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'Star Wars: The Clone Wars' S1E08 - Bombad Jedi

TV and AnimeKristina PinoComment
This episode of The Clone Wars focused on Padmé being a badass and Jar Jar being Jar Jar. She's on a peace mission with C3PO and Jar Jar Binks, without any armed guards, when she is taken prisoner by the very senator she's trying to assist, to be turned over to Viceroy Gunray. Jar Jar and C3PO had been left behind to "guard the ship," so they were able to avoid being put away with her. But it should be fairly obvious that it's difficult to keep Padmé anywhere against her will for long.

Though we got to see her being cool, resourceful, and capable, we also got to see Jar Jar in his attempts to rescue her. I'm probably in the minority here, but I have never had problems with him as a character. I think he's funny and charming, so I was pretty pleased to see him feature heavily in one of these episodes. He spends it all trying to do the right thing, but his clumsiness gets in the way. In the end though, he trumps the droids by taking to the waters and befriending a huge slug monster. Jar Jar shows all of the qualities that make him interesting - his intense loyalty, and sometimes uncanny ability to inadvertent genius. In this case, deciding to robe up as a Jedi was a more brilliant idea than he knew. At least, it makes up for him destroying Padmés ship by mistake.

I'm hoping we'll get to see more episodes like this in the future. Maybe not so much of bumbling Jar Jar, but of Padmé out on diplomatic missions and getting into trouble that she can get herself out of. She's great at avoiding being a damsel in distress.

'Star Wars: The Clone Wars' S1E07 - Duel of the Droids

TV and AnimeKristina PinoComment
This episode is the second of a two-part droid mini-arc. My thoughts on the first one went up last week.

I learned a few things about R2 this episode. The first, and most incredible thing, is that he can somehow reassemble himself after being pulled apart for the purpose of having his memory invaded. The second, is that he can completely out-perform and fight off a much more advanced model like R3S6, which turned out to be a spy for Grievous. Finally, I learned that R2 would make an amazing lead in a spy movie.

I liked that Ahsoka took on General Grievous on her own, and that she succeeded in only surviving long enough to get back to Anakin. The scrap heap escaped (again), and lost an army of droids (again), leaving him no better off than he'd been before. I expect Dooku isn't happy with him at all these days, especially now that he's lost not just a big ship, but an entire listening post for the Separatists.

One of the things I was thinking while watching this episode is that the pacing is pretty quick, and between the jumps from mission to mission and the animation style, it really feels like I'm watching a video game happen. This isn't a bad thing - it just makes me wish there were a game exactly like this that I can play right now.

'Star Wars: The Clone Wars' S1E06 - Downfall of a Droid

TV and AnimeKristina PinoComment
Anakin leads Rex and the gold squadron in a battle that ends with Grievous retreating (again), and Anakin needing rescue. When he wakes up, R2D2 is nowhere to be found, and it is revealed that he's got sensitive information in his memory banks that could be used against them. Anakin goes on a mission to try and find R2, even searching a trawling scavenger's ship with a replacement unit (R3S6), to no avail. We later find out that R2 was in there (and we watch as the lovable droid takes out an assassin droid all by himself), and the freighter is selling it to Grievous.

Though I expected more R2 antics, I liked that at least we saw one bad-ass move by him. The thing is, this episode focused more on Anakin being so fixated on how awesome R2 is and not being willing to trust any other units, including the more technically advanced (and supposedly faster) R3 unit. The R3 unit let Anakin down though, and he's still determined as ever to find R2. Ahsoka has been advocating for the R3 unit (now nicknamed Goldie), and it looks like it'll probably do something cool next episode to gain Anakin's approval or something.

Here's hoping that R2 gets more action next episode!

'Star Wars: The Clone Wars' S1E05 - Rookies

TV and AnimeKristina PinoComment
After the Malevolence arc, Anakin is still feverishly trying to locate Grievous, who (unbeknownst to the Republic) has hatched a new plan to destroy Kamino at the outer rim where Clones are produced. The outpost guarding that area is mainly manned by rookie Clones who are not fully trained, yet placed because the Republic is short on troops. The outpost is attacked as Commander Cody and Captain Rex are on their way for an inspection. When they get there, only three Clones have survived the surprise attack by drones.

