“Nomad Droids” is an episode divided into three mini-segments, all starring Artoo and Threepio. The first part is very much like the opening to the Wizard of Oz. There’s a hurricane of a battle and the droids get into the only safe place they can think of: a Y-wing. They’re whisked away to a foreign world where they encounter a pint-size civilization under the thumb of an evil leader. Our heroes are captured, freed, and accidentally kill the overlord, freeing the Brownie-like creatures to lead themselves. Think Wicked Witch of the East and the Munchkins.
Back in space, they find themselves on another planet, running low on power and playing out more scenes from The Wizard of Oz. That’s where they encounter a group of Pit droids who have enslaved an entire race with a giant hologram. (That might have been my favorite part of the episode).
In the third section, they’re abducted by pirates and are almost melted down before they’re saved by General Grievous.
At the end, they’re reunited with the Republic and no one seems to want to listen to their fantastical story.
Watching this episode, it’s important to remind people that Artoo and Threepio as a duo carried an entire show in the 80s on their shoulders. And they did it capably.
I can see where a lot of people might have an issue with these Artoo and Threepio. Their whimsical adventures aren’t the sort of fare we’ve been used to on the show, really since the beginning. Ambush (the first aired episode) is really the only one I can think of with this level of whimsy. They’re fun episodes and in the classic mold of old Saturday morning cartoons. It takes all the heart of those old stories and adds in the sensibilities of the new show and give us something unique to The Clone Wars.
How can you argue with that?
Some could, I’m sure. But I watched this episode with my kids and we all laughed hysterically through it. It was fun. And that’s what Star Wars is supposed to be. No matter how awesome or how epic things get, there’s always whimsy and humour there. Even when Star Wars is at its darkest, there’s lighthearted joking. The first half hour of Revenge of the Sith has plenty of laughs. And The Empire Strikes Back? It has some of the funniest moments in the entire saga. Consider this exchange between the droids:
C-3PO: I didn’t ask you to turn on the thermal heater. I merely commented that it was freezing in the princess’s chamber…
[Artoo whistles his objection]
C-3PO: But it’s supposed to be freezing! How we are ever going to dry out her clothes, I really don’t know!
And that leads into some great moments with Han.
What I’m trying to say is this: This show shouldn’t be one note. It will get soooo boring if it’s war all the time. It’s these brief respites that make me appreciate the war episodes even more. These are fun. The kids love them and so do. Sure, it doesn’t make the most sense in the world that the droids weren’t with Anakin and Padme, but these were fun episodes and that outweighs things. It’s important to have comedic moments woven into the tapestry of the films to break the tension, and for that same reason it’s important to have these lighthearted episodes to break the tension of the season.
But for as funny as this episode was, there was a LOT of killing… Which actually made me laugh. As the pirates were getting sucked out of the hole in the ship and into the vacuum of space, I started giggling about the whole thing. There is a hilarious amount of killing in this episode. Watch it again, you’ll see what I mean.
The animation for this episode was wondrous. The environments and the character models were things we hadn’t really seen before and even just for a throwaway episode. And I loved all the references to the classic trilogy. Most will recognize the shots in the hallway at the beginning with Artoo and Threepio looking for an escape pod as a direct homage to A New Hope, but did anyone else notice the direct visual reference to Empire? Their crash landing on that first planet seemed, shot for shot, just like Luke’s landing on Dagobah. Specifically: that shot in the cockpit.
I don’t automatically like every episode, trust me, but they make it incredibly hard for me to hate the episodes. From the gorgeous lighting, rich colours, fascinating design, and great characters all the way to the well-written stories and inspirations from the films I love the most. It all congeals into something that seems designed specifically for me to enjoy.
It just works.
If you’re whining about these episodes and can’t wait to get back into the war, The Umbarra arc is up next and Dee Bradley Baker assured me on more than one occasion that this is the show stopper. At least until Darth Maul returns.