Katee Sackhoff and Jon Favreau voice Mandalorian warriors who threaten to break up our lovestruck Ahsoka and Lux.

By Christian Blauvelt
January 14, 2012 at 02:45 AM EST
Lucasfilm
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Geek worlds collide!

That’s because both Jon Favreau and Katee Sackhoff lent their voices to tonight’s episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, “A Friend in Need.” Who knows? Maybe that swirling wormhole Starbuck entered on Battlestar Galactica led her to that Galaxy Far, Far Away, where she donned a suit of Mandalorian armor and became a Death Watch terrorist. Hey, stranger things have happened. A nice Jewish girl from Syosset found herself the inexplicable 14-year-old ruler of Naboo.

As far as Favreau is concerned, “A Friend in Need” proved once again that he needs to spend more time as a cable voice actor and spend less time directing movies like Cowboys & Aliens.

Not only did we have some sci-fi gods on hand in “A Friend in Need” we also had the return of one Lux Bonteri, the puckish rascal—and now apparently “Senator”—who bonded with Ahsoka last season on Raxus Prime, even though he’s a Separatist. Oh, and once again, some of the finest 3D computer animation this side of Pixar.

Holonet News Flash! After a couple years of war, peace talks finally began between the Galactic Republic and the Separatist Alliance. The venue for this interstellar tête-à-tête? Mandalore, whose increasingly marginalized—and mute—Duchess Satine heads the Council of Neutral Systems. Up till this episode, fans thought that the only time peace talks ever took place was on Vjun, six months before the end of the war, when Count Dooku contacted Yoda to say he was tired of fighting, as recounted in the novel Star Wars: Dark Rendezvous. At the time, Dooku seemed sincere about leaving the Sith, but he hightailed it off-planet as soon as Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi showed up, fearing (wrongly) that Yoda had sprung a trap.

These negotiations on Mandalore were decidedly less Force powered, with Ahsoka being the only Jedi in the room, even if the negotiators were equally prickly. I really love that one lispy Separatist with the pixie hair, green skin and purple eyes. Still, if there’s a simmering pot in the Star Wars galaxy, you can rest assured it will be stirred. And, lo, into Satine’s audience chamber burst one Lux Bonteri, piping mad and flinging accusations against Count Dooku. As we saw at the end of the episode “Pursuit of Peace,” Chancellor Palpatine had his minions assassinate the peace-minded Mena Bonteri so no one else in the Republic would find out that there are Separatists who are, you know, less crazy than General Grievous, Asajj Ventress, Riff Tamson, Lok Durd, Wat Tambor, Nute Gunray, et al. But somehow Mena’s orphaned son, Lux, found out that Dooku was behind her death and chose to expose the Separatists at the peace talks—an awkward moment, yes, but at least it spared Padmé from having to answer whether the Republic would ever agree to recognize the legitimacy of the Separatist state.

NEXT: Ahsoka rescues her dude-in-distress. Is this Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Jedi?

Gulag justice seems to be the Seppies’ prescription for dealing with “internal matters” like an accusation-flinging young Senator, so two battle-droids hauled off Lux to their nearby ship and deposited him at the holographic feet of Count Dooku. “I have done a lot of things, young man, and choose to remember them in order of importance,” Dooku responded to Lux’s charge. “The death of your mother seems to have escaped me.” Before you could wag a finger and say, “Oh no, he didn’t just go there,” Dooku decided to end the charade. “I think it’s time we reacquaint the young Senator with his mother,” he said as his clanker acolytes reached in for the kill. Seriously, I think those droids were just going to kill him with their bare hands. Because they can!

But before they could end his outraged little self, in charged his girl Friday, Ahsoka, to save the day. With the droids in pursuit she and her dude-in-distress fled to her consular ship and set sail for Coruscant, sort of a like a Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy-style defection. In fact, exactly like a Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy-style defection because it too ended in betrayal, with Lux pulling a pocket blaster on Ahsoka. He had no intention of returning to Coruscant, even if amnesty awaited him. Instead, he had made contact with a “noble group” that shared his desire of killing Dooku. And if Ahsoka wouldn’t take him to his rendezvous with his new allies on Karlakk, he’d just Taze her instead. Seriously, that was basically just a Taser he used to subdue her, wasn’t it? By the way….does Padmé have a way off-planet now that Lux and Ahsoka have her ship? Or is she just going to be stuck on Mandalore with the Separatists and their trigger-happy battle droids?

