'Star Wars: The Clone Wars' - Episode 303

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If there’s one thing Star Wars: The Clone Wars should stay away from, it’s paying homage to The Phantom Menace,  a film seemingly determined to induce snores and groans whenever things  aren’t blowing up. So, naturally, when I noticed that a number of familiar elements from that maligned first prequel film crept into “Supply Lines,” the latest episode of the animated series,  I knew this week’s adventure would in no way live up to the amazing two-part season premiere. On the plus side, Jar Jar isn’t as irritating in this installment as he probably could have been.

“Supply Lines” takes place long before The Clone Wars’ first episode. As battle droids lay siege to Ryloth (home planet of the head-tailed Twi’lek race), the Republic is having difficulty breaking through the Separatist blockade to deliver supplies to the locals and front-line troops. Senator Bail Organa (who later becomes Princess Leia’s adoptive father) and Jar Jar (scourge of Star Wars fans over the age of 8) meet with the king of nearby Toydaria to request that the planet be used by the Republic as a staging ground during its relief efforts. Unfortunately, Senator Lott Dod of the nefarious Trade Federation—which is loosely in league with the Separatists—is quick to remind the king that any assistance offered to Ryloth would violate Toydaria’s stance of neutrality during the Clone Wars. Meanwhile, Jedi Master Ima-Gun Di and Twi’lek rebel leader Cham Syndulla—who we met way back in season one—fight to hold back the advancing Separatist forces until aid arrives.

This episode is one of many prequels in The Clone Wars, and it’s pretty cool that this series isn’t telling these stories chronologically. Sure, it can be confusing at times, but the non-linear nature of the narrative gives the galaxy-wide conflict a scope it wouldn’t have otherwise. Also, jumping around the timeline keeps things fresh. One never quite knows where the next episode will fit in the overall Star Wars mythology.

Although Jar Jar winds up being the real hero in “Supply Lines,” using his buffoonery to distract the Trade Federation while the Toydarian king secretly allows Republic ships to aid Ryloth, Jedi Master Di makes a valiant sacrifice to save fleeing locals from the Separatists. If you think that’s a spoiler, read his name again. Darth Maul. General Grievous. Cad Bane. Han Solo. Luke Skywalker. Star Wars names tend to not-so-subtly tell you a little bit about the character. His name is Jedi Master Di. What did you think he was going to do? Live?

The battle sequences look great in this episode, particularly a spectacular Republic gunship explosion during its climax. However, this episode tends to drag whenever it strays from combat to examine the issue of wartime neutrality (already well-trodden ground for this series).

Also, and this is nitpicking, but has anyone else noticed that certain episodes seem to go out of their way to end on a group shot of heroes standing in a straight line? Yes, it was a staple in the movie series and has been done quite a few times in The Clone Wars, but at the end of “Supply Lines,” it almost seems as if Jar Jar, Senator Organa and the king of Toydaria are preparing to take a company bow before the end credits. Plus, Jar Jar actually turns at the last moment to face the camera, staring out at us with those bulging, probing eyes of his as if to say “I’m still here, fanboys!” Ahem. I digress.

“Supply Lines” certainly isn’t terrible, but The Clone Wars can do a lot better.

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