Oh dear. One episode with Gascon, the miniature colonel, and WAC, the droid who oscillates between incompetent and preachy, was forgettable, but now we're stranded on a planet with these goofballs? As they traverse the desert debating droid programming vs. military education, Gascon starts to go mad, and I'm right there with him.
So last week, Gascon led WAC and the astromechs on a nice little mission to steal a Separatist encryption module. Gascon learned to treat droids with respect and WAC learned
that tiny colonels are people, too the location of his mute switch the colonel's rank. I was hoping that this would be the last we'd see of these two, but alas, we're in a story arc.
When Gascon reappears on screen, my PIFTWCW (Person I Force to Watch Clone Wars) says, "Maybe Dooku will eat him," his voice brimming with hope. The astromechs are hard at work repairing BZ (the memory-free astromech Gascon has been riding around) when WAC picks up some distressing readings. "I have good news and bad news," he tells Gascon, abandoning his pilot's chair. The bad news is that there are comets headed right for the ship. The good news? "At least you will have an excuse if your mission is a failure." Ugh. After showing a modicum of competence last episode, WAC is back in brainless territory. If this is how he reacts to trouble in his path, why was he tapped to be the pilot on this mission?
The comets hit, knocking out the ships power, and two of the astromechs head outside to restore power, but the ship hit again, this time critically, causing them to nearly lose QT-KT and forcing them to land the ship on the planet Abafar. The planet is, by all appearances a featureless wasteland: the ground doesn't leave footprints and the sky is so hazy that it's impossible to see the sun. Gascon wants to stay with the ship, but R2-D2, the true hero of Star Wars, nabs the decryption module and takes off. Naturally the other droids follow, and reluctantly so does Gascon.
This episode is ultimately bland, with more back and forthing between Gascon and WAC, but there are some nuggets that I wish were more fully—or perhaps more smartly—explored. A big one is the debate between WAC and Gascon about whether droids are as thinking as any biological creature or if they are merely the sum of their programming. WAC likens Gascon's military training to a droid's programming and Gascon contradicts himself by screaming at the droids not to think for themselves. It's clear whose side we're supposed to be on in this debate, but what does that mean? Clone Wars has always been of two minds about droids. After all, it was just in Onderon arc that the Jedi made a big deal about killing droids in lieu of biologicals. Was this because they were definitely part of the Separatist Army, or are some droids more equal than others? Given that we're having this heroic droid arc and we just left behind the droid lightsaber designer Huyang, it would be nice to get a more nuanced view on all droids.
There's also the matter of Gascon's meltdown. Okay, anyone would go bonkers after spending that much time with WAC, but even if Gascon is a military strategiest and this is his first field mission, I wouldn't think he'd fall apart this quickly. A few hours on Abafar and he's strumming his lower lip like a ukelele. Despite WAC's needling that Gascon's military experience comes from behind a desk, I tend to think the problem here is that Gascon and the droids are horribly mismatched as a field team. Gascon is used to working with Clone Troopers, born and bred soldiers who know how to follow orders. Clone Troopers offer a sense of predictability that is totally absent from the droids, who are prone to going off and doing there own thing.
And that leads us into the last thing: the highly competent astromechs. We already know from the movies that R2-D2 has far more going on than his beeping wastebin appearance would suggest, and he certainly showed off his skills in the last episode. Why can't R2 be the central character of these episodes, with WAC and Gascon's sitcom conversations playing out in the background. Hell, the astromechs even get fed up and ditch WAC and Gascon toward the end of the episode, leaving Gascon behind to contemplate the void that is Abafar. Why couldn't we go with them?
Actually, I must say the episode kind of picked up from there, probably because when WAC finally quiets down, Gascon has an opportunity to go into some pretty amusing depressive monologuing, though WAC does manage to shame him into going on. And the deus ex machina that appears to rescue them from the desert, a herd of galloping birds, is beautifully rendered in a way that reminded me a bit of The Lion King. Gascon, displaying a moment of flexibility and ingenuity, convinces WAC to hop on the birds' backs, and the birds, following their instinct, carry them to water, and the city that sits alongside it. Of course, the astromechs are all already there, as they didn't spend the entire episode battling each other. WAC and Gascon bond over their mutual disdain for the mechs, and Gascon appoints WAC field corporal. WAC immediately takes to the role, shouting orders at the astromechs. R2 actually shakes his head in response, likely wondering why all the idiots around him keep getting promoted.
Next time, more Abafar. Sigh. When do we get to see Palpatine again?