This time last year I was watching “Water Wars,” the technically proficient but underwhelming premiere of The Clone Wars Season Four. Season Five’s premiere, “Revival,” shows off some of the show’s more gradual technical achievements while also providing an exciting, dark, and funny story that corrects a lot of the faults of last year. This episode did more than barely move the war forward, instead setting up tension between a variety of characters.
The stars of the show this week were Hondo Ohnaka and, of course,
Darth Maul. Obi-Wan and Adi Gallia appear, as well. With the emphasis on
the Sith brothers’ relationship, this episode created a unique
experience for me where I was rooting for everyone – Obi-Wan
because he was the good guy, Hondo because he was funny, and the Sith
because they seemed to have a lot of room to grow. This was one of the
things that made “Revival” an enjoyable episode.
The episode starts out with a clip previously seen on the official
Star Wars site, as “the two crabbiest Zabraks this side of the Hydian”
take out some droids. Savage wants equality, but Maul sees himself as
the Master and his brother as the apprentice, an order he imposes with a
neat foot to the face. I have to wonder where Sidious factors in to all
of this in Maul’s mind, but for now he is unimportant.
Witwer brings the same qualities to Maul this season as he did last,
with less craziness. His voice dips and growls, never quite reaching the
softness that Peter Serafinowicz had, but I’m getting used to it. He
has a nice range of varied expressions. Savage, the one who seems to
have more empathy, sticks mostly to a scowl. I’m also getting used to
Maul’s penchant for gathering allies. While I always saw him as a loner,
this just is not supported by the new canon that sees him trying to
build a power base worthy of a Sith Master. He’s passable at using
people around him, plying the pirates with money he doesn’t care for
himself, and thinking on the fly (“We’re lords… crime lords.”)
The other big question about Maul is his master plan, which he seems
to be keeping from both Savage and the audience. Although he mentioned
“the demise of Kenobi,” he tells Obi-Wan that “I have plans, and you
will not stand in my way.” Is Obi-Wan a means or an end? Just as I
thought I was getting a clearer picture of Maul’s and Savage’s motives,
I’m not sure.
This week his crew is a trio of Weequay pirates bribed away from
Hondo Ohnaka. Previous episodes focusing on bounty hunters tended to
bore me because money is just not an emotionally engaging motive, but
now that Hondo has his men to get back and Obi-Wan to tentatively
reunite with, he shines. His dialogue, such as “I am semi-speechless”
and “You are not the first laser-sword wielding maniac I’ve had to deal
with,” is some of the best in the show, and makes him a funny character
with panache reminiscent of someone from Firefly. His red and gold cape gives him a classic pirate look.
The pirates’ crowded camp also shows how far the animation has come.
Even on a re-watch of the Season Four finale I noticed that the
animators use few characters on screen when possible, but the pirate
camp is a nice crowd of Weequay, tents, and buildings.
Hondo also does the very thing I’ve wanted more characters to do – he remembers things.
He gives a quick rundown of his prior experience with Obi-Wan and where
he’s been since, and the continuity nod does wonders for a show that
sometimes seems oddly free-floating in its own universe.
A repeated theme in this episode is that the average resident of the
galaxy doesn’t know what Sith are and have to ask the Jedi. This makes
sense – and it must gall Obi-Wan to have to explain a faction that’s
supposed to be extinct.
Obi-Wan and Adi Gallia confront both Sith in an exciting fight. Gallia has not contributed much to the plot of The Clone Wars:
she’s the Council representative, and doesn’t seem to have a lot of her
own characterization besides being staid and calm. She’s the only woman
present in the episode but no one mentions her gender.
succeeds in another place that many episodes fail when Obi-Wan reacts
to her death. The music is sad, but what sells the scene is Obi-Wan’s
tired voice, his sagging body, and the sense of a calm between storms as
he confers with the pirates. His return to face the Sith is the only
way to complete his mission, but he does it with a sense of resignation.
It’s one of the more effective small emotional moments in the series.
Then we’re back in fight mode, with the brothers ganging up on
Obi-Wan. It’s an intense fight. Obi-Wan targets Savage’s knees as if
making up for Maul’s lack of them, and there are some great moments
involving all three lightsabers. Maul’s cyborg legs are longer than a
human’s, and he uses that to his advantage throughout. One character
already has been shown to be expendable, but limbs are expendable, too.
Obi-Wan follows his penchant for lopping arms off, and suddenly there’s
green mist flowing out of Savage’s shoulder. I’m surprised and intrigued
by the return of this Nightsister magic. Are the Zabraks more remade
than we thought? What does this mean for what Savage can and cannot
survive? Maul’s leg, made of metal, also bleeds the green fog when it’s
shredded by blaster fire. It’s a bizarre manifestation of Mother
Talzin’s power, and I hope it gets explained.
Maul is clearly the stronger brother. His cry of “apprentice” gets
Savage moving when Savage can’t believe he can survive. The alpha-male
dominance that incited Savage to fight Maul in the beginning is what
saves their lives now. This is the kind of framing device I’ve been
looking for since the show began, and it makes this episode feel more
complete than many others.
The episode ends with Palpatine holding court with Jedi in his
red-walled room inside the cool blue Senate rotunda. The scene feels
like a hint at things to come. Of course from the trailers we know that
the season is leading up to a Sith confrontation, but this is the
conniving Senate side of Palpatine, who insists that the Jedi have
enough “closure” already and that the Sith brothers are “petty crooks”
(as opposed to “crime lords”). It’s pleasantly reminiscent of the way
Matthew Stover’s Palpatine turned Mace Windu’s words around in Revenge of the Sith.
I wouldn’t have minded at all if this episode had been an hour long.
“Revival” was penned by Chris Collins, a veteran of “The Wire,” and I
look forward to seeing what else he has in store for Star Wars fans.