Why is it that this season of 'The Clone Wars' contains not only some of the best episodes in the series and the worst? For the this third year's series, Dave Filoni and George Lucas throw fans a real nasty curve if ever there were one, in a series where we already know the outcome from the moment it started. Taking place between 'Star Wars' films, we all know who survives the Clone Wars, and who either does not or is not heard from again, so to counter the inherent lack of tension this series could create, instead, old questions are finally (finally!) answered, the ones that have bothered fans of the Prequel Trilogy, and given ammo to those who hate the new films. At the same time, new questions are born, new characters debut, old, familiar faces are teased, and some of the most controversial decisions are made. Heck, even the characters we never see again are given tense moments, teasing the thought that we may finally see the end of Ahsoka Tano.
If only Anakin could bring more balance to this season, the Force would be just fine. And if only the men in charge could realize that children don't need a child character to relate to, the series would be that much better.
I know it's my fault for continuing to come back to the show with high hopes, sucker that I am, but this time around, there was so much good, it only makes the bad that much more frustrating and unforgivable. This third season opens with a bang in 'Clone Cadets,' an episode rivaling one of the best of the debut season, 'Rookies,' following a group of clone troopers in the final stages of training on the factory in the water world of Kamino. We see, for the very first time, the clones that don't quite make it, the genetic anomalies, the failures, and with an odd bunch of troopers failing to work as a team, we see the outcasts teaching the future heroes of the Republic a thing or two about being a soldier. It's really emotional stuff, and one of the smartest arcs of the entire show. There's even a major hint at the future of 'Star Wars,' with the mention of Jango Fett's death playing a major part in the degradation of the abilities of the troopers, with no more fresh DNA samples. 'Multiplicity' and the idea of a clone's clone being all sorts of messed up, indeed. The fact that the most inhuman characters in the show continue to be the most human and relatable, the only real disposable characters who may die at any minute (save for the named commanders who were mentioned in 'Revenge of the Sith'), there's something special here, and in the tie-in episode 'ARC Troopers.'
And then...the show takes a giant crap. We had clones battling fate, we had them coming to grips with death, we even had one of the neatest kills in the series, with Asajj Ventress pulling out a nasty Force choke-push combination into a lightsaber. With the third episode, titled 'Supply Lines,' we get back to the nasty part of this show, aired on a children's television network: the economics of war. This horrid episode is an example of all the wrong that happens in the series, as it stars the three most racist caricatures in the prequel films; Toydarians, Neimoidians, and Gungans (Jar Jar, in particular), all in one scene, let alone one episode, as the struggle of a neutral planet to bring food and medical supplies to a planet under siege is talked about...and talked about...and talked about. There's also major flaws in logic, as the one Jedi, Master Di (a fitting name...), who can deflect blaster fire with his saber, sits back and lets his entire squadron die before stepping into a battle that he could have evened the odds on. Never saw a Jedi do that before...
The boring continues through most of the first half of the season, with the fifth episode, 'Corruption,' dealing with drug spiced tea given to school children, the first of two horrible episodes based in Mandalore. See, Mandalore is famous for its warriors, the same breed as the Fetts, and not a single armored trooper of the rebellious faction is seen. Just political posturing, political posturing, and bullshit political posturing. The episode to follow this awful arc, titled 'Assassin,' features major flaws in canon. Suddenly Ahsoka has premonitions of Padme's death, not her husband, whose own visions cause her death later on? Wouldn't it have been better to, you know, tie into that major plot element? It also makes no sense that the Togruta padawan is so insecure about her abilities, the first episode after she single handedly takes down a corrupt government. Worse still, we begin a series of episodes featuring Truman Capote the Hutt, aka Ziro, the most effeminate gangster ever. At least we get to see Sy Snootles do more than sing...and the most faaabulous Hutt meet its end.
The season continues to drag with another episode full of racism, this time featuring the banking clan. I really don't need to say why exactly an entire episode about banks being deregulated doesn't quite fit in a children's show. This two part series concludes with an episode featuring bounty hunters beating up Senators to influence them. Not killing them, no, just putting limbs in slings. Halfway through the season, we have a great two part series to open the season, then nine episodes worth of varying degrees of awful stereotypes and boring themes.
