Weekend Animation Round-up: Maul vs. Vizsla on Star Wars: The Clone Wars, the Rat King on TMNT, and More

By Noel Kirkpatrick

Jan 27, 2013

It’s time for another TV.com animation round-up! This week, Ben 10: Omniverse revealed the secret of the mysterious twenty-third Mr. Smoothy’s location, Maul and Vizsla had their showdown for leadership on Star Wars: The Clone Wars, a major sacrifice was made on Green Lantern: The Animated Series, Spike attempted to critter-sit on My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles returned with the arrival of the Rat King.


Ben 10: Omniverse S02E09: "Store 23"

So the mystery of the the twenty-third Mr. Smoothy’s turned out not to be as pivotal to the universe-copying from the first story arc as it seemed. I mean, it may still work out to be important, who knows, but “Store 23” would indicate that this particular mystery is solved.

The phantom store turned out to be a dimensional anomaly caused by Professor Hokestar. The flimflam alien had set himself up with what he hoped would be a lucrative franchise that existed in the same place in all dimensions. And while this did result in a surprise Cow and Chicken cameo, it also resulted in Ben meeting a parallel version of himself, Ben 23, who had very much cashed in on the hero gig through merchandising, movies, and sponsorship.

The conflict between the two Bens boiled down to Ben 23 lacking the wise guidance of Max to keep him from being being a “mogul” instead of a “hero.” It was a nice enough sentiment, but not the most developed of ones. Luckily, an Azmuth 23 arrived in order to help that dimension’s Ben become the hero he was intended to be all along.


Star Wars: The Clone Wars S05E15: "Shades of Reason"

The various coups and backstabbings put into motion last week came to fruition this week. The plan to retake Mandalore was a pretty standard one: The various crime syndicates would begin a crime spree across Sundari and the Death Watch would “stop” them, become heroes to the Mandalorian people, and then usurp Satine and overthrow her prison, citing her inability to stop a crime spree that seemed to last all of a day. Maybe two. In any case, it all went off without a hitch.

Once Mandalore had been reclaimed, there was the pesky matter of that alliance between Maul and Vizsla to resolve. Predictably, Vizsla had no intention carrying through with Maul’s expansion plans, but true to his word, he did intend to lure Obi-Wan to the planet. The order of events here sort of felt like padding as I’m not entirely sure why Maul didn’t just challenge Vizsla to the Death Watch leader fight when he was arrested, even though dramatically, it was more interesting to see Maul meet Almec in prison rather than after he’d decapitated Vizsla.

And the fight between Vizsla and Maul was worth the minor plot kinks. I’ve always enjoyed the look and animation of the darksaber, and seeing it in action against the lightsaber was fun. It was as brutal and full of Mandalorian armor tricks as you’d expect (I especially liked the projectile buzzsaws). But Maul’s game is likely coming to an end. The Jedi will be on their way sooner or later, and Bo-Katan isn’t just going to sit on her hands and wait for Maul to die. She’ll be coming back, and with a plan of her own.


Green Lantern: The Animated Series S01E19: "Loss"

I was glad for a break from the Red Lanterns in this back half of the first season, since I’ve never found them to be very compelling adversaries for Hal and his team. As bits of their history filtered in, they became more interesting, but I still never warmed up to them. But with the introduction of the Manhunters, and their history with both the Guardians and the Red Lanterns, there’s suddenly a more compelling story to tell. The Red Lanterns have a bit more depth, even if Zox is still annoying as ever.

But the politics of rebuilding Ysmault by the Guardians, for as much as I like these sorts of historical and political parallels, were overshadowed by the apparent death of Aya at the hands of the Anti-Monitor. I’m frustrated and saddened by Aya’s death (“Only 29.5 seconds of existence remain” killed me) since she and Razer are the only two characters who’ve really been afforded any development. Kilowog and Hal are exactly the same as they have been since the first episode, but Aya and Razer have changed, developed personalities, and so on. And now the show has eliminated one of them (who also happened to be the only prominent female character, ugh), and it’s just depressing.

Of course, Aya was just an A.I., as the Guardian science director kept reminding everyone. Perhaps she can be reconstituted? But if she can just be rebuilt and reprogrammed, doesn’t that cheapen the potential narrative impacts of her death and sacrifice? If she’s dead, let her stay dead.

