We are entering a new golden age for Star Wars fans. While the prequel films were generally considered to be mediocre, the recent TV series Star Wars: The Clone Wars filled in the gaps and told new stories with the same beloved characters, and was fairly well-received. Since it’s not a show I’m terribly familiar with, I’m going to watch and review every episode, all the way up through the brand new sixth season, which aired exclusively on Netflix. This week, we’re watching “Downfall of a Droid,” where the show finally focuses on R2-D2 by giving him even less screen time than before. Don’t worry, it’ll make sense.
Today’s Aesop: “Trust in your friends, and they’ll have reason to trust in you.” I’ll be honest, I’m not a big fan of these intro-morals – they feel a bit too much like cookie-cutter wisdom. Then the narrator tells us that Grievous has been crushing the Jedi’s armies, and that Anakin’s battle-weary army is all that stands between Grievous and victory over the strategically important planet Bothawui in the Outer Rim. We then join Anakin on a call with Obi-Wan. Anakin laments that Grievous always seems to know where and when to attack. Obi-Wan and Ahsoka both encourage Anakin to retreat and regroup, but he says he can’t let the system fall into the General’s hands. Besides, he has a plan to beat Grievous at his own game…
Cut to Grievous’ ship, where we learn that he has spies reporting the fleet’s position – they know that Anakin’s fleet is stationed behind the planet’s rings. Grievous has them move through the asteroid field, rather than around – it will give them the element of surprise. They get a few dents from the asteroids, and Grievous has them put full power to the forward shields. A battle-droid asks, “What if they attack us from behind?” Grievous says that the asteroids will protect their flank.
Anakin launches the fighters and leads an attack against Grievous’ ships. As usual, R2 is connected with Anakin’s ship, and beeps some sort of question or warning. Anakin reassures R2 that Grievous is falling right into their trap.
Grievous’ ships clear the field and open fire, and at first it seems like the Republic ships are outgunned, but then Anakin springs the trap: he’s got a squad of those walking tanks stationed on the asteroids, and they open fire and WRECK Grievous’ fleet.
Guys, I want you to remember this day, because this is one for the books. This is the day where a battle-droid said something cogent, was ignored, and was right. This show is messing with my world-view.
Anakin’s forces start cleaning up Grievous’ fleet, and Anakin boasts, “This is too easy!” Grievous gets into his fighter and flies off as his ship is obliterated. Anakin gives chase, and they actually fly alongside the exploding command ship, which is a pretty cool sequence. Through it all, R2 is literally putting out fires on Anakin’s ship, and Anakin is just saying things like, “See what you can do about that, buddy,” and “Good thing you gave us that extra power,” and so on. He races to catch Grievous before he jumps to hyperdrive, but Anakin’s wing burns up and he spins out.
The next thing Anakin knows, he’s waking up in the infirmary, which is never a good sign. He learns from Rex and Ahsoka that Grievous is in the wind, but his ships are dust in the wind. But R2 is gone. The nice thing about this moment is that it isn’t played too dramatically – Anakin just looks sad, like an old friend was lost in the war, but you know, it’s war, and that will happen. There’s a weariness that’s evident when he lies back down.
In his next holo-Skype meeting with Obi-Wan, Anakin doesn’t really hear the congratulations and praise – he’s still bummed that he lost R2. Obi-Wan says that R2 units are “a dime a dozen,” but Anakin says he could take a squad out to find R2. Obi-Wan reminds him that Jedi aren’t supposed to get attached to stuff, but Anakin admits that there’s a reason they should look for R2… he didn’t wipe R2’s memory. Ever.
Obi-Wan flips out, because now there’s a droid out there that is still programmed with all of the Republic’s tactics and base locations. Ahsoka defends Anakin, saying that R2’s possession of that extra information has come in handy in the past. Obi-Wan, obviously, gives Anakin the green light to go find R2. Anakin is inappropriately excited that he’s allowed to find R2 – seems like he sort of forgot how badly he just screwed things up for the entire Republic army.
Anyway, road trip!
As Anakin gets ready for the trip, Ahsoka introduces Anakin to his replacement droid, R3-S6. She mentions that the R3s are supposed to be far faster in thinking skills and more powerful than the R2s. Anakin just says “you can’t replace Artoo,” but she’s already taken to calling him “Goldie,” and Ahsoka, honey, you really aren’t supposed to name them. Getting attached to droids is what got you guys into this mess in the first place.
They fly into the debris of Grievous’ fleet, and find Anakin’s ship – but R2 isn’t docked with it anymore. Anakin thinks R2 escaped, but he isn’t showing up on the scanners. However, they do find another ship – a salvager. They dock and pretend to be buying a droid, and they meet the captain, a fat, smelly lizard-man played by Ron Perlman.
