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Star Wars: Forces of Destiny

Forces of Destiny - Season One, Part One (Episodes 1-8) - Micro-Series

Series: Forces of Destiny

Type: Micro-series

Season: One

Episode: 1-8

Original Air Date: July 2017 (YouTube/Disney Channel)

Runtime: 21 minutes 48 Seconds (8 episodes)

Credits: Review & Text: Mike Taber; Page layout & Design: Chuck Paskovics

“The Choices we make. The actions we take. Moments, both big and small. Shape us into forces of destiny."

Overall Thoughts

Before I discuss the individual episodes, I want to talk about the series as a whole. To begin with, I want to make it clear that I’m not judging these episodes the same way I would judge an episode of The Clone Wars or a live action film. After all, each episode is only two to three minutes long and the series was created to support a toy line. Context is important. There is only so much that can be done within this framework. However, I think there is potential here. Although 3D animation has a lot of upside and allowed the later seasons of The Clone Wars to produce episodes that rivaled Pixar films in terms of realism and technical skill, I’m glad Forces of Destiny returned to traditional 2D animation. The animation style and the brevity of the episodes brought back memories of the Genndy Tartakovsky Clone Wars series, though this series pales in comparison to Tartakovsky’s. While I like the animation style, it does look a little too simplistic. Although I applaud the writers for accomplishing what they did in just a couple minutes, I do think the running time is too short and handicaps the storytelling. The series is clearly aimed at young kids, and there is nothing wrong with that. Star Wars has always been aimed at kids, but it succeeded because it didn’t talk down to the audience and had universal appeal. With Forces of Destiny, there are clearly some restrictions regarding issues such as violence and the “talking down to the audience” issue pops up occasionally. Overall though, I think most of the episodes captured the essence and feeling of Star Wars and proved that they could be enjoyable for both kids and adults. They’re perfect to watch together as a family. I commend the decision to focus on the saga’s female heroes and I think it was handled well. The series never makes itself inaccessible to male viewers and instead presents universal stories and characters that anyone could enjoy or identify with. Another reason the series works well as it does is the fact that Daisy Ridley, Felicity Jones, and Ashley Eckstein among others returned to voice their respective characters. It adds a level of authenticity and credibility that elevates the series as a whole.  

Episode Reviews

Sands of Jakku

“Sands of Jakku” was a enjoyable if somewhat unexceptional way to start the series. The episode’s greatest strength is Daisy Ridley. She is innately charming and likable and her portrayal of Rey in this episode is no exception. Turning the Night Watcher from The Force Awakens into a massive beast that hides beneath the sand was a neat idea and the reveal was executed well here. I’m not sure that the design would work in live action, but it fit the animation style of Forces of Destiny. My main issue would be the familiarity of the story. Look, I don’t expect much of story in two minutes but given the complaints regarding The Force Awakens I was surprised that this episode was so reminiscent of the scene from The Empire Strikes Back when R2 is attacked by the creature in Dagobah’s swamp. A droid is eaten by a mostly unseen creature but is spit out. That could describe the scene from Empire or this episode. It won’t matter for the kids enjoying the episode, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t bother me a little. (Watch on YouTube)

   

BB-8 Bandits

I don’t have that much to say about this episode. Daisy Ridley was still charming, the action was fast paced and well directed, and the return of the Night Watcher was an effective use of continuity for an anthology series. I did appreciate the return of Teedo and that this episode let us see some more of the day to day life on Jakku. It was a fun episode, but there wasn’t much substance. (Watch on YouTube)

   

Ewok Escape

This was probably the best episode out of the first eight, although “The Imposter Inside” is a very close second. It truly felt like it could be a deleted scene from Return of the Jedi, and that’s honestly the best compliment that I could offer. I have a soft spot for Return of the Jedi and it felt great to return to that time and Endor specifically. I’ve always liked Wicket and I’m glad the episode highlighted his ingenuity and quick thinking. They way he and Leia defeated the stormtroopers was simple but a lot of fun. Instead of just offering a fun but inconsequential adventure in the Star Wars Galaxy, this episode actually tied into the film in a clever way by explaining Leia’s wardrobe change in Return of the Jedi. Although, it doesn’t explain why the Ewoks had a human dress in the first place. No offense to Shelby Young, but her portrayal of Leia was the only thing I didn’t like about this episode. I don’t think she’s right for the role. She just doesn’t sound like Carrie Fisher. (Watch on YouTube)

   

The Padawan Path

Although Ahsoka returned for Star Wars Rebels, there is something special about seeing her in The Clone Wars era. The plot of this episode was simplistic and it did feel largely inconsequential, but I really enjoyed this episode. Maybe it’s just nostalgia for The Clone Wars. Honestly, hearing Ashley Eckstein, Matt Lanter, and Tom Kane return to voice their respective characters was my favorite thing about this episode. With that being said, the animation for Anakin was one of the most horrifying things I’ve ever seen. Ahsoka’s transition to 2D animation was seamless, but they need to go back to the drawing board with Anakin. I think this episode was an effective demonstration of Ahsoka’s selflessness, intelligence, and strength. I like how Ahsoka took down the rampaging droid, but it wasn’t much of an opponent for her. Force of Destiny seems like the perfect place to bring back Ventress, and she and Ahsoka were always entertaining together. Maybe next season. Overall, this episode felt like we returned to Star Wars: The Clone Wars for a couple minutes. That’s enough for me. (Watch on YouTube)

