To paraphrase a fearsome Dark Lord of the Sith, "Now THIS is The Clone Wars!" I don't think anyone was disappointed with Hunt for Ziro, and I'm glad to say that this episode redeemed The Clone Wars Season 3 in my mind. There was so much to love in these twenty-two minutes, from the absurd fortune cookie ("Love comes in all shapes and sizes") and everything that came with that, to the tremendous three-man fight scene at the end, this was an example of the kind of excitement, humor, and depth that should characterize every episode of TCW.
The Hutt Council looked just like what I expected. They were different enough to be unique, but they were definitely still Hutts. I liked that one of them was smoking what looked like an electronic pipe. Their appearances, combined with the atmosphere in their council chamber, gave the opening scene a very Godfather-esque feel. From a storytelling perspective, this scene was also important in establishing that Ziro is in a precarious position.
Ziro himself played an interesting role in this episode. His flamboyance and defiance of the Council made him seem more powerful than we're used to seeing him. I was impressed that he was smart enough to create the diary as leverage. We didn't see enough of that ingenuity during his run on the show. Of course, I must speak of Ziro in the past tense now, and that saddens me a little bit. When he was killed, I felt a strange sensation of pity for him. He's a villain, but he was always too comical to be considered evil. On a side note, as the first major TCW character to die in Season 3, Ziro enhanced the gravity of this episode with his sacrifice.
The twist leading to Ziro's death was orchestrated by an all-new TCW character with whom I was very impressed. I know that some people didn't like Sy Snootles' voice in this episode, but I was really taken with her character. From her exotic song-and-dance number to her manipulation of the Gamorreans, she fits right in with the dangerously-attractive Hutt palace atmosphere, and it's easy to see how she came to be a part of Jabba's retinue (where we first saw her in Return of the Jedi). She even tricked Ziro, her former lover, which is more impressive now, given his cleverness in this episode, than it would have been previously. When Sy showed up at Ziro's prison cell, I felt like the dominance in the relationship was with the Hutt. Initially, Ziro was distant and offered only a detached sense of regret for abandoning Sy at Jabba's behest. His attitude changed when Sy promised to break him out – even more evidence that he was only excited to see her because of how he could use her. Sy, on the other hand, was very emotional (due in no small part to her voice), and it seemed like she was desperate to free Ziro so they could be reunited and continue their physiologically-dubious romantic relationship. The best part of her treachery was that she played this role so well. Before she revealed her true intentions, I had given Ziro a lot of credit for using Sy to break out and recover his leverage. A few scenes later, Sy proved that she belonged in the company of Hutts, as her betrayal demonstrated that she was jaded, masterfully manipulative, and greedy.
As long as we're on the subject of Nal Hutta, let me extend my praise to the TCW team for a job well done depicting that planet. I loved the dance scene, and not just because the Twi'lek dancers were all wearing metal bikinis. (Incidentally, their headdresses were shaped like Hutt heads, which gives the Hutt Council another layer of eccentricity.) The dancers definitely gave the palace an exotic air -- it was more "upper-class" than Jabba's palace, but there was still evidence of the Hutts' interest in beauty and pleasures of the flesh. The music felt enough like Star Wars to remind me of Jabba's palace, but it was also unique in a good way -- it wasn't just "Lapti Nek" all over again. I liked seeing Gamorrean guards standing watch over Ziro, although I am beginning to wonder if there is such a thing as a nominally-intelligent Gamorrean. (I guess a smart being wouldn't be working for the Hutts.) I also enjoyed seeing part of the episode take place in the Nal Hutta swampland. The swamp beast that attacks Obi-Wan looked great, and while I didn't understand the need for that little outburst, it did give Obi-Wan a chance to sharpen (and demonstrate) his combat skills. The location of Ziro's mom's house reminded me of Dagobah, and I distinctly heard a swamp creature noise that I remember from those scenes in The Empire Strikes Back.
Cad Bane had a great entrance in this episode. I found his silent movement and malevolent glare to be much like Boba Fett in Jabba's palace in Return of the Jedi, and I appreciated that connection, because there are definitely parallels. The ease with which he briefly navigated the palace spoke volumes about his familiarity with these kinds of locales. Furthermore, Bane's interactions with the Hutt Council are far more believable in this episode than they were in Evil Plans, where he practically begged for this job. Now we see him openly expressing disdain for the job, which is more in line with the Cad Bane we saw in Season 2. His opportunistic personality was even more obvious when he realized that the Hutt job was a bust and decided to focus on the Jedi -- as he says, there's a lot of money in it for him. (Although really, how did he expect to take down both Obi-Wan and Quinlan?) Bane also had the great line "I just hate it when someone does my job," which was totally what I would expect from a bounty hunter in his position.
