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The battle lines are drawn in Season Four of "Star Wars: The Clone Wars"

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Star Wars: The Clone Wars - The Complete Season Four

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Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Season Four: Battle Lines

Pong Krell: Time and rest are luxuries the Republic cannot afford.

On September 16, 2011, Season Four of "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" – Battle Lines – opened with two episodes (Water War and Gungan Attack) airing back to back on Time-Warner’s Cartoon Network. Written by Jose Molina, the two stories form two-thirds of a story arc set on Mon Calamari, the water world best known to Star Wars fans as the home of "Return of the Jedi’s" Admiral Ackbar (who, incidentally, makes his first appearance as a character in the Prequel era here).

Though the fourth season premiere was the lowest-rated in the series’ run (1.93 million viewers watched it), it presented a superb story in which Anakin Skywalker (Matt Lanter), Padme Amidala (Catherine Taber), Kit Fisto (Phil LaMarr), and Anakin’s Padawan Ahsoka Tano (Ashley Eckstein) team up with Capt. Ackbar (Artt Butler) and Prince Lee-Char (Adam McArthur) to prevent a Separatist-backed civil war between the fish-like Mon Cal and the squid-like Quarren.

The Quarren – egged on by Riff Tamson (Gary Anthony Williams) – have long resented the Mon Calamari and seek to end the power-sharing arrangement the two races previously had prior to the murder of King Yos Yolima, the father of Prince Lee Char. Ostensibly an a Separatist observer, the Karkarodon is actually tasked by Count Dooku to assist Quarren leader Nossor Ri (Corey Burton) in his rebellion against the Mon Cal.

The three-episode arc (which concludes with Prisoners), foreshadows the darker direction in which Star Wars: The Clone Wars is heading. Not only is Molina’s story darker thematically, but its violent content and murky underwater settings are also visually dark.

This darkening trend, of course, is consistent with the show’s Prequel Era setting; the twilight of the Republic and its Jedi protectors is rapidly approaching. The Sith, personified by Darth Sidious/Supreme Chancellor Palpatine (Ian Ambercombie) and his apprentice Darth Tyranus/Count Dooku, are manipulating the Clone Wars to hasten the fall of the Republic and the rise of the Galactic Empire, events which are chronicled in "Star Wars – Episode III: Revenge of the Sith."

Season Four: Battle Lines features a plethora of very dramatic story threads which require multi-episode arcs. For instance, the Battle for Umbara (four episodes) delves into the tense relationship between the clone troopers of Anakin Skywalker’s 501st Legion and Jedi general Pong Krell (Dave Fennoy). Krell, a Besilisk Jedi Master and an expert swordsman, is a hard-driving, even sadistic leader who expects success in battle no matter how many clones get killed or wounded. Though at first he is presented as a stricter commander than young Skywalker, Krell has a hidden agenda.

There are also quite a few “carry-over” stories from Season Three, including an episode which features Ahsoka Tano’s friend Lux Bonteri (Jason Spisak), the son of a Separatist Senator who was murdered after she tried to initiate peace talks with the Republic. In A Friend in Need, Lux enlists Ahsoka’s help in his dangerous quest to find justice for his mother’s murder.

The most dramatic bridge between Seasons Three and Four, of course, is the continuation of Katie Lucas’ story of the Nightsisters, Savage Opress and his long-lost brother, Darth Maul. The revelation that Maul, Darth Sidious’ apprentice in "Star Wars – Episode I: The Phantom Menace," had survived after being bisected by Obi-Wan Kenobi on Naboo was hinted at in Witches of the Mist, but it’s confirmed in the two-episode arc of Brothers and Revenge. (This is not a spoiler; the cover art for the Blu-ray/DVD Complete Season Four set features Darth Maul’s fierce visage.)

That’s not to say that there are no light, kid-friendly among the 22 episodes. There is a two-story arc centered on Star Wars’ R2-D2 and C-3PO (Anthony Daniels), Laurel-and-Hardy team of droids, as well as a semi-comical episode (Shadow Warrior) which features uber-clumsy Jar Jar Binks (Ahmed Best) as he tried to impersonate the Gungans’ current leader, Boss Lyonie (Best, in a dual role) to foil a Separatist plot.