   

Beasts of Echo Base

“Beasts of Echo Base” was one of the weakest episodes released so far, but I did like how it expanded upon the Wampas in the Echo Base deleted scene from The Empire Strikes Back. Only so much can be done in two minutes, so these shorts are at their best when they connect to or expand on something from the films or television series. Of course, it was great to see the Wampas again too. I do have to wonder  how Chewie got trapped by the Wampa though. Did the Wampa think Chewie was its child? Speaking of Chewie, the animation for his character just didn’t work. In addition, I wasn’t a fan of Chewie’s characterization in this episode. Chewie may have been scared of the Dianoga in A New Hope, but by the time of Empire he was fiercely protective of Leia. The frightened Chewie in this episode just doesn’t line up with that. At least Chewie finally got a hug from Leia. (Watch on YouTube)

   

The Imposter Inside

“Ewok Escape’’ is probably the best episode so far, but I think this one is my favorite. Watching this episode reminded me how much I missed The Clone Wars. Even more so than the previous Ahsoka episode, “The Imposter Inside” felt like a scene from a lost episode of The Clone Wars. Ironically, it probably would have fit in with the series’ most infamous episodes that dealt with issues such as poison tea, healthcare laws, and cake shopping. Padmé hosting a dinner party for a Senate delegation? Yeah, that would have ranked pretty low on a list of potential episodes. Thankfully, what we did get here was very enjoyable. I have never been a big fan of Padmé, but I really liked the relationship she developed with Ahsoka in The Clone Wars. It’s one of the few female friendships in the saga and it always seemed genuine and authentic. I think this episode did a great job of capturing and expanding that friendship. This episode made me realize that I want to see more stories featuring Padmé and Ahsoka. I also appreciated that even the villain was a returning character. The assassin in this episode was Cato Parasitti, the shapeshifting bounty hunter who dueled Ahsoka in the Clone Wars episode “Holocron Heist.” All in all, a great episode. (Watch on YouTube)

   

The Stranger

The first, and so far only, Jyn Erso episode was definitely a highlight of the first eight. I’m glad Felicity Jones returned to voice Jyn and it was nice to see that character again since she probably won’t be featured in many stories moving forward. The story of Jyn saving a cat sounds eye roll worthy, but it was actually a cute, heartwarming story. It fit the tone of the show and was handled with care. At least she didn’t save the cat from a tree. Although, the Empire stealing cats from orphans is approaching cartoonish super-villainy. Jyn may be on the run during this time period, but it makes sense that she would stand up for the little girl (who was voiced by Ashley Eckstein). We saw that Jyn was willing to risk her life to save a child in Rogue One and you can probably trace it back even further to her own abandonment issues regarding her father and Saw. Many have asked why she doesn’t use the false name Liana Hallik. I’m sure the main reason is that they didn’t want to confuse kids who are the target audience, but notice that she looks around before she tells the child her name. Jyn didn’t have to hide in that moment, it was actually pretty touching. I hope there is another Jyn episode planned.(Watch on YouTube)

   

Bounty of Trouble

This was my least favorite episode of the ones they have released. It wasn’t all bad though. I was thrilled when IG-88 showed up because he is one of the saga’s most underutilized bounty hunters. When was the last time we saw IG-88 in a canon story?  He didn’t have much to do in this episode, but hopefully it’s a sign that we may see more of him moving forward. In addition, it is a smart idea to explore Leia’s role within the Empire. There is potential for a lot of fun and  interesting stories involving her double agent status. Sabine is my least favorite Rebels character, and this episode didn’t help. Her paint bombs are among the more ridiculous ideas to be introduced in Star Wars canon the last few years. More than any previous episode, the restrictions involving the depiction of violence were blatantly clear. It makes sense given the target audience, but this was the first time I found it distracting. The amount of shots fired without a hit in this episode was distracting, even if they are stormtroopers. The previous two episodes are good examples of how to avoid killing a character without talking down to the audience. (Watch on YouTube)

   

What’s Next?

Eight more episodes will air sometime in the fall. After that, we don’t know what the future plans there are for the series. If the Forces of Destiny toy line is successful, I imagine that we will see more episodes. However, I hope that Disney and Lucasfilm realize that there is a lot of untapped potential with this series. The two minute running time is just too short. I think there is enough potential here to expand Forces of Destiny into a full fledged, half hour animated series. There are endless opportunities for an anthology series that tells self-contained and character focused stories across the various eras. It would even allow them to develop more obscure characters and tell unique stories that we wouldn’t have time for in the films. What do you think?

What Worked

  • Format that offers endless possibilities
  • Daisy Ridley, Felicity Jones, Ashley Eckstein, and more reprising their roles
  • The return to 2D animation
  • Mostly avoids talking down to the audience and perfect for the whole family
  • The focus on the saga’s female heroes

What Didn’t Work

  • The two minute running time
  • Could be hit and miss
  • Shelby Young’s Leia
External Links:
Added: August 14, 2017
Category: Forces of Destiny
Reviewer: Mike Taber
Score:
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