Darth Maul and Savage Oppress try to use the criminal underworld to start their own empire to rival the Separatists and Republic. However, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Bo Katan stand in their way. Plus: they face their greatest challenge in...Darth Sidious?!
Taking place some time after the last time we saw the brothers, Darth Maul and Savage Oppress are still licking their wounds when they're found by Pre Vizula and the Death Watch. An uneasy alliance develops as they try to create a new empire with Mandalore as the cornerstone. Just as things start to go their way, betrayals and the greatest roadblock of them all, Darth Sidious, stand in their way.
Resolution, resolution, and resolution. That was what this arc brought to the table. So many subplots find their end in this arc and all are quite fitting. Deathwatch, the corruption of Mandalore, and Maul/Savage subplots that have lingered since Season 2 end here with some startling results. It's probably why I found the plot so much more engaging than the usual fare. Even though we've seen Star Wars Episode III: The Revenge of the Sith, we have no knowledge of the outcome of this plot. All the players aren't in Episode III (just Obi Wan and Sidious) so the stakes and tension are all heightened as the twists and turns play out.
The best part of this arc was the build-up it kept creating and it had an utterly satisfying end. Given that the Deathwatch and Maul/Savage are all the bad guys, the treacherous moves are inevitable. Seeing the group take on others like Black Sun and the Hutts, though, was very neat. It was quite refreshing to at long last see the end of the journey for these characters.
Of the characters so engaging during the entire arc I have to say the stand-out for me would be Bo Katan (voiced by Katee Sackhoff). Introduced in a cameo sort of role last season, Katan really is the character through whose eyes we see everything throughout the three episodes, and she steps out of the shadow of her master, Pre Vizula. The character really evolves toward the end of the arc and I'm almost disappointed because this probably will be the final appearance in the show for the character. What an impact the character had! If this is it, well, what an end to her character's journey.
For me, the greatest thing about this arc was the late Ian Abercrombie giving perhaps the best vocal performance of Darth Sidious/Palpatine in the entire run he's had with the character. Ironically, this was the final episode he voiced before he passed away (the final episode of the arc is dedicated to him). The only time Abercrombie had real juicy material was way back in the first half of Season 2's Holocrom Heist/Jedi Youngling arc, and even then Sidious was partly held back in the shadows.
Here in just one episode, Abercrombie's given so much room to finally show why he was cast as Palpatine/Darth Sidious. His cackles of vile misfortune onto the brothers are nasty, yet rewarding to the viewer (because at this point in the story, the pair have done some awful deeds). The climactic fight has to be up there (along with Vizula vs. Maul) with some of the best choreographed fights the series has had. Another bit I enjoyed was him casually tossing around Maul's Mandalorian guards like rag dolls (yet showing no interest in their demise) to his confrontation with his former apprentice. It's a nice, darkly twisted showing from the Lord of the Sith.
There was one slight issue I had, and wondered about Abercrombie's performance. Near the end of the episode, Abercrombie's voice twisted a little and I swear sounded like Tim Curry's. Now I know this was the show paying homage to Revenge of the Sith's little awkward moment where Sidious's voice gets all distorted. That's a nice chilling nod I confess, but it does distract me because I still like to know why that surfaced here or why that occurs.
The other small issue I had was the arrogant stupidity rulers of Mandalore had when they took people prisoner. Seriously under light guard two force users had? Or for that matter a Jedi Master? Truth be told the latter got reinforcements. Also the whole underworld alliance seemed dropped by the third episode, which is a little disappointing. Still, by that point the subplot had run it's course and the true conclusions with several characters had to be arrived at. So it was needed to be cut.
As for the grand antagonist of the arc, Darth Maul, well it was interesting to see him actually use his mind throughout this all rather than his fury. Yes, we did get much of the later in some portions here and there, but we finally get to see Maul plan and scheme in a larger sense. Still, his fate overall at the end was a nice twist that you the viewer could see coming (aka never mess with with the schemes of the bigger Sith), as was the overall dark nature that hanged toward the end.
I know there are other good elements I overlooked, but they are just the icing on what was such a well-rounded trio of episodes. So much resolution is had in these three stories, while we get nice homages/shout-outs to the original films (my favorite was Obi-Wan's entrance onto Mandalore with Anakin's poorly maintained ship, and the Twilight, or Palpatine's movie theme surfacing throughout his appearances in the third episode). So much craft and build-up happened in these episodes that even when the B plot seemed like an A one, you know the writers are doing their job well when you're on the edge for all of it, while still noticing the nods to previous episodes (we briefly see the Mandalorian children from Season 3 all grown up). So far, these three episodes are the stand-outs of this season, much like each season the show had in the past. I very much recommend to those Star Wars fans who are still disheartened by this series to try out the whole Mandalore/Maul subplot just to see how nicely the resolution story went.
5.14 “Eminence”: 3 out of 5
5.15 “Shades of Reason”: 4 out of 5
5.16 “The Lawless”: 5 out of 5