After the events of the season premiere, we’re left with a broken Mon Cala, Prince Lee Char and Ahsoka are in exile, looking to find a way to fight back at Tamson, the shark-like Separatist leader. Anakin, Padme, Kit Fisto, and Jar Jar have been captured, as well as pretty much any soldier in fighting shape.
The episode revolves around the Separatists hunt for the missing Prince, and the Prince’s quest to untie the Mon Cala and the Quarren people to fight back. The themes explored in this episode are very much similar to those in The Phantom Menace, with the Gungans and the Naboo uniting.
Altogether, this might have been one of the darkest episodes of the show, not just in terms of lighting under the water, but in tone and emotion. There is a lot of torture and killing in this episode. It’s a little intense, but in a good way. Like Guillermo Del Toro says, there should be frightening things in children’s stories.
The main torture scene, however, had a beautiful brutality to it that was very fun to watch on the show. The Karkaradon General, Tamson, nicks a pinhole in Padme’s mask, slowly leaking water into her helmet while Anakin is trapped inside of electric eels, keeping him contained. I was hoping he’d take another step to the dark side with Padme drowning, but Master Fisto was there and reminded him to use methods that fit within the light side of the force. Beyond that, Jar Jar helped save the day with his “Gungan Water Burp” that was, to be honest, pretty gross. But the kids loved it.
There were plenty of film references in this episode, too. From the get-go, Kit Fisto references Sallah’s infamous line from Raiders of the Lost Ark: “Asps. Very dangerous.” It brought a smile to my face, but not more than the climax.
It’s no secret that Jaws is a favorite film of mine, and watching the final showdown in this episode was one of the most satisfying experiences I’ve had watching this show. Tamson has an array of blades loaded with explosives that he’s exploding enemies with. Lee Char manages to get his hands on one and embed it into Tamson’s shoulder. Enraged, Tamson charges Lee Char who shoots repeatedly at the shark-like creature with varied results until… Well, if you’ve seen this scene in Jaws, you know what happens.
I squeed like a thirteen year old fan girl. It was a incredibly satisfying moment.
Coming back to the violence, I’m impressed and a little surprised. The stakes are raising in the series as more and more flesh-and-blood species are caught up in the wider conflict. More people can die. There’s more gravitas to losing a battle. It’s heartbreaking.
It brings me to something Dave Filoni told me in an interview. He explained the Palpatine’s plot was so insidious (no pun intended) that he was forcing the Jedi to make increasingly uncomfortable decisions and causing the deaths of many people. They’re supposed to be peacekeepers, and drawing them into a bloody, protracted conflict that forces them to tear off a little piece of their soul each time. Seeing it come to fruition is a thing of beauty and I’m grateful of the job they’re doing on this “kids show.” It’s so layered and deep in the mythology of Star Wars that I sometimes wonder how much kids are getting out of it. And it makes me think that, just like the movies when I was a kid, kids watching these now will grow up with the entire Star Wars saga and these shows and as they get older the colors will become less black and white and they’ll see all the shades of grey folded carefully into each episode of the films and the show.
It’s an intensely well crafted experience that is clearly in the hands of people who care about the stories as much as we do.
Overall, Prisoners is a solid episode. Not my favorite, but very, very solid.
Cartoon Network has a preview of next week’s episode, The Shadow Warrior, here. Between the clip and the title, I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am. In 1980, George Lucas produced an Akira Kurosawa film called “Kagemusha” (literally The Shadow Warrior) about a feudal samurai leader who is killed in battle but knows that his family and kingdom will perish if anyone discovers it. His dying command is that his double fill in for him until the danger has passed. It’s a heartbreaking, beautifully told story about the double. It was Kurosawa’s first color Samurai film and paved the way for the masterpiece Ran. Based on the clip for the next episode, it’s pretty obvious that Jar Jar is the shadow warrior.
Kurosawa homages are my favorite. And so far the Jar Jar episodes have all been top-notch, too. If you love this show, do yourself a favor and watch Kagemusha before the next episode. Something tells me this episode will be twice as good with that knowledge.
This could end up as one of my favorites. We’ll see next week.