Tonight's post is going to be a short one: I'm gearing up for another long day at comic-con, and realize that I'm about a week late on the Clone Wars reviews. "Mercy Mission" has already been reviewed at a host of other places, and the comparisons to "Alice In Wonderland" aren't without basis. It's a trippy, neon-and-shadow episode that reminded me a bit of the Mortis trilogy aesthetically, but was paced slower so that the viewer had more time to appreciate the weirdness.
Two things about the concept I liked immediately: one, the droids and the gregarious, mysterious, childlike Aleena contrasted immediately with uber-serious Commander Wolffe and his "Plo's Bros" squad of clones. Wolffe was very funny in his deadpan reactions to things. Although the trailer for the season did an odd splice to make his "another one of those planets" line seem placed in a different scene than it actually was, it still remains one of my favourites. The writing in this one was better than usual, from the clones' snarky dialogue to 3P0's description of a Coruscanti evening.
Two, the drive of the plot was ecological. Some of my favourite SF (Dune, Sheri Tepper's Grass, Orson Scott Card's Speaker for the Dead) feature alien worlds that are gradually explained as the source for the phenomena that drove the plot in the first place. The fight between the underground and aboveground cultures on the Aleena planet provided that. Even if I didn't care too much about the droids, I was intrigued by the mention of a natural problem causing all of the Aleena's...natural problems.
Then we got to Orphne, the plantlike fairy waif who explains a lot of the plot, and...does every Clone Wars female have to have the same kind of voice? Does she really have to sashay? It's hard to say that a show is over-sexualizing a character when that character is an alien who looks either preteen or wizened (it's hard to tell) and who only interacts with droids, but...her body language was unique in the first few moments when she was zipping around and disappearing at will, but then she starts just leaning all over the place.
My main impression was that this episode was more tightly written than others, with a reasonably coherent plot and notable characterization. The adventures the droids go through underground after Orphne talked to them left me with a similar impression that she did, though, of Wonderlandlike excess in fantasy without the underlying logic or unique imagery.