“The Clone Wars”: Season 7, Episode 7 Review!

If this seventh and final season of The Clone Wars were the normal length of twenty-two episodes, I would probably be more willing to excuse the aimless, roundabout nature of this seventh episode, Dangerous Debt. But as it is, the long-running series only has six more episodes left: we simply don’t have time to bring the story to a standstill – especially not now, right after last week’s exciting, suspenseful installment in the voyages of Ahsoka Tano (voiced by Ashley Eckstein) and the Martez sisters.

As I guessed, today’s episode opens with the three characters trapped in a Pyke Syndicate prison chamber, while the Pykes take turns torturing them for information about the missing spice that Trace Martez (Brigitte Kali) dumped from her starship in an angry rage last week. Obviously, they make attempts to escape – and the results are…well, questionable. But without getting into spoilers yet, let’s discuss what makes this episode at least decent – in fact, right up until the end, it shows every sign of being a very good chapter in what is proving to be an excellent story.

Clone Wars Ahsoka
slashfilm.com

As with last week’s episode, the unexpected core of this Clone Wars story arc is the dynamic between Ahsoka and the Martez sisters, both of whom have very different opinions on her (which lends itself to particularly snappy, back-and-forth arguments between all three of them). Trace, trying to emulate her dead mother’s compassion, gives the Jedi-turned-rogue a shoulder to lean on, while her more brusque and practical older sister Rafa (Elizabeth Rodriguez) is naturally suspicious of Ahsoka’s surprising talents and intelligence. When the Martez sisters entered the picture, I’ll admit I was worried: at first, they seemed one-dimensional and a little boring. But that’s not the case anymore – we keep finding out new details about them, their personalities and their complex worldviews, and each one is more interesting than the last. I’m hoping we don’t abandon them and their storylines before the end of the series.

As for Ahsoka, this is some of the best material she’s ever been given: despite being forced to hide her identity from everyone around her, the former Jedi is still put in dangerous situations where the only thing she can do is use her Force-training to protect herself and her friends – which results in a lot more suspicion from Rafa Martez, who seems more perceptive of these incidents than her younger sister. But Ahsoka gets extra incentive not to reveal the truth about her past in this week’s episode, which shows us that Rafa and Trace’s hatred of the Jedi Order is very, very personal.

One disappointing aspect of Ahsoka’s character in this final season is that, because she herself is no longer the showy, flashy warrior she used to be, her fighting style has evolved to reflect that: now, her action sequences are quick, punchy and, for the most part, grounded – which might not be so shocking if Ahsoka hadn’t been the character deemed most likely to use unnecessary acrobatic skills in combat in previous seasons. If this is an intentional decision made to underscore Ahsoka’s journey, I appreciate it – if not, I can’t see why they would change something that had been such an important fixture of the character’s persona.

Overall, however, this episode is nowhere near as good as last week’s – and that comes down to one glaring issue, which I will address in today’s SPOILER section! You’ve been warned.

Clone Wars
denofgeek.com

Ahsoka, Trace and Rafa start the episode in prison. They also end the episode in prison – in fact, in the very same prison cell. The purpose for their short-lived escapade seems to have been so that the Mandalorian Bo-Katan (Katee Sackhoff) could spot them fleeing through the city. Will she be the one to break them out of the Pyke dungeons next week? Maybe, but why couldn’t she do that…today? It’s not like we still have more than half of the series left to finish the story of the Clone Wars, Ahsoka Tano, and the rest of this beloved ensemble cast: we only have a couple of episodes left, and we just wasted one on a story that took us full-circle.

The episode seems to have been intended as an introspective one, where Rafa and Trace could see Ahsoka in a new light, and vice versa. But the effort to achieve that effect falls flat too – not because Rafa’s reveal that Jedi killed their parents after deciding that taking a few lives was better than risking many more is a bad idea (in fact, it’s an awesome concept, because Ahsoka knows that it’s what the Jedi would, in fact, do), but because the excessively long and detailed speech in which she reveals this is composed of dry, emotionless exposition. After suffering through it, I was hoping that Rafa would throw in some witty one-liner to at least make the scene worthwhile: no such luck. Other than that, it’s a cool reveal, and it further convinces Ahsoka to hide her true identity – something that won’t be possible when she and the Martez sisters (hopefully) run into Bo-Katan, who knows Ahsoka was a Jedi, and, in fact, had memorable fights with her in previous seasons, when the two fought on opposing sides of the Clone Wars.

Oh yeah, and the Clone Wars themselves? Once again, relegated to the background. Once again, this wouldn’t be a problem if the series were longer and could devote more time to those wars, but it’s not, so every minute we spend away from the battlefront is time we’re losing – I’m not willing to make exceptions just because we’re spending time instead with Ahsoka, Trace and Rafa, regardless of how fun they are. Fingers crossed that Bo-Katan does rescue them next week, and gets them entangled in the tumultuous civil war currently raging on her home planet of Mandalore, bringing them (and us, the viewers) back to the forefront of the Clone Wars.

What did you think of this week’s episode? Share your thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

Episode Rating: 4.9/10

“The Clone Wars”: Season 7, Episode 6 Review!

For some, I’m sure it’s a bit of a disappointment that the final season of The Clone Wars has so far devoted less time to the Clone Wars than the interpersonal dynamics of our main characters, with small-scale, introspective interludes providing insight into our heroes’ motives and agendas. So far, there’s only been a handful of battles, and for the most part they too have been smaller than in previous seasons.

But while I too felt the same way, my feelings on the current season have changed since watching today’s episode: as far as The Clone Wars stories go, this is one of the best I’ve seen – not because of showy action-scenes (there are none!) or shocking revelations concerning Star Wars lore, but because of the fascinating relationships between the core trio in this new story arc, and the surprising depth and complexity of their motivations.