This episode focused mainly on humanizing the Clones, giving them personalities and making us - the audience - feel sympathetic towards them. Many perished, and there were a few heroics to drive that point home. Commander Cody dropped a heavy line when he told his team that they weren't just defending a base for the Republic, but they were defending their brothers-in-arms, and the closest thing that they, as Clones, could call a home (their production/training facility). Later, Rex inducted the surviving Clones into the 501st Legion.

Upon further thought, I guess if Grievous had succeeded in destroying the facility at Kamino, many more Jedi might have survived Order 66. But then again, I wonder whether they would have even made it to that point without the Clone army? It's a weird cycle of catch-22s that's making my head hurt.

Anyway, I'm glad to see that writers weren't afraid to make episodes that didn't focus on the Jedi. We're back to Anakin and Ahsoka next time though, and some R2D2 action, so I'm looking forward to that.

'Star Wars: The Clone Wars' S1E03-4 (Shadow of Malevolence, and Destroy Malevolence)

TV and AnimeKristina PinoComment
I ended up watching the rest of this arc all in one go, since things got pretty exciting during episode 3 (Shadow of Malevolence).

Anakin decides to arrange a counterattack on General Grievous now that he knows about the ion cannon and the general location of the ship, Malevolence. He takes a fleet with him (including Master Plo Koon) to intercept Grievous as he focuses an attack on a defenseless medical center on Dooku's orders. After some inspiration from Ahsoka, Anakin successfully maneuvers the mission to disable and damage the Malevolence and send Grievous into retreat. This whole section focused greatly on Anakin's ego, which he sets aside when he accepts advice from Ahsoka to make a change to his plans halfway through their mission.

When it came to episode 4, Destroy Malevolence, the spin here was Padmé shows up with Threepio after getting some rigged instructions from Darth Sidius. It's the perfect moment for Grievous to "take her hostage," and thus prevent the Jedi from destroying the Malevolence completely. As he scrambles to get everything fixed, Anakin infiltrates the ship with Artoo and Obi Wan. The political outcome here is that Grievous loses some major face with Dooku, though we already know he survives this.

What I both liked and disliked about Shadow was that Anakin, once again, reconsidered something because of Ahsoka. Though I like that she's so thoughtful and straightforward, there's no point in him being her Master if she's always going to appear to handle critical situations better than him. Yes, Anakin still has plenty to teach Ahsoka, but I kind of hope that he'll surprise her at least as often as she inspires him. I guess it's kind of a weird gripe, eh? I'm rooting for Ahsoka because I think she's an awesome character, I just don't want it to be at the cost of making Anakin look incompetent, when he ends up becoming the most powerful Jedi that even Yoda wouldn't have dared battle.

'Star Wars: The Clone Wars' S1E02 - Rising Malevolence

TV and AnimeKristina PinoComment
This second episode of The Clone Wars introduces young Anakin Skywalker and his Padawan, Ahsoka Tano, in the first of a three-episode arc. Ahsoka is introduced with a strong show of character, in which she speaks out to the Jedi council in favor of going on a rescue mission in hopes of finding Jedi Master Plo Koon. Plo Koon was on a mission to try and discover some mystery weapon being possessed and tested by the Separatists, and the entire beginning of this episode is the massacre that his mission becomes, from which only the Jedi and three storm troopers escape by life pod. Previously, no survivors had ever been found on other such missions, so the council had ruled that it was safer to avoid going to the site altogether.

Though Anakin chastises Ahsoka for speaking out, he later tells her that her desire to look for survivors wasn't wrong, but her wording was. The mischievous side (and passionate, justice-seeking side) of the young Jedi kicks in when he flies out with her on a small ship in hopes of recovering anything from what is assuredly a total wreck. Once they get there, tension runs high as we watch them trying to find signals, and the escape pod trying to figure out how to stay alive. This episode could have gone two ways - the survivors could have very well all died, and it would have made for a hard lesson for both Anakin and Ahsoka. Or things could have turned out as they did. Either way - the predictable part was that Count Dooku and General Grievous were going to spot Anakin's ship and try to destroy them. Obviously, they get away, otherwise there would have been no original trilogy.

