Artificial Continuum

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Battle of Mon Cala/Dac/Mon Calamari continues in the second half the fourth season opener of The Clone Wars with a jump in quality but with the reappearance of old problems.

After the overwhelming loss in the previous episode, the survivors are on the run from the ever persistent Quarren and Separatist forces. Lee-Char is doubting his abilities as a leader more now than ever and even the help of Ahsoka and Ackbar can't seem to help him step up to the role of leader his people need. Meanwhile, Master Yoda approaches an old ally for assistance in the battle and the Separatist's prepare for a final assault to kill the last lines of the Mon Calamari defense.

As the second episode of a three part arc, "Gungan Attack" suffers from much of the same problems as "Water War" but improves due to a better sense of direction and character.

"Gungan Attack" throughout conveys a sense of urgency. Our heroes are stranded and separated and are faced with seemingly impossible odds. Like last year's "Counterattack" (one of my personal favorites), this episode follows a small band of heroes attempting, mostly fruitlessly, to avoid the clutches of a diabolical enemy commander and waves of enemies. Its interesting to see a battle go so utterly against the Republic's favor, which is something we have yet to see in the series.

Tamson is ,again, a scene-stealer. Although not as brutal as he appeared in the episode prior, the shark-like commander continues to manipulate both the Quarren and Mon Calamari to benefit himself. The plot line is interesting and is a welcome distraction from Lee Char's floundering attempts at leadership. The fact that Tamson is paired with a sympathetic and honorable Quarren leader makes the entire political web of this arc all the more engaging.

The inclusion of the Gungan army comes as a surprising (well, relatively given the title of the episode) and bizarre twist. Their inclusion seems rushed and almost haphazard, and this continues to their inclusion in the battle itself. Jar Jar makes his return and again he injects an otherwise serious episode with unneeded and jarring slapstick.

For the most part the action in "Gungan Attack" is far more focused and visceral. The big scale battles have passed in favor of guerilla warfare, and the latter lends itself better to the underwater setting. The climax for the episode features an inventive sequence that involves a great fight scene between Tamson and Jedi Master Kit Fisto, who plays a far more pivotal role here than in "Water War".

Again, the animation is beautiful. The world of Mon Cala is vibrant and the animation team again succeeds at creating realistic water effects. Subtle touches such as muffled explosions and floating corpses help to create a unique visual flair to the episode that make it a unique viewing experience.

As for those returning problems? Well, Lee-Char is still frustrating and poorly voiced, the terms of war are still confusing, and the large scale battles are still poorly executed. Outside that, "Gungan Attack" represents an improvement for the arc and leaves it open for an even stronger installment next week.

Score: B