“Tipping Points” has some great moments of silent communication, but a corresponding lack of dialogue is both a blessing and a curse that draws attention to the flaws of the entire arc.
This episode is really good at body language: Ahsoka leaving the scene of the citizens’ rebellion over the rooftops and her sisterly punch on Lux’s arm were paced very well and felt like the story wasn’t trying too hard. Ahsoka’s punch paired with Saw’s glee at getting a rocket launcher brought me the closest I’ve been in this arc to feeling like the rebels are real people.
The Steela/Lux relationship still seems entirely unconvincing to me, however, and Ahsoka’s response to it even more so. Has she taken Anakin’s lessons to heart? Maybe she has, and quickly, but most of the communication between the three is still all glances and expressions. It’s not enough, even if the animation does have more artistic merit than the script. The question of the age difference between Steela and Lux is still bothering me, too. Although starwars.com does describe Steela as a “young rebel,” she doesn’t look it.
Usually I’d be pleased if a romance was sidelined in favor of a war, but “Tipping Points” just doesn’t fit with the balance we had in the first three episodes of the arc. Instead, it becomes a loose end. When Lux dropped lines like “What good will [Steela leading by example] do if she gets herself killed,” he sounded exasperated and posh instead of worried. I understand that the writers enjoyed dropping lines from the OT into this arc, but his delivery confused me: Lux seems a lot more caring than Han Solo. And their kiss just seems pointless without some sort of conversation between either Lux and Steela or Lux and Ahsoka about the relationship.
That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the episode. I like that Saw acknowledges Steela’s leadership, and that she shows her skills by strategizing. Although it did surprise me that the king would appoint her over an experienced general. I’ve enjoyed the creature designs on Onderon before, and this episode really delivers on the promise of the name “Beast-Riders of Onderon.” The pterodactyl-like aerial mounts were graceful on the air and moved with a realistic-looking gawkiness on the ground. The battle scenes are good too, with talking gunships on the Separatist side and only a few scenes where both armies looked sparse. I particularly liked the fast, chaotic scene where Saw falls from his creature and is scooped up by General Tandin.
To my great joy this episode also featured Hondo. He manages to make lines like “Well, my work here is done.” funny and full of personality. Hondo is also a reminder that the Darth Maul arc aired right before Onderon. I am increasingly of the opinion that he should appear once an episode.
Steela’s death is also done pretty well. The scene was nicely complicated, with the cliff, the droid, Lux, and Ahsoka all contributing. I also liked that the rebels ended up fighting both the Separatist droids and their own dangerous planet. My response at first was that I saw it coming as soon as she and the king stood still at the edge of the cliff. She and the rest of the rebels had been moving so quickly in other scenes that it didn’t make much sense for them to pause. The way she hangs off her flying creature earlier could now be seen as foreshadowing, too.
At the end of the episode, though, I found myself really dismayed by Steela’s death. I can’t forget that her backstory and relationships are still vague, but the scene itself was choreographed with a vicious care. The pure length of the scene and how many people were watching and save her to help made it emotional. Ahsoka being shot was also very unexpected, as was the blood all over her shoulder.
Ahsoka’s inability to save Steela adds another level of darkness to the episode. I imagine Ahsoka might feel responsible for her death to some degree. It’s nice to see that while Ahsoka has grown a lot and can lead troops, she still isn’t perfect.
Another notable part of this episode was Anakin’s small plot line. Obi-Wan sounds surprised when Anakin says the very Jedi-typical line that Steela will be “a powerful spirit,” so I couldn’t help but think that after going behind Obi-Wan’s back to get weapons from Hondo, Anakin was saying what he knew Obi-Wan would want to hear.
I’m left generally conflicted about the episode, but sure that I liked parts of it - including Steela’s death, excepting the fact that she should have just ran away from the ledge - better than the rest of the arc as a whole. The kings have an unsatisfying amount to do in “Tipping Point,” but the episode does wrap just about everything up – except Lux’s relationships – while keeping the focus on Steela and Ahsoka.