The Clone Wars
meaww.com

Once again, I have to hand it to Ahsoka Tano (voiced by Ashley Eckstein): the Jedi padawan turned exiled Coruscant rogue has always been one of The Clone Wars‘ greatest weapons in its fight to maintain relevance and pop culture significance – her lovable character, burdened as she is with regret, sadness and longing, touched our heartstrings when she made the bold decision to leave the Jedi Order, after being framed for a horrible crime and forced to turn against her friends. Now, stuck in the criminal underworld far below the surface of Coruscant, Ahsoka relies on her wits and social skills to carry her expertly through even the most dangerous situations.

Joining her for the ride (or rather, inviting her on the ride in the first place) are sisters Rafa (Elizabeth Rodriguez) and Trace Martez (Brigitte Kali), a tough, wise-cracking duo. I found both characters to be mildly interesting in last week’s episode, which introduced viewers and Ahsoka to them for the first time, but now, with much better writing, both women come off as clearly defined, charismatic characters. Rafa, the older of the two, endangers them all when she enters into a risky bargain with the Pyke Crime Syndicate, which involves a journey through hyperspace to the planet Kessel (an important location in Han Solo’s origin story as a smuggler), but her heart is in the right place and she made the deal to try and buy herself and her sister an escape ticket from Coruscant. Trace and Ahsoka, who have developed a very close bond during their time together, quickly become entangled in the bargain as Rafa’s plan begins to unravel, with Trace having to pilot her work-in-progress starship The Silver Angel to carry out Rafa’s illegal scheme – and Ahsoka having to use all her Jedi training to figure out a way to keep the trio safe.

This task is made more difficult because Ahsoka is currently trying to keep her past a secret, especially since discovering that, in Coruscant’s lower levels, Jedi are looked upon as a corrupt police force prone to violence: when pressed about how she knows so much about everything from starship engineering to the political situation on Kessel, Ahsoka has to come up with more and more elaborate explanations – one of her best excuses is when she claims she graduated from “Skywalker Academy” in the upper levels of Coruscant. Another fabulously constructed moment involves Ahsoka nearly running into her former Jedi master by chance when Trace Martez accidentally steers her amateur ship directly into a military flight lane, prompting Anakin Skywalker (Matt Lanter) and Admiral Yularen (Tom Kane) to question the ship’s crew over the radio. But it’s Anakin who tells the Admiral to back down when he reaches out into the Force and senses Ahsoka on the ship. The moment is absolutely heartbreaking: but Ahsoka’s subsequent silence only reinforces the divide between the two characters, who were once as close as siblings. Later in the episode, Ahsoka has no qualms about making a pointed jab at the Republic she used to serve for not shutting down the slave-worked spice mines of Kessel.

The Clone Wars
cheatsheet.com

Nonetheless, despite how cleverly Ahsoka is able to disguise herself, it’s very clear that Rafa has her doubts about the Martez sisters’ new working partner. She drives a wedge between Trace and Ahsoka’s close friendship, which in turn causes them to argue, which then leads to…well, SPOILERS.

Basically, the end result of the episode is that Trace Martez dumps three-thousand credits worth of quality Kessel spice into the void of hyperspace, an action she quickly regrets after she realizes she was misinterpreting Ahsoka’s “ethical argument”. Ahsoka, for her part, might have been wise to clarify that when she said she didn’t want to hand over spice to the Pykes, that didn’t actually mean she wanted to get rid of the spice entirely. But when the trio do come face to face with the Pyke Crime Syndicate at the end of the episode, it’s Ahsoka who briefly saves them all when she utilizes a hasty Jedi mind trick against the Pyke leader – which would have worked, had there not been other Pykes present: we leave our heroines stuck in a Pyke tractor beam, their escape plan foiled, their futures uncertain. Will Ahsoka be revealed as a Jedi in next week’s episode, as the three women presumably find themselves locked up in a Pyke prison? Will Rafa and Trace ride Ahsoka’s coattails to freedom, or devise their own plan? We must wait and see.

What did you think of this episode of The Clone Wars? Personally, I’d say it’s been my favorite of the final season so far, but I’m hoping the series can find a way to outdo itself next week. Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

Episode Rating: 9/10

“The Clone Wars” Season 7, Episode 5 Review!

Not a whole lot actually happens in the fifth episode of The Clone Wars, and the Clone Wars themselves might as well be background noise barely audible over the clamor of Coruscant’s criminal underworld, but that doesn’t make this episode forgettable or weak. How could it be, when it features the long (and I mean long) awaited return of fan-favorite Ahsoka Tano?

After the turbulent events that caused Ahsoka Tano (voiced once again by Ashley Eckstein) to abandon the Jedi Order, the former Clone Wars commander and optimistic padawan has found herself living a miserable life in the depths of Coruscant’s lower levels, where she operates a malfunctioning speeder bike – a far cry from the days when she piloted entire fleets of Republic warriors. In this small-scale episode, Tano teams up with the Martez sisters, Trace (Brigitte Kali) and Rafa (Elizabeth Rodriguez), two struggling mechanics trying to navigate a dangerous world of smugglers, crime bosses and villains, after crash-landing into their repair shop.

Ahsoka Tano The Clone Wars
collider.com

The episode gives us a great opportunity to see the Clone Wars through the eyes of the ordinary civilians whose lives have been affected by it: Ahsoka soon discovers that Trace and Rafa, for instance, are no fans of the Jedi Order. In their eyes (and, clearly, in the eyes of many), the Jedi are a brutal police force responsible for most of the galaxy’s wars and problems. Ahsoka was already undercover and on the run from her past, but the revelation that her new friends would view her as a murderer and warmonger if they knew her true identity only adds to the insane amount of pressure on her shoulders.

