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Star Wars: The Clone Wars was not an immediately successful venture. Even those of us that enjoy aspects of the Prequel Trilogy had to agree with the nay-sayers that declared Clone Wars-era fatigue. The Star Wars universe supposedly encompasses eons, leaving no excuse to confine the storytellers to the same three-year period and the same cast of familiar characters. The period also already had its narrative finale in Revenge of the Sith and it was an operatic downer that left very, very few loose ends. George Lucas further hampered the Clone Wars creative staff by saddling the main character, Anakin Skywalker, with a stereotypically plucky kid sidekick who the majority of the audience knows won’t appear in the final act. But The Clone Wars slowly overcame its limitations and, throughout its perpetually uneven, six-season run (there are some boring episodes), the restrictions and weird contrivances helped encourage some of the most distinctive and challenging Star Wars universe tales. Some episodes even succeeded on the sheer implausibility of their entertainment factor, like the multi-episode arc where Padmé combats the evil bureaucrats that are trying to deregulate the banks (because children need to learn about the military/industrial complex, I guess?).

 Star Wars: The Clone Wars: The Lost Missions
But all good things must come to an end. While the fifth season was airing, the Lucasfilm empire was sold to Walt Disney Studios. Because the show aired on Disney rival Warner Bros’ Cartoon Network, it was canceled. The people making Clone Wars were shockingly efficient, considering the consistent quality of the animation and ended their run with thirteen un-aired episodes ‘in the can’ and another twelve in various stages of production. Ironically, Disney had been struggling to find a show to compete with Clone Wars ( Tron Uprising was their most valiant attempt), but, once they had access to the real thing, they decided they’d rather scrap it to make their own original animated series, Rebels (which has the same basic creative crew, but a much smaller budget). Disney opted to not finish the final twelve scripted episodes and sent the completed thirteen to Netflix’s streaming service. Now, these episodes are available on Blu-ray and DVD, rendering those ‘complete collection’ sets that fans bought somewhat erroneous. What follows is a breakdown of the ‘Lost Missions’ by story arc.

Arc One: An Anonymous Clone Trooper Almost Unravels the Order 66 Conspiracy:

Episodes one ( The Unknown), two ( Conspiracy), three ( Fugitive), and four ( Orders)

In Revenge of the Sith thousands of previously loyal clone troopers suddenly turned on their Jedi captains as the evil soon-to-be-Emperor Palpatine instituted ‘Order 66.’ In the context of the movie, we only needed to know that the clones were somehow in on the coup, but, over dozens of episodes, the Clone Wars series had presented the Republic’s clone soldiers as much more human characters, many of which were capable of free will, leading to strong relationships with the Jedi. Given all of this back-story, a more specific reason was needed as to why all of the clones could kill their friends in cold blood. Earlier episodes had included stories of dissent among the clones, after some realized they were, effectively, slaves of the Republic, but clone rebellions were quashed before they had a chance to do any real damage. The first season six arc verifies that ‘Order 66’ wasn’t just ‘bred’ into the clones – it was physically implanted in their skulls in the form of an ‘inhibitor chip.’ This fits the show’s more distinguishable clones and makes the sudden, accidental ‘leak’ of the Order 66 protocol a personal event than the coordinated, robotic attacks seen in Revenge of the Sith. When clone trooper ‘Tup’ (all clones are voiced by Dee Bradley Baker) glitches out and kills one of his Jedi superiors, he and his friends are devastated.

 Star Wars: The Clone Wars: The Lost Missions
Many of the better episodes of Clone Wars reframed the franchise’s sci-fi/fantasy adventure trappings in a different genre context. This particular arc apes the tropes of the bleak conspiracy thrillers of the ‘60s and ‘70s, like Alan J. Pakula’s The Parallax View (1974) and Sydney Pollack’s Three Days of the Condor (1975). The mind-control element recalls John Frankenheimer’s genre-defining conspiracy classic, The Manchurian Candidate (1962), as well. Because only a handful of characters across the Star Wars galaxy are aware of Order 66, the good guys fear that there may be a clone virus or a Separatist plot. Clone trooper ‘Fives’ (a regular throughout the series) is cast in the familiar conspiracy thriller role of an insider that is driven to sedition while trying to uncover a sinister government secret. Fan favourite Shaak Ti (Tasia Valenza) makes her first speaking appearance since season two as the Jedi investigating Tup’s attack, filling the familiar role of the good guy tasked with capturing the hero who doesn’t fully understand the stakes (she’s basically Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive). The heavy drama, surgical horrors, and generally dark moments are somewhat suppressed by a sweet-natured medical droid (Ben Diskin) that helps Fives throughout the second and third episodes (drunk clones are pretty funny, too), but the ominous ending is pretty challenging for a series that began as a children’s cartoon. It is impressive that the showmakers can manage this level of suspense, considering that most of the audience already knows that the heroes will fail.


