Star Wars: The Clone Wars recap: Liam Neeson Strikes Back
Remember how “Secrets Revealed” was the promotional subtitle for this season of The Clone Wars? Well, we’ve had a few secrets served up here and there, but, let’s face it, in magnitude they’ve been more along the lines of “Anakin built C-3PO!” than “I am your father.” But no matter. We learned that Darth Maul may still be alive, how Ventress may have left the Clone Wars for good, and, above all, that femme fatale Sy Snootles has Ziro the Hutt’s blood on her hands. “Overlords,” though was such a treasure-trove of geeky revelations, that I was half tempted to shout “This is wizard!” Ani-style, before thankfully restraining myself. (Better yet, “Yippee!”)
“Overlords” began with Tom Kane’s B-movie narration telling us that the Republic had received a mysterious message based around a Jedi distress code not used for 2000 years. Ah. Already my mind was a
Grand Prix, er, podrace of thoughts racing. 2000 years earlier? Hmm. That’s about the time of the Fourth Great Schism, when the Jedi Knight Phanius fell to the Dark Side, becoming Darth Ruin. He took 50 fallen Jedi with him to found the New Sith Empire, a period in Star Wars lore that’s been largely unexplored. Could “Overlords” finally open up that era’s mythology? Well, ultimately, it didn’t. But it did reveal more about exactly what Anakin’s role as “The Chosen One” really means.
Anakin, Obi-Wan, and Ahsoka followed up the distress call to the farthest reaches of the Outer Rim, where they expected to meet up with Rex. But no Rex was on hand! Instead, they found themselves pulled in (via tractor beam?) to a diamond-shaped space station floating dead ahead. Before Obi-Wan could say, “That’s no moon…it’s an octahedron-shaped portal to another dimension,” they were already inside its blazing white interior. I’ve got to say, with this opening, The Clone Wars captured the thrill of the unknown, a sense of wonder that we’ve been craving from Star Wars for some time. When the Jedi were pulled in to this portal, it honestly reminded me of the sheer exhilaration I (and just about everyone) experienced as a kid when the Millennium Falcon first made the jump to lightspeed. Throughout this whole episode, there was an electrifying sense of discovery, of going where no Jedi had gone before.
Okay, I’m getting my franchises confused. When they woke up from their white-light induced stupor, Anakin, Obi-Wan, and Ahsoka tried to get their bearings. They hadn’t landed on a planet per se, but “some kind of organic mass bigger than an asteroid.” Again, my mind was racing: could it be a Yuuzhan Vong ship? A living planet like Zonama Sekot? Hethrir’s worldship? When they stepped outside, the “planet” seemed like a cross between H.G. Wells’ Earth in the year 802,701 A.D. and one of Roger Dean’s album covers for Yes, down to even floating mountains hovering above lush forests. (What’s up with the revival of Yes, by the way? First, Avatar. Now, this?)
NEXT: The Daughter…Well, she’s a punk, punk. Punk rocker. Punk, punk. Punk rocker!As soon as they had stepped outside, the Daughter appeared, an ethereal figure in translucent white, possessing a shock of seafoam green hair. Honestly, I’m surprised Anakin didn’t immediately ask, “Are you an angel?” The Daughter, we would learn, is part of an incredibly powerful family of Force users, headed by a Father who keeps balance between a brother and sister who respectively represent the Dark Side and the Light. (Take that, punk rockers of the ‘80s. When you sported green hair, you were really representing the Light Side!)
The Daughter asked Anakin if he’s the Chosen One then agreed to take all three to her paterfamilias. Like many demigod types, she spoke in infuriating riddles. When asked about who they are, she said, “We are the middle, the beginning, and the end.” I’d be wary of any woman who’d say that since that sounds a lot like what Alice Krige’s Borg Queen purred to Data in Star Trek: First Contact while blowing on his newly-grafted skin. But anyhoo. Anakin was separated from Obi-Wan and Ahsoka, of course, leaving him to seek out the Father by himself, who he found living in a monastery, all cobalt-blue and black like the cyberscapes of TRON. The Father would save his big revelations for later, first offering Anakin a place to sleep for the night.
Meanwhile, the Son made his grand debut for Obi-Wan and Ahsoka. With his bald, tattooed head, glowing crimson eyes, and menacing black armor, the Son looked every bit a Sith Lord. (Fans of 2003’s Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic video game, like myself, might even have thought it was Darth Malak at first.) The Son also spoke in riddles, each syllable containing a barely concealed rage that voice actor Sam Witwer (Starkiller from The Force Unleashed video games) conveyed perfectly. Ahsoka drew her verdant blade upon seeing him. (Notice how the animators cast a pale green glow across her face, as if from the lightsaber.) But the Son extinguished her saber with a flick of his hand, prompting a glorious outburst of righteous indignation from Obi-Wan: “You…are Sith!” The Son merely chuckled, “Yes…and no,” then warned them to seek shelter for the night.
