Season One, Episodes Two, Three, Four — “Rising Malevolence”, “Shadow of Malevolence”, “Destroy Malevolence”
By Jason Gibner. It’s well known that most first seasons of any beloved science fiction/fantasy shows are often filled with harsh growing pains. That makes total sense, as the little newborn show is just learning how to walk and talk, feed itself and use the potty like the big kids do. (Check out the wild and wacky first couple seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation if you’re doubting my analogy.) 2008’s first season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars isn’t without its bumps, but it also lays down serious disco tracks for the grand slams the show would hit eventually.
With its “Malevolence” arc, Clone Wars began what would grow into one of the show’s core strengths: epic arc storytelling. Here we have a slightly longer story about the rise of a Separatist superweapon and the subsequent Jedi-led Republic strikes against it. The whole thing is spread over three connected (but also self-contained) stories. It’s epic stuff that blasts out with an air of confidence almost unheard of for any show’s first season. We get over an hour of almost non-stop, Battleship-style ship combat that manages to easily juggle a vast amount of characters during its tightly-paced action. Sweet as all is this, looking back on this “Malevolence” arc acted as a sweet taste of what Clone Wars was cooking up for later on…
WHAT WORKED: Ship combat. This level of “slow battle of the big ships” action is something Trek has done about 5,000 times, but it’s something we’ve rarely seen in Star Wars. (That makes sense, as George Lucas’ general mantra of Star Wars storytelling is “faster, more intense.”) This “Malevolence” arc is able to slow thing down just enough for us to appreciate that old fashioned “pirates shooting all the cannons at a passing ship” kind of business. I mean, don’t be afraid, you still get the requisite crazy-insane awesomeness — like Plo Koon leading an attack against the Droids while floating around in space, and Anakin charging a squadron of Y-Wings through a space whale-filled gas cluster. Where these episodes truly shine is the back and forth action with the sneaky Grievous’ giant ship and fleet of brave Republic ships attempting to take it down.
WHAT DIDN’T: After so recently seeing just how far Ahsoka Tano has come in Star Wars: Rebels, it’s somewhat surprising revisiting her very early awkward days here in Clone Wars. It feels like the writers of the show didn’t quite know how to use her at that point, let alone really knowing what the tone of the show should be like. There’s lots of “Sky Guy” and “Artooey” talk going on in these episode — mostly there to induce eye rolling with its call backs to the Original Trilogy. A little “I have bad feeling about this” here or there never hurt anyone, but when there’s three lines in a row lifted from Empire Strikes Back, that’s when I start to check out.
“I don’t believe in chance, Commander. I know if we work together, we will stay alive.” – Plo Koon.
“Anakin has just re-deployed himself… again.” – Obi Wan
“Doing what the Jedi Council says — that’s one thing. How we go about doing it, that’s another.” – Anakin.
“Eat laser, clankers!” – Sinker.
“Grievous, those battle droids are expensive. The Jedi are never that harsh with their clones…” – Count Dooku.
Nala Se: “Your master is a very curious Jedi.” Ahsoka: “He is one of a kind!”
“Jedi are so predictable…” – General Grievous.
“The things you do to get me alone…” – Padme.
Padme: “Ever since I’ve known you you’ve been playing with droids.” Anakin: “I used to put them together. Now I only take them apart.”
BEST MOMENT: In the last act of the arc’s final episode “(Destroy Malevolence”), we have a fairly lengthy action sequence featuring all of the heroes from the Prequel Saga doing what they do best. Anakin is brash and over confident as he smiles at how he sabotaged Grievous’ ship (and saved his secret wife), Obi-Wan displays his outrageous swordsmanship while Padme takes charge manning the ship’s guns (and saving herself from a deathly situation in the process). Oh, and C-3PO and R2D2 are in there doing their thing too. It’s classic Star Wars with multiple action sequences all happening at once, and like I’ve said, it’s got the swagger that most shows don’t find until their third season or so. This is whole first season isn’t all “rock and roll & Doritos,” but five minutes of seeing all these heroes done so perfectly sure is.
EPISODE’S MVP: General Grievous. I’ve always kind of felt like Grievous didn’t quite live up to the hype in his film debut in Revenge of the Sith. Remember back to when we first met Grievous in Genndy Tartakovsky’s vastly underrated 2003-2005 Clone Wars cartoon: Grievous came out straight murdering Jedi and throwing them around by their heads! I liked the coughing, moustache twirling bad guy version of Grievous seen in Sith, but I missed the evil cyborg we saw only too briefly. In this arc, Grievous gets his moment: he only wants to kill Jedi, rip heads off idiot battle droids and endlessly piss off Count Dooku. There’s a hint of the Sith Grievous… and a splash of the sadistic robot we never knew we missed.
– The animation in these episodes really show that there was a forward progression in quality as the show went on. There’s a few parts where character’s eyes look downright spooky — and at one point Anakin appears to be stretched out and possibly 9 feet tall.
– It’s no secret that Filoni and crew are big KOTOR fans and the bit with the Malevolence’s attacking on the Venator-class Republic ship is pretty similar to the Leviathan’s orbital bombardment of Taris in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Coincidence??
– Good to see that even back in the Clone Wars, the bad guys would place some helpless folks next to a deadly super laser. At least the Separatists used Droids instead of those poor, poor Death Star workers.
– Escape pod 1-9-7-7. Hmmmm. I wonder if those numbers hold any significance to Star Wars history?
– An early draft of the scripts for these episodes had the legendary grump Captain Panaka being killed by General Grievous! So many mixed emotions.
– Jedi Fortune Cookies for these episodes: “Belief is not a matter of choice, but of conviction.”; “Easy is the path to wisdom for those not blinded by themselves.”; “A plan is only as good as those who see it through.”
7.5 out of 10
Next: “Rookies”, soon.
Before: “Ambush”, here.