Season One, Episode Nineteen, Twenty, and Twenty-One — “Storm Over Ryloth”, “Innocents of Ryloth”, “Liberty on Ryloth”
By Jason Gibner. All right! Here we go: The “Ryloth” arc. After the nap-inducing slog that was the “Blue Shadow” episodes, just about anything would have seemed like a trip to Naboo Lake Country in comparison, but thankfully this “Ryloth” three-parter is the real business. This is The Clone Wars flexing its muscles and showing the world how far it has come. What it could become.
“Ryloth” contains three individual yet connected stories of the Jedi doing what they did best in this era — be awesome keepers of the peace. After a tepid first act, where Ahsoka leads a company of Troopers into a doomed space battle, the arc picks up steam with an Obi-Wan-led ground mission that has some brilliant moments of Clone individuality, which culminates into the final act, where Mace Windu proves why he really is the all-booty-kicking vice principal of Jedi school.
This three-episode arc, which would have been a fine conclusion to the first season of Clone Wars (one episode to go!), shows how far the show has come in writing, in voice acting, in experimenting with story and its character choices. It’s a tough job making new Star Wars stories while balancing the lofty expectations of the saga’s wide viewing audience. With this arc, Clone Wars proves definitively that no one ever needs to worry.
In fact, I would go as far as to say that this is the arc that should be shown to newcomers of the series. “Ryloth,” distilled to its purest essence, is Clone Wars 101, the introductory-level class where all learn the basic tenets of this era. It’s a top-notch example of the world Dave Filoni has crafted around The Saga Lucas Built.
WHAT WORKED: While these episodes definitely focus on the planet Ryloth (home to the Twi’lek species), they illustrate that the Clone Wars were many stories amounting to one tremendous narrative. By telling a three part story and focusing on the different groups of characters, this arc has a sense of scope that is vitally important in Star Wars storytelling: What happens with Anakin and Ahsoka’s disastrous space mission affects Obi-Wan and his Clone Squadron, which leads right into what happens when Mace Windu ultimately swirls about in a firestorm of exploding Battle Droid parts. Thousands of stories are born from the ambiguity and detail provided in the original three films, and The Clone Wars exemplifies this beautifully.
What’s the deal with Jawas? Who’s that cool-looking bounty hunter with the dented helmet? What’s really on the menu at Dex’s Diner? One thing that the new top brass at Lucasfilm understood was that mystery and the Star Wars universe are BFFs forever. “Ryloth” depicts one day in the life of a Jedi during the Clone Wars. New allies are discovered, like the Twi’lek freedom fighter, Cham Syndulla (who continues to pop up in Star Wars Rebels). We see that Obi-Wan can go full Crocodile Dundee and chill out a savage animal’s mind. One day out of thousands. Three Jedi out of thousands. As the show went on, we see more good and bad days duing the war and so many more heroic but doomed Jedi out there doing what they do. The universe grows to this very day.
WHAT DIDN’T: Starting the arc out with the very talky, gloomy and slightly dull “Storm Over Ryloth” doesn’t help get the series off a positive start. It may be clear to everyone that letting a fairly inexperienced 14 year old Jedi Padawan lead a squadron of Clones against a fleet of Trade Federation ships is a bad idea, but it happens anyway, becoming a rather costly lesson for the Republic to deal with. As an episode all about learning from failure it’s drearily heavy-handed, enough to make a viewer want to cut out.
“Come on, you whiners. Let’s get dirty!” – Axe.
Captain Rex: “I wish General Skywalker had discussed this plan with us. The odds are very much against us.” Ahsoka: “They always are.”
TX-20: “I calculate the remaining clones are attempting a desperate final offensive. Their chances of success against us are 742 to one.” Was Tambor: “You had better be right.” TX-20: “I am a droid. I am always right.”
Waxer: “Sir, what is that she keeps calling us?” Obi-Wan: “‘Nerra.’ It means ‘brother.’“
“Another armed occupation is not a free Ryloth. How long before I am fighting you, Master Jedi?” – Cham Syndulla.
