By Christian Blauvelt, Hollywood.com Staff
Last week, the younglings put on a show for pirate leader Hondo Ohnaka. But, really, it's supervising director Dave Filoni, writer Christian Taylor, and the Lucasfilm Animation team that's given us true showmanship these past few weeks. I was curious to see how the Young Jedi Knights arc would conclude. Would it become overly cutesy and juvenile or would it really respect the intelligence of the younger kids who are its intended audience? This weekend's wrap-up installment, "A Necessary Bond," was firmly the latter, and as far as I'm concerned, this was The Clone Wars' most successful attempt to date at gearing a storyline squarely for the under-10 crowd. Compare this to some of the kiddie-pandering Artoo/Threepio storylines of recent seasons, and there's a world of difference.
Just consider how great the animation was. "A Necessary Bond" opened with Ahsoka and the younglings being "Pursued by Pirates!" as Tom Kane bombastically put it. They were racing across the arid Florrum landscape in the skiff they'd stolen from Hondo last week, and now Hondo's menthat Cockney Pirate included!had caught up to them in a skiff of their own and were nipping at the youngling's heels with a barrage of blaster fire. In short, the younglings needed evac, but the little Rodian Jedi, Genodi, who'd been left to man their damaged ship, the Crucible, wasn't responding to hails. We're to believe she was busy repairing Huyang, their droid lightsaber teacher, but I have a feeling she was really off playing dejarik now that the Wookiee Gungi wasn't around to threaten to pull her arms out of their sockets.
Genodi finally answered and flew the Crucible right over the younglings' skiff. A thrilling, high-speed transfer was to take place between the two vehicles. Very Bondian. Genodi lowered the Crucible's landing ramp for the younglings to jump aboard. So that they could all get off the skiff, Ahsoka secured the helm by affixing a mask to it. Um, Ahsoka, you realize that inanimate objects don't possess flight training, right? That mask wasn't able to steer them out of the way of a vast chasm that lay ahead of them, so impetuous Petro took the helm himself and steered them away from the chasm and the Crucible, leaving Gungi hanging from its landing ramp. Even though the Wookiee had surely gotten a lot of tree-climbing experience under his belt on Kashyyyk, he didn't have the upper body strength necessary to haul himself up off the ramp, I suppose. So dangle he did. Realizing that the ship was their best chance of escape from Florrum, the pirates aimed their blaster cannons at it rather than the Jedi skiff. And down it came. The Jedi were stranded. Great job with the evasive maneuvers, Genodi!
This was phenomenal animation. If you'd told me that Brad Bird had directed this, I would have believed you.Captured by the pirates once again, Ahsoka and the younglings were led back in the direction of Hondo's camp. If you looked carefully, you could see Gungi in the background trying to bite through his binders. With that charming underbite and snaggletooth, Gungi is all kinds of cute. I'd totally buy his plush doll .but not before Lucasfilm gives in to my demand for a Derrown action figure.
NEXT: Droids, droids everywhere! Needless to say, the Jedi and the pirates will have to align against their mutual Separatist enemy.[PAGEBREAK]The Cockney Pirate peered through his macrobinoculars as they approached Hondo's camp and saw a Separatist drop ship! Yup, their base was about to be overrun by battle droids. It seems that four seasons later Count Dooku decided to get revenge against Hondo for kidnapping him and holding him ransom way back in season one. A Sith Lord does not forgive nor forget. And he sent General Grievous to carry out his vendetta. The droid general marched right into Hondo's audience chamber, where the pirate sat all smug and complacent, clutching a martini glass, a Kowakian monkey lizard on his shoulder. Inebriated, Hondo prepared to trade bon mots. "General Grie-vous, I presume?" he asked. "You may dispense with the pleasantries, pirate," the general answered, climbing on top of Hondo's table like the party crasher he is. He then projected a message from Dooku, in which the Sith Lord announced that as retribution for that whole kidnapping matter he'd melt down Hondo's whole fleet for war materiel.
Yeah, so let's take a moment to discuss chronology. As you may recall, the season opener, "Revival," was originally supposed to air mid-season. But Lucasfilm decided to capitalize on all the Darth Maul buzz and air it first even though it takes place after a whole bunch of subsequent episodes. So in "Revival" Hondo says to Darth Maul that General Grievous recently ransacked his base. Well, that ransacking is what we saw in "A Necessary Bond." I'm still not entirely sure where to put the Onderon arc in relation to "Revival" or "A Necessary Bond," though. I assumed it preceded the whole Young Jedi Knights storyline, hence my surprise that Hondo would go from helping the Jedi smuggle arms to the Onderon rebels to attacking a Padawan training ship. But I guess a pirate can change his mind.
Ahsoka convinced the Cockney Pirate to release them. Even a Weequay could realize that the only chance he stood against Grievous was to align himself with the Jedi. That way, they could free Hondo and have the pirate leader take them to his secret hanger full of ships that could blast them away from Florrum once and for all. Sneaking past those Separatist troops to get to Hondo wouldn't be easy, though. But sometimes, it does come in handy to be a droid. R2 acted as pilot of the Cockney Pirate's skiff and got them past the Seppie patrol. All they had to do then was slice their way through a few more battle bots, and Ahsoka and the younglings stood before Hondo, their former captor turned much-needed ally. Hondo seemed reluctant to help them, however, and insisted upon monologuing while he still hung suspended within Grievous' force field. He didn't think they stood a chance. "We can fight!" Petro said, while mimicking some rope-a-dope. Huyang also spoke up--finally--and said that among the thousand generations of Jedi he'd trained these younglings were some of the best.
