Here are my thoughts about The Clone Wars episodes featuring young Captain Ackbar. There are some spoilers, so I’ll put this behind the jump…
I loved the first three episodes of The Clone Wars season 4.
I’m surprised. When I first heard rumors that Ackbar was going to make an appearance in The Clone Wars, I was angry. I may have made some expletive-filled rants. I was not going to have my Original Trilogy buddy Ackbar show up in The Clone Wars as some cartoony “Young Ensign Ackbar” babbling on about how one day he hoped to be the galaxy’s best trap finder.
I have never been happier to be so wrong.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not an utter hater of The Clone Wars. While it’s true I prefer my Star Wars in Original Trilogy flavor, I do watch The Clone Wars, and I think, for the most part, it’s a fun show. But I didn’t like Original Trilogy characters showing up for no real reason. And I definitely didn’t like how the show messed with previously established canon.
But having a younger Ackbar as a Captain in the Mon Calamari military, fighting in the Clone Wars, is completely believable. Many Rebels were Clone Wars veterans, and it actually makes perfect sense that Ackbar fought for his planet before fighting for the galaxy. And having him see firsthand all the devastation makes his service to the Rebellion that much more believable.
I also really liked the voice actor, Artt Butler. He sounded like I wanted him to sound — not like a guy doing an Ackbar impression, but like Ackbar.
As I said before, the only thing that kinda bothered me was that other than his fancy helmet, Ackbar apparently has not changed his clothes between now and Return of the Jedi. I would have liked to see a new costume.
With that Ackbar stuff out of the way, let me get to the actual episode reviews. I’m going to review them as a whole instead of episode by episode.
Small things really stood out for me. I liked that the show used the previously established Quarren/Mon Calamari rivalry instead of making up something new. I liked the subtle ways you could always tell the characters were underwater: not just because they were swimming instead of walking, but the way they always seemed to float a little bit instead of standing still as if on land.
I also liked having another water creature as the villain. Did I find the shark head a little ridiculous? Of course. But take a look around the Mos Eisley Cantina or Jabba’s palace and I’m sure you’ll find something just as crazy. It didn’t strike me as out of place — it made perfect sense that an aquatic creature would be the one to want to rule Mon Calamari. Bringing in Kit Fisto, an amphibious Jedi, and also bringing in the Gungans, made perfect sense as well. Of course the amphibious creatures would be best suited to underwater combat. Everything in the episodes seemed to make sense, which I really liked.
I also quite liked the Prince, Lee-Char. His uncertainty at the beginning and his growth to becoming a confident leader were very believable and handled very well. I also liked that his barbels appeared to have some sort of jewelry. An earlier Clone Wars episode featured a young Mon Calamari Jedi whose youth was made evident by his single barbel. The prince had a few more barbels, though still a rather small amount, given his youth, but having the decorative jewelry was neat. It reminded me of how dwarves often decorate their beards in fantasy fiction.
The depiction of Mon Calamari itself was fantastic. Having everything designed around aquatic creatures was very cool to see, and keeping Anakin, Padmé, and Ahsoka in diving suits reminded you how out of place they were in an underwater world. Even the usually bumbling, comic-relief Gungans moved more comfortably in the water.
I also really liked the show’s unflinching look at war. While many Clone Wars episodes feature battle droids being mown down by the hundreds, these episodes showed a lot of living beings meeting their deaths — Mon Calamari, Quarren, Gungans… the situation really feels much more dire when it’s living beings, not droids, being killed. Even knowing that main characters like Anakin and Padmé can’t die, showing them being captured and tortured is still a pretty dark place for a cartoon show to go — which I like. War should be dark. Side note: I also liked the electric eels being used as torture devices. Underwater, it made sense. Have I mentioned how much I like how much sense these episodes make?
Were the episodes perfect? Of course not. But were they enjoyable? Yes. And did they do justice to Ackbar? Definitely.