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TFN Review: Cargo of Doom

Posted By Eric on October 3, 2009

The Clone Wars Season 2 Episode 2: Cargo of Doom

The second Clone Wars episode opens with two pitched battles, one on the planet Devaron, and one in orbit above it. Devaron is where Jedi Master Bolla Ropal was stationed -- until bounty hunter Cad Bane came gunning for him. Bane captures the Rodian Jedi and brings him aboard a Separatist frigate, hoping to force the Jedi Master to unlock his stolen Holocron. The bounty hunter suspends him in a levitation field and shocks him with electric charges. I really like this scene, because it serves as further evidence that Bane really isn't pulling any punches. He tells his battle droids to increase the voltage, ignoring one droid's warning that doing so might kill the Jedi.

Predictably, Bane ignores this warning. Even more predictably, Bane's decision does, in fact, kill Master Ropal. (Side note: with two dead Jedi in as many installments, it is already clear that Season Two will be much, much darker.) The music in this scene is an excellent counterpart to Ropal's death. Some of the best Clone Wars music pops up in the darkest scenes. It struck me as interesting that Bane wouldn't keep Ropal around longer. He might have tried using the Jedi as a hostage in exchange for access to the Holocron. Perhaps it is a testament to Bane's intelligence that he realized that a hostage strategy wouldn't work.

As the battle rages on, Cad Bane is informed by a battle droid that the enemy has destroyed one of their cruisers. Bane sees that the commander of the Republic flagship is matching him move for move, and acknowledges that this commander is a bold one. He orders his frigate pilot to bring them about for a full retreat. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, it's clear that Bane is smart enough to recognize when he's been beaten. But on the other hand, we didn't really see enough of the battle to establish that Bane was being thouroughly routed. I would have liked to see more evidence of the Separatists being beaten back. The Clone Wars team is very good at space battles, and I wish they'd had more time to show us this particular one.

As the Separatist flagship -- crippled beyond repair -- inches away from the Republic warships, Anakin and Yularen have a brief argument over how best to retrieve the stolen Holocron. Anakin eventually devises a plan to use the cruiser's complement of AT-TEs as boarding craft for the clone troopers. Yularen protests, but Ahsoka seems impressed and sides with Anakin. This is one of the most telling scenes in the episode. Not only do we see Anakin further straining his relationship with Yularen (and by extension, the Republic military), but we also see another flash of tactical genius from Master Skywalker. His strategy reflects not only his planning proficiency, but also his mechanical brilliance. This is the kind of Anakin that The Clone Wars needs to show more often.

As the Republic AT-TEs land on the Separtist flagship, Bane receives a communiqu? from Nute Gunray. The Nemoidians, in true greedy fashion, are more concerned about the monetary value of their four lost cruisers than the potential gold mine of a Jedi Holocron. Bane deals with the Nemoidians, promising them that they will be repaid. Meanwhile, the Jedi and clones have disembarked from the AT-TEs and are fighting battle droids on the surface of the Separatist ship.

I'd like to take a brief moment to address battle droid humor. There's a significant deal of it when the Jedi arrive on the bridge of the Separatist ship. Two battle droids argue over who is the commander -- each wants the other to assume responsibility and thereby be destroyed. (They're both destroyed anyway.) I was never a huge complainer when it came to battle droid antics, but I will say that it's become more manageable in this season. The comedy is less Jar Jar and more C-3PO at this point.

Meanwhile, Anakin and Ahsoka learn that Bane has acquired the Kyber crystal from Master Ropal. Anakin orders the ship's escape pods destroyed, and has Rex secure the vessel's landing bay. As the self-destruct sequence begins, Yularen warns Anakin to get off the ship. But in true Skywalker fashion, Anakin refuses. He is blinded by his need to see this mission through -- much like his apprentice in the first episode, although this isn't addressed until later. I like that the Clone Wars team is painting Anakin with a progressively darker and more intense brush. They may not be directly foreshadowing yet, but you can see how Anakin is drawing closer to the Dark Side with each rash move.

Anakin and Ahsoka arrive in the hangar bay, where Bane is waiting for them with an army of droids. He disables the artificial gravity, but the clones have been trained for this. Still, it's a dangerous battle in the hangar, as a ruptured ammunition canister would spell death for all aboard. Bane and Anakin have a great mano-y-mano, and Anakin delivers a spectacular kick to Bane right in the face. When I saw that move at the end of Season One in an early S2 trailer, I was wishing October would come sooner. Unfortunately, Anakin still fails to retrieve the Holocron, because R2-D2 reactivates the gravity at just the wrong moment. As Anakin saves a falling clone trooper, Bane springs his trap. He dashes out of the hangar toward safety, and sure enough, Ahsoka darts after him. She pursues the bounty hunter through a set of blast doors -- which Bane promptly locks behind him, thereby sealing Ahsoka off from her Master. Ahsoka falling into Cad Bane's trap shows that she is learning more than she bargained for from Anakin. She, like her Master, is always vulnerable to hubris.

