryloth, as represented by Orn Free Taa in the senate, should be a Republic world but coming from both Lott Dod and Bail Organa, it sounds like the planet is a battleground that the sides are fighting over that happens to be filled with residents, and not necessarily a Republic world being invaded by Separatists.
Overall: ‘Supply Lines’ is a solid and enjoyable episode. While the plot has a couple holes, the story hits a good balance between action, tension, and even comedy. I’m a fan of droid humor, and it was well used here as a droid army, seen menacing when just blindly marching forward and firing, stalls out as two droids examine the rigged gunship and one declares “No clones… just explosives. Explosives?!?!” with the expected punchline. The flip side of the episode was shown when Cham is disappointed in the lack of Republic relief, and Master Di tells Cham’s lieutenant Gobi to let Cham know that “war turns promises into hopes.” While I’m not sure the ‘Ambush’ necessarily needed a prequel, having it also be a prequel to the Ryloth trilogy was a nice touch. I’d certainly like to see more of Katuunko, Cham Syndulla, sneaky Bail Organa, and multi-faceted Jar Jar Binks. The episode’s fortune cookie was “Where there’s a will, there’s a way” – and ‘Supply Lines’ met the demand but I hope Master Di left a will.