Ahsoka has always been one of The Clone Wars‘ most brilliant fighters, so it’s a bit of a shame that she only gets one action sequence in this episode – and it’s both brief and one-sided. Much more notable is her vague comment about having learned these exceptional martial arts skills from her “older brother”, which will bring to mind happier times when Ahsoka used to be Anakin Skywalker’s young, inexperienced apprentice. She’s come a long way, and her journey is still only just beginning.

Ahsoka Tano The Clone Wars
collider.com

There are no noteworthy spoilers from this episode. Of course, there’s a little bit of conflict – and a couple of fun moments where Ahsoka has to find ways to explain her profound knowledge of droid warfare that don’t include any mention of her once being a military leader – but other than that there’s not much to say about this charming little interlude in the final chapter of the Clone Wars. I would definitely have appreciated a couple of cameos from some of Coruscant’s most notable scum, such as the ex-Sith antiheroine Asajj Ventress or even Cadmus Bane and company.

Overall, however, Ashoka Tano’s return is a win, maybe because the episode is so much smaller in scale than what we’re used to, and so much more introspective and quiet. That reflects how Ahsoka has changed since we saw her choose to leave the Jedi Order because she could no longer trust them to do the right thing: she’s quieter, more reserved, and less outgoing and exuberant than she was when she believed in a higher purpose. On her own, fighting for herself and with no faith to turn to, she’s still figuring out who she is. Maybe next week’s episode will give us a clearer insight into what that might be.

What did you think of the fifth episode of The Clone Wars? What do you want Ahsoka to do next? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

Episode Rating: 5.8/10

“The Clone Wars”: Season 7, Episode 4 Review!

In its fourth episode, the final season of The Clone Wars expands the scope while simultaneously scaling back the action that was so extraordinary last week, resulting in a slow-paced, uneventful story that doesn’t quite seem to know where to focus: on the Bad Batch team, whose debut in the season premiere made them instant favorites in the series fandom; or on Echo (who, like all Clones, is voiced by Dee Bradley Baker), whose journey from being a frostbitten Separatist puppet to regaining his former status among the Grand Army of the Republic has been a strangely underwhelming one.

Clone Wars
denofgeek.com

In this episode, the mission led by Anakin Skywalker (voiced by Matt Lanter) to rescue Echo from the clutches of the Techno Union is revealed to have been successful: all the main characters are reunited and focused on delivering a crushing blow to the Separatist forces led by Admiral Trench (Dee Bradley Baker). And what’s more, they have Obi-Wan Kenobi (James Arnold Taylor) and Mace Windu (TC Carson) with them, giving the Jedi a strong presence in this episode that you would think would lend itself to cool lightsaber battles: alas, that is not the case, as Skywalker stands on guard duty for most of the episode, while Kenobi and Windu basically stand still and deflect laser bolts (though I have to give a shout-out to Windu for trying to convince the Separatist droids to surrender in what was ultimately an unsuccessful, but endearing, moment: I particularly liked how it gave us an insight into how tired and war-weary Windu and the other Jedi are as the Clone Wars drag on).

But while the Jedi are sidelined, the Clones themselves still get a scattering of great character moments: Echo is technically the focus, as the former Separatist prisoner struggles to gain his team’s trust, but it’s the Bad Batch who make a stronger impression, particularly Wrecker and Crosshair, who compete to destroy the most droids, leading to some of the best action sequences the episode has to offer. On the other hand, there’s Captain Rex, who just seems to be taking time away from other, more compelling, members of his team: despite being the character who initially cooked up the plan to rescue Echo, he has been completely ignored and overlooked ever since. I’m hoping there’s still time for him to make a comeback as The Clone Wars moves into more unfamiliar territory.

Now we move on into SPOILERS! And there’s actually two major ones – or at least, one which is major mainly because of what it signifies, and another which I really hope is major but also might not be depending on where the series goes from here.

Admiral Trench
inverse.com

The first is the death of Admiral Trench. A long-time The Clone Wars villain, Trench has been a thorn in the Republic’s side ever since the Battle of Christophsis. His effective tactics and deadly precision made him a particularly ominous villain, as did his ability to cheat death on multiple occasions. But the Separatist commander made one fatal mistake: thinking that Anakin Skywalker, like the rest of his Jedi brethren, would refrain from killing him. In a thrilling – but also brutal – moment of Darth Vader foreshadowing, Anakin sliced off a number of the Admiral’s arms before viciously impaling him. In the long run, this isn’t likely to be a major event: Admiral Trench was a notable villain, but he wasn’t exactly General Grievous or Count Dooku. This is more significant because it means we’re finally going to see the Separatist ranks whittled down as the series comes to its close. We’re in the endgame now.

Then there’s Echo, who makes a decision in the final seconds of the episode to leave the Clone Army and join the Bad Batch. It’s a logical conclusion to his arc, considering that he’s not the same Clone he was before being plugged into a Separatist database and enhanced with mechanical limbs, but it comes as a total shock: much as I liked On The Wings Of Keeradaks, I feel like we deserved one more episode in between Echo’s escape from the Techno Union and his decision to join the Bad Batch: an episode that could have given us a better look into the range of emotions he must have been feeling, his inability to fit in with his former friends, and his instant camaraderie with the team of mutants. As it is, we have barely any time to go on that journey of self-discovery alongside him. I would love to see Echo return sometime before the end of the series, but I don’t know if that’s going to happen.

So what did you think of this episode of The Clone Wars? Will Echo and the Bad Batch return next week, or will we be moving on? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

Episode Rating: 5/10

“The Clone Wars”: Season 7, Episode 3 Review!

