By Dave Bouressa
Simply based on reactions of this episode from friends, I can already tell I'm going to be the minority on this one.
You can cover a turd in glitter, but at the end of the day, it's still crap. This was perhaps the most disappointing episode since "Brothers". Regarding the "glitter" part, this episode had alot of great things in it, but it is all ruined by terrible writing and story. And it really does kill me to say this, because of the previous three episodes (don't forget "Revival"), I have been an incredible fan, to the point of re-watching those episodes possibly more than I should have.
Regarding the good points of this episode, the animation is steller. If there is one thing this show has gotten consistently better at, it is the animation. The lighting, the facial expressions, the explosions, everything has looked great, and continues to look better every episode. And to finalize it, the fight scene between Darth Maul, Savage Opress, and Darth Sidious looked incredible. Personally, I feel that the fight between Maul and Vizla in last week's episode was done much better, but this was definitely one of the top 5 best fights the show has done in it's 5 year history.
The acting in this episode was superb. From Anna Graves as Duchess Satine, to Sam Witwer as Darth Maul. And I would be foolish to leave out the incredible Ian Abercrombie. As always, he certainly stepped up to the plate in this episode and certainly provided an act worth going out on. We within the Star Wars community will miss him dearly.
Now here come the negatives. If you liked this episode, that's completely fine. I've liked episodes that other people hated. Just be prepared that I am about to rip this episode a new one.
Let's start at the beginning. Satine's nephew, Korkie, and Bo Katan free Duchess Satine and attempt to get her out of Mandalore's "city bubble" to make a transmission to the Jedi Council. It was certainly good to see Korkie again. Although I was not a fan of him in Season Three's "The Academy", it is good to know that he is not forgotten in the vast sea of characters this show has brought to life. And it was certainly good to see him grown up a little. When we saw him in "The Academy", he was a young student. Now it appears he has gone through a bit of a growth spurt. However, here lies the problem. Whit Hertford did a great job performing the character, but to see him return as this "version" of Korkie seemed odd. Korkie looked much older, yet he still sounded like a young teenager. This is a minor gripe, but it was a bit jarring to hear that voice come out of that character model.
Katan has stated that she will be helping Satine simply because "the enemy of my enemy is my friend". Although this phrase has been used for everything, it was nice to see this used in this setting. However, the whole escape was simple build up for just getting a basic message out to the Jedi. It seemed like a lot of hoopla for a small outcome.
Now that we have gotten some of the minor problems out of the way, I need to express these following problems that literally had me screaming at the television.
Two weeks ago, we spent quite literally the entire episode building up a massive army of Sith, Death Watch, The Black Sun, The Pikes, and The Hutts. That's 22 minutes of build-up. And where does it lead? Nowhere. Obviously the Sith brothers are heavily involved, along with Death Watch, but the other three faction's involvement after that first episode are minimal to none. After Death Watch "rescues" Mandalore from the Pikes and Black Sun, they are never seen again. Are they in jail? Have they been "relieved of duty"? Or have they been simply killed? We don't know. And I feel like we never will. And on top of that, the Hutts are never utilized once. We spent the entire last third of "Eminence" trying to win over the Hutts, and the are never used again. Not. Once.
It was also great to see The Twilight again. After not seeing since the beginning of Season Two, people began missing that ship. However, after years of fans waiting to see it's return, it was a bit of a roller coaster. And a short one too. "Hey! It's the Twilight! That's awesome! I forgot about that ship....and it just blew up." They did add the nice touch of the doors not working right, and oil leaking, and the panels going on the fritz. At least the showrunners are acknowledging that this ship has been unused for quite some time.
Now let's talk about the death scenes. (Spoilers). To see Satine fall in the way that she did was quite unexpected. I expected Maul to use Satine to lure Obi-Wan, but seeing Maul pull her into the darksaber not only had me by shock, but held quite alot of symbolism. Killed in front of her love, by her love's enemy, over rule of her planet that she fought Death Watch for for years, and is killed by the leader of Death Watch's weapon. Although I am saddened to see Satine go like this, I think it is a good time for her to go. We see Obi-Wan emotionally crumble from within and reach his lowest point. I simply wish we could have seen a little more emotion from him. Yes, he was sad, but this was the woman he not only left the Jedi Order for, but has had a complicated romance with since season two.