NEXT: Qui-Gon Jinn returns? You can’t keep a dead Jedi down.
Obi-Wan found no rest, however, because as soon as he shut those baby blues, who appeared but his old master, Qui-Gon Jinn! And voiced by Liam Neeson, no less! Qui-Gon asked Obi-Wan if he’d done as he’d asked, if he had trained Anakin. Obi-Wan replied that he had, but he wasn’t certain if he’d been able to give Anakin the kind of training he really needed. Qui-Gon told him that this planet is both “an amplifier and a magnet,” that it’s a conduit of energy, perhaps linking the known universe to the Netherworld of the Force. He also warned that the three who live here believe Anakin to be the Chosen One, and that here he will found out for himself who he really is.
Then, to Anakin, resting off in the Father’s monestary, Shmi appeared. You remember Shmi Skywalker? Anakin’s beloved mother, who he had to leave in slavery in order to join the Jedi? Who then died in the clutches of the Sand People? Anyway, Anakin jumped back in horror from this spectral mater. “What kind of black arts is this?” he asked. Kudos to Lucasfilm for not only getting Liam Neeson and Sam Witwer to lend their voices to “Overlords,” but also Pernilla August, the Ingmar Bergman veteran who played Shmi in The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. This time, his mother told him that Padmé would not be his destiny, definitely not what Anakin wanted to hear. But then, “Shmi” was revealed to be a cackling avatar of the Son. I guess “Qui-Gon” was an impostor, as well.
That left Ahsoka as the last one to receive a visitation. In her case, it turned out to be a future version…of her! Her future self warned her about how Anakin has planted seeds of the Dark Side within her, concluding, “You may never see your future if you remain his student.” Foreshadowing of Ahsoka’s ultimate fate? Perhaps.
Anakin confronted the Father about the vision he had just received, going so far as to call him a Sith Lord. “You have a very simple view of the universe,” the Father scolded. He went on to explain that this planet, Mortis, is a conduit for the Force. He and his children could wield the Force like no other, so they withdrew from the “temporal world” and settled on Mortis as “anchorites.”
NEXT: So Star Wars influenced Lost, and now Lost influences Star Wars. How Mortis is the Island.
Remember how Doc Jensen used to theorize that the Island on Lost was a metaphorical battleground for all the conflicts that would occur out in, you know, the real world? In essence, I think that describes Mortis. That it’s a metaphorical realm where light and dark are eternally fighting for dominance but which also has a symbolic connection to the rest of the universe at large. If the Dark Side were to triumph on Mortis, then it would flourish everywhere else too. But the fact is that both light and dark are necessary for life to flourish. Life unchecked becomes a cancer, after all.
So the Father’s role has been to keep his Son and Daughter, Dark and Light, in balance, never letting one get the advantage over the other. To extend the Lost metaphor, think of the Daughter as Jacob and the Son as the Smoke Monster, who could also take on the form of dead loved ones! And clearly the Father is Allison Janney’s primordial Mom.
In order to find out if Anakin is the Chosen One, the Father decided to put him through one final test. The Daughter, in hippogriff form, and the Son, in, I don’t know, hell-bat form, kidnapped Obi-Wan and Ahsoka, and Anakin was forced to choose who he would save. Instead, he drew upon the Force and, with the stars whirling overhead in a brilliant light-show, subdued both siblings. Since Anakin could maintain the precarious balance between light and dark in his trial, he proved that he is in fact the Chosen One. Now he just has to bring balance to the rest of the Universe, which we know he’ll only do when he throws the Emperor down the Death Star II’s reactor shaft.
Presumably Anakin could have avoided his fate as Darth Vader entirely, if he had agreed right then and there to replace the Father. But no, he couldn’t agree to withdraw from the galaxy, so he refused, prompting the father to say, “Your selfishness will haunt you and the galaxy.”
Wow, the galaxy far, far away could really have dodged a bullet there if Anakin had chosen to stay behind. As you can probably tell, I’ve pondered “Overlords” with the seriousness of a B’omarr monk. What did you think of this bold new direction for The Clone Wars? Did it enhance your understanding of Anakin’s role as the Chosen One? Did you also sense a connection between this episode and the mythological underpinnings of Lost? (This guy HAS to be Arzt!) And how or when can I earn the title of Doc Blauvelt?
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Before the Dark Times, before the Empire, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker fight to restore peace and justice to a galaxy far, far away…