By Josh Reilly B. & George Bate
The seventh season of The Clone Wars continued with “A Distant Echo,” the second installment of this four-episode arc featuring Rex, Echo and Clone Force 99.
As noted in the review for last week’s episode, for many people, the major story points and character developments in this episode are already known given the unfinished version of the episodes were released in April 2015. However, the added scenes featuring new, poignant character moments in these episodes, in particular “A Distant Echo,” are, to quote Sheev Palpatine, a “surprise to be sure, but a welcome one.” This is best exemplified during Anakin’s communication with Padme and the way in which Rex covered for his general as to avoid Obi-Wan discovering this relationship. For starters, it was great to see Padme so early in the season, which was an unexpected surprise. Although Padme, like Anakin, in The Clone Wars takes a little getting used to given how she acts and sounds differently than Natalie Portman’s portrayal of the character in the prequels, Padme became a really interesting character in the series, especially when her character was used to expand on some of the political machinations of the era. This scene did not delve much into politics, however, but was a touching moment between husband and wife that emphasizes the strength of their relationship and the tragedy of its downfall in Revenge of the Sith. This scene was also noteworthy as it is probably the most explicit mention of the fact that Rex and Obi-Wan know about Anakin and Padme’s relationship. While this is played for humor in the episode, other Clone Wars episodes and even Revenge of the Sith subtly touch on the disturbing notion that Anakin did not trust or feel comfortable enough with Obi-Wan to tell him about Padme. All in all, the additions to the episode, in particular the interaction with Anakin and Padme, were highlights.
The actual story of the episode continues to be a really interesting arc. The mystery surrounding the origins of the algorithm predicting the Republic’s battleplans was resolved (slightly) at the end of the last episode, but to see this mystery elaborated on in this episode, including the big reveal of Echo at the end, were really well done.
The series has done a great job over the years of portraying a war that we all know the outcome to and that, for all intents and purposes, is entirely manufactured by Darth Sidious for his own insidious ends in a really interesting, unpredictable way. One wouldn’t think that an episode about a seemingly minor battle near the end of this three-year long war before Revenge of the Sith would be that intriguing, but the show is written in a way that the audience is truly invested in the developments of the characters during this time and how each event subtly or overtly leads up to the impending doom seen in Revenge of the Sith.
Again, this episode of The Clone Wars continues to impress aesthetically. The movement is smooth and the environments and facial features are textured. The refined facial animation evokes Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’s animation, which was impressive to say the least. Once again, the action was executed very well, in particular the final action sequence in which Clone Force 99, Rex and Anakin fight a barrage of droids in a hallway. Yes, these are sequences some have previously seen in an unfinished version from several years ago, but they really come to life in a new way with such precision in animation. Kevin Kiner’s score was also superb in this episode – Kiner’s themes throughout The Clone Wars are underrated and it would be great to see him given a shot at providing the score for a TV show or even a movie down the line.
“A Distant Echo,” however, exemplifies a broader issue with The Clone Wars. Sometimes certain episode arcs, including the current arc, warrant less episodes than Dave Filoni and company give them. For example, this arc spans four episodes, but could probably be told just as effectively and more concisely in two, maybe even three, slightly longer episodes. This doesn’t mean the current episode isn’t entertaining, but, rather, that the overarching narrative would likely benefit from more concise storytelling.
The newest episode of The Clone Wars will definitely please hardcore fans of the show. Beyond the stunning visuals, the episode moves this four-episode arc along, culminating in a truly tragic, heartfelt moment, while offering new insights into the relationship between Anakin and Padme and the extent to which others are aware of their relationship, which has implications moving forward. Hopefully the next two episodes of this arc add new scenes like this as they add depth to the story and characters for those familiar with the unfinished episodes from several years ago.