DC Nation Short: “Batman of Shanghai,” Part 3 – So remember the ink stains and blots I mentioned in the first installment? They were back in this one, and didn’t they look great? And what’d you think of the shadow puppet bit? Very nice, I thought.


My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic S03E11: "Just for Sidekicks"

When Discord returned last week, I briefly suggested that one might suppose the show was running out of ideas to dip into the Discord (and also the Trixie) wells again, but that the variations in each episode kept them from feeling stale. Not so this week, as “Just for Sidekicks" saw a merging of plot elements from previous installments with stale results.

Spike’s attempt to gather jewels and gems by critter-sitting the Mane 5’s pets and his loss of control over them mirrored similar issues that Pinkie Pie had in the Season 2 episode “Baby Cakes” as she attempted to care for the the Cakes’ foals. “Just for Sidekicks” also tossed in Spike’s dragon nature (his desire for jewels to bake a cake) for some differentiating flavor from “Baby Cakes,” but it wasn’t really enough to prevent “Just for Sidekicks” from feeling like a retread.

Both episodes highlight the need for realizing the responsibilities that come from caring for others, and how challenging that can be, but “Just for Sidekicks” didn’t offer a strong enough variation on that theme, and Spike isn’t interesting enough of a character to carry that sort of a lesson on his own. It’s even less effective when you consider the fact that Spike’s innate love of gems will likely undermine him again at some point, meaning that even though a lesson may have been imparted to the viewers, the character didn’t make much progress.


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles S01E13: "I, Monster"

Falco, the scientist with telepathic powers, returned, and this time his experiment, ruined by rats, resulted in him gaining control over all the rats in New York City. Thus he becomes the Rat King, a fairly popular villain in the Turtles franchise. He looked like a calaca that hadn’t quite lost all its flesh, dressed in the garb of one of those plague doctors (but minus the bird-like mask).

"I, Monster" was a more engaging episode than normal for TMNT, and I think some of that had to do with the nature of Rat King. He eschewed actual physical confrontation, leaving the turtles at a distinct disadvantage since, while they often have some tactics and strategy, those tactics and strategy tend to focus on an actual fight. And sort of like the never-ending supply of mousers, a horde of rats is pretty difficult to successfully counter (unless you have no qualms about blowing them up with chemicals, like Leonardo).

But the other aspect is just that the fight that did occur was a very personal one, due Splinter’s involvement in it. Rat King’s slow breakdown of Splinter’s mental resistance was eerie in its execution and effective, especially as the Rat King attempted to draw parallels between their situations and exiles from their previously human lives. It was an interesting gambit, and one that I honestly didn't expect from the show.


What'd you think of this week's episodes?

  • Comments (25)
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  • TomWayne Feb 01, 2013

    Agree completely that Aya's death, while a powerful moment, is a potential story misstep, as she and Razer are the two deepest (and only truly growing) characters, as you said. The Guardians, Zox, Hal, and Kilowog never really change--they just might change their views slightly (e.g. Kilowog learning to respect Razer--in his own way), but never really make major shifts (especially the Guardians).

    I realize of course, with the show's cancellation, that it's a moot point to comment about the effect of the loss of one of these two on the future writing, but still, if she is permanently gone, she'll leave a void in the show. And just when she was getting to be the best comic relief in the series (e.g. literally saying the word "sigh" last week instead of making the sound, as if reading a comic out loud).