Now, anyone who has seen this season knows that there's a new character introduced, Savage (pronounced sah-vojj) Oppress, and we're given a proper introduction and origin story to the new baddy, one tying in very closely to the vastly underutilized Asajj Ventress. For a strong three part arc, we see a creature of the same species of Darth Maul (Zabrak), who is more brute than agile this time around, making for some fun ass kickery. We see a battle with five (five!) red sabers out at once, and some wonderful villainous double crosses, making for the first real feel of the series we love since the first two episodes!
Immediately after this strong three part arc, another amazing three episode story begins, with the Mortis trilogy. Have you ever wondered about all that junk about the ancient prophecy and "bringing balance to the Force?" For the first time, outside of conjecture, we actually get to see what that means, as ancient beings on a planet that appears to be the Force itself, each representing one side of the amazing power, do battle, with Anakin in the middle. We get the teases of his future, we see the power of the Sith, a real taste of sci-fi for the first time in a very, very long time, and even get to see one of the greatest characters in the saga, Qui Gon Jinn, for the first time in twelve years! To follow this up, there is another three part arc, this time with a prison planet, and a daring raid to save a Jedi and his troopers, in a very elaborate (though sometimes painfully dumb) bit of action.
Normally the show teases greatness in its final episode(s), but this third season does nothing of the sort. Instead, we get more Ahsoka Tano, because it's not like she wasn't in enough episodes this season already. A two part series paralleling 'The Most Dangerous Game,' featuring Trandoshan hunters, well, it sucks. Hard. In a season full of bad ideas, bringing in Chewbacca may be among the worst. Is that a spoiler? I don't think so, as the only thing it spoils is the debut of the Wookiee in 'Revenge of the Sith,' and since that was botched, it doesn't even matter.
'Star Wars: The Clone Wars: The Complete Season Three' has some great ideas, and a few awesome episodes, but it also is full of bad, bad ideas, horrible lapses in logic and continuity, and too much forced nostalgia. Tarkin is a character best left silent (see: the final shots of the prequel trilogy), if seen at all. Greedo? Why did we need the infamous bounty hunter to appear? Why tease fans with an appearance of the Delta Squadron if they aren't to be utilized in any way? Worse still, there's some really bad imagery ripped straight out of 'Avatar,' and an appearance from the George Lucas character, Papanodia, which really stinks up the place. It's nice to see a Jedi who actually has screen time in the films die, but this season is too uneven. There are so few familiar Jedi actually doing anything, that it's embarrassing, as Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker, and Ahsoka Tano are the chosen heroes for nearly every episode. Not once do you see Mace Windu or Yoda have anything to do. We visit the fungus planet of Felucia, which is to be the place of death for Aayla Secura, but instead, we have other Jedi there. Why is it that the only callbacks this season are bad ones, and the ones that would work quite well aren't done? In a season that tries its hardest to force nostalgia, bringing the animated debuts of a number of familiar alien background species, there are far too many missed opportunities, and far too many teases that go nowhere. We're three seasons in, in a show rumored to last for five, so isn't it about time we see Durge, or the much desired death of the annoying padawan? This show is creating as many loose ends as it is wrapping up, and it's starting to get a little frustrating!
The Disc: Vital Stats
'Star Wars: The Clone Wars: The Complete Season Three: The Blu-ray' arrives on three BD50 discs, with no forced pre-menu garbage, featuring the same menu system as previous seasons. Extras are spread throughout the set, with one found across all three discs.
This season is the first to feature regular packaging. After the first two seasons of the show were packaged in massive digibooks, featuring huge booklets of concept art, this time around we're given a three disc Amaray case, with a little booklet with episode listings, and a foil embossed slipcover that replicates the art. Personally, I like it. The first two seasons have been re-released, as well, in this more basic style of packaging, for those who have held off on the show so far. This appears to be a money and shelf space forced change.
