The title was very fitting for this episode because it WAS a "monster" from beginning to end! Upon viewing the thirteenth episode of season three of the Clone Wars TV series, it is my opinion that "Monster" is the best episode of this season and one of the best of the entire series. If the conclusion to the Savage arc is as good as the first two installments, the trilogy will surpass the Boba Fett trilogy as the best trio of episodes to air. But now to the details:
My first impression of this episode was, "How the heck is this show not PG-13!". By far this was the darkest and most violent episode of the Clone Wars yet. It was not the fantasy violence that is common to Star Wars involving lightsabers, blasters, and Force-powers that put "Monster" over the edge; rather it was the brutal and extensive hand to hand combat that culminated in several characters being silenced in the dark by an ominous swinging blade and Savage ending his kin's life by strangling him in cold blood Darth Vader style. I'm sure in hindsight that the only thing that kept this episode in the PG range is the absence of blood. On the flip-side however, this very violence made for some of the most well choreographed action sequences that the show has seen. The crew took the martial-arts fighting style of Darth Maul and extended it even further with the Zabrak warriors. In addition to this, Asajj Ventress also showed off amazing skills in this department. I applaud the work of the animators because I have never seen combat of this nature taken to this extent in a CGI format.
The brutality aside this episode was indeed visually stunning. The Zabrak village on Dathomir was very well animated and the dark, blood-red environment that showcased Ventess' trials suited the mood of the episode exceptionally. The immense planet of Devaron was almost lost in the flowing interchange of scenes. I can only imagine what the animators are capable of bringing to the screen in future episodes. Like the effects and lighting, the music in this episode was impeccable, a rare feat in a show that refuses to use an adequate amount of classic Star Wars scores. The decision to make nearly the entire soundtrack of "Monster" consist of choral arrangements went a long way to underscore the darkness and impact of the episode.
The story itself also was a great achievement, and the dialog was nothing but natural and organic. For the first time, from beginning to end, a Clone Wars episode focussed completely on villains. The back-story behind Savage was an unexpected yet compelling addition to the story. The depiction of his relationship and later betrayal of his fellow Zabrak, Feral, went a long way to set the tone for his brutal character. As far as villains go, Cad Bane is cool, Asajj is sinister, but Savage Opress brings a unique lethality to the series. He is a mountain of hate and power, and the Clone Wars crew did a marvelous job establishing this fact without dabbling into Force-powers or gadgetry one bit. Perhaps it is the absence of these things that make Savage so imposing; his vengeance is visceral and thus inherently palpable.
I am left very satisfied by this episode, and I eagerly anticipate the final installment in the Savage trilogy. I can only imagine the damage that a force-wielding Savage will do upon the galaxy! Perhaps I'm thinking ahead, but considering how much of a roll the dark arts of the Nighsisters play in Savage's unstoppable rage, I wonder what will be left under his brutality if this magic were to be removed... would it reveal a remorseful soul or an irrevocably broken one?