Catching Up

Hey everybody!
It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Seems like life has been passing me by recently, as I have been focused a bit on work – I’ve got an interview this coming Tuesday for a promotion, so we’ll see what comes from that. More money for plastic crack, maybe?! We shall see!

Speaking of plastic, let’s start with the main topic of the day…

I’m not a big fan of the new Necrons, having now seen them in the flesh, as I wasn’t keen on the sculpted battle damage. For my Necrons, I’ve tried to paint them more like a pristine sort of warrior race, with the advanced tech that means they don’t retain battle damage like that. While I’m not entirely fussed yet on the Necrons, I have been admiring those Space Marines…

However, Chaos has become a major thing for me, considering I’d planned for Genestealer Cults to be my 9th Edition army! I’ve long wanted a force of Heretic Astartes, and having started with the idea of a Cultist rabble, I’ve now moved more into the realms of actual marines in the list. Today has been quite exciting though, as I’ve finished painting the Master of Possession from the Shadowspear box set! Finally!

I’m really pleased with this chap, and have followed the tutorial for the fire in particular from The Brush & Boltgun, which was a godsend! I’ve not had a chance yet to look at the other stuff on the channel, but it looks like a lot of the stuff that I have on the list, anyway, so it might be worth mining that stuff!

Speaking of which, I’ve finally picked up a Chaos Rhino for the nascent force, which I’ve wanted to get a hold of since seeing this wonderful piece of art from another of my favourite instagram’ers, Martin Sivertsen:

I mean, look at it! It’s absolutely beautiful, and I hope mine will come out a mere tenth as good! I’ve actually made an order for a second Rhino, as well as a Forgefiend (which I’ve wanted for a long time, as well) and a Dialogus for the nascent Sisters army!

Have I posted a picture of the Sisters here yet? Can’t remember, so here you go:

Looking forward to getting these painted up, however long they might take!

Moving on to a different game now, though…

My wife and I have been enjoying a few games of Elder Sign in recent weeks, as we’ve re-established Friday nights as gaming nights, and it’s been an absolute blast to be playing once more!

We’ve played a few times with the core set, as we get back into it all, and so last night we played with the first expansion, Unseen Forces, which I thought might be the best one to start with, as pretty much every other expansion has the Gates of Arkham rules and ramps up the difficulty! We had a couple of games with Unseen Forces, and while we managed to save the world from Shudde M’ell with just three locations left to explore per turn, we came under attack from Abhoth and it all went wrong.

It’s great to be back playing games from Fantasy Flight, I’m feeling really quite nostalgic for the whole thing! Of course, we’re slap bang in the middle of GenCon 2020 right now, but it all feels a bit weird with the global pandemic ongoing. FFG have shown off a few Star Wars bits, such as more Clone Wars era stuff for Armada, X-Wing and Legion, and that’s about all that I’ve managed to glean from the internets right now! Of course, it’s always an online event for me, but it feels particularly odd right now, regardless!

What else has been going on?

I’ve read quite a few books since I last came here to provide a review, so will doubtless have some thoughts on them to share with you all! I’ve also been reading the rest of The Flash’s run through the New 52, so will sometime soon get a round-up blog sorted for that! I’ve also been catching up with the DC movies that I’ve not seen, after watching Man of Steel a few weeks ago. So there will be plenty of blogs incoming once I have the time to properly sit down once again!

Okay, so it’s been pushed back, but there’s a Mandalorian novel due next year?! This news has excited me far more than I’d expected! Still very excited to see what season two has got in store for us, even though I’ve been really disappointed how it seems to be heavily leaning into the Clone Wars cartoons with the casting news that we’ve seen. Still, maybe live-action Ahsoka won’t be so damn annoying as to make me want to tear my own face off… time will tell! I think The Mandalorian is about the only thing Star Wars that I’m looking forward to right now, though, so I hope it won’t be disappointing!

Anyway, time to cease my ramblings, I think! Hope you’re all having an amazing Saturday, and stay tuned for more blogs coming as the summer progresses!

The Sequel Trilogy: My Way

Hey everybody!
Way back when, I wrote up some ideas that I’d had to “improve” The Phantom Menace, which at the time seemed like an interesting thought exercise and a useful way to pass the time. Well, in trying to soothe a teething infant the last few evenings, I’ve been giving some thought to the Sequel Trilogy in something of the same manner. I suppose, after watching The Rise of Skywalker again recently, it’s been on my mind how much of a let-down things were. I’m not saying that any of these ideas would actually improve things, of course – I thought it was just an interesting idea to think about, trying to pull together more of the story into something a bit more cohesive perhaps…

Star Wars

So first of all, let’s take The Force Awakens as standing as it is. I don’t think it’s a perfect film, but I do believe it works perfectly fine for setting things up, and the main problems that I have with the sequels have been around the lack of any satisfying pay-off for a number of plot points raised therein.

Now. There are two points that I’d like to bring up from the expanded universe (the new one). The novel Bloodline is truly excellent, and should be read by everyone. Whether it was because it came out around the time of episode seven, when we had very little else to go on, it provided a tremendous amount of background to the political landscape in which that movie takes place. It also – kinda – answers the question of where the First Order came from, and that’s the first point that I feel is a let-down in the trilogy. Secondly, the Aftermath trilogy, while I wasn’t really a fan of the story being told, it nevertheless gives us a lot of information on what happens to the Imperial Remnant, and gives us some background for how Palpatine might have ended up with a massive fleet out in the Unknown Regions.

So, without further ado, and still hitting quite a few of the plot points from around and about the existing films, let’s do this!

Rey and Luke

The Last Jedi is all about recruiting Luke to the cause of the Resistance. Luke realizes that he is somewhat responsible for the death of his old friend Han, since he feels a sense of guilt over Ben’s fall to the Dark Side, and so he heads off with Rey to rejoin the Resistance.

The Resistance themselves flee from D’Qar, with Vice-Admiral Holdo leading a rearguard action to allow the majority of the fleet to disappear. Holdo sacrifices herself, taking out a good portion of the First Order fleet with her. Leia leads her forces to the planet Ajan Kloss, where they regroup and reorganise.

Finn is given a job in military intelligence after his vital part in the destruction of Starkiller Base, as the Resistance tries to get ahead of the First Order and work out what is going on. There he meets his fellow spy Rose, and they’re given the task of infiltrating an old Imperial Archive on Coruscant. At this point, and during this storyline, we’ll be able to learn more of what happened to the Empire after Endor, and maybe some more tidbits about the New Republic, too.

On Ajan Kloss, Luke and Rey arrive and sense a massive connection with the Force – none other than the Whiphid Jedi Master K’Kruhk, who had survived Order 66 through sheer bad-assery and has been secretly biding his time raising a small Jedi enclave far from the reaches of the galactic conflict. Luke and K’Kruhk train together, and develop Rey’s talents alongside the other students and followers of the Whiphid.

Snoke attempts to bolster the First Order following their losses incurred at Holdo’s hand, and sends Kylo Ren to “implement contingency b” or something…

Poe leads a mission to Corellia as a distraction while Finn and Rose head to Coruscant, and inadvertently discovers that Wedge has been informally leading a rebellion of his own there. The First Order comes to investigate and utterly destroys the revolt there, Poe and Wedge barely get out alive. The mission to Coruscant has unveiled a trail that leads to the Unknown Regions, and the movie ends with Finn and Rose coming out of hyperspace above Exegol, where they find the Final Order fleet, and Kylo Ren…

Of course, all of this means that The Rise of Skywalker needs a few changes of its own!

