Previously on The Clone Wars, Clone trooper, Rex and Cody teamed up with a band of clones that operated a bit outside the book, known as the Bad Batch; a group of defective clones with desirable mutations. Realizing the droid army was more easily adapting to Clone Army tactics and better repelling them, Rex and the Bad Batch were dispatched to try and figure out how the Droid Army is doing this, and Rex makes a disturbing discovery when he detects a signal coming from off world that gives off the indication that his friend Echo, a clone thought to be dead, may actually be alive.
“And now, the continuation…”
“A Distant Echo” picks up directly where we left off last week pretty much, which is the formula of The Clone Wars. Much like the final season of Star Trek: Enterprise, Clone Wars tells its story in the form of several mini-arcs, but unlike Enterprise, Clone Wars knows what it is, and knows how to execute narratives and story in this manner that keeps my attention. Sideburn Enterprise. Last week, I called the episode, “The Bad Batch” kinda safe and nothing extraordinary, which wasn’t a bad thing, it was a good episode to get back into the feel of the series, and it did its job well. And in week two, I’m happy to say that the series has not disappointed in keeping my attention.
The episode starts off with Anakin getting briefed by Rex and Hunter (the commanding clone of the Bad Batch) the signal they found, and that it’s originating on Skako Minor. Rex also voices his suspicions that Echo is alive, which sets up the conflict of the story that Rex may be letting his personal feelings on the matter hinder his judgement. More on this later. Anakin sneaks off with Rex to make a secret phone call to Padmé, and I really need to talk about this.
If you recall last week’s review of the new Clone Wars episode, you’ll remember how I said I did not care for the prequel Star Wars movies. I care even less for how they handle their characters, and of those characters, the relationship between Anakin and Padmé was among the worst handled of the trilogy. Long story short, I don’t care about their relationship, they didn’t feel like a genuine couple a lot of the time, and I thought it ended hilariously bad. And if you can’t tell where this is going, The Clone Wars is the exact opposite. I cannot tell you how many times the relationship between Anakin and Padmé sucked me in when watching this show. Not only is it better handled, it fees genuine. Anakin and Padmé walk a very fine line between expressing their feelings for one another, and secrecy, and it can result in some genuinely shocking moments throughout the series.
It’s no different here as we see Anakin sneak off to give Padmé a secret call. It not only results in a touching moment between them, but again, it feels much more natural here than in the prequels. In Revenge of the Sith, they do little more than stand around and shower each other with bland romantic dialogue. I’m not saying they don’t have their good moments (the reaction Anakin gives to Padmé being pregnant is a true highlight), but The show just does a better job of making me care about these two as a romantic couple. They feel far more natural, far more passionate, and far more aware of the risks they have in their relationship. Despite this, they do a not so good job of hiding it, as seen here, Obi-wan kinda callls Anakin out for his sneaky call, and honestly, this might be one of the best aspects too since… without spoiling too much about this show, Obi-wan can actually kinda relate to what Anakin might be going through.
So Anakin and Rex go to Skako Minor to investigate this signal, and we almost immediately run into action with the natives of the planet who kidnap Anakin, and take him to their village, where they have a “Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra” moment. One thing I do appreciate about Star Wars is that they do get pretty creative with the language barriers, and it’s no different here. In fact, it isn’t until Tech (the clone tech geek of the Bad Batch) comes in and manages to translate everything that we realize that the natives don’t want the war brought to their world. It makes for a nice bit of world building that honestly isn’t used enough in Star Wars.
Admittedly, while I like this episode, this is kinda where it gets a little off for me, mainly because after we leave the village, and Anakin and the troops are back on the trail of the signal, we get a bit more of the conflict amongst the clones that was present in the previous episode. While it can make sense in the light that Rex is letting his personal feelings hinder his decision-making a bit in regards to the possibility that Echo is alive, I can’t help but feel like it just retreads ground that was’ even already seen as far as character conflict is concerned. I just wasn’t as interested in it this time around.
But I was happy to see Wat Tambor of the Separatists brought back. I do have a soft spot for the Techno Union Leader, his mechanical way of talking, and what he brings to the Confederacy in terms of battle droids. And seeing him set a fun trap for our heroes does lead to the first bit of Jedi action in this final season of the show.
As they fight through the droids and continue to trace the signal, we get to a lift which Rex uses to go up to a room. Wat Tambor taunts him, we see him open a capsule and low and behold, who is there but the crippled, cybernetic body of Echo? And my goodness, I didn’t think it was possible but they totally brought the Borg into Star Wars.
I’ll lay off the Star Trek jokes now, I promise.
The reveal of Echo isn’t anything spectacular or anything, and the episode ends shortly afterward, but this hook definitely has my attention. Echo oaks like he’s been through hell and back, and while I admittedly don’t think this episode would have interested me back in the day had I seen the unfinished footage of it beforehand, it just goes to show how great this show can execute a concept. When it comes to Star Wars, I tend to say if a character dies, they should stay dead. Boba Fett, Palpatine, Darth Vader, they need to stay dead now. Especially Palpatine. STAY DEAD. (That goes for clones too.) The Clone Wars is like the antithesis of this belief, because the characters they tend to bring back result in some of the best stories of the show. Darth Maul was a character I never saw coming back, but I’m very happy they did bring him back, because the relationship between he and Obi-wan gets REALLY damn good. No spoilers there. I have no doubt either that they will do something interesting with Echo in the next episode as well. We shall see this weekend!
“A Distant Echo” is a definite step up from last week. While again, probably not going to crack any personal favorite episode lists, it definitely feels like the crew of this show have not skipped a beat as they finally give some proper closure to this show that has been waited on for the longest time. The relationships are proving to be as immersive as ever, the voice acting once again is on point, and the action is just as fun as it should be. We didn’t really get any awesome dark side Anakin moments (yet), but two weeks into this twelve episode season, I am really liking what is being brought forward. I don’t know if next episode will be the conclusion of this particular arc, or if there’s another episode yet to come, but I’m curious where this will go, and what will become of both Rex and Echo here.