Season Three begins with a pair of sequel episodes to one of Season One's (and one of the series thus far) best episodes, Rookies.
Credits & Solicit Info:
Dee Bradley Baker as Clone Troopers (various)
Tasia Valenza as Shaak Ti
Matt Lanter as Anakin Skywalker/TV-94
James Arnold Taylor as Obi-Wan Kenobi/Kamino Computer
Matthew Wood as General Grievous/Battle Droids (various)
Nika Futterman as Asajj Ventress
Daniel Logan as Clone Cadets
Tom Kane as Narrator/Admiral Yularen
Larry Brandenburg as Bric
Nolan North as El-Les
Bob Bergen as Lama Su
The thing that I've always loved about this show thus far has been the spotlight on the Stormtroopers. Sure we know of the "betrayal" of their Jedi leaders in Revenge of the Sith. But the various persona and actions throughout the prequel saga and the pair of television shows intrigued me and no doubt others. These two episodes Clone Cadets and ARC Troopers further the expansion given to these usually faceless foot soldiers of the Empire.
In the first episode, Clone Cadets, we're pretty much given a prequel to a prequel. The episode takes place before Season One's Rookies (the famous episode which focused solely on the Clone Stormtroopers who're under siege by Separatist forces at a vital radar station. Here we're reintroduced to the characters before they get their names and how they got to where they were in the Season One episode. I have to admit this episode blows Rookies away and is up there as one of my favorite episodes of this series and a VERY strong opening for this season.
Sure it follows just about every cliché any underdog story has, but I'll be damned if it works. For the first twelve minutes we see the training of an New Republic Clone Stormtrooper. The training stresses teamwork and boy is it not easy. We also learn bit by bit that the New Republic has employed Bounty Hunters to train the Clone Cadets which is very intriguing and yet also makes perfect sense (given the Jedi are spread paper thin across the galaxy). About the only Jedi we get in this episode is the much heralded debut of Jedi Master Shaak Ti. But much like Rookies did, the Jedi take more a backseat to this story with the clones all front and center.
I have to admit the episode laid everything down perfectly on showing how each clone comes off uniquely onto their own even if they're cut from the same strain of DNA. The episode of course I have to say my favorite characters in this would be Heavy, Cut-Up, and Trooper 99. The later of which shows off not all clones are perfect and what happens to those who fail the training (they get regulated to clean-up). Even more, we see what most Clone Troopers yearn to be (they wish to be part of the elite Arc Trooper unit who's exploits where shown in the first Clone Wars).
I have to say that pretty much Dee Bradley Baker is an amazing voice actor. For the most part in this Trilogy he pretty much talks to himself and it's amazing. He uses the same tone of voice, yet invokes so much singular persona to each and every clone you get a true unique quality with the troopers. When a voice actor does that, you know he's friggin amazing.
At the end of this episode you just can't help but root for these troopers, even if you know their fates. And there lies the most powerful element of this story. We already know that only two Clones survive Rookies (Echo and Five) and get promoted to the 501st. Not only does that add an extra tragic layer to the finale, but overall just adds to both episodes and the next. I'm guessing you could call these three episodes the Domino Trilogy (Domino is the name of the unit of these batch of clones). For those who love of Star Wars, fans really need to check out these three episodes. Maybe George Lucas is a cunning evil genius at times and knows what he's doing.
Now the so far "finale" to this Domino Trilogy comes in the very next episode, ARC Troopers. Echo and Five return to Kamino after Anakin and Obi-Wan think General Grievous is planning an invasion of the planet. Well their of course right. Basically this entire episode is the Battle of Kamino and it feels like an actual sixty minute movie. Seriously I felt like I was watching this episode was long, yet it's a good type of thinking. Echo and Five are reunited with 99 where he learns the events of Rookies. But there's no time to linger on the past, as Assaji Ventress adds an surprising element to the Separatist Campaign of Kamino.
So this episode has several firsts for the show. Ventress and Grievous meet face to face for the first time (with some VERY interesting results and banter), Anakin takes on Ventress one-on-one for the first time as well, and we get the introduction of yet another new types of battle droids (Aqua Droids and these huge squid-like droids).
However, if there's one negative I can get out of the way alas it's Obi-Wan. I know he's one of the main characters of the show, but he gets way too much of the lion's share of this episode almost regulating the Clone Troopers' plot to the wayside. My main complaint is that when you have Shaak Ti in this episode and given the history she too has with Grievous (in the first series) it was a bit disappointing to me we get yet another duel between the two with no real fresh element added (save for Grievous actually owning this particular round they have). That's not to say the fight the two have is awesome, but I want something new added, not see Obi-Wan fight Grievous yet another time knowing exactly what the end will be.
Which yes this does make me somewhat of a hypocrite with Ventress taking on Anakin too in this episode. However they really haven't dueled since Season One and even then that was a duel that had Obi-Wan in it. Here Anakin is by his lonesome taking on the wannabe Sith assassin for the actual first time in this particular Clone Wars series. So yeah again this added some spice, but I wanted more, especially given Shaak Ti was at Kamino too. But I digress that's the inner Star Wars fanboy talking. Still the banter between Grievous and Ventress was VERY interesting and I hope these two characters will be teaming up again later this season.
There's still a lot of good with this episode. The battle of Kamino is just an animation joy to behold. There's a ton of cuts in there that are just gorgeous. I can only wonder how this show looks in high definition. If it looks astounding in standard, it probably looks ten times better in high.
But again the best part of this episode is the Clone Troopers. They're the focus and the best part of the episode. Though even if the episode is called ARC Trooper, they're barely even felt in the episode with it mostly being a 501st getting the grunt job on having to deal with the enemy forces. Really I only counted one Arc Trooper throughout all of this, and he alas didn't put up much a fight. Still, we get some more emotion out of them with their home planet getting attacked and we get some spectacular fight scenes with the clones taking on the battle droids.
I have to say if this truly is the finale of this "Domino" Trilogy then damn was this a great story one of the best something from Star Wars has to offer. The Clone Troopers in these three parts are rich and three dimensional leaving the viewer full of various emotions after each view. I honestly would actually go out and buy if Lucasfilm put this on a separate disc of just these three episodes (no doubt they will given they'll shell out anything to get a dollar).Still this is a VERY strong opening to the third season of Clone Wars, which makes me wonder where else this season will go.
Clone Cadets: 5 out of 5
ARC Troopers: 4 out of 5
Review by: Zechs