We’re three episodes into The Clone Wars‘ final season on Disney+, and I’m finally beginning to see the appeal of the Bad Batch, whose team unit is the focus of this season’s first story arc. Today’s episode, On The Wings Of Keeradaks, is short (clocking in at just eighteen minutes) and simple, but has the benefit of being exquisitely animated, something that I feel this season’s first two episodes weren’t. With the same fluid, graceful cinematography that made the series’ earlier seasons so iconic and beloved among animation fans, this episode shows off the many ways in which the Jedi Order’s unique fighting techniques can be used to great effect onscreen (something that the Star Wars films, despite having considerably more resources available to them, have often fallen short of achieving).

Last week, we left off with our protagonists, whose mission is led by the legendary Jedi general Anakin Skywalker (voiced by Matt Lanter), trapped in the Skako Minor citadel of the Techno Union, having just successfully rescued their long-lost friend and comrade Echo (who, like all Clones, is voiced by Dee Bradley Baker). Now, they fight to escape from the clutches of the Separatist commander Wat Tambor (Matthew Wood), who unleashes a number of exciting new weapons upon them in an effort to reclaim the Clone – whose brain, as you may remember, was steadily feeding the Separatist war effort with inside information about the Republic’s military strategies.

The Clone Wars
denofgeek.com

As the title suggests, our heroes fight back with some interesting methods of their own, which includes employing the aid of the winged dragons known as Keeradaks, who showed up in last week’s episode alongside a new species of Star Wars aliens known as Poletecans. Surprisingly, though I wrote them off last week as seeming superfluous, these aliens do actually have a purpose.

Specifically, they are crucial to the episode’s climax, which simultaneously thrills the eye with swooping camera movements (complemented by Anakin’s similarly elegant leaps, fighting moves and usage of the Force) and relieves my fears that this season would tone down the series’ relatively aggressive action sequences. People get hurt in battle, and some of them happen to die: and that’s something from which previous seasons of The Clone Wars never shied away. Thankfully, even under the Disney banner, people still get hurt in Star Wars battles, and Clones and droids, unlike the stormtroopers of later years, actually know how to aim (I’d be ashamed if they couldn’t, considering one of the most prominent members of the Bad Batch team so far is an expert sniper literally named Crosshair). However, not everything will fly past Disney’s censors: a scene deemed too violent for the streaming service was supposedly cut from this week’s episode. It was non-essential, so I’ll let it go, but it’s unfortunate that The Clone Wars‘ creators have to work with Disney breathing down their back.

Now for some SPOILERS! Haven’t seen the episode yet? Then turn away, because we’re about to discuss a couple of small but significant surprises.

The Clone Wars
laughingplace.com

Firstly, though they’re probably not important to the overall plot and we’ll probably never see them again, I have to admit that I loved the new Separatist droids seen defending Wat Tambor’s castle on Skako Minor. The reveal that they fly – and on glassy, rainbow-colored wings, no less – was genuinely shocking and gave the Bad Batch a completely unforeseen new obstacle. Basically, this was how I should have felt about the flying stormtroopers in The Rise Of Skywalker but didn’t, because stormtroopers are underwhelming no matter how many times they get overused. Droids themselves have been underwhelming on occasion even in The Clone Wars, but this twist was fun and completely unexpected. The fact that these droids moved like prehistoric birds even while walking probably didn’t hurt their image either.

The episode teased us with some fake-out deaths: we nearly said goodbye to Wat Tambor after the Separatist leader was caught in the explosion of one of his new super-weapons (itself an exciting cross between a bomb and the sadistic interrogation droid from A New Hope), and I thought that Wrecker, another Bad Batch member, was done for on a few occasions. I still feel his days are numbered, in fact.

As for Echo, I have to imagine his story is just beginning: the Clone easily walks off the effects of being locked in a cryogenic compartment for a year or two, and seems to know his way around Tambor’s citadel pretty well. Could he be hiding something? Will he have a part to play in the action that will unfold in the very near future, as the Sith and Jedi collide? We’ll just have to wait and see.

What did you think of the third episode of The Clone Wars? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

Episode Rating: 8.5/10

“Loki” Photos Could Reveal TVA, Lady Loki And More!

The Loki series on Disney+, which will follow the trickster god on a journey through space and time, recently revealed an exceedingly brief snippet of teaser-trailer footage that got the entire Loki fan community talking about the Asgardian sorcerer’s connections to an obscure group of Marvel Comics characters known as the Time Variance Authority, or TVA – now, newly-released behind-the-scenes photos show Loki and the TVA teaming up, as well as the possible introduction of one of two (technically three, but we’ll get to that) Marvel characters that fans have been longing to see onscreen for a while now.

The photos, which surfaced on Twitter, reveal Loki and a number of Time Variance Authority special agents walking through the rain in what could be a park or a field. Loki himself wears a police detective uniform, and a badge of some sort: though this one is gold rather than red, it is likely similar to the symbol of the TVA that was emblazoned upon his prison garb, which we saw in the teaser trailer. It’s impossible to say for certain whether this means that Loki will be imprisoned by the TVA first and then weasel his way into their good graces and start working for them (which sounds very Loki), or if it means he’ll work for the TVA first and then betray them and get landed in prison when a better deal comes along (which also sounds very Loki).

Walking alongside Loki and his band of soldiers (who appear to be wearing various articles of armored clothing from different time periods, including what could possibly be modified German Second World War uniforms), is a man dressed in a long blue raincoat with his hood pulled up over his face. Despite that, it’s not implausible to guess that this man could be Owen Wilson, who was cast in a top-secret role for the series. Fans have been wondering whether Wilson could be playing a major Marvel villain like Kang the Conqueror, but if this is him in these photos, I feel pretty confident saying that he’s playing Justice Peace, the head of the TVA and one of its greatest agents. Kang the Conqueror isn’t the type of character to sport a pencil mustache, trousers and brown loafers: Justice Peace is, and seems more like the type of comedic, zany character that Wilson would be asked to play, anyway.