    Wouldn't be surprised about Young Justice either. As much as I like the series, the writers seem to be at a bit of a loss as to how to handle Miss M's character, and that affects the storyline. While Nightwing is the obvious central character, so much of what happens pivots around Miss M, and quite frankly she seems to need a few years of therapy. She started as a bouncy lovestruck stereotypical teen good girl, then we found out that she's really got some major insecurity issues and that "Megan" was a front she'd borrowed from an old TV show, then we find out that she's so insecure that she tries to tamper with Superboy's mind, then gets dumped by him for it, then hooks up with a big annoying blowhard like Lagoon Boy (more insecurity), but really still has feelings for SB, then discovers that she can mind-blast others into oblivion and uses this power ruthlessly, bouncing like a drug addict from using the power to regretting it, then being totally out of it after blasting Kaldur... She's like a bull in a china shop, and is so much of a head case that she doesn't seem likely to resolve any of it. All other female characters seem to have stopped growing during the Invasion storyline, which makes Miss M's instability dizzying to the point where she's almost as annoying as Jason Todd just before "A Death in the Family." This also creates issues for the show centering around Nightwing as leader, because Miss M (and Lagoon Boy for that matter) are all-too-often mucking up the works by ignoring his leadership (much less everything that the senior JL members tried to teach her). We could have had more development between Green and Red Arrow, both Arrows and Arsenal, Red Arrow and Cheshire, Cheshire and Artemis, Nightwing and Robin, Nightwing and Batgirl, heck even Superboy and Sphere or Wolf. But instead, Miss M's character is so out of control that it seems the writers spend more time trying to figure out what to do with her, that all they have time for is filling in pieces of the overall storyline with the Reach. Even the Light has fallen by the wayside.

    I'll be sorry to see these two shows go, because the animation and writing showed so much potential. Oh well, at least there's the next Batman reboot to try out. (Although after the bar was set so high by Brave and the Bold (lighter Silver Age) and the Nolan live-action films (grim Dark Knight era with writing so good that it felt like canon), it'll be hard for any new Batman reboot to measure up--but that doesn't mean I won't watch every single episode without fail. :)

  • davp1553 Jan 29, 2013

    Noel, Why you so hung up on the ben 10 universe reboot. At this point it's pretty clear it's a done arc, let it rest in peace.

    No way Aya is dead, there will be a rescue her from the anti-monitor or the body of a manhunter episode before the end of February, (possibly time travel also we learned this week the anti-monitor can do that).

  • noelrk Jan 29, 2013

    But, and also: I need something to look forward to them addressing. The show's well-made, but not exactly riveting, and a little bit of stronger serialization would go a long way for me. Just a little. A smidgen.

  • noelrk Jan 29, 2013

    Why aren't you hung up on it?! Seems like a pretty significant thing, especially given how sparingly they trot out Alien X!

  • noelrk Jan 28, 2013

    Crossposting this to the Young Justice review as well:

    Deadline is reporting about Cartoon Network's upfronts road show (as opposed to a formal presentation at one location that channels and networks typically do), and it includes a list of their new and returning shows.

    As you might've guessed/predicted, Young Justice and Green Lantern: TAS do not appear in the list of returning series they're presenting to "clients and promotional partners." This isn't a very good sign.

    Beware the Batman is slated for a summer premiere and is mentioned specifically as part of the DC Nation block. The new Teen Titans Go! (continuing in the tradition of the DC Nation Shorts, it'll be comedic in nature) will premiere in April.

    Ben 10: Omniverse is slated as a returning series, as is Scooby-Doo! Mystery Inc. (I know a few of you have mentioned it). There's also more of the LEGO-styled The Yoda Chronicles coming as well.

  • noelrk Jan 28, 2013

    And GL:TAS has been confirmed as cancelled by its showrunner Ginacarlo Volpe via Twitter. Seems likely Young Justice is finished as well.

  • noelrk Jan 28, 2013

    The Clone Wars isn't listed either, but as they wrap up Season 5 I imagine there'll be some shifting about as it'll either be moved to a Disney-owned channel or Cartoon Network hammers out a new arrangement given that Season 6 seems to be in some early forms of pre-production.

  • mcepin3 Jan 28, 2013

    1st thing I am doing is....watching Yoda Chroincles :D...first time hearing about it....give me some time here,to watch YC.

    Watched it...are there only 2 parts of episode 1? I watched on YouTube. I know of Lego Star Wars: Padawan Menace or something like that...that was awsome parody.

    So in your comment/post are good and bad news? I only watch SW.TCW,TMNT and Naruto Shippuuden atm,but I thought Green Lantern and Young Justice were doing well and was thinking watching them at some point,when I will have nothing to do.
    I already know,that TMNT are getting 2nd season. Are CW getting 6th season? Or is it,maybe they are,maybe they aren't? I get,that it might change networks,but that doesn't say season 6 has a "green light". Sorry for my ignorance,this is why I come to this site:D From pre-production,it means that is already in working progress and sounds like,season 6 will happen,either on this on other network. For me,this really doesn't matter much,since I have to download shows,to be able to watch them.

