The Clone Wars Season 2 Episode 17: Bounty Hunters
On this episode of The Clone Wars, our heroes met a band of bounty hunters who proved that looks can be deceiving, and who taught them a valuable lesson about not judging a blaster-toting book by its fully-charged cover. Bounty Hunters also saw the return of Hondo Ohnaka's band of ruthless pirates. Plus, we returned to a planet we've only seen a few times before, where danger awaited our heroes, as they nearly bought the farm.
From the very beginning of this episode, I was hooked. The show began with a fast-paced combat sequence as a bunch of droid starfighters launched in pursuit of Anakin's ship. The visuals of this scene were fantastic, from the droid starfighters racing after the Jedi craft to the shots of the ship plummeting to its inevitable end. Of course, the Jedi finally ejected, and not a moment too soon; the resulting explosion was cool and apparently took out all the pursuing starfighters. I also liked the look of the ejection pods. The shots of the pods bouncing along after landing -- along with Ahsoka's frustrated comment, "You always blame the ship!" -- were quite funny.
Felucia, as with many other worlds we see on TCW, looks fantastic. From the giant lumbering creatures to the variety of plants to even the tiny floating spores all around the Jedi, I really felt immersed in the planet. There was such extensive color and vibrancy to the planet. The planet also sounded great; with the variety of background noises, it felt alive and exotic. And of course, the music was also top-notch. Another thing I liked about Felucia was the native species. The Felucians were quirky characters, the perfect population for this episode. They had a unique look and sound, which must be hard to do for every new species introduced on screen. Nevertheless, I felt that Dave Filoni and his crew did a good job portraying the farming community.
Of course, the major new introduction in this episode was the group of bounty hunters that the Felucians have hired to protect them from Hondo's gang. Naturally, all the bounty hunters looked cool, as did their armor and weapons. They also had exotic, authentically alien voices that lent a lot to their personalities. But the most important thing about these bounty hunters was that they were all different. There was Sugi, a Zabrak woman with a sharp tongue and a commanding presence. There was Embo, a fearsome warrior with a fancy-looking bowcaster whose incredible fighting ability we saw later in the episode. There was the menacing Rumi Paramita, a red-skinned woman with a long blaster. And of course, there was Seripas, the Wizard of Oz bounty hunter as I call him, because as we saw later, he was really a small creature operating the giant suit of armor. Each one of these characters had their own personality, their own abilities, their own way of moving and speaking, and that diversity lent a lot of weight to the group. Dave Filoni and his team are well-known for giving this same degree of individuality to clone troopers, so this is nothing new, but it was certainly welcome.
The other interesting thing about the bounty hunters in this episode is that they're not evil. They have motives that don't involve indiscriminate killing or bringing wanted individuals to their punishment. I liked that the bounty hunters promised not to break their deal with the farmers, despite being offered more money by Hondo. That was a good way to portray them as honorable. It also changed the way we look at any bounty hunter; they're not all ruthless, evil, and greedy. I also found it interesting that these bounty hunters still distrusted the Jedi, as was obvious from their observing Anakin while he trained the farmers. It's clear that the Jedi have done something to make even the most "noble" of bounty hunters wary of them. Additionally, the exchange between Obi-Wan and Sugi was an important conversation in terms of how we view bounty hunters this season. While Obi-Wan has the right motive (concern for the villagers' safety), it's also clear that his perspective on bounty hunters is fairly dogmatic. Like many other things to Obi-Wan and to other Jedi, this issue is, at least at first, black and white.
There was also a small amount of galactic context in this episode, and it was a blink-and-you-miss-it type of thing. I liked that Sugi stung Anakin with the line about him being a peacekeeper who failed to keep the peace. That's true, to a degree, though it's hardly all the Jedi Order's fault. Obi-Wan's reply -- that more worlds should stand up for themselves against the Separatists -- is also interesting. That exchange helped give this episode a broader meaning. The bounty hunters would probably say that the Republic's military needs to step up and do a better job of protecting innocents (which is what Sugi and her group are doing on Felucia in the first place), but clearly Obi-Wan thinks that civilian populations should be ready to stand against the invading Separatist forces.
I was also glad that we saw Hondo again. He's the kind of villain that, while admittedly low-level and not exactly menacing, should be used repeatedly to foster a sense of growing animosity between him and the Jedi. I'd like to see him return in Season 3 to further disrupt the heroes' missions. There are ways to weave these minor characters in and out to foster a sense of continuity and to develop these characters into interesting foes, and I think Hondo's return was the start of that effort on The Clone Wars.
We also saw a little bit of Ahsoka character development in this episode. There were two occasions on which her personality took center stage. When the Jedi first learned of the farmers' dilemma, Ahsoka wanted to help protect them, but Obi-Wan said they had a more important mission. You can almost imagine Ahsoka saying, "What good is being a Jedi if you can't help people in need?" Clearly Ahsoka is new to the whole "you can't save everyone" philosophy of the war-torn Jedi Order. Later in the episode, when Seripas fell over and his suit opened, exposing his true form, Ahsoka taught him a valuable lesson. She said that you don't have to look tough to be tough, and indeed this is true throughout the saga. "Size matters not," a famous Jedi once said. The scene with Ahsoka and Seripas was a nice reminder of Ahsoka's own struggles with toughness in the TCW movie and in early episodes of the series.
I enjoyed watching the battle between Hondo's pirates and the Jedi/bounty hunter/farmer alliance at the end of the episode. It felt like the Battle of Endor at certain moments, particularly when a group of pirates crashed into a felled tree and their speeders exploded. The Ewoks and the Felucians are similar in many respects, although I think the Ewoks were more prepared for battle before the arrival of the Rebels. Still, neither group of good guys was as technologically prepared for combat as their opponents were, and they still triumphed thanks to ingenuity and training.
The fight between Hondo and Anakin was also interesting to watch, because we rarely see a Jedi in such matched saber/sword combat. We're used to Anakin deflecting blaster bolts and slicing through droids, not having a swordfight. In fact, if Anakin is dueling with someone, it's almost always Dooku, Grievous, or Ventress. I also enjoyed seeing Hondo being at least somewhat capable with a close-quarters weapon. The TCW team could have taken the easy route and made him a textbook low-level villain who hid behind his warriors, but instead they gave Hondo actual combat experience and at least some degree of personal initiative. And for the record, Anakin should learn his lesson with Hondo and resist saving villains he meets in the future, no matter how callous it may have seemed to let him drop to his death.
The bounty hunter-Jedi alliance seemed to work out, and I'm glad the episode ended with them still on good terms. It's a big galaxy, and there are certainly a whole lot of bad bounty hunters, but the notion that some of them have hearts and consciences is a good thing for this series to explore. The Clone Wars is doing a great job of showing that "there are heroes on both sides" and that not every galactic issue is as clear-cut as the Jedi might think.
This episode in particular had all the elements of a good story: outstanding visuals, an interesting plot, a heated battle, and an underlying message about the nature of bounty hunting. So far this season, the rise of the bounty hunters has been nothing but trouble for the Republic. I'm happy to watch an episode with a more nuanced view, a more interesting take, on bounty hunting as a profession and the people who engage in it.
Something I didn't mention yet is that this episode was dedicated to Akira Kurosawa. The plot was a near-perfect homage to Kurosawa's film The Seven Samurai. George Lucas certainly owes a lot to Kurosawa and his work, and it pleased me to no end to see Lucas and Filoni taking a moment to honor his memory. Whether by luck or by the Force, the episode and its dedication were well-timed; Kurosawa would have celebrated his 100th birthday on March 23, a few days before Bounty Hunters premiered in the U.K.