Star Wars: The Clone Wars recap: Ordinary villainy or cartoonish supervillainy?
We didn’t land on Plymouth Rock. Plymouth Rock landed on us. Sadly, no one said that in “Kidnapped,” Star Wars: The Clone Wars’ kinetic, Tryptophan-dispelling post-Thanksgiving episode. Substitute “Zygerria” for “Plymouth,” though, and it’s pretty much what those poor enslaved Togruta colonists were thinking as Count Dooku and his wolfish Zygerrian ally hauled them away in chains.
That’s right, “Kidnapped” addressed that Galaxy Far Far Away’s ongoing problem with the peculiar institution itself: slavery. Considering that the central character of the entire Star Wars saga, one Mr. Anakin Skywalker, was himself once a slave, you’d think it would be something that would be addressed more often by George Lucas and his storytelling acolytes. How can the Republic still allow slavery? And how can Anakin feel comfortable serving a government that’s willing to turn a blind eye to it?
Lately, slavery is a topic that’s been popping up more and more in the Expanded Universe: first, in the ongoing Fate of the Jedi series, which in part chronicles an anti-slavery movement in the decades after Return of the Jedi; second, in the ongoing rollout of backstory surrounding the new Star Wars: The Old Republic videogame (especially in Drew Karpyshyn’s thrilling Revan); and finally, in a series of Clone Wars comics from 2008 called “Slaves of the Republic” about a Togruta colony that mysteriously vanishes after a visit from the Separatists…and a pack of Zygerrian slavers. Sound familiar? It should. By my reckoning “Kidnapped” is the first Clone Wars episode to adapt extant Expanded Universe material, and if you’re thinking it isn’t based on that 2008 comic arc, check out the title of next week’s follow-up: “Slaves of the Republic.”
“Kidnapped” began with Tom Kane telling us that the artisan colony of the planet Kiros created a society without weapons. “Instead of war, they pursued art and beauty.” But of course, in the Leone-esque chaos of the Star Wars galaxy, anything that’s beautiful risks certain destruction. No sooner had the Togruta colony leader informed Master Yoda that he would have to negotiate with Count Dooku, Serenno’s finest himself arrived with an army in tow to inform them that they would now be living under a “peaceful occupation.” Dooku really needs to work on his “Good Cop, Bad Cop” act because the moment he finished spewing his diplomatic double-speak his Zygerrian henchman, Darts D’Nar (possibly my favorite Clone Wars name ever—who wouldn’t want to be called “Darts”?) told his droids to round up the civvies. Dooku and his wolfish slaver apparently think that these artisans will really up the cultural capital of the Separatist Alliance, even when they’re in chains. Honestly, I can’t think of any other reason why the Seppies would want them—it’s not like they’re going to be valuable parts of the Confederate war machine with those mad basket-weaving skills.
NEXT: Obi-Wan Kenobi (a.k.a. The Negotiator) finds the only diplomatic solution before him lies in his fists, uncivilized though that may be.
Ten rotations—or days—later the Republic finally showed up. And everyone…was gone. Everyone that is except for Darts and his clankers. He sent a squad of biker droids to intercept the Republic’s clones, walkers, and that Jedi troika of Obi-Wan, Anakin, and Ahsoka. (When I think of “biker droids,” I feel like they should be wearing Marlon Brando Wild One leather-daddy chic, but even still, these ‘bots seem way more competent than your typical “Roger Roger!” battle droids.)
Badass Ahsoka Moment of the Night Volume I: The young Togruta Padawan, perhaps inspired by the necessity of rescuing her kinfolk, was particularly effective, jumping onto a droid’s bike then decapitating it from behind as if she were slitting its throat. She then dropped a couple thermal detonators, Luke Skywalker-style, into an AAT before Force jumping away. This three-dimensional speederbike melee was like the branch-ducking chase through the Endor woods in Return of the Jedi crossed with the warg battle from The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Or to use the parlance of The Phantom Menace: wizard!
After the Jedi dispatched that droid scum, the Zygerrian wolfman was ready to surrender. Or so we thought. Anakin, for one, wasn’t having it. He Force-grabbed Obi-Wan’s holoreceiver with Darts’ message and crushed it Robert Shaw-style in his sinewy palm. “Zygerrian scum! I’ll handle that slaver,” he growled. I love how “scum” is the worst epithet you can use in that Galaxy Far, Far Away, as evidenced also by General Grievous’ “Jedi scum!” in Revenge of the Sith and Random Imperial Officer Dude’s “Rebel scum” in Return of the Jedi.
