Whether or not one believes in a soul, the human body can be said to be greater than the sum of its parts. Our bodily integrity is important to us. The loss of a limb is not routine. We are aware of ourselves as stewards of our bodies. In the Star Wars universe, the Force is what binds all things together.
Not so with droids. They can be taken apart and put back together to
an extent that would be impossible for a human. The droids in The Clone Wars
don’t seem to have an “ick” response when BZ’s head is modified to fit
Gascon inside. Throughout this arc of episodes droids have been taken
apart, exploded, and modified to suit sentient beings’ needs.
When the D-Squad arc in Season Five started, I wondered whether
anyone would question their humanity because of this ability, or learn
about them in the way that Obi-Wan learned about the humanity of the
clones in The Cestus Deception. Gascon never said directly that
he thought the droids were subhuman, but he did treat them as inferior.
(I got the impression he would do the same to clones, or any rookie
soldiers, which undermined this idea a little.) The arc isn’t an
exploration of droid humanity either, not as much as I would like it to
be. The lesson seems to be that it doesn’t matter whether the droids are
sentient, or whether they are “human” or not, because it is their
mechanical nature that gives them an advantage over organic beings.
This arc has been unfocused, at times creative and others hackneyed.
It also seems largely irrelevant to the characters who have the most at
stake this season: Ahsoka Tano, Asajj Ventress, Darth Maul and Savage
Opress. The same is true for “Point of No Return,” the last episode in
the arc. It doesn’t forward the plot of the show as a whole. It does not
redeem the entire arc.
most I can say about this episode is that it’s inoffensive and
fast-paced. The stakes are high, but contrived. The whole Jedi council
is supposed to be on that Republic space station, for example, but we
only see Anakin and Obi-Wan. Gascon and WAC admit their own fallibility,
but only a little. The stakes are purely physical, not emotional, and
the episode is pretty much one long chase from one side of the cruiser
to the other. Battle droids offered some funny, if bizarre, physical
humor, and “I wasn’t programmed for this!” Ultimately, the droids are
the only useful ones in the arc. Anakin and the captain of the Republic
space station call upon theirs as soon as they need help.
WAC-47 has developed into a less naive, calmer character, and it was
nice to see him play off of Gascon in a different way than before.
Gascon also grows. In a twisted way Gascon is the fallible character
I’ve been looking for; he learns through trial and stalwart companions
that he can’t lead by bossing everyone around and making things
personal. His speech after a pivotal moment of sacrifice points out some
of the ways he’s grown.
“Point of No Return” shows off some nice animation. I liked the long
shot of Artoo flying through the halls, and the dead battle droid’s limp
hand. The finale was gorgeously cluttered, and Anakin was expressive.
Maybe I was just happy to see a human face, but his fear of loss really
shone through, and the last two minutes of the episode showed the
obsessive confusion between love and possession that leads Anakin to his
fall. Anakin peeking through metal struts to look at Artoo was also
Artoo’s oil-and-fire trick gets ramped up to eleven. I’m afraid I’m
biased against what was supposed to be a cool moment: I didn’t like it
in Revenge of the Sith and I don’t like it now. I think it
makes R2 seem too cruel, and I have to wonder where that power went in
the original trilogy. The episode has Original Trilogy homages
elsewhere, as well, including Artoo’s sound effects and corridors that
look like they were lifted straight from the Death Star.
servant droid Bunny has a feminine voice, and is shown to be clever and
caring toward the other Republic droids. She’s not gendered beyond her
voice. I guess that’s femininity enough, because even Bunny has to be
rescued. From the end of the episode, though, it also looks like she’ll
become a full-fledged member of the team.
“Point of No Return” serves to emphasize the importance of droids in
the Star Wars universe, and if you find action just as enjoyable whether
it’s people or droids doing it, it’s fun. It’s not particularly smart,
moving from point A to point B, putting droids or people at stake as
needed. We never find out what the Separatist transmission was about. Was blowing up the Republic space station a different plan entirely?
Maybe they were the same.
Gascon has gained some perspective and WAC now takes orders from him,
a little lesson in humility for both of them. But ultimately the
episode ends with humor, and their purpose was humor. We’re still
laughing at Gascon’s irritation, not with his success. Maybe it’s okay
that the episode didn’t quite come together, because if I’ve learned
anything from Dr. Gubacher taking droids apart to improve them and
Gascon’s needs to breathe oxygen and eat being a shown as a weakness
multiple times, maybe the lesson is that it’s okay if things are just
exactly the sum of their parts.