The second episode of the new Clone Wars season aired last night and was a puzzlingly severe drop in quality. "Distant Echo" feels unfinished, featuring a suspiciously similar opening shot to the previous episode and weakly choreographed action scenes. The subtextual conflict, though, between independent thought and mindless following remains interesting.
Poor Anakin (Matt Lanter) never learned how to spot early pregnancy.
A clandestine transmission between Anakin and Padme (Catherine Taber) gives the episode a strong feeling of connexion to Revenge of the Sith, something that has generally not been present in previous seasons. It makes sense given how much closer the show is drawing to the final prequel film. The very brief dialogue between Obi-Wan (James Arnold Taylor) is amusing as it suggests again how well aware Obi-Wan is of Anakin's secret romance.
My favourite scene in the episode, though, was the argument on a hilltop between the Bad Batch (Dee Bradley Baker) and Rex (Dee Bradley Baker). There was no clear good or bad side in the argument even though Rex's anger is overplayed to make him seem like he's making a mistake. The Bad Batch clearly look down on the "regs", the regular troopers, an interesting turn after how much the clone stories on the show have emphasised the value of teamwork. We know just how right the Bad Batch will prove to be in the events of Revenge of the Sith, something I suppose they won't live to see.
The attack on the droid base was so badly directed it was confusing. One scene had Anakin standing in a thin corridor while two droids gently took turns firing at him from each side. The episode's credited director is Steward Lee but Dave Filoni is supervising director. I'm wondering if the sloppiness of this episode is the first real sign of George Lucas' absence as executive producer.
The episode's conclusion, when Rex finds the mangled Echo with his mind being plundered by machines, was pretty effective, though. The always slightly offputting effect of clones interacting is always even better when a healthy one is talking to a sick or dying one. These guys must think about death a lot.
Rex thought he'd left Echo behind to die, it turns out Echo's fate was even worse than death.
Clone Wars is available on Disney+.