Over the past month, I’ve watched my way through the twenty-two episodes of the third season of Clone Wars, the first one that’s “new” to me since I hadn’t gotten round to watching any of them despite owning the boxset for almost four years… In my round-up of the second season, I called that one a bit of a let down; season three has been just weird in comparison! Let me explain…
There are a lot of arcs in this season, to the extent that it actually feels like a more homogeneous whole for the first time. Seasons one and two have episodes that take place all over the timeline, and while three does have a similar feel to it, some of the stories and arcs do feel like they follow one another much more closely than in the earlier seasons.
Alongside a couple of really important arcs for the overall Star Wars lore, we do get a lot of tangential episodes in this season. Bounty hunters and assassins still play an important part, and in fact the actual Clone Wars almost take a back seat. Cad Bane is back again, though unfortunately in an arc that sees him helping the annoying Ziro the Hutt – who apparently has a romantic interest with Sy Snootles. Now there’s an image I’m not sure we needed to ever see…
The subtitle for the season was “Secrets Revealed”, and there is a definite sense of delving more into the lore of the universe than merely showing white-armoured clones shooting at a variety of droids. Of course, we still get that, but there is a lot more side-track style episodes this time around.
Along with the weird, there are also some more left-field episodes, including one devoted to Baron Papanoida (George Lucas himself) that feels a lot like fan-service meets butt-kissing. We see that the character created by George in Revenge of the Sith is a badass warrior-type that feels more at odds with the guy standing outside the Coruscant Opera. The episode, Sphere of Influence, was kinda fun, though. I also really enjoyed Heroes on Both Sides, which shows Padme trying to negotiate an end to the war with her friend Mina Bonteri, who is now a high-ranking Separatist. It was an interesting look at the war and, if I’m honest, dealt with the politics of the galaxy in a lot better way than previous episodes have. Definitely worth watching, I have to say.
As with the last season, there are a couple of truly stand-out arcs that I want to single out here to talk about: the storyline involving Asajj Ventress, and the Force stuff that went down in the Mortis trilogy.
Asajj Ventress is one of the characters created for the Clone Wars multimedia crossover event that occurred between 2002 and 2005, telling the story of the war in effective real-time between the releases of Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. Her first appearance was in the comic Jedi: Mace Windu, which is now part of the Legends stuff, but over the course of the Republic series, and its various tie-ins, we grew to understand a lot of her history as an orphan from Rattatak who was trained by a Jedi who had been stranded there, Ky Narec, but gave in to her anger when her mentor was killed. Dooku found her and trained her to be his personal assassin and dark acolyte, though she was always one of many such tools employed by the Count. Most of this has been expunged from history by the episodes in season three, which tells us that Asajj is in fact one of the Nightsisters from Dathomir.
In this new history, we see Asajj abandoned by Dooku during a battle above Sullust, leading her to take revenge with the help of her Nightsister brethren. She and several assassins break into Dooku’s palace and, while he survives the assassination attempt, he is led to believe the Jedi were behind the attempt on his life, so requests a new bodyguard from the Nightsister matriarch Mother Talzin, who first gave him Asajj. The storyline then progresses to the male side of Dathomir, where we meet a young contender for the position, Savage Oppress. After a series of gruelling trials, Savage is deemed worthy to serve as the bodyguard, and goes through a mystical transformation that beefs him up for the role. However, in his first real test, Asajj and Savage go up against Dooku and fail, leading Savage to abandon his position as Dooku’s guard. Back on Dathomir, Talzin tells Savage he must go to the Outer Rim to find his brother…
This three-part story arc tramples over so much of the established Star Wars lore, hearing about it at the time sent me somewhat over the edge as regards to giving the show any kind of interest or respect. Maul has been established as a Zabrak from Iridonia, and that had been in place since 1999. Furthermore, Darth Maul was shown cut in half specifically to preclude his further appearance in the franchise following his death. Now, we learn that he’s actually the male version of a Nightsister, and somehow managed to survive being sliced in half and falling down a reactor shaft. Hm. It really annoyed me at the time, and still rankles a little now, if I’m honest, the way the story writers played fast and loose with what fans had come to understand as the history of the universe they were reading about and watching.
Of course, in the post-Story Group world, I’m a bit mellower. Clone Wars is established canon, and none of the other stuff is real. So I’ve let a lot of that go, I think! Anyway…
The Mortis trilogy was something of an event back in the day, with an article published on starwars.com explaining how the storyline basically supported George Lucas’ vision for the Force from the very beginning. I wasn’t particularly convinced, but it’s a nice article that I can still recommend reading. The trilogy features Anakin, Obi-Wan and Ahsoka following a Jedi distress signal in the Chrelythiumn system out in Wild Space, where they come upon The Ones – three exceptionally powerful Force users called simply The Father, The Son and The Daughter. The Father has drawn them to the system to test if Anakin really is the Chosen One, as he seeks someone to keep the Balance of the Force between his Daughter, an exceptionally strong Light Side Force user, and his Son, extremely strong in the Dark Side. I thought it was really cool that we got both Sam Witwer and Adrienne Wilkinson as the Son and Daughter – actors who formerly worked on The Force Unleashed as the Secret Apprentice and Maris Brood, respectively. Really adds to that sense of importance, you know?
