This is the one fans have been waiting for. Although last week’s “Nightsisters” kicked off the second half of season three in high-style, it was tonight’s installment, “Monster,” that delivered upon Lucasfilm’s promise from months ago. Since the summer, the House that George Built has been touting Savage Opress, the fearsome warrior (and kinsman of Darth Maul), voiced by Clancy Brown of Highlander, The Shawshank Redemption and Lost fame, to be the new scourge of the Jedi. Tonight we finally got to meet him.
And what a daringly complex new foe he turned out to be! Clancy Brown told me that he carefully avoided making Savage a villain or a hero right off the bat. A smart move because, despite being a franchise that relies heavily on Manichaean notions of good and evil, light and dark, its most compelling characters have been tinged with shades of gray: Han Solo, who would “shoot first” and kill an opponent without giving him a chance to fight back; Lando Calrissian, who would betray a friend to secure his position, even if his conscience later got the better of him; Boba Fett, a freelance servant of some of the galaxy’s most notorious scum and villainy, who acts not out of revenge or hatred, but as a professional. Savage Opress may not be as great a character as these, but he shares their occupancy of Star Wars’ precious—and endlessly entertaining—gray area.
The lesson of “Monster” is that “Evil isn’t born, it’s taught.” And with Savage that seems to be the case. He’s subjected to a systematic process of dehumanization that, in fact, turns him into a monster. The Jedi believe that attachments leave them vulnerable, that their emotions can then be more easily exploited. Perhaps this was true with Savage.
When Count Dooku solicited Mother Talzin’s aide in selecting a new, male assassin to replace Ventress, it, of course, turned out to be Ventress herself who would procure the male in question. She traveled to the far side of Dathomir and put several of her y-chromosome-possessing kinfolk—let’s call them Nightbrothers!— through three trials. The first was straight-up combat against herself in broad daylight. Most were eliminated here. You have to applaud Cartoon Network for airing an episode with as high a level of violence as “Monster.” There’s a moment, here, during the first trial, when Ventress grabs out of the air a spear that one of the males has thrown and promptly hurls it back at her assailant, running him through. Considering how, in the ’90s, Bruce Timm couldn’t ever get away with showing any on-screen deaths in Batman: The Animated Series, it’s amazing to see how sensibilities have evolved.
NEXT: Asajj Ventress pits Dathomir’s men against each other in the arena. Wait, is this Star Trek?