Snoke is the head of a cabal of ex-Imperials and the like who are attempting to resurrect the Emperor through Sith Alchemy. Snoke himself is so badly scarred because of a failed experiment to use his body to channel the dead Palpatine’s spirit years before.

Allegiant General Pryde is the man in charge of the First Order’s operations in the Unknown Regions, having taken over from Brendol Hux. Finn and Rose find him, and Finn tortures him into revealing who he, Finn, is. They learn that Finn was abducted from a crime lord, and flee from the fleet to return to the Resistance.

Leia and co have been attempting to recruit more allies to the Resistance, and Lando returns to the fold when he learns that Han has been killed. He brings a lot of his old underground contacts with him, and when Finn and Rose return with their news, Lando reveals that he knows Finn’s father. Moreover, Poe used to work for him in his days running spice, so they lead a delegation to ask for support. Finn’s father is the head of Kanjiklub, and lends the support of his fleet of smugglers in revenge for having his boy stolen from him, and the Resistance heads off into the Unknown Regions.

Luke leads his band of Jedi against Snoke and the cabal, but he is cut down when the Knights of Ren descend upon him. Kylo Ren redeems himself by dying to save Rey, and Luke’s dying action is to lend his Force spirit to Rey and allowing for her to cut down Snoke.

Star Wars The Last Jedi

Rey’s parents really were nobodies, hiding her on Jakku to escape from the Knights of Ren, who stalk the galaxy in search of Force-sensitive children and abduct them for the Sith alchemical experiments. Rey is a pure manifestation of the Force, similar to Anakin. The Force is aware of its internal balance being out of whack, and when one side gets too strong, it will bring forth a balancing power like this.


So there’s my half-baked thoughts on how the sequels could have played out, trying to combine as much as possible but giving things some new slants. There are plenty of things missed out that could have been included, such as the Death Star ruins and Lando’s daughter, and I’m sure Captain Phasma could have been sprinkled in there as well.

Finn feels like a character that was somehow forgotten about after episode seven, but I think making him a part of military intelligence could fit quite well. I do like the idea of Finn being the son of a crime lord, and the link to The Force Awakens and Kanjiklub is something I quite liked at the time I thought of it! It also brings in the underworld element, much like we had with Jabba in Return of the Jedi, and much like the idea of them finding out about the Imperial remnant in the middle film, here Finn and Rose become a catalyst for another info-dump, as we see what happened after Jabba’s organisation fell.

I’d love to have seen the Knights of Ren taking a bigger role throughout both movies, and I’m sure there would be opportunities with more development, but this isn’t precisely the sort of thing I want to spend most of my time working up a script for, or something!

For those who don’t know, Master K’Kruhk was a Jedi Master during the Dark Horse series of comics set in the prequel era, and was brought somewhat to the fore during the Dark Times run as an almost indestructible force of nature. He then showed up in the Legacy series that took place over 100 years after the Battle of Yavin, making him almost a Jedi Perpetual. It’s the storyline from the Dark Times comics that I’m sort of drawing upon here, with him being a patriarch of a Jedi enclave of survivors of Order 66.

At any rate, I thought it was a fun thought exercise on how things might have worked out, if we had something other than that abysmal episode eight, and removing the need to bring back Palpatine to make everything work out in the end.

What do you think? Is this worse than what we got?

Skywalker Rises – again!

Hey everybody!
So I’ve been a little late getting around to this, but I have finally gotten around to watching The Rise of Skywalker for the second time. It’s taken me so long because I’ve been feeling a bit let-down by the whole hype thing for this movie, which has been marketed unto death as the epic conclusion to the nine-film Skywalker Saga, etc.

I mean, it’s really not. It’s the conclusion to the Disney trilogy of films that happened to use returning characters from the original Star Wars trilogy in bit-parts, and that is that. I’ll try to get this out of the way at the start – the central character for this new trilogy has been Rey, I think we can all agree. While Finn and Poe have had their generous share of the limelight as well, Rey has been front and centre all the way through. It’s been her great mystery that has driven a lot of the hype around the trilogy, and in this conclusion, it is definitely Rey that proves to be the charge that keeps this film moving.

But Rey has no familial connection to the Skywalkers. She adopts the name seconds before the closing credits, but she has no bearing on the six-movie family saga that came before it. She’s the daughter of a clone of Palpatine, and that’s as far as it goes. This trilogy has only been the conclusion to the Skywalker Saga insofar as it kills off every last member of that family, but the main character of the movie is not related to them at all.

There.

Let’s move on!

The Rise of Skywalker had a hell of a lot of ground to cover, after the debacle that was The Last Jedi. As a result, it does tend to feel like at least one-and-a-half movies, possibly even two movies, in one. There were a number of points along the way where I feel this is shown up – when Poe and Zorii are talking on Kijimi, the plot broadens out a bit and we’re close to learning more about Poe’s backstory. The film needed more of those moments, so when we get them, their absence is felt elsewhere. Does the similar moment between Finn and Jannah on Kef Bir have the same sort of gravity? No, because the plot needs to keep moving. I do feel that we should have learnt more from this – hell, we should have learnt a lot more anyway, but the first hour or so is just one long chase across the galaxy on the hunt for “the thing”.

I always find myself wanting to know more about the background stuff after seeing a Star Wars movie, because they’re so good at giving us that richness of texture. Kijimi is a classic example of this, and I would love to find out more, but we don’t have the time before the planet is destroyed. It definitely feels rushed, and that’s one of the major downfalls of the film.

Upon a second viewing of The Last Jedi, I was a bit nonplussed by the fact that movie was supposed to be a Star Wars film. This time, however, I’m in no doubt about the fact this is a Star Wars film, and I think that’s partly due to the fact that, whatever else I may say about him, JJ Abrams knows his stuff. The Force Awakens was very similar in this respect – it felt real, which is something of a hallmark of Star Wars as a space opera. There are a lot of sweeping vistas in the movie, such as that festival on Pasaana, above, which feel so real, especially when you get down into the thick of things.

Much like with George Lucas’ movies, there is a definite sense of the story moving along in fairly obvious chunks – set pieces, I guess. The fact that it does so because of the “search for x” thing does make it perhaps more formulaic than I’d like, as those chunks are sometimes a little smaller than, say, the Hoth sequence in Empire Strikes Back.

Now, I know that a lot of people liked the fact that Palpatine was behind everything, and returned to crown the final episode, but I found myself inwardly groaning when it turned out to be the case. I suppose I just hoped for a little more originality. The whole point of Palpatine’s death in Return of the Jedi was to conclude Vader/Anakin’s redemption. The fact that he’s back kinda cheapens that, for me, and feels a bit like a soft option – of course, Palpatine is the big bad of the original six films, a Sith mastermind and all the rest of it. How could you top that? Especially when Snoke has been dealt with in such a weird, stupid manner.

However, Palpatine is back, so we have to deal with it. In that respect, I find myself again wanting to know more about Exegol. The Lost World of the Sith, or somesuch – it needs more explanation, for me. It all comes out of nowhere, the whole Final Empire thing, and I wish we’d had a better idea of what had been going on since The Force Awakens. Stuff like the Aftermath trilogy has set up the idea of there being an Imperial remnant hiding in the Unknown Regions and stealing children for indoctrination etc, but it feels like there was too much of a need for secrecy and mystery when the trilogy began, and then the story seemed to go nowhere in the last movie.

