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TFN Review: Escape From Kadavo

Posted By Eric on January 7, 2012

The Clone Wars Season 4 Episode 13: Escape from Kadavo

In the final episode of the Zygerrian slavery story arc, Anakin let his inner turmoil slip, the queen took on Dooku and lost, Ahsoka showed off to her people, and Obi-Wan finally got back to a Republic cruiser where he could take a shower. (Seriously, look at him in the Kadavo slave camp. Kenobi? More like Ken-B.O.) I liked the way Escape from Kadavo sprinkled in a few movie references, dropped a hint or two about Anakin's un-Jedi-like anger, and generally concentrated on action sequences. Though we didn't get to see Dooku duel Anakin, he did play a small role in the aforementioned focus on young Skywalker. There was just enough emphasis on Anakin wrestling with his feelings to string that theme throughout the story; the focus on combat alleviated my worry that this trilogy's final act would beat the Anakin-used-to-be-a-slave horse to death.

Queen Scintel had relatively little screen time in this episode, which made sense, as her role was primarily to send Anakin away from Zygerria with deep-seated worries about his Jedi competency. Escape from Kadavo reintroduced us to the uneasy Anakin-Scintel "relationship," with the queen trying to needle Anakin about his "selfishness" in not agreeing to her offer. I liked the general dynamic between them, with her holding temporary sway over him due to her threats against the Togrutans. There was a flaw in her logic, however -- one that Anakin should have pointed out. By agreeing to stay with Scintel, Anakin would be selfishly putting the needs of a small group of Kiros villagers (and Obi-Wan and Rex) over the needs of the galaxy that he is sworn to protect. Shackled to his queen's side, by contract if not by physical restraints, he'd be unable to continue discharging his duties as a member of the Jedi Order, and given his legendary reputation, the galaxy would suffer. Thus, that outcome would have been the selfish one.

Anakin soon caught on to the fact that even Scintel had a boss. Based on her proud nature, I knew she'd bristle at Anakin calling Dooku her master. She was headstrong and brutal; she'd ruled her own domain for a long time; it was inconceivable to her that anyone could exert power over her. Unfortunately for her, she had no experience with the Sith's machinations. As she explained her Jedi-army scheme to Dooku, she actually still believed that she could convince him. Evidently Dooku's many encounters with Jedi Knights during the Clone Wars had failed to receive HoloNet News coverage. If those duels had come to her attention, she might have realized that the Sith apprentice would stop at nothing to destroy the Jedi Order, starting, if at all possible, with Anakin Skywalker.

The queen's plan was actually pretty good, and it might have been partially successful if no one had rescued Obi-Wan. I say "partially" because no matter how futile their situation might seem, they would never be so despondent or so traitorous as to serve in an army against the Republic. However, they might lose hope of escape and give up their rebellious nature if they were to witness one too many innocent deaths due to their actions. Even a Jedi can have his spirit broken, and Obi-Wan certainly looked like he was on the verge of collapse on Kadavo. The fact that the Jedi are captives to their own ideology hasn't been explored this way before, so it was interesting to hear the queen's idea of breaking them.

Even so, Dooku put Queen Scintel in her place by explaining just how Anakin was playing her. True to form, the obstinate ruler wouldn't hear a word of it. In a very Captain Kirk-like way, Anakin managed to practically seduce the queen into fearing for his well-being to the extent that she would give her life defying Dooku's wishes and rejecting his explanations. Her adviser accurately noted that she had lost the ability to rule her slave empire effectively due to her obsession with Anakin. The queen realized at the end that she was a pawn in a larger game. She didn't quite die redeemed, but she did offer a warning to Anakin that his chains hadn't all been broken yet. Just as he was a slave to his obsession with justice, she had been a slave to her obsession with him and the power he represented.

Anakin's grim facial expression indicated that he knew she was right -- there were still things within him that yearned to escape in the form of violence and retribution. You could almost see him quelling those emotions as he looked away from the queen's body. Dooku made a note of this deep conflict as well when he recognized Anakin's lack of compassion for "slaver scum." In doing so, he reminded us that he understood Anakin's past almost as well as Sidious did. He recognized that Anakin's hate came from his dark and troubled childhood. We see hints of Anakin's mounting irritation almost from the start of the episode. In his first scene, he's left to the company of two guards and, after R2 provides one of his classic distractions, gains the upper hand and dispatches them. Even after watching the previous two episodes to remind myself of the situation, I wasn't expecting Anakin to end the fight by throwing the second Zygerrian slaver over the palace wall to his death. We definitely saw shades of his anger even here in the early part of the episode.

