IR TV Review: STAR WARS – CLONE WARS – FINAL SEASON – EPISODE 6 (“Deal No Deal”) [Disney+]

Knowing what the mission is and knowing the right action to take has always been at the corner crux of what makes Ahsoka Tano tick. She knew what her Jedi Master was doing. She could see the cracks…but she likely thought that he was simply operating outside the box. However it was in the aspect that Anakin got too close to people and he couldn’t control it until it spun out of control. In the continuation of her final season story in Episode 6: “Deal Or No Deal,” Ahsoka tries to help newfound friends against her better instincts and watches as she has to adjust them and help much like she did at lesser points with Anakin. The difference is that his instinct was mostly correct and helped her and supported her in balance. The balance of her new friends and their ambitions is an aspect of operating in the dark.

Ahsoka’s instincts are still good but she doesn’t know what she wants. She had the right temperament for a Jedi, better than many, but that is why her post-Jedi path needs to make sense. We see, in a sense, down the line in “Rebels” and perhaps beyond, where she ends up but it all needs to fit together correctly. Mostly it is trying to realize and help others to the best of your ability but if they are headed down a certain path, one can only try to cushion the blow, and not stop the trajectory. There is one moment when a connection happens across space. It is a great moment though nothing is said. The intersection plays out but it is able to breathe which it seems within this new iteration/continuation works better than its predecessor. These little character beats say so much more and at times exceeds the plot that the season might ultimately be aiming for.

B

By Tim Wassberg

Insid

IR TV Review: PICARD – EPISODE 9 (“Et In Arcadia Ego – Part II”) [CBS All Access]

The aspect of evolution in terms of idealism or perhaps in moderation of experiences had has been part of the duality of “Picard” as a series. It began with an incomplete matriculation of Data’s last iteration in “Nemesis” (what is interesting for the reviewer is that I am fairly certain I interviewed Brent Spiner, Stewart and director Stuart Baird for that film for TV back in 2002 – the interviewed likely buried on some digital tape somewhere). Wrapping those strands of psychology from that film is what gnaws on both sides of the season finale (“Et In Arcadia Ego – Part II”) here. While the thrust of the narrative when it finally arrives at its end point seems sounds, it also seems too neatly put together. This is not a criticism overtly since it makes totally sense and works within the existential nature of the project overall.

As it moves in the final hour of the season, it brings into focus the nature of Picard but creates it on a very large scale. While it is not integrated as a space battle per se (without giving anything anyway) there is a sense of breath to it, especially when the viewer sees who is at the helm. The brother Soong is an interesting quandary since one is not quite sure the mythology behind it. It actually ends in a way that is more hopeful than where it began which I gather is part of the point of this specific journey. The coda per se that leads towards the epilogue is what really fans came to see all season and rivals some of the specific moments when Picard reunites with Riker and Troi on their planet.

It makes complete sense though that it feels like an adjusted addendum but it very much plays within the Shakespearean elements that Stewart so loves. There is sort of a paradoxical take on “The Tempest” within its walls. As it continues into the meaning of its conclusion, it dovetails into those ideas that sometimes change in path, much like Spock’s in earlier transgressions (even before the reboot), which again reverts back to the Romulan conflict and also their sense of identity. All works well. The final shot however tries to infer too much when it was not necessary and could have been done with more subtlety. While it did offer a slight hiccup, it doesn’t heavily diminish what the episode achieves.

B+

By Tim Wassberg

IR TV Review: STUMPTOWN – EPISODE 18 (“All Hands On Dex”) [ABC]

The last time the “Stumptown” vision undertook this reviewer was the pilot after which I did an interview with the two leads played by Colbie Smulders & Jake Johnson. Through the trajectory of the season, the pace seems like it has been fairly consistent but the season finale “All Hands On Dex” seems to filter in the idea of a little bit more melodrama than would have been expected. The music, which made the first episode of the series so textured, is still there with correct context. The humor itself though seems a little more sparse as if it is just moving the  needle to keep up. Dex, played by Smulders, is trying to uncover a murderer which has been dogging her from earlier in the season. But the character truly seems to have its wings when she is not overly pushing with episodic plot elements.

Granted this is the season finale so it needs to wrap certain elements up. However “Stumptown”, even the one I read in the graphic novel, had more of a “Rockford Files” element to it. The structure of the series always reflects back to family which in certain more bare moments, Dex seems to forget. This is part of the beauty of the character but it has to be balanced in check. Certain scenes bring it back into focus including one set in a church with the perfect music accompaniment. But the more textured one is in the opening scene which reflects more in the subconscious of Dex than anything else. The tenure of the series is based more in reveals but looking at the beginning and the end, it is simply good if the character simply is. Her own life and not her extended drama is enough to make the show effective.

B-

By Tim Wassberg

IR TV Review: STAR WARS – CLONE WARS – FINAL SEASON – EPISODE 5 ("Gone With A Trace") [Disney+]

After the inset of The Bad Batch which., in itself, is a story about the search for identity, the next story arc in “Gone With A Trace” would seem to be one that diametrically needs to be addressed. Ahsoka Tano, as the long standing padewan to Anakin Skywalker, has the biggest perception (almost more so than Padme) to the psychological degregation that brought Anakin to the dark side. More than Luke and almost Obi Wan, she knows him best which is why her expulsion or leaving depending on how one sees it from the Jedi Order is a bit of a wormhole in the story since we have never seen her in live action. She re-emerged in essence in “Rebels” and we saw her have an interaction that is one of the more dynamic encounters in animation in Vader in that series. But in this episode, it is about reconnecting with those less fortunate which is what being a Jedi is. But as with most perceptions of government, people on the lower levels have lost faith.

