Season One, Episode Nine — “Cloak of Darkness”
By Jason Gibner. After last week’s hijinks-filled episode of Gungan goofiness, The Clone Wars comes tearing back with this smart, snappy episode scripted by Paul Dini and directed by Wars showrunner Dave Filoni. Aside from the non-stop, oowee lightsaber action, “Cloak of Darkness” is a milestone episode for a few reasons — it begins to show that it’s capable of focusing on Jedi characters outside its main roster, tackling fairly complex moral issues while establishing a story where the bad guys — *gulp* — actually win in the end.
Most importantly, “Darkness” shows Clone Wars attempting a storytelling technique that it would perfect over its next five seasons. It masters the skill of self-contained stories (something Dini excelled at with Batman: The Animated Series) that — when placed next to future episodes (sometimes in different seasons) — end up telling a much larger story. We find elements from the “Bombad Jedi” story still at work here, but “Cloak of Darkness” manages to tell its own fast paced, magnetic, and action-packed tale.
WHAT WORKED: Maybe it’s the episode’s sharp dialogue or deftly choreographed lightsaber duels, but this episode has an energy to it that most feature-length movies would kill for. And yet its plot remains a simple one: Neimoidian Nute Gunray is held prisoner by Jedi Ahsoka Tano and Luminara Unduli to face war-time justice, so the treacherous Count Dooku sends his lethal, saber-wielding weapon, Asajj Ventress, to get him free. There’s a twist or two along the way but this is an episode that uses every second of it’s 22 minute runtime to tell an efficient and electric Star Wars story.
WHAT DIDN’T: I’ve got nothing against Luminara but I couldn’t help thinking how much I’d rather just see Ahsoka taking on this mission by herself. Perhaps that’s a testament to how far her character has come in the past eight years or so, considering she would have zero problem taking down a Sith apprentice later in her life (say nothing of some shady guards). It is probably just due to the fact that she is still just a very green (or, should I say, orange) Padawan learner. The Council would never send her out on her own, but dang it, I bet she could handle herself.
“There is no margin for error this time, child. You must prove yourself worthy of being my apprentice.” – Count Dooku, to Ventress.
“Neimoidians are a slippery lot, but the Jedi will wear him down.” – Clone Commander Gree.
“Padawan, terror is not a weapon Jedi use!” – Luminara Unduli, to Ahsoka.
Ahsoka: “If it isn’t the hairless harpy!” Ventress: “If it isn’t Skywalker’s filthy, obnoxious little pet.”
“Open this door and I’ll buy you a planet!” – Nute Gunray.
“Luminara Unduli may be a Jedi Master, but she has no idea what that bog witch is capable of.” – Ashoka.
“Sometimes being a good solider means doing what you think is right. That’s why we’re superior to droids.” – Senate Commando Guard.
“Do you think you’ll be able to call on the Force after I’ve separated your head from your body?” – Ventress.
BEST MOMENT: Knowing that Master Unduli is in over her head, Ahsoka disobeys orders and rushes off to save her in a dramatic laser sword duel. Before that there is a discussion about what it means to be a soldier and follow orders, and while Senate Commando Captain Argyus believes you should do what’s right, Clone Commander Gree feels that a soldier should follow orders no matter what. It’s a relatively quiet moment in a busy episode but it’s that moment that pushes the episode into the Special Zone.
EPISODE’S MVP: Ahsoka Tano. In this episode we start to see glimpses of the powerful character she will become, not just bratty Snips following Skyguy around. We see her, like her Jedi teacher, breaking the rules to do what she feels is right and taking matters into her own hands. This is the first episode where Ahsoka is given a real chance and she slam dunks it, Michael Jordan-style.
– Ahhh, 327. The companion to the much better known Star Wars number of 1138. The snappy Treadwell droid we meet here is yet another acknowledgement of the number “327”: in A New Hope the Millennium Falcon is docked in hanger bay 327 aboard the Death Star; in The Empire Strikes Back, it lands on platform 327 in Cloud City. In The Phantom Menace, the Naboo starship is identified as a Nubian J-type 327; and in The Force Awakens, the lumbering skeletal droid leaving Maz’s castle is the HURID-327.
– We meet the Senate Commandos for the first time in this episode. How they fit in exactly with the Senate Guards is a bit unclear to me, but hey — their uniforms are ridiculously cool.
– This episode features some interesting voice talent with former Bond girl and Wonder Years star Olivia d’Abo as Luminara and Buffy’s James Marsters as Captain Argyus.
– Jedi Fortune Cookie: “Ignore your instincts at your peril.”
8 out of 10
Next: “Lair of Grievous”, soon.
Before: “Bombad Jedi”, here.