If that is the case, however, it raises the question of why Marvel would go to such lengths to keep Peace a secret. Perhaps they have larger plans in store for him, or perhaps Peace will be revealed to be someone else entirely? Keep an eye on him, is all I’m saying.

Finally, we have a photo of a woman standing alone, who is almost certainly Sophia Di Martino, one of the first actresses to join the cast alongside Tom Hiddleston as Loki. She has short blond hair, and, though her pose and winter-jacket make it hard to see much of her costume, it’s undeniable that she’s wearing some sort of golden pendant or collar, and the rest of her outfit (what’s visible, anyway) appears to be dark green in color. We have no idea who Di Martino is playing yet, but this photo might have a bunch of clues.

Lady Loki/Enchantress
Twitter | @hiddlesgold

The green and gold color-scheme is shared by at least two characters in Marvel’s Asgard mythos: Loki, who wore his classic green-and-gold armor in The Avengers, and Enchantress, a powerful and usually villainous sorceress.

Enchantress is one of those characters who has multiple versions in the comics, with the two most notable being Amora, the original, and significantly more popular, iteration; and Sylvie Lushton, a human Oklahoman girl who gained magical powers through an encounter with Loki. While most fans would probably rather see the Amora version, an unconfirmed addition made to IMDb today could point towards Sylvie being the Enchantress we see in the Loki series: Cailey Fleming, a child actress, has supposedly been added to the series cast in the role of “Young Sylvie”.

Enchantress, no matter which other name she goes by, is almost always depicted as a blond woman wearing green and gold, and almost always has a connection to Loki in some way or another, whether as an ally or enemy. However, the possibility remains that Di Martino is playing neither Amora nor Sylvie Lushton, but could instead be portraying Lady Loki.

Loki, in the comics, is gender-fluid, something I’ve written about previously, and something which is rumored to be a factor in this new series. And even though Di Martino doesn’t strongly resemble Hiddleston, it’s been reported that she could be playing the female version of Loki. She’s blond in this new image, but she might just be waiting for a long black wig. And what we can see of her outfit looks very much like how Lady Loki dresses in the comics: the green is darker than Enchantress’ hallmark green, and gold jewelry is beloved by both Loki and Lady Loki. If that’s the case, then this could be our first look at gender-fluid representation in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

What do you think? Are these images indicative of anything, or should we wait for context before we jump to conclusions? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

“The Clone Wars”: Season 7, Episode 2 Review!

The Clone Wars‘ final season has the unfortunate burden of having to start its thirteen-episode run with a story arc that was revealed to the public some years ago, before it was known that a seventh season would be developed to close out the hit TV series’ long and impressive tenure on the screen. The “Bad Batch” saga, which got off to an okay start in last week’s episode, doesn’t have the element of surprise going for it, and thus there’s very little for fans to talk about yet – though before long, we should get into uncharted territory with events like the Siege of Mandalore, and a retelling of the Jedi Purge through the eyes of characters like Ahsoka Tano.

But for now, we have to get through the “Bad Batch” arc. Thankfully, this second episode ups the ante and gives us a bit more action, as well as a welcome dose of drama, with small, quiet moments between characters allowing us more time and reason to sympathize with them and their individual plights – whether that’s Captain Rex (voiced by Dee Bradley Baker, as are all the Clone Troopers) covering up for his friend Anakin Skywalker (Matt Lanter) while the Jedi tries unsuccessfully to hide his relationship with his secret wife Padme Amidala (Catherine Taber), in what has to be the episode’s most touching and humorous moment; or something as small as the Bad Batch’s strongman Wrecker revealing, and then working past, his fear of heights. This episode has time to breathe, something that is hard to achieve in just twenty-four minutes, but which The Clone Wars used to excel at, in its heyday. I’m tentatively beginning to hope that may be the case with the rest of the season’s episodes, too, even once we get past this recycled material.

The Clone Wars
usatoday.com

There’s still a surprising lack of action, even with two Separatist antagonists – Admiral Trench (Dee Bradley Baker) and Wat Tambor (Matthew Wood) standing in the Clones’ way as they break into the prison facilities on Skako Minor to try and rescue their long-lost Clone companion, Echo. As in last week’s episode, the sniper Crosshair is still the Bad Batch’s most visually-interesting character, and he gets a couple more opportunities to shine here, even single-handedly taking on a very random squad of dinosaur-flying aliens.

Aliens are a bit of a mixed bag in The Clone Wars: you get some really good ones, and then you get the ones who are usually described as “primitive” and whose exposition-heavy monologues have to be manually translated by other characters – a job that is best left to C-3PO, who at least gives his line-readings some sassy attitude. On the other hand, the use of translators does help to make the series more realistic, and adds a valuable lesson about linguistic diversity, so I’m not going to complain about this too much. I will, however, note that the aliens in this episode fall into the latter category, and, considering how little they do to advance the plot, I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that the minutes we spend watching their conversations get translated could have been used in other areas of the episode, particularly the end.

Spoiler Warning, but Captain Rex and his band of Clones find their missing friend Echo at the very end of the episode, as we knew they would. He’s frostbitten and hooked into a device that’s been using his mind to power the Separatist war effort, but he’s still alive. His extremely brief reunion with Rex is the only part of the episode that feels rushed, or at least could have been fleshed out a little more. However, there will be plenty of time for the two to catch each other up on everything that’s happened in the next episode, which will likely see the squadron trying to escape from Skako Minor.

What did you think of the episode? Are you enjoying the Bad Batch arc, or are you ready to move on? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

Episode Rating: 7/10

“The Clone Wars”: Season 7, Episode 1 Review!

