Star Wars: The Clone Wars - Episodes 117 and 118

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Despite a smattering of ill-conceived humor, the latest two-part Clone Wars story gives viewers a double dose of what seems to work best in this series, namely its heavily stylized action sequences and a genuine sense of adventure that harkens back to the original Star Wars trilogy.

Yes, Jar Jar Binks returns to the series in “Blue Shadow Virus” and “Mystery of a Thousand Moons,” but even his harshest critics will admit that he is far less grating this time around. Fortunately, Jar Jar is not the center of attention here, as he was in “Bombad Jedi” and “The Gungan General,” widely considered two of the weaker Clone Wars episodes. Perhaps since this story introduces another Gungan character, a shrill female named Peppi Bow, the Clone Wars team mercifully chose to tone down Jar Jar’s antics so as to not completely alienate viewers over the age of ten.

However, “Blue Shadow Virus” succeeds in introducing a brand-new character at which fans can direct their vitriol. His name is Dr. Nuvo Vindi, a derivative mad scientist—complete with a German accent—voiced by English actor Michael York. From an underground laboratory hidden in the swamps of Naboo, Vindi has been cultivating a biological weapon for the Separatists in the form of the Blue Shadow Virus, a once-eradicated plague that could potentially cripple the galaxy if released. While the original strain of the virus was waterborne, Vindi has created an airborne version, which he plans to spread throughout the galaxy. Vindi’s genocidal tendencies give him the potential to be a formidable Clone Wars villain in the future, but here his insanity is comically overdone, substituting menace for goofy theatrics.

When Padmé Amidala and Jar Jar stumble upon Vindi’s secret lab they are promptly captured, leaving it up to Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi Ahsoka Tano, and a squad of clones to rescue them, secure Vindi’s lab and prevent him from leaving the planet with the weaponized virus. The Jedi and the clones storm the bunker, overpowering Vindi’s security forces and taking the doctor into Republic custody. Crisis averted, right? That would be a bit too easy for a two-parter, wouldn’t it?

At the beginning of “Mystery of a Thousand Moons,” we learn that the doctor’s diminutive assistant droid has stolen a sample of the virus, unleashing it upon Padmé, Ahsoka, Jar Jar, Captain Rex and the handful of clones remaining in the hermetically sealed bunker. In a race against time, Anakin and Obi-Wan must venture to the mysterious planet Iego in search of the only known cure for the Blue Shadow Virus. As if things weren’t perilous enough, Iego is allegedly haunted, ruled over by an angry spirit known by its inhabitants as Drol. In reality, Drol is a Separatist energy field that blows to bits any ships attempting to leave Iego’s atmosphere, but that doesn’t make it any less dangerous.

On Iego—a planet Anakin briefly mentions during his introductory scene in The Phantom Menace—the two Jedi meet a young, tech-savvy boy named Jaybo Hood who has programmed an entire army of battle droids to do his bidding. Jaybo, who strikes up an immediate rapport with Anakin, helps the Jedi find the elusive root that will save their friends’ lives. Knowing that time is not on their side, Anakin and Obi-Wan destroy the Separatist weapon, allowing them to leave the planet in time while freeing Jaybo and the rest of the people of Iego from Separatist imprisonment.

The Anakin and Obi-Wan plot is a fine chunk of swashbuckling storytelling, but “Mystery of a Thousand Moons” truly shines when it focuses on Padmé and Ahsoka. Sealed inside Vindi’s bunker and exposed to the deadly virus, the two—along with Rex and his clones—remain determined to prevent Separatist droids from breaching the lab and endangering the rest of the planet. Even though they face certain death, these characters stay focused on the job at hand. Anakin and Obi-Wan’s adventure is certainly more colorful—pitting them against flying predators, carnivorous plants and a massive Separatist weapon—but Padmé, Ahsoka, Rex and even Jar Jar emerge in this episode as true heroes.

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