So here we are, with a film that feels a bit light on the detail, and a little bit rushed. Part of that is the fault of the previous film, as I’ve been saying for most of this blog it seems, and I feel that part of it is down to there being no clear trajectory for this trilogy from the start. Sure, it’s arguable how much of a trajectory the original trilogy had, though the Prequels benefited so much from having that clear end point in sight. Here, though… it’s all been a bit of a muddle until we get to the third film, when there is so much that needs to be wrapped up and we have to rush through to hit all of the points.

It does wrap up the sequel trilogy fairly neatly, as we chuck Palpatine in to be a kind of deus ex machina for most of the mystery. It could have been great, but instead… yeah…

Star Wars Galaxy Guides (part one)

Star Wars West End Games Galaxy Guides

We’re going a bit retro today!

Easter is fast approaching, of course, and it’s always my favourite of the chocolate holidays, as I like to reminisce about the times I’d spend off school, endlessly watching the original trilogy. Today, I thought it could be fun to look back at some of those books that came out for the West End Games RPG back in the 1990s, when the Prequels were a far-off land and all we had to go on was the story of the Rebels and their fight against the Empire! In all, twelve Galaxy Guides were produced, and they served almost as a series of books that gathered up a load of stuff that could help the GM with designing games. There was a lot of background on the setting, reams of NPC profiles, and sample adventures that could be run to make use of a variety of material. Let’s take a look at the first six!

Star Wars West End Games Galaxy Guides

The books that deal with the movies are told from the perspective of Voren Na’al, an Alliance Historian who himself had stats to allow him to be used in the game. The idea was that Na’al was preparing a report for his superior, Arhul Hextrophon. While these books all date from 1995, it wasn’t until 2012 that Na’al and Hextrophon were retconned as the two assistants who hand the medals to General Dodonna during the closing ceremony of A New
Hope (Hextrophon is on the left, and Na’al is on the right:)

While the movie books deal pretty much with the events of the films in chronological order, with material on the locations and the characters from each, there are also plenty of sidebars and the like with mini-stories. Most of these are the kind of throw-away things such as interviews with minor side-characters, although worth noting here is that one such tale is how Biggs Darklighter came to join the Rebellion, the mutiny on the Rand Ecliptic, which was later spun out (and altered) into the four-part comic series Darlighter, one of my all-time favourites from Dark Horse.

Galaxy Guide 4 is the first look at Alien Races, and again is written as an in-universe publication, this time as an Imperial Catalog of Intelligent Life in the Galaxy, commissioned by Darth Vader himself. A lot of these species were invented for the RPG, and helped to inform the burgeoning expanded universe at that time, as was the case with a lot of the WEG products.

Star Wars West End Games Galaxy Guides

These books are all really great for the amount of lore that they contain, featuring the backgrounds on a whole host of both significant and minor, background characters. We get the fascinating backstory on General Dodonna, and his thrilling escape from the clutches of the Empire as he came out of retirement to help lead the Rebels, for instance, which sounds like the sort of thing that could be spun into a novel, these days! A lot of the denizens of Jabba’s Palace have backstories that are the basis for the short stories in the Tales from Jabba’s Palace anthology, too.

There are also many characters that were created for the RPG that became quite significant in this lore – we see this in the backstory on Dodonna, where his former comrade Adar Tallon once again gets a mention. Tallon was created for the early adventure, Tatooine Manhunt, and became something of a regular non-movie supporting character for a number of WEG books. There is a care to the way that WEG went about spinning out the universe created through three movies into the massive juggernaut of the Space Opera genre that it became, and that really comes through when you see the amount of depth the writers went into.

Something that I really like about them is the mini adventures that they all include – or, as is the case with Galaxy Guide 6, it’s what the book is all about. There is so much to enjoy about these sourcebooks even now, for the lore that they contain, but it’s always really nice to remember just how much these books were intended to be used as gaming aides. It’s really one of my great regrets, never actually getting round to playing the WEG system, although I did talk about it with a group of friends back when we were all in college. Sigh!

There is some truly great stuff in these books – of course, I am biased, as this is the lore that I grew up with. Given that the Disney universe feels distinctly different to me right now, it’s really nice to read through these books once again, and come upon the stuff that I know and love.

Looking forward to getting back to reading through books 7 to 12 next!

Star Wars: The High Republic

So… this has dropped!

The High Republic is the Next Big Thing for Star Wars, now that the Skywalker Saga is over. To some extent, this was what a lot of people had been expecting. I mean, the favourite fan theory was for Knights of the Old Republic, which is of course thousands of years prior to the Battle of Yavin. We’ve got a lot of really great storytelling in that period from the old canon, of course culminating in the wonderful Tales of the Jedi, which you can read about in my old blog here.

The High Republic is set, I believe, 200 years prior to the events of the prequels. So we’re not quite talking the ancient history of TotJ or KotOR but, I would expect, something much more akin to the Jedi storylines of the prequels themselves. We’re promised Jedi who are like Knights of the Round Table, which I’m hoping means will bring some really noble and actually good Jedi. There’s a lot to be said on this subject, for sure, but I feel like the prequels were a bit flat on the Jedi as a whole, and it fell to the comics and novels that came out alongside the films to fill in the blanks. We need Jedi who embody what it means to be a part of the Order, not those who stand out from it like Qui-Gon or Mace, you know?

My first thought, upon seeing the trailer there, was that this could be Disney attempting to almost re-write the prequels, taking the stuff that people liked – such as seeing Jedi en masse – and putting them into a new era to sort of capitalize on that. We couldn’t have a lot of Jedi in the movies that Disney has put out so far and, so I’ve heard, this series is limited to books of various descriptions. So, no movies yet, but what’s to say this isn’t setting us up for something further back in the past? Testing the waters with seeing whether people still respond to the Jedi capers, before we then head back into the past with a movie series set properly in the KotOR era?

Interesting.

Having a core cast of characters that will grow, and that will straddle comics, novels and the like, is really interesting – I hope it won’t end up being the sort of melange that we had in Rebels, for example. Hopefully it will be good, and we’ll get a nice look at the wider universe as well – we’ve had the usual mix of scum and villainy promised, of course, so I’m excited to see what that will bring us.

In fact, now that I think of it, I wonder whether we’ll see breakout characters like Cad Bane coming out.

Star Wars High Republic

So, that’s Project Luminous, then!

I’ve been a bit down on the new Star Wars lately, it seems, but I’m taking a bit of a stand on this one, and I’m going to choose to be hopeful. It’s a pretty unexplored era so far as looking back to the Legends stuff, so there’s less of a risk for me comparing it to what we’ve lost.

Let’s hope it delivers!

The Mandalorian (round-up)

Hey everybody!
So we’re now at the point where the final episode of The Mandalorian has aired, and we’re left with thoughts, hopes and dreams for season two, which was recently announced by series creator Jon Favreau. I thought I’d come along here and catch up with the series, after the first two installments of my look at season one, here and here.

Major spoilers to follow, guys!

Chapter 6 is a prison heist episode, as Mando attempts to earn some credits without returning to the Bounty Hunters Guild, who are mostly after his hide following the breakout from Nevarro. Taking a job from his old friend Ran, he teams up with a rag-tag group in an effort to break out the Twi’lek Qin from a New Republic prison ship. Qin’s sister Xi’an is part of the team, who all proceed to double-cross the Mandalorian and leave him on the ship, the pilot having activated a distress beacon. Mando isolates and defeats each member of his erstwhile team, then delivers Qin to Ran and leaves. Ran, attempting to launch a fighter to pursue Mando, has his space station blown up by New Republic fighters, who have followed the beacon Mando placed onto Qin.