Wat Tambor: “General Windu! Perhaps we can come to a compromise…?” Mace Windu: “Not when I hold all the cards.“
“I’ll leave the politics to you, Senator. I’m going to do whatever I can do to help these people.” – Mace Windu.
BEST MOMENT: Mace Windu didn’t really get much to do in the movies. There was a general feeling of excitement when Samuel Jackson was cast as one of the baddest Jedi in the galaxy, but his onscreen badassery was considerably tamped down. While he did get a great battle sequence in Attack of the Clones (“This party’s over!“) and he was the Jedi who tried to take down Palpatine in Revenge of the Sith, most of Master Windu’s time in the movies was spent sitting in chairs while being grumpy to Anakin. It was never his story, but thankfully with this series and the Genndy Tartakovsky Clone Wars series, Mace finally got his time to shine.
An example. There’s a moment in “Liberty on Ryloth” when the Jedi Master is on a space bridge that suddenly disappears under his feet. What does Mace do? He leaps up, flinging himself around on falling battle droids as he flies through the air; he death-stares a battle droid who can’t believe what it’s seeing and even manages to save a couple of falling Clonetroopers on his way to safety. I’m surprised he didn’t throw in a triple backflip and make a quick run to Starbucks. It’s the kind of fist-pumping, head-banging moment that shows that Clone Wars has figured just how to drive this crazy Star Wars bus.
EPISODES’ MVP: The Jedi. Their tale is about to become quite tragic, but at this time in history they are the heroes. They are heroes to the Clones they lead (and who will eventually murder them), they are heroes to the people on worlds occupied with Neimodians and Battle Droids, and they are inspirations for rebellious freedom fighters like Cham Syndulla and Saw Gerrera. They are cunning warriors and they are best friends. This arc shows that, even though the Jedi have been tricked into fighting a war by a Dark Lord, when they have a job to do, they do it right and they do it with style. The Clone Wars was an era where the Jedi were at the peak of their powers.
– Jedi fortune cookies: (In order #19-#21) “It is a rough road that leads to the heights of greatness.” “The costs of war can never be truly accounted for.” “Compromise is a virtue to be cultivated, not a weakness to be despised.”
– Commander Cody hands Obi-Wan his lightsaber after he defeats the nasty Gutkurr monster, almost exactly like he does during the Battle of Utapau in Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith. Only this time he doesn’t start shooting at him soon afterwards.
– These episodes are our first introduction to the fantastic Trade Federation Tactical Droid who has a laugh that is pretty much the theme to The Terminator.
– One of the treasures being loaded from Wat Tembor’s ship is The Ark of the Covenant as seen in Raiders of the Lost Ark. This is once again one of the many links to the Star Wars and Indiana Jones universes. The only difference is that the Ark’s golden cherubs have been replaced by golden Twi’leks. Naturally.
– The flipping light scope device on Neimodian Captain Tuuk’s data goggles was inspired by the awesome tech monocle worn by a Ko-Dan fleet officer in the classic film, The Last Straighter. Deep cut.
-The rodent-like creatures the Twi’leks ride are called Blurrgs. These fun creatures were first seen in the made for TV Ewoks: The Battle For Endor. (Which, by the way, is the darkest and most grim kids movie of all time.)
– The pink astromech R2-KT makes an appearance in the Republic hanger bay in “Storm Over Ryloth.” R2-KT, the “Droid With the Heart of Gold,” is a droid created by the R2-D2 Builders Club in 2005 as a tribute to the late Katie Johnson, who was the seven-year-old daughter of Albin Johnson, the founder of the 501st Legion costuming group. Katie was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and one of her last wishes was to have a droid watch over her like R2 did for Padme and Anakin in Attack of the Clones. R2-KT stayed by her and has made several appearances in Clone Wars, video games and can clearly be seen inside the Resistance hanger in The Force Awakens.
– Mace Windu using The Force to shatter the walker’s canopy fits right up with the Expanded Universe idea that Master Windu is an expert in finding a weakness in a shatter point. This is explored extensively in the excellent 2001 novel “Shatterpoint” by Matthew Stover.
7.5 out of 10
Next: “Hostage Crisis,” soon.
Before: “Mystery of a Thousand Moons,” here.