Okay... so this episode was quite different and definitely stands out among the steady line of action episodes that we have scene since the second half of Season 3 began. The pacing and humor of Mercy Mission at first reminded me of the Original Trilogy, especially Return of the Jedi. Then it showed glimpses of Lord of the Rings and Doctor Who. And finally it dissolved into a B-rate Saturday morning cartoon from the 1980s, considering the climax was droids pushing a cover over a hole, slowly.
I thought the beginning of the episode was pretty cool to watch. It was awesome to see Commander Wolffe back in the series. His cybernetic eye and painted phase II armor made him an interesting character. Additionally the return of other Wolf Pack clones like Sinker and Boost were a nice touch. I wish that the episode focused a little more on the clones, but mostly they served as straight men to the droids and Aleenas. Nevertheless, the humor was tasteful for the most part. "Suck it up, shiny!"
The opening shots of the relief ships approaching the planet Aleen and then entering the atmosphere through the clouds were well done. From the first shot of Star Wars depicting the imperial star destroyer eating up the screen, I have always loved set-up scenes like this. The line, "It's going to be another one of those planets", let the viewers know that the clones shared a slight annoyance with the native's antics. The surface of the planet was well animated and contained a fair amount of detail for an apparently desolate landscape.
Moving on to the inhabitants themselves, the Aleenas definitely reminded me the Ewoks. They were of similar stature and demeanor, and spoke a gibberish sounding, primitive language. For once it was actually cool to hear non-basic speakers in the Clone Wars, with even Rodians speaking the common tongue. The interaction between the Aleenas and the droids was very reminiscent of Return of the Jedi, as I almost wish R2 had zapped a few curious natives. The one main difference I noticed with the Aleenas, is that they seemed more comfortable around technology than the Ewoks did. Obviously their species has to have some significance to the Republic, like mining raw materials, for them to have been given technology and qualify for aid.
With witty remarks by clones and droids alike and even an utterance of the cliche "I have a bad feeling about this", I was enjoying the episode as C-3PO fell into the mysterious hole, R2 in toe. The tunnels under the surface of Aleen reminded me of the tree cave on Dagobah. The tree creatures that ambushed the droids were very reminiscent of the Ents from Lord of the Rings, and the conflict between the above-ground and subterranean dwellers of the planet reminded me of a recent Doctor Who storyline. Yet these odd pixie-like entities kept swarming around C-3PO and the sci-fi/fantasy feel started to decay into a Disney aura.
Then the story totally left the genre of Star Wars for me when the pixies accumulated into a large light source that transformed into one of the most annoying characters I have ever scene on TV, let alone in a Clone Wars episode. Orphnee seemed extremely out of place both visually and audibly. Fantasy inspired characters like the Diathim and the Daughter of Mortis didn't bother me, but this was a full on fairy or nymph. And if her look wasn't odd enough, her monotonous, high-pitched voice droned on and on in rhetoric and riddles.
After she left the screen, the droids were left to solve an obvious riddle and then were jettisoned back onto the surface to deduce that the hole needed to be closed. This ending seemed completely contrived and hearkened back to weakly written Star Wars material like the old Droids and Ewoks cartoons. The episode concluded with only one blaster shot fired at a bunch of rocks and completely no character or main story development. The only purpose that it served was to illustrate how clones don't always spend their time fighting in epic battles, and the droids are good at solving commonplace problems. Additionally the music score was pretty forgettable.
In conclusion, I think this was one of the worst Clone Wars episodes to date, rivaling Evil Plans and Corruption. Mercy Mission didn't seem like Star Wars, at least not the epic and engaging Star Wars that I'm used to seeing. Once again the humor at the beginning was fine, but it quickly got old, and was not paced by intermittent action sequenced like it should have been. Hopefully this episode was the worst of the season, because I can't imagine anything that much more boring and useless than this. This also marks two straight episodes, where the most exciting scene for me was an establishing shot of an environment. I might as well be playing an immersive video game, considering the weakness of the plots as of late. Umbara can't come soon enough.