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TFN Review: Citadel Rescue

Posted By Eric on March 12, 2011

The Clone Wars Season 3 Episode 20: Citadel Rescue

First things first: I promise to not make any Even Piell jokes. I've done enough of that on Twitter already, and really, this episode was about more than Piell's death anyway. In addition to some of The Clone Wars's most extraordinary space visuals, we really got to see the budding friendship between Anakin and Tarkin take center stage in Citadel Rescue. As Anakin expressed more support for Tarkin's opinions, Obi-Wan and Ahsoka's concern grew, and this collection of mixed emotions provided us with no shortage of Episode III and Original Trilogy foreshadowing. I was impressed with this episode on a number of levels, from the implications it held for Anakin's future to the variety of satisfying battle scenes in space and on land.

Let's start with the visuals. As the series progresses, the animation team gets better and better at painting rich environments that make me increasingly incredulous of its status as a "kids show" among some of its viewers. The caverns in the beginning of the episode are an example of this. I was very impressed with how realistic it looked, from the attention to subtle lighting details to the dust and explosions during the initial commando droid attack. The impressive visuals continued when, in the beginning of Act Two, we got a great shot of a trio of droid starfighters zooming toward the Separatist flagship. This was just the first of a number of space shots whose pacing and framing reminded me of a live-action movie -- and whose overall composition could be described as nothing short of cinematic.

I also enjoyed the way the approach of the pack of anoobas (with the camera focused on their bounding legs) was juxtaposed with Obi-Wan and Anakin lying in wait. This then led to a pitched battle between the attack dogs and the Jedi. Between the beasts' ferocious snarls and the Jedi's quick jabs and slices, I was thoroughly pleased with the choreography of that fight. Both the Jedi and the anoobas were quick, but it was clear that Obi-Wan and Anakin had the upper hand. While the entire confrontation was fluid and displayed the Jedi's incredible agility and finesse, I especially liked how Obi-Wan twisted and kicked one anooba over his head and into the lava.

I wasn't kidding when I said that Citadel Rescue had some of the best space scenes in the entire series so far. I truly believe that no other episode has produced an array of space battle sequences with more visual parity to the opening scenes of Revenge of the Sith. One of the shots I enjoyed the most was the one where the ARC-170s deployed for combat as the camera panned back to show the assembled Republic cruisers. That's the kind of Original Trilogy throwback that will never get old, unlike any number of famous bits of dialog that need to be used in moderation. I could watch ARC-170 S-foils getting locked into attack position in every episode and I'd never complain.

As awesome as the ARC-170 deployment shot was, it was nothing compared to the various shots of the dizzying space battle playing out above Lola Sayu. The wide panning shots provided us with a great look at the scope of the battle, while tracking shots of individual starfighters and fighter groups added to the intensity. (During one pan past a Republic cruiser, we even heard a "Wilhelm scream" as the ship was hit.) Later, as the rescue gunships soared past atmospheric asteroids, we were treated to a number of shots looking down at Lola Sayu as engagements occurred at multiple levels in the atmosphere. It's scenes like these that make me wish for an episode with more action in space than on the ground. Does anyone remember the Season 1 Malevolence trilogy? Imagine how much better that kind of story would look if it were animated now. When Saesee Tiin remarked that "There have not been battles like these since the days of the Old Republic," it reminded me that there hasn't been a pitched space battle on The Clone Wars for some time either.

Despite this episode containing several great space scenes and one major death, Tarkin and the main Jedi trio certainly held the spotlight too. Tarkin in particular received a great deal of character exposition. For one thing, we learned that he has the Chancellor's ear, a fact that raises numerous questions in the lead-up to Episodes III and IV. In the conversation that followed, where Anakin told Tarkin that he too was in good with Palpatine, it seemed as if the two men were sizing each other up and testing each other's loyalties to Palpatine. I see no reason why Tarkin's revelation of a close relationship with Palpatine necessarily means that he knows about Sidious and Order 66. That said, I think this new information explains a lot about Palpatine and Tarkin's history. Even if Tarkin never learned that Sidious was orchestrating the entire war, his devotion to the Republic and steadfast leadership in battle would, over time, grow obvious to Palpatine, making him worthy of the Death Star assignment.

