Star Wars: The Clone Wars will be back for its fourth season on Friday, September, 16 2011. With the tagline "Battle Lines," the upcoming season promises to be action packed. Viewers will be taken to the front lines of the titular Clone Wars around the galaxy. The two opening episodes, Water War and Gungan Attack, jump right into an intense underwater battle on the Mon Calamari home world.
Water War reveals that the Mon Calamari and the Quarren are in the midst of a Civil War. The former are allied with the Republic and the latter with the Separatists. The Separatists are inflaming the war and secretly trying to enslave the people of the planet. Riff Tamsen, a shark-like alien and commander of the Separatist forces, pushed the Quarren into heavy fighting. The leading of the Mon Calamari forces fell to young Prince Lee-Char. He has Captain Ackbar (Yes, fans, Ackbar) at his side to help with the strategic decisions, but they're outnumbered. The Jedi send Anakin Skywalker, Kit Fisto, Ahsoka Tano, and a contingent of clone troopers to help the Mon Calamari overthrow the Quarren.
The vicious Riff Tamsen proves to be formidable. Let's hope this Separatist villain keeps coming back. He tears apart enemies (literally) and brings in aqua droids and electrifying half machine, half monster weapons called Hydroid Medusas. He wants to take down both species and rule the planet, and he doesn't want to let anything stand in his way. The Jedi and clone troopers fight heroically, but they're no match. They are in desperate need of reinforcements. In Gungan Attack, the Jedi call upon the only other standing underwater army they can think of. They travel to Naboo and ask the Gungans for assistance. They arrive just in time to save the Prince and Jedi from being captured. The episode ends on a cliffhanger. The third part of this arc, Prisoners (airing 9/23) sounds like it will focus on… Well that would be telling!
These episodes are just big. There's no other way to put it. The Clone Wars has stepped up to yet another level. You won't know where to look on your screen because there is that much to see. It's not just pointless eye candy either. It was ambitious to take the show underwater for three episodes, and I like that they did it anyways. This show is characterized by the fact that they constantly push forward and don't let production challenges stop them. The underwater world of Mon Calamari makes an impressive setting for battle. The scenes are full of depth; the lighting is just right and debris from the fighting makes it feel realistic. The skirmishes between the warring factions are huge in scale, epic even. Hundreds of characters and thousands of blaster bolts dart across the screen. Vehicles and weapon creatures, like the Hydroid Medusas, weave deftly through all of it. To say there's a lot going on is an understatement.
The Mon Calamari home world was just as much a character in this episode as all the warriors and droids. As with any new planet visited in this series, it's obvious that copious amounts of time and thought were put into the look and design. They also did a tidy job of figuring out all the underwater animation. You don't notice that everyone is moving just right because they did it well. It's worth noting it though since it took several people many hours to change the characters from the normal walking movements to swimming for multiple episodes.
In addition to being well-executed visually, I felt like these two episodes went to a grittier place. We see clones and civilians die regularly in the series; it's a war, it happens. The deaths in this battle had more impact, and I was legitimately scared at a couple of points. You could see the Quarrens were being manipulated by Count Dooku and that they didn't mean for things to go so far. It's a reminder that war has consequences, and I think the Jedi are feeling the casualties pile up more than ever.
If the remainder of the season follows this tone, we're in for a treat. Supervising Director Dave Filoni has mentioned that they are leaning towards the three to four episode arcs that worked so well at the end of last season. Having story lines reaching across episodes makes the series feel even more like a feature film. It's been a joy to see the storytelling take big strides right along with the design, sound, and overall look of the series. I can't wait to see where Star Wars: The Clone Wars goes this season.