Here is the death scene that flat-out made me mad. Savage Opress. Anyone who says that this was a worthy death for him is out of their mind. We have followed this great character since season 3, and to see him killed in such a way is flat-out insulting. Savage has been an interesting character in this show, but ever since Maul showed up, the writers have used him simply as a prop-as muscle. I understand that Maul was treating him like that, but why would the writers make such a complex character, only to make him essentially worthless in the end. I will admit, I would have had no other way for Savage to perish than at the hands of Darth Sidious, however, have these show runners forgotten what tension is? What emotion is? What compassion is? He is stabbed by two sabers in the chest, falls to the ground, says a few words to Maul, and that's the end of it. We have followed this character's arc for so long, and to have it so anti-climacticly is insulting to the viewer. However, I will note that nice touch of his demise. As he is dying, the Nightsister magic is wearing off and he shrinks back to normal size. I'm glad the writers decided to do that, I wish we had seen that when his arm was cut off at the beginning of the season.
Regarding the fight between Maul, Savage, and Sidious, as stated above, the animation in this fight was steller. And it was incredible to see Sidious in action like that. However, here is the problem. Like I stated before, I believe the duel between Maul and Vizla was much better. In the first duel, we knew Maul was going to win. However, we had no idea what Vizla was going to throw at him, and he threw everything. There was so much variety in this fight with such a climactic ending, resulting in Vizla losing his head, and thus resulting in the clash between Death Watch and "the rebels", throwing Mandalore into a civil war. In this new lightsaber fight, even though we knew who was going to win (just like last episode), there was absolutely no tension. Sidious is simply the most powerful force user at this time. He even beats Yoda in Revenge of the Sith. At least between Maul and Vizla, Maul could have been wounded, maybe even severely. But this fight was simply extermination. Maul and Opress are simple ants to Sidious. After the anti-climactic death scene of Savage Opress, Maul gives what he can to face his former master, but ends up begging for mercy. This was perhaps the biggest insult this show has ever given. I understand that they are trying to show that Sidious is all-powerful and Maul is "afraid" of him. However, this show has built up Maul to be fearless, bad-ass, and heartless. And when you (pardon the language) pussify him like that, it makes fans of this character to think "Wow. I rooted for this guy? That's embarrassing". Sidious simply states that he will not kill Maul because he has other uses for him, and simply zaps him full-force with force lighting as the credits roll. Now I should mention that this result should come to no suprise to me. The fate of Maul and Savage were leaked in a book called "Shadow Conspiracy" that came out quite some time ago, however, I avoided all spoilers regarding that. Normally spoilers do not bother me, but I wanted to save it for this airing.
Obviously, Palpatine/Sidious played a major role in this episode, but the way they pulled him in was simply amatuer. For years, fans have known that Palpatine and Darth Sidious are the same person, but fans of the series who have not seen Revenge of the Sith probably didn't. Well they certainly know now. This was done without any subtlety, and right in your face. It simply had Palpatine "sense" Maul, and tell Mas Ameda to prepare his ship. We then see Sidious appear on Mandalore. There are so many better ways to do that without having to have little kids ask their parents "Where was Palpatine going?" without ruining the reveal. What the show runners should have done is have Obi-Wan discover Maul is behind this, and contact the Jedi about it-as they are in Palpatine's office. That way Palpatine can know about it without having to cause confusion and ruin any surprise.
My final problem with this episode: Bo Katan is Satine's sister? Really now? You couldn't come up with anything better? If there is one cliche that is used for too often, it's that one-particularly in Star Wars. I understand that makes for some conflict that I'm sure we'll never see, and add some history to both characters. However, does that make Korkie Bo's son? How could that have effected the family? Why was Korkie in the Academy on Mandalore and not on Concordia? And why would he be in the Academy and not have any clue what corruption is, when your mother is in Death Watch and your "auntie" is leader of one of the most controversial nuetral systems in this entire galactic war. It's lunacy. It's like finding more pieces to an endless puzzle that will never be solved.
As I stated in the beginning of this review, this episode had so many good things in it. But it is all bogged down by poor writing and poor story telling. The pro's of this episode are certainly the animation and the acting. Especially on the part of Ian Abercrombie. It was certainly great to hear him perform one last time. He did such an incredible job. However, I believe he may not have finished the episode. As Sidious says his last few words in his "evil voice", it sounds similar to the "Tim Curry-esque" voice that managed to sneak it's way into Palpatine's voice in "Revival" ("They're just petty crooks"). It was clearly modified in this episode, but I couldn't help but notice the accent was a bit different. Either way, Abercrombie will be missed greatly, and he gave an incredible last performance.
Shame it had to be in such a disappointing episode.