The big moral in this episode was having conviction, which is no new trope so I won't get too much into it. As with last episode, there was also a line (delivered by Jedi Master Plo Koon) about the value of life, and about how he values all lives, including those of the clones. And of course, Plo Koon represented a strong connection, as Ahsoka explains it was he who found her and brought her to the Jedi.

With Plo Koon safe and sound, the Separatists have witnesses -- someone on the outside (and worse - from the Republic), now knows about their ion cannon. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens next.

'Star Wars: The Clone Wars' S1E01 - Ambush

TV and AnimeKristina PinoComment
Since I'm in a bit of a Star Wars kick, I decided it's about time I finally got around to watching The Clone Wars animated series. I enjoyed the animated movie in theaters, and have only heard good things about this show. As if I needed any more of a reason to watch this, the very first episode of the series is about Yoda, and how much of a badass he is.

In this pilot episode, Yoda is on his way to the planet Rugosa in order to negotiate a Republic base with their king, Katuunko. On the way there, the envoy and his clone-manned ship are ambushed by a drone army led by Count Dooku's apprentice, Asajj Ventress. The king is then faced with a decision between jointing the Republic or the Separatists. It is at this point that Yoda, king of badassery, agrees to be man-hunted by a droid army in order to prove that the Republic could protect the Katuunko's peoples.

All talk about fighting aside, what stood out to me this episode is that Yoda, who always has something to teach, made it a point to sit down with the three clones who accompanied him down to the planet, and talk to them about the Force. He tells them that, although they three look alike on the outside, that they are unique on the inside, and gives them a much-needed lesson about not losing hope. This is an important aspect of Yoda's character as a Jedi, since he's meant to respect all living beings, and the Force which resides in all. He doesn't treat the clones like they're expendable droids.

Besides that, I basically quite enjoy the animation and voice acting, and the fight scenes were nice and clear. No shaky-cam and blurry panning to distract me from the action. Some of the lines are a bit silly, but it's to be expected with an all-ages show. It isn't necessarily a bad thing.

I'll keep sharing brief episode synopses and my thoughts as I watch, so keep checking back!

Thoughts On: True Blood Season 5 finale

TV and AnimeKristina PinoComment

We've reached the end of the line! Or have we? It seems like just another episode to me, and not quite a season finale to be honest. This is neither a good nor bad thing, but it kind of stinks that we've got a year to wait before we can see what happens next.

Last week's episode left us with Pam, Sam, Jessica and Luna locked up in the Authority, Sookie and the fairies confronted by Russell after their elder was bested, Andy with his own fairy problem, and Alcide hanging out with his father Jackson.

"Save Yourself."

Alcide and Jackson:

When Martha comes rushing in with Alcide's friend on a blood overdose, they decide it's time to confront the rough Packmaster once and for all. With help, they storm in and get rid of him so quick he didn't know what hit him, and Alcide assumed the role of their leader. He's getting them all off the V, which is great news for them.

Andy:

Right when Andy's about to try and tell Holly about what's happened with the fairy, she goes into labor. She gives birth to a litter of four and walks right out of it, leaving them in Andy's care. 'ho boy, that is not going to go down well.

For one thing, Andy doesn't know much about fairies at all. What if one or more of them exhibit powers? Maybe he'll seek out Sookie for help, and hopefully Holly will stick around. I think they're great together, and I'd hate to see them grow apart over this supernatural stuff. Holly would understand somewhat.

(side note: dang, Bodehouse lost some weight! She looked great this week, even if she was a drunky butt. She must also be participating in the cast and crew-wide weight loss effort.)

Luna and Sam:

After a quick no-go with Bill, Sam turns into a mosquito and explores a while, before roping Luna into an escape plan: have her change into Rev. Newlin and simply walk out. It worked, just not exactly as planned, and the last chancellor (besides Salome) bit the dust at Sam's hands. For all intents and purposes, it would appear they have escaped safely (sort of) with Emma.

Luna had a good moment there in front of the camera and tried to issue a warning to whoever was viewing the news. Afterward though, she got sick and the question remains whether she'll survive another skin-walking incident.