The Clone Wars returns

The long-running (and long-canceled) hit TV series The Clone Wars returns for its final season on Disney+ with a solid, if a bit wooden, pilot episode that gets the focus back on the Clones themselves. While the entire “Bad Batch” story arc that will kick off this season was written several years ago, this is the first time we’ve seen it played out onscreen: we’ll need to wait to see how it plays out before passing judgement, but for the moment we can assume that the clues and hints being dropped will lead to some pretty interesting interactions between our core cast of characters in the very near future.

The Clone Wars returns
nerdist.com

In the pilot, the Grand Army of the Republic, led by Jedi commanders Mace Windu and Anakin Skywalker (voiced by Matt Lanter) find themselves fighting Separatist droids using their own strategies against them. Captain Rex (who, like all Clones, is voiced by Dee Bradley Baker), enlists the help of Clone Unit 99, known simply as the Bad Batch, after whom the pilot is titled, to sneak behind the enemy’s front lines and get to the truth. The Bad Batch’s tactics are unconventional, to say the least, as one would expect from a team comprised of “defective clones with desirable mutations”.

The few action sequences with the Bad Batch are simply okay, however. Since the Batch’s strength comes from their individuality, I would have liked to have seen each of the characters’ skills exploited in clever ways: but only Crosshair, the team’s ultra-precise sniper, gets anything resembling a cool hero moment. Wrecker, the strongman, should have had one when he carries a wounded soldier out of the wreckage of an explosion he caused (one which he prefaces with the word “Boom”, delivered appropriately deadpan), but the shot is strangely framed as a close-up of Wrecker’s face, preventing you from getting the full effect.

Most of my complaints about the episode stem from the editing, which I felt was lacking. Despite ostensibly being the most violent Clones to date, the episode is cautious when it comes to actually depicting that violence: in one scene that I feel I’m probably nitpicking way too much, a transport ship is shot down by enemy fire and crashes – but where was the customary reaction shot of the pilot letting loose one final Wilhelm scream? Such a shot would surely have been shown in earlier seasons, and the whole scene feels oddly incomplete without it. Considering that The Clone Wars has never shied away from showing characters get shot, eaten by alien monsters, cut down by lightsabers, or sucked into the vacuum of space, and had built a reputation (before its cancellation for exactly this reason) of telling mature stories with a kid-friendly twist, this feels like a very different approach to storytelling, and one with which I’m not comfortable yet. Then again, we’re only a single episode in and we haven’t reached what are sure to be some of the entire series’ darkest moments.

Overall, the episode is less focused on the action than it is on the mystery, which it sets up very effectively. If you haven’t seen the episode yet, and are concerned about the SPOILERS AHEAD, then read no further.

Rex’s suspicions about the Separatists are confirmed when he and the Bad Batch break into a cyber station and decode secret communications with a human on the planet Skako Minor, who has been feeding the Separatists top-secret battle strategies. Rex is quickly able to determine that this human is none other than his long-lost teammate Echo, who was believed to have died in the battle of Lola Sayu. The operation to rescue him from the clutches of the Separatists, and specifically the repulsive Admiral Trench (also voiced by Dee Bradley Baker), will be the focus of the next few episodes – after that, we’re all in the dark as to what comes next, and how The Clone Wars, after six incredible seasons, will wrap up this final chapter of the story.

What did you think of the episode, and what are you excited to see next? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

Episode Rating: 5.9/10

“The Falcon And The Winter Soldier” Can – And Should – Rewrite MCU History!

Since the day it was first announced, we’ve known (or at least strongly suspected) that the upcoming Disney+ miniseries The Falcon And The Winter Soldier will tackle some very controversial topics, that are likely to rile up certain viewers: the series will follow Sam Wilson, a black man, as he goes up against a white southern conservative “hometown hero” in a battle for the metaphorical mantle of Captain America. That alone is going to be enough to send social media into a frenzy when the show premieres this August. But a new rumor hints that Wilson might not want the mantle anyway (at least not initially) – and the reason why will rock the MCU to its foundations.

This rumor, tied into the recent casting of Supergirl actor Carl Lumbly in a key role, indicates that a dark and troubling secret about Captain America’s origins will be unearthed in the six-part series, and that this secret could deeply affect Sam Wilson. Imagine, for a moment, that the super soldier serum that turned Steve Rogers, a scrawny white kid from Brooklyn, into the massive, muscular guardian of American values, had been used on other men during the same time period, but with very different results. Imagine if these men had been injured, both physically and mentally, by the strenuous tests and experiments they went through, some to the point of death or suicide, and had received no compensation – much less recognition – for their sacrifices. Imagine if these men, who would of course be covered up by the government and kept secret for decades, were black.

Carl Lumbly a.k.a. Isaiah Bradley
jamaicans.com

In the comics, this is exactly what happens to men like Isaiah Bradley,  who gave up their lives and livelihoods to become unknowing test subjects for the dangerous super soldier serum.  1940’s America being 1940’s America, these tests were carried out on people of color. Bradley’s character is based off the men who barely survived the unethical Tuskegee syphilis experiment, after being exposed to a then-untreatable virus and withheld medical aid for years. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Bradley can become the representative of these men, and their families and loved ones – at least metaphorically. He will also expose the horrific truth behind the creation of America’s most glorified hero.

In the comics, the experiments on Bradley and other African-American men were initiated after Steve Rogers’ creation, meaning that despite having nearly identical powers, Bradley is still considered the “Black Captain America” on the page. In the MCU, it’s unclear whether Marvel will go with that version of the story, or instead rewrite history still further and reveal that Bradley’s transformation happened before Rogers’, making Bradley Captain America, period. Either way, unless Bradley’s story occurs in flashbacks, it’s likely that the side effects of the serum will explain how he survives into the present day. We have no idea yet whether Bradley, as in the comics, will be left paralyzed and brain-damaged by the serum.

