The Clone Wars Season 4: Battle Lines (2011-2012) Review

Season 4 of The Clone Wars plays out like one long teaser as viewers eagerly await the return of Savage Opress, Mother Talzin, and the Darth Maul saga –and when it finally arrives, the story arc does not disappoint. The season begins and ends with a string of excellent episodes introducing new worlds and forecasting a shadowy horizon for future episodes.

Season 4, Episodes Sixty-Seven to Sixty-Nine “Water War,” “Gungan Attack,” and “Prisoners”

“When destiny calls, the chosen have no choice.”
“Only through fire is a strong sword forged.”

“Crowns are inherited, kingdoms are earned.”

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Season 4 begins with a trio of sequential episodes (“Water War,” “Gungan Attack,” and “Prisoners”) on the water world of Mon Calamari (or simply “Mon Cala”) where the Mon Calamari dispute with the squid-like Quarren. A civil war breaks out which sends Anakin, Padme, and Captain Ackbar to Mon Cala just in time for a Separatist-ordered breakdown of negotiations. Capt. Ackbar becomes the bodyguard of Prince Lee-Char after the king is executed. During the underwater war, Jedi and clone reinforcements arrive led by Kit Fisto who is joined by Ahsoka Tano. Then aqua droids arrive as well as giant jellyfish creatures as they battle a shark-like villain named Tamson –his bloody exploding death is reminiscent of Jaws. The young prince learns a hard lesson that sometimes retreat is acceptable if you wish to live and fight another day. Yoda requests help from the Gungans (including Jar Jar Binks) to aid the Mon Calamari as long-time allies. When imprisoned, the Prince persuades the Quarren to rise up against the shark-like overlords to reclaim their home.

This was a terrific start to the season as it gives tremendous depth to the Mon Calamari (I always wondered what Admiral Ackbar’s planet might have looked like) as we are introduced to an underwater civilization. It is a reminder that in a war as wide-scale as the The Clone Wars, civil wars can happen anywhere. Also interesting to note that apparently lightsabers can function underwater.

Season 4, Episode Seventy “Shadow Warrior”

“Who a person truly is cannot be seen with the eye.”

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Next, a single stand-alone episode (“Shadow Warrior”). Civil unrest threatens Naboo, rumors swirl that the Gungans are threatening to aid the Separatists on the planet Thead. This sends Padme and Anakin back to Naboo to negotiate. A battle very nearly unfolds between the Gungans and the surface at Lake Paonga. There is a dark traitor among the Gungans as magic has been implanted in a necklace which effectively possesses Boss Lyonie. He is awoken from possession by Anakin, but unfortunately killed short thereafter when confronting the Gungan traitor, Rish Loo. This episode gets a bit silly as Jar Jar impersonates Boss Lyonie, the recently killed leader of the Gungans. It turns out, Genera Grievous is behind the Gungan uprising and very nearly dies after being taken captive. I would say this is skippable Jar Jar episode, but in the end, Darth Sidious is informed of the loss of Grievous, and in response he instructs Count Dooku to lure Anakin Skywalker into a trap. Anakin engages in a thrilling lightsaber duel with Count Dooku that only ends with the imprisonment of Anakin. Unfortunately, Padme is forced to negotiate a trade –Anakin for Grievous.

Season 4, Episodes Seventy-One and Seventy-Two “Mercy Mission” and “Nomad Droids”

“Understanding is honoring the truth beneath the surface.”
“Who’s the more foolish, the fool or the fool who follows him?”

Rating: 3 out of 5.

In “Mercy Mission” and “Nomad Droids,” the Mid-Rim planet of Aleen, populated by odd little creatures somewhat similar to Ewoks, has been plagued by harrowing earthquakes. A Separatist transport has been blocked at the Qiilara system preventing them from providing desperately needed humanitarian relief. When relief finally arrives, R2-D2 and C-3PO join a band of clone troopers down to the surface for language translation. However, this leads R2 and C-3PO on an accidental misadventure deep beneath the planet’s surface where they meet a strange cohort of talking tree-like figures before speaking with Orphne, a quick godlike female being who claims the earthquakes have been caused by the poisoned air of the surface-dwellers. This leads the droids on a side-quest to solve the dilemma between surface and “underworld” which will end the planet’s devastating earthquakes. In the next episode, while headed homeward from Aleen, their star cruiser helmed by Jedi Master Adi Gallia is attacked by General Grievous. The droids escape with R2 piloting a ship which crash lands on a strange planet where tiny creatures tie them up a la the Lilliputians in Gulliver’s Travels. However, the droids are soon released and they accidentally kill the leader, Hay-Zu, which allows the aliens to begin developing their own democracy. The tiny aliens then help the droids repair their ship. This leads them on a wild adventure to the planet Balnab, a planet in its early organic stages of development, where they are accosted and brought before a hologram of the godlike planetary leader, but he is soon revealed to be a fraud, the mere product of worker droids intending to enslave this planet. Once again, R2-D2 and C-3PO have unknowingly liberated a planet. Both droids run out of power, but they are rescued and recharged by pirates who intend to use the droids in a fight to the death for entertainment, however the pirate ship is attacked which sucks both droids into open space and eventually leads them back to their Adi Gallia’s star cruiser in the first place (which is now occupied by General Grievous). Just before they are led away to the incinerator, Jedi Master Plo Koon arrives with clone Commander Wolffe and his pack of troops to recapture the ship. This duology was an odd side-quest filled with humor and unexpected twists, but not essential viewing in my view.

