3.1 Clone Cadets
Though The Clone Wars has established itself for its mightily impressive visuals and exciting set pieces, this season opener is certainly more low key and, dare I say, thoughtful.
Clone Cadets, as the title hints, concerns itself with a group of would-be servants of the Republic, training in the hope of becoming fully fledged troopers. The episode focuses on Domino squad, five clones who have vastly different opinions on how to blast Battle Droids.
Those familiar with The Clone Wars, after finding out who the characters are in the squad, will soon realise that this story is actually a prequel to the excellent season one episode Rookies (reviewed here). Another testament to the complexity of this ever-growing series. (Don’t worry, however, if you haven’t seen it. The episode is still perfectly understandable regardless of previous knowledge.)
And it is the characters who lead this sensitive piece. A bunch of ‘brothers’ who need to learn to work together if they’re ever going to fill their ambitions. Their differences are holding their squad back, a problem Jedi-of-the-week Shaak Ti has identified.
Bizarrely, the Jedi have enlisted some bounty hunters to help out with training (a nice mirroring of The Empire Strikes Back where Darth & Co. also hire mercenaries), though one of them doesn’t seem to care if the Clones pass or fail.
One character in the show does, ’99’. For want of a better word, he’s a reject. 99 is ‘deformed’, a result of when cloning goes wrong. The little guy helps out with cleaning and menial duties, but 99 is also on hand to dish out moral guidance.
The Clone Wars hasn’t dealt with this subject before and it’s quite unnerving. The Kaminoans would happily get rid of the “less than successful” Clones with not a bat of their big old eyes. So, it’s OK to kill those born less well off?
Of course, the message is clearly that it’s not, as Jedi Shaak Ti is quick to point out, but it’s refreshing to see issues of abortion and disabilities addressed.
It’s fitting that the colour palate for Clone Cadets is equally subdued. The Kamino grey filling every scene and the visuals do take a back seat to the narrative and wonderful character development.
A brave opening for any series, without a doubt, but even more so for a ‘cartoon’. One hopes this is the standard they will continue to deliver for the rest of the season.