We admit it, midway through last night's third episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, we were beginning to think that ol' Tiger Karate knew what he was talking about when he asked for a little less conversation and a little more action, please. But just when we were on the verge of giving up, suddenly there were space whales and a surprisingly familiar space battle to save the day - for the few kids who'd been able to stick around that long.
If there's one thing that Star Wars has always had trouble with, it's plot exposition; characters just stand around and explain whatever they have to, often in some kind of mission briefing, before everyone can get back to what they're really there for (Namely, the fun business of blowing things up in space). In the movies, this wasn't as big a problem as it was in last night's Clone Wars episode, "Shadow of Malevolence," because it took up so much less of the whole - but the entire first half of last night's episode felt bogged down by scenes that relied on the show's weaknesses: Dialogue, animated "acting" and the audience buying that Ahsoka is in anyway a likable character. And then, thankfully, we met the space whales. They weren't exactly space whales, per se - they were, in fact, "giant neebray mantas" if you want to be pedantic about it - but their appearance signaled two important shifts for the episode: Firstly, that we were headed into the "less talking, more doing" portion of the show, and secondly, that that meant that we could sit back and watch what the show does best. Visually, the mantas were impressive, and that followed through to a space battle that was pretty much saved by how good it looked, because otherwise you'd have spent too much time noticing the similarities to the Death Star battle at the end of the first movie (Complete with variations on "stay on target!") or wondering why no-one else had ever tried to just fly over the wave of destruction before.
Compared with last week's double-bill, it was a disappointing episode overall saved by the animation and the slow-to-show space battles... But if the show is to live up to its potential, the creators are going to have to work out how to make us care about the characters when they're not in danger of being blown up, shot down or any other form of being killed. (Creator commentary about the episode can be found here, and for those who missed last week's episodes, they're available in their entirity on the Star Wars website.)