The Clone Wars review: ‘Counterattack’

“This is some rescue. When you came in here, didn’t you have a plan for getting out?” Last week’s episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, entitled ‘Counterattack’ shows what happens when the best-laid plans of mouse droids and men hit reality. As the middle story in the Citadel arc, its parallels to Leia’s rescue on the Death Star build up – and then take a different route as the Sith hits the fan.

The quick recap: This week on Prison Break: Team Tarkin, led by Anakin and Ahsoka, switch from the lava tunnels to a stinky fuel pipe. Team Obi-Piell uses the vents to get close to the shuttle, but ends up captured. Team Artoo intercepts Obi-Wan Kenobi and Even Piell and frees them, with some battle droid improv. Back at the shuttle, all the teams meet up, and come under fire. Lots of things go boom, including Echo and the shuttle. Prison warden Osi Sobeck needs to get call waiting.

What’s cool? ‘Counterattack’ has a great balance, following the three teams around as they try to make their escape from Azkaban. There’s a lot of action, but also the tension gets cut with a lot of humor, and a little bit to think and feel.

The action provided a few cool surprises – Even Piell gets a hero moment early on in the episode, switching from being a slow climbing dwarf in the vents to a nimble ninja to take out a probe droid. The commando droids, always a formidable opponent, get even more dangerous when armed with energy shields they can stick their blasters through. Anakin Skywalker and Ahsoka Tano both get some hero moments with the use of grenades against their droid pursuers. Albeit when Anakin’s explosive launches the crab droid overhead to land in front of where Team Tarkin is taking cover, and then Anakin steps over its destroyed hulk, it’s both cool and cheesy in its action movie style. But we also get some sequences showing that even heroes don’t always win – Anakin and Even commandeer a STAP and attack one of the turrets – but get shot down. And then Echo’s attempt to reach the shuttle ends in fiery doom. Of our lads from Rookies, Fives is all alone now.

There’s a good mix of humor in the episode, with Artoo’s battle droids managing to improvise their way past a tactical droid (pretending to take Artoo prisoner), and then bluffing other battle droids into passing Obi-Wan’s team to their custody. Obi-Wan and Anakin get their digs at each other, and Ahsoka gets a little levity as well, though Anakin not reminding her that the tunnel wall needs to be demolished seems a bit poor leadership on his part. Finally, there was some good comedy with Osi Sobeck being the trapped middle manager, dealing with a boss breathing down his neck and a staff of either mildly insubordinate (the tactical droid K2-B4, voiced by a very heavily modulated Ashley Eckstein) or mostly incompetent (battle droids) – and he lashes out at them, causing one battle droid to cower under his datapad, and even tries to strangle his tactical droid after it had put Sobeck in a tigher spot with Dooku on line one.

Because of the multiple team aspect, Tarkin doesn’t get much screen time, but he does get a few lines to show where his mind is at – questioning letting a teenage Jedi lead the team (though Rex expresses his confidence in Ahsoka’s abilities), admiring the design of the prison even as he attempts to escape from it, and then voicing his opinion on how the Jedi Code keeps them from achieving victory in the war, and seeing Anakin agree with this assessment. While I’m sure Tarkin’s busy taking notes on how he would design the ultimate Jedi-proof prison, what we don’t see is a hint to Tarkin’s ambitions or politics – maybe in the final chapter of this story, he’ll mention how effective the fear of force is as a motivator. Speaking of Tarkin and Anakin discussing the Jedi Code, we see that put to the test when Even Piell wavers after one of his clones gets executed – while a general may sacrifice his men for the overall war effort, a Jedi seeks to preserve life.

Mouse droids – woohoo!

What didn’t work? The theme of the episode was Murphy’s Law – but I don’t think it was meant for the viewer. Overall, only a few things went wrong with the episode depicting everything going wrong. The main story piece that didn’t quite make sense was having Artoo park and walk away form their getaway vehicle. From having to do extractions in hot combat zones, you’d think that the Jedi and clones would rather keep their getaway driver hiding nearby, and not have it show up until it was actually needed, else it get pinched by the man – which is exactly what happens, and Osi Sobeck wisely uses it as a trap. “Who’s the brains, sweetheart?” And then, when they do get to the shuttle at the end, Team Obi-Wan & Artoo are about to board when they come under fire… and then they run away from the ship to find bigger cover. Somebody should have thought to get on the ship and get it ready to take off.

