In this ongoing series, Ian Blackout revisits Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series, in a (roughly) chronological order of events and grouped (roughly) into story-arcs.
Season 4, Episode 19. Written by Katie Lucas, directed by Steward Lee.
“One must let go of the past to hold on to the future.”
After defeat at the hands of her own assassin, Asajj Ventress goes into hiding with the Nightsisters of Dathomir. Count Dooku plots revenge however, dispatching General Grievous to the planet with orders to wipe out Mother Talzin’s clan…
The Clone Wars takes a dark turn now, literally as well as metaphorically, as the crimson mists of Dathomir’s perma-night kick off a quartet of gloomy resurgence. Katie Lucas is back at the writer’s desk for these episodes, demonstrating once again her innate knack for cutting to the mystical core of the Galaxy Far, Far Away.
In addition to a masterfully intense ground battle between the Nightsisters and the CIS droid army, Talzin seeks the help of Old Daka – the true matriarch of the clan – to even the numbers. The elder then raises an army of the dead, the actual reanimated corpses of fallen Nightsisters cocooned in waiting for just such an occasion.
And if this wasn’t creepy enough, Talzin then counterstrikes by retrieving a previously acquired lock of Dooku’s hair and using it to fashion a wax effigy of the Sith Lord. Voodoo in Star Wars is one thing, but to use it so overtly in a show which aired on Cartoon Network is another entirely.
But the only head-scratch moment turns out to be Grievous being baited into a lightsaber duel by Ventress – an obvious play to his vanity which could have been avoided if the General had just bombarded the planet (which has no technological defence system, remember) from orbit…
Season 4, Episode 20. Written by Katie Lucas, directed by Kyle Dunlevy.
“Who we are never changes, who we think we are does.”
Forced into exile once again, Asajj Ventress flees to the Outer Rim, seeking a life which will make use of her skills while hopefully keeping off the radar of Force-sensitive enemies. The life of a mercenary beckons, as do the twin suns of Tatooine…
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Some solid character development for Ventress here as she teams up with a gang of bounty hunters – among them Boba Fett, Bossk and Dengar. The latter is voiced by none other than Simon Pegg (his first official venture into the GFFA), taking a character who was famously wordless in his iconic Empire Strikes Back appearance, and bringing a cockney-tinged air of lechery which wouldn’t sound out of place in On The Buses.
The collective’s job, when it arrives, entails protecting cargo in a scuffle between rival warlords, with face-masked athletic warriors and smoke-bombs thrown into the mix. There’s a definite air of feudal Japan here and while this gives rise to some fantastic combat, the whole thing feels more like a mission from a video game than a standalone story.
But at the end of the episode, Ventress has come to a decision. She’s not necessarily a reformed character, but she’s definitely a more open-minded one…
Season 4, Episode 21. Written by Katie Lucas, directed by Bosco Ng.
“A fallen enemy may rise again, but the reconciled one is truly vanquished.”
Savage Opress scours the galaxy in search of his brother, growing stronger by the day. With the Nightsisters no longer able to control Savage’s power, Count Dooku realises he must be destroyed before succeeding in his quest…
The red title-ident which opens the show indicates that this will be an episode of some note, and they don’t come much bigger than a previously bisected Sith Lord. Yes, ‘Brothers’ sees the return of Darth Maul, having found his way from a reactor shaft on Naboo to the bowels of backwater junk planet Lotho Minor.
Surviving on Dark Side energy and whatever creatures can be lured to the subterranean lair by his snake-like familiar, Maul has fashioned himself a quivering arachnid lower body that embodies his mental state.
Which is to say that he’s gone completely insane (understandable), furious with both Obi-Wan Kenobi for taking his legs, and Darth Sidious for abandoning him to his fate. Yes, Spider-Maul is glorious – pathetic one moment, fearsome the next, and brought to life with delicate power by voice-artist Sam Witwer.
The scriptually-challenged Opress leaves more to be desired, however, managing to grunt the word “brother” 13 times (27 if you include the echo) in a 22-minute story. But that’s okay, Maul is here to both save the day and steal the show…
Season 4, Episode 22. Written by Katie Lucas, directed by Brian Kalin O’Connell.
“The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”
Unaware of the slaughter on Dathomir, Savage Opress takes Maul to undergo the ministrations of Mother Talzin. Meanwhile the Jedi Council have sensed the reawakening, and Obi-Wan Kenobi decides to investigate and end things once and for all – against everyone’s better judgement…
And so everything comes to a head. Materialising through Nightsister magic, Talzin uses her power to restore (or at least sharpen) Maul’s sanity and fashion him new legs from the battlefield wreckage. While this takes him back down to a single pair, they have the joint-mechanisms of a horse or dog (or perhaps more properly, a goat), lending Maul a mythical appearance.
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With a bounty now placed on the head of Opress, Asajj Ventress re-joins the fray – also openly playing her hand in taking on an opponent she’s previously failed to best. This results in a four-way lightsaber battle aboard a junk cruiser with Ventress and Kenobi finally joining forces, more by default than redemptive understanding.
Of course, Maul’s mind may be focused but so is his desire for revenge, and he drags out the moment of Kenobi’s demise in the manner of a Bond-villain. But the climactic melee is an outstanding combination of choreography, cinematography and editing. It’s a no-score-draw of course, but that’s forgivable with characters this iconic.
We close with Maul and Opress on the loose in a galaxy distracted by war, aligned only to themselves. Season four may be over but this story isn’t.
Join us next time as we plunge back into the war and watch the seeds of rebellion being sown…