In addition to foreshadowing Tarkin's eventual position as Grand Moff, Citadel Rescue gave us a glimpse at the man's penchant for cold-heartedness and disdain for the Jedi. During the fight with the STAPs, one clone officer pushed Tarkin out of the way and took a blaster bolt in the back. Tarkin barely registered this before he moved on and kept shooting. That wouldn't be cause for demonizing Tarkin's personality on its own, except that, when Ahsoka brought Piell's body back to the rest of the team, you could see the faintest expression of smugness on Tarkin's face. Clearly there was no love lost between the two men.

When Ahsoka revealed that Piell gave her the secret hyperspace information before dying, Tarkin appeared disdainful. He clearly saw Ahsoka as too obedient to the Jedi ways, unlike Anakin, whose divergence from the Jedi Code seemed to please him. I see two ways to interpret Tarkin's displeasure at Ahsoka being entrusted with the hyperspace data. On the one hand, if Palpatine told Tarkin that leaking the data to the Separatists was part of his plan to orchestrate an attack on Coruscant, Tarkin might have been worried that Ahsoka's knowledge could complicate Palpatine's plan. On the other hand, it's simply possible that Tarkin expected Ahsoka to refuse to give Palpatine her half of the information until the complete set of data had been reviewed by the Jedi -- which would require him to turn over his half to the Council first.

In any event, Tarkin was forced to grudgingly admit Ahsoka's Jedi competence when she saved his life. Even so, this appreciation didn't dampen his pride back on Coruscant, where he boasted that he had been instructed to reveal his half of the information only to Palpatine. His confidence that Palpatine's favoritism would protect him from any sort of sanctions reminded me of many an Imperial bureaucrat from the Expanded Universe -- even though the similarity to the EU was unintentional, it emphasized the continuity from Republic Tarkin's pride to Imperial Tarkin's arrogance. This belief in the supremacy of Palpatine's authority also led him to promise Anakin that he would commend the young Jedi to the Chancellor. (Side note: Most unnecessary commendation ever!)

Anakin, for his part, showed a growing allegiance to the Chancellor and away from the Jedi Order. Based on his praise of Tarkin, it was clear that Anakin was starting to see the captain's side of the Jedi debate. Anakin's personal history (Tusken Raiders, anyone?) reminded him that sometimes the Jedi principles of restraint and pacifism were inappropriate, particularly in a time of war. The interesting thing about the philosophical clash here is that neither side is totally right. Tarkin is correct that the Jedi are not perfectly suited to command armies and make battle judgments, but Obi-Wan's concern about where such militaristic thinking can take someone is absolutely justified. Speaking of Obi-Wan, I don't think he ever looked more nervous about Anakin's opinions than he did in Citadel Rescue. As this series edges closer to Revenge of the Sith, I find myself more and more impressed with how various episodes depict Master Kenobi's anxieties bubbling to the surface.

Ahsoka was also an important character to watch in this episode. She, like Obi-Wan, was disturbed by Anakin's friendship with Tarkin. However, she was also generally disgusted with the Republic Captain, unlike Obi-Wan, whose tact might have prevented him from grimacing as much as the young Togruta. By including those close-up shots of Ahsoka's face, the TCW team is depicting Ahsoka's growing ability to perceive potential problems for her Order. Of course, grimacing and looking worried only formed a small part of Ahsoka's role in Citadel Rescue. Her primary role was safeguarding Master Piell's vital hyperspace information, a duty of which she was especially proud when discussing it in front of Tarkin. It was clear that Master Piell's insistence on entrusting her with the data strengthened her sense of duty to the Jedi Order. Add in the fact that she killed Sobeck with a lightsaber through the back (a move infamously employed by Anakin and Asajj Ventress) and it's clear that Ahsoka is continuing to grow up right before our eyes.

Even so, Anakin and Obi-Wan were still interested in whether or not Master Koon had assigned Ahsoka to the mission. It almost seemed as if they wanted an excuse to scold Ahsoka for lying to them about her presence on the rescue team. Yet Koon's response reflected the fact that Ahsoka played an important role in the mission. "It appears I did" was Koon's rhetorically slippery way of saying that while he didn't assign Ahsoka to the mission, Obi-Wan and Anakin should be grateful that she lied and helped out anyway.