Magically reappearing clones. Apparently, Commander Cody can clone his men. At the beginning of the episode, Obi-wan has three orange-suited troopers in his team, one of whom is Cody. When the vents get locked down, a redshirt (or orangeshirt?) is caught in a hatch snapping shut (just barely offscreen) and Even Piell verifies that they lost someone. But when the team gets captured and marched into Sobeck’s command room, there’s three sets of armor again, and then one gets executed by Christopher Walken. (Maybe this clone is Longshot, who died last week as well, only to have a new orangeshirt clone appear to replace him). One could argue that somehow someone other than Mr. Not-A-Penitent-Man died in the vent… or that his undamaged armor was reclaimed and worn by a freed officer – On the bright side, for clones, one size fits all…

Speaking of clone deaths, compare the feelings shown between the unnamed single-use-magician’s-assistant and Echo. Both deaths were a bit of a shock to the audience in their suddenness, but they get treated very differently – mostly because the audience has invested in the unique person of Echo, as opposed to the faceless nameless clone. We see Fives react immediately, and the next scene in the cavern hiding place is somber. But for the nameless, wouldn’t Cody know his man, but all we get is the standard “we lost one but we’d better keep moving” like when Longshot died earlier on the mission. I guess I’d like to see someone seem to care about losing a no-name clone at some point – he was someone’s brother and squadmate, presumably.

Binder cuffs. After Obi-Wan and Even Piell are rescued by Artoo’s three battle droids, Artoo approaches the team and magically everyone’s handcuffs are off – we even see a clone throw his cuffs aside as they head out. For a prison meant to hold Jedi, their physical restraint systems are crap – were the Jedi only faking to be restrained? If they’d spent a line of dialogue indicating that the cuffs were now deactivated, or shown Artoo unlocking Obi-Wan as they talked, it would have made more sense.

And despite having killed off a few waves of battle droids throughout their escape, no one’s thought to let the escaped clone officers have weapons. Maybe they don’t want a blaster because they’re too busy holding their sides in the standard ‘walking wounded’ pose.

Overall: While ‘The Citadel’ brought in many elements that paid homage to the prison break scenes on the Death Star in A New Hope (Tarkin, Obi-Wan, Anakin/Vader, Artoo, pretending to have no lifeforms aboard, shooting up the holocameras and laser projectors, splitting up to avoid capture, etc.), ‘Counterattack’ takes the final act, and ends it in the opposite direction – after all the running around, everyone gets back to the ship, and instead of rocketing off to freedom, it gets destroyed, and it’s time to call for the big guns to pick them up. Later in their lives, Vader and Tarkin remember how important it is to use the ship as bait when they let Luke and Han escape with Leia, as they’ve got the homing beacon aboard the Falcon. While the plot involves a poor planning decision (or is just parking the getaway car like that Artoo’s call?), the story works well for setting up the need to adapt the plan to fit changing situations, though the overly theatrical Sobeck stayed one step ahead of them most of the time – he was able to re-capture Piell, and was able to ambush Ahsoka and Anakin as they emerged from the fuel pipes. Despite my nitpicks (remember ultimately Star Wars is about being a fun adventure first), ‘Counterattack’ is a good Star Wars adventure because it blended action and comedy well as the good guys faced the bad guys.

Grade: A-

3 thoughts on “The Clone Wars review: ‘Counterattack’

  1. Chris Mathers

    I like the attention to detail with the battle droids. If you notice – the blue paint on R2’s droids mark them as pilots while the red paint on all the others mark them as security guards.

    What I want to know is just what is the in-universe explanation for K2-B4 and the commando droids wearing Lakers colors.

  2. Stooge

    You’re absolutely right about the echoes of the Death Star escape, as well as the inverted ending… I hadn’t thought about the whole “get to the ship” sequence quite like that.

    The shifting clone numbers bothered me this time, as well… probably because I was watching for it this time, thanks to you. It’s a shame… I also hate to nitpick, but it is strange that the same mistake kept popping up.

    And yeah, I sort of expected to see more of Tarkin. Still, hard to complain about this episode. That moment with the clone trooper getting halved will live with me for a long time.

  3. jawajames

    @Chris: while they did stick a bit with the battle droid color scheme from TPM, Artoo’s commander is OOM-10, which should get commander colors (yellow) if they are being truly following the TPM color coding. Clearly the red security droids recognize OOM-10 as a commander, because why would they as security otherwise pass over a prisoner to some pilots. As for the Lakers colors – maybe because it camouflages well on a planet that is mostly yellow lava and purple-hued rock?

    @Stooge: uh, you’re welcome? heh. maybe it’s a gag (as well as a plot cheat to make sure they have enough generic troopers to keep dying as needed without having to animate them all in one group). as for this particular nameless trooper, even though it was almost offscreen, it was a bit gruesome. now you got me thinking about it, and trying to figure out despite the slicing sound, was that hatch as thick as the one that Even cuts through to reach Obi-wan.. in which case… might have been worse.

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