Saturday, November 3, 2012

Review: The Gathering


This was an episode unlike any other.  There were no blasters, battles and no villains. The episode had nothing to do with the war between the Republic and the Separatists or any of the new factions that we’ve been introduced to (Death Watch, Bounty Hunters, Pirates, etc.). And it was for those reasons that made it so great.

Also, how cool was it to see a Wookiee Jedi!

The episode, in the most basic terms, can be described as Ahsoka leading a group of Jedi Younglings on a mission to build their lightsabers.  That description alone should get any Star Wars fan excited.  The process of building lightsabers and Jedi training are largely unexplored areas.  Granted, lightsaber building is something hat has been explored to an extent in the Expanded Universe.  However, in the EU, the process was fairly simple, when a Jedi was ready they picked a crystal and built their saber, simple as that.  This episode expanded on this process and made it far more mystical than the EU ever did.  The concept of only the Jedi whose crystal it is can see that crystal is reminiscent of the Harry Potter series in that “The wand chooses the wizard” or in this case, the crystal chooses the Jedi.  This supports the sentiment that Qui-gon brings up in The Phantom Menace that “Nothing happens by accident” and that there is a reason for everything that happens for a reason.  This brings up the fundamental philosophy of the Jedi, that while we have choice, the consequences for our actions are meant to be lessons for ourselves and those around us.  So, in terms of this episode, the Young Jedi had to overcome their challenges to get their specific crystals in order to show themselves their weaknesses and how to overcome them.

The character of Ahsoka in this episode was very interesting.  Early in the episode her demeanour seemed very odd, almost forced, but considering she’s been put out of her element and is now the teacher rather then the student, her different tone seems appropriate.  The other padawans clearly look up to her and as a result she puts on a different attitude then what we are used to seeing in battle.  The forced feeling of this can be boiled down to her inexperience when it comes to teaching.  Granted she has had done some teaching in the past in episodes such as The Academy and Lightsaber Lost, but for most it takes more then two experiences to get familiar with teaching, even for a Jedi.  Ultimately this shows her progress, in that she is entrusted with the younglings and (part of) their education.  This shows just how far she has come and that she is now moving towards being ready to train a padawan of her own.

The newsreel in this episode, was one of the best intros to an episode we have ever seen.  The newsreel gave us an overview of Jedi training and expanded slightly on fan favourite character Terra Sinube (we now know what he does, besides fall sleep in the library).  On top of that, we saw, what has to be a (if not the) stand out moment from the episode: a flash back to Plo Koon finding Ahsoka.  This has been something fans have known about for some time, supervising director Dave Filoni even released some concept art he did of the scene, but few thought we would ever see this moment visualized on screen.  This moment was an excellent nod to fans of Ahsoka who have wanted to know more about her back-story since day one.

As amazing as everything mentioned above was, what made this episode so great was that the will of the Force is what drove the episode.  The test for the young Jedi was not one set up by Yoda or Ahsoka or any other Jedi Master, Knight, or Padawan, but was one set up by the Force itself.  As discussed above, the crystal chooses the Jedi, meaning that it is the will of the Force that each of the padawans could see their crystal, and it was the Force that was testing them to see if they were indeed ready to become Jedi.  The Force knew which Jedi had which weakness and ensured that in order to get their crystals the younglings would have to overcome those weaknesses.  The Force has always played a major role in the Star Wars saga, however we rarely seen its direct involvement in the story, and certainly not to this extent, prior to this episode.

I also thought it was interesting that Zatt’s, the nautolan who was carrying around the datapad, story mirrored that of Luke Skywalker during the attack on the first Death Star in A New Hope.   Luke shuts down his targeting computer and uses the Force to guide his proton torpedo into the Death Star’s exhaust port.  Luke used the technology of his ship to blow up the Death Star, but when it came down to it he trusted the Force, rather than his computer to make his shot.  In Zatt’s case, only when he gives up on his datapad and let’s himself go is he able to see his crystal.  He then uses what’s left of his datapad to blow up the ice wall that separated him and his crystal.

Before wrapping up this review, I wanted to touch on a few minor aspects of this episode that contributed to its success, the first being Yoda.  Yoda was very reminiscent of his The Empire Strikes Back self, serious and mystical, but with a sense of humour, which shown through at the end.  Next, was the appearance of symbols we saw on Mortis appearing on Ilum.  This speaks to the importance Ilum to the Jedi order and adds to the mystery of Mortis.

Overall, I feel this episode was a stand out from the series.  While it was clearly geared towards a younger audience then Clone Wars usually is, the exploration of lightsaber building and the presence of the force itself were enough to engage older Star Wars fans as well.  The characters in the episode were memorable and I look forward to seeing more of them this arc, and then hopefully (if the rumors about this arc being a back door pilot to “Young Jedi” series are true) in their own series.  9/10.


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