Saturday, March 2, 2013

Clone Wars Review: "The Wrong Jedi"

By Chris Seekell

The Clone Wars may have had the wrong Jedi, but the season certainly ended with the right episode. For months, this Ahsoka arc has been talked up by various team members as the best of the series emotionally and musically, and that hype was definitely deserved. The thrilling conclusion to the fifth Clone Wars season was nothing less than artistically magnificent, emotionally gripping, and mentally intriguing.

This series has touched on heavy story-lines before. Mortis, Umbara, and the recent Mandalorian arc come to mind as the most poignant stories. The Wrong Jedi stands with them. Plotwise, one aspect of the Clone Wars series that tends to lose me frequently is suspense. Too often the show is simplistic and predictable, relying on heavy action to make things interesting. Other times, the writers try to draw emotion from characters that are new or underdeveloped, and the audience flatlines. The Onderon arc from earlier this season is an example of this. Only a few episodes to build up the rebels was not enough to capture the empathy of most viewers. For me personally, the only time my heart skipped a beat in that arc was when Ahsoka was shot. This point then brings things back to this episode.

The reason why it was so intense, was it played with the fates of multiple characters that we have seen fleshed out since the beginning of the series. Ahsoka and Ventress have both gone through a lot since they first appeared in the Clone Wars theatrical release 5 years ago, and Barriss has popped in and out several times since her Season 2 debut. The three characters whose lives were on the line, were three strong characters whose fates are uncertain. Anything could have happened in this episode, and that's the main reason why I found it so captivating.

At this point, it is fairly clear that Ventress is in the same category as Hondo Ohnaka. She's a rogue who can be both a bane and an ally to the heroes, depending on which way the winds are blowing. While the audience was given a hint that Ventress was not the one who attacked Ahsoka in the munitions warehouse last episode, it still was possible that she could have more to do with the Jedi Temple attack than she was letting on. With a desperate Anakin hunting her down, it wasn't clear that Ventress would make it out of this episode alive, and this fact kept my eyes glued to the screen during her scenes.

Barriss is an even more intriguing character. She played the secret villain throughout this arc, and I commend the Clone Wars team for taking this approach and trying so hard to keep the audience in the dark. While it became increasingly more obvious that Barriss was playing Ahsoka as the arc progressed, the lack of motive on her part still left the events and their consequences ambiguous. There was always the possibility that Barriss herself was being manipulated. But in the end, this was not the case, and I honestly was surprised that the one character who seemed impervious to corruption was the antagonist.

This then raises a very interesting question. Why did Barriss turn? Her character had been fleshed out as a very loyal and traditional Jedi. Perhaps her adherence to ancient dogma instilled by her master Luminara led her to be at odds with the modern Jedi Order, but that still does not explain the severance of loyalty and sadistic depths that Barriss sank to. In the end, she killed both fellow Jedi and innocent civilians, and framed arguably her closest friend. From a psychological standpoint, we are missing a chunk of the story here. Even through conversations between Barriss and Ahsoka in the past, it was made evident that Barriss should have been aware that Ahsoka herself had a slightly different viewpoint of the Order than most Jedi. Ahsoka should have been the last Jedi that Barriss would target if merely uneasiness with the role of the Jedi in the war was her motivation for lashing out.

The fact that Barriss attempted to match violence with more violence also suggests that traditional Jedi principles were not controlling her. She even referred to the red of her stolen sabers as a color that suited her. This reveals that a rebellious nature and the lust for power was controlling her. She seemed to sympathize with rogues like Ventress, and her observations about the moral decline of the Order, while still true in some regards, was only an excuse to exercise her twisted desires. This is not the first time that we have seen shades of the truth spoken from the mouths of villains. Both Queen Miraj and General Krell saw faults in the Jedi that only antagonistic minds could see.

But Barriss' guilt was only a minor twist in this episode, compared to how these events affected Ahsoka. For a moment at the end, it seemed like everything was back to normal. Anakin and the Jedi council apologized to Ahsoka and offered to take her back. We have seen Ahsoka stretched emotionally multiple times throughout this series, and each time she has somehow come out stronger and more dedicated to the Order and the Jedi Code. But finally in this episode, she snapped. Ahsoka had just witnessed nearly everyone that she trusted turn on her, had her eyes opened to the cruel reality that the Republic has no special favor for the Jedi, and saw her closest friend among her peers turn into a sadistic monster. Finally it began to dawn on Ahsoka that perhaps the entire system was severely unstable. I have always expected Ahsoka to part ways with the Order at some point, because many of her influences like Lux, Padme, and Anakin did or will do the same thing. But I did not expect it to be so soon. At this point, it is uncertain whether this is the final severance that is the reason why Ahsoka is not even mentioned in Episode III, or if this is just a temporary divergence from her overall path. Either way, we can expect to see some very interesting stories about Ahsoka now that she may be the first protagonist Jedi rogue in this series. She almost is the anti-Ventress.

The ripple effect of Ahsoka's decision to leave the Order is very wide. The person who it touches the most is Anakin. This can only be an additional event in the long list of reasons why Anakin loses trust for his fellow Jedi by Episode III. But conversely, it also may be a reason why they lose trust in him. While Anakin technically was right in the end by standing by Ahsoka, he diverged clearly from the consensus of the Order, and was ruled by his attachments and feelings, something discouraged strongly by his elders. This is certainly another reason why he was not trusted with the rank of Master when he joined the Council in Episode III.

Yet another interesting element in The Wrong Jedi was the role of Admiral Tarkin. His duties as military prosecutor greatly utilized his cold nature that we first saw in Episode IV. In this role, Tarkin becomes a clear antagonist for the first time in this series, and the animosity between certain factions in the Republic and the Jedi seem even more clear at this point than they were in Episode III. Seeing Padme argue with Tarkin in this episode definitely foreshadowed her daughter's relationship with the Moff. This of course begs the question, if Tarkin potentially knows there is a connection between Vader and Anakin Skywalker, is he also aware of who Princess Leia is? Perhaps that knowledge would suggest he knows even more than the Emperor. At the very least, Padme and Leia seem to have the same type of relationship with him, due to the fact that Leia was raised into the same political circle as her mother.

There are so many character points to discuss in this episode, but I finally want to move on to other elements. The animation was brilliant per usual. Anakin, Obi-Wan, and Ahsoka, specifically, all showed a great range of emotion in their facial expressions. The music in this arc definitely has been Kevin Kiner's strongest point, as predicted by team members prior to its airing. There were multiples references to both original John Williams motifs, and previous Clone Wars themes. The choice to play Ahsoka's theme over the end credits rather than the main theme was very artistic. This moment definitely lived up to Dave Filoni's hint that this season would end like no other before it.

In conclusion, this episode may not have been the most action-packed of the series —Mandalore stole the show in that regard— but from a character and plot perspective, it was on par with the best moments in five seasons and ended this one in a strong and unique fashion. Some fans were skeptical of the decision to give Anakin a Padawan in 2008, but I feel like it has more than payed off. The story of Ahsoka is one of the most emotionally enthralling tales in the entire Star Wars universe, and it may not even be half over. But one thing is for certain, it definitely has taken a very dark and intense turn, and the future will be very intriguing.

Although we don't expect the next installment to be on Cartoon Network, the crew has assured us that episodes are still being made and an announcement about their venue is forthcoming. Whatever channel ends up airing the show will have a prize on their hands, because we all will be watching.

This article is an opinion piece and represents the views of the writer, and not the entire Star Wars Underworld organization


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