  • noelrk Jan 28, 2013

    Naruto is still going strong, though the U.S. broadcast (assuming you're watching there as opposed to legal (or otherwise) streaming) is a little over 150 episodes behind the Japanese broadcast.

    Clone Wars is just up in the air. Dave Filoni confirmed last October that they're doing scripts and designs for season 6, but if that Season 6 is even going to air someplace, and where that place might be, is a big question mark still.

    Nickelodeon has not done its upfront work, or if it has, it's *still* sitting on Korra information, but TMNT was confirmed for second season in...December, I think.

  • mcepin3 Jan 29, 2013

    Thank you for info. I watch Naruto online,but I watch Japanese version.

  • noelrk Jan 28, 2013

    This comment has been removed.

  • r0z3 Jan 28, 2013

    I really hope Aya isn't really gone, cause the whole thing between her and Razer was actually kinda one of my favorite plot elements of the show.
    I just hope that if they do bring her back, it's not just by 'making a new one' so to speak.
    Because that would remove the whole 'Johnny Five' thing she kinda has going on : )

  • JT_Kirk Jan 27, 2013

    Spot on review of Clone Wars. I was ashamed to watch the crappy attack on Mandalore, it's a whole planet and yet they have like 3 police officers at most in any location? And not just during the first attack, within a short time the Duchess knows about these tiny attacks (even though they seem pretty small-potatoes for a whole planet's leader to deal with) and yet nobody seems interested in marshaling troops to the later attacks? And then Saltine's only reaction to Death Watch's ludicrous, laughable claims to the public is a mega-sadface, she just mopes as her world gets taken away over petty vandalism? Screw Saltine and her crackers, she's delivered exactly zero times on this show and it's time to cut her damned head off, she's a drag.

    Honestly, watching Maul's plan - taking the planet, having Death Watch save the day and then oust the Duchess - should have been its own episode, and then the stuff with Pre Viszla turning on Maul and the escape from prison should have been a separate episode. Everything here on paper seems watchable, it's too bad it got so compressed that the first half felt silly.

    The big fight was fun and Viszla getting dispatched was intense, I'm glad they didn't wimp out on that bit, but were this not a cartoon I'd be a little annoyed at the lame cliche of "you defeated our leader so now you're our leader", who does that in real life? What kind of gang or any fighting force just gives up and switches sides, tosses away their beliefs wholesale because their enemy killed their boss?

    --

    Batman of Shanghai, I hated this, this was an absolute waste of time, nothing felt remotely like Batman or made a lick of sense, and then instead of doing anything interesting it was just an overly-stylized fight scene. This whole arc has been a total flop for me.

    --

    Been catching up on Tron Uprising, I'm 2 weeks behind, and man is it really good, it's a tragedy that it's pretty much canceled, Disney made a blunder not promoting it and putting it into a timeslot when kids could catch it. Great stories, and actual uses of the Tron universe that aren't just the same cartoon action gags in Tron dress, stuff like using Lightcycles in a way that isn't just the same motorcycle escape, that sort of thing. And the voice acting is all really good too, Paul Reubens has taken his character from a toady to a real danger with aplomb.

  • noelrk Jan 27, 2013

    I have so many weird things with Mandalore, mainly that such a cosmopolitan and homogeneous population doesn't seem in keeping with how Mandalore's been depicted in other media (or just in mind). I get that Satine has ushered in a non-warrior Mandalore, but it's still never worked for me, so I've just decided to deal with it on its terms. (The idea of a warrior culture helps to explain the Death Watch switching allegiances, but at least Bo-Katan was there to offer a proper corrective on that impulse.)

    I'm pretty okay with an overly-stylized and different interpretation of Batman (or any hero) when it works. I admit that the style appeals to me, so yeah.

    As for Tron: When it wraps up, I'll pick it up and watch.

  • JT_Kirk Jan 28, 2013

    In terms of Mandalore and Clone Wars, I also have to think of it as an entirely different system as it has virtually nothing in common with the Mandalore of Star Wars previous to CW. In CW it's exceptionally drab visually, even Satine's outfits are as close to gray as color can be, everybody and everything else is gray, and it's reflected in their dull, meaningless society.