They ask if he has an R2 unit, but he says he hasn’t picked up any in a long time. Anakin flashes some coin, and the Captain offers to let them check the hold, in case he has one buried. He tells them to be careful – there’s some “unique items” in there – and then grins when he closes the door behind them.
For magic monks who can see the future, Jedi are particularly bad at detecting traps.
Anakin and Ahsoka find a few deactivated assassin droids, and warns Ahsoka to steer clear – they’re deadly when switched on. Anakin hears a whistle, and says it sounds like Artoo, prompting Ahsoka’s very logical question, “How can you tell the difference?” The whistle came from behind a door, so Anakin has R3 jack into the computer to open the door. R3 jacks in and switches on the lights instead, so Anakin just starts cutting through the doors. R3 tries again – and instead activates the assassin droids.
Who didn’t see that one coming?
What follows is a pretty rad fight scene – the assassin droids are far and away more capable than any droids we’ve seen on the show, even more than the commando droids last week. They’re fast, dexterous, and laser-proof, so they don’t take any damage when the Jedi deflect their blasts back at them.
The Jedi manage to take down the droids, and Anakin yells at R3 and Ahsoka that Artoo never would have made that mistake. R3 finally gets the door open, and the Captain is there, now faced with a very pissed-off Jedi.
Ahsoka pulls Anakin back, saying that Artoo isn’t on board, and Anakin reluctantly leaves. The Captain is pissed about the mess the Jedi made of the droids, and calls out after them that they owe him.
They leave, and the Captain still mutters that he’s going to make their life miserable. Then he calls General Grievous, and tells him that he’s en route to the rendezvous point with the merchandise Grievous was looking for… R2-D2.
Back on his ship, Anakin briefs Obi-Wan, who says they have to assume Artoo was destroyed in the battle. He’s also got confirmation that Grievous’ spies have been intercepting their transmissions, and that he must have some sort of secret listening post – that’s the only explanation for how he’s been able to ambush their ships so successfully so far. Obi-Wan commands them to split up the forces, find the base, and destroy it.
Anakin takes his fighter alone to investigate, since more than one ship would draw too much attention, and because the climaxes of episodes are a lot more exciting when there is no back-up. Ahsoka pushes him to bring R3 along to help navigate, and says it would be the perfect time for the two of them to bond. Anakin agrees to bring him along – he’s also given R3 a nickname, but instead of “Goldie,” it’s the much more unfortunate “Stubby.”
Back on the salvage ship, Artoo manages to get his restraining bolt off and sneaks around the ship. One of the assassin droids follows him, but Artoo lures him into a trap, and ejects the droid off the ship. Then the Captain catches Artoo, and he’s no better off than before.
Meanwhile, Anakin and R3 drop out of hyperspace, and Anakin has R3 activate long-range scanners. R3, true to form, activates the tracking beacon instead. Back at the fleet, Ahsoka sees the beacon activate and sends Rex after him with as many men as he can get.
Unfortunately, Grievous also picked up the tracking beacon, and he’s just delighted that Anakin has fallen into his trap this time.
Grievous’ fleet arrives, and Anakin is totally outgunned. He has R3 chart a course and prep the hyperdrive engines, so R3 ejects the hyperdrive engines, because of course he does.
Grievous shoots the engines and blows them up, and Anakin is pretty much screwed.
Grievous tells the droids to launch everything they have. A battle-droid says, “It’s only one fighter. He can’t escape.” So Grievous bears down on him and shouts, “Everything!”
That dude is getting way more genre savvy.
Anakin pulls off some more tricky maneuvers, but it’s a lot more challenging when his droid fails to do almost everything he’s asked. Fortunately, Ahsoka and Rex arrive with back-up. Anakin manages to get his ship on board Ahsoka’s, and Ahsoka flies the ship directly between Grievous’ cruisers. The cruisers try to close the gap, but just end up grinding into each other, and Ahsoka jumps to hyperspace.
Ahsoka asks R3 how the mission went, and Anakin says he’s lucky to be alive. R3 leaves, and Ahsoka says Anakin hurt R3’s feelings, and Anakin counters, “What about Artoo? He’s still out there… I know it!”
No awkward family photo ending this time, just a lone ship cruising off into space, looking for a little lost droid. Also, can we agree that the moral of the episode, “Trust in your friends, and they’ll have reason to trust in you,” had absolutely nothing to do with what happened in this episode? Anakin tried to put some trust in R3 and nearly got killed a bunch of times. I realize it may be referring to Anakin and Artoo trusting in each other, but even then it’s still kind of a stretch. Still, all in all this was a fun one – and be sure to join us next week for the second part of the story, “Duel of the Droids!” Spoiler alert, Artoo survives to appear in 4 more movies (and counting).