IR TV Review: STAR WARS – THE CLONE WARS – FINAL SEASON – EPISODE 7 (“Dangerous Debt”) [Disney+]

The doubt of doing the right thing revolves in the progression of what is being fought for. Like the last episode “Deal No Deal”, Episode 7 of the Final Season of “The Clone Wars” entitled “Dangerous Debt” borrows in the movement of what Ahsoka Tano needs to prove and what her path is. While there are some interesting moments, the story drags a little. Perspective for the most part is needed. This shows at one point in understanding the inclusion of the sisters Martez that Ahsoka now finds herself with. The interesting thing that the writing does here is place a previous event which might have been fleeting to other characters before that in a split second changes the perception elsewhere. The problem is that the moment in the episode could have had much more resonance. There is less soaring cinematics here than one would think. There is definitely room for them but unlike early episodes it seems to be rushing the story back and forth quickly when it doesn’t need to.

The true story we want to watch is Ahsoka’s pull versus and against for using The Force. That is the true existential element here but 3 episodes into her arc in this season, it is not emotionally tugging enough. Ahsoka is very smart. She left the Jedi Order for a reason. But watching people fail even though the instinct is to help is an interesting quandary. We need to see more of that. It is in this case that flashbacks, even briefly would be acceptable, even for an ardent follower of the show. “Dangerous Debt” refers to a shipment of spice that Ahsoka’s new friends dumped impulsively that lands them on a prison planet under criminals. There is an interesting small story point playing with a voice that sounds all too familiar but the time frame is all wrong. There is a plan for Ahsoka but it would be interesting to see a little bit more of those quiet moments balanced with the awe sometimes Star Wars has.

C

By Tim Wassberg

IR TV Review: HARLEY QUINN – EPISODE 1 (“New Gotham”) [Warner Brothers Animation-S2]

Harley Quinn, by her own admission, is a hellion but she sparks by the beat of her own drum. As the 2nd season of the animated show enters with the first episode “New Gotham”, the beauty of this kind of cartoon becomes clear. It is an adult cartoon and embraces it, none more than Kaley Cuoco, who brings a degree of flagrancy in Quinn embracing that inner party girl that we always knew was within Penny. The introduction of the 2nd season shows a lawlessness in play. In many ways, the set up is inspired by “Escape From New York”. Considering in another life, Snake Plisken would have been Quinn’s surrogate father, the comparison definitely plays to the texture. Like “Birds Of Prey”, the aspect has Quinn out on her own but with a band of misfits. Poison Ivy, like any good roommate on a dark “Clueless” adventure, understands the impulse that Quinn deals with her decisions but not the logic.

As the episode progresses, the idea that permeates is that there has to be some order within anarchy (i.e. “Escape From New York”). The episode (and the series) does not back off from the language and the gore which is refreshing while the comedy (especially the sushi irony with a shark wanting a human roll per se) is decidedly dark on purpose. That said, the comedy is fairly freewheeling and more in the context of what psychotics might talk about. Ultimately, all kidding aside, the overall motivation is power. But Quinn, in her best traits, knows how to subvert power. Her interlude inside a bar to all the underlings of other crime lords is inspired in many ways. Harley wants to have her own little world because oddly enough that is where her peace lies. In “Birds Of Prey” it was her apartment until it was demolished. In this episode, it is an abandoned mall where she has her own sled pulled by her hyenas and she kidnaps sushi chefs. Happiness is a state of being and with this episode, chaos is Quinn’s favorite as long as it has the simply pleasures.

B

By Tim Wassberg

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: 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: 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: STAR WARS – CLONE WARS – FINAL SEASON – EPISODE 3 (“On the Wings of Keeradaks”) [Disney+]

The progression of “The Clone Wars” in the addendum that Dave Filoni has created is starting to dovetail a little bit into what is creating a bigger superstructure of where “Revenge Of The Sith” actually ends up. The initial structure of “The Bad Batch” was seemingly working on the reflective ground of earlier material which is interesting considering the recent backlash against “The Rise Of Skywalker” as far as retreading over what some might call common ground. With Episode 3, “On The Wings Of Keeradaks” the essence of what be called the Judas complex within the story line gets different but one might very well understand the nature of what is happening but also how the humanity of the clones, specifically Rex, could have been the undoing of the Republic. It is a long scale game that only someone with the foresight of The Emperor could understand but the fact that The Clone Wars is thinking along those lines makes it feel more like Rebels at times because of impact.

While much of the episode takes place inside the complex and has its share of humor, when it makes its way outside there is more a sense of scale especially in one crossing sequence, which has some odes to Cloud City in a way from “Empire Strikes Back”. It makes the clones even more human in a way and reaffirms a theme of faith per se which might have been missing from earlier seasons of “Clone Wars”. The key aspect that moves towards the end of the episode is how rules of war change but the hardest aspect to see is sometimes the darkness within which is a continual theme of the “Star Wars” universe that will never change.

B+

By Tim Wassberg

IR Film Review: ONWARD [Pixar/Disney]

The creation of new stories especially from the talent at Pixar is an interesting evolving evolution. The new iterations of IP are the first per se of originals after the departure of John Lasseter. Even though his removal was warranted, and despite the presence of so many of the original creative people, there is a slight hole, however miniscule within the structure. “Onward” works well and bring in textures of mythology but within the context of a modern world. It is intrinsic but, despite the quest motif, almost seems smaller than one would expect. The story works well though maybe a slight more complicated that the usual Pixar but as always deals with some sort of loss that must be regained through the transformation and path of a character.

The story follows the texture of two brothers, one of which Ian (played by Tom Holland) is becoming a man. He lost his father before he ever knew him. Barley, his brother, (played by Chris Pratt) is a fun-loving almost D&D outsider who teases his brother but loves him in his way nonetheless. This is not our world. This is a magical world where winged horses fight over garbage like dogs and cats and homes are sometimes made of mushroom. But modernism has taken the place of magic…which of course is an apt metaphor. The brothers discover a spell that will bring their father back for one day but the initial try (because Ian hasn’t ever tried to use magic) makes it so that only the bottom half of their father is there. In order to restore them they have to find another crystal that goes in a wand to conjure up the other half. Only problem is that the resurrection spell for their father only lasts for a day.

The quest itself is fun but mostly bittersweet. Small gestures by the bottom half of the dad are so small but mean so much which is why Pixar has always been able to translate to multiple languages. Holland plays a variation on his characters that start off meek but find a small degree of confidence by the end. Pratt’s Barney seems much closer to him as a person, even with his van Guinevere, which is an ode to Pratt’s life in his early 20s when he lived in his van in Hawaii. Pratt seems to go off script a little which is great but it seems maybe the animators tried to bridge it at times.

The true magic of the quest and the connection is almost a circle as the film ends in an interesting conundrum of a loop which actually works quite well and is quite existential in a way that “Finding Nemo” was in a way. But the realization in the final moments is handled exceptionally and with poignancy that, despite any shenanigans with the brothers, comes out truly 3-dimensional and formed. “Onward” is a evolving perspective of Pixar in staying with its true mission of stories of redemption while still making it undeniably heartfelt and accessible.

A-

By Tim Wassberg