This first episode shows Ahsoka finding her way. She has the street smarts and the Jedi know how where she could fumble through and scam her way into situations but those are not the values she was taught. While the story focuses back to simple, it is those baseline connections whether one is talking about the end of “The Last Jedi” or “Joker” where certain basic human interactions introduce a path, either to be led astray or to push forward. This first tome in Ahsoka’s journey shows her connection to loyalty but also a judgmental attitude in others. The one thing that seems to come through to her though is the inherent good nature of people. The charity and compassion is what comes forth as the values of this episode. Even when the survival instinct cuts in, the reasoning is sound. But Ahsoka’s path is complicated for she knows a bigger world but at least she sees the reality of those that the power plays of the Universe shows. She should meet up with Ventress to discuss the existential nature of their predicament.

B

By Tim Wassberg

IR TV Review: PICARD – EPISODE 9 ("Et In Arcadia Ego – Part I") [CBS All Access]

The proliferation of a journey resides in the impact of the ending point and the lessons learned in its transgression. “Picard”, as it continues in “Et in Arcadia Ego – Part 1” as a man is a continually flawed character, one we could not have likely seen back in the Next Generation phase. He is a man blinded in certain ways by his altruism and ego. He has a mortality that he doesn’t want to face but also an ambition that basically he can’t cash. He wants to be a savior but is stuck in the certain visage of a false messiah. This of course is not his fault. It is simply the crux of the story he finds himself in. The pilgrimage of sorts to a lone planet led by Soji opens both answers and more questions. The reality is that the motivation of humans as the predominant force in the universe is the crux of the conversation at the heart of the series. Even going back to “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” and even into the original series with “I, Mudd”, this reflects on the idea of what it means to be a synthetic being. The discussion also resides in the idea of what has happened before will happen again.

The Romulans, in many perceptions have the right idea but the progressions of the series is based in a false assumption. It is the idea of ego and assuming what something or a certain vision might mean, and not what it actually is. The introduction of an offspring of a certain positronic scientist is an interesting one but also an imbalanced introduction, though certain details point to an interesting construct. When it comes down to it an apocalypse is coming but what is interesting is that the deliverance, in all seriousness, might come down to those who exist halfway between worlds. It will reside in those that understand both the sides of pure machine intelligence and a bit of humanity. These decisions can only be made by those with views on both sides which encapsulates a couple different characters, so the narrative push could go in a variety of different ways. But that is what makes the adventure worth exploring, especially if a certain redemption is in the cards.

B+

By Tim Wassberg

IR TV Review: STAR WARS – CLONE WARS – FINAL SEASON – EPISODE 4 (“Unfinished Business”) [Disney+]

The continual force of The Bad Batch is based within the idea of whether or not a certain member of the group can be trusted. The idea is sticking to orders but also thinking outside the box. In this 4th episode: “Unfinished Business”, the question becomes one of trust or betrayal, either internally or externally within certain characters. Having rescued Echo, there is a possibility for dealing a blow for The Republic because of the information within this detached trooper’s head. The idea of what dictates loyalty is one that comes to bear for more than one character. Anakin’s forward momentum, especially in how he sees his path within the Jedi, seems to waver a little in this episode. However, the tendency and what it is occurring at this specific time is another issue entirely. We are also seeing in a flip tendency much more of Mace Windu’s hubris in terms of how he is approaching his mission. Whereas in earlier seasons of Clone Wars, his actions might have been seen as tongue-in-cheek, there is almost a vindictiveness here which is interesting to behold. The resolution also speaks to a division of sorts, not necessarily in idealism but ideology which is separate. It closes the door to a point on one possibility but opens up possibilities of internal strife to another.

B-

By Tim Wassberg

IR TV Review: PICARD – EPISODE 8 (“Broken Pieces”) [CBS All Access]

The intention of character is based within the ideal of who a person is destined to be, what they are willing to show the world and the intentioned basis of what they believe their overall goal to be. The essence within the 8th episode of “Star Trek: Picard” aptly titled “Broken Pieces” reflects this in the ideals of the people involved in this tome, specifically the ones specifically on a ship heading for a Starbase then another specific destination. The main one of course is Soji, as her life has been upended and she is still coming to terms whether her life is tangibly real or not. She is finding certain balance points which are interesting especially when it comes to the captain of her new ship. The show, in this episode, is focusing on the nature of duality. As it progresses at one point Picard is sitting across from Soji asking a very pertinent question, and Picard almost sidesteps it until she brings him to task instinctually but unknowingly. It is a very big character moment for Picard. But it reflects backs too in Raffi and the Captain’s interactions which also take on a very existential point which oddly enough brings to mind issues of tendency from The Doctor on “Voyager”. It is dynamic and unusual and perhaps the first time we have seen this kind of progression in quite this way on Star Trek (in a case where it didn’t involve a holodeck).

On the flip side there is a Seven Of Nine issue which plays into duality within a method of control or perhaps tendency. It is a hard reflexive moment which interestingly enough is not even her own and yet in the moments seen speak volumes. Alison Pill’s doctor character is the McGuffin here because she is intelligent enough to be believed but scared enough to do anything, especially with the crazed look in her eyes around Soji. The ideas of mental stability but also trangression are themes that are interestingly diametric here from scene to scene. And so the changing perspective within the series continues.

B+

By Tim Wassberg