Jason:

After being blasted by the elder fairy, Jason seems to be messed in the head even more than usual. He's seeing his parents and listening to their anti-vampire sentiments (which are all in his head), and his new goal is to just kill as many of them as possible. He even pushed Jessica away at the very moment she ran to hug him and tell him "I love you." While on the one hand, it's great that his big priority is to keep Sookie safe and protect his family, he's going about it the crazy way. I'm not sure what's going to happen there, but for now he seems to be cooperating with the "good" vampires -- Pam, Eric, Nora, Jessica, Tara.

Pam and Tara:

In a "surprise!" moment, when Tara shows up with Sookie to spring her and Jessica out of the holding cells, they embrace and make out right then and there. Even Jessica reacted with a big "I knew it!" I'm happy for them, personally. Tara has shown that she has her eye on survival, but her plan just worked out a little better than Pam's.

I'm also happy to see that Eric has welcomed Tara completely. Since Pam is his progeny, he regards Tara as family as well. It showed in the dialogue earlier before their raid, when he tells Tara to be nice to Nora, who is also family.

Sookie:

I wished for it last week, and we got it: Eric went back for Sookie first and foremost because he felt her fear. He offed Russell (woo, one problem solved!) and made sure Nora wouldn't eat her before moving on to the next order of business. We already knew that Eric still harbored love feelings for Sookie even after being "dumped," so there's nothing out of left field, here.

Eric then comes to Sookie to plead for help saving Bill. Since he's gone off the deep end and won't listen to anyone, Eric and a grudging Tara appeal to her mentioning that Jessica and Pam's lives are also on the line. I still feel kind of weird about the whole aggression with Tara. Considering she's begun embracing her vampire-hood, she should really just lighten up. If it weren't for Sookie... well, she wouldn't have made out with Pam. I guess? Maybe next season things will work out a bit better for their relationship.

Finally, there's this one issue I noticed while the fairies were trying to blast Russell, and it's that Sookie seemed to be having issues with her magic. It might be that she's finally running out of light and turning into a full-on human. This might become another big issue next season, because she might decide that she enjoys being a fairy after all. 

Bill:

After getting rid of Salome, Bill is encountered by Eric and Sookie who try to talk him out of drinking the old blood. Despite it all, Bill declares the same things that writers and staff have been explaining about Bill in interviews the past several weeks -- he's always felt bad about being a vampire, he's always feared retribution, he's never had anything to believe in until now. He's so far gone there's just no getting him back. And right there, in front of a heartbroken Sookie and shattered Eric, he chugs the whole vial and turns into a puddle of blood.

They think he's died, but then he rises out of the blood a-la Lilith. Suffice it to say, Bill is no longer the person he was. It's too bad his name isn't too biblical or awe-inspiring, eh?

Eric and Sookie, naturally, run like hell before they cut to credits.

I have no idea how to feel about this as a finale. If anything, it felt a bit like a penultimate episode, yeah? The only storyline that closed today is Alcide and Jackson's. It felt like rather than solving any issues, they just piled more of them on. Yeah, Russell is gone, but now Bill is on the rampage. Yeah, Andy sorted out getting some facts to Holly about the fairy, but now he's got four kids and several witnesses. Jason is on a vampire-killing spree, hallucinating his parents and angry at the world, and who knows what else is lurking around the corner. Sookie is running out of magic and still hasn't figured out what vampire she needs to kill to break her family's contract.

"Save Yourself" is an exciting episode of True Blood. One of the most exciting we've seen, and I know I had a few "NO WAY" out-loud moments while watching, but is it a good finale when the season ends with a bigger problem than it began with?

 Extra stuff:

Check out this week's Insider at HBO with Alan Ball and director Michael Lehman on the True Blood Season 5 finale and where things are going. They talk about how the two big things for next season are
Warlow and Bill. Is Jason going to get Warlow, and where is Bill going with this crazy turn in his existence?

Jessica's blog updated with a supposed camera phone video of her lamenting being stuck in a cell over at The Authority with Pam. They talk a little bit about love and regrets, until Pam tells her to can it. 

Thoughts On: True Blood Season 5 Episode 11

TV and AnimeKristina PinoComment

There is just one episode left and I think that this week's was probably the best of the season. Now we wait to see how any of the current catastrophic issues will be somehow resolved.