Fascinating stuff to consider here. First, why wasn't David Tennant given more to do than voice a droid whose main purpose in these episodes is to be dismembered? Second, the fact that Huyang has trained Jedi for a thousand generations means that he's served the Order for its entire history, going back to before the time of the Republic. Maybe he's a relic from the ancient Rakatan empire? No matter what, I expect him to pop up any issue now in the ongoing Dawn of the Jedi comic that explores the Order's enigmatic origins.Still suspended in midair, Hondo asked the younglings to ignite their sabers so he could feel confident about leading them into battle. They all complied except for Katooni, who still hadn't finished hers. Hondo demanded that she finish it on the spot. For him, the priceless sight of a Jedi constructing her lightsaber was all the payment he needed to agree to lead them into battle. And after all her hesitation, she snapped it together with the Force in record time, which I suppose is meant to allegorize her growing confidence and self-esteem. With her new blade, she cut Hondo down. Now to battle!
NEXT: Hondo leads his new Jedi allies into battle and shows off a hot new addition to his starship collection: the Slave 1! [PAGEBREAK]Grievous had gotten wind of "miniature Jedi" running loose in Hondo's compound, so he ordered his tank droids to fire on and destroy the entire complex. He never had a chance. The Jedi popped out and slashed their way through Grievous' ranks, until they reached a group of swoop bikes they could use to make their escape. Katooni hopped on the back of Hondo's own bike. "I've got your back," she said. "Great, I feel so safe," Hondo replied, in the most charming exchange of this arc. All of them raced toward Hondo's secret hanger, but the rest of their group got sidetracked when Grievous popped up Whac-a-Mole style and ambushed them. That meant Katooni, safely riding with Hondo, was the only Jedi who made it to his hanger. Sigh Hondo was going to betray the Jedi again, and leave them behind. "You may join our merry band of pirates," Hondo told Katooni. She was appalled. Luckily, she also seemed to be the only one to appeal to whatever sense of humanity the Weequay possesses. So Hondo boarded his ship but decided to help out the rest of the younglings. And just what ship was he going to pilot? The Slave 1, the Firespray-class attack craft owned by Boba Fett! If you recall, Hondo stole the Slave 1 from Boba way back in season two, and the young bounty hunter still hasn't managed to steal it back.
Hondo and the Slave 1 arrived at the site of the younglings just in the nick of time. Their skiff had crashed, and they were now prepping for a last stand with General Grievous. But seeing the ship so near them, Ahsoka told the younglings to retreat and climb aboard while she would heroically hold off Grievous. She's rarely faced him one-on-one, so this could easily have been her final battle. And what a battle it was! Typically, on The Clone Wars and in Revenge of the Sith, Grievous relies on a very forward-focused kind of lightsaber attack, quite unlike the 360-degree pivots and somersaults he unleashed in Genndy Tartakovsky's hand-drawn Clone Wars cartoon back in 2005. This battle, though, was much more like the combat tactics he employed in the Tartakovsky version. At one moment, he grabs Ahsoka with a leg than hoists her over his head only to slam her back down on the ground to soften her up for his killing stroke. This is the kind of move only he, with his multiple mechanical limbs, could make. It shows he can attack an opponent from many vectors and thinks in terms of three-dimensional combat, not just the very classical, vertical dueling poses that the Jedi employ. That's why he's so dangerous to themhe can do things the Jedi can't, even though he doesn't have Force powers. The Clone Wars has generally taken to paint Grievous in a more cartoonish light, but here he was every bit as menacing as he first was in the Tartakovsky cartoon all those years ago.
Of course, not having Force powers is still a pretty big disadvantage for the General. When Ahsoka decided to escape to Hondo's ship and concede the battle, she allowed the pirate to open fire on Grievous with Slave 1's blasters. Without the Force, he couldn't really deflect those blasts with his lightsabers, so he almost met his endexcept that the dust kicked up by the blasts shielded him from Hondo's view allowing him to escape. For the umpteenth time on The Clone Wars, this Grievous duel was a draw.
Hondo flew them to Obi-Wan's battle group and dropped off the younglings like a galactic soccer mom. He also demanded compensation for the equipment he'd lost rescuing them even though he'd really been trying to kidnap them all along. "Oh, the thanklessness!" he said to a skeptical Obi-Wan. "I will send you my bill." Before departing, he made eye contact with his wingmate Katooni one last time. I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Huyang gathered the younglings together and told Master Obi-Wan how well they had all acquitted themselves. In fact, he even said that this may have been the most eventful crystal quest he'd witnessed since Master Yoda's. Of course, since Yoda's own history is always meant to be shrouded in mystery, Obi-Wan said "That story will have to wait." Aw, shucks.
And that's the Young Jedi Knights arc, folks. I don't know about you, but if this became a spinoff from The Clone Wars I would definitely watch. These juvenile Jedi were surprisingly likable, well characterized, and very capable of carrying their own series. If Lucasfilm wanted to designate that show as the series for young kids, then more fully explore some of the darker, more mature themes The Clone Wars itself has been teasing of late, I'd be all for it.
What about you? Did you find these four episodes as satisfying as I did?
Follow Christian Blauvelt on Twitter @Ctblauvelt
[Photo Credit: Lucasfilm]
'Star Wars: The Clone Wars' Recap: Cirque Du Jedi
'Star Wars: The Clone Wars' Recap: David Tennant Gets RoboticIn a Good Way!
'Star Wars: The Clone Wars' Recap: No Mr. Ollivander for the Jedi
You Might Also Like:
Jennifer Lawrence Bikinis in Hawaii (PICS)
Best and Worst of the Thanksgiving Parade