    I used to read Elsewords stuff all the time, I don't mind a Batman that looks different, it's the utter lack of Batman behavior here that didn't sit right with me. He's not stalking, he's not detecting, he's not in the shadows, he's not anything, he's just a guy randomly walking around when a situation comes upon him and he's swallowed up by a black shadow blob that turns him into bats and then a guy with a Batman-like outfit and glowing red eyes.

    Sadly, Tron is probably wrapping up soon, but aside from a few clunky episodes early on, I don't think you'll find it lacking.

  • mcepin3 Jan 27, 2013

    TMNT again awsome.
    "At least it will be quick. With rats,they chew and chew and chew and chew...and chew".
    I know this ain't the last,we have seen of Rat King,but 23min passed by so quickly.

  • noelrk Jan 27, 2013

    It did pass by quickly. Which was nice, for a change. I've been cranky-ish about the show for a little bit, so this was a nice change of pace for me.

  • FoxZerro Jan 27, 2013

    I'm glad I'm not the only one who was blown away by the fact that TMNT had such a heavy focus on the mutual loss of humanity that Falco and Hamato Yoshi shared. That was ambition not just for a cartoon but for television in general. It also finally put to rest one of my biggest qualms about having Splinter have originally been Hamato Yoshi instead of Hamato Yoshi's pet rat, in it found a way for the Rat King to relate to Splinter on the same personal level as he did in the City at War arc in the original Comic Book series.

  • perualonso1 Jan 27, 2013

    I'd say yesterday's episode of Ben 10: Omniverse was loaded with win. Ben 23 does look good in blue as much as Sonic does. Yes, I mean Sonic the Hedgehog.

    So sad to see the death of Aya in Green Lantern's Loss. Who could've guessed this would be her last day with Razer? Must be depressing to lose someone you really love.

  • noelrk Jan 27, 2013

    And yet I remain convinced that they'll bring her back somehow. Sigh.

  • mcepin3 Jan 27, 2013

    I think he didn't challenge him,when he was arrested,is because Savage was in prison and they could hold Savage as hostage. When he went and challenged Vizsla, he had everyone around him,that he needed,meaning he had Savage and "next ruler" Almec. All he needed,then was to get rid off Vizsla. I hate that fugly darksaber(is that what they are called? I just wrote,what you wrote,have no idea what they are called).

    Fight between Maul and Vizsla was awsome and Maul didn't use force even once against him. If he did,fight would be over in seconds. I hope Maul will still fight with his lightsaber,instead of darksaber. Does he need to fight with darksaber,or can he just have darksaber around waist and he fights with lightsaber?

    This episode moved again along very smooth and quick. I loved it. Please Maul fight with lightsaber and have that fugly darksaber clipped around your waist.

    Still need to watch new TMNT episode...

  • noelrk Jan 27, 2013

    Eeeh. I think it's pretty clear that Savage could've broken out if he wanted to, so it was more a matter of them meeting Almec than anything else.

    And, yes, they're called darksabers. I really like how different they look compared to everything else in the series. Creates an interesting effect.

  • mcepin3 Jan 28, 2013

    I didn't really have problem,when Vizsla was wielding darksaber.I get it,why Maul killed him with his weapon, I just wish.that he will still use his lightsaber(and I think he will,just me panicing a bit here).
    I just have problem,when Jedi or Sith wield them. Brings memories from SW: The Old Repbulic game,where they gave black-green,black-yellow,etc. crystals(yeah,they weren't darksabers,but whole feeling was just wrong). Just didn't feel Jedi/Sith -like to me. I like Jedi and SIth best,when they wield their lightsaber and rely on force. Anything else and it ruins magic for me.
    It's like giving Spiderman a car or bike...wtf!?!?!?

  • noelrk Jan 28, 2013

    To be fair, Spider-Man had a car/jeep in the comics. I kid you not. It was very dumb.

  • mcepin3 Jan 28, 2013

    I know. And only real reason,why he had it,so they could sell that crap with spider logo to kids.

  • MrTerminator Jan 27, 2013

    TMNT Episode was great, really cool villain and some great character development for Master Splinter who, btw, is a BEAST!

    This Star Wars arc is also one of the best in the series! All round, great week for Saturday morning Cartoons :)