It’s something of a throwaway episode, much like the previous two, but the series has been really good at taking this sort of extended look into the underworld, and continuing to give us decent action, even if the individual episodes are, well, episodic in nature. It harkens back to older-style TV series, which used a similar method of storytelling, much in the way the original movies harkened back to the adventure serials.

However, chapters 7 and 8 form essentially a two-part season finale, and the last episode is the longest yet at close to an hour. To begin, Greef Karga sends Mando a message explaining that the Client has overrun Nevarro, and proposes that the bounty hunter return, using the Asset as bait in order to draw out the Client, kill him, and free the planet. In return, Karga will call off the bounty on Mando and allow the hunter to operate in relative peace. Sensing a trap, Mando recruits Cara Dune and the Ugnaught Kuill to assist him. In addition, Kuill had salvaged IG-11 and reprogrammed him.

Along the way, Baby Yoda heals Karga following an attack by mynocks, and he reveals that his original plan had been to kill Mando and take the Asset to the Client for his own purposes. The plan changes, and Karga pretends to have captured Mando in order to get close to the Client, while Kuill takes the Asset back to the ship. However, the Client is contacted by Moff Gideon, who arrives in force with stormtroopers and deathtroopers, and shoots up the cantina where the meeting was taking place, killing the Client in the process. Scout troopers have been dispatched to recover the Asset, who kill Kuill in the process.

Chapter 8 picks up almost immediately, and we see that IG-11 manages to recover Baby Yoda, thwarting Gideon’s plans. In turn, the Imperials attempt to destroy the cantina, threatening the group with an E-web repeating blaster, and then incinerator troopers.

The group manages to flee into the sewers, where they discover the Mandalorian enclave has been all but decimated following Mando’s departure from the world. The Armourer remains, and informs them that some did flee off-world, and provides them with some assistance for their escape. She also tells them that the Asset appears to be a Jedi, the ancient enemies of the Mandalorians, and charges Mando to return it to its people. Following a lava river, the group manages to escape the Empire thanks to IG-11 triggering his self-destruct, but just then Moff Gideon pursues them in his custom TIE fighter. The Mandalorian uses his new jetpack to fly up to the TIE and plant some detonators on it, causing Gideon to crash.

In the wrap-up, Cara Dune agrees to stay on as Karga’s enforcer, while Mando must pursue his new mission, reuniting Baby Yoda with his people. Finally, we learn that Moff Gideon has survived the crash, cutting himself out of the wreckage with nothing less than the Darksaber!

Looking back, this series has been just incredible!

I was really gushing about how much I have been enjoying the small-scale adventure stuff in my previous blog, but that still holds true, even when we have the might of the Imperial Remnant under Moff Gideon. We have a fairly pitched battle, with massed stormtroopers as well as the more esoteric varieties that call on the expanded universe of yore, which continues to provide that element of fan service without seeming to browbeat us with it.

While Baby Yoda has clearly been the breakout character here, I think there is still a great story being told, and it doesn’t rely on this cuteness or anything to make it work. Chapter 8 brought us a lot of answers, seeing the extended flashback of Mando and getting, basically, his origin story. We also finally see him without the helmet, which was interesting as it did serve the story and wasn’t simply checking off a list.

I think that’s been the great success with the series as a whole, though, as we’ve seen some really great storytelling without resorting to an over-reliance on snazzy effects or something. It’s character-driven stuff, really reverting back to the type of the original trilogy. It really succeeds with the small-scale adventure, such as Chapter 4’s assault on the AT-ST, and through having some really great moments to build on the core characters, chapter 7 felt really good to see them now united in their cause.

Season 2 is expected next Autumn, and while we can assume we’ll be seeing Mando and Baby Yoda road trips while they attempt to find either (a) more Yodas, or (b) surviving Jedi, it has been suggested that we might also be seeing the formation of the First Order. Personally, I hope we don’t get that – The Mandalorian has been at its most successful, to my mind, when it avoided all of that galactic-scale stuff, and instead told its story of outlaws on the galactic fringe. If we start scaling things up, then I think we’ll risk losing the charm of what has made this season so successful.

Hopefully, Jon Favreau and co will stick to the formula, and have an overarching storyline that also takes the time for those episodic parts, where we can just continue to build on the characters. Speaking of which, while I think we can be fairly sure we’ll see Cara Dune, Karga and Gideon again in some capacity, I hope we get to find out what happened with Fennec Shand, as I’m pretty sure she survived at the end of chapter 5…

It’s been really great, and I’m really looking forward to seeing more live-action Star Wars on the small screen in the future!

The Rise of Skywalker (spoilers within!)

The Rise of Skywalker

So folks, I went to see the latest Star Wars movie, The Rise of Skywalker, last night. The finale to the nine-movie saga of the Skywalker series, there was a lot of hype for this film in the run up, and I was getting a bit concerned that it might not live up to that, when it came down to it.

The story of the film picks up around a year following the last movie. There have been reports of the return of Emperor Palpatine, and Kylo Ren has obtained a Sith wayfinder device that he uses to travel to the planet Exegol, and finds the weirdly reanimated Sith Lord, who reveals that the whole First Order has been part of his plan, and that he created Snoke as a puppet to lure Ren to the dark side. Palpatine has an entire Sith fleet in orbit around the planet, and he promises to turn over the whole of his Final Order to Ren in exchange for the death of Rey.

Poe, Finn and Chewie gain intel from a spy in the First Order that confirms Palpatine has returned, and return to the Resistance with the news. Rey has read of a device within the Jedi texts she had from Luke, which can lead to the lost Sith world of Exegol. Luke had traced such a device to Pasaana with the help of a mysterious contact, and so Rey, Finn, Poe and Chewie travel there to pick up the trail. There, they meet Lando Calrissian, who helps them escape a First Order patrol, but through their Force bond, Kylo Ren discovers Rey’s location and travels there to confront her. Poe and Finn discover a Sith dagger on the that C-3PO translates, although he is forbidden from speaking the words due to his programming. However, the First Order captures the Falcon, and Chewie with the dagger – while attempting to bring the prison transport back to the surface, Rey accidentally destroys the ship with Force lightning. The Resistance heroes escape on the ship left behind by Luke’s contact.

Poe suggests they travel to Kijimi, where they can get the text out of Threepio’s memory. Unfortunately, this will come at the cost of wiping his memory completely. They go through with it, and while there Rey senses Chewie is alive on the First Order ship in orbit, which arrived following the Knights of Ren having tracked them. While Kylo Ren travels to the surface to find Rey, the Resistance fighters travel to the ship with the help of an old contact of Poe’s, Zorii Bliss. While Finn and Poe rescue Chewie, Rey recovers the Sith dagger and receives a vision of Luke’s contact killing her parents with it. The First Order discovers Finn, Poe and Chewie, but they are aided by General Hux, who reveals himself as the spy. Kylo Ren reveals to Rey that she is the granddaughter of Palpatine, who had ordered her killed as a child as he feared her power. He asks her to join him, and together they can defeat Palpatine, but she escapes with Finn, Poe and Chewie. Hux is executed by Allegiant General Pryde, who speaks to his former master, the Emperor, and orders the destruction of Kijimi.

