The Clone Wars Rewatch: The Shroud of the Dark Side Falls in “Cat and Mouse”

Anakin Skywalker battles the Separatist commander, Admiral Trench, above the planet of Christophsis.

To celebrate the 10th anniversary of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and the all-new episodes coming thanks to #CloneWarsSaved, we’re undertaking a full chronological rewatch of the five original seasons, The Lost Missions, and the theatrical release. We’d be honored if you would join us and share your thoughts on the award-winning series.

It is a period of civil war. The galaxy is embroiled in conflict between the Republic and the Separatist Alliance, a rebellious group of independent systems led by the fallen Jedi, Count Dooku, and his mysterious, shadowy master…

For the uninitiated, the Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series takes place between the films Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, exploring the rich world of characters and conflicts, deeply personal sacrifices, alliances and betrayals at play during the galaxy-shifting war. Through it all, we get a deeper appreciation for the people and planets caught in the middle and the lies and manipulations that ultimately lead to the rise of the Empire.

If it’s been awhile since you watched the prequels, here’s what you need to know: At this point in the story, the Galactic Republic had been a bastion of democracy for over a thousand years, with a small group of Jedi Knights to help maintain order in the galaxy. But with a new army of clones at their disposal and the growing threat of invaders, the peacekeepers of the galaxy become the generals of the new war. As Master Yoda says just before the massive Republic army is revealed in Attack of the Clones, “The shroud of the dark side has fallen. Begun, the clone war has…”

1: “Cat and Mouse” (Season Two, Episode 16)

“A wise leader knows when to follow.”

Synopsis:

Tasked with delivering relief supplies to the beleaguered planet of Christophsis, Anakin Skywalker and Admiral Yularen embark on a risky mission, with the help of Obi-Wan Kenobi, to penetrate the Separatist defenses using a stealth ship. But the Separatist commander, Admiral Trench, proves a formidable opponent.

Analysis:

As an introduction to the series and the Clone Wars, a primarily tactical battle is a gentle way to explore the troubling realities of galactic war while still plunging us into the middle of the conflict. Anakin and the rest of the Jedi Knights are sworn peacekeepers and protectors. He’s traveled to Christophsis, not for battle, but to help the people on the surface who are in desperate need of aid. By focusing the skirmish above the planet’s surface, the Republic facing off against a Separatist blockade, we’re immediately immersed in the fight, in the style of so many Star Wars stories, but one that is less about blaster fire and clashing sabers than it is a battle of wits. In this fight, brawn will only get you so far.

From the start, the story is focused on Anakin’s struggle with his own identity, a fitting lens considering that his transformation into Darth Vader parallels the fall of the Republic later on. For now, Anakin is still a Jedi, albeit one who’s already pushing the boundaries of the strict Jedi code by forming some pretty significant attachments (including to his secret wife, Padmé Amidala). There’s still good in him. We’ve felt it.

If this is your introduction to young Skywalker, it should already be clear that he’s a man who’s always on the offensive and ready for a fight, a person who eschews the rules when it suits him, and a Jedi who can’t easily be corralled by his Master Obi-Wan Kenobi, whose expressions here suggest he’s getting a headache from dealing with his Padawan.

Callbacks reward longtime fans with a chuckle and a knowing nod. I mean, it actually is a mercy mission and it’s Bail Organa’s hologram pleading, “Help us, General Kenobi, you’re our only hope.” It’s impossible not to imagine his adopted daughter Leia, the young senator and princess from Alderaan, sending out a strikingly similar message so many years later only to be captured by the dark disciple Anakin would become. Stylized animation gives the series a unique look that’s a departure from the Star Wars we’ve seen on film, yet the storytelling is imbued with some of the same key cinematic touches, from the dramatic lighting filtering across Anakin’s face as he calculates his next move to the evocative scoring that adds layers of emotion and wonder to the quiet vacuum of space.

And let’s talk about that ship, because it is a thing of beauty. I know what you’re thinking — no ship that small has a cloaking device! The Republic’s stealth vessel, complete with cloaking technology, has a space submarine quality to it with an undeniable cool factor that’s still not quite perfect. Still, from the people who would eventually devise the Death Star, this is a brilliant piece of military craftsmanship. And although Admiral Trench — “Hello, ugly!” — proves to be a cunning, efficient warrior with a holochess champion’s mind for tactical planning, his confidence and affinity for following orders is ultimately his weakness, not unlike Governor Tarkin looking out from the glory of the Empire’s battle station and refusing to believe that failure is even an option. (Spoiler alert: Hubris will get you every time.)

This time, instead of a band of rebels trying to outrun the Empire, it’s the Galactic Republic trying to render aid despite a Separatist blockade. And instead of Vader standing on the side of planetary annihilation, it’s Anakin to the rescue, hell bent on getting the supplies to the surface and using his above-average piloting skills to strike a blow to the enemy. He’s reckless, a little arrogant, and resistant to following orders – so, exactly what you’d expect from the character. And that’s a great way to set up the need for a Padawan of his own, someone to help tether him to the tenets of the Jedi Order and remind him that his actions don’t just alter his path in the galaxy, they impact others as well.

In the end, this is some rescue and Anakin’s decisions save more lives than they cost.

Intel:

  • Although it originally aired during the second season, this is the first episode in the series when viewed in chronological order.

  • Early in production, the dreaded Admiral Trench was known as “Taranch” in reference to his tarantula-inspired appearance. The name was changed, but a glimpse at Yularen’s intelligence report shows the original spelling remained in Aurebesh.

What did you think of the episode? Tell us in the comments below and share on social with #CloneWarsRewatch!

Next up: Come back Tuesday as we discuss “The Hidden Enemy.”

Associate Editor Kristin Baver is a writer and all-around sci-fi nerd who always has just one more question in an inexhaustible list of curiosities. Sometimes she blurts out “It’s a trap!” even when it’s not. Want to talk more about The Clone Wars? Hop on Twitter and tell @KristinBaver what you thought about today’s episode.

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