As the second episode in a three-part Boba Fett story arc, R2 Come Home was perfectly placed to give us more insight into Boba Fett's character and show us his development as part of Aurra Sing's bounty hunter team. In addition to doing just that, this episode delivered some of the best R2-D2 moments we've ever seen in The Clone Wars. The episode was a little more like a side story amidst the Boba Fett drama than a piece of the drama itself, but that didn't make me like it any less. In fact, I was very impressed with this episode, and I think it succeeded on a number of levels.
First, the sights and sounds. From the very beginning of the episode, we were treated to great landscape shots. The opening images of Anakin and Mace approaching Kilian's downed cruiser really gave us a sense of scale. The ship was massive, and in its wake it left massive destruction. The landscape itself was marvelously animated. Throughout the episode we saw little embers flying all over the place, which was a nice touch given the setting. I also thought the visuals and the music shined when Mace and Anakin approached the entrance to the cruiser. The spooky music, combined with the background wind noise, perfectly complemented the pillars of light, overhead camera angles, and shots from a distance to convey the sense that the Jedi and their droids were being watched. The animation quality was also evident in the shots of Anakin and Mace walking across the bridge as the ship creaks precariously beneath them. Every little background detail was accounted for, and the ship looked and sounded positively spooky.
The shot of Slave I attacking R2's fighter was also great. The two craft speeding along the flaming cruiser was a cool image. When we saw that in the finale preview, I thought it would be Anakin in the cockpit, based on the evasive maneuvers. R2 seems to be a very good pilot. Another cool camera angle was the shot of the two ships speeding away from Vanqor as Slave I's guns blazed. At the end of the episode, when Ahsoka and Plo Koon rescue Anakin and Mace, we were treated to more animation excellence. We got another sweeping landscape shot as the gunships moved in, showing the damage left in the ruined cruiser's wake. I really liked the shot of the swirling dust clearing as a gunship appeared through a hole in the bridge. We also got some great angles of the gunship tethered to the cruiser's bridge for the rescue. Seeing the Jedi straining to stop the bridge from falling apart emphasized the enormity of their task, and by all accounts the Republic forces got out at the last minute.
As befits the middle part of this Boba Fett story arc, Aurra Sing and her team formed half of the story in this episode -- and what a half it was. The characters' voices were solid throughout and helped sell the characters; Daniel Logan and Jaime King need to return to this show, because they are incredibly talented. Apart from the way they sounded, their actions also spoke volumes about their personalities. The dead clone bodies that the Jedi find were a creepy reminder of the fact that these bounty hunters were definitely still in play, despite being hidden for most of the episode. The execution of the soldiers is a departure from Boba's previous dealings with clone troopers, but maybe Aurra actually shot them. It seems to me that Boba would have been more hesitant to eliminate those troopers, but then again, they were in his way as he sought to take his hostages. Either way, the bodies were our first indication that there was still trouble afoot on Vanqor.
One of the best images of the episode was the Jango Fett helmet that the bounty hunters left as a calling card. It was great to see Mace putting it all together, because you could feel the tension in his voice and you could see his brain's servos working as he figured out the threat. When we first actually knew that the bounty hunters were present, it was through a binocular shot as Boba watched Mace "die." I thought it was cool how they kept the menace unseen and then finally revealed it through a "watching shot" like that. The music that followed as the bounty hunters discussed their hostages further added to their malevolence and increased the tension as viewers pondered their fates.
We had already met Boba, Aurra, and even Bossk on The Clone Wars, so the only newcomer here was the grumpy and despicable Castas. He was really annoying, but that was obviously intentional, as the writers wanted to imbue the villainous group with some deadly tension. I found it interesting that, while Boba and Aurra seemed committed to their cause, Castas kept complaining -- even when he hadn't taken any risks, as Boba reminded him. Castas definitely fit the mould of a belligerent money-grubbing coward. You could also really tell that Castas despised Boba. This was evident when we saw Boba's over eagerness to enter the downed ship. He's still learning about balancing enthusiasm with a healthy degree of caution, and to that effect, he's almost crushed by debris. Aurra gives him a look that says, "Sometimes I don't know why we're in this together." Castas's line about splitting the money in Boba's absence was great -- you can tell that this kid is playing with the big boys (and girls) now.
