“Star Wars: The Clone Wars” Recap – 1×07, “Duel of the Droids”

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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 “Duel of the Droids,” a follow-up to last week’s R2-centric episode. In this episode, Anakin continues the search for R2, and the identity of a traitor is revealed!

The moral of today is “You hold onto friends by keeping your heart a little softer than your head.” Then a quick recap of last week, and a reminder that Anakin is looking for a listening post and R2 is being delivered into the hands of Grievous… then we pick up with the salvage Captain (Gha Nachkt) delivering R2.

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Cut to R2 in his little storage closet, where he is cutting a hole in the wall and hacking into the systems. R2 sends a transmission, which Anakin receives. R3 / “Goldie” (or “Stubby” if you ask Anakin) almost loses the signal while trying to boost the volume, but Anakin is able to get it back, and recognizes it as R2. Meanwhile, Captain Nachkt gives R2 a little jolt and grumbles that he’d better be worth the trouble. Anakin tracks the signal, justifying it by saying R2 might be at the listening post they’re looking for.

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Captain Nachkt takes R2 to Grievous’ base and walks him into the control room, where one of the workers hastily covers his screen, because you really aren’t supposed to take your prisoners into the same room as your secret plans. Grievous asks R2 what he knows about the Republic plans, and R2 says no, so it’s torture time!

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Anakin’s ship arrives and notices the Separatist Battle Sphere, so Anakin has R3 call Obi-Wan on a secure line, so the Separatists don’t pick up the communique. (You can guess where this is going.) Anakin briefs Obi-Wan on the location of the listening base, and tells him that Grievous might have R2. Obi-Wan tells Anakin he has to sneak on and destroy the droid before the Separatists get the secrets out of him. Anakin offers to rescue R2 instead, but Obi-Wan straight-up shuts him down – “This is not a rescue mission.”

Anakin’s troops mount up to sneak onto the Sphere, and Ahsoka tells Rex he has to carry R3 on board. Then we get a pretty dope sequence of the Jedi and Clone Troopers halo jumping out of the ship.

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One of my favorite parts about this scene is that Ahsoka’s the one leading the charge; with a call of “Follow me, boys!” she’s the first one off of the ship. Even Anakin seems impressed, before giving the troops a look that says, “You heard her” and leading them down after her.

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The troops sneak onto the ship and Anakin sends Ahsoka and the troops to destroy the reactor, and let gravity take the ship down. Anakin heads off to find R2.

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Cut to R2 lying in pieces on a slab, while Captain Nachkt accesses his files – and realizes R2’s mission memory has never been erased. Grievous is over the moon, but Nachkt takes this moment to ask for a bonus.

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It goes about as well as can be expected.

Ahsoka and the troops sneak through the base, but R3 calls back and reports to Grievous that the Jedi are on the base. Turns out R3 isn’t a screw-up, but a turncoat! Grievous tells R3 to delay the Jedi until he arrives, and R3 catches up with the squad.

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Grievous heads off to deal with the Jedi, but leaves his guard droids surrounding the disassembled R2 – he doesn’t want anything to happen to R2 before getting the data he needs.

R3 and the troops come to a door and R3 starts hacking, but they can hear a squad of troops on the way. At this point, even the clone troopers have started grumbling that R3 doesn’t know what he’s doing. R3 “tries to hack” the door before they get there, but the droids turn the corner and the clones are out of time. They wind up flanked by two squads, and R3 “accidentally” closes another blast door.

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The clones manage to take down both squads with EMP grenades they call “droid poppers.” You have to wonder why they don’t use those more often, they’re SUPER useful when you’re constantly fighting armies of droids.

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Grievous calls his guards and has them deliver R2 to his ship, then takes on Ahsoka and the clones himself. Grievous takes down a few of the clones, but then Ahsoka fights Grievous one-on-one. It’s definitely worth noting that this is a well-staged fight sequence – in my review of the CGI movie, I complained that the lightsaber fights didn’t translate well into this animation style, which I worried was going to be a significant problem going forward with the series – lightsaber fights are something you definitely want to get right with Star Wars. However, already by this episode the animation of characters’ movements has come a long way, and this fight works much better than in the movie.

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Ahsoka and R3 get away, and Grievous warns the other droids to be on alert for another Jedi.

