Anakin and Tarkin find they have much in common. I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
You know the only thing more badass than guys breaking out of prison? Guys breaking in to prison.
And that was the story we got two weeks ago on The Clone Wars when our heroes of that Galaxy Far, Far Away had themselves carbon-frozen and shipped deep behind enemy lines to rescue their comrade Even Piell from that Kafka-esque hellhole, the Citadel. But it wouldn’t truly be a Kafka-esque hellhole if they completed their mission in just one episode, right? Instead, last night, in the second part of this three-episode arc, Anakin, Obi-Wan, Ahsoka, Even Piell and Captain Tarkin (!) continued their escape from purp’ and yellow planet Lola Sayu. Like an old Flash Gordon serial, “Counterattack” didn’t really have a beginning or an end—and mostly served as a set-up for next week’s wrap-up ep—but it was still a fun homage to the rip-roaring action of A New Hope, a time when Star Wars was more concerned with high-flying thrills than diving deep into mythology.
Last time, if you recall, the Jedi on Lola Sayu had split up into two camps. Even Piell and Obi-Wan teamed up, while Anakin and Ahsoka escorted Captain Tarkin. When “Counterattack” opened, Obi-Wan and Even were proceeding through a ventilation shaft, when a probe droid discovered them. You remember probe droids, right? The intelligence gathering robots of the kind Chewbacca made blaster-fodder on Hoth? Well, Even Piell showed off some mad parkour skills, scaling the vertical corridor to harpoon him a probe droid like an olive on a toothpick. Unfortunately, it set off a booby trap that caused a whole bunch of security doors to rapidly slam shut. Slam shut so rapidly that somebody caught could be cut in half. And that’s just what happened (discreetly offscreen) to one of the clone troopers. Again, The Clone Wars lives up to its billing as a PG-13 cartoon! Even Piell, like a diminutive Dolph Lundgren, drawled in his thick Russian accent, “Ve lost vun.”
Meanwhile, prison warden Osi Sobeck received more than a small dose of intimidation from Count Dooku. Sobeck still didn’t have the secret hyperspace routes Piell and Tarkin possessed. So, I guess my theory last week that Tarkin spilled the beans about his routes proved to be the ravings of a guy who’s spent way too much time thinking about this stuff. But still, I wonder….Anyway, kudos to James Arnold Taylor for not only voicing Obi-Wan Kenobi and Plo Koon but Sobeck, the hyperventilating warden who I still maintain resembles Al Pacino’s Big Boy Caprice in Dick Tracy. Later in “Counterattack” there would actually be a moment when Obi-Wan would interact with Sobeck, during which Taylor was literally having a verbal sparring match with himself.
NEXT: Tarkin can’t help but reveal his latent fascism. Plus, R2 proves himself to be a one-droid army.Tarkin began revealing his crypto-fascist agenda while walking with Anakin and Ahsoka in the tunnels below the Citadel. When Ahsoka scoffed at his admiration for the design of the facility, he said, “Ah, you only reveal your shortsightedness. This ordeal only demonstrates how effective facilities like the Citadel are. Pity it ended up in Separatist hands instead of ours.” Anakin found that he quite agreed: “He has a point.” My hope? That someday on The Clone Wars we can see Tarkin put that thought into action when he founds his legendary secret base in the center of The Maw, a nearly impenetrable cluster of black holes. (Teenage Admiral Daala? Yes, please!)
R2 proved himself once again to be the most competent droid in the galaxy. Check that. Most competent anything in the galaxy. I mean, how did he ever let those Jawas get the jump on him in A New Hope? We’ve already seen how he’s like a one-droid army in Revenge of the Sith, and in “Counterattack” he also demonstrated a flair for command, leading his reprogrammed battle droids into the fray and showing some serious acting chops when cornered—call it the Astromech Method, a Futurist discipline that I believe was pioneered by Vsevolod Meyerhold in 1922. R2 even demonstrated an early variant of the Wookiee Prisoner Trick, using the cover of his battle droid allies to arrange for a “transfer” of Obi-Wan and Even Piell once they got captured.
That whole sequence when the elder Jedi get captured is pretty stunning. The Clone Wars has gone pretty far to show the evil of torture—remember that deranged medical droid who was going to pluck out Even Piell’s remaining eye Pai Mei-style?—and this week was no exception. With the Jedi in his clutches, Sobeck announced that he would start killing people if Piell didn’t give up his hyperspace routes. So he did. He planted a blaster bolt in the skull of one of our clone troopers! Intense. But Piell didn’t break.
NEXT: Do the Jedi have their Dark Side too?This raises an interesting question. If Sobeck had threatened to kill Obi-Wan instead, would Piell have been more likely to capitulate? Do the Jedi really think, no matter how much they might deny it, that the clones are expendable? That they’ve been bred in order to die? It’s a question I was talking over recently with Sam Witwer, a hard core Star Wars geek like myself and the voice of The Son on the recent Mortis arc and Starkiller in The Force Unleashed. His take? “Believe me, the Jedi have their dark side too,” he says. “They’re leading an army of cloned warriors who’ve been created merely to fight and die. The clones really have no choice in determining their destiny. And, I mean, what happens to a clone who doesn’t want to fight, or is incapable of fighting?” Something to consider as you drink your blue milk this morning.
Of course, then there are those Jedi who think they haven’t gone far enough to try to end the war. By whom I mean Anakin. When traveling through a fuel line with Tarkin, the future Grand Moff revealed his dissatisfaction with the Jedi: “I find their tactics ineffective. The Jedi Code prevents them from going far enough to achieve victory, to do whatever it takes to win. The very reason peacekeepers should not be leading a war.” Anakin couldn’t help but agree.
When finally both parties reunited at the landing platform where R2 had parked their shuttle, they fought a fierce battle against Sobeck’s remaining droid forces. This was a spectacular fight, during which we saw the kind of superheroic Jedi theatrics we haven’t glimpsed for a while. When Anakin and Even Piell somersaulted through the sky to land mid-air on a speeding STAP, it reminded me of the physics-defying thrills of the Genndy Tartakovsky’s hand-drawn Clone Wars series where the Jedi executed far more outlandish feats than they usually do here. But for our heroes this time, it wasn’t enough. Their shuttle destroyed, they found themselves without any means of getting off-planet and with a crazed prison warden on their respective tails. Jedi Master Plo Koon, back on Coruscant, had no choice. He’ll have to send an entire fleet group to attack Lola Sayu and recover the Jedi, Tarkin, and the secret hyperspace plans. It’s on! Next week.
What thinketh you, Padawan readers? Do you prefer episodes that dwell more on action or on mythology? Are you also amazed by the escalating level of violence on the show? Have you found Tarkin’s long-awaited appearance to be satisfying so far? And is there any fictional character you’d rather have cover your back than R2? Until next week, Darth Blauvelt has left the building.