Continuing the story arc that was begun with “The Gathering”, “A Test of Strength” follows the same six younglings, as well as Ahsoka and R2, as they leave Ilum. Overall, it’s a pretty strong episode, despite a few issues that I have with it.
I didn’t much like the first few minutes and found them to be a bit odd. First of all, while I knew that this was an arc, I was kind of tired of the whole younglings thing. When are we going to get to see more Darth Maul/Savage Oppress action?! Yes, we saw them in “Revival”, the premiere, but since then it’s all been quiet on that front, in favor of raising rebellions and teaching children.
However, this episode quickly picked up the pace. First, there was the introduction of Huyang, who already seems like an awesome character. The only droids we’ve really ever seen as characters before are R2, 3P0, and I guess Grievous if you want to include him. But Huyang is something we’ve never seen before. He seems to be not just smart, as it’s implied many droids are, but also wise as well. He reveals that he has taught many Jedi before, and quickly begins to teach the younglings about the weapon of the Jedi: lightsabers.
Quickly: That lightsaber diagram was really cool. There’s all kinds of familiar lightsabers there… even Palpatine’s, actually. Furthermore, I like the mentions of some significant events in the Star Wars history… it’s nice to see some of the EU stuff get the acknowledgment that it truly deserves.
David Tennent delivers as Huyang
Huyang uses Gungi as his first example, and mentions that Wookie Jedi are rare, which is something I didn’t know. I guess there’s a higher concentration of midi-chlorians in other species, eh? Again, this part is very similar to Harry Potter, similar to the similarities last episode. Huyang, I guess, is something of the Olivander of the Jedi. He provides them with the materials needed to build their lightsabers, and teaches them how to build them. Gungi’s wooden lightsaber is something I’ve never seen before, which is cool.
Petro’s brash statements – such as killing Grievous (as if) and challenging Obi-Wan to a duel prove his arrogance. He’s like a little Anakin Skywalker. And, again, that is turned against him when Huyang masterfully explains to him exactly why that would not happen – especially since his lightsaber would explode if he activated it.
While seeing the younglings construct their lightsabers is interesting – especially how different character go about it – I’m very, very glad that the whole episode didn’t revolve around that, and we get some action, in the form of none other than Hondo Ohnaka. I’m sure that many will agree with me on these next two points. First: Three arcs with Hondo? I mean, he’s an awesome character and brings a lot of personality to the show, but three arcs seems a little extensive. And second: he seemed a little more brutal than normal, didn’t he?
As it turns out, we’re seeing the episodes in the wrong order. “Revival” was meant to be part of a later arc, but was instead put at the beginning. I guess that that would be to pull viewers in with it’s awesomeness (And it was awesome, see my review here), but Hondo seems out of character.
Hondo seems a little different…
Yes, he’s a pirate, and yes, he’s brutal, but no, he probably wouldn’t kill children for a profit, especially since he’s been so friendly with the Jedi recently.
But no matter. Hondo’s a great character, and offers some pretty funny comic relief. His robust, energetic personality also adds a lot to the show. And, of course, his appearance is a sign of some action. And action there is. As Ahsoka, Huyang, and the younglings attempt to escape from them in the vents, the Weequays scour the ship in search of the group. And, eventually, after Hondo tells them too, they smoke them out of the vents.
Ahoska prepares for battle
Petro then allows them to take his lightsaber, which he knows will explode. Somehow, I knew that would happen from the start. It detonates, and somehow manages to not kill any of the Weequays. Gunji is particularly awesome here, as he stomps on the big Weequays face in a manner in which only a Wookie can do.
Meanwhile, Zatt and Ganoid managed to get to the cockpit and – in a moment that is very similar to The Shining (my aren’t we into movie references in the Clone Wars this week…) – are attacked by a weequay, whom R2-D2 promptly deals with.
The other four younglings and Huyang then decide it’s time to fight, and take out two pirates with the training droids. However, upon exiting the training room, they encounter the remaining pirates, including Hondo. Huyang takes a beating, but, even with no arms or head, executes an awesome beat down on one of the pirates. And there’s yet ANOTHER movie reference here, as Gunji scoops up his head, much like Chewbacca will later scoop up C-3P0′s in the Empire Strikes Back.
The younglings learn to construct their lightsabers
But the best action sequence in this episode is easily Ahsoka taking on Hondo. She orders the younglings to open the hatch, while they are battling, and, just when you think she’s won, another pirate comes flying and knocks her out with Hondo and the others.
And the last minute or so of this episode opens up a lot of potential for the remaining two episodes in this arc. This could be yet another slavers arc, as Hondo, after capturing Ahsoka, says that he has to find a way to make a profit. So, a slaver arc, or, more likely, a simple ransom and rescue by the kids.
Overall, “A Test of Strength” is a great episode of The Clone Wars. Despite some weird characterization of Hondo and a general awkwardness towards the beginning, David Tennent delivers as Huyang. Add to this some legitimately cute moments, and some excellent action sequences, and this is another great episode of the Clone Wars, on par with “The Gathering”.