An episode of Clone Wars in which the good guys lost, the best parts weren't ripped off from the movies and Ahsoka wasn't annoying enough to make me want to lightsaber my eyes out? Not only is it not impossible, it also makes for the best episode of the series yet.

I was cautiously excited about "Cloak of Darkness," last night's episode of the uneven animated series, as soon as I found out that Paul Dini was writing it. It's not that Dini's involvement in something is always a sign of quality, as anyone who read DC's Countdown can attest to, but that didn't stop his Batman past from raising expectations, which he then easily met, and then some.

Besides giving us the first episode where Ahsoka became more than a collection of nicknames and plot devices (and yet, stayed recognizable as the same character; just less annoying), this was also the first time we've seen the show's new characters seem strong enough to carry the series without help from the movie series' stars; whether it was Luminara (Another of the show's noble yet troubled Jedis) or - easily the saving grace of the Clone Wars movie -Ventress, or the somewhat tragic Captain Argyus (voiced with lazy arrogance by James Marsters, who managed to make phoning it in still sound pretty cool, damn him), each one of them had the classic Star Wars mix of iconic/retro quality, charm and flaws. Mixed with a prison break story that reversed the original movie - Nate Gunray, the character captured in the appalling last episode gets to play Princess Leia to Ventress' Luke Skywalker - and some kinetic animation directed by Dave Filoni, the result was something that both felt "Star Wars"y, without being a slavish imitation or taking chunks of the movies and dropping them in with a couple of names changed to protect the innocent.

Everytime that the show is this good, I get optimistic -overly so, perhaps - that this is the sign of a new era where every episode moving forward will be this good, and everytime, I get disappointed. I should just be thankful for what I get, of course, but still; if every episode of Clone Wars managed to get the mix of influence and originality as right as this one did, then it'd be must-see TV. As it is, I'll just recommend that you all go download this when it appears on iTunes.