The Clone Wars non-review: ‘Young Jedi’

I’ve been struggling with how to approach this arc, and I guess I wasn’t the only one.  When these four episodes premiered at Celebration VI, it looked as if Lucasfilm wasn’t sure what to do with them.  Maybe the Powers That Be™ thought the story skewed a bit too young, maybe they were considering it for a possible spin-off series, maybe they just didn’t know if it was any good.  Those are all guesses, I honestly have no idea.  All I know for sure is this: I won’t review this arc.  I can’t.

Here’s why.  If you haven’t seen this arc, it’d be a crime to ruin any of it for you.  This is the flat-out best work this show has ever done.  The characterizations are smart and layered, the action is breathtaking, the emotions are earned, the gags are funny, the pacing is superb, the casting is brilliant and the voicework in general is a joy to hear.  In short, each and every creative decision is terrific.  Even characters who should be tired by now feel fresh and surprising.  So instead of a review, consider this a challenge: if you don’t watch The Clone Wars, take my word for it and check out these four episodes.  I’ll burn you a DVD if you can’t find them on your own!  This show keeps managing to top its own high-standards, and this storyline really illustrates just how far the series has come.


16 Replies to “The Clone Wars non-review: ‘Young Jedi’”

  1. Well said! I think this was a very good arc. It was a lot of fun and was filled with some great characters. I particularly appreciate how expressive the non-speaking characters (Byph, Gungi) were. Impressive storytelling and animation both.

  2. Well said!

    I loved this arc so much I named our new puppy Gungi! I look forward to good SW stories like these. Great post!

  3. wHile i totally agree with nOt waNting to spoil the awesomeness of this arc, i Did look fOrward tO heariNg whAt you might have to say about the different Kinds of Awesome (including my hinted one).

  4. A friend sent me the link to first episode because of my love of DA WOOKIEE and I was hooked. It’s own series ?? I say ..YES PLEASE

  5. Huh, I guess I’m the only one who thought it was mediocre. The whole thing was wrought with plot devices which made no sense. Ashoka is able to fend of Grievous while he wields 4 lightsabers but has trouble with bumbling pirates. The location of illum is secret, how did the pirates even know the ship was going to be waiting in space at those particular coordinates? Why wasn’t the ship traveling back to the jedi temple in hyperspace? Furthermore, why was the jedi training ship just floating in space without shields? And why would it have no weapons in war time to defend against a pirate attack? Why don’t the pirates shoot grievous before he could have potentially killed ashoka? Why did a hit from the pursuing pirate tank destroy a much larger space vessel but not a tiny tank the younglings were in? Grievous’s fleet control’s the “whole system” that florrum is in, how could they escape? Maybe they are just totally incompetent.

    None of this makes sense if you think about it for one second. It’s the hallmark of poorly thought out, sloppy writing. Someone said, hey we want an episode where younglings rescue ashoka and didn’t bother to think of something that might fit logically. For instance, the pirates can’t overpower ashoka (because at this point she’s basically a jedi knight apprenticed to one of the most powerful jedi in the galaxy), but they could capture a youngling and use them as a hostage. Since petro is such a hot head, one of his schemes going awry would be good. His angst over having lost ashoka would be critical character development. See, this isn’t hard but the writers and director don’t seem to know how.

    The whole last episode was predicated on the notion that a large training ship couldn’t just squash a tiny speeder tank chasing our heroes. Sure, the animation is better and the action is good but the story itself is sucrose and poorly written.

  6. My comments above are only directed at obvious, gaping plot holes. The arc also ignores incredibly basic storytelling techniques. For instance, when Katooni is trapped behind the ice wall at the end of the gathering Petro decides to leave her behind the ice so that he can selfishly find his own crystal. The shot order shows him walking away from Katooni, reconsidering and then returning back. His change of heart is a piece of character development that shows he is dynamic character learning to care about others rather than being so self centered. Then the shot cuts to Katooni sobbing because she has no way out. Because we see Petro has already turned back, the viewer knows she’s about to be rescued and Katooni’s anguished emotional response has no feeling for the audience. Similarly, seeing Petro reconsider and turn back robs him of the surprise entrance against the ice. It’s kind of a major mistake to go to the trouble of setting up a shot and then flubbing the dramatic irony at the climax of a story. The TCW writers managed to steal both of the characters performance and development. All that had to be done was to just cut out the part where petro turns around and it could have worked.