Threepio’s memory banks have given the location of the Sith wayfinder device as Kef Bir, a moon in the Endor system. There, Rey uses the dagger to discover the location of the device in the remains of the second Death Star, but upon finding it, she is confronted by Kylo Ren once more. The two duel, and at a critical moment Kylo feels Leia calling to him through the Force as she dies. Rey impales him on his own lightsaber, but then manages to heal him through the Force before fleeing the planet in his ship. She returns to Ahch-To, and attempts to exile herself, but the Force ghost of Luke encourages her to face Palpatine and her destiny, and she leaves in his old X-Wing and with Leia’s lightsaber, using the wayfinder from Kylo’s ship to travel to Exegol. Kylo Ren realizes the errors of his ways, and after a hallucination of his father Han Solo, he throws away his lightsaber. The Resistance tracks her through the call sign on Luke’s X-Wing and follows her there, to be confronted with the massed Sith fleet headed up by General Pryde.

Rey confronts Palpatine on the surface, and the Emperor demands that she kill him, to allow him to transfer his consciousness into her and live anew. While the Resistance fleet attempts to battle the full might of the Sith, aiming to knock out a navigation tower to prevent the fleet from leaving orbit, Ben arrives to aid her and is confronted by the Knights of Ren. Through their Force bond, Rey manages to give Ben her lightsaber and he defeats them all. He joins Rey to confront Palpatine, but he manages to drain their essence to empower himself back to full health. While he Force-pushes Ben away, Rey is galvanised by the combined strength of previous Jedi (including Yoda, Mace Windu and Obi-Wan) and, using both Leia’s and Luke’s lightsabers, deflects Palpatine’s Force lightning back at him, and defeats him.

The effort of doing so is too much and she seemingly dies, but Ben returns and manages to heal her through the Force. The two kiss, and Ben becomes one with the Force. As he does so, Leia’s body follows. When all seems lost, Lando arrives in-system with a massive, rag-tag fleet of reinforcements and they manage to destroy the Sith armada, finally eliminating the threat of the First Order. While the galaxy celebrates freedom once more, Rey travels to the Lars homestead on Tatooine, and buries both Luke’s and Leia’s lightsabers in the sand, having now built her own. A passing local asks who she is, and she reveals her name as “Rey Skywalker”.

As I said at the start, I was prepared to feel let down by this film, after the sheer amount of hype that it had received. On my way out of the movie theatre, I wasn’t entirely sure how I felt about it, but we had a 2 hour car ride home after meeting up with some friends, and talking it through really helped me to think about that. After sleeping on it, I’m pretty much convinced that it is a satisfying conclusion, but only to the sequel trilogy.

Let me explain.

I grew up with the original trilogy, but was in high school when the prequels started coming out. So I hadn’t quite formed that sort of opinion about things, but rather I was just enjoying the fact that there were more Star Wars movies being made, and I was around this time to see them. I think the fact that their numerical order helped: having always had IV, V and VI, it felt right that we were finally getting I, II and III. When the sequel trilogy was announced, I think it just felt like, “Oh, Disney has just spent a lot of money acquiring this IP, and they want to start playing in that sandbox”. I have never felt like the sequel trilogy needed to be made, in the same way that making the prequel trilogy made some amount of sense.

These films were originally about Luke Skywalker – he is the hero whose journey we are on. Vader is the villain who, in one of the most shocking plot twists in movie history, turns out to be Luke’s father and is eventually redeemed, but I don’t think anybody thought that the movies were about Vader until George Lucas started to make the prequels, and told us that, actually, these movies are about Anakin Skywalker, his fall and eventual redemption by his son. It was an interesting way of looking at things, and I guess I was suckered into that because, since the early 2000s, it’s been really nice to have that six-part film series that tells the whole story of Anakin Skywalker.

Now, we have the sequel trilogy, and the main protagonist is the granddaughter of the Emperor, but we’re being told that these films continue the saga of the Skywalker family. I’ve got to say – no, they don’t. If Rey had turned out to be the hidden twin of Ben Solo, then maybe. But she’s not, so the only way that these films can logically be said to continue the Skywalker saga is insofar as they kill off the Big Three from the original trilogy, providing that sense of closure while passing the torch to the next generation. Suddenly, the nine-part film series is mostly about Anakin, but is more about… what? There is now a lack of focus if we’re to look at these as one long saga. There is no central protagonist, because Anakin/Vader only lives through two-thirds of the movies, just like Luke is only present for two-thirds of the movies.

To my mind, the sequel trilogy did not need to be made, as it blurs those boundaries of a family soap opera that Lucas had intended all along. In his own ideas for the sequel trilogy – a pretty fascinating topic that I want to save for another blog – we’d get the grandchildren of Anakin Skywalker, making each trilogy about him, his children, and then his grandchildren. As it stands, while Ben/Kylo Ren is certainly a grandchild of Anakin, he is most certainly put into the antagonist camp, and I don’t think anybody could really say the trilogy has been about him, in the way that it has quite blatantly focused instead on Rey.

However.

When viewed as a film that wraps up the most recent trilogy, this works really nicely. There is so much that can be said about The Last Jedi having ruined Star Wars – again, I think I want to talk about this more in another blog – but seeing The Rise of Skywalker now, and thinking about how it fits into the third act of the trilogy, it seems pretty clear that JJ Abrams should have been in the director’s chair for all three. Things that we had seen in The Force Awakens should have continued into The Last Jedi, meaning that The Rise of Skywalker could then have maybe paused a little to actually explore some of these things in greater depth. As it is, there is a lot of story crammed into that 142 minutes. A lot. The first half of the film deals with some pretty frenetic searches for maguffins, and I think some of that could perhaps have been dealt with better if it had been set up in The Last Jedi, rather than JJ having to set things up and then resolve them in the same movie.

I suppose that is nowhere more apparent than with the reveal of who Rey really is. This, I feel, should have been explored further in The Last Jedi – a lot of the first part of the film should, I think, have been in that movie, especially her use of Force lightning on Pasaana, before we finally learn of her heritage here. I think more explanation of how, in fact, she is related to Palpatine is needed, as well – I’m no prude, but I don’t think the Sith Lord is the sort to go sleeping around, and while Darth Plagueis does paint him as something of a dapper senator, we’re still at the theory stage right now. For my own theory, I think it will either be a case of Palpatine having used the Force to create life again, or else some form of cloning experiment. I just hope that we’ll get to see something of that explored further soon, because it’s one of those niggling plot points for a huge nerd like myself, who will obsess over it until the shaaks come home…

Something else that I’d like to mention is how impressed I was with Leia’s inclusion. Considering the pledge was made to use nothing but deleted scenes, she actually has a much more substantial role in the film than I’d been expecting. Just when I thought we might have seen the last of her, she turns up again for more! Sure, some clever use of stand-ins has been made, but it was really nicely done, and I think it forms a fitting end for her character, as she passes the baton to the last generation.

It’s a busy movie, but it does have the time for some really nice sequences. JJ’s love of practical effects and real sets comes through once more, and I absolutely love it for that. Much like what we’re seeing with The Mandalorian right now, it’s stuff like this that helps give the show or the film that veracity that allows you to immerse yourself in the universe.

There are some incredibly wonderful little details that we see throughout the movie, I felt myself again getting sucked into the world, and wanting to know more about, for example, the Emperor’s creepy robed minions, or the denizens of Kijimi, or the “Sith assassin” contact Luke had been working with, etc etc etc. It’s such a real, lived-in universe feel, which is exactly the same feeling that we get when we watch the cantina scene of A New Hope, or the Jabba’s Palace scenes of Return of the Jedi.

It was a pretty good ending to the sequel trilogy, and I don’t think it’s going to come under anywhere near as much fire as The Last Jedi has. I don’t think of it as being a conclusion to the entire Star Wars saga, though, but it functions perfectly well as the capstone to the new sequel trilogy.