Additionally, the introduction of Isaiah Bradley will open the door to another important Marvel character: Bradley’s grandson, Elijah, who possesses powers very similar to the two Captain Americas, and is the only member of the Young Avengers team still unaccounted for in the MCU.

The uncovering of all these secrets is certain to cause ripples – not only does it force us, the audience, to retrospectively re-evaluate all of Steve’s accomplishments, but it forces Sam Wilson to rethink what he wants to do with the Captain America legacy: in particular, the star-spangled shield that will likely pass through several different hands over the duration of the show. Either he can give it up willingly, in light of the new revelations, or he can fight to reinvent the symbol and what it stands for.

Captain America Shield
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What would you do, in Sam’s place, and what do you think he will do, assuming this rumor turns out to be true? Share your thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

“Loki” Series Adds Gugu Mbatha-Raw!

“Finally”, is all I can say to this fantastic bit of news that dropped tonight. Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who for years has been playing roles far too small to truly capture how awesome and talented she is, has just been cast in a leading role in Marvel’s upcoming Loki series on Disney+, which will follow the Norse trickster god on a villainous romp through time and space as he evades the forces of the Time Variance Authority, and possibly even explores his own gender-identity.

"Loki" Series Adds Gugu Mbatha-Raw! 1
apnews.com

Mbatha-Raw has shown up in a number of films and TV series, from utter disasters (A Wrinkle In Time, Jupiter Ascending) to underrated gems (such as the female-led indie supernatural drama Fast Color), to global blockbusters (Beauty & The Beast). Most recently, she had a role on Apple TV’s The Morning Show. But her role in Loki could introduce her to a much wider audience than she’s ever had before, and honestly I couldn’t be happier for her. Her character, while unnamed, is being described as the show’s “female lead”, according to sources, meaning she should stick around for all six episodes.

That doesn’t really help identify who she’s playing, as this series will likely draw from a number of Marvel comics, and could include multiple obscure characters: so while fans might want to jump to the conclusion that she’s playing Amora the Enchantress, a popular villain and Loki ally, that’s just a guess (though Mbatha-Raw would absolutely be a fantastic Enchantress, and would look incredible in the character’s iconic green and yellow costume). Other possibilities include a prominent member of the Time Variance Authority, the sorceress queen Karnilla, or Loki’s best friend Verity Willis, a fun and quirky character from the comics whose always had an interesting relationship with the Trickster God, since she possesses the power to see through lies. If it’s not too much to ask, I’m politely requesting that Marvel consider casting Mbatha-Raw in all of the above roles, if not more.

So what do you think? Is Gugu Mbatha-Raw a good fit for the series (yes, of course she is)? Who do you think she’s playing? Leave your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

“Loki” And The Time Variance Authority: Explained!

The recent Super Bowl teaser which highlighted three upcoming original Marvel series’, all of which will stream exclusively on the Disney+ platform, contained a whole bunch of hidden Easter eggs, from Wanda Maximoff’s first appearance as the Scarlet Witch, to the debut of U.S. Agent. But one which required even keener eyes to spot was a clue hidden in the brief glimpse of the Loki series, which is set to premiere sometime early next year. Let’s discuss.

"Loki" And The Time Variance Authority: Explained! 2
theguardian.com

The snippet of Loki footage was exceedingly brief (considering that the show only just started filming, it doesn’t seem likely that they’ve filmed much material yet), and showed star Tom Hiddleston seated in a dark room, wearing a prison uniform with the initials TVA on it (I wouldn’t have been able to figure that out: it looked like a TW to me). But while most viewers were simply thrilled to see the God of Mischief alive and well again, others took the opportunity to track down those three mysterious letters – and it didn’t take them long to discover that in the Marvel Comics, these initials refer to an organization called the Time Variance Authority.

Basically, the Time Variance Authority (or TVA) is a bureaucratic group of time-traveling judges, juries and executioners who monitor the Marvel timeline for fractures, faults and the usual sort of thing: you know, people popping up in the past and stealing important artifacts from alternate timelines, that sort of thing. They’re very much like The Commission from Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy, but whereas that series only gave us a vague idea of what The Commission was capable of (or why they even existed), it looks like Loki could make the TVA a driving focus of the series’ first season. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this organization would have good reason to want to imprison the Trickster God: namely, the fact that Loki escaped from a timeline created in Avengers: Endgame, armed with an Infinity Stone and intent on wreaking havoc across time and space. That’s usually the sort of thing that gets you into trouble with the time-traveling powers-that-be.

The Time Variance Authority might also want to have a word with the Avengers themselves, considering that it was their interference with the Marvel timeline that led to Loki escaping and a number of other strange encounters: most of which, to be fair, were supposedly reversed by Captain America’s diligent work. Regardless, they’re probably not too thrilled about the idea of regular people figuring out how to operate the mechanics of time-travel, and I’d imagine they’re preparing themselves for future (or present, or past) altercations.

Thankfully, the TVA is armed with one of the most dangerous (and hilariously meta) weapons in the universe: the Retroactive Cannon – or Ret-Can, for short – which allows them to completely erase any event or person, in any timeline. The Ret-Can is exactly the sort of thing that Loki would absolutely love to get his hands on, and it could also be used by the Marvel writers themselves to change previous events or rewrite pieces of MCU history. If it’s used at all, it should be used very sparingly, as ret-conning (or ret-canning, in this case) anything is a risky move that often draws ire from fans: for instance, you could use it to, oh I don’t know, bring Natasha Romanoff back to life, but you wouldn’t want to do that with every dead hero. In Loki’s hands, who knows what this weapon could do? We don’t yet know whether the Ret-Can will show up in Loki, but in my opinion it’s a perfect MacGuffin, a.k.a. the object that all the heroes and villains want to find, use, destroy, etc, etc. (and considering how many times the MCU has recycled the same old Space Stone, it’s fair to say they love MacGuffins). And since in the comics the Ret-Can is used to execute prisoners, and Loki is seen wearing TVA prison-garb, I think it’s plausible that we will at least see it and Loki in the same room together at some point – but since we know Loki probably won’t be executed in the show, it’s also plausible that Loki finds a way to avoid the Ret-Can’s aim: which, knowing Loki, probably means he steals it. Imagine the Trickster God escaping from the clutches of his captors, with the Space Stone in one hand, and the Ret-Can strapped on his back, striding dramatically from the burning wreckage of his jail-cell – that’s Scorsese-level cinema, right there.

