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TFN Review: The Deserter

Posted By Eric on January 2, 2010

The Clone Wars Season 2 Episode 10: The Deserter

If the first part of last night's The Clone Wars double feature was great, the second part was spectacular. Once again, it wasn't even because of the =plot -- which was good -- but rather the undertones and the messages. The Deserter was all about the philosophy of the clone army, and quite frankly, that's a darned-good theme to pursue on a show like this.

First of all, I actually prefer ground battles to space ones, so it was great seeing the action on foot in this episode. Along with the ground battle aspect came a lot of other things I enjoyed. I really like seeing the commando droids in action. They're a worthy competitor for the clones and they make ground combat much more exciting. This episode had a lot of great visuals, primarily the sweeping landscapes as the clone BARCs were racing by. The attention to detail in these landscape sweeps is very impressive. The music was also particularly good in this episode. I really liked the exotic sounds as the AT-TE carrying Obi-Wan lumbered forward.

I was strangely okay with the battle droid humor, even though I can completely understand how others were not. It was a little overdone, but it actually made me laugh. This episode focused a lot on very serious and somber aspects of the galaxy far, far away, and the battle droid moments lightened the mood a little bit.

Obi-Wan's language ("We've picked up the scent") is both funny and exciting. It's funny because it's pretty uncharacteristic of Obi-Wan to pursue something so ruthlessly. It's exciting because it means we get to see more lightsaber combat. We saw this a bit in the previous episode, Grievous Intrigue, and it's fitting that the next (and final) segment of this arc continue with the theme. Obi-Wan isn't normally this single-minded, but it really does make sense that he would be when he's pursuing Grievous.

One thing I thoroughly enjoy about The Clone Wars is how broad Dave Filoni's vision is. Not only is he cognizant of what happens in the chronological future of Star Wars, he's also acutely aware of how to integrate that future into Star Wars's present. The best kind of saga is the kind that ties everything within the saga together seamlessly, and we see that here with the Obi-Wan/Grievous match-up. When we see them again in Episode III, knowing this Clone Wars back-story, their conflict makes a whole lot more sense.

As soon as I heard, "You look like my daddy", I knew we'd be in for some great desertion-related conversation between the wounded Captain Rex and the Twi'lek child's "daddy." I was not disappointed. Cut Lawquane's attitude is awesome: I love how it provoked Rex. I have to say, it's episodes like this that almost convince me that philosophy is better than blaster fire. If it isn't better, it's certainly on equal footing. After all, words can be just as powerful as cannon fire in a saga like Star Wars.

The domestic scenes we see in the Lawquane household are very powerful, in ways that simple combat scenes cannot be. They speak to deeper issues, not just in The Clone Wars but also in real life. It's a testament to how far The Clone Wars has come that this episode can address a serious issue of our time while still maintaining a Star Wars feel. In recent years, the question of service and duty versus freedom and choice has been a hot-button issue in American politics, and this show really does a fantastic job of tackling the issue in a GFFA context.

I also enjoyed seeing the kids go off on their adventure, and I'm glad that Dave and his team are including scenes that young viewers can relate to. From the adventurous play session to the parental "Stay close to the house," from the "I didn't do it" to the ever-present running back to mommy, that scene was well-done and a good inclusion in the episode.

The scene where the commando droids attack the Lawquane household was marvelously well done. The whole "lock the door and hide" setup lent a lot to the frightening image of the commando droids. It reminded me of a zombie flick a little bit. I also liked that this clone deserter was willing to trust Rex with his family's life. I enjoyed seeing the two of them fighting the commando droids. When Cut said that it was all over, I could practically feel the relief from his family.

On a side note, for some reason I was thrilled to see the two clones play Dejarik -- not just because it's a quiet scene with some deep conversation, but because it's a huge reminder of the Millennium Falcon. Yet again we see Dave Filoni throwing in little references to the films that launched Star Wars into the stratosphere, in an attempt to engender feelings of familiarity and comfort. I'd say he's succeeding.

I really liked that Rex truly values the clone army and calls it "his family" -- the debate over the ethics of the clone army is a viable one, and Dave Filoni does a great job of showing the merits of both sides of the story. Cut Lawquane has a point in that he should always have the choice to start a family. Rex, however, also has a point in that there is great honor in serving for the Republic among your brothers.

In the pantheon of Clone Wars episodes, this one truly shined. The main thing that carried it was the philosophical clone army debate, but focusing a whole episode on such a hot topic is small feat. I hope this show revisits the topic in the future. There's certainly more to say, but The Deserter was a great starting point.

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