There was a time when the worse episodes of Star Wars – The Clone Wars were downright embarrassing and told stories about Padme solving the murders of senators or Bail Organa going to dinner to try and convince rich people to support the Republic. Luckily those days are over and since the halfway mark in season three the show has consistently been stellar. This has been great for fans of the show but the flip side of that coin is that the longer The Clone Wars goes without a stupid, boring episode the higher the bar is raised for each new episode.
This phenomena has never been clearer than in the most recent, four-part Onderon arc. The arc, consisting of “War on Two Fronts,” “Front Runners,” “The Soft War,” and “Tipping Points,” saw Ahsoka Tano assisting a rebellion against Separatist occupation of the planet Onderon. There were solid action sequences in each of these episodes and even the political talk was especially interesting, but it was hard to shake the feeling of relief that came with the end of this arc.
Ahsoka’s reunion with her coed counterpart Lux Bontari was fun to see as their relationship is still up in the air, but the dynamic between the two never went further than stolen glances and talking shop.
The rebels of Onderon, particularly their leader Steela, were nice additions to the Star Wars universe but none of them were interesting enough that fans will be chopping at the bit to see them again.
The robotic separatist general had an excellent character design but did nothing but cross its arms and talk in an awesome robot voice.
At the end of the day the Onderon arc was solid, but every positive aspect of the story came with the addendum that it wasn’t as good as it could have been.
A huge part of the good-but-not-quite-great feel to these episodes was their quantity. The writing staff at The Clone Wars has started to experiment with four-episode story arcs and while it worked well enough with the resurrection of Darth Maul at the end of season four, spending four episodes on Onderon was tiring and by the time the fourth episode was over it was hard not to be psyched to be leaving.
The idea of a trilogy is tried and true and there’s a reason three part episode arcs, or even three film series, work so well – pacing. Adding that extra fourth episode completely through off the pace of the Onderon arc and resulted in a first episode that was too heavy on set-up, a second and third episode that were nebulous and too unstructured and a conclusion that was deprived of its narrative punch by the drag of its episodic predecessors. In short, a four-episode arc gives viewers a single story per month, and if that story isn’t up to snuff than The Clone Wars isn’t worth watching for that entire month.
It’ll be interesting to see where this penchant for four-part stories will take The Clone Wars as next week will immediately see the start of another one. Perhaps Onderon represents growing pains in a new way to tell stories. Perhaps Onderon will be more enjoyable on DVD and Blu-ray when it can be viewed in a single 88-minute sitting. Only time will tell.