Animation Round-up: Darth Maul and the Death Watch on Clone Wars, Sinestro on Green Lantern, Discord on MLP, and a Delightful Paradox on Ben 10

Fresh slices of animated goodness for you this weekend in the round-up. On Ben 10: Omniverse, there was some temporal consciousness switching, while on Green Lantern: The Animated Series there were just your normal body- and mind-controlling aliens. On Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Darth Maul joined forces with the Death Watch to restart his plans for a criminal empire, and on My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Fluttershy attempted to rehabiliate the chaotic Season 2 villain Discord.

And for those who are chomping at the bit, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is back next week, but the new episode is going to air on the night of Jan. 25. That’s a Friday, so be sure to check your local listings.

Ben 10: Omniverse S02E08: "Ben Again"

I’m a sucker for time travel narratives, no matter how silly and convoluted and verb-tense-confusing they can get. So “Ben Again” was right up my alley, and it also played a bit more with Omniverse’s past and present lives of Ben.

Since this season is my first time with Ben 10, I was thoroughly tickled and pleased with David McCallum’s voicing of Professor Paradox. While he felt oddly out of place among the rest of the cast, perhaps just due to sheer recognizability, it also fit considering that Paradox, as a time traveller, doesn’t really belong anywhere. But the episode was less about him and more about the temporal consciousness switch between 11-year-old Ben and 16-year-old Ben.

And it was entirely delightful. While the search for clues was sort of draggy, I loved the dissonance of 11-year-old Ben in 16-year-old Ben’s body, not only due to the vocal switch but also because of the animation of the character. 16-year-old Ben, while no stranger to cocky smiles and brow furrows, isn’t prone to child-like grimacing and arm-waving, and so it gave the character an added dimension, and really enhanced the humor of the episode (and the arrival of adult Ben, with a beard no less, was pretty awesome, too). Gwen’s reappearances were probably a treat for some, and I liked her more here than I did in “Many Happy Returns.”

But what say you, Ben 10 fans, about the interstitial place in space-time that Eon was holding Paradox? There were ruins of a Mr. Smoothy’s there. The ruins, perhaps, from Alien X’s copying of the universe...?

Star Wars: The Clone Wars S05E14: "Eminence"

“Eminence” was very much a place-setting episode, and as such it wasn’t necessarily the most exciting of half-hours. On the upside, there’s the potential for lots of backstabbing and double- and triple-crossing in this arc, which should give the entire thing a pleasant air of unpredictability.

After barely escaping from Florrum at the start of the season, Maul and Savage were picked up by Pre Vizsla and his Death Watch Mandalorians. Maul and Vizsla are a good pair to join forces and to butt heads in their endeavors. While Maul clearly had no interest in reclaiming Mandalore beyond its potential strategic value, Mandalore represented a prime opportunity for him to re-start his plans for a criminal organization, and so they wasted little time in basically taking over the Black Suns and Hutt space.

All of this did happen really quickly, and it was a chain of events that might’ve felt more at home as an arc unto itself, but that would’ve meant Maul’s story would’ve been the prime focus of Season 5 instead of the various other arcs we’ve gotten so far this season, and thus narrative trade-offs. But I’m optimistic that there’ll be plenty of excitement as we get deeper into the arc, and I’ll be fine with any reason for Vizslar and Maul to growl at each other, or Bo-Katan to be snarky and awesome.

If you do want to your spoil yourself, this storyline was adapted into a kids’ book called Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Darth Maul: Shadow Conspiracy (that title has more colons in it than an academic conference paper’s title) that was released this month. Just don’t give anything away in the comments!

Green Lantern: The Animated Series S01E17: "Prisoner of Sinestro"

The first half of Green Lantern's season tended toward recognizable sci-fi and space-opera stories with the show’s characters grafted into them. As a result, the episodes could alternately feel overly predictable due to the well-trodden plots, or they offered nice spins on those plots thanks to the presence of the show’s characters. With “Prisoner of Sinestro,” we returned to that format with a mind- and body-controlling alien aboard the ship. Oh, and Sinestro finally showed up.

Neuraxis (looking very much like a Kraang, yes?) was freed from captivity by Sinestro, who intended to bring him to Oa, as the little alien creature is one of the most wanted criminals in the galaxy. Despite being heralded as one of the best in the Green Lantern Corps, Sinestro fell to Nuraxis’s mind control abilities (shouldn’t he have known about that and prepared for it somehow?) and Neuraxis began psychically brain-jumping from crew member to crew member in an effort to escape.

The entire plot, including the little test to build constructs to identify who Neuraxis was controlling, was very reminiscent of The Thing, with nice spins on that body-snatcher premise, including the Neuraxis-controlled Razer chatting up Aya, causing to Aya “analyze” the situation.

It also provided the necessary space for Sinestro (with great voice work from Ron Perlman) to establish his more drastic approaches to maintaining law and order in the galaxy, including his killing of Neuraxis. “I didn’t kill him, Jordan. I simply didn’t save him... in time,” he told Hal, and it was chilling. I like that the show didn’t start with Sinestro as an already disgraced member of the Corp. It’ll be fun to watch that evolution play out.

DC Nation Short: Part two of “Batman of Shanghai” focused on Bane going after the Scroll of Destiny. It was the weakest of the three installments because Bane’s design felt wildly out of place in the 1930s setting. It was very much in line with his comic book book representation, and it just didn’t gel. But I did like seeing him climb that tower like he was King Kong.

My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic S03E10: "Keep Calm and Flutter On"

This season has already seen the return of Trixie, so it seems natural that another old foe of the ponies would resurface in some way, and this time it was Discord, from the Season 2 opener.

While it’s possible to accuse the show of running out ideas by returning to previously defeated enemies—and in the case of Discord, the reason for his return seemed incredibly arbitrary compared to Trixie’s—it’s to the show’s credit that neither episode felt tired or altogether pointless, though having a moral at the end of both installments did alleviate that last concern to a degree.

In any case, the interplay between Fluttershy and Discord provided just the right amount of humor and character beats to make the episode work. John de Lancie was in full super-impish Q-mode here, letting false sincerity and malignant—but still The Hub-friendly—whimsy drip from his line delivery. It’s one of those voice performances that should receive Emmy attention but likely won’t. Fluttershy’s infinite patience (and the return of The Stare) kept the episode from becoming too hectic (Fluttershy’s such an excellent straight man), and it helped sell the episode’s lesson about trusting people to do the right thing.

And I just realized that this whole setup means that Fluttershy is the old bishop and Discord is Jean Valjean from Les Misérables! Rainbow Dash would make an excellent Javert! Oh, now I need a video mash-up of this immediately.

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

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