NEXT: Don’t Taze me, Lux!

When Ahsoka shook off her Taze-induced slumber, she found herself on a calm, wintry planet where the cherry blossoms were in full bloom. It seemed like a well-manicured garden in Hokkaido. But before Ahsoka could fully appreciate the foliage—or confront Lux about that little matter of assault—a squad of Mandalorians jet-packed around them. And not just a squad of any Mandalorians, but the Death Watch, that splinter group that in the early days of the Clone Wars renounced the pacifist government of Duchess Satine and vowed for their people to return to their warrior ways of old.

For millennia the very name “Mandalorian” struck fear in the hearts of the Republic’s cowering citizens. Their civilization was organized as a collection of bloodthirsty clans that valued conquest and military prowess above everything else. Think of them like the Houses of Westeros in Game of Thrones crossed with the Klingon Empire. The Mandalorian clans were always mobile, pitching their tents on remote worlds and putting whatever resources they acquired into the maintenance of their fearsome Basilisk war droids, and the one thing they prided above all else—including their clan structure—was their leader, known as Mandalore, whose symbol of authority was his (or her) legendary mask. (Actually, the snow-covered wastes of Karlakk reminded me of the planet Rekkiad in the recent Star Wars novel The Old Republic: Revan, where the titular Jedi hid Mandalore’s Mask, thus preventing anyone from leading the Mandalorian people.) Over the millennia the Mandalorians fell into decline, as internal fighting between the clans devastated their homeworld and left them leaderless.

Eventually a new pacifist movement took root—kind of like how a thousand years after the Vikings’ plundered Europe, Norway and Denmark are now model social welfare states and bastions of progressivism—and their old warrior ideals fell into the dustbin of galactic history. Except for the Death Watch, that is, the breakaway movement that rejected the reforms sweeping through Mandalorian society.

 NEXT: Um, why exactly would you trust any organization with the name “Death Watch”?

Ahsoka understood right away what she and Lux were dealing with, even if her boyfriend was clueless. Immediately she told Katee Sackhoff’s Death Watcher, Bo-Katan, that she was Lux’s betrothed. When Bo-Katan snarked, “Little skinny, isn’t she?” I love that Lux responded with the borderline kinky “She serves her purpose.” The Death Watchers brought our duo back to their camp, which looked exactly like a Mandalorian crusader camp of old, with nothing but flimsy little tents to protect them from the bitter cold. But they’ve got their malice to keep them warm! And pints and pints of synthahol. Not to mention the warm glow of their blasters as they shoot at the feet of battle droids to make them dance, like villains straight out of Gunsmoke. (I guess it was too cold for a Kowakian monkey-lizard fight.)

R2 was immediately put to work reassembling the battle droids that the Mandalorians had destroyed during their “target practice.” The broken ‘bots swarmed around him like Sid’s abused playthings in Toy Story, hoping that their savior had at last come. R2 seemed a little intimidated, but he quickly realized that he could have his own army if he won their trust.

Ahsoka, meanwhile, was put to work serving food alongside the wide-eyed, soft-spoken children the Death Watchers had kidnapped from a nearby village. Notice that, like Jedi Master Luminara Unduli and her Padawan Barriss Offee, these villagers were Mirialan: elegant and lithe, with tattoos covering portions of their faces.

Lux, still not realizing that anything was wrong here, gave the Death Watch leader a device that traced Dooku’s earlier holocomm transmission to its source. That meant that if they moved quickly enough the group would be able to launch an attack on the Sith Lord. The only problem? The Death Watch leader in question was none other than Pre Vizsla (voiced by Jon Favreau), Concordia’s disgraced governor, who had previously aligned himself with the Count. Apparently, their little arrangement must have fallen apart because Vizsla now seemed hellbent on killing Dooku. His face even bore a scar from their last meeting.

Gung ho as he may have been to avenge his good looks, though, Viszla seemed more concerned with tormenting his Mirialan prisoners. When the local chieftain demanded their release, he seemed gracious and said he’d release his prisoners the next day at dawn. So, come sunup, Vizsla and his squad pulled in to the local village and did just that. But the moment the chieftain’s daughter entered his embrace…slice!…Vizsla ran her through on the blade of his darksaber, the same sinister weapon he used against Obi-Wan on Concordia back in season 2, which he claimed his ancestors had stolen from the Jedi Temple during the fall of the Old Republic. His armored goons immediately whipped out their flamethrowers and torched every last house in the village, smoke and snow mixing in the frigid winter air.

