Season One, Episode Fourteen — “Defenders of Peace”
By Jason Gibner. “Created and Executive Produced by George Lucas.” It’s the credit scroll that comes with a blast of the Star Wars theme with every single episode of The Clone Wars. It also serves as a reminder that many of the plots, characters and themes of the series come strongly from The Man In Plaid. Perhaps one the clearest examples of this is “Defenders of Peace”. Here we have a show — a show that has been promoted with McDonald’s Happy Meals and children’s birthday party sets, mind you — that deals with the moral complexities of remaining passive in a war-torn world. Oh and there’s a super laser that disintegrates all organic life. Sure hope the Jedi can stop that one, kids!
Concepts like that hearken back to the prevailing reason as to why this show continues to attract new fans. Clone Wars was bankrolled by none other than the Bearded Billionaire himself, and if Mr. Lucas wished to insert an open-ended morality tale that concerned itself with the concepts of maintaining a non-violent existence in the face of imminent danger (whether or not it was naive to do so on a kid’s cartoon), then, by Jar Jar, he did it! I’m no Jocasta Nu, but I’d imagine that because the show contained such wild-style ideas is the reason so many still talk about, write about, and watch The Clone Wars, years after it slipped away from prime time. And speaking of writing about the series…
WHAT WORKED: Unlike last week’s fairly unbalanced “Jedi Crash”, this episode keeps a nice mix of headbanging Jedi action and heavy duty chatter about morality and consequences. It’s an episode that moves at a brisk pace but its conclusion never feels like it comes around too quickly. And having the unmistakable voice of George Takei as the portly Neimoidian warlord Lok Durd gives the episode some much needed brevity. Takei thankfully never dips into “Oh, my!” territory, but he’s obviously having fun crossing the fandom streams, playing around and hamming it up in the galaxy far far away.
WHAT DIDN’T: For all of the episode’s philosophical musings, its final socio-political message can come off as bit middle of the road. Perhaps that was Lucas and the team’s intention but Tee Watt Kaa’s stubborn belief in nonviolence at any cost just seems more silly than purely pacifist. I mean, if there’s a flesh-disintegrating weapon being shot at your village and like 500 killer robots are marching outside your house, I feel like most people would be all, “Yes, Space Wizards with laser swords, save us!” (I say that, but it’s hard to put myself in the shoes of a space lemur.)
“What menace have you brought to our village now, Jedi?” – Tee Watt Kaa.
“Violence. That’s what those droids are programmed for.” – Ahsoka.
“Help! I’ll be defoliated!” – Lok Durd.
“There’s a difference between pulling innocents into a war, and leaving them to extinction.” – Anakin.
“Sometimes it takes courage to stick to one’s beliefs, young Padawan, as any Jedi well knows.” – Aayla Secura.
BEST MOMENT: Upon discovering that the Separatists have constructed a large base on the Lurmen planet, Anakin, Ahsoka, Aayla and a few clones sneak into the base at night in an attempt to even the odds. This stealth sequence involves tricking those forever-dim battle droids with floating rocks, which opens up an opportunity for the Jedi to silently run up and chop their heads off as quickly as possible. One especially Keanu-level “whoa” moment is when we simply see the shadow action of Ahsoka and some doomed battle droids getting torn apart.
EPISODE’S MVP: The shining star of this episode isn’t a character, but the show’s lightsaber combat. From Ahsoka’s big moment to the sight of three Jedi taking on hundreds and hundreds of battle droids, we are often reminded of the strange awesomeness that is a lightsaber combat. Whether they are epic in scope (as in Phantom Menace or Revenge of the Sith), or quieter and emotionally driven (as in Empire, Jedi or Force Awakens), there’s something exciting about watching people with light-up swords bang them into each other. This is an episode that gives that gift of lightsaber combat like it’s a Vizio TV on Black Friday at Best Buy.
– Yes, George Takei was the first Star Trek actor to ever feature in a live action or animated of Star Wars production. (No, that wasn’t Scott Bakula as an Imperial officer in Empire Strikes Back.) Simon Pegg had a subtle cameo in The Force Awakens as the nasty Jakku portion master, Unkar Plutt.
– I think a lot of the credit for our fascination with lightsabers, like so much found in the Star Wars saga, comes from the whoosh whoosh sound design from that mad genius with headphones, Ben Burtt.
– Written in Aurebesh on the side of the shield generators is “CAUTION.” Maybe the droids were trying to warn each other? Maybe a separatist shield generator is really heavy, and you should lift with your back when picking it up?
– When Ashoka does her sweet shadow move, you also see a shadow for her saber blade. This little moment lines up with some changes Lucas made to one of the special editions and settles online debate that the light part of the lightsaber is solid matter and therefore does create a shadow.
– Jedi fortune cookie: “When surrounded by war, one must eventually choose a side.”
8 out of 10
Next: “Trespass”, soon.
Before: “Jedi Crash”, here.