Artificial Continuum

Saturday, October 8, 2011

One thing Star Wars has always prided itself on delivering is a classic, and sometimes very light hearted, sense of adventure. That is what this week's R2 and C3P0 centric episode "Mercy Mission" attempted to deliver. This in and of itself sounds like it could be the set up for a fun half hour of television, but last year's catastrophe of an episode "Evil Plans" has made many fans (myself included) a bit apprehensive about "Mercy Mission" and next week's follow up "Nomad Droids".

The planet of Aleen has been hit with a massive earthquake. With its population and ecosystem in turmoil, Aleen has contacted a nearby Republic cruiser, containing fan favorite Commander Wolffe and the famous droid duo, to supply relief. However, what seems to be a routine supply drop soon develops into a twisting adventure through the planet's underground.

While lacking in action or serious drama, "Mercy Mission" is perhaps one of the most delightfully light hearted episodes of The Clone Wars to date. As opposed to previous side character episodes such as "Evil Plans" and "Shadow Warrior", "Mercy Mission" knows how to keep its tone consistent and to create a fun adventure without devolving to insulting humor/slapstick. There are moments of humor interspersed throughout the plot but they contain a certain genuine touch. C-3P0 and R2D2 bicker like an old married couple, and to be honest it's fun. The two droids have always had this interplay, and when the writers of Clone Wars find new ways of creating that humor without losing its base it's always fun.

Even the diminutive tribal species, the Aleena, for the most escape the typical "Ewok" trap. (In a great moment of meta humor, a clone even acknowledges the fan's worries for the introduction of the goofy little reptiles.) Although undeniably played for the cute factor, the Aleena don't overstay their welcome.

An easy standout in "Mercy Mission" is the portrayal of clone commander Wolffe. Although Wolffe has appeared in numerous episodes of the show in the past, this is the first time he has been featured as one of the primary characters to the plot. Surrounded by the bickering droid "couple" and the endless cute factor of the Aleena, Wolffe is a solid rock that grounds the episode in reality. Dee Bradley Baker's voice acting helps to carry the character's curmudgeonly depiction a long way.]

Visually, "Mercy Mission" contains numerous standout set pieces. The initial shots of the Republic entering the planet's atmosphere are absolutely stunning. The scenery and creature design shine in particular when visiting the planet's subterranean world. Particularly fascinating are a group of tree like creatures that the two droid's encounter briefly in their voyage. The only aspect that truly falls flat is the bizarre fairylike character of Orphe. In addition to her off putting design, her writing and voice work simply don't seem to mesh with the rest of the episode not to mention the Star Wars universe in general.

Although its lacking in action and features one incredibly off putting character, there is little denying the heart and fun that "Mercy Mission" possess.

Score: B