Review – Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Episode 5.03, “Front Runners” *SPOILERS*
Posted on October 15, 2012
In this week’s installment of Cartoon Network’s Star Wars: The Clone Wars, the rebellion on Onderon continues. Anakin, Obi-Wan, and Rex return to Coruscant to report on the status of the Jedi’s “experiment,” leaving Ahsoka behind to oversee the progress of the insurgency they’re supporting. The rebels, who have been successful with small hit and run attacks, decide they need a bigger target to show the people that they can overthrow the Separatist forces, gaining their support. They decide to take out a power generator and come up with a plan that involves stealing a tank.
All in all, if last week’s episode “A War on Two Fronts” was essentially “How to Fight the Separatists 101,” then “Front Runners,” with its straight forward set up-mission-epilogue, could be “How to Fight the Separatists 102.” It’s not bad per se, but so far this Onderon arc has lacked a spark of life that would make these episodes at least a little bit fun. Instead, we’re presented with “here’s our objective; here’s us carrying it out” and then the show is over.
I think what it boils down to is, I just don’t care about the rebels at this point. And the reason is, apart from them being allied with the Jedi, the show hasn’t given me any reason to care about them. Sure, Lux has been in a few episodes, but while his arc is interesting, the actual character is uncharismatic and bland, making it hard to root for him. But the show seems to think I should simply because Ahsoka likes him. I’m sorry, but that’s just poor storytelling. The audience needs a personal attachment to the character beyond being told “well, the others like him, so you should too.” I read an article on screenwriting a few months back (for the life of me, I can’t remember where), that called this one of the major problems with many modern films — rooting for a main character simply because they’re a main character and without them earning it.
And that’s my issue with this band of rebels. Steela and Saw aren’t characters yet, they’re caricatures with Steela being the competent, get-things-done type and Saw being played out as a good soldier but overly macho and hot-headed. We’re supposed to be cheering them on because they’re fighting the bad guys, but the show hasn’t done anything to make us actually like them yet, so while they’re technically heroes, none of their actions have much in the way of weight.
Which I really believe is the fault of the first episode in the arc, last week’s “A War on Two Fronts.” I think if it had done a better job setting up these people and giving us a reason to care about them instead of wasting so much time with “training,” then I’d probably have no real issue with this episode. But it didn’t, and this episode spends the majority of its time letting the mission play out without adding any depth to these people. If “A War on Two Fronts” was a sub-par episode that was brought up to mediocre standards thanks to it briefly touching on terrorism and also dealing with Ahsoka’s role as an outsider, then “Front Runners” is pretty average all around.
At least the set up for the next episode, what with Dooku sending in a new general, looks somewhat promising, as does Steela finally revealing that Saw is her brother. Perhaps a new threat and a bit of sibling rivalry will liven things up? Man, I hope so.