The Clone Wars Season 5 Episode 9: A Necessary Bond
There are good episodes and then there are great episodes. A Necessary Bond, the finale of the "Young Jedi" story arc of The Clone Wars Season Five, was most certainly a great episode. I was pretty critical of its predecessor, Bound for Rescue, but there's no question that this episode set the arc on the right path just in time for its exciting and amusing conclusion. By relying once again on the brilliance of Hondo Ohnaka, and by sprinkling in some homages to Revenge of the Sith along the way, A Necessary Bond kept things interesting all the way through its fantastic final scene.
There is no question in my mind that Hondo Ohnaka is the second-best thing that The Clone Wars has introduced to the Star Wars universe (only Ahsoka offers more return on story investment). Every scene Hondo's in is guaranteed to be episodic gold. I said at the beginning of this story arc that Hondo's attack on the younglings' ship was meant to establish that he isn't a "good guy," but in A Necessary Bond, thanks to an unfortunate series of events in his sector of space, Hondo found himself allying with the very heroes he had been trying to attack a few episodes ago. It is a testament to his multi-faceted personality that the series was able to pull off such a stark about-face in his attitude from arc opener to arc finale.
General Grievous' arrival on Florrum and the waves of battle droids taking over his base once again forced Hondo to work with the Jedi. This helped to emphasize that like any good opportunist, his allegiances are constantly shifting in the face of new enemies and new challenges. I enjoyed seeing Hondo, ever the businessman, acting nonchalant in front of his crew when Grievous showed up. I don't know if he really thought he could negotiate with the cyborg general, but he surely wanted to look brave in front of his pirates, even after Grievous grabbed him by the throat.
"This is an outrage!" Hondo shouted, either putting on a really good act or seriously refusing to believe that the Separatists, who don't care about his business interests, would simply take what they wanted. I found myself realizing that, because of how territorial and independent he is, Hondo couldn't believe what he was seeing as battle droids stalked into his neck of the woods and shot up the place. It seemed to me that Grievous' line "You have a new master" was what set Hondo on the path to accepting his alliance with the Jedi. Hondo is used to being his own master, and only this kind of threat can motivate him to work with people who so recently cost him so dearly.
Hondo's conduct toward those people showed him to be quite adept at changing tactics and adopting new attitudes. When Ahsoka and the younglings rescued him, he asked to see the kids' lightsabers. Even though he sounded dismissive as he said "Show me your swords, tiny Jedi," I think what he was really doing was motivating them by getting them to demonstrate their accomplishments. He did it again with Katooni when he asked her to build her weapon in front of him. I'm sure he was genuinely fascinated by the process, but he also seemed to be interested in giving her something to be proud of before the fighting started.
He seemed to confirm my opinion when Ahsoka took him aside and they discussed his "big show." Hondo explained to her that he had made a big deal about the younglings' lightsabers to instill some confidence in them, because he was nervous about how they would fare. "I may be a pirate," he said, "but I do not like taking children into battle." Ahsoka tried to point out that he had recently endangered the lot of them with his attack on their ship, but he brushed off that comment by saying that it was a new day. To me, this proved how temperamental he is. Before, he had been motivated by profit, but now that they were all fighting for their lives, he wanted to make sure that the younglings were as ready as they could be.
In a downright heartening turn of events, Hondo warmed up to the younglings as time went on. He developed a special connection with Katooni -- a "necessary bond," you might even say -- beginning when she jumped on his speeder and said, "I got your back," prompting him to reply uneasily, "Great. I ... feel so safe." When they arrived at Hondo's secret hangar, Katooni realized that he was going to abandon the others, but she succeeded in convincing him to fight his urge to escape and do something heroic for once.
Hondo's exasperated sigh once he realized that he was going to listen to Katooni made me think of Chewbacca convincing a reluctant Han Solo to go back and rescue Luke Skywalker at the Battle of Yavin. Their stories in those crucial moments are eerily similar: A loner figure who, perhaps against his better judgment, develops an attachment to a young Jedi and subsequently agrees to risk his life unnecessarily. Hondo's bond with Katooni affected her as much as it affected him.
While Katooni taught Hondo the value of sticking your neck out for others, his actions led her to reevaluate her impression of him; perhaps their experience even taught her that you can't judge a book by its cover. When Hondo nodded to Katooni as he boarded his ship at the end of the episode, it was an acknowledgment that they had both learned something that day. He seemed to be saying, Yes, even I have a heroic side and know when to think of others.
Hondo's brilliance in A Necessary Bond went beyond his opportunistic change of heart and subsequent learning experience. The Weequay pirate delivered on all fronts in this episode. From his behavior to his comments, it was like he knew that he was playing an archetypal character on a TV show and had decided to embrace that role. Lines like "You are welcome to join our merry band of pirates" gave him an awareness of his role in the story that almost broke the fourth wall, but it was always done in a good way.
After watching this episode several times, I have come to the conclusion that Hondo listing his bill to Obi-Wan at the end of the episode is probably the funniest scene in The Clone Wars thus far. Jim Cummings is quite simply masterful in his performance as Hondo. I laughed out loud, something I rarely do while watching this show, when Hondo said, "The cost of the fuel I had to use -- lot of fuel; the general wear and tear on my men and equipment -- a couple of them died, I think." Obi-Wan's reaction to Hondo's story made this scene even better. When Obi-Wan expressed skepticism about Hondo's motivations, the pirate adopted an indignant tone. "The thanklessness! What an accusation! I will send you my bill!" Hondo's melodramatic exit was one of his character's funniest moments, and Obi-Wan and Commander Cody giving each other a look after his departure made it even better.
