3.03 – Supply Lines – Clone Wars Review

“Where there is a will, there is a way.”

Maybe I’m a sucker for sacrifice, but the end of “Supply Lines” almost (though not quite) justifies what is, otherwise, the worst installment of Clone Wars to date. There’s a lot more wrong with this particular episode than the appearance of the notorious Jar Jar Binks (he doesn’t exactly make matters any better, mind you, but he isn’t what ails this episode). The real problems are with pacing and clunky procedural scenes which serve to be little more than exposition dumps. The result is an almost entirely forgettable outing.

The episode begins with the continuing assault on, and blockade of, the planet Ryloth — first seen in the Season 1 Ryloth Arc. The Separatist forces continue to advance on the ground, while in space the Separatists decimate the Republic fleet to the point where no supplies can get though to help the war ravaged Twi’lek population on the planet below. The story, then, is how the Republic tries to get the needed relief supplies through the blockade.

Cue Senator Organa and Jar-Jar Binks.

But this brings up the most critical issue of the episode (and no, it’s not Jar-Jar Binks): talking while standing still. At least Jedi Master Di talks to the Republic fleet admiral while both are in the midst of a battle. But the Jedi stand around doing nothing as they listen to the Republic fleet. Organa stands around talking to the Jedi (who remain standing still). And Dooku, well, he breaks the pattern. He talks to his droids … while sitting still. Look, dialogue scenes can be just as dramatic as action. But not when they are simply stating the problem and stating what is going to happen next. Wash. Repeat. Rinse. Ad nauseum.

In any event, Organa and Binks head to Toydaria to negotiate a deal whereby humanitarian aid can be delivered to the Twi’leks. Interestingly enough, the Toydarians believe that, “Compassion is a sacred Toydarian value” — ironic considering that most famous of Toydarians: slave-owner, gambler and swindler Watto.  The Toydarians appear to be on the verge of granting Organa’s wishes when Lott Dodd of the Trade Federation appears. He points out a few omissions in Organa’s plea — namely that Ryloth is currently a battleground and rendering aid could jeopardize Toydaria’s neutrality.

(As an aside, I find it fascinating the Dodd makes a distinction between himself and the Trade Federation and an “extremist” such as Nute Gunray. Dodd isn’t sincere, obviously, but it’s a subtle point and is one of the few genuinely interesting points of the episode.)

But as you can see, much of the episode is based upon procedure — Organa presenting his arguments, Dodd refuting them, the Toydarians deliberating. There’s an attempt to ratchet up the tension of these proceedings by providing intense battle sequences back on Ryloth (led by Jedi Master Di). But the result is a disjointed and awkward narrative, bouncing back and forth between frenzied action and moldy negotiations.

Worse still, the negotiations become utterly irrelevant. Immediately after the Toydarians vote down Organa’s request, the Toydarian king appears and suggests that the aid transport proceed anyway — under the cover of secrecy. This, really, a big part of why the whole episode falls apart. It doesn’t really know or understand where the real dramatic elements are within the narrative. This is all meant to pave the way for Organa to organize the relief effort while Jar Jar distracts everyone else with his typically juvenile antics.

And really, Jar Jar is hardly in the episode. Yes, his scene is groan-inducing. But by the time he appears on screen, the episode was already a lost cause. And, too, his presence is short-lived enough that, if you’re willing to be exceptionally generous, there is a chuckle or two to be had from, say, his politeness as he steals the plates of the gathered dignitaries.

The episode is rescued by the events on Ryloth. Not the battle, mind you — the actions of Jedi Master Di and the clone troopers under his command. The battle is going poorly and Di comes up with a plan to force the droid armies into a single passage that will slow the advance long enough to allow the refugees to escape.

But his plan is not without mortal danger.

In fact, Di and his troopers buy time for the refugees with their very lives. With the supplies finally having broken through the blockade — and flying directly overhead — Di and a clone captain are all that remain of the Republic forces. They stand back-to-back and Jedi Master Di utters, defiantly, “Let’s make the end memorable.”

And then we see both the captain and the Jedi struck down by the onslaught of droids.

For an episode that features vapid dialogue and inane slapstick comedy, this final scene is all the more jarring and bleak. Make no mistake: both the clone captain and Master Di take several blaster shots before they fall. And the episode does nothing to soften the moment. It’s at least as graphic as any Jedi death portrayed in Attack of the Clones.

I want to be clear, though. This moment saves the episode not because it’s graphic, but because it honestly shows the sacrifice that is necessary in war. Sure, there’s the sort of romantic notion of making “the end memorable.” But that really isn’t the point of the scene: It’s tragedy, pure and simple.

Overall Grade: D

“Supply Lines” never really finds a dramatic purpose until its final moments. And as moving and chilling and captivating as the sacrifices might be, they really don’t solve the puzzling approach taken to the rest of the episode: the characters (excepting those on Ryloth) don’t actually do anything. They spend most of the episode just talking — about nothing of any real consequence beyond the confines of the episode. Organa’s plea isn’t impassioned or eloquent, let alone persuasive. All he does is state fact — as unemotionally as possible. Same for Dodd. He is, at least, a bit duplicitous. But that’s as far as it goes.

The visuals and music (especially for Toydaria) are fantastic, though.

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