Everyone could see it coming, but that Zygerrian had an ace up his silk sleeve. No villain who obsessively strokes a cute pet (in Darts’ case, a colorful tropical bird) can be outwitted this easily. And if we doubted Darts’ villainy for a nanosecond, his Emilio Largo accent and caged Kowakian monkey lizard told us all we needed to know. He placed bombs all around the Togruta colony and led the Jedi to believe the artisans were still huddled inside. “I have the Jedi right where I want them,” Darts told Count Dooku via holocomm. Apparently the Force has given Obi-Wan Kenobi super hearing because it seems like he overheard Darts’ hand-rubbing plotting while traveling up the turbolift to the Zygerrian’s control room. He must have because he promptly and haughtily asked Darts, “Do tell!” (Part of me thinks George Lucas is going to make an overdue J.K. Rowling-style announcement about Obi-Wan’s sexuality at some point.)
As always, The Negotiator figured out a way to appeal to his opponent’s ego. He stalled for time to allow Anakin and Ahsoka to defuse the bombs by challenging Darts to hand-to-hand combat in the Zygerrian tradition. He had to give up his lightsaber and refrain from using the Force to make it a fair fight, and, well, seemed to get pretty much pwned. I just don’t really think bare-knuckle fights are civilized enough for him.
NEXT: More Badass Ahsoka Moments! And Darts D’Nar wields a lightwhip!
Meanwhile, the Double-A Team set about defusing the bombs. Before Ahsoka could really go all Hurt Locker on us and try to figure out whether to pull the white cord or the red cord, Anakin slashed the detonator assembly with his lightsaber. Tell me you weren’t hoping the countdown would end on 007. Anakin had made “an educated guess,” and before he could say “You’re welcome” to a horrified Ahsoka, found himself along with his Padawan pinned down by sniper droidekas.
Badass Ahsoka Moment of the Night Volume II: Proving that she’s become a monster combatant now that she’s added an extra lightsaber to her arsenal, Ahsoka held her own against the droidekas, crossing her twin blades to block their incessant crimson bolts and deftly performing a back-flip to gain a better footing. When Anakin discovered that the snipers were weak from the sides, Ahsoka gamely switched targets and deflected a bolt right back to the offending ‘bot. Hasta la vista, droidekas.
With the bombs defused and Darts’ bargaining chips spent, Obi-Wan could use the Force again to defeat his foe, though not before getting in a long-distance dig at Anakin: “Certainly took him long enough this time.” Somehow Darts and his avian pet escaped his grasp, so Anakin and Ahsoka had to corner him aboard his spaceship as he was prepping to take off. The master found himself dealing with the Zygerrian’s octopus-like creature in the cargo hold, while the apprentice stormed the bridge.
Badass Ahsoka Moment of the Night Volume III: Darts D’Nar is a formidable opponent bare-fisted, but with a lightwhip—yup, a lightsaber that acts like a whip rather than a static blade—he’s downright deadly. And yet Little Miss Padawan had his hirsute neck between her twin blades before you could even think of crying, “Help us Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re our only hope!” Anakin joined her and participated in a little aggressive interrogation, but all Darts would do is monologue about how his queen would bring back the royal slave auction and his people would be rich as they were before the Jedi dismantled their slave empire.
The Togruta colonists had already been shipped offworld, which does beg the question: why would Darts even stay behind? Was he so eager to test his mettle against a Jedi that he wouldn’t accompany the slaves he’d just rounded up offworld? None of these questions interested the Jedi. What did interest them, is the Separatists’ increased embrace of slavery and unending desire to elevate themselves from ordinary villainy to cartoonish supervillainy. Oh Lux Bonteri, you really wanted to follow these people?
After that devastatingly brilliant Umbaran arc, I didn’t really know where The Clone Wars could go next. But “Kidnapped” was a worthy follow-up. And a welcome return for Obi-Wan, who’s been AWOL for much of the season. What did you think, Padawan readers? Will Anakin show more flashes of the Dark Side in his dealings with the Zygerrians? Will Ahsoka continue her transformation into a formidable, Whedonesque heroine? Other than the Ferengi energy-whip is there a better sci-fi whip than the lightwhip in all of geekdom? And will villains never learn to stop monologuing about their fiendish plans while stroking cute animals?
Before the Dark Times, before the Empire, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker fight to restore peace and justice to a galaxy far, far away…