Sunday, April 10, 2011

Witches of the Mist Review

This is my review of the Clone Wars episode "Witches of the Mist" which concludes the much anticipated Savage/Nightsisters trilogy of Season 3. My first two reactions to this episode were, "This is the best episode of Season 3 yet!!" and "The name of this episode hardly makes sense...". Of course my first comment unquestionably outweighs my second.

Living up to the two previous episodes of the trilogy, the finale was not short on action. We were teased by a short but inventive duel amongst Savage, Obi-Wan, and Anakin midway through the episode, and were utterly thrilled by the complex and interwoven duels at the end. As expected, Savage proved to be a menace with a dual-bladed saber as he made quick work of Toydarian warriors and held experienced Jedi at bay. However short it was, the assault on Toydaria did well to set up Savage as a dangerous villain, and this fact added greater suspense to the action toward the end of the episode.

From a technical standpoint the animation was breathtaking. The choreography of the duels was on par with the Saga, and the characters were given a great range of expression with both variety in their facial movements and body language. Unfortunately we did not see anymore of "rainy Coruscant" than what was revealed in preview clips last year, but nevertheless the artistic achievement of this environment should be noted. Toydaria also proved to be a fantastically woven local in its second appearance this season. While not introducing as many new locals as previous episodes, overall the animation of "Witches of the Mist" was fluid and fully engulfed viewers into the story.

There were a few characters in this episode that had abominably minimal screen-time in their Clone Wars debuts. The unbelievably animated Clone Commandos in the initial scene slipped by in seconds. Hopefully their large fan-base will enjoy many more appearances from these renown elites. Additionally, the horned Jedi Saesee Tiin was merely scenery in the Jedi Temple sequence. His design fits well into the show along with other Masters, and with the creation of his model, the Clone Wars crew has come that much closer to having the ability to show a full session of the Jedi Council, something oddly lacking in the series thus far.

One of the most intriguing story elements in the episode was the Sith training of Savage Opress by Count Dooku. It oddly reminded be greatly of Yoda's training of Luke on Degobah in the Empire Strikes Back. However there was one gigantic difference; while Yoda encouraged Luke to purge himself of his feelings, Dooku challenged Savage to draw his power from his fear and anger. The simple comparison of these two scenes illustrates the core difference between the opposite sides of the Force and how their users utilize them.

Aside from breathtaking choreography and editing the duel at the end of the episode was compelling from a situational stand-point. We saw Sith fighting each-other with sabers and Force-powers for an extended period for the first time in Star Wars film and television to my knowledge. The moment when it seemed that the three users of the Darkside turned against one-another with their allegiance only to themselves was unbelievable. This left the short encounter between the two Jedi and Savage a mere afterthought. I was slightly disappointed at how the crew made Dooku's ability to cast Sith lightning a repeated trump-card in the duel. We saw Savage get pushed back by this one too many times. But nevertheless, Dooku is Sidious' apprentice for a reason, and second-rate Sith should never gain the upper hand over him for too long.

Finally at the end of the episode, as the dust settled, the wounded Savage returned to Dathomir poetically in the footsteps of his mistress, and only to set up one of the most shocking reveals in the history of this series. The Nightsisters tell the downtrodden Zabrak that he is indeed the brother of the fabled Darth Maul, and to everyones shock, that Maul was still alive! Mother Talzin then suggested Savage seek Maul out for further training in a similar manner to Obi-Wan's command to Luke about finding Yoda in the films. This turned what appeared to be a concluded story-arc, into a launching point for even more epic adventures.

In conclusion "Witches of the Mist" included fantastic animation, told a relevant story in a compelling way, and served a noteworthy purpose among Star Wars lore. The pacing of the episode was deftly crafted, as high-action and interesting dialog were interwoven handedly. The humor between Obi-Wan and Anakin gave the third Nightsisters episode an element that the first two lacked, as the endeavor greatly added to the mythos of the poster Jedi of the prequels. I was thoroughly satisfied with this episode, and am intrigued immensely at the doors that have been opened by it.

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