Last week, we left off with Bill going crazier and even nabbing Jessica, Tara killing the Sheriff, Russell going fairy-hunting, Luna and Sam sneaking into the Authority and finally, Sookie trying to figure out what the next step is for her now that she knows some other vampire supposedly owns the rights to her.

The case of the Authority Vampires:

After Jessica escapes some guards (saving Jason) and goes to Pam for safety, she learns that Bill's changes reflect nest behavior. We see this throughout the rest of the episode when various members all hallucinate the same image of Lilith telling them they are the chosen one, but Bill thinks it can only be him. He even slaughters one of his fellow Chancellors in his strong belief that only he will be the one.

Unfortunately, Jessica's escape attempt fails about the same time that Pam allows herself to be taken away for Tara's crime of killing the Sheriff. I think while she had some desire to protect Tara, she also wanted to go to where she might see Eric. Unfortunately, there's some dramatic irony here because we see that Eric and Nora manage to escape and fly away. My hopes are that Eric will go looking for Sookie next to try and protect her from Russell (and later, Warlo), though there is a chance that he and Nora are actually going to do something constructive in the way of banding other vampires together against the now-crazed Authority.

Russell Edgington:

Russell takes off with Newlin looking for Sookie. They encounter Jason, who leads them right to the fairy safehouse where they are then challenged by the elder fairy. I have no idea why this didn't work the right way. Honestly, she should have been able to handle Russell. I'm not sure how or why her magic missed and zapped Jason by mistake (who is probably just fine), and now she's dead. Whether he's absorbed some fairy magic into his body by eating her or by dying her spell on the safehouse has gone away, he can now see the rest of them at the entrance of the club huddled together with Sookie at front and center. The next thing here will be the all-out battle between the fairies and Russell, with the exception of the one pregnant fairy who went back for Andy's protection.

The Shifters:

Sam and Luna have infiltrated the Authority and managed to find Emma. They were caught though, and Sam asked to go see Bill while Luna was locked up. When Sam passes by Pam in the hallway as she's being dragged in, one of the better interchanges of the season happened, too.

I'm not sure what's going to happen to Sam. In the preview for next week, Bill drops a line like, "you shouldn't have come here." Though earlier in the episode he assures Jessica that the humans they know at Bon Temps are nothing but food, the dialogue suggests that he does kind of not want to eat the humans he knows. My assumption is that Sam will be alright, though I have no idea how Luna and Emma will get out of that mess. I have no idea how Pam will be escaping, either. There was an interview a while back where Jessica talks about the season finale and filming it. She describes the set as "buckets" of blood. 'ho boy.

Alcide:

Alcide had stayed with his father for a while and they built a silver fence around his trailer to try and fend off the new vampires after a warning from a pack wolf. Alcide can't stand sitting around and doing nothing though, and he goes out to shoot down the rampant babies. At the end of the episode, his father predictably steps up and joins him. From here out, I think that Jackson is going to go challenge the Pack Master. If Alan Ball plans to go the book route, Jackson may fail due to the opponent cheating. And we know he's been on vampire blood.

Maybe I should have structured my recaps in this way all along, with subtitles? It seems so much more organized and condensed! While a lot did happen in this episode, I didn't need as many words as usual to get it all across.

Extra Goodies:

Jessica updated her blog during her brief stay at Fangtasia with some text about Pam's "halfway house" comment.

The Hollywood Reporter has a great article up with after chatting with Joe Manganiello and Kristen Bauer van Straten about their characters and the Season 5 finale.

HBO's insider video on this week's episode titled Sunset featuring Alan Ball and writer Angela Robinson talking mostly about Bill's change. The way they put it, Bill has always been good toward humanity and ashamed of being a vampire, and now has been presented with something to believe in, even though it seems to be either really messed up or a total hallucination.

Next week's episode preview (season finale!)

Thoughts On: True Blood Season 5 Episode 10

TV and AnimeKristina PinoComment

So, is Bill crazy or does he have some secret plan to take the Authority down?

Last week, he thwarted Eric's escape plans while Sookie, trying to figure out more about Warlow the vampire got tangled up in the hate group mess with Bud Dearborne. That was resolved, while new problems presented themselves for Pam and Tara - a new sheriff is in town and he doesn't care about mainstreaming. Then, of course, we've got the issue of Emma being abducted.

