Of all the loves that dare not speak their name, is there any more beautiful than the one between a man and his droid? That's the question that this week's Clone Wars sought to answer and, thanks to some more-impressive than usual visuals and an unexpectedly engaging final battle, the answer may be "We're still not convinced, but we're willing to give the benefit of the doubt." Who knew that watching hot droid on droid action could be so exciting?Even more than last week's episode, this week's Clone Wars, "Duel Of The Droids," felt like it was a quiet reboot of the series - The animation seemed smoother (with the painterly touches and textures even more pronounced, and the characters less blocky and awkward), the incidental music more overwhelming - but at least it wasn't more of last week's ill-chosen techno - and the writing... well, much less annoying than last week, at least.
It's not that I'm suddenly sold on the whole "R2 is kidnapped and Anakin will do anything to save him" plot, but I have to admit, it was almost worth it to see the stocky little droid take on his replacement in a ridiculous duel that more or less involved the two robots running into each other a lot and trying to make the beeps and bloops into some kind of tension-building dialogue. It was helped by the other droid turning out not to be comedically inept, but actually an evil spy droid out to kill Anakin and the clones all along, and even moreso by a space station battle between Anakin, Ahsoka and General Grevious' droid army that - again, as with almost all of the most engaging moments of the series - recalled the Star Wars movies. In the end, of course, everything ended up exactly as it had begun - R2 was back with his friends, General Grevous had, yet again, run away from an explosion so that he can pop up and be threatening yet ultimately ineffectual next week, and the good guys had won a small but apparently important victory in the ongoing Clone War. If the show is to keep improving - and it is improving, slowly - then that sense of plot apathy is going to have to be overcome in future episodes; with the backdrop of galaxy-wide warfare, why does the show always feel so weightless and meaningless... and short of killing off characters, how can that be overcome?