Disc one contains seven episodes ('Clone Cadets,' 'Arc Troopers,' 'Supply Lines,' 'Sphere of Influence,' 'Corruption,' 'The Academy,' and 'Assassin'), as does disc two ('Evil Plans,' 'Hunt for Ziro,' 'Heroes on Both Sides,' 'Pursuit of Peace,' 'Nightsisters,' 'Monster,' and 'Witches of the Mist'), while the third and final disc houses the final eight ('Overlords,' 'Altar of Mortis,' 'Ghosts of Mortis,' 'The Citadel,' 'Counterattack,' 'Citadel Rescue,' 'Padawan Lost,' and 'Wookiee Hunt'). There's a play all option, and even selecting a single episode will continue play to the next once finished, a feature that some Blu-ray discs annoyingly don't have.
So...umm....hey, HDTV owners who don't have lossless surround sound capabilities...yeah...sorry about that...
The third season of 'The Clone Wars' is yet another step back in video quality on Blu-ray. The first season wowed me at almost every turn, the second slid a little but held its ground, but this, I really can't get on the megaphone and shout praises about the picture of this newest season. The technical specifications are the same: 1080p, AVC MPEG-4 encode, 2.35:1 aspect ratio, spread across three discs, but perhaps the video got compressed a little bit more when the high def audio was added to this set.
Of course, the stark, bright, bold colors remain, and the picture depth is as amazing as ever in this third season, but some of the other strengths are gone. For example, the painted texture, what made the show look like a moving piece of art...it's not so much visible this third time around. Textures can be powerful and amazing, with some episodes showing superb little bits of wear and tear and paint fade and stroke on clone armor, but other times they're somewhat flat, unimaginative. Boring, basically. Swooping "camera" effects don't create any aliasing issues, but there is some random issues, like the spires on the Jedi temple, or the sharp lines in the altar in Mortis, that can be a bit distracting on top of the random jagged edge.
White levels remain clean, and blacks are usually inky and strong, but many other colors suffer, with banding popping up too much, dampening the impressive power the discs should have by drawing the eye to odd color grade steps. There's some noise here and there, while edge enhancement is also visible from time to time. Hooray, right?
I have to wonder if this set would have been up to par with the other releases in the series if it were across four discs rather than three. I mean, there's still random jaw dropping moments, like the shot of crashing clone pods in Kamino that is absolutely stunning, but there just aren't as many wow moments, and after a while, the textures just stop....existing, almost. I'm not a fan of clone troopers that look like they're made by Hasbro rather than banks of powerful computers.
If you read the video section first, or are reading in descending order, the surprise has been spoiled, I suppose. After two seasons of high bit rate lossy tracks, Warner Bros. and Lucas Film have given 'The Clone Wars' series its very first lossless audio track, a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix for each and every episode, for better or worse. I say that, because who really wanted to hear Truman Capote the Hutt in high def?
If you have the gear, get ready for a mix that's on par with the best of what was on display in the film box set released just prior to this season! Dialogue is perfectly clear, perfectly prioritized, and, sadly, almost always in the front channels. There's no issue with effects muddying up, losing clarity amidst rampant action this time around: every blaster...er...blast, every lightsaber swoop, every atmospheric effect, they all come through clearly. Bass levels are massively improved from previous seasons, coming through with solid low roars and accents that put you into the scene, never so powerful that they overwhelm other portions of the show.
The rear speakers have an absolute ton of ambience, and in action scenes, look out! This show has superb sound design, fantastic localization, perfect movement, and some of the most intensely busy sequences you'll find in any show on television. Mundane scenes always have something to listen to other than the sometimes boring dialogue. Aside from the major thunder, the only issue with this track is in the Dooku vs the three witches (Asajj included) fight, as the point of the battle is the man using his senses to fight them, yet the battle is the weakest all season, in terms of activity. The only distinction is the sounds of the varying color blades.
Lossless audio on a season of 'The Clone Wars,' I honestly never thought I'd see the day. The question, of course, is at what cost?
This third season of the Cartoon Network show is possibly the most uneven of the bunch so far. It hits some of the highest highs, but also bottoms out with the lowest of the lows, in terms of episode story quality. The use of characters is more uneven than ever, as well, with too few featuring the snidely General Grievous or the iconic Yoda, as too much time is spent on the "main three" characters of the program. This Blu-ray set features another slight step down in visual quality, but a huge step forward in audio quality, two traits that are more than likely related. As always, the extras look small on the outside, but are beyond in depth. This set comes recommended, but do yourself a favor, and consider skipping episodes three through eleven. You won't miss much, I swear.