We've made it through the first three seasons. At this point, longtime viewers of “The Clone Wars” have seen some pretty cool and interesting things, and the novelty has definitely worn off. Can the fourth season still bring something compelling to the table?
Season Four of “The Clone Wars” has some pretty great highs and some pretty bad lows. It starts off with arc about a coup d'etat on Mon Calamari. It fails to be compelling, with a whiny prince and the reappearance of the Gungans. Admiral (or, properly for this time period, Captain) Ackbar's presence does little to bring any gravitas or interest to the story. This is followed by an episode about the Gungans joining the Separatists, with Jar-Jar saving the day.
After this rocky start, I was having difficulty keeping interest. Season Three wasn't the strongest, and the start of Season Four faltered. Then, the General Krell arc (episodes 7 through 10) appeared. For four episodes, we watch the hardass Krell throw clones to the meat grinder. Rex tries to reason with Krell, but the General insists the clones must obey his orders without hesitation. The cost of lives means nothing to him, and the viewer looks on in horror.
These episodes are excellent. You feel for the clones' struggle. We have seen the Jedi treat clones as fully human, often better than they would treat themselves. Now, we see Krell treating them as Grevious treats his droids – no names, just designations; expendable for victory. The twist at the end was fairly obvious, but it didn't diminish the story for me.
The Krell story line turns out just to be the warm-up for Season Four. A couple arcs later, we have one of my favorite stories for the entire series: Obi-Wan Kenobi – Bounty Hunter! In episodes 15 through 18, Obi-Wan goes deep undercover, changing his face and voice to infiltrate a Separatist plot to kidnap the Chancellor. He gets thrown in prison to get close to scoundrels Cad Bane and Moralo Eval, who are leading the plot. How far over the lines of his morality will Obi-Wan have to go to convince Bane he is the real deal? Will Eval's jealousy keep him out of the deal? How will Obi-Wan be able to stop the kidnapping? This is certainly the most fun arc of the season.
This season also features the return of Darth Maul, an event that was anticipated by many viewers. And who can blame them? Maul is one of the best characters of the prequels. Ruthless and precise, every move he makes is as a hunter, a wolf attacking his prey with every strike as a calculated move.
Unfortunately, Maul's return was a big disappointment for me. The first episode we meet him is mostly centers around Savage Opress trying to find him. When we finally meet him, he is in a “gollumized” state: he remembers nothing of his past and skitters about on his mechanical spider legs muttering to himself. I don't entirely object to this, but even when he is restored he is not the same Maul.
Episode I Maul never verbally gloats, and every move he makes has purpose: he is cold and fierce. Clone Wars Maul spends more time gloating than doing, and he talks constantly. I was excited to see the old Maul, who would give us a break from the Dooku/Ventress/Grevious-type monologues. Clone Wars Maul doesn't bring anything new to the table, whereas Episode I Maul would have a distinct place in the show.
The rest of the season is fine. A couple of C-3PO and R2-D2 episodes? Not as funny as usual. A planet trying to make slaves of Jedi? A little far-fetched and not very compelling. A few episodes for us to sympathize with Ventress? I still don't care much about her.
If I were making recommendations to someone as they were watching “The Clone Wars,” I would point them to Krell and Obi-Wan: Bounty Hunter. The rest you can watch if you're committed.