The Clone Wars review: ‘Gungan Attack’

When Gungans Attack! Not a FOX reality show, ‘Gungan Attack’ was the second half of the season premiere of Star Wars: The Clone Wars last week. And while Gungans show up to reinforce the beleaguered Mon Calamari and our heroes, Riff Tamson gets the upper hand on the Jedi and Prince Lee-Char and throws them in the spin cycle.

The quick recap: Count Dooku, reminds Riff Tamson and the increasingly hesitant Quarren leader to not let escaped Prince Lee-Char become a symbol to his people, who are destined to be Dooku’s slaves. Meanwhile, the Jedi call Yoda up but lose the signal before Yoda can confirm when he can send reinforcements. With no hope for immediate support, Anakin proposes trying to escape the planet in their Republic cruiser above the surface, and Lee-Char reluctantly accepts the plan. Kit Fisto creates a diversion, freeing several clone troopers and sending the rest of the party some sleds to help them dash for the surface. Just as they near the ship, Tamson, having monitored their escape, detonates the cruiser and has his droids close in. Left with little options, Lee Char suggests going back to deep water, so the gang grabs onto sinking debris to ride back down. Splitting up, Ackbar reminds the group that Lee-Char is their only hope. Unable to send more aquatic clones, the Jedi turn to the Gungans for military assistance and Jar Jar Binks convinces Boss Lyonie to immediately act to save Padmé.

From his hiding place, Lee Char and Ahsoka watch as Mon Calamari prisoners are shuffled to internment camps, and Kit Fisto realizes that Dooku plans to enslave all of Mon Cala’s peoples. Ahsoka gives the prince a pep talk on how to lead by being an inspiration to his people, and he emerges from the coral to the crowds, who start to rally, but then the guard droids close in. Meanwhile, thinking to the potential battle ahead, Anakin uses the Force to pull down the occupied communications complex, to keep the Separatists radar-blind for when the Republic’s reinforcements would arrive. After ripping the building from its anchorings, Anakin, Ackbar and Padmé also come under attack. Jar Jar arrives, leading a Gungan force into the deeps, descending like a plague of frogs upon the Separatists, using their energy balls to nullify the Hydroid Medusas. Another Gungan force reaches Lee-Char, Kit Fisto, and Ahsoka, and help them free the prisoners.

Tamson plays his last card and deploys Dooku’s reinforcements: Trident submarines that start spinning to create massive vortexes at both Anakin’s and Ahsoka’s locations. With whirling currents tossing forces about in a blinding underwater tornado, the toothy predator emerges to grab Lee-Char, but Ahsoka saves the young prince. After distracting Ahsoka with his droids, Tamson seizes the prince again, but Kit Fisto intervenes. Losing his lightsaber, Kit Fisto brawls with the sharkman, giving time for Ahsoka and Lee-Char to escape. Back below the city, Ackbar gets Anakin to damage one of the whirlpool-generating ships, but the damage is done: as the water slows down, droids capture Padmé, Anakin, and Senator Tills, held safe in a dizzy embrace by Jar Jar. With Kit Fisto captured as a prisoner, it’s up to Ahsoka and Lee-Char to continue the fight, and she gives the prince another pep talk about not making decisions out of fear as they retreat into the dark caves.

What I liked in ‘Gungan Attack.’ Bringing the Gungans in was a smart storytelling move – we know they’re out there with an amphibious military force, and they’re loyal to the Republic. Their energy balls are the perfect weapon against droid armies – why hasn’t the Republic requisitioned the heck out of Gungan tech for the wars? Perhaps the Gungans are why Padmé appears in this story arc: as a plot device to help pull the Gungans in (and also when planning a season opener, bring in most of the cast as you can). Despite the Gungan involvement, things don’t improve for the heroes – Riff Tamson has outmaneuvered them with his vortex-churning droids. Other cool things:

  • Riff Tamson gets a clever scene where he swims through a hologram tactical display to get in the face of a bad news-bearing droid. Tamson also doesn’t seem quite the superstar he was in part one – he’s more believable as a brawler who can hold his own against Kit Fisto.
  • Anakin and Padme’s exchange: “I just hope you’re a fast swimmer.” “Says the boy from the desert planet.” – It’s a good reminder of Anakin’s past, and Padmé’s wit.
  • Some actual fish! So far in this episode arc, we see a vast underwater world, but not a lot of sea life. We get one scene with some fish as we pan down. More please!
  • Ahsoka gets to give the pep talks – she’s now passing on her experience as a leader to someone younger than her.
  • Lee-Char gets into the action. As the Gungans help turn the tide, the prince grabs a pike-rifle thingy and blasts an aqua droid then starts beating it. Granted, it might be as effective as an Ewok trying to beat up the AT-ST’s foot, but he’s overcoming his fear in battle.
  • Jar Jar. When we first see him, he’s the voice of action as the new Boss debates whether to send troops to the Republic. Then, after leading a charge against the Hydroid Medusas, he swims up to Anakin and greets him with a big heartfelt “Ani!” because that’s what he’d do.
  • Ahsoka’s little spiral slash to take out a pack of aqua droids when the vortex starts. Sweet.

Where ‘Gungan Attack’ fell short: While there was some pretty solid action, and the whirlpool vortexes were meant to be blinding as the silt got stirred up, the episode felt fairly dimly lit throughout. Even when the heroes are near the surface when the cruiser explodes in the daylight, the water seemed fairly dark. While it makes sense for the lighting on the bottom and in the coral to be dimmer, Anakin’s attack on the comm center should be at the mid-levels of the city. Perhaps all these events too place late in the day. While the lighting was meant to mirror the plot, overall the episode just seemed too dark. Watching it the first time through, it made me sleepy.

The whirlpool scenes were a cool idea, but it seemed sometimes arbitrary on who was caught in it and who wasn’t. While Gungans and Mon Cals were tossed about, the aqua droids and main characters were at times immune to the swirling currents, and at other times not.

The beginning of this episode’s plot seemed to follow The Phantom Menace a little too closely – a young monarch has their planet invaded and though not yet captured, refused to leave until the Jedi convince otherwise, and try to get help from the Republic. But this time, the Republic is able to send help… and the heroes don’t get to flee the planet.

And those nitpicks and similar issues that I mentioned in the ‘Water War’ review still apply: pressure, decompression sickness (especially with jetting up toward the surface, and then sinking to the bottom with the engines), and Riff Tamson just not feeling like a Star Wars alien – Mrs. Jawa compared him to those talking sharks in the Snickers commercials or Sharco from the last season of Sealab 2021. Though watching Tamson re-align his jaw after Kit Fisto rushes him was pretty neat.

Overall: Dimly lit, ‘Gungan Attack’ failed to really grab me the first time through, though watching it a second time, I really appreciated so many of the scenes – both in some of clever parts of the story, and some of the cool actions scenes. Even little bits, like watching the clones turn and provide rear-guard cover at the coral caves, showed some great attention to detail in animation. Bringing in the Gungans and the use of the vortex-making Trident subs were smart, novel moves. The first time around, it felt that these two episodes were simply trying to redo Star Wars stuff with “But now it’s underwater!” and now watching them again, I can enjoy it a lot more. Nitpicks aside, ‘Gungan Attack’ was pretty awesome. We just need more fish.

Grade: A-

Did you catch our review of the first part of the story, ‘Water War’?

5 Replies to “The Clone Wars review: ‘Gungan Attack’”

  1. You’re right — where are all the fish? Are they the secret ingredient in Admiral Ackbar Cereal?

    And this episode totally caught me by surprise. (Probably because I had no idea this was a three-parter.) Bringing in the Gungans, only to have them prove completely ineffective, was an excellent reversal of this show’s (and this franchise’s) usual routine of bringing in the cavalry at the last-second.

  2. my first thought on the lack of Boss Nass is that he was no longer Boss, except after thinking about it, he appears at Padme’s funeral and in the clone wars webcomic prologue to Blue Shadow Virus. still, it could be that he was unavailable when Yoda called, or that he had indeed been out of power temporarily, and possibly later returned to power for his role in “Last of the Jedi: Death on Naboo”… (and that his appearance at Padme’s funeral was not as active head of state, but as the head of state who had bridged peace with the Naboo. or maybe he was out sick that day.

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