The trilogy is a bit trippy for the most part, as we see a lot of stuff that is primarily Force visions and the like. Obi-Wan meets the ghost of Qui-Gon Jinn, and Anakin once more sees his mother Shmi (both of the original actors of these roles returned to do the voice work, which was really cool and a mark of how important the episodes were seen). Ahsoka however sees herself as an adult, who warns her against following Anakin as her master will eventually corrupt her, also.
As it turns out, Ahsoka is corrupted by the planet, and Anakin is basically convinced by the Son to turn to the Dark Side in order to prevent the future from happening – a future in which Anakin becomes Darth Vader, no less. However, at a climactic confrontation, the Father wipes Anakin’s mind of this possible future, and seeing no end to his Son’s evil, kills himself, giving Anakin the time needed to kill the Son, who had already killed his sister. It’s an extremely weird and convoluted story arc, and actually ends with the three Jedi “waking up” in their ship, almost as if none of this had actually happened.
It’s weird, but there is a lot of important stuff about the Force, and the nature of the Jedi at this time, that kinda makes it something of a required viewing, really. There are some odd moments, and Ahsoka continues to annoy the bejeesus out of me, but yeah, worthwhile to give it a try once.
The other episodes of the season are a curious bunch, although most of them don’t seem to leave a lasting impression. We get a lot more of how Ahsoka is so brilliantly amazing for a ten-year-old (or whatever she is), she should basically be galactic queen right now, and there are some more embarrassing hijinks with Jar Jar on Toydaria, where he goes on a diplomatic mission with Bail Organa. I’m a huge supporter of getting more Bail Organa, but I think a cartoon aimed at kids is probably not the best outlet for that. We need a good political novel, like Cloak of Deception, that features all of the politicking on Coruscant and stuff!
Before I wrap this up (I know I’ve already rambled fairly extensively here), I just want to mention the final five episodes of the season, which starts with The Citadel three-parter, and ends with an awful Ahsoka-centric storyline that brings back yet another movie character. The Citadel is a prison designed to hold Jedi, and Anakin leads a rescue mission to recover Even Piell and his officers. One of these officers is none other than Captain (eventual Grand Moff) Tarkin!
I’ve never been a fan of gratuitous appearances like this, but as it turns out, Tarkin does have a part to play in the Clone Wars, so I’m actually perfectly okay with this. Possibly because I’m writing this blog while in the middle of reading James Luceno’s novel, but that’s a subject for another time. Tarkin and Piell both have one half each of some vital information that needs to find its way to the Republic, so they both need to make it out. During the course of the escape, the party is split, and Even Piell is killed. With his dying breath, he tells Ahsoka his half of the information (oh yeah, Ahsoka is along for the ride, because Ahsoka). I feel like this is a really important turning point in the series as, while Even Piell is hardly what you’d think of as a front-line Jedi, he was on the Jedi Council in both Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, so there is something to be said for that.
Along the way, Tarkin criticises the Jedi involvement in the war, and has quite a bit to say about having the child padawan leading clone troopers on the front lines. Thank you, Wilhuff! He tells Anakin he doesn’t think warrior monks who refuse to do what is necessary to win the war should be leading the troops, and Anakin is in total agreement – though more because he thinks the Jedi should do more, not because he thinks they shouldn’t be there at all. While a lot of media tends to browbeat the idea of Tarkin as a “might means right” kinda guy, I still thought this was a nice touch, and can’t pass up the opportunity to see more of the guy.
The last two episodes of the season follow Ahsoka as she once again shows just how much of a loose cannon she is on the battlefield. There’s a couple of remarks made how Anakin criticises her for not following orders, yet Anakin himself often disobeys direct orders too. The difference of course, is that Anakin is often fairly effective, but Ahsoka just isn’t. But there is a definite case to be made that Anakin is just a bad teacher in this respect. At any rate, Ahsoka gets herself kidnapped by a group of Trandoshans, who release her into the wilds of a hunting reserve. Along the way, she eventually meets up with other captives on the reserve, one of whom is none other than Chewbacca, and of course Ahsoka can perfectly understand Shyriiwook. Chewbacca manages to salvage enough parts to send a signal to his homeworld, and eventually a bunch of Wookiees shows up to save them.
There is so much that annoys me about this, but I think the fact that Chewbacca is pretty much the preeminent Wookiee in the galaxy is getting annoying now. I had some hopes after meeting the whole planet in Revenge of the Sith, but time and again it seems we’re only allowed to meet the one. Bah!
Given all of this, it’s been fairly difficult to pick my top three episodes from this season! But here goes:
1. Citadel Rescue
3. Heroes on Both Sides
There you have it, folks! Stay tuned for a look at season four, just as soon as I get round to watching it!