Meanwhile, Anakin finds Grievous’ guard droids, who are transporting R2 – and have apparently mostly re-assembled him for some reason no reason. Anakin takes down several super battle droids but loses R2 as the guards seal a door behind them.

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Meanwhile, Grievous follows Ahsoka and R3 into a store room, where they are hiding in the dark. Rex calls Ahsoka and asks if they should abort the mission, since most of the troops are dead. She tells him to plant the explosives as planned.

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Ahsoka sees R3, and calls him over, but R3 just shines a light at her instead, and Grievous attacks.

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Anakin catches up to the guards and takes them on – and again, this fight works really well from an animation standpoint. I guess they just needed a few episodes under their belt before giving one-on-one combat another try.

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Anakin takes down the droids, and R2 uses his little robot arms to finish re-assembling himself. He zaps the last guard droid, taking him down. Anakin helps R2 finish screwing his head back on, then gets a weird, scrambled call. He thinks it might be R3, so he says he has R2 and orders R3 to meet him in the hanger bay.

R2 asks who R3 is, which leads to Anakin having to awkwardly explain that he had to get a replacement droid, and it was all Obi-Wan’s idea. He radios the Twilight to meet them at the hanger bay.

Ahsoka overhears Grievous and R3 talking about Anakin, and realizes (finally) that R3 is a spy. R3 heads off to intercept Anakin while Grievous looks for Ahsoka.

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In the hanger, Anakin and R2 find the Twilight, but nobody else. R3 arrives, and just blows right past them without stopping. Rex and the other trooper show up, after successfully planting the bombs, and explain that Ahsoka took on Grievous alone. They are about to lead Anakin to her when R3 jacks into the computer and all of the doors slam shut, including the one that would allow the ship to leave.

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Then R3 activates the droids in the hanger, and it’s finally clear to everyone that R3 is a traitor.

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Meanwhile, Grievous catches up with Ahsoka, and tells her that they’ve lost. He makes a fairly convincing argument, to be honest.

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Anakin tells Rex to trigger the explosives, and when Rex makes the very reasonable point that they are still on the station, Anakin just says, “You let me worry about the details!” If I were Rex and this were movie Anakin, I’d want to know more before blowing up the base I was standing on with no obvious escape plan – but I’m absolutely willing to take it on faith that cartoon Anakin can deal with the problem. Rex agrees, and lights up the station.

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The station rumbles, and Ahsoka uses the surprise to chop off Grievous’ hand and escape into the vents. Grievous retreats to his personal ship again, and escapes the station. Meanwhile, Anakin sends R2 to the outer platform to try to open the hanger doors. R2 jacks in, but guess who else is there!

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This was the moment where I went, “Oh, ‘Duel of the Droids!’ I gotcha, that wasn’t a metaphor at all. They literally fight.” Then R2 just fries R3, and goes back to doing the computer stuff.

Ahsoka makes her way to the hanger and continues being surprisingly badass in this episode.

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Anakin takes this moment to drop in a quick “I told you so” moment. The Jedi and the clones manage to take down the droids, and R2 gets the hanger doors open. But it turns out R3 wasn’t dead after all! He attacks again, blocking R2’s escape.

As the Twilight escapes the ruined station, Anakin takes his fighter back to get R2, telling the Twilight not to wait for him. Meanwhile, the two droids continue to fight, and I’m not going to lie, it feels a LOT like the end of an action movie or a horror movie, to the point where the bad guy (R3) attaches a line to R2 as he tangles off the station – the classic “If I go, you go!”

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Then R2 cuts the line, and R3 tumbles off the station and gets hit by debris and destroyed.

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It’s surprisingly satisfying.

Anakin arrives and rescues R2 off the ruined station, and they fly off to safety. Back on the Twilight, Obi-Wan reams Anakin out, but Anakin defends himself, saying they had to rescue R2. Not much of a defense, but we’re pretty much wrapping things up at this point anyway. Obi-Wan shakes his head and just says, “Oh, Anakin, one day…” and signs off. Ahsoka points out that Obi-Wan had a valid point, but Anakin says he knew she’d complete the mission. Then he adds, “R2’s more than just a droid… he’s a friend.”

R2 beeps happily, and that’s the end of the episode!

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Next week, we’re watching “Bombad Jedi.” That’s right, guys, it’s the Jar Jar episode. I will certainly understand if you choose not to come back, but I really hope you do – I’m watching it either way, so please don’t let it be for nothing.

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