Citadel Rescue was packed to the brim with miscellaneous things I enjoyed, some just momentarily and some for their broader implications. Dooku's instructions to Sobeck about the hyperspace data fell into the latter category. I've already alluded to this during my discussion of Tarkin, but I want to make it clear that I am extremely happy to see the Citadel trilogy tie into the attack on Coruscant. It wasn't necessary for the secret information to be about hyperspace routes (I don't think anyone was skeptical of how the Separatists managed to plot such a course in ROTS), but I appreciated that Piell and Tarkin's data consisted of something with future ramifications.

I also liked the fact that R2-D2's battle droids went out like heroes. Well, okay, they were crushed to bits without helping much, but that didn't stop me from enjoying their role in the episode. I, in my lonesome appreciation of battle droid humor, nearly shed a tear when one of them told R2, "It's been an honor to serve with you," and when another one (or maybe the same one?) started to scream "All for one and one for all!" before being cut down. Of course, R2 himself proved useful on several occasions in this episode. I think it was adorable when he used his electroshock gizmo to defeat a commando droid that landed at his "feet" during the fighting. Plus, his heroic jet-fueled launch into battle and ingenious use of smokescreen allowed a clone trooper to disable Sobeck's STAP. All in all, while his battle droid squad was only good for a distraction (and some quick laughs on my part), R2 himself performed quite well. As Ric Oli? once said, "That little droid did it!"

The inclusion of Saesee Tiin and Adi Gallia as members of the "rescue team's rescue team" also enhanced Citadel Rescue by drawing on the broader cast of Jedi characters. This episode is also notable for featuring Saesee Tiin's first line of dialog. (I don't even think he screamed when Palpatine cut him down in Episode III.) And speaking of drawing on new and unexplored elements to enhance the story, I was extremely glad to see Sobeck use anoobas as a method of tracking the Jedi. Sure, they reminded me of the voxyn from the New Jedi Order novel series, but that just made them even cooler. Battle droids, as we've seen, are largely useless for tracking Jedi, and when they finally catch our heroes, they're not the best at ... well, battle. Introducing a more vicious enemy was a nice way to spice things up in this episode, and as we saw with Master Piell, anoobas are both nimble and ferocious. Their snarls were just foreign enough to work in the context of the GFFA while also being familiar enough to grip us with the fear we might have for a feral hyena or a rabid dog in the real world. Interestingly, the Citadel Rescue credits forgot to include a disclaimer to the effect of "No Jedi Death Dogs were harmed in the making of this episode."

Judging from Twitter, however, one thing that certainly suffered in the airing of this episode was the EU community's opinion of The Clone Wars. I don't mean to suggest that everyone who enjoys Star Wars books and comics has expressed outrage about Citadel Rescue. In fact, I believe that those who are angry or disappointed about Master Even Piell's death represent only a small fraction of the EU-loving community (itself a small component of Star Wars fandom, if we're being honest). Most people understand that the EU is available to be heeded or ignored by George Lucas, Dave Filoni, and the rest of the writers. Most people also understand that authoritative Star Wars material comes from George Lucas and the people with whom he works closely, and that this material, representing as it does the truth of the Star Wars universe, trumps ancillary material like EU novels and comics.

However, I have seen more than a few people who believe that the novel Coruscant Nights I: Jedi Twilight, which first depicted Even Piell's death in the aftermath of Order 66 on Coruscant, should not have been overturned by this episode, and that the writers' (in their opinion) pointless use of Even Piell demonstrated a desire on the part of George Lucas to delegitimize more of the EU. I could not disagree more with this interpretation. I believe that the creator should be allowed to create, and that is what George, along with a team of highly-capable writers, is doing. The EU is not on the same level as The Clone Wars, and everyone who reads EU material needs to understand that. Don't get me wrong, I love the EU and I own almost every book. However, I also understand that one's enjoyment of EU material should come from the quality of the writing itself and not from the literature's place in the overall Star Wars canon.