Season 4, Episodes Seventy-Three to Seventy-Six “Darkness on Umbara,” “The General,” “Plan of Dissent,” and “Carnage of Krell”

“The first step towards loyalty is trust.”
“The path of ignorance is guided by fear.”
“The wise man leads, the strong man follows.”

“Our actions define our legacy.”

Rating: 5 out of 5.

In the next four-part collection (“Darkness on Umbara,” “The General,” “Plan of Dissent,” and “Carnage of Krell”) Republic forces make an attempt to capture the capital city on the shadowy planet of Mubara which is shrouded in permanent darkness. Anakin is placed in charge of the 501st clone battalion to lead the charge, the surface of the planet is filled with deadly creatures, however Anakin is reluctantly forced to hand over leadership of his men to Jedi Pong Krell, a large frog-like creature with four arms who is a shrewd and temperamental leader. Anakin is summoned back to Coruscant at the behest of the Supreme Chancellor while the clone troops struggle with their new leader. General Krell pushes the clones to recklessly risk their lives, while they try to come up with a smart plan to achieve victory –in one case, they disobey Krell and sneak behind enemy lines to capture a key military installation, in another they commandeer Umbaran vessels (which use fascinating orb-like alien technology) and successfully invade a Separatist supply ship where they destroy the main source. However, instead of celebrating the recalcitrant clone troopers, General Krell orders the two survivors executed. But before they can be killed, an attack strikes –as it turns out, Krell has ordered two battalions of clone troopers to fire upon one another, claiming that the enemies will disguise themselves as clone troopers. The clones manage to commit mutiny and capture Krell after he is attacked by one of the giant creatures on Umbara which resembles a venus fly trap. Then, they imprison Krell who claims he has turned away from the Jedi and is now looking out for himself since he senses a new power is rising in the galaxy. Before he can finish speaking, one of the troopers surprisingly shoots Krell in the back. I am drawn to these compelling portraits of the clone troopers –a good reminder that they are soldiers and more than simply a number. They each have distinct personalities and are worthy of value.

Season 4, Episodes Seventy-Seven to Seventy-Nine “Kidnapped,” “Slaves of the Republic” and “Escape from Kadavo”

“Where we are going always reflects where we came from.”
“Those who enslave others, inevitably become slaves themselves.”
“Great hope can come from small sacrifices.”

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The next two-part story (“Kidnapped,” “Slaves of the Republic” and “Escape from Kadavo”) is apparently based on on a six-part Expanded Universe comic series, Slaves of the Republic. The peaceful planet of Kiros, known for its art and luxury, is forced to choose sides in the war. Before Yoda can send forces, the Separatists under Count Dooku invade Kiros for a “peaceful occupation.” The whole planet is then enslaved by the Zygerrian Queen. In the ensuing madness, Obi-Wan is enslaved and Anakin and Ahsoka hatch a plan to release him from the slave camps on the planet Kadavo. At one point, the scene plays out like a parody of Return of the Jedi as Anakin is led into a ring for entertainment, but R2-D2 launches his lightsaber into battle for Anakin. In the end, Kiros plans to join the Republic.

Season 4, Episode Eighty “A Friend in Need”

“Friendship shows us who we really are.”

Rating: 5 out of 5.

In “A Friend in Need,” the first meeting between the Republic and the Separatists is held on the neutral planet of Mandalore. While the Separatists claim they merely wish to be recognized as a separate, independent state, a young prince named Lux Bonteri intrudes and claims his mother was betrayed and killed. He is then imprisoned on Mandalore. Ahsoka breaks him free as the negotiations fall apart and they head for Coruscant, but Bonteri betrays Ahsoka and redirects the ship to a secret rendezvous with a Mandalorian bounty hunter collective known as Death Watch. However, they turn out to be amoral murderers and once they discover Ahsoka is a Jedi, they lock her up with plans to kill her. Thankfully, R2-D2 makes some rebellious droid friends and they attack the Death Watch while Ahsoka, Bonteri, and R2 escape back to their ship. In the end, Lux refuses to return to the Republic and instead decides to flee in an escape pod. He and Ahsoka share a sorrowful moment through the glass before he jettisons away into space.

Season 4, Episodes Eighty-One to Eighty-Four “Deception,” “Friends and Enemies,” “The Box,” and “Crisis on Naboo”

“All warfare is based on deception.”
“Keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer.”
“The strong survive, the noble overcome.”
“Trust is the greatest of gifts, but it must be earned.”