And I just can’t wait to see where we go in the Star Wars universe next!

The Mandalorian (catch-up)

Hey everybody,
It’s time to catch up with The Mandalorian! So, rather than trying to write up some thoughts after each episode, I thought I’d just do the odd catch-up blog after a couple, having enjoyed the first three episodes immensely.

Chapter 4 branches out a little bit, as we follow Mando in his attempt to get away from the Bounty Hunters Guild, who are tracking him for both vengeance, and a chance to take back The Asset. Arriving on the forested world of Sorgan, Mando teams up with Cara Dune, a former Alliance shock trooper turned mercenary, to defend a village from Klatooinian raiders. After the battle, Mando realises that the Guild is still tracking the Asset, and so leaves.

This episode had all of the hallmarks of the classic Western, with the reluctant hero saving the village from marauders. What really excited me was the fact that the whole thing is so small-scale, which meant that the inclusion of the AT-ST walker in the battle was actually something to be worried about. It feels a little bit like this series is serving to enhance the films – I’m sure the next time we watch Return of the Jedi, the chicken walkers won’t be dismissed quite so easily.

Of course, the original trilogy was pretty much entirely told in small-scale, where the Alliance is depicted as just two squadrons of one-man fighters going up against the Death Star, or the small insertion force led by Han going up against the Empire on Endor. I suppose that’s what makes Return of the Jedi‘s final battle seem so epic when you look at the original trilogy in isolation – the limits of film-making at the time have actually served to give us a science fiction trilogy that is almost entirely character-driven, in direct opposition to the movies that have come thereafter. The Mandalorian is helping us get back to that small-scale storytelling, where a lone AT-ST can actually pose a visceral threat to the action.

I think my buddy JP put it really well, likening this episode to an RPG, or a mission from Imperial Assault. It has that feel about it, somehow. Sure, it comes across as a bit of a standalone adventure, though I’m once again wondering about that sense of gathering the crew, and whether we’ll see Cara Dune again before the season finale.

Chapter 5 was both written and directed by Dave Filoni, and I think it really helped me see him in a different light. Up until this point, I was only going off his work on both Clone Wars and Rebels, and I was not impressed. Considering he was George Lucas’ protege, I think he has done more harm than good to the Star Wars universe, by tearing up the continuity and twisting things to his own ends.

Here, we get a much more interesting Filoni, whether because he is now writing for the more mature end of the market, who knows. Yes, there are a lot of callbacks to A New Hope – indeed, you might almost say the episode leans so heavily on the original movie that it is propped-up by it. Mando is almost shot down over Tatooine, as bounty hunters continue to pursue him and the Asset. In order to pay for repairs, he takes a job with the bounty hunter wannabe Toro Calican, who is trying to get into the Guild. The bounty is on the renowned assassin Fennec Shand, who is believed to be hiding out in the Dune Sea.

They apprehend Fennec, but she attempts to drive a wedge between the two hunters, telling Toro that the Mandalorian has his own bounty now. Toro kills her, and attempts to apprehend Mando, but is definitely in over his head, and Mando kills him.

It’s a fairly simple episode, and while it only aired on Friday, there has already been an outcry about a lack of Baby Yoda time. Well, the show is much better than relying on the cuteness factor, for sure! It’s interesting to me, though, at how well the episode manages to integrate itself into the existing movie lore, while at the same time giving it almost an update. Mos Eisley is still a grim backwater, and there is something vaguely 70s about Peli Motto, the docking bay owner.

Did we need to rely so heavily on references to A New Hope? Probably not, but it was still undeniably cool to see these iconic locations once again. EV-9D9 appears to be working behind the bar at Chalmun’s cantina now (I wonder if Chalmun has moved on?) and business looks to be decidedly slow, but then the streets seem quieter as well – I wonder if this is meant to show the lawlessness of the Outer Rim, and people are keeping to themselves? Hm.

Coming at the mid-point of the series, I thought it interesting that the fifth episode borrowed so heavily from A New Hope, as that kind of tactic feels like something more appropriate to the first episode, as it tries to hook us in with nostalgia. I also find myself wondering if we’ll be seeing any more “classic” locations before the end of the season…


This show continues to delight me, and I am really looking forward to future episodes. The finale will be airing Christmas week, so I’m planning to do a bit of a roundup of the show sometime thereafter. Stay tuned for that!

Star Wars: Clone Wars – The Lost Missions

Hey everybody,
Well, I made it! It’s been a long slog over the past few years, as I’ve made my way through all of the Clone Wars animated TV series, but I’ve finally made it through all five-and-a-half series!

Star Wars Clone Wars

The Lost Missions is a thirteen-episode miniseries that brings us four story arcs, the final remaining episodes that were finished when the decision had been made to cancel the show in 2013. The episodes were polished off for airing on German network Super RTL the following year, and made their way to Netflix soon after. Writers had made significant inroads into a seventh season before the show was cancelled, and while these episodes are the last that were properly finished, there is the Legacy project that comprises some animated storyboards, comics and novels that I’ll cover as part of a separate blog. Of course, there has also been the announcement that the show is coming back to Disney+ early next year – but I’ll get to that in another blog!

We begin with a clone storyline, which involves an exploration of the Order 66 command. One of the clones shoots his Jedi general, saying that he is “following orders”, and so is taken back to Kamino for investigation. It is suggested that the Separatists have finally been able to create a virus that affects the clones, but upon examination a “chip” is found in the brain. Shaak Ti, who is the Jedi permanently stationed on Kamino to guard against Separatist attack (nice callback to some Legends stories, there) doesn’t believe the “chip” is anything other than a behavioural inhibitor, but travels back to Coruscant for the Jedi to examine it further. The Chancellor steps in, and Palpatine manages to dispose of the evidence by feigning an assassination attempt by the clone trooper in question.

Urgh. First of all, I hated the way they kept referring to it as a chip. I mean, I get why they did, but still – the idea of Order 66 was always supposed to have been part of the flash-learning process that all clones are subjected to, and not a “chip” that can be implanted or extracted at will. It does allow for the writers to “save” certain clone characters for later, of course, but it’s just so irritating to see concepts reduced like this.

Furthermore, I get that there is the idea of the Dark Side clouding the Jedi’s judgement, as Mace Windu himself expresses the notion in Revenge of the Sith, but characters in this episode arc seemed to just willfully ignore the fact that some serious allegations are being leveled by the clone troopers. Wouldn’t you at least be curious to see what was going on? Hm.

The next arc sees the return of Clovis, in episodes originally intended for season five (as seen by the fact Ian Abercrombie is still the voice of Chancellor Palpatine). Clovis is put forward to lead the Banking Clan out of its current crisis, in a three-part arc that makes little sense and just gets worse. I think it mainly suffers from the Padme-problem, whereby virtually nobody has any idea of what to do with the character outside of the films (and even then, it’s debatable). Padme supports Clovis, causing Anakin to bridle with jealousy, and the whole thing turns into a Separatist plot, with Count Dooku manipulating Clovis into his eventual death. There’s talk of interest rates going up for the Republic, and the arc ends with the Senators all chanting “long live the banks!” while Palpatine takes personal control of the InterGalactic Banking Clan, in a move that surprised me, as I thought they were firmly in the Separatist camp.

However, if you thought that three episodes about banks was drivel, just wait for the Jar Jar two-parter, which sees our intrepid Gungan on a diplomatic mission to Bardotta, at the express request of the world’s Queen. Who apparently wants to get him into bed. Erm… Basically, there is a nefarious plot to capture the people of the planet, who are all Force sensitive to some degree, to drain their Force essence. Turns out Mother Talzin is behind it, and she’s attempting to become more powerful than anybody by using these Force batteries.