This was pretty clearly Hondo's episode, but Ahsoka had some noteworthy moments as well. Most significantly, she was able to put aside her fury at Hondo for attacking her ship in order to work with him. When she showed the pirates that it was in their mutual best interest to work together, she demonstrated diplomatic tact worthy of a Jedi Master. Like a true Jedi, however, she accentuated her diplomacy with a warning about the pirates' dim hopes of survival without her and the younglings' help. Her voice had a hard edge to it when she told them, "With my help, you stand a better chance."
Later, after Ahsoka rescued Hondo, her matter-of-fact, straight-down-to-business attitude showed how she was progressing from an emotional person to a more pragmatic one. Her ideological frustration with Hondo would have clouded her judgment in previous seasons, but like Katooni was starting to realize, the galaxy was full of people who couldn't be crammed into neat ideological categories, and sometimes working with unsavory types was the only way to win the day -- or just escape with your life.
Hovering just beneath the surface of this episode, occasionally bubbling up to the surface with obvious visual and thematic parallels, was a strong sense of foreshadowing that pointed toward Revenge of the Sith. Ahsoka and the younglings' march through the droid lines had an Order 66 sort of tinge to it, especially with the music making it seem more desperate than it ended up being. The younglings worked together in perfect harmony, predictably suffering no casualties, but the droids' overwhelming numbers made me think of the Jedi Order's eventual betrayal by and doomed struggle against the clone troopers. Even General Grievous' pursuit of the heroes on his speeder platform reminded me of the scene in Episode III where Obi-Wan pursued him across Utapau.
By far the most obvious Order 66 foreshadowing sequence was the final battle between Grievous and the Jedi. As Grievous skittered toward the Jedi and drew his lightsabers, the music drew heavily on string instruments and became downright creepy, like something out of a horror movie. I suspected that a scene like this would occur in the episode, and I did not want the younglings to face Grievous without Ahsoka present, because in that case, anything other than a slaughter would have been absurd. Luckily, Ahsoka was there, as was Slave I, in a nice nod to the continuity of previous adventures on Florrum.
Ahsoka fighting Grievous was still not nearly a fair fight, but her agility saved her life on numerous occasions. I thought of Order 66 again when Grievous grabbed Ahsoka's face with his leg and flipped her over onto the ground. If this were Season 6, I would have been mentally preparing myself to witness the end of Ahsoka's life. It almost seemed like Dave Filoni was teasing that eventuality with the final fight scene in this episode.
A Necessary Bond continued this season's creative approach to camerawork and enhanced the cinematic quality of this episode. Several shots stood out to me. One was the sweeping shot of the Republic cruiser sitting on the plateau as Ganodi and R2 prepared to lift off. The long opening chase sequence was perhaps not the best use of an entire act, but it had great music and sound effects and was framed in a dramatic way. There were numerous sweeping and tracking shots that creatively depicted the pursuit, like the shot that tracked across the younglings' ship as Ahsoka stood on top of it and deflected blaster bolts.
I want to give a shout-out to the two "good guy" droids who played small but enjoyable roles in this episode. The ever-reliable R2-D2 had his moment when he piloted the younglings' ship up to a pair of droid guards, distracting them so that Ahsoka and the others could sneak inside the prison. I really enjoyed watching the battle droids interacting with R2, with one of them praising him ("You captured this tank? Not bad for an astromech.") and then asserting his authority ("Do not get smart with me, I outrank you."). R2, a consistent source of low-key amusement, played his part perfectly by acting mollified.
The other droid in this episode, the newly-repaired Professor Huyang, undoubtedly raised more than a few eyebrows by saying that he was there when Master Yoda went to get his lightsaber crystal. Coming at the very end of a story arc that was all about these younglings growing and learning, Huyang's comment was not simply a reminder of how old he is. It was also a reminder that even the venerable Master Yoda was once just like Katooni, Ganodi, Petro, Zatt, Byph, and Gungi. Beyond that, it was a reminder of the incredibly longevity of both the Jedi Order and its rituals. Finally, it was a blatant tease to the audience that, hey, by the way, this droid has a story that you would probably kill to hear.
Huyang's comment about Yoda, followed by Obi-Wan declaring that "You have survived an ordeal few your age could," ended the episode and the story arc. The droid professor's implication that these younglings were following in the footsteps of legendary Jedi, coupled with Obi-Wan's praise on a job well done, together formed the perfect capstone for the arc. All of these younglings learned many things during this "ordeal," especially Petro, who honed his natural leadership abilities, and Katooni, whose bond with Hondo taught her about shades of grey. As they prepare to become full-fledged Padawans and go on missions with older, more experienced Jedi, they will need to draw on the knowledge and wisdom they gained from this adventure.
It's impossible to miss the parallels being drawn between Ahsoka and these younglings. She too has been learning from her missions, from Christophsis to Onderon, and she was once dewy-eyed and bushy-tailed like the younglings she just protected. The "Young Jedi" story arc's best legacy may be its reminder to viewers that everyone starts somewhere, even Yoda, and that no matter what form the journey takes, it never really ends. By throwing together Hondo Ohnaka and a ship full of junior Jedi, A Necessary Bond delivered hilarity, poignancy, excitement, and foreshadowing -- a strong combination that resulted in a solid conclusion to this story arc.