RELEASED: September 16th 2011 – March 16th 2012
DISTRIBUTED BY: Cartoon Network
EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS: George Lucas, Catherine Winder & Dave Filoni
WRITTEN BY: Jose Molina, Daniel Arkin, Bonnie Mark, Steve Mitchell, Craig Van Sickle, Matt Michnovetz, Henry Gilroy, Christian Taylor, Brent Friedman & Katie Lucas
DIRECTED BY: Duwayne Dunham, Brian Kalin O’Connell, Danny Keller, Steward Lee, Walter Murch, Kyle Dunlevy, Danny Keller, Bosco Ng & Dave Filoni
MUSIC BY: Kevin Kiner
STARRING: Matt Lanter, James Arnold Taylor, Ashley Eckstein, Dee Bradley Baker, Tom Kane, Matthew Wood, Ian Abercrombie, Ahmed Best, Clancy Brown, Corey Burton, Terrence C. Carson, Anthony Daniels, Jon Favreau, Nikka Futterman, Brian George, Barbara Goodson, Anna Graves, Phil LaMarr, Daniel Logan, Angelique Perrin, Katee Sackhoff, Kath Soucie, Jason Spisak, Stephen Stanton, Catherine Taber, Sam Witwer & Simon Pegg

It had to happen eventually. Season Four of The Clone Wars features some monumental events, primarily the long-awaited return of Darth Maul, but overall, it’s probably fair to say that season four is where the upward momentum of the show’s quality finally falters.

That’s not to say the show is bad, but after the strength of the prior two seasons, it leaves a little to be desired.

The opening half of the series, for the most part, is fairly inconsequential, giving the illusion that perhaps it won’t meet the strong quality of the prior two seasons. A lot of the proceedings are kind of boring, with the stories being okay-at-best, and some of them awkwardly pandering to child audiences.

Fortunately, after you get past the Mon Cala act, the various Gungan escapades and C-3PO and R2-D2’s adventures, we finally get to the real meat of the season, in the form of the Umbara arc, Obi-Wan’s undercover arc, the return of the Mandalorians and Bount Hunters, and of course, the aforementioned return of Darth Maul.

The focus of the more interesting arcs in this season generally step away from the battlefront, despite what the title would have you believe. However, when it does, it really hammers down how dark this show has become, despite generally being regarded as a kids show. There’s obviously the usual laser blasts and lightsaber slashes, but in this series, there seems to be an increase in necks being snapped, soldiers being blown up, decapitations and the like.

The Umbara act in particular highlights the worrisome effects that the war is having on the Jedi, an integral factor of the Clone Wars that perhaps wasn’t covered succinctly enough in the prequels. It is also another key episode in that it delves into the minds of the clones once more, and continues to make them some of the more favourable characters.

It’s just a shame that in that respect, the effort to represent the other sides is still minimal, with only a couple of episodes in the entire show so far examining the non-Sith-aligned separatists. Since the Umbara arc features no droids in opposition to the heroes on the ground, it might have been important to give a voice to some of the only ‘villains’ in the show that face off against the clones and aren’t droids.

It’s a weird one, as it seems that while the higher quality episodes are getting better, then lesser quality ones seem to be getting worse, meaning that the quality of the season overall becomes more ‘average’. However, it’s worth working your way through the bad to get to the good (if you’re a completionist, that is, otherwise you could just skip the first third of the season).

As such, all-in-all, despite a stumbling start, I give Clone Wars: Battle Lines:

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