Boba and his team aside, to me this episode was much more about R2-D2. The little droid excelled from the very beginning of the episode. I enjoyed the scene where R2 started getting the creeps about Vanqor. The shots of R2 wandering around on Vanqor reminded me a lot of the scene in A New Hope where the Jawas watch R2 head through the desert. Of course, the Gundarks eventually emerge and start attacking R2 and Mace's droid. As usual, R2 was right to be worried. I really did feel bad for Mace's droid when the Gundarks made short work of it, but at least we got to see R2 in action for a moment. Now I know why pulling the arms off a Gundark is an impressive feat! Later, when the surviving Gundark returns to menace R2, I laughed as the astromech tried his oil slick and his feeble grappler arms while defending himself. It reminded me of a little child vainly struggling against an adult's grasp. I was very proud of R2 when he used his astro-noggin to eliminate the creature.
The TCW team did a great job showing the relationship between Anakin and R2 in this episode. I liked Anakin's line, "He's got a lot of personality," because that speaks to a number of scenes from the PT, as well as many from the OT. Anakin treats R2 as a friend, not a servant, which is refreshingly anthropomorphic. Of course, Mace is disdainful of Anakin for encouraging his droid's erratic behavior. In a way, Mace is right -- R2 is just another attachment that Anakin can't afford to lose, and as we've already seen on The Clone Wars, that could cause problems when R2's in danger. Then again, it's a good thing that R2 has such personality, because as we've seen many times in both TCW and the films, the little droid can often accomplish tasks that his robotic colleagues can't.
The scene where R2 found Mace and Anakin trapped under rubble was very touching. His sad warble, coupled with Matt Lanter's excellent voice work for a crushed Anakin, lent a lot of weight to the moment. After that, we saw a very determined R2 attempting to protect his friend and his friend's boss. R2 slowing down the bounty hunters was easily the most entertaining part of the episode. Other parts delivered for other reasons (the fighter chase later was thrilling) but this scene made it clear that R2's personality is a benefit, not -- as Mace thinks -- a deficit. R2's trickery also showed us that you don't need to be big or armed to the teeth to put up a good fight. R2's whistling as he moved the boxes into place was a nice touch; he was clearly enjoying his antics, in a very "organic" way.
R2's flight to Coruscant was very cool; I liked his trick of heading for the second hyperspace ring. Outsmarting Boba Fett is not something everyone can claim they've done. Of course, it's not all fun and games for R2, who must rush into the Jedi briefing room to deliver a frantic message. R2's urgency on Coruscant was hilarious. It lent a lot to his persona to see him brushing aside two astromechs in the hallway, falling down the briefing room stairs (that explains how he got down the stairs in Jabba's place, right?), and fighting with a fellow astromech at the holoprojection station. He clearly has a sense of duty to Anakin and that friendship makes his character so endearing.
R2 emitted a happy beep when Ahsoka said that Artoo had saved Anakin and Mace. Every sound he made in this episode contributed to his feisty and loyal personality, and his interaction with Mace at the end of the episode was no exception. He must know that Mace didn't much like him at the beginning of their time on Vanqor, but he's proud of what he's accomplished and pleased that Mace gave him the credit he deserved. Anakin's line, "That's definitely more praise than I ever get," and Mace's follow-up murmur, were added treats that spoke volumes about the relationship between the two Jedi. Anakin's respect for -- and trust in -- R2 was also touching, yet familiar to PT movie fans and PT EU lovers alike. This whole episode emphasized how close the Jedi is to his droid, and how often that pays off.
R2 Come Home straddled the space between Boba's introduction and what I can only assume will be a climactic season finale featuring the young boy. It's considered part two in Boba's three-part introductory arc. Based on this information alone, you'd expect this episode -- despite the title -- to provide more of a look into Boba's character. We certainly got some of that, but this episode was much more about R2-D2 than Boba Fett. And since I think we're all fans of the Star Wars movies here, more R2-D2 character exposition is always a good thing. (Side note: We saw enough of Boba's team in action this week that I felt the focus on R2 didn't detract from the broader plot of this arc.)
Even though this was an R2 episode, one of my favorite scenes did deal with Boba Fett. It was when Mace and Anakin discussed Jango and Boba. I love hearing TCW characters reference events from the movies, and I particularly enjoyed hearing Mace talk about the Battle of Geonosis, because he almost sounded regretful when he mentioned Boba seeing Jango die. Then, as soon as Boba was mentioned, we heard the angelic music from Death Trap -- I can't get enough of that music.
I've been fascinated with R2's character since he first rolled down the hallway of the Tantive IV in ANH, and as a fan of the crafty little robot, this episode definitely delivered for me. Clearly Anakin and R2 have a great working relationship; we've seen this time and time again in the PT. They're good friends, and each one trusts the other, albeit with the requisite degree of healthy skepticism (like when Anakin brushed off R2's nervousness in the beginning of this episode). R2 Come Home may have been the midpoint of a Boba Fett arc, but R2-D2 was the star of this twenty-two-minute show.