There were moments in this episode where I thought I was watching a live action theatrical film. The animation was that good. But Padawan Lost is an interesting penultimate episode, because it lies between the epic conclusion of the Citadel trilogy and the climactic season finale featuring the much anticipated Clone Wars debut of the beloved Chewbacca. Even though most would assume on the surface that this is a filler, set-up episode, I beg to differ. For me it included three fantastic elements, breathtaking animation, thrilling character exposition, and further references to the Original Trilogy. Just like the first Citadel episode, the story is hard to judge because we are only halfway through it. But thus far I am enjoying the suspense.
The thing that stood out to me the most was the animation. It seems like most of the episodes in the last half of this season have taken place in darker environments, which allow for high contrasts and melodious light play. The planet of Felucia was further developed from its appearance in season two and looked very much like it did in Revenge of the Sith. The luminescent plant life during the night and the insects crawling on the trees and ground, gave the environment even greater life. The moon of Wasskah that the Trandoshans took Ahsoka to, was even more fantastically animated. The gloomy jungle reminded me of Tim Burton's version of Wonderland with it's whimsical yet dreary biosphere. The industrial looking crafts of the Trandoshans differed from the sleek Prequel Trilogy style and were more reminiscent of dystopian science fiction. The scenes from the outside deck of their ship overlooking the clouded atmosphere of the forest moon gave the similar effect of military ships over Pandora in the movie Avatar. From the overarching branches to the root-filled caves and jungle floor, Wasskah is one of the most detailed environments I have seen yet in this series.
Amongst the backdrop of the grim moon, the Trandoshan hunters' brutality was poignantly evident. These rogues made Bossk seem fairly civilized, as they more resembled the blood-thirsty slavers of the Expanded Universe. Their jagged teeth, sharp claws, glowing eyes, and snarling, lizard-like expressions gave them an ominous presence. Additionally the sound design of their reptilian voices was superb, as their raspy, hissing, ticking mannerisms only added to their fearsome nature. The Trandoshans certainly stand out to me as some of the most vicious villains that this series has seen. Their primal nature was bone-chilling, as their motivations strayed from that of most Star Wars antagonists. They aren't killing to win a war or make a credit, but for the sport of it. A predatory mindset that surely cannot be negotiated with that tests the heroes like nothing has before.
For Ahsoka Tano, this was another stand-out episode. I am pleased with the direction they are going with her is the series. Recently I have started to get the idea that Ahsoka is what Anakin would be if he had started his Jedi training at a younger age. She seems to have his impetuousness, as she throws herself into situations expecting them to be resolved through her abilities. Just like her master would have, she didn't accept her role as a fugitive on Wasskah, but immediately started thinking of ways to go on the offensive against her captors. However she differs from Anakin in that her attachments and fear of losing control do not weigh her down. Therefore even with an audacious nature, she continues to control her hate and remain on the path of the Light Side of the Force. These differences between padawan and master are illustrated well in this episode. In one scene Ahsoka warns her fellow padawan Kalifa not to kill a Trandoshan out of hate, and in another Anakin mentions that his apprentice's greatest trait is her fearlessness, something that he himself lacks. So far, Ahsoka continues to acquire Anakin's traits without comprising her core Jedi teachings, but will this last forever?
Aside from the Trandoshans, there were also a few more interesting Original Trilogy references. One of the captives dropped off on the jungle moon was the same species as the cantina alien known colloquially as Snaggletooth. Additionally there was a Wampa hide draped across the lead Trandoshan's thrown and Wookiee skins hanging on the walls of their lair. There was also a reference to a season two episode, Bounty Hunters, that took place on Felucia, as the farmer Dilani aided the Jedi in their attack. This series continues to make references to the Original Trilogy and that will continue when more characters will show up in the conclusion of this storyline.
Although the action sequences in Padawan Lost were not lengthy, they were animated well. The initial battle was pretty thick, and the shots of the Trandoshan hunting crafts patrolling the jungle shooting down their prey were fun to watch. The hand-to-hand combat between the Trandoshans and the padawans toward the end of the episode reminded me of earlier season three episode, Monster. Unlike that in recent story arcs, I found the musical score of this episode a bit lacking. It served it's purpose to give mood to the animation, but seemed very filler and wasn't memorable. However the pacing and perspective of Padawan Lost was adequate, as it fit into its twenty-minute slot pretty well. With the given plot, I don't believe any major improvement could be made, as the only thing that disappointed me is the absence of the Wookiee planet Kashyyyk in this story arc. But at least there were no major continuity changers in this episode, which was a pleasant surprise given the events of recent episodes.
Overall I thoroughly enjoyed Padawan Lost. The animation was unbelievably believable at times, the action was well paced and choreographed, the plot was very fresh, the villains were portrayed fantastically, and the character development was interesting. I think this episode definitely continues the run of excellence that the series has had in 2011. I feel an equal weight of satisfaction from Padawan Lost and anticipation for the conclusion of this storyline in the season finale, and if Wookiee Hunt is an improvement in any way on its predecessor, I will be greatly pleased.