Original Air Date: 3, 10, and 17 October 2008
Written by: Steven Melching
Directed by: Dave Filoni (Rising Malevolence); Brian Kalin O’Connell (Shadow of Malevolence and Destroy Malevolence).
Special Guests: Gwendoline Yeo (Nala Se), Olivia d’Abo (Luminara Unduli)
The first multi-episode arc of The Clone Wars was the Malevolence trilogy. It consisted of three episodes: Rising Malevolence (airing on 3 October 2008), Shadow of Malevolence (airing on 10 October 2008), and Destroy Malevolence (airing on 17 October 2008). In Rising Malevolence, a Republic battle group, led by Master Plo Koon, locates the new Separatist superweapon, the Malevolence. Grievous and Dooku use their weapon to destroy Plo’s fleet, and begin hunting the survivors, to ensure that the weapon’s location is not revealed. Anakin and Ahsoka take the Twilight to search for survivors, and they are able to recover Plo Koon and his troopers, obtain data on the Malevolence, and escape back to the Republic. It is revealed that the Malevolence is a massive ion cannon, which disables all systems aboard any enemy ships, allowing conventional weapons to destroy those ships much more easily. In Shadow of Malevolence, Anakin leads Shadow Squadron, a group of Y-Wing bombers, to destroy the Malevolence and kill General Grievous before it destroys a Republic medical station. They take a shortcut through a nebula infested with Neebrays; everyone makes it out alive, but it was a close call, and Anakin’s judgment is called into question. They arrive at the medical station moments before the Malevolence shows up. Anakin’s squadron takes heavy losses, and it appears that his mission will fail. At the last minute, Anakin orders the squadron to destroy the ion cannon instead of the bridge, saving the medical station and disabling the ship, but leaving Grievous alive. In Destroy Malevolence, Republic cruisers are hammering away at the Malevolence, and it looks like Grievous will lose the ship. Dooku arranges for Padmé and C-3PO to get captured by the Malevolence, for use as hostages so Grievous and the Malevolence can escape safely. Anakin, Obi-Wan, and R2 board the Separatist warship using the Twilight; Obi-Wan duels Grievous while Anakin rescues Padmé and sabotages the ship’s hyperdrive. As our heroes escape, the Malevolence flies directly into a moon, completely destroying it (though Grievous manages to escape).
This was the first set of episodes that were linked together, and it was by and large a success. Each episode was a self-contained story, but the three together formed a larger saga. It also introduced the use of silent/background characters from the films as prominent characters in the TV show, in this case Plo Koon. The Malevolence looked absolutely massive, and was clearly derived from other ships in Star Wars, such as the Invisible Hand. We see Anakin use the Twilight as his own personal transport, which he uses quite a lot in this series. In the middle episode, the depiction of Anakin’s internal struggle was fascinating: does he destroy the Malevolence’s ion cannon, saving thousands of clones, but allowing Grievous to escape, or does he kill Grievous, and allow the clones to be destroyed? I love when they are able to convey the emotions and struggles of characters. The blu-ray special features showed how the Malevolence, the Y-Wings, the medical station, the train system, and Plo Koon were all designed, and that was really interesting.
There are, however, several things about this arc that bother me. The Malevolence’s ion cannon can only be fired in one direction (per side), and its aperture is not terribly large (in astronomical terms). In theory, ships can avoid it by actively remaining outside of its firing arc; even Venator-class ships should be more maneuverable than the Malevolence, and therefore be able to manage this. But time and time again, Republic ships are caught in the blast, because its Captain seemed not to notice that he was staring down the barrel of a gun. It isn’t until the end of Shadow of Malevolence that Anakin sees this as a possible tactic. Another issue is the way that the Republic searched for the Malevolence in the first episode. Plo Koon reports that he has seen the enemy ship, and is immediately destroyed. And yet the Jedi don’t send anyone to Plo’s last location. Instead, they continue patrolling. They have confirmation of the ship’s location. Why not send every possible ship all at once? Strength in numbers; the Malevolence can’t point its weapon at everyone simultaneously. Another point is that Anakin ordered all ships to stop firing when he realized Padmé was on board the Malevolence. I understand he is emotionally compromised here, but one should think that Obi-Wan might counter the order (acceptable losses in war). Or perhaps he could order the ships to target specific systems only, to prevent the Malevolence from fleeing or defending itself. These are plot holes that bother me.
But those plot holes don’t change the fact that it’s a well-written threat-of-the-week trilogy that makes me want to continue watching The Clone Wars.
Next week: Rookies! Note that I will review its two tie-in episodes, Clone Cadets and ARC Troopers, separately, as they are part of Season 3.