Put yourself back in time just a few years: As a Star Wars fan you’d seen the last of the live-action Skywalker saga, and unless you spent a great deal of time studying the six films and reading every interview with creator George Lucas you could get your hands on, there were some occasional gaping holes here and there that didn’t quite add up between the separate chapters, and most widely, between the two generations. We knew most of the “whys”, but not much of the “hows”. For example we saw the Clone War begin and end, but nothing of the three years and hundreds of battles between, even though they are what broke Anakin and left him so susceptible to the Dark Side. Those who criticised how easily he fell to Sidious’ side in Episode III were discounting the war-weariness upon his shoulders and his psyche, making him not only so much more malleable, but were also discounting the notion that something or some things could’ve happened during that time to help make the glove of the Dark Side a more natural fit. As we’ve witnessed in particular lately, there’s been a whole host of things that’ve speeded that process along.
Such is the nature of having an extra 40 hrs. plus of canonical content in the long-run to explore and tie the films together, and this is The Clone Wars’ greatest strength. It’s not merely an encyclopaedia of footnotes to the live action series, but a heavily entertaining collection at that, quite often working at the same level and beyond the source films themselves. Just ask yourself: prior to this series did you ever expect to learn more about the myriad reasons for Anakin’s downfall, including a rather blatant passive choice that perhaps sealed that fate; or what about the fact that he trained, loved, and (presumably) lost a padawan during the war? Or that we’d see more of Greedo? Or Sy Snootles? Or one of those Angels of Iego that ‘lil Annie compares Padme to upon first meeting her? Or Darth Maul’s kith and kin, and nay, Maul himself? Qui-Gon? Chewbacca? The list is becoming a heady laundry list of expansion we could’ve only dreamed of before now. And in the latest episode,”The Citadel”, as in most of these current season 3 episodes, we’re getting those connections in spades, and as far as we know, we’re not even halfway through the series yet.
For the latest episode we get not only another look at the use of carbon-freezing and an Ugnaught operative, but also something I bet most considered they’d never see: the freezing process being used by Anakin and Obi-Wan, among others, using it on themselves to sneak past lifeform-scanners. Did you ever once consider the idea while watching “Old Ben” in his hovel of long ago, that one day you’d witness him undergoing the iconic carbon-freezing process that became such an iconic moment for Han Solo? Or even greater, seeing that Anakin had concocted the very idea that they use it on themselves, thus planting the seed of his return to that method in transporting Rebel Captain Solo later on in his life? The mind boggles that we’re seeing things like this now being lovingly played through. If there’s anything you ever wanted to see more of in the Star Wars universe, presented in a canonical medium, chances are you shall in the near future if you haven’t already. As Admiral Yularen has already been a steady presence throughout this animated series (he’s later the white-uniformed, mustachioed officer at the briefing table along with Vader and company in A New Hope (1977)), the hope has been very strong that at some point we’d also catch at least a glimpse of Grand Moff Tarkin, Vader’s right-hand man that audiences love to hate, played by the late Peter Cushing in that film.
In “The Citadel” Anakin and company breach a nearly-impenetrable fortress to rescue Jedi Master Even Piell (last glimpsed in Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)) as an oft-mistaken member of Yoda’s race simply because of his stature and long-pointed ears. A member of the Lannik species, Master Piell has been taken hostage along with some key Republic officers (including Tarkin) as bait for head Jedi. Anakin, Obi-Wan, Ahsoka, Captain Rex, Commander Cody, six other clones, and R2-D2 (interestingly commanding some repurposed battle droids), all head out to the newly featured planet Lola Sayu in a rescue attempt. Ahsoka goes around her Master’s directive of remaining behind by interpreting her former Master Plo Koon’s advice as being concrete enough reason for disbeying the order she’d been given. Fortunately this time her headstrong predilections serve the group well when her size allows her to gain the group entrance to the citadel itself. Such a payoff reinforces her view that Anakin’s similar teaching-by-default examples are helpful overall despite the occasional setback, such as her being responsible for losing several clones in the Battle over Ryloth in season one’s “Storm Over Ryloth” episode.
New villain Osi Sobeck is the one maintaining the fortress, and as far as villains go, he seems rather weak at this point in the series. Like the rogue Neimodian generals surrounded by battle droids which dominated so many of the season one episodes, he never seems very threatening. From appearing as a cross between General Grievous (even down to his stride and movements) and a Bossk-like Saurian, Sobeck is merely an organic tactician holed up in a fortess control room, cowardly sending more and more droids ahead into the corridors, while gleefully watching the resulting carnage via closed-circuit surveillance.
But the action he unleashes on our intrepid rescuers is quite thrilling nonetheless, especially when the fan-favourite commando droids once again take the stage. This prison-break sequence has the classic feel of the Death Star infiltration in A New Hope, even down to the group splitting into two squads while exploring the long narrow corridors, which is perfectly fitting considering that Tarkin is amongst the prisoners, a sort of reverse-engineered scenario for him from the other context we’ve previously seen him in. But once-rescued, Tarkin himself is curiously at odds with Anakin’s procedure, an interesting dimension that colours their relationship we know so well from A New Hope. How this tension plays out is left to be seen in future episodes, for his appearance amounts to a small cameo that leaves the episode on a bit of a cliffhanger, and making the wait for next week’s episode a bit more baited than usual. Fans have so far been spoiled with the reveal of Darth Maul, Qui-Gon, and Tarkin this season, with two episodes involving Chewie set to wrap the series to a close until next fall. Those last two episodes, likely exploring how Yoda came to have “good relations with the Wookiees” are the real magnet of fans’ attention at the moment, but gaining a bit more insight into Skywalker and Tarkin’s early relationship in the meantime should prove to be a welcome diversion.