Two excellent Prequel Trilogy homages crop up as Ahsoka chases Bane. Anakin, seeing what has happened, rushes after her, yelling, "We'll take him together!" This is the exact line that Obi-Wan shouted at his Padawan during their fateful duel with Count Dooku on Geonosis. The other PT homage is a throwback to The Phantom Menace. In an attempt to reach Ahsoka, Anakin plunges his lightsaber into the blast door, beginning the slow process of cutting through it. I wonder when Qui-Gon had a chance to teach Anakin that move.

Meanwhile, Ahsoka has managed to flip Bane onto the ground, but just as she is about to apprehend him, he turns the tables on her. Bane grabs Ahsoka's leg and uses his armored wrist gauntlet to deliver a stun charge, rendering her unconscious. Anakin senses this, and with a renewed sense of urgency he charges after Ahsoka. Back aboard the Republic flagship, Yularen sees a huge power surge that is coursing over the Separatist vessel. He suggests that Anakin return to safety as soon as possible. But Anakin refuses.

This is perhaps the most poignant moment in the whole episode, and simultaneously one of the strongest pieces of evidence that Dave Filoni's team knows exactly how to write Anakin Skywalker. His stubbornness in the face of imminent peril and his need to save those he cares about will ultimately lead to his downfall, and here the Clone Wars team gives us a stark reminder of this.

As Anakin nears Ahsoka, we see that Bane has locked her between the inner airlock shield doors and cold, hard vacuum. Bane rips off a piece of jewelry adorning Ahsoka's lekku (this is interesting, as it reminds me of another famed bounty hunter known for taking trophies). He also delivers another electric shock to Ahsoka, thereby generating more distress in the young Togruta and alerting Anakin that he must hurry. When Anakin finally arrives, Bane lays out the dilemma: if Anakin doesn't open the Holocron, he will eject Ahsoka into space. In another very touching scene, Anakin debates his options. Eventually he realizes that he has no choice. He agrees to do as Bane demands. I take no issue with Anakin's stupidity -- he should never abandon the mission simply to save one life -- because this is exactly how Anakin operates. Every Anakin scene leads closer to his Episode III path, and every one of these scenes increases my confidence in the Clone Wars team and their writing abilities.

Anakin uses the Force to open the Holocron and permit the Kyber crystal to enter the mysterious data cube, but he sees an opportunity to turn the tables, and calls his and Ahsoka's lightsabers to him. Bane senses the treachery and opens the airlock door. As Bane escapes (in a cowardly fashion remniscent of Dooku or Ziro the Hutt), Anakin destroys the barrier separating him from Ahsoka, who is now clinging to a bulkhead for dear life. He eventually seals the outside hatch and frees Ahsoka from Bane's shackles.

I have a problem with this scene. Space is a complete vacuum. That is to say, there's no pressure in space. Humans need to be in pressurized environments in order to function properly. If we were exposed to an utter lack of pressure, our body's liquids would explode out of our skin, eyes, etc. According to one source, humans will last for about 10 seconds before the lack of pressure kills us (pop!). Some might say that Ahsoka, as a Jedi, somehow managed to control her body's internal fluids. I don't buy this. She's only a Padawan, after all, and she doesn't know every trick in the book. Also, even if Ahsoka did miraculously manage to keep from exploding due to lack of pressure, the extreme cold of space would probably freeze her solid in less time than Anakin took to close the airlock. There is science in Star Wars, people, and conventional wisdom contradicts this scene.

Anyway, Bane's planned has worked, and he now has an activated Holocron in his possession. He reports his success to Nute Gunray, who naively suggests that Bane should send them all the Holocron's data. Bane has other plans, but before he can put them in place, he is stopped by two clone troopers sent by Rex to rescue Anakin and Ahsoka. Those two, meanwhile, are racing towards the hangar, where Rex has secured a shuttle and is making ready to depart. Anakin still doesn't want to leave. He insists that they stop Bane from escaping with the data-rich Holocron. But in a spectacular reversal of roles, Ahsoka sternly reminds him that there is no time for such heroics. This moment flies by in light of the rest of the plot, but its impact is not lost on me. Ahsoka, for all her faults, is clearly learning from Anakin in a plethora of ways. She understands that Anakin would have told her to forget the mission had their positions been reversed. She knows that there are certain times to question orders and other times when it's best to play along.

When Anakin and Ahsoka reach the hangar, they immediately jump onboard the rising Shuttle. They see one of the two clones fighting with Bane. The clone wins out in the end, blasting Bane to the floor. The clone jumps abord the shuttle as the ship explodes around them. On a side note, this ending bears a significant resemblance to the opening of the first Season Two episode, where Ahsoka is brought aboard by Anakin moments before her AT-TE walker explodes on the ground below them. Anakin asks the wounded clone if he was able to retrieve the Holocron from Bane. The clone grunts out a "No, sir." (Notice that while the voice isn't very clear, you can vaguely tell that it isn't voice actor Dee Bradley Baker.) When the group returns to the Republic flagship, Anakin says that he can still sense Cad Bane's presence in the Force. I won't spoil the "twist" more than I already have -- if you've seen the trailer for the third episode, you already know what the twist is. Let's just say even I didn't notice it at first.

I liked Cargo of Doom more than Holocron Heist. There was only one real plot problem (the airlock sequence), and the episode as a whole was full of heated battles and good character exposition. I liked seeing more Anakin foreshadowing, and I liked the darker tone the series has taken overall.

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