The whole idea is just awful, reducing the Force to something that you can “get more of”. I don’t know if this idea dates back to Mara Jade gaining strength under Luke’s guidance during the Bantam era, as she goes from being not very good while operating with Talon Karrde, to becoming a Jedi Master using the Force with ease by the time of the Legacy of the Force novel series. But anyway, it annoys me, and the inclusion of Jar Jar is just the icing on the turd, really.

Finally, we have a four-part Yoda arc that serves almost as the season highlight, and in some ways does form a fitting conclusion to the cartoon series. Plo Koon discovers Master Sifo-Dyas’ lightsaber, prompting an investigation into the Jedi Master’s death some ten years ago. The mission that led to his death was classified by order of the Supreme Chancellor, which allows for the return of Finis Valorum to the story!

The Yoda arc is a bit troubling for me, because I so wanted to like it, but in the end it just fell so flat. We have something of an exploration of Sifo-Dyas, the Living Force, and all that business with coming back as a Force ghost. It should have been terrific, but it just felt like run-of-the-mill stuff. There is an attempt to make the Force mystical once again, and to try and retcon the midi-chlorian stuff with the spirituality stuff, but it didn’t really come over well. The series has tried to do the spiritual stuff before, most noticeably with the Mortis trilogy, but even then, what sounds decent enough on paper end up being just weird and silly, and quite frustrating for fans of Star Wars in general.

Good retcons will take account of everything, and work it into a fairly neat parcel. Here, we have several instances where important stuff is just ignored or omitted, most annoyingly calling the Sith homeworld Moraband, as opposed to the traditional Korriban. Apparently, this change was done at the behest of George Lucas, who preferred the name. Hm. There isn’t a great deal of lore on Sifo-Dyas, considering the importance of that plot element during Attack of the Clones, but I suppose that is a subject for another blog. However, it had been established that Dooku was a close friend, and was tasked with his murder by Sidious in order to cement his commitment to the Sith cause. That is now thrown out of the window, as we instead get this jumble of hearsay about the Jedi Master’s eventual fate.

Yoda visits Dagobah and communes with the spirit of Qui-Gon Jinn, who instructs him to visit the Force Priestesses at the Wellspring of Life. There, he undergoes a series of challenges (including his visit to the Sith home planet) before they notify him that he will train with Qui-Gon to learn how to retain his consciousness after death.

It’s a four-episode arc that I really wanted to like, but ultimately it really didn’t shed a great deal of light on anything. Sure, there is a case that can be made where the Force should be kept as a great mystery, but if you’re going to spend this long on a story, it would be nice if it went somewhere, you know? The arc ends with the Council asking Yoda for details of his travels, but he is unwilling to share the scope of his knowledge. Hm.


One of the major issues, for me, with the Clone Wars as a series has been the over-exposure of Anakin and Obi-Wan, something that I’ve talked to death before now, but I want to touch on again now that I’m summing-up the whole thing. In more than a hundred episodes, which span maybe 60 distinct storylines, we see Anakin and Obi-Wan show up in probably 80-90 of those episodes. The problem with this, for me, is that the conflict spans around three years, in-universe, and crosses the entire galaxy in its breadth. How the hell are these two supposed to have been able to accomplish this? There are thousands of Jedi, and the TV series had a real opportunity to develop several new ones who could have become series regulars, but that was neglected in favour of episode after episode that shows the derring-do of Anakin, his erstwhile master, or his annoying padawan. Sure, that’s probably what people want – the show is aimed at the younger audience, after all, who will likely want to see their favourite on-screen Jedi. But this just leads to such ridiculous feats of continuity that irritate me far more than perhaps they should!

I’ve talked plenty about Ahsoka and how much I hate her as a character, so I’ll leave that for now.

The annoying thing in all of this is that, for me, the series does have a lot of interest, and there are moments where I feel the show could have come across so much better, had it not been pitched at the younger end of the market. A great example of this, I think, is the relationship between Obi-Wan and Asajj Ventress, which we see as something dark and twisted in the first season, but is then left unexplored – indeed, the character seems to have been forgotten about for a long time. It’s a shame, because it could have become something so much more interesting. Other storylines, such as Darth Maul’s formation of the Shadow Collective was handled fairly well, and we see some pretty decent lore being developed for it overall. The Pyke Syndicate is definitely one of the best things to come out of late seasons – in fact, in The Lost Missions, when we see the spice den during the Yoda arc, it’s surprising at how adult the material comes across. The Pykes were later used in Solo, as the cartel in charge of the spice mines of Kessel.

But for all of the points that could be enumerated for the series, there are just so many more that really pull it down. So much exists that is flashy and there for show, it just infuriates me when I think how much this show could have given us! But then I remember that it’s a cartoon show, and I control myself…!


I wish the Clone Wars had tried to tie themselves more strongly into the narrative of the movies, as opposed to trying to become its own thing. By this, I mean there rarely seems to be a clear trajectory for the series, despite Revenge of the Sith having come out years prior to the first episode being aired. This ties once again into the over-exposure of Anakin and Obi-Wan. Aside from seemingly being the only Jedi required to win the war (with a healthy dose of a precocious adolescent), using these two as much as the series does really seems to make what should be a huge galaxy so much smaller. How does Anakin have the off-time to continually save Padme if he’s literally fighting battles across the entire galaxy?

To my mind, a three year conflict will contain a finite number of battles. Of those, there will be a percentage of decisive battles, which turn the tide one way or another. We’ll see set-piece action, we’ll see numerous fronts, and then we’ll get to the capture of the Chancellor and things will dovetail nicely into the opening of Episode III. If I were in charge of this endeavour, then, I would have sat down at the beginning and come up with a timeline that shows how we get from the arena at Geonosis to the battle for Coruscant. I’d draw up the plan for exploring the battlefronts that I want, put together an idea of who will be there, and then just set about making that. It’s a simple scheme that can afford to then be peppered with off-stories that deal with bounty hunters and banking clans, without losing that sense of scale.

And that is precisely what the Clone Wars multimedia project set out to do, back in 2002. We had a handful of novels, the ongoing comic series, as well as the Clone Wars shorts cartoon series. The comic series was a real gem in this period, as it followed the adventures of Quinlan Vos as an undercover operative, with a focus on Anakin and Obi-Wan much more sparingly. Other Jedi were featured along the way (and we did get an exploration of Sifo-Dyas at one point, as well), giving a sense of scale to events. It set out the stall that this was the Clone Wars, being told in real time as Revenge of the Sith was being filmed.

As it is, we have Anakin and Obi-Wan jumping around the galaxy, winning battles in a matter of minutes, and destroying any sense of the realism that Star Wars has always tried to maintain. Sure, it’s a space fantasy, but the key tenets of the original trilogy were of the lived-in universe, keeping things real within its own internal logic and rules. For the sake of the spectacle, we now have this. And it’s canon. And in February 2020, we’re getting yet more of it.

Urgh.

Star Wars: Clone Wars season five

Hey everybody,
So it’s been almost three years since I last watched The Clone Wars, but I’ve finally managed to make my way to the last season, so I’m on the home stretch now!

Star Wars Clone Wars

The fifth season ran between September 2012 and March 2013, and consists of 20 episodes organised across five major arcs. This is a bit of a departure for the show, as there were no single-story episodes at all.

