“Compromise is a virtue to be cultivated, not a weakness to be despised.”
“Liberty On Ryloth” is a decidedly unbalanced ending to the Ryloth trilogy, featuring incredible action, some profound character moments, and the super-coolness of Mace Windu in battle. But the episode is also very poorly, and awkwardly, paced with some poor choices when it comes to sequencing and the ultimate conclusion to the story. The result is an installment that uncharacteristically lacks the typical elegance of a Clone Wars episode, being unable to find the right balance between action and introspection that is the hallmark of the series.
The main story is centered around Mace Windu’s attempt to reclaim the capital city of Ryloth, as an integral part of the Republic’s attempts to liberate the planet. But his march to the capital is not without problems, so he decides to enlist the help of local freedom fighters to bolster his final assault. In the meantime, Wat Tambor institutes a slash-and-burn policy to his inevitable retreat from the planet. In the end, Windu succeeds, Tambor is captured and Ryloth finds peace. But the intervening scenes aren’t quite as strong as they ought to have been.
For starters, the decision to have Mace Windu temporarily abandon the assault in order to negotiate with the freedom fighter leader, Cham Syndulla, brings the story to a crashing halt as the pair talk leisurely, even watching a series of dancers, while Tambor carpet bombs villages filled with women and children refugees. This lack of urgency on the part of the characters riddles the entire episode. For example, Tambor decides he’s going to hold off on his own retreat so he can wait for two more transports filled with treasure. This perpetual waiting game sabotages the momentum build from the previous two episodes and essentially brings the entire story to a crashing halt.
It’s a shame, too, because there really are some important, and even moving moments. The visual of a Clone Trooper silhouetted by the flames of an obliterated village is particularly powerful. And even the need for Syndulla to reconcile with the Twi’lek Senator is a vital lesson for people to learn. And without question, Mace Windu is a heluvalot of fun to watch in battle – slashing droids, pushing tanks around, saving troops and pretty much kicking ass whenever he leaps into action. These are all the ingredients of a fine episode … but it just doesn’t work particularly well.
To use a lame analogy, it’s a bit like cooking: how you mix the ingredients has a big impact on the final product. And here, the ingredients are just thrown together without and real thought or care. And in fact, the episode has to rely on the relative deus ex machina of Anakin and Ahsoka showing up at the last moment to save the day, completely eviscerating the importance of what Mace Windu and Syndulla had accomplished on the ground.
Overall Grade: C
“Liberty On Ryloth” isn’t a terrible episode. It’s entertaining enough. It simply doesn’t live up to the standard of the series thus far.