The Clone Wars Season 2 Episode 9: Grievous Intrigue
After a hiatus that felt like forever, The Clone Wars returns with a bang. There was so much to love in this episode, from the new characters to the awesome lightsaber action. I think I've already said how much I like seeing little-known characters like Eeth Koth in this show. The Clone Wars team is giving these minor Jedi some pretty powerful personalities. It ultimately makes us feel more for them when some of them die in Order 66. The presence of Adi Gallia is also a welcome one -- the more Jedi we see in TCW who ultimately bite it by the time of ROTS, the more powerful TCW becomes. I really like the "spunky" attitude they gave Gallia, as it compared perfectly with Anakin's attitude, especially during the "How close" sequence when Anakin was making the jump to lightspeed. Every time another Jedi drops the reserved, stoic attitude and starts a back-and-forth with Anakin, it makes my day.
The overall theme of Republic losses is really appealing in a show like this, because we like to root for the underdogs. Based on rough plot alone, I like these episodes more than those that begin with Republic dominance. It's important that the Clone Wars team show that Republic might isn't unmatched. It would get boring seeing win after win, seeing Republic troops board Separatist frigate after Separatist frigate. The grittier and scarier this war feels for "the good guys," the more interested I am. In this episode particularly, where Grievous marched right onto the bridge, the battle felt much closer to home.
Now, a few things about Grievous. The Clone Wars team did a great job with the Grievous vs. Koth battle from the start. The lighting in the opening scene where Grievous meets Eeth Koth is very powerful: Grievous's maniacal visage is silhouetted against the bright lights of the control room. It was also exciting to see Koth fight Grievous simply because it was another lightsaber battle; we haven't seen as much of that in Season Two as we saw in Season One. The Clone Wars team knows exactly what makes a great episode of Star Wars television (lightsabers, space battles, etc.), but they are doing a good job of balancing that mix with a mix of new plot elements as well.
The scene where Grievous presents Koth to the Jedi Council is very disturbing, especially given the presence of the Younglings. I'm glad they're turning Grievous into more of a monster than a coward. The idea that the cyborg general anticipated the Jedi plan (simple though it may have been) paints the picture of him that I think we all expected from TCW based on ROTS. When Grievous finally meets Obi-Wan again, the banter between the two is both a perfect setup to ROTS and a fantastic plot device for this series. It's fun and refreshing to see Obi-Wan pick a nemesis -- the simple fact that he seems to stop at nothing to take Grievous down opens a world of possibilities for character development. I really liked seeing Obi-Wan trying to follow Grievous toward the end of the episode. For just a moment there, he reminded me of Anakin.
There was another great visual in this episode, and that was when Yularen ordered his fleet to attack the Separatists from the bridge of the Resolute. Sharp-eyed viewers will notice that this shot -- looking up at Yularen from the crew pit -- mirrors almost exactly the shot from TESB where Captain Needa issues orders from his Star Destroyer. It's a huge throw-forward to the Imperial era of the near future, and it proves that Dave Filoni and his team are paying close attention to the subtleties of the Republic that lead to an Empire. The crew pit, the big windows ... it's a great, subtle omen.
This episode also had a brief moment of emotional development. I'm now starting to feel for these clone officers more than I used to. Seeing them struggle to regain control of the ship over and over again puts a truly human face on them. It magnifies their plight so that I treat them less like expendables and more like real live people. When the cruiser exploded, I didn't disregard them immediately; for a moment, I felt bad.
In this episode, we again see the idea of personal sacrifice for the mission brought to the surface. Eeth Koth says that he'd gladly have died for the greater good, but as we all know by now, Anakin would never let that happen on his watch. I think it's a really exciting trend that has taken shape in this season, one that they should continue to develop. It's getting to be one of the major themes of the series.
There were only a few moments I didn't like. I didn't completely buy the hand signals plot point. For one thing, a skilled hostage-taker light Grievous should have been on the lookout for something amiss in his captive, especially on a live hologram feed to potential rescuers. Also, how could a few hand signals tell Obi-Wan all he needed to know, especially if his hand signal reading was rusty?
I also thought that the scene where Adi Gallia and Anakin fought the commando droids could have done without the whole "severed droid arm" micro-plot. It seemed a bit comical for the moment. If I had to guess, I'd say that it was included to lighten the episode a bit for the younger fans. And yes, I know that the entire scramble was for Eeth Koth's kill switch (a very grim thought in and of itself), but that doesn't preclude the actual scramble from being comical, which I believe it was.
I also wish Grievous didn't have to run away as usual. It takes away from the image of Grievous that I want to see built up. The team did such a fine job bringing him in as a monster in this episode, and there are other ways to remove Grievous from peril besides having him run like a coward. Dooku could have called and said that it wasn't worth it. Palpatine could have called and told him of a more important mission. Then at least we might see Grievous's desire to finish Obi-Wan conflict with the duty that he claims he does proudly.
Though it was light on plot, Grievous Intrigue shined in other ways. The lightsaber combat was spectacular, the new characters were refreshing, and the Grievous/Obi-Wan rivalry was intense and well-written. This episode, like many before it, focused on themes and homages at the expense of story, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. If we continue to see more minor Jedi like Adi Gallia and Eeth Koth, I'm confident we'll continue to get the character development and fresh new look at the Jedi Order that we've come to expect from The Clone Wars.