NEXT: Is Ahsoka going to suffer the same fate as Ned Stark?

Just like in “Trespass” all the way back in season 1, the weather conditions seemed to reflect the tone of the action. But where a blizzard turned to gentle snowfall in “Trespass” at the moment Senator Chuchi reached a peace accord with the Talz, here a veritable ice storm seemed to erupt the moment the chieftain’s daughter expired. Ahsoka, up till now playing the part of the dutiful captive, sprung into action, picking up a javelin and throwing it at one of the flamethrower-wielding Death Watchers. But without a lightsaber she was quickly subdued by the Mandalorians’ fibercord whips, just like the kind Boba Fett used on Luke Skywalker on Jabba’s sail barge.

This didn’t look good for Lux. He brought a Jedi back to the Death Watch camp? To the Death Watch, the Jedi were no better than Dooku. Going all the way back to Revan, they had done nothing but scatter and tame the Mandalorian people. So Pre Vizsla raised his darksaber over his head, preparing for the killing stroke that would end Ahsoka once and for all. For a moment, we were left thinking that maybe The Clone Wars would pull a Game of Thrones on us and kill off one of its most pivotal characters. After all, we had just seen, um, a child impaled on a lightsaber. (Again, this is a Cartoon Network show?) But no. R2 popped in with his newly-repaired droid allies to do his whole smoke-and-mirrors distract-the-bad-guy routine and handed Ahsoka her lightsabers, which she used to one-up the brave little tailor and behead six Mandalorians in one blow. Seeing the evolution of Ahsoka’s fighting skills on this show has really been a pleasure. She’s truly now a master of Jar’Kai and finished off Vizsla with even less effort than Obi-Wan deployed when he fought the baddie in season two. I love how she sliced open his jet pack, to turn his own weapon into a ticking time bomb.

Ahsoka and Lux made it back to the ship, but Lux still didn’t feel like he could go with Ahsoka to the Republic. So he boarded an escape pod, and, bidding farewell to her with their respective hands pressed against the plate glass separating them, he launched himself into space. I mean, that escape pod doesn’t have a hyperdrive, so I fear that he might just end up right back on Karlakk with the Death Watch. But it was a poignant moment, nonetheless, with shades of Kirk and Spock in Star Trek II and Desmond and Charlie on Lost, and I think it may prefigure what I’ve been thinking for a while could be the ultimate fate of Anakin’s Padawan.

NEXT: A theory about Ahsoka’s ultimate fate. Will she leave the war for the Lux Life?

For so long, Star Wars fans have theorized that she must be killed off before the events of Revenge of the Sith—hence, her absence from that film. But if I had to bet my money, I’d say she isn’t killed, but rather chooses to leave the war, and the Jedi Order, behind. At some point, she’s going to come to understand the utter futility of the Clone War, that it’s merely a tautological cycle of violence begetting violence, with nothing progressive getting accomplished at all, and that the Jedi, by continuing to fight in it, will doom themselves, their numbers continuing to thin until that pivotal moment when they can be mopped up by their very own troops. I suspect she’ll learn what Luke finally understood at the end of Return of the Jedi: that the only way to fight the Dark Side is…to not fight at all. To lay down your lightsaber. Because the best blade is the one that’s never drawn.

That wistful expression that came upon Ahsoka’s face, as she stared off at Lux’s receding escape pod, spoke volumes. She’s beginning to replace the idea of a life of challenge and duty with that of a life of love and contentment. I think somewhere in her Togruta brain, the war just became a little less important for her.

Anyway, I thought “A Friend in Need” was a big winner. Easily better than all three episodes of the Zygerria arc combined. And next week might as well be called The Man Who Shot Obi-Wan Kenobi, because, like the great John Ford Western, it’s about a man who’s credited with taking down one of the most formidable opponents around. Except Obi-Wan isn’t played by Lee Marvin and isn’t psychotic. If Star Wars didn’t already have “A Long Time Ago in a Galaxy Far, Far Away…” and “May the Force Be With You” as its mantras, it could easily be “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend,” so it seems like a plot that will fit well.

What did you guys think of “A Friend in Need”? Were you hoping for more Katee Sackhoff than that little cameo? When do you think we’ll next see Pre Vizsla? Or for that matter, Lux? And, do you think my theory’s right regarding Ahsoka’s departure from the war? Or are you hoping for Asajj Ventress to plunge one crimson blade right into her Togruta heart?

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…
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