Arc Two: Padmé Reconnects with an Old Flame, Much to Anakin’s Chagrin:

Episodes five ( An Old Friend), six ( The Rise of Clovis), and seven ( Crisis at Heart)

Clone Wars managed to portray Anakin Skywalker (Matt Lanter) as the Republic hero he is described as throughout the films. Unfortunately, while successfully painting him as likable (no small task given the small sampling of whining we see in the movies), they still never really figured out a way to make him interesting and the Anakin-centric episodes were rarely among the show’s best. On the other hand, the politic-heavy Padmé Amidala (Catherine Taber) centered episodes are among the series’ best surprises. Season six’s second arc mashes a typically boring Anakin story into a typically entertaining Padmé episode and the results are clumsy. At their best, these episodes are a follow-up to season two’s Heroes on Both Sides and Pursuit of Peace, where (as mentioned above) Padmé battled the deregulation of the galactic banks. At their worst, these episodes are a follow-up to Senate Spy (also season two), where Anakin grew jealous of Padmé’s childhood relationship with Rush Clovis (Robin Atkin Downes), who makes a second appearance here as the same untrustworthy, yet tragic villain. The first episode’s espionage elements are very successful, especially the well-staged vault heist, but, when the heist lands Padmé in Banking Clan prison, Anakin shows up and ruins everyone’s fun. Even a spirited, snow-bound chase with Kyuzo bounty hunter Embo (voiced by supervising director Dave Filoni) and escalating political intrigue (the events of these episodes are revealed as an elaborate plot to put the banks in Palpatine’s control) can’t overcome the boring black hole that is a resentful Anakin Skywalker. Clovis and Padmé’s sexual tension is also particularly awkward.

 Star Wars: The Clone Wars: The Lost Missions

Arc Three: Jar Jar Binks and Mace Windu Team Up to Solve a Mystery:

Episodes eight and nine ( The Disappeared Parts 1 and 2)

Clone Wars beat the odds in so many ways. The writers turned Ahsoka Tano into a versatile character and managed to create suspense, despite taking place between two popular movies. But I’d argue their most remarkable achievement was making Jar Jar Binks (Ahmed Best) – one of the most despised characters in all of moviedom – into a funny and even appealing part of the show. In the beginning, the Clone Wars Jar Jar was amusing, because the writers acknowledged the ire (in a first season episode, clone soldiers used him and his inescapable clumsiness as a weapon). They avoided making him into some kind of misunderstood warrior and, instead, focused on his unwavering loyalty to his friends. Then there’s Mace Windu (Terrence Carson), who is arguably the opposite of Jar Jar. Windu is generally considered cool (mostly because he is portrayed by Samuel L. Jackson in the movies), but the character has almost zero personality traits. Even the extended universe literature mostly talks about his skills as a swordsman and the fact that his moral fortitude is unwavering. The show didn’t do much with him either, until well into the second season, when a young Boba Fett (Daniel Logan) tries to kill him. When he Anakin where both trapped under a broken spaceship, he was forced to depend on R2-D2 to save him. It wasn’t much, but it at least resembled character development.

The Disappeared Parts 1 and 2 recognizes Jar Jar and Windu’s value as a team and pairs them up together to investigate alleged kidnappings on planet Bardotta. The Bardotta queen (Ami Shukla) does not trust the Jedi and demands Jar Jar, a former flame, to come alone. Windu, who accompanies him in the guise of a servant, tries to be considerate, but is impatient, leading to an awkward confrontation when he breaks in on Jar Jar and the queen doing ‘yoga’ together (it’s totally a stand-in for sex). The trail of missing persons eventually leads them to an underground, Mayan-inspired cult that is sucking the life force from force-sensitive Bardotta natives. The production design includes obvious nods to the Thuggee mines from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Mace gains actual respect for Jar Jar when he begins to demonstrate unexpected leadership skills and, by the end of the first part, he’s actually smiling and interacting with his new Odd Couple buddy. The plot thickens when the cult’s leader is revealed to be Mother Talzin (Barbara Goodson), the leader of the Dathomirian Nightsisters. The Dathormirian subplots are probably the coolest addition Clone Wars made to the greater Star Wars lore, including an ongoing story about the origins of Darth Maul.