    This isn’t a minor mishap in logical analysis, it is extremely basic storytelling technique. Sherlock holmes doesn’t reveal the mystery before the final confrontation. James Bond doesn’t learn the insidious plot after he escapes from the clutches of the villain. Comedians don’t tell the punchline before the end of the joke. All this stuff is very simple pacing and TCW writers are still younglings if they can’t handle it.

    But I guess I’m totally alone on this. I could also say that every other piece of star wars media has shown padawans (not younglings) building their own lightsabers with the help of their jedi master but whatever, with Dunc’s advice about canon I’m learning to ignore that stuff.

  7. Yup, I’m with TitaniumWookie on the arc not really being all that stellar, mostly due to a lot of “and then THIS happens!” “Why?” “BECAUSE!” Hondo, in particular, stood out as being completely inconsistent from one episode to another based on whatever the plot needed him to be this week, and Grievous displayed a similar ability to appear in some plot-convenient location for no apparent reason.

    That, and I *really* thought the arc was going somewhere else at the end of the second episode. After watching that, and seeing Hondo suddenly show how ruthless he could be, my son and I turned to each other in anticipation and discussed how Hondo had just made a huge mistake, and what Anakin’s reaction was going to be next week when he heard about it. Instead, we got the most ridiculously contrived rescue caper imaginable, which left us both saying, “Oh… um. Okay.”

    TBH the current season hasn’t really grabbed me yet, and that’s speaking as an adult fan with a devoted 6-year-old. TCW has always been frustratingly uneven, often threatening greatness only to miss at the last moment, and this was just another case of the pattern for me.

  8. Great comments folks!

    James, I sorta made an oblique reference towards you-know-who in the non-review… but needless to say, I enjoyed him a lot. At first I thought three arcs in a row might have been a bit much with him, but then they gave him something new to do and, well, I fell in love with him all over again.

    TitaniumWookie (PS — one e?), I appreciate the long analysis but I don’t agree about the plot holes. Most of your points are more opinion-based (who’s stronger than who, who would be where at what time), and they didn’t lessen my enjoyment of the show at all. I can’t answer your questions about the technical aspects except to say that they didn’t even occur to me… which could be seen as a weakness on my part, but hey, ignorance is sometimes bliss.

    As for your complaint about the climax of the first ep — again, shot choice isn’t as clear-cut that there’s a “right way” to do it. Personally, I thought Petro’s eventual change-of-heart was the most (and only) obvious part of the story (and I liked that it wasn’t a full-on change-of-personality, since he was still cocky as hell in the next ep, so I actually enjoyed seeing it from his perspective. WHY and WHEN he changed was more interesting to me than whether he would.

    SDGlyph, I suppose every show has a YMMV component to it, but I will say this about Hondo: one of the reasons I love him is because he is so gloriously inconsistent. To me, that just means he’s unpredictable, and that’s the basis of an entertaining character. (And Hondo totally and consistently acknowledges that he’s not playing by any rules, so it’s internally consistent, at least.) Plus, I don’t WANT to see Hondo incur the wrath of Anakin, so anything that keeps him alive is okay by me.

  9. Stooge: I heartily agree. This arc just raised the show to an entirely new level. The animation was just gorgeous and the story was really exciting. The final showdown almost made me think, is this how Ahsoka goes out? Slave 1 was the icing on the cake.

  10. Stooge: I agree, an unpredictable character can be entertaining, but I’d argue that Hondo flip-flopped so much and so drastically during this arc that he stopped really being a ‘character’ at all and became little more than a plot device with a funny accent. I got whiplash as he went from the most straight-up evil we’ve ever seen him, to a clownish buffoon, then centred back towards “d’aww, he has a heart of gold really” before ending the arc (consequence-free) as the lovable rascal once more. The fourth episode even seemed to lampshade it with the “today I like children!” line.

    Thinking about it some more, my problems with the arc are mostly in the third episode, which I found jarringly out of place. Without that, it’s a solid story with some really great moments and a few hiccups along the way. I’ll have to see how it looks on a re-watch.

  11. Wow, I thought the third episode was phenomenal. Clever, totally original, and big laughs. Plus — he was loaded! How do you expect anyone to act rationally after drinking all day? And I loved that he was a happy drunk.

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