How is the Character of Anakin Skywalker Presented in Cat and Mouse, and in Star Wars: The Clone Wars?
As the planet of Christophsis is surrounded by a separatist blockade, Anakin Skywalker’s fleet attempts to drop off relief supplies. However, they find themselves outgunned by the militia of the presumed-dead separatist, Admiral Trench.
Serving as the first prequel to The Clone Wars theatrical release, Cat and Mouse is a straightforward and thematically light episode that spends its twenty-minute running time highlighting Anakin Skywalker’s tremendous force capabilities and legendary piloting skills. If the Star Wars Saga is the tragedy of Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader, then The Clone Wars instalment can be read as Skywalker’s drawn out peripeteia. Serving as the central character in this series, Anakin (Matt Lanter) is an accomplished Jedi Knight and the Republic’s unofficial poster boy for the war at the point of the series premiere. A far cry away from Hayden Christensen’s sullen and conflicted Anakin, Lanter’s take on the character is that of a much more of a traditional leading man – a gallant young warrior who oozes confidence and charisma (when Lanter was auditioning for the series, producers asked him to portray a character who was a hybrid of Luke Skywalker and Han Solo).
This is perhaps due to the somewhat mixed reception to Anakin’s character in the prequels. Some claim the screenplays’ characterisation and Christensen’s portrayal to be among the major faults of the trilogy, which is often maligned by a subsection of fans and is something that has been picked up by the mainstream media. Regardless of why exactly the changes were made, it can be jarring to be presented with a character who seems so immediately different to the Anakin from Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. But it is also clear to see why Lucas and Filoni’s team would choose to go down this route when producing an animated series. That being said, the cocky recklessness that rules this Anakin is not an entirely unprecedented area for the character and his actions in this episode where he takes on an opponent despite knowing very little of them are reminiscent of both the chase through Coruscant and the fight with Dooku from AOTC.
The nature of Anakin is that he is a man whose insecurities define him and ultimately lead to his downfall. As the series progresses, The Clone Wars explores Anakin’s internal instability through stories that strain his relationships with the Jedi Order and Padmé, and strengthen his allegiance to Chancellor Palpatine – which provides a strong groundwork for his fall in Revenge of the Sith. Even in this, the first chronological episode of the series, we see that Palpatine is making his vested interest in Skywalker known to those within his own political inner circle. While they almost certainly do not know of Palpatine’s true identity and aspirations for the republic, he has already informed Admiral Yularen of Anakin’s tendency to “do things differently from time to time”. Even from afar, Palpatine is grooming Anakin by helping him create key political relationships with the personnel he will work closely with as Lord Vader, as well as having him learn from their deployment of military strategy.
Ultimately, there’s little of real substance in Cat and Mouse, but it does introduce us to the most appealing aspect of The Clone Wars; the character development of the prequel era cast.