If you're excited about the premiere of The Clone Wars Season 3, you're not alone. But before this Friday's two-episode event, let's look back at Season 2 to remember where we've been, and then look ahead at Season 3 to see where we're going.
Season 2: Faster, More Intense Season 2 was much more complex than Season 1, in several ways. The characters of Obi-Wan and Anakin were explored far more thoroughly. Obi-Wan's relationship with Satine took his character in a whole new direction and made us think differently about the attachment lessons he gave Anakin. Anakin, for his part, drew perilously close to the dark side at times, showing us hints of his eventual fall. The progression of his impulsiveness leads me to another big change in Season 2: Ahsoka. Already she has grown tremendously -- there is perhaps no better example of this character development than Brain Invaders. She became more mature, more skilled, and more intelligent, to the point where it was easy to forget that she was essentially still a rookie.
The second season introduced us to several new characters, most notably the bounty hunter Cad Bane. As someone who didn't pull punches but didn't necessarily care about the politics of his Separatist employers, Bane represented a new breed of villain whose menace was matched by his mystery. As the season ended, we returned to known (but mostly unexplored) characters like Boba Fett and Aurra Sing in powerful and rewarding episodes like "Lethal Trackdown."
The philosophy of the Jedi Order was explored in great detail in Season 2. Luminara is a great example of this; she represented the "traditional" approach to being a Jedi, and in some ways Obi-Wan's approach resembles hers. Anakin, of course, is another story; his atypical ideology made for thought-provoking scenes throughout the season and -- again -- foreshadowed what would come in ROTS. This was another way in which TCW leapt forward from its first season. Battle sequences are great, but deeper messages propel a series forward and give us insight into the universe that surrounds the show. Season 2 certainly excelled at that.
It sounds like I just downplayed the depiction of battle sequences. Let me be clear: I didn't. In fact, I can't decide whether the thinking or the shooting was more crucial to the season's impact. From Landing at Point Rain to R2 Come Home, Season 2 was jam-packed with explosive combat sequences that highlighted both the intensity of the characters and prowess of the animation team. From the earliest days, this show was billed as Band of Brothers meets Star Wars. We certainly saw a lot of that style of narrative in the second season.
Of course, this is a complete recap of Season 2, so a few other things should be addressed. You can't please all of the people all of the time, and The Clone Wars team has learned that. The introduction of Mandalorians in TCW caused "a disturbance in the Force" when hardcore EU fans couldn't reconcile the different depictions. The Death Watch seemed to replace the EU version of the Mandalorians, while in TCW Mandalore became a planet of pacifists. This was perhaps the most significant ripple in the popularity of the show since its inception. Additionally, the controversy was enhanced by the simultaneous introduction of Obi-Wan's love interest Satine. Neither the "new" Mandalorians nor Duchess Satine seemed to sit well with those who viewed the novels as equally canon. Even so, the Mandalorian trilogy established an interesting group of characters that will surely reappear in future episodes.
The Clone Wars also turned the "sights and sounds" dial up to 11 in Season 2. From the underworld nightclubs on Coruscant to the underground lair on Geonosis, and every new and exotic locale in between, this season was a visually and auditorily mind-blowing depiction of the Star Wars universe. The Clone Wars Season 2 gave us breathtaking planetary vistas and eerie Geonosian hive screeches. It's clear that the TCW animators and sound designers benefited from the experience of creating Season 1.
One of the best things about The Clone Wars is that it feels like new Star Wars while staying true to the most basic elements of the saga. There's action and intrigue, romance and deception, but each episode spins those fundamental storytelling tenets differently. The best way to explain it is to say that The Clone Wars feels authentic. Season 2 took that to a whole new level, and I look forward to more of the same from Season 3.
Season 3: Secrets Revealed That subtitle isn't my creation; Lucasfilm itself is using the phrase to describe the upcoming season. The front page of StarWars.com is currently emblazoned with a snapshot from Season 3 alongside the TCW logo and the words "Secrets Revealed." What do I think that will mean? A lot of character exposition for Anakin and Ahsoka. Dave Filoni and the cast have talked about how those two characters will see a lot of action and development in this season, and I think that's a great thing. They're probably the two most important characters in the series -- Anakin because the whole era revolves around him, and Ashoka because she was introduced for a reason and therefore must play a crucial role. We've seen Ahsoka grow up quite a bit already, and if Ashley Eckstein's comments are any indication, there's a lot more in store for her in the next 22 episodes.
I am very curious to find out what "secrets" are left to be revealed about this part of the Star Wars saga. We know so much about how events proceed leading up to the fall of the Republic, so if it's something tremendous, I think it might be a completely new story element. Either way, get ready for something groundbreaking from The Clone Wars Season 3.
Of course, new characters are also being introduced in the new season, and some of them are already causing quite a stir. The reveal of Darth Maul's brother Savage Opress was completely out of left field for Star Wars fans. The announcement of Dathomir's Nightsisters and the Republic Commandos making appearances also surprised us. And it looks like Asajj Ventress's background will be explored too. The recently-introduced bounty hunter Embo will return to the show, although his appearance was confirmed only by a fleeting glimpse in the mega-trailer.
While viewers thought that we'd see Ahsoka at a much older stage, it seems that the Togruta in question was actually Shaak Ti -- a reveal only slightly less exciting, as it marks Ti's introduction into the animated series. I think I speak for a lot of fans when I say that the more movie and EU characters we see in TCW, the better. On that note, we've also learned that Baron Papanoida (played by George Lucas in Episode III) will appear in Season 3 along with his family. Jedi Masters Saesee Tiin and Quinlan Vos will also make their first TCW appearances.
The third season will open with an attack on none other than Home Sweet Home for the clone army, Kamino. That brings us to something else that Dave Filoni has stressed for Season 3: the clones. Here's a quote from Dave that comes from the TCW Revealed panel at Celebration V:
"When we did the episode "Rookies" in Season 1, we learned that people love the clones -- they love Captain Rex, they love Commander Cody. So we've developed more stories just around those guys."
Based on the fact that the season opens with a focus on clone cadets, I think we'll be getting a large dose of this clone-focused story right from the start. Rookies was a tremendous success with fans and continues to be a Top 5 favorite for a lot of people I know. This is a series focused on the Clone Wars, and it's clear that folks want to learn about the army fighting it.
Dave also talked about the animation team taking the general feel of the series up a notch. He once said that Season 3 would look totally different from any TCW material we've seen before. Watching some various sneak peeks, it's impossible to disagree: it just feels like a more refined look at the Star Wars universe. Dave has described the various challenges that they took head-on for Season 3, including the rendering of water and the amped-up explosions, and if their success is as strong for the rest of the season as it was in material from the trailer, we're in for a real treat.
Want to get ready for the premiere of The Clone Wars Season 3? Re-watch the trailer here on StarWars.com. And don't forget the videos and articles that Mike rounded up last week, including some Season 3 promo clips from Cartoon Network's website. Finally, join Mandy and me for the Season 3 premiere live chat on TFN and share your thoughts about the episodes.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season 3 premieres on Cartoon Network at 9:00pm ET this Friday, September 17th. As with Season 2, I'll be reviewing every episode right here on TFN, so check back each Saturday for my thoughts. You can also find all my TCW reviews on this handy page.