"Gone, Gone, Gone." 

It looks like Sookie's story line is finally going to re-converge with the vampires' now that Russell has brought up his dream of day-walking again. He announces that they need to find some fairies, and figure out how to mass-produce their blood so vampires don't have to stay in during the day time. Salome shoots back saying that fairies are an abomination and vampires are of the night. It doesn't sit too well with Russell, who busts out with the German (or something) accent and angrily takes off to pursue his dream.

Eric and Bill exchange some bewildered glances at this, with Jessica behind them wondering what the hell she's doing in the room. I'm sure their assumption is that Russell is going to target Sookie first, which presents  a whole new catch-22 for them, considering the circumstances. For Jessica, between worrying about Sookie and whether she'll live to see another night, she's now presented with the very same demented oppression she hated so much in her human life because of her bible-thumping parents.

I was kind of sad about what happened with Eric and Nora. When Godric appeared to them, I thought he would, you know, stay on Eric's side and try to plead with Nora. But then Lilith comes out and slaughters him, and Eric re-interprets the scene as being freed from worshiping a "false god" which was his Maker. I'm not really sure how much of this whole thing he's bought - it might just be despair talking.

Now Sam and Luna are on the scene, too. They've made it inside the Authority by stowing away in Rev. Newlin's bag in hopes to find Emma. Emma appears to be safe and sound, missing her mom, and apparently not allowed to turn into a human. I was surprised with Newlin's mean-side showing in that scene, because I assumed he'd be either indifferent towards Emma or just try and be soothing. Instead, he's treating her exactly like a pet dog that needs to be disciplined. I'm sure Luna is fuming as she watches this as a cute little white mouse.

Back to Sookie, after killing the coroner she has a visit from Jason about Hoyt and Jessica. Hoyt asked Jessica to glamour her and Jason out of his life so he can go away happy. It's probably a good thing that he's getting out of Bon Temps, but that scene definitely stung a little. Jessica's monologue was a tear-jerker. Sookie feels bad of course, and later in the episode they have a nice little brother-sister moment in Jason's cruiser. Personally, I didn't like that Hoyt wanted the easy way out of losing his first love by having her make him forget. Everyone else has to deal with the pain - it's a normal life experience for most. But Hoyt decided he wants to live on like it never happened. Meanwhile, Jason lost his best friend completely, and Jessica does have to live with the pain of loving then losing her first love, fully knowing that he's going to experience "first love" later in life (provided he survives) with somebody else. (More on this at Jessica's blog)

Besides that bit, Jason and Sookie visit the fairies again to decipher a new note that they found under Sookie's floor boards. Eventually, an older fairy decodes it: Sookie's ancestor signed away his first fae-bearing female descendant to Warlow the vampire. Of course, as it turns out Sookie's the first one. We don't have any more details on this mess, though I'm sure Sookie's going to want to kill him. Then again, she's been "given away" in this binding contract. Then again, Claudine tried to prevent Warlow from harming her. Then again, we have no context for the agreement in the first place, just that one was made. That's three too many "then agains," and we still have no answers.

We saw no hair nor hide of the werewolves or the Bellefleurs except for some brief and tender fluff between Holly and Andy, enjoying some special Lafayette-made chow at Merlotte's. My other favorite fluff moment was Sam defending Jessica earlier in the episode before he takes off with Luna to find Emma.

By far one of the better moments of this season though, happened over at Fangtasia. The new sheriff isn't pleased with the low profits and starts telling Pam that not only do she and Tara have to create 30 new babies, but he wants them to suck more money out of their customers by offering fang service. Pam outright refuses, and he threatens to take her bar as well as her progeny Tara. When Tara confronts her about this, Pam simply states she "rides with the wind," and her bar is nothing but walls of plaster. Tara isn't satisfied, though. She employs Cindy's help to assassinate the new sheriff and boldly declares nobody messes with their house. Balls, Tara. You've got some huge balls.

That's it for this week, and with two episodes left I'm looking forward to some loaded stuff next time. For now, I've got the usual links: the preview for next week's episode, and the insider look with writer Alexander Woo and director Scott Winant. I really wonder, after this all-out war scenario, how the show will continue after this season?