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: 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

Fest Track On Sirk TV Film Review: SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST 2020 [Remote]

The essence of SxSW this year was rattled of course in the texture of the coronavirus but films are films and their perspectives are their own. In selecting films in the same way as approaching for interviews albeit remotely, an interesting cross section comes forth.

Cargo The texture of life and science in an interesting progression. Using this predilection, “Cargo” uses a style of metaphorical perception to show the essence of its characters. In reference to a certain mythology, the movie takes place on a space station that is a weigh station for souls on their way to reincarnation. While it moves in a sort of dance with existentialism, the film also speaks to the rigors or freedoms one feels within identity. The lead character is characterized as a demon by sorts but not in the way the Western world believes it to be. He is just trying to make sure balance is maintained as the masses are transferred at their time. The reflection on Earth of what his superiors per se would like him to do is both focused but undone. When an assistant finally arrives, their interaction is both stilted and oddly kinetic simply because she might be taking his lifeforce. In an odd way, the subway stop of the people is an interesting transgression on life but also what constituted the essence of worries, regrets and needs. The eventual transcendence of the lead character is understood but (like “Moon” starring Sam Rockwell) most of the film takes place in two rooms creating a claustrophobia that works for the loneliness at times it tries to cultivate.

Scales The essence of mythology is always an interesting texture. Shooting on a peninsula in Oman in black and white is a distinctly interesting progression and adds a degree of perspective to the proceedings of this film. The story follow a girl who as a part of the ritual of her village on the sea is fated as a baby to be given to the ocean for sea maidens to reclaim. While this is a test on an old wives’ tale, its structure within a Middle East setting is both universal and timeless. The film works well because it is both modern in a way and traditional. While the dialogue is sparse, the actions of the actors speak volumes specifically between the girl, afflicted from her youth with “scales” on her feet and the captain she eventually works with to learn a fishing trade. She is both part of a community and ousted from it, especially in regards to her parents (most specifically her father). Yet she is the salvation in many ways. The stark landscape of the desert rocks against the water are undeniably beautiful and one wonders of their starkness in color. But the black and white, especially on many of the night shoots, adds a sense of both foreboding and mystery (without the need for extensive special effects). However when meaning is needed, their explanation speaks volumes.

Make Up The notion of identity filters through this story of a girl who is existing in a natural but basic relationship and, by extension, world. What the film does through its use of claustrophobia in her domain is create a sense of both want and abandonment. She wants to be something darker or outside herself possibly. There are imprints of those ideas which are bathed in fingernails, perhaps a kind of succubus ode that she only needs to give herself into. When she decodes her ideas into what they truly need to be then the film understands itself. The psychology is simply one basked in dark streets but red velvet lit warmth. The texture of the colors alone plays to the reality of what Molly, the lead character, is. She feels safe in the breathe of her co-worker while her boyfriend leaves her cold (seemingly on his end as well since he becomes less and less interested physically in her). The performance of the lead actress keys into that sense of isolation without resolving to say exactly what is happening with her. As a result it feels like a coming of age reflected in a certain Lynchian ode to womanhood.

Rare Beasts The texture of happiness or what makes someone happy with themselves is not a straight line to traverse. Within this comedy of sorts, Billie Piper, who gained notoriety as a companion on “Doctor Who” (and was honestly one of the most fun sidekicks that character had in recent years) brings in both a nuanced and yet vivacious performance without losing track of her voice. There is a similarity to an earlier more independent piece in “Wild Rose” (which played SxSW in 2020) about a young girl finding her voice. While that was an interesting film (and another redhead) this is a much more mature film that has its best moments when it lets the characters sit. One specific scene between David Thewlis and the actress that plays Billie’s mom is undeniably tragic but truthful and told by simply looks. Piper’s timing is uncanny. Her romantic male foil played in specificity because of his foibles earns stripes but Piper is the bright light. The ending tends to play more metaphorical but doesn’t bow down to expectations. Like Olivia Wilde to a lesser degree (“Booksmart” played SxSW last year as well), there is a dynamic ear for music and certain flourishes. That said, parts of the film also seem inherently TV visually based in terms of set up, not to its detriment but to the possibilities. Piper’s voice also is integral as she wrote the script so the musings, especially those when she is walking down the street, speak candidly to the hiccups of life, which this film is not afraid of showing.

Red Heaven This documentary follows a group of people who undergo an experiment to isolate themselves for a year in Mars-like conditions to study how the isolation and approach of an actual mission would affect them. This means no internet and the responses from ground control to move back and forth across space at intervals of 20 minutes as it would on the Red Planet. The quarters are tight, no alcohol and outside time is limited and attained as it would if they were on Mars with space type HAZ-MAT gear. It is an interesting psychological exercise as the participants were chosen with the same criteria as the astronauts would be. The aspect of certain psychological traits including aversion and closeness is an interesting structure but not together unexpected. It would have been interesting to hear a little more of the German scientist’s thoughts in her own language since that is something even in a confined space that could be kept private. It is introduced in the beginning but not completely implemented. Also the delayed impact of the information of the terror attack in Paris to a French citizen involved in the experiment also integrates to a sense of detachment. All of the footage was taken inside the dome by the people inside so it has the texture of being what it is but also a specific fly on the wall concept (since it used some rigged cameras but also the people doing the interviews). It is a structure of a petri dish but one that will open eyes and reflect long expected perspectives in others.

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