We know that time-travel has a part to play in the Loki series (the first-look image unofficially released last year showed Hiddleston’s character attending a showing of Jaws, circa 1975), but the TVA makes that make sense: before this announcement, the prevailing theory was that Loki must steal the Time Stone from the Ancient One; but now we know he doesn’t have to make such a detour. He could easily escape from prison and make use of the TVA’s own technology to maneuver in the MCU timeline.

And what about after the Loki series ends? Could the TVA continue to roam the peripheries of the MCU? Another swiftly-approaching Disney+ series, She-Hulk, could very well feature a guest appearance from the TVA – in the comics, she has a run-in with their organization that nearly leads to her own execution. That being said, there’s no indication that She-Hulk will incorporate time-travel, and I’d actually prefer it stay more grounded (or, as grounded as you can get when your protagonist is a seven-foot tall, bright green lawyer for superheroes).

So what do you think? Do you want to see the TVA and the Retroactive Cannon become a central plotpoint in Loki, or would you rather they just show up for an episode or two? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

Marvel Disney+ Trailer Review!

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is about to expand onto the Disney+ streaming platform, and the first teaser trailer for their upcoming content, while extraordinarily brief (a mere thirty seconds) has already given us boatloads of new material to examine in excruciating detail. This teaser gives us our first good look at The Falcon And The Winter Soldier and WandaVision, as well as a tiny hint of Loki.

We start with a quick shot (that should go without saying: every shot in this teaser is quick) of Sam Wilson, the MCU’s new Captain America training in his backyard with the shield of his former mentor, throwing it discus-style at trees. In the same location, later in the teaser, he shakes hands with his best friend, Bucky Barnes, who has cut his hair short. There’s shots of people in yellow and black outfits sky-diving over a desert, followed by Wilson, wearing his Falcon uniform, flying through a canyon. Bucky wields a shotgun, and confronts the series’ antagonist, Baron Zemo. There’s a shot of bullets slipping through Bucky’s vibranium fingers, while Zemo watches with an impassive stare. Is Bucky being brainwashed once again by the master manipulator? Just before the series’ title font appears, we catch a glimpse of another Falcon And The Winter Soldier villain, U.S. Agent a.k.a. John Walker, attending a rally at a football game (not dissimilar to the Super Bowl, at which this trailer debuted): Walker is seen carrying Captain America’s shield, and his appearance on the field is greeted with red, white and blue fireworks, a marching band, and ecstatic reactions from the crowd – in the comics, Walker is a government puppet who takes up the Captain America mantle after concerns that Wilson, a black man, is unfit to carry the title. This series is verging into deeply divisive political territory, and I can’t wait.

I was thrilled to see that, but I was shocked when I saw that the teaser continued with a look at WandaVision, probably the most anticipated Marvel Disney+ series, and the one that we seem to know the most about. The series, which will follow Wanda Maximoff, a.k.a. Scarlet Witch, as she veers off the edge and into insanity, is positioned to be the MCU’s most mind-bending venture yet, and it already looks outstanding: it starts off in black and white, channeling 50’s sit-com I Love Lucy, with Wanda, dressed in bridal attire, swooping through the door of her quaint suburban dream-house and into the arms of her cyborg husband, The Vision. But it looks like successive episodes of the series will take us on a trip through television history, as other shots seem to echo The Brady Bunch, and 80’s TV soap operas. Wanda progresses through a number of different looks in a couple seconds – going from demure, prim and proper 50’s attire to long hippie hair and hoop earrings, to plaid flannel, overalls and frizzy hair, to…hold on a moment! Blink and you’ll miss it, but there’s a single shot of Wanda Maximoff wearing her comics-accurate Scarlet Witch costume, complete with the bright red cape and half-moon tiara. 2020 can’t get any better.

Except it can, because the WandaVision teaser gets even more crazy from there, with a real-life, modern Wanda reeling as she watches 50’s Wanda on a retro TV, while confronting Vision in an entirely black-and-white house. Both characters stumble backwards, as if their entire reality is crumbling around them. Maybe it is. Who knows? All I know is that a few moments later, we see Wanda and Vision staring down at two cribs, from which pops a baby-pacifier that, once again, is so hard to see you could easily miss it. But for those who paused the trailer ten-thousand times (a.k.a. me), that’s a shocking revelation – Wanda’s twin children, Wiccan and Speed, are indeed going to be members of the Vision family, and this is our first (albeit technically offscreen) look at the Young Avengers in the MCU.

And that’s not all, because then there’s a title reveal for Loki, and a shot of the trickster god wearing a prison-uniform marked with a strange logo, and smiling as he whispers: “I’m gonna burn this place to the ground”. Not sure entirely how he plans to do that while locked up, but he’s Loki, so he probably won’t remain imprisoned for long. Seeing him alive, and back to his own tricks, is a welcome relief.

I’m honestly so excited for all three of these shows, and I want to have the power to time-travel into the near future so I can enjoy all three right now, without having to wait months. Falcon And The Winter Soldier, the closest of the three to release, comes out sometime in August, while WandaVision will probably premiere in October. As for Loki, the release date should be early Spring of 2021.

So what do you think? Which of the three looks the best, and why? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!