Let’s face it – Jedi are sort of boring. When people think of iconic Star Wars figures, they think of Chewbacca, Darth Vader, Han Solo, R2-D2… almost anyone other than those stuffed-shirt lightsider types. Yes, folks love Yoda, but that’s mostly because he (a) is green, (b) talks funny, and (c) isn’t tall enough to ride on Star Tours. Yoda is popular specifically because he’s so un-Jedi-like. The Sith, however, have never been boring. They wear cool clothes, have a passion for their work, and carry a license to kill. What, I ask you, is the downside to being a Sith? Is there any?
Well, we’re about to find out. Lots of shows have done episodes from the villain’s perspective, but The Clone Wars has managed to do one (three, actually) without glamorizing the evildoers. If anything, the point of ‘Nightsisters,’as well as its follow-up installments, is to show how tough it is to be a Sith. Sure, the whole Rule of Two thing makes the job market especially competitive, but here, we also get a sense of the personal toll that the dark side takes on its users.
Central to all this is Ventress, a character who’s usually as one-note as an armless tuba player. (Got a better metaphor? I’d love to hear it.) ‘Nightsisters’ finally gives Ventress some depth, through a series of flashbacks to her tragic origins. It could have been extremely hokey, but Ventress makes for a very cute baby, and the sequence is strangely moving – despite an unnecessary reminder of a scene that happened ten minutes earlier. The other reason the backstory works is because of its odd framing device. Seeing Ventress writhe in some sort of anguish (repressed memories? physical pain? heartburn?) while surrounded by swirling bowls of Tang was gloriously, unabashedly weird. I love when this show is willing to let its freak flag fly, and this episode had strangeness to spare.
And nobody was stranger than Mother Talzin, who joins the Geonosian Queen and Mama the Hutt to complete the holy trinity of wacked out alien matriarchs. In addition to being triumphs of grotesquerie, what’s great about these characters is that they come fully-formed, with nothing to prove and nothing to apologize for. They love themselves, and I love them for it.
But the star of this show is, without a doubt, Count Dooku. I know there’s been some discussion over whether this is the Nightsisters trilogy or the Savage Opress trilogy, but for my money, this is the Count Dooku trilogy. For a character who’s mostly distant and conniving, it’s great to see him at his most vulnerable – and I don’t just mean because he’s fighting in his jammies. There’s a great moment at the beginning of the second act where Dooku contacts Darth Sidious to tell him that Ventress has been eliminated. The scene lingers on him for a bit before he makes the call, then stays on him after Sidious hangs up. (Without saying goodbye, I should note. No manners, that one.) Both times, Dooku is deep in thought, unsure of his place in the Sith Order. In this story, everyone’s a pawn, and everyone knows it.