 Star Wars: The Clone Wars: The Lost Missions

Arc Four: Yoda Investigates the Sith Threat, Undergoes a Series of Trials, and Learns the Secrets of the Living Force

: Episodes ten ( The Lost One), eleven ( Voices), twelve ( Destiny), and thirteen ( Sacrifice)

Lucas left many of the prequel trilogy’s plot points open-ended, quite often even on purpose, and one of the enduring mysteries was the fate of Sifo-Dyas, who was named by the Kaminoians as the Jedi master that had commissioned them to create the clone army in the first place. Though the films make it pretty clear that Palpatine and Count Dooku (Corey Burton) were pulling the strings; they never told us anything about Sifo-Dyas personally, besides the fact that he had been dead for some time. The answers given here are actually pretty simple, predictable, and, because so much information is delivered by known liars, like Lom Pyke (Matt Lanter), not necessarily trustworthy – but the The Lost One does verify the clone plot to the Jedi. Because it is designed to set up Yoda’s journey, it includes a lot of exposition that could have been boring in lesser hands. Fortunately, the writers treat the story like a spy thriller and deftly juggle the both sides of the plot (the Jedi investigating and the Sith covering their tracks). The speed of the information delivery is a bit overwhelming, but the confusion fits the narrative rhythms of the James Bond films that the episode is invoking.

The show’s final three completed episodes answer another question left burning in the wake of the prequel trilogy – when did Yoda ‘speak’ to the spirit of Qui-Gon Jinn and what did they talk about? Well, it turns out he instructed him in how to achieve a living force afterlife and, as most fans assumed, he revealed the secret of becoming a ‘force ghost’ – a form that Qui-Gon himself couldn’t achieve. Some viewers may complain that these episodes over-explain the afterlife that Yoda, Obi-Wan, and Anakin eventually achieve in the original films (part of the description does include the despised midi-chlorians). But I really enjoyed the Hayao Miyazaki-like, hyper fantastical elements of the explanation. Yoda’s trials are framed by surrealistic imagery and metaphysical themes that keep the justifications abstract enough to fit with the Force as Lucas first described it. I’m also fond of the arc’s Last Temptation of Christ metaphor ( The Last Temptation of Yoda?) and the way the last episode shifts focus to Yoda rescuing a representation of Anakin without recognizing the importance of his appearance in his Force-fueled battle of the minds with Sidious.

 Star Wars: The Clone Wars: The Lost Missions
My problem with this arc is the problem I have with many of the show’s more fantastical Force-focused episodes ( Ghosts of Mortis, for example) – the surviving characters can’t know too much about Palpatine’s plans, despite their occasional ability to see the future. Or, perhaps more accurately, the insistence of various supernatural powers that demand they see the future. During the final episode, the writers are forced to backtrack and clumsily obscure stuff, like Sidious’ identity, to ensure that Yoda isn’t somehow implicit in the fall of the Republic and it feels convoluted. Ideally, they could’ve more explicitly explained that the knowledge Yoda gains during this journey leads him to accept defeat against Palpatine during Revenge of the Sith’s senate chamber battle. I’ve always been bothered by the way Yoda just gives up the fight after assuring Obi-Wan that he was the only Jedi that could win against the Sith Lord and craved a better excuse than ‘Failed, I have.’ The closest thing the final episode gives us to a clarification is Yoda’s insistence that the Clone Wars aren’t an important win for the Jedi in the larger picture.

This is a fine story to end the series on, though,season five’s finale, The Wrong Jedi, was also a potent enough ending, because it gave the show’s most popular original character, Ahsoka, satisfying closure (not to mention an excuse to not be involved in Revenge of the Sith’s Order 66 purge). The final twelve episodes of the season were set to include another Darth Maul arc, which would verify his parentage and back-story with Palpatine (it was made into the four-part Son of Dathomir comic book series), an arc where Anakin and Obi-Wan investigated arms dealing on Utapau (which is included in storyreel form on disc two), and another Asajj Ventress arc (which is being adapted into a novel for release next year).