This anger continued in the episode's second act, when Anakin breached the entrance to the Kadavo slave camp despite Obi-Wan's misgivings. Anakin, ordinarily willing to back down when innocents were threatened, was fed up with being caught in that web of manipulation and pushed forward despite the certainty of those innocents being harmed. He was intent on ending the slavers' threat before anyone else could get hurt. "It's good to see you're always willing to negotiate," he told Obi-Wan with near-contempt. Anakin ruthlessly cutting through the slavers he encountered inside was definitely in the top five grimmest scenes in the season so far. He's usually cutting through battle droids, and when he does kill sentients, it's not with this much menace. He was clearly disgusted with the slavers -- and Ahsoka didn't look far from feeling the same way about him. We got another hint of her concern for him when she glanced at the carnage he'd created.

No doubt Anakin's justification for such ruthlessness was a desire to end the slaver threat quickly so he would no longer be ensnared in the distressing hostage situation. Of course, his choice of the quick and easy path, even in those rather straightforward situations, was just another step on the road to the Dark Side. In saying "I'll let my fury peek out just a little bit so that I can resolve this and not have to worry about being captive to my emotions anymore," he was actually giving his emotions even more control over him. Thus, The Clone Wars rewards us with another glimpse of the galaxy's most promising Jedi skidding further down the road to Sith-hood. This theme, which pervaded the episode, was hinted at early on in Darth Sidious' statement to his apprentice as the latter's familiar solar sailer approached Zygerria. "Long have Sith Empires been built upon the backs of slaves," the gnarled visage pronounced via hologram. This is true literally, harkening back to the stories depicted in The Old Republic game and novels, and figuratively, as in Anakin's case.

Anakin and the queen's personal narratives in this episode formed the bulk of the character development in Escape from Kadavo, and the rest of my review will be general observations about this excellent action-packed episode. First of all, I thoroughly enjoyed the look and atmosphere of the Kadavo slave camp. Giving the baleful Keeper Agruss a floating chair from which to survey his captives was an excellent visual technique for elevating him above the prisoners. Speaking of the slave camp, I also noted a moment of beautiful visual symmetry during a scene change to that locale. The shot transitioned from Queen Scintel running her finger around the rim of her drink glass to a slave's food bowl being thrust toward him on Kadavo. The fact that the drink glass and the food bowl were the same shape, and were being framed from the same overhead angle, produced a very artistic segue. The moment acquired a dark tone when one considered the disparity between the queen's posh surroundings and the prison's bleakness.

The slavemaster's most famous captive, Obi-Wan Kenobi, fit right into the grim picture that the animators painted on Kadavo. He looked, to put it bluntly, quite terrible. The animation team did a great job with his and other slaves' facial expressions, but with him in particular, his grimace and his wide-eyed look perfectly conveyed his intense despair. Obi-Wan has taken a heavy beating in this story arc, and in the first few minutes of this episode in particular. You could really tell that he was losing hope following continued demonstrations of others suffering for his actions.

This episode's cinematic quality was built on several eye-popping explosions. The first was when the Kadavo facility's gun towers blew up Anakin's stolen ship. The animators raised the caliber of that moment even further by flinging a giant piece of debris over Anakin and Ahsoka's heads. The second explosion came when Plo Koon ordered his gunships to open fire on the facility at the end of the episode. That sequence was scored perfectly, with spirit-raising music that emphasized the liberation of the facility and the attendant destruction of it and the evil that it represented. True, the clone gunners killed a lot of slavers who were just standing around on various facility platforms, but those men weren't exactly innocent. Both of these scenes emphasized how far the series' animators have progressed in their abilities.

Two of the other nice moments in this episode stood out because I recognized them as movie references. Anakin cutting through the Kadavo slave camp's blast door was obviously an homage to Qui-Gon doing the same thing in The Phantom Menace. And Anakin taking out the gun towers by hijacking one of them was a reference to Chewbacca's similar action with AT-STs in Return of the Jedi. On a different note, I'm pretty sure I heard a TIE fighter sound effect as Plo Koon's Jedi starfighter streaked through Kadavo's atmosphere.