There can be no expectation that George and his team will defer to the EU. It is comparable to fan fiction as far as T- and G-level storytelling is concerned, except that TCW writers are likely to be more aware of EU than fan fiction. To the extent that Lucas Licensing regulates the EU (and not fan fiction), the wealth of officially-published Star Wars literature can be considered "authorized." However, that does not mean that George is contradicting himself when he decides that the authoritative Star Wars story should involve something that goes against the EU. In that moment, the difference between authorized and authoritative becomes clear, whether or not certain diehard EU fans choose to accept that fact.

I realize that I digressed from my review, but I needed to get that EU lesson out of the way so I could discuss the actual implications of Master Piell's death. First of all, it explains Piell's absence from the Jedi Council in Episode III. Second of all, because of Piell's position in the Jedi Order, Citadel Rescue has the distinction of dealing The Clone Wars's most devastating blow to the Jedi Order so far. Piell may not be a major character as far as Star Wars is concerned, but he was a prominent Jedi whose place on the Council meant that he carried a great deal of stature in the Order. His death, as we saw at the end of the episode, is deeply troubling even to Yoda and Mace Windu, normally two of the most steadfast Jedi on the Council.

Thirdly, Piell's death forced Ahsoka to take on enormous responsibility and to witness firsthand the effects of war on the Jedi Order. In his final moments, Piell dropped his gruff manner to tell Ahsoka that she had unwittingly become the most vital part of a mission to which she hadn't even been assigned. That placed a tremendous weight on Ahsoka's shoulders to memorize the information, and I doubt that carrying Master Piell's body back to the rescue team was much fun either.

I want to commend the good folks at Skywalker Sound for their excellent work in depicting Piell's demise aurally. His death scene featured a fantastic choral track that evoked despair and gloom in viewers much like his actual death must have done for Ahsoka. This haunting music carried over into Piell's cremation, and when combined with Ahsoka's look of sorrow and the dramatic wide shot of Piell's body flowing over the lava cliff, it made for a depressing moment.

Speaking of audio work, the team behind this show also deserves praise for a particularly chilling music choice. I think it's important to keep using what I call "Imperial foreshadowing" to illustrate the clear progression from Anakin to Vader that takes place in the lead-up to Episode III. That's why I was extremely pleased to hear a faint strain of the Imperial March when Anakin and Tarkin shake hands in the episode's final moments. Bravo, TCW team, for continuing to connect the dots, both subtly and overtly, through the use of impressive and creepy omens.

Speaking of heavy foreshadowing, I think it's important to revisit that final scene in more detail. When Anakin told his former Master that "we need people like" Tarkin in the Clone Wars, Obi-Wan's concerned reply was that Tarkin's approach was a slippery slope and that the Jedi needed to retain their principles in order to preserve their honor. Indeed, Anakin's statement "if we aren't capable of doing everything necessary to win" sounds a lot like Tarkin's rationale for the Death Star and Palpatine's justification for the crushing Imperial might he eventually oversees. Citadel Rescue's opening "fortune cookie" was "Without honor, victory is hollow." Given that Obi-Wan's warning about honor was the last line of dialog in the episode (and given the strain of familiar music that I already mentioned), it felt like the entire escape from Lola Sayu was bookended by Order 66 foreshadowing. In fact, that was one of the reasons why I enjoyed Citadel Rescue so much. When you combine this ominous conclusion with the preceding twenty-one minutes of fast-paced action, you get what I consider to be one of the best episodes of Season 3 and of The Clone Wars as a whole.


You can find all of my TCW episode reviews on TFN's review index page.

Related Stories

March 18, 2011   TCW: Season 3 Finale Screening At Lucasfilm
March 14, 2011   Watch TCW: "Citadel Rescue" Online
March 12, 2011   TCW: "Citadel Rescue" Episode Guide
March 12, 2011   Learn To Draw TCW Even Piell
March 11, 2011   Chat With Chewie Before His TCW Debut!
March 9, 2011   Preview TCW: "Citadel Rescue"
March 7, 2011   Watch TCW: "Counterattack" At SW.com
March 6, 2011   TCW: Interview With Christian Taylor
March 5, 2011   TCW Yoda Added To The SW Soundboards
March 5, 2011   TCW: "Counterattack" Episode Guide
March 3, 2011   TCW: Talkin' Tarkin With Stephen Stanton

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