The build of the current season of “The Clone Wars” rests in the relationships that have been built up over seasons. The beautiful thing is that with the experience, supervising director David Filoni has become more a master of the subtle. He has built deep into the mythology but, because of that, the new episodes, when they precisely work, have these reflective moments that rank among the best in the franchise at the current moment and certainly within the full run of “The Clone Wars”. From the beginning battle of “Old Friends Not Forgotten” which undeniably shows the psychology between Anakin and Obi Wan in terms of approach, there is a sense of depth whereas at many times in the past the battles just seemed an ends to a mean. Here it is the perspective that is the means and, as a result, there is a much deeper view into where Anakin is going but also where and how Obi Wan is shaped by exactly where he has been.
Small details and lines play into this especially when they return back to the ship at the bequest of an incoming call. The aspect of Ahsoka reuniting with her masters and her squads is heartbreaking but what is even more interesting is the emotional dynamics especially bewteen Anakin and Ahsoka. In a world where the Council and he can’t control her per se anymore, Anakin has found a newfound respect that perhaps he could not show when she was his Padewan. Th way Filoni as well as Matt Lanter (as Anakin) and Ashley Eckstein (as Ahsoka) play it is subtle while still being overt, even in the animation. In his aspects of loyalty and concern for her well being, it is so dynamic that it shows what is possible but also that it should just exist. It also shows the path in a way.
A scene inside a hangar where Aksoka is paid respect is fantastic especially when Anakin presents her with a gift. It is a simple gesture especially when he says that he made them “as good as new”. It is that small detail and the breathe in which she acknowledges it that speaks volumes. Of course the end play pushes towards Mandalore and Darth Maul which keys into all Maul’s mythology but it ultimately all comes down to revenge. But out of that idea comes that someone is controlling it all. Again with its textures, “Old Friends Not Forgotten” is one of the best episodes yet.
The re-emergence of “The Clone Wars” points of a stream of consciousness that perhaps Dave Filoni, who also helped create “The Mandalorian”, understood. The idea that he explored later with “Rebels” specifically spoke to an idea of where lawlessness gained a foothold in the galaxy. His original thoughts were fully realized (though some of the concept art that he released years ago gave a concept of might be possible). The influences and the ideas of those glitches in the Republic system come to bear with the introduction in “The Bad Batch”. It is not the most dynamic of episodes but it moves to re-establish the strain of consciousness within the Clone Wars. Warriors get tired and tend to take the law into their own hands. The fact that the team that is recruited for a special op (they have been seen before) is called 99 which is the ironic reversal of General Order 66 by which the Emperor himself ends the conflict by a hidden fail-safe.
In the years since the last episode of the original “Clone Wars” series, the animation process has gotten better so by progression, the lines of the characters look sharper but also the subtleness of the emotions. Whereas Kenobi is less readable, Anakin’s frustration seems interestingly enough to come much more through. Whether it is the conflicting emotions or the dragging on of the war (or even more specifically the darkness creeping up on him after the slaughter of the clan of Sandmen in “Attack Of The Clones”), the brimming points seems to be becoming more defined. The crux of “The Clone Wars” always rests in the reliability of the clones, say versus a droid army. The re-emergence in a way of Echo as a harbinger or betrayer much like Judas in the disciples’ midst is an interesting metaphor to bring back into the fold. It however depends how the story moves towards its conclusion in the bigger mythology that Filoni has built.
The key with “Star Wars: Rebels” has always been connection the emotional impact and nostalgia of the old series, bridging the mythology of the prequels and leading them towards the new films. If there is one thing that Disney knows, it is synergy. But what really seems to be working well here is integrating also the lifeline of “The Clone Wars” animated series with the new storylines. As dense and political as that series became, what it did do was immensely humanize Anakin Skywalker, specifically his relationship with his Padewan Ahsoka. The first episodes of season 2 of “Rebels” adequately pushes that.
There is a great reveal moment in the premiere episode but is interesting in that the series gives the audience a leg up on the proceedings that the main characters in the series do not possess. It creates a interesting quagmire for this season, one that unfortunately can only end in tragedy. That said, it creates stakes for the series and gives it more dynamic perspective. Strangely enough, the series is on XD which is more tween oriented and this is definitely a multi generational show through and through. The balance of force between Ezra and Kanan continues to work well especially in a face off with a certain Sith. The different consequences of actions though ring in eerie parallel, especially the burning of a place called Tarkin Town and the aspect of the Sith using “compassion” as a rebel weakness to his advantage.
The concluding showdown of the episode brings to mind the inherent strategy of thinking outside the box as in the original trilogy. At certain points you do feel it veering into military and political turmoil but the key in this series is always to bring it back to the main characters and with this season specifically: Ahsoka. “Rebels” has found a great crux of perception but needs to keep building. But with supervising director Dave Filoni as usual at the helm (like he was with “Clone Wars”), the course is in good hands.