Speaking of the Republic rescue force, I want to note that there's something about the sight of a fleet of Republic cruisers dropping out of hyperspace that always brings a smile to my face. In this case, that fleet was led by Admiral Coburn, whom we've seen before, albeit briefly. I can't help but wonder if, as the series continues, we'll begin to see two or three regular Republic officers commanding the ships that aid our heroes -- Yularen, Coburn, perhaps one more. It's realistic to give the same officers control over the ships that accompany our heroes across the galaxy, since certain Jedi are assigned certain task forces to keep things organized. Plus, it's cheaper for Lucasfilm Animation to fall back on a handful of existing models if they can. In any event, I say bring on more Coburn!

Plo Koon, upon his arrival, ordered his squadron of Z-95s to form up and disable the towers. What was interesting about this moment was the name of the squadron under the command of Koon, widely known to be supervising director Dave Filoni's favorite Jedi. It was called the Wolf Pack. Not all fans may be aware of this, but Dave Filoni created a real-world "Wolf Pack" in August 2010 at Star Wars Celebration V. He formed the group to recognize prominent Star Wars fans who have had a noteworthy impact on the fan community, inducting The ForceCast's Jason Swank and Jimmy McInerney as the pack's first two members (or maybe wolf-brothers -- I don't know the proper term). It was nice to see his group get an in-universe counterpart in the Republic starfighter corps -- and naturally it had to be led by Plo Koon!

Speaking of wolves...well, okay, not really. But speaking of the ferocity one often observes in wolves, I was surprised and pleased to see Captain Rex step up to the plate in the final minutes of this episode. For some reason, when Keeper Agruss taunted Obi-Wan for his refusal to kill an unarmed combatant, I thought Anakin must burst through the door and slice off the villain's head. But then I remembered that Anakin was otherwise occupied at the moment, and my thoughts, in sync with the movement of the camera, turned to Rex. I really, really enjoyed the fact that he killed Keeper Agruss and then said, "I'm no Jedi." Both his action and his statement portend major shifts in his character. These shifts started as early as Season 1's The Deserter and came into sharp contrast with this season's Umbaran story arc. Such a killing would have been unthinkable for Rex earlier in the series, when he was a more rigid soldier, but as we've seen, he's changing.

Even as Rex distances himself from the character we saw in Seasons 1 and 2, he also separates himself from the philosophy of his lightsaber-wielding commanders. In some ways, that scene was even darker than when Anakin cut through the Zygerrian slavers. We know that The Clone Wars will end with a different clone-Jedi dynamic than it had when it began in Ambush, given the changes we've been observing in the clones -- and in particular, Rex and the 501st Legion. When we look back on the clone army after the series finale, among the harbingers of the show's conclusion will be the moment in Escape from Kadavo where Rex acted upon, and then elucidated, his ideological distance from the moral firmness of the Jedi Order.

In the episode's final scene, Ahsoka got a moment to shine as Anakin complemented "her creativity" in saving her people (although her solution seemed pretty obvious). As I watched her speak with the Kiros village leader, I had to wonder: Was their conversation meant to remind us that Ahsoka still has an identity beyond the Jedi Order -- perhaps among the people of Kiros? Was the brief talk supposed to tie her into the broader Togrutan community for future storytelling purposes? It seemed like the writer was trying to sprinkle in a dose of Ahsoka "doing her people proud" at the end of this intense, action-packed episode. I'm not saying it didn't work; just that it felt out of place. If Ahsoka had been given a more central role in the episode, that ending scene might have carried more weight.

Still, when all is said and done, Escape from Kadavo had a number of remarkable moments that raised questions about Anakin's future as well as Rex's. Massive explosions and cinematic landscapes complemented well-written moments like Queen Scintel tormenting Anakin and Dooku acknowledging his future Sith successor's weakness. Movie and real-world references spiced up this dramatic story, and a few brief moments of Anakin/Ahsoka banter further lightened what would otherwise have been an extremely dark twenty-two minute adventure. Escape from Kadavo was a fitting conclusion to a trilogy of episodes that used slavery to highlight a crucial question in the overall Star Wars story: Who do we benefit through the choices we make?


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

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January 7, 2012   TCW: "A Friend In Need" Episode Guide
January 3, 2012   Preview TCW: "Escape From Kadavo"
January 3, 2012   TCW: "Escape From Kadavo" Episode Guide
December 12, 2011   FC: TCW Roundtable: Slaves Of The Republic
December 10, 2011   io9.com Presents TCW Animated Concept Art
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