 Star Wars: The Clone Wars: The Lost Missions

Video


Stylistically speaking, Clone Wars overcame the usual budgetary restraints of television animation (though it should be noted that it had a pretty healthy stream of cash coming in from LucasFilm) by designing the characters and sets as if it was a puppet show, including hard edges, wood grain, and purposefully imperfect painted details. I assume that this was, in part, a reference to ‘60s puppet adventure properties, specifically Thunderbirds Are Go. These choices, along with the expansion from 16x9 to 2.35:1 scope widescreen, made the upgrade from HD TV to 1080p Blu-ray so valuable or at least more valuable than it would be in the case of a less textured CG-animated TV show (like Rebels). It’s worth noting that the show’s visual prowess expanded greatly, following the first season’s more typical CG look. By season six, the animators and designers were using incredibly dynamic lighting schemes and impressionistic, noir-inspired shadows. The moodier lighting mutes some of the more delicate hues, but the very specific colours are maintained and cut against each other brilliantly. I’m especially fond of the contrast that Yoda’s green lightsaber makes against the ghastly red of the mindscape where he battles Sidious. It does appear that some episodes had more time to render than others, which makes the overall detail quality a little uneven. Some of the foggy/dust-blown environments appear muddy, while others (like the Sith home world) sparkle with finer details. The brighter images also tend to look blockier and overly-contrasty. There’s plenty of room on each disc for the thirteen episodes (nine on disc one, four on disc two, plus extras), so compression effects aren’t really an issue. There are some blends that appear sort of bandy, but these may be another stylistic choice.

 Star Wars: The Clone Wars: The Lost Missions

Audio


Generally speaking, Clone Wars matched the ambitions of the theatrical movies it followed in terms of audio design. It certainly helped that Ben Burtt created such a definitive soundscape for the franchise and left the show’s mixers with a library of very Star Wars-specific effects. Unfortunately, this Blu-ray, like the previous Warner Bros. releases, features lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes (note that the Cartoon Network/WB releases featured DTS-HD Master Audio tracks). The good news is that these mixes aren’t so compressed that the more dynamic effects are flattened. Just about every episode features a big action sequence of some kind and these usually include a wall of laser beams and roaring space engines. The lightsaber battles tend to be more delicate and flashy. Dialogue is clean and consistent throughout the season and dialogue-heavy sequences also contain a number of directional enhancements. These revolve mostly around the environmental ambience of the various locations, such as the echoing in the senate chamber or the intense desert winds of whatever planet Plo Koon ends up on in The Lost One. The final three episodes are the most aurally expressive, especially the spooky swirling dread of the Sith home world. Kevin Kiner’s musical scores evolved astronomically throughout the five and a half season run of Clone Wars.  In the beginning, he was spending too much of his energy revamping John Williams’ classic cues, but, somewhere around season two he found a way to recreate the feel of Williams’ music without mimicking it. He really outdoes himself when he alternates between cheery Gaelic-inspired cues, sitar-driven Indian themes, and intense choral arrangements throughout The Disappeared Parts 1 and 2.

 Star Wars: The Clone Wars: The Lost Missions

Extras


[*] The Clone Wars Declassified (16:00, HD) – This brief featurette covers the show’s history with cast & crew interviews, from building the Lucasfilm animation studio and developing the stories, through planning the episodes entirely in the computer, and George Lucas’ influence over the story and editorial processes. It also includes cute footage of the showmakers having fun with each other and saying goodbye to the series.
[*]Storyreels from the uncompleted Crystal Crisis on Utapau arc (1:30:20) – The extras appear brief when read from the disc’s back cover, but they do include a complete four-episode arc. The animation is, of course, incomplete and the lack of lip movement and walk cycles is disconcerting, but the basic camera and character movements do give the viewer a good idea of what the final product would’ve looked like. The soundtrack is close to finished, however, including final dialogue, stereo effects, and music. Everything just needs an aural balance polish.
[*]Trailers[/list]

 Star Wars: The Clone Wars: The Lost Missions

Overall


One uneven, three-episode arc aside, Clone Wars went out strong and will be missed. Obviously, it couldn’t have continued too much longer without a dip in quality, but, if the Son of Dathomir comic series and uncompleted storyreels included with this Blu-ray release are any indication, there were at least twelve more episodes ready to go. I believe that this collection is worth picking up, despite these episodes already being available in HD on Netflix’s streaming service, due to the more consistent image quality and special features, especially those storyreels. The only down side is the lossy Dolby Digital soundtrack.

 Star Wars: The Clone Wars: The Lost Missions

 Star Wars: The Clone Wars: The Lost Missions

 Star Wars: The Clone Wars: The Lost Missions

 Star Wars: The Clone Wars: The Lost Missions

 Star Wars: The Clone Wars: The Lost Missions

 Star Wars: The Clone Wars: The Lost Missions

 Star Wars: The Clone Wars: The Lost Missions

 Star Wars: The Clone Wars: The Lost Missions

Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.


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