Ziro's mom...what can I say? She's definitely the second-biggest sentient being we've seen in this series (after the Geonosian queen), and possibly all of Star Wars. (I don't count Waru, mostly because I'm trying to forget him/her/it.) Her utter excess was hilarious, and I liked how those little bat-creatures hung off of her like sea creatures on a whale. She had a sassy quality that, when mixed with her deep voice and the respect she commanded from her son, made her a very interesting character. I was halfway between wondering how she could be the mother of Ziro and seeing how it made perfect sense. To seal the deal of her hilarity, she even said a variation of that age-old motherly line, "You never call!" I liked that she was disappointed by her son, because it showed that the audience isn't the only entity that finds Ziro subpar for a Hutt gangster.
The Jedi pairing of Obi-Wan and Quinlan Vos started off on a high note with the latter's arrival and thankfully didn't go downhill at all. I really enjoyed seeing Quinlan in this series -- he sounded and acted exactly how I would expect based on his EU personality. From the moment Obi-Wan said, "Let's just say he's crazy," I knew we would be in for a treat with his character. Quinlan's voice had the perfect level of brashness in it, and his interaction with Obi-Wan was very telling in terms of their respective Jedi philosophies. Quinlan, like Anakin, supports the "go out and get it done" approach to Jedi business, while Obi-Wan must contend with this strategy in the hopes of enforcing his own "patience, we must bide our time" approach. As the audience, I think we all sided with Quinlan during the Hutt Council conversation, because we knew that he's right -- they did ensure Ziro's escape. However, the fact that Obi-Wan has to restrain him because of their alliance with the Hutts adds a nice political touch to the affair. Of course, that doesn't stop Quinlan, who resourcefully picks up a discarded cup on a hunch and uses his psychometric powers to confirm Ziro's recent presence there. While I wasn't one of the people who desperately needed TCW Quinlan to align with his EU portrayal, I did appreciate the inclusion of this remarkable ability.
In general, I thought Quinlan's impulsive behavior and lack of diplomatic finesse contrasted effectively with Obi-Wan's more reserved tactics. Upon their arrival at Ziro's mom's house, Obi-Wan goes to use the door's activation pad, but Quinlan slices the door open, and in that moment you can tell that Obi-Wan views him in much the same way as he regards Anakin. That being said, he seems to respond to Quinlan with something resembling true scorn, whereas with Anakin it's usually exasperation, at least at this point. Perhaps that's because he's been working closely with Anakin for a long time and has gotten used to his impulsiveness. Even so, I find it interesting that Quinlan elicits such frustration from Obi-Wan, because he's not that much worse than Anakin.
By far my favorite scene in this episode was the climactic Obi-Wan/Quinlan/Bane duel. This fight scene actually reminded me of The Phantom Menace to a certain extent. Just like in that lightsaber duel, the villain temporarily incapacitated one of the heroes while the other one rushed forward to continue the fight. The scale of this duel also reminded me of TPM because of the vastness of the setting and all the jumping between levels. I liked seeing Bane use all the weapons at his disposal, particularly the flamethrower, and he certainly proved to be a very capable warrior in disarming and almost killing Obi-Wan. The two Jedi demonstrated remarkable strength during the fight, and Quinlan in particular displayed exceptional agility. I can honestly say that this fight felt more like a scene out of the six films than most of the other TCW duels. To top it all off, we got Obi-Wan's trademark humor when he told Quinlan, "I never did enjoy hanging out with you."
In summary, I'll say that Hunt for Ziro is now my favorite episode of Season Three, with only Assassin coming close. Sure, the season opened with a bang, but there's something about this episode that really worked for me and demonstrated the perfect combination of the best elements of a TV show. It was just the right mix of nearly-outrageous humor, dramatic and well-choreographed fight scenes, interpersonal exposition, and vibrant, exciting visuals and sounds. Ziro and Sy contributed the lighthearted aspect that quickly took a dark turn. Cad Bane, Obi-Wan, and Quinlan offered the dramatic combat. Ziro's mom provided me with the opportunity to say "Yo mama's so fat..." during my live Twitter commentary. All in all, it was a great use of twenty-two minutes. If this sort of balance can be achieved throughout the rest of Season 3, I'll be very impressed. It will take a lot to replace Hunt for Ziro at the top of my Season 3 favorites list, but I have confidence that the people who brought us this episode are capable of pulling off something even better in the future.
This review is dedicated to the memory of Ziro the Hutt. May he rest in fabulous peace.