The series begins with the Battle of Onderon, a planet from deep in the distant past of Star Wars, and the Tales of the Jedi series. The Jedi are asked to intervene on behalf of the locals, following the Separatist invasion, but instead of leading a task force of clones, Anakin and Ahsoka are dispatched to help train the locals to fight for themselves. It’s pretty Ahsoka heavy, and as the five episodes progress, Ahsoka takes a pretty major role in staying behind to help the locals in their fight against the droids. Somewhere in here, there is a half-decent story, and there was a small part of me that was intrigued by seeing the Beast Riders still active in the more modern galaxy, but as usual I found myself just unable to get on board with the fact that Ahsoka is treated like such a special case, considering she is still supposed to be a padawan learner, and is portrayed as an early teenager.

Clone Wars Onderon

The arc is actually fairly noteworthy for the inclusion of Saw Gerrera, seen gesturing forward in the picture above. One of the leaders of the Onderanian rebellion, he of course goes on to transition to the big screen in Rogue One.

From Onderon, we next have another Ahsoka-heavy arc, featuring the trials and tribulations of a group of younglings getting their lightsaber crystals. Apparently, this arc was intended as a possible jumping-off point for a new series of young Jedi during the Wars, though thankfully that didn’t come to pass. The whole arc is trope-heavy, as the group of Jedi hopefuls embodies the usual mix of American high school teens. What was most alarming, for me, was that one of these younglings is voiced by Jeff Fischer, who I am most aware of through American Dad.

Clone Wars younglings

Once they have their crystals, the younglings then get attacked by Hondo Ohnaka, seeking profit as ever, and there is an interesting sequence when the pirates board the Jedi ship that is reminiscent of Han being boarded in The Force Awakens, which was of course still in development at this time. Ahsoka is kidnapped by the pirates, and the younglings are able to rescue her, more’s the pity.

The next arc is centred around droids, and an infiltration mission to obtain a Separatist encryption key. The whole four-episode arc is goofy as hell, following the diminutive Colonel Gascon as he leads a group of astromech droids and a mouthy pit droid onto the Separatist ship. Along the way, they crash-land on a distant planet and discover a clone trooper with amnesia, or somesuch nonsense. Probably a crowd-pleaser for the young ‘uns, but let’s just move on… At least it didn’t involve Ahsoka…

Clone Wars Eminence

Next up is the Eminence arc, which returns to the storyline that began at the end of last season. Darth Maul and his brother Savage Oppress are set on taking their revenge against the Jedi and the Republic, by establishing a criminal empire. It sounds goofy, and I do still kinda think the idea is a bit silly, but the execution is actually not that bad, and we get to visit the criminal underworld as we see Maul first attempt to take over Hondo Ohnaka’s organisation, only to be foiled by Obi-Wan. The brothers flee, to be rescued by the Mandalorian Death Watch under Pre Viszla.

Together with the Mandalorians, Maul and his brother take over Black Sun, the Pyke Consortium, and the Hutt cartels, as they gather the resources to wrest control of Mandalore from the Duchess Satine. In order to consolidate his position, Maul challenges Pre Viszla to single combat and kills him, only for Darth Sidious to hear of the uprising and travel to the planet to see what his former apprentice has been up to. Sidious kills Oppress, but saves Maul, promising a future use for him.

Clone Wars Sidious

Within the context of this being a cartoon, I was quite impressed by the scope of this three-episode arc, as we get to see a lot more than merely the Jedi and clones fighting droids. Sure, the cartoon series has explored a lot over the course of its five seasons, but this time it did feel kinda exciting to see – though I do admit that this is possibly due to the fact we’re seeing the foundation of the Crimson Dawn, and establishing how Maul gets from falling down that reactor shaft to leading the criminal empire in Solo. It’s definitely one of the more interesting storylines, and I think for its wider ramifications within the canon universe, it does need to be watched.

And finally, we have the last arc of the season, which is firmly on Ahsoka’s shoulders. An explosion at the Jedi temple leads Anakin and Ahsoka to investigate who could be responsible. When they find the culprit, however, Ahsoka is framed for her death, and flees into the underbelly of Coruscant. She teams up with none other than Asajj Ventress in an attempt to keep the clones off her back while she seeks to clear her name, but it is up to Anakin to discover that it was actually Barriss Offee who framed her, owing to her own dissatisfaction with the way the war has gone. Or something. It was all a bit weird, if you ask me, the only good part of the story being that Ahsoka leaves the Jedi Order as a result.

Clone Wars Ahsoka Asajj

I get that Ahsoka Tano is meant to be a strong female character for girls to identify with, and broaden the target audience of the show, but there is a whole essay waiting to be written on the ways that she derails the integrity of the series through being such a blatant Mary Sue character. It is for this reason that I just cannot bear her as a character. She could have been so much better, but she becomes so bloody annoying that watching through these later seasons has been the drudgery that it turned into. If it wasn’t for the fact that I’ve now got my baby daughter to look after, and so have found myself awake at all hours of the day and night while being unable to do much beyond watch TV, I doubt I would have made it to the final season so soon.

Putting her in positions where she is seen as an equal of the Jedi around her is faintly ridiculous, especially seeing as how those Jedi are most often Anakin and Obi-Wan. Remember, Obi-Wan is a Jedi Master, and yet he is often upstaged by Ahsoka, either in terms of battle tactics or just common sense. Her life experience far outweighs her supposed age, and her abilities are such that she is frequently the lynchpin of a storyline. There is a difference between writing a strong female character for a younger demographic to engage with, and writing her as being brilliant to the point where she could win the war single-handed.

Ahsoka is a blight over the whole Clone Wars cartoon, which is a shame because there are some intriguing stories being told here. There is a lot that goes against established lore, even before the Disney take-over, and for that I feel like I need to take a stand against it as a show, but nevertheless, I have found myself looking back on some of the episodes and thinking vaguely positively about them.

The cartoon series does suffer from an over-exposure of Anakin and Obi-Wan, who hop around the galaxy like it’s the size of a modest kitchen, and not, well, a galaxy. They crop up almost everywhere, an issue that gets worse as the series goes on. I’m sure that was in response to consumer feedback, wanting to see more of them, but I do often hark back to the earlier series, where we had episodes focusing on Kit Fisto, Aayla Secura, and Plo Koon. I think it would have been a bigger benefit if we had seen more of this, exploring other Jedi both from the movies but also original creations that were more fair-game for the show. Of course, that’s the perspective of me as a Star Wars nerd – I’m sure, again, that consumer feedback would have been overwhelming in the desire to see more of Anakin and Obi-Wan, leading to them having a major part (if not pivotal roles) in almost every battle of the Clone Wars. It feels a little bit like the rest of the Jedi Order, to say nothing of the civilians like Wulff Yularen, could have happily sat out the War, leaving it up to the dynamic duo and Mary Sue.

I’ve been listing my top three episodes from each season each time I’ve done these blogs, but for this season, the quality has been so low that the only three I can single out are those of the Eminence storyline, so:
1. Eminence
2. Shades of Reason
3. The Lawless

Even these are not without their flaws, of course, but it was quite a decent look at the criminal underworld, and I thought it was particularly interesting as backstory to Solo, a film that I do actually enjoy.

So there we are! The last full season of the Clone Wars has been watched, at long last. Up next, there are still The Lost Missions, a half-season’s worth of episodes, as well as some of the comics and at least one novel that is spun out of scripts that had already been developed for the show. So I’ll try to get round to these and bundle them all up together at some point, hopefully before the end of the year. Though with Rise of the Skywalker less than a month away, I might well be finding my reading absorbed by a different portion of the timeline…