My Take: Though the "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" movie which launched the series in 2008 was at first dismissed as being too kid-oriented, the TV show has enjoyed both popular and critical acclaim. Even fans who do not like the live-action Prequel Trilogy seem to have embraced the series’ strong narrative sensibility.

In Season Four, Lucas, producer Cary Silver, and supervising director Dave Filoni continue using the anthology format introduced in the series’ first season.

This means that some episodes or story arcs in one season can be either prequels or sequels to episodes in a previous season, and that some characters’ costumes and/or hairstyle (Anakin Skywalker’s, for one) will change subtly depending on when the particular story takes place.

Generally speaking, though, "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" depicts the many battles and other adventures in which the newly-minted Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker, his former Master, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Skywalker’s Padawan apprentice Ahsoka Tano are involved during the three-year-long conflict between the Galactic Republic and the Confederacy of Independent Systems.

However, the series’ anthology format allows Lucas, Filoni, Silver and their creative team of writers, animators and directors to tell stories about other Jedi Knights (Quinlan Vos, Kit Fisto and Plo Koon, for instance) which play minor roles in the movies or have appeared only in other Expanded Universe media like novels and video games.

The anthology approach, by the way, was dispensed with as "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" went into syndication in the fall of 2012. The episodes, which are distributed by Trifecta Media and Entertainment in the U.S., air in chronological order. Furthermore, the Complete Season Five Blu-ray and DVD sets also follow a linear story line, which was not seen during the series' final season on Cartoon Network.

Though the series aired until March 2013 on kid-friendly Cartoon Network, it is rated TV-PG for good reason; unlike most "cartoons" where characters can go through battles and other nasty situations virtually unharmed (as in the 1980s' GI Joe series), Star Wars: The Clone Wars features many episodes in which clone troopers and even Jedi Knights are injured or even die.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars - The Complete Fourth Season Episode List (Blu-ray Edition)

Disc 1:

Water War

Written by Jose Molina

Directed by Duwayne Dunham

Gungan Attack

Written by Jose Molina

Directed by Brian Kalin O’Connell

Prisoners

Written by Jose Molina

Directed by Danny Keller

Shadow Warrior

Written by Daniel Arkin

Directed by Brian Kalin O’Connell

Mercy Mission

Written by Bonnie Mark

Directed by Danny Keller

Nomad Droids

Written by Steve Mitchell, Craig Van Sickle

Directed by Steward Lee

Disc 2

Darkness on Umbara

Written by Matt Michnovetz

Directed by Steward Lee

The General

Written by Matt Michnovetz

Directed by Walter Murch

Plan of Dissent

Written by Matt Michnovetz

Directed by Kyle Dunlevy

Carnage of Krell

Written by Matt Michnovetz

Directed by Kyle Dunlevy

Kidnapped

Written by Henry Gilroy, additional writing by Steven Melching

Directed by Kyle Dunlevy

Slaves of the Republic

Written by Henry Gilroy, additional writing by Steven Melching

Directed by Brian Kalin O’Connell

Escape from Kadavo

Written by Henry Gilroy, additional writing by Steven Melching

Directed by Danny Keller

A Friend in Need

Written by Christian Taylor

Directed by Dave Filoni

Disc 3

Deception

Written by Brent Friedman

Directed by Kyle Dunlevy

Friends and Enemies

Written by Brent Friedman

Directed by Bosco Ng

The Box

Written by Brent Friedman

Directed by Brian Kalin O’Connell

Crisis on Naboo

Written by Brent Friedman

Directed by Danny Keller

Massacre

Written by Katie Lucas

Directed by Steward Lee

Bounty

Written by Katie Lucas

Directed by Kyle Dunlevy

Brothers

Written by Katie Lucas

Directed by Bosco Ng

Revenge

Written by Katie Lucas

Directed by Brian Kalin O’Connell

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