This Star Wars: The Clone Wars review contains spoilers.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season 7 Episode 3
As a straightforward action story, “On the Wings of Keeradaks” works just like Star Wars itself. Here are disparate, bantering protagonists who come together, escalating action, inventive-but-classic monsters, and an unsuspecting village suddenly in the middle of a war. This particular episode owes as much to Return of the Jedi as to the Prequels, with the native aliens in the Ewok role. There isn’t much new here, but the remix is high-energy and fun.
Anakin Skywalker, Captain Rex, and the clones of the Bad Batch have discovered and rescued clone trooper Echo, whose mind has become a transmission tower-slash-processing power source for the Techno Union. Now they need to get out of the enemy base and escape the planet, which leads them back to the Poletecs, the native aliens.
The tension between the Bad Batch clones and “regs” was a major source of conflict in the first two episodes of the arc, but it’s mostly forgotten here. Was there a chance for a conversation about how seeing Echo shows the Bad Batch that regular clones aren’t … whatever the Bad Batch thinks they are? What is the root of this tension, anyway? The Bad Batch characters are quirky, and it’s perhaps implied that other clones look down on them for that. Echo is quirky now too, so it seems like this might be a good place to explore what exactly the Bad Batch have been through and how they feel.
Conversely, exploring where the rift specifically came from would get rid of one of the core fantasies of the episode: camaraderie. It’s a joy to watch the Bad Batch clones smoothly throw a tool to one another, knowing the other clone will be there to catch it. Now that they’ve gone through so much as a group, the team works well together. Anakin Force-lifts one of them in a reverse trust fall.
Anakin Skywalker is complicated, but I’ve never found him particularly compelling: his fall to the dark side is inevitable, his declarations in the Prequel Trilogy so bitter and stilted. He’s a teenager who wants to use authoritarianism to soothe his feelings of helplessness. For some reason, in season seven of The Clone Wars, it’s easier to see why the people around him trust him. After last week’s masterful lying, this week he’s mostly all military business. The exception comes when he checks in on Rex and Echo. The script makes it clear that when he addresses them he’s no longer going by military protocol. He honestly cares about his friends, and especially about the prospect of finding someone who essentially came back from the dead.
As with “A Distant Echo,” it’s hard not to compare this episode to Revenge of the Sith and Attack of the Clones. Rex unties Echo just as Anakin untied his mother. But instead of dying in his arms, Echo gets up and survives. Anakin is learning hope from the clones—hope that will be dashed in a matter of months when Anakin tries to save Padmé. Either the dramatic irony of the show has gotten more pointed in the last six years, or I’m just noticing it now.
Echo himself is one of the best things about the episode. He isn’t really the focus, smoothly integrating into the group and providing some emotional stakes for Anakin and especially for Rex. Echo’s cyborg implants are effectively creepy, as is the difficulty the clones have in detaching him from the machine. The pneumatic hissing of cords as they are removed is sharp and overwhelming. Paired with Echo’s scrabbling, spasms, and eventual collapse, the episode takes a dive directly into the horror genre. The snappy dialogue brings the episode’s tone back into action-adventure smoothly.
The episode is mostly action, and I can’t complain about how well it keeps the momentum going, especially in the fast-paced second half. A fight on a narrow pipe an untold distance above the ground is breathless. The music skirls into graceful notes that match the movements of the characters. The middle-act action scene is too short — I wanted more time to watch the planet’s dragon-like creatures and the new battle droids, which fly on rainbow wings. Even if they are in the episode’s title, the keeradaks have a relatively small part.
Those droids are a cool new addition, with a dinosaur-like gait and unique, ever-shifting silhouettes. They’re yet another visually distinct thing in this episode, which means it’s a pity when the final battle happens in the dark. Here is Return of the Jedi all over again, lower technology prevailing over higher. The big difference is Anakin. This is the Clone Wars, and the Republic’s secret weapon is the Jedi. A Force-push in mid-air is thrilling. The Bad Batch helping each other out is endearing. They’re a little toned down in this episode, and that works a lot better than the goofy action figure types from the season premiere.
It seems strange that Rex doesn’t get an “I told you so” in, since he clashed with the Bad Batch over Echo’s survival before. Instead, team cohesion is just better, changes in character nicely illustrated through action but lacking specificity.
The native aliens swear alliance to the Jedi. In contrast, the Techno Union characters mourn their lost profits. There’s also a hint that something might be wrong with Echo, a tense moment where the camera stares into his unreadable expression. Is he a sleeper agent? Carrying some kind of virus? For an episode that didn’t actually resolve much, “On the Wings of Keeradaks” feels like a satisfying step forward, thanks to the wild science-fantasy action.