Rating: 5 out of 5.

In the next four-part (“Deception,” “Friends and Enemies,” “The Box,” and “Crisis on Naboo”) a growing danger in the Coruscant underworld leads to a threat against Chancellor Palpatine’s life. As the Jedi hunt down clues, Obi-Wan fakes his own death and goes undercover (as Rako Hardeen) at the behest of the Jedi Council. He is sent to prison to gather information from the villainous Moralo Eval which also leads to the notorious bounty hunter Cade Bane. He also runs into a young Boba Fett in prison, along with other infamous scum and villains in the Star Wars universe. Cad Bane leads them on a jailbreak through the crematorium and they flee to Nal Hutta where betrayals abound, but soon Anakin and Ahsoka track the bounty hunter’s ship, still believing Rako Hardeen murdered Obi-Wan. But the bounty hunters meet with Count Dooku and they are compelled to participate in a giant war game (“The Box”). The survivors of The Box are led by Cade Bane on a mission to kidnap Chancellor Palpatine.

Season 4, Episodes Eighty-Five to Eighty-Eight “Massacre,” “Bounty,” “Brothers,” and “Revenge”

“One must let go of the past to hold on to the future.”
“Who we are never changes, who we think we are does.”
“A fallen enemy may rise again, but the reconciled one is truly vanquished.”
“The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

Rating: 5 out of 5.

At last! The final four episodes of Season 4 (“Massacre,” “Bounty,” “Brothers,” and “Revenge”) return to everyone’s favorite character arc in The Clone Wars. In Season 3, Count Dooku decided to turn on his assassin, Asajj Ventress, and have her killed, but Ventress survived and sought vengeance on her former master. She tried a couple of strategies, ultimately settling for a vicious new assassin-apprentice of her own, Savage Opress, who is actually the brother of Darth Maul. He serves as an undercover assassin for Dooku until the moment when Ventress decides to strike. However, at the final moment Savage Opress turns on both Ventress and Dooku. He returns to Mother Talzin who instructs him to seek out his brother, Darth Maul. Meanwhile, Ventress escapes in hiding before returning to Mother Talzin and the Nightsisters of Dathomir. When Dooku learns of her whereabouts, he sends General Grievous to attack Dathomir in order to assassinate Ventress. When the battle begins, the witches gain the upper hand by resurrecting an army of the undead. Mother Talzin uses dark magic to afflict Dooku with a horrible burning sensation. However, General Grievous invades the witches’ lair which decimates the Nightsisters. Ventress then flees for her life to the Outer Rim in search of a new life on Tatooine. After killing a friendly patron at the cantina bar (in a nod to A New Hope), Ventress joins up with a group of bounty hunters led by a pre-teen Boba Fett on a job to steal a young bride, when at the last moment, Ventress realizes the young girl and her brother have been ripped apart from their family. She has a change of heart and decides to help them escape, betraying Boba Fett, and finding a new purpose in life. In the next episode (“Brothers”) Anakin and Ventress, both in separate parts of the galaxy, begin sensing something dark arising from the past. Meanwhile, Savage Opress uses a magic amulet given to him by Mother Talzin which guides the way to his brother, Darth Maul. He heads for the junk-filled, windswept planet of Lotho Minor. An annoying talking snake-like creature named Morley guides Opress through the heaping piles of rubble as they head underground beneath the planet’s surface, however Morley betrays Opress and sends him hurling deep underground as an offering to his “master.” Who is his master? In the shadows, a strange maniacal figure turns out to be none other than Darth Maul –now, an unhinged scavenger living deep within the bowels of the planet after having fashioned six legs for himself from junk he recovered. Opress takes his brother to Mother Talzin on Dathomir and she repairs his fragmented identity along with giving him new cybernetic legs. When he regains his consciousness, Darth Maul demands to have revenge against Obi-Wan Kenobi. He and Opress head for Ridonia where they begin slaughtering innocent young children until Obi-Wan Kenobi arrives. Meanwhile, a bounty has been placed on the head of Savage Opress, and it is claimed by Ventress. When Kenobi arrives to battle Maul, he is surprised by the presence of Savage Opress and the two brothers handily defeat him and drag his body to their ship where Ventress surprises everyone and helps rescue Kenobi upon realizing they are outmatched. They narrowly escape in a pod, while Maul and Opress plot decide to simply take their vengeance slowly, when the time is right…

Standouts for me in Season 4:

  • Episodes 85-88 “Massacre,” “Bounty,” “Brothers,” and “Revenge”
  • Episodes 73-76 “Darkness on Umbara,” “The General,” “Plan of Dissent,” and “Carnage of Krell”
  • Episode 80 “A Friend in Need”
  • Episodes 81-84 “Deception,” “Friends and Enemies,” “The Box,” and “Crisis on Naboo”

Return to my survey of the Star Wars series

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