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Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Season 3 Episode 1: Clone Cadets

What is it ? : So season 3 of Clone Wars, and it's a Clone Trooper episode. I've made no secret that I think the Clone Trooper episodes are amongst the finest that the series has to offer.
The episode follows a squad of Clone Troopers through their final exam, Domino Squad must complete a course filled with Battle Droids, Super Battle Droids and Commando Droids, and capture a beacon at the far end of the course. The episode begins showing them training on this course and not acting cohesively, and therefore failing at the task. The episode also introduces the squads trainers, although they're never shown actually training anyone, Shaak-Ti the Jedi, and two bounty hunters, basically a good cop, bad cop arrangement.
Next, the Clones watch a superior squad demonstrate how it's supposed to be done, as some Arc Troopers visit and complement them, before Domino squad get to screw it up again (an automatic fail for leaving someone behind).
However, Shaak-Ti decides to give them another chance at the encouraging of the good bounty hunter, while the bad bounty hunter attempts to rile one of the squad to get him to attack, another automatic fail.
After encouragement from 99, a warped failed Clone Trooper who now mops floors, the squad gets their act together and defeats the course, even though the bad bounty hunter has removed some vital equipment.
And the troopers graduate and head off to war.

High Points : The episode moves along well, and the characterisation of the Clones is excellent as always, and there are a couple of points I was especially impressed with.

Firstly, Shaak-Ti gives the failing squad a second chance, as she says she doesn't think of the clones as products, but as people. This makes her pretty unique for a Jedi, as most really don't give a damn about the Clone Troopers, and I'll be keeping an eye out in future episodes to see if she crops up again, and keeps this point of view. It made me instantly warm to her, as it seems grossly paradoxical for Jedi to not treat Clone Troopers with respect.

Secondly the head Arc Trooper has a really cool skull paintjob his helmet, I note this as it's a really obvious design choice, done extremely well. Given the helmet is white, the skull isn't painted, but the space around it is. Nice artwork, looks cool.

Low Points : While I rate the episode highly, I do have to throw some criticism at it, firstly for being a bit obvious. The Clone Troopers were obviously going to pass, they were going to pull together as a team and pass the test with flying colours, learning a lesson from the wise old clone cleaner. Hell, even the bad bounty hunter softening towards them at the end of the episode was obvious. It was done well, but I'd have liked a surprise, I thought for a while that the bounty hunter was going to be a double agent for Dooku, and they'd fail their test, but become troopers for catching him out. But alas not.

The two trainers of the Clone Troopers are "Bounty Hunters", I've let my annoyance at the misuse of this term known before, but thought I'd mention it again. And while I suppose the bad bounty hunter could be missing the thrill of the hunt, and the adrenaline hit of killing a target, the episode doesn't hint at that, and makes it appear that he's angry at the Clones, because he's waiting for his pay cheque, which really doesn't make any sense at all.

I've got to question the use of the Training Armour as well, given that Clone Troopers will be wearing their armour for the rest of their lives, then why do they train wearing a different set of armour. You'd think you'd want them to get as used to the armour as possible, so the first time out in battle they'll know it's limits, the way it restricts their movement, and it's advantages and functions. Seemed a little odd to me.

And finally, I'm sure I read about the Arc Troopers (possibly in an old Star Wars Annual which had some Dark Horse comic strips in it) being a special breed of Clone Troopers. While ordinary Clone Troopers are modified to be more compliant, and less independent, the Arc Troopers are nearer to being Jango Fett, and are more capable of independent thought and imaginative. However, this episode just makes them out to be an elite unit which individual troopers can be promoted into. Not an error, but a change in the mytho's I thought worth mentioning.

So what do you really think ? : A pretty good episode, but a little bland for the start of the season, while the Clone Troopers are reliably excellent, I'd have prefered something less predictable as the season opener.

Final Words : The next episode is called Arc Troopers, so fingers crossed for a less obvious, more dramatic demonstration of the greatness clone trooper episodes are capable of.

Score : 8.5/10

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