“The longer we stay here, the stranger it gets,” says Ahsoka Tano in last week’s episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, ‘Overlords’. I think this applies to us as viewers as well as the show tackles one of the most important notions of Star Wars and takes it in a new direction, as well as bringing back some prequel characters (and their actors). And helping to show Anakin Skywalker’s slow slide toward the dark side, he confronts past guilt but in the end, chooses the path of selfishness.
What went right? Holy cow. While The Clone Wars has produced many fine episodes that continued to tell the continuing adventures of Anakin and Obi-wan and others, this one kicked it up a notch by adding to the mythology of Star Wars itself – what does the prophecy of the Chosen One bringing balance to the Force mean? The Overlords apparently believe that it applies directly to them – that balance in the Force is kept by the Chosen One through controlling the two aspects on the planet Mortis inside the Giant Space D8. (gets +2 against other Pythagorean solids and +4 against the Death Star). Is this what the Chosen One is supposed to do? Is Anakin not the Chosen One because he chooses not to take the job? Do the Jedi believe that this is what the prophecy meant? This poodoo just got serious.
My view is that the Overlords, while not getting it right, are at least a little bit closer on the path than the Jedi are about the role of the Chosen One. Father sees a need to keep light and dark, destruction and creation, in balance with each other, while the Jedi in the prequels seem to think that balance will be struck by defeating the growing menace of the Sith. My view of balance is the creating a clean slate, which in the end, is achieved by Anakin: eradicating the Jedi and their Order, then eradicating the Sith, and only leaving behind a Jedi son with little concept of the way things used to be. That’s my theory, so feel free to chime in with your own views.
Back to the visions. Anakin’s mother, Shmi was clearly established as being Son in disguise, but what about Qui-Gon Jinn and future Ahsoka? Was Qui-Gon really the ghost of Obi-wan’s old master manifested through the greater Force potentials of the Gigaoctahedron, or was he just a pulled from the unconscious mind of Obi-wan? It seems Obi-wan knew he was dealing with some sort of vision – not fully trusting it at first. If it was really Qui-Gon’s ghost, Obi-wan shouldn’t be too surprised when Yoda mentions talking to him at the end of Episode III. Future Ahsoka – she seemed more corporeal than Ol’ Glowy, but has she sprung from the mind of her current self, or is she a manifestation of Daughter or Son to help push the characters as pawns in their overlord games. My view is that both cave visions are unconscious expressions of the dreamer. While both expressed some new truths, I don’t think they revealed anything that the dreamers didn’t already know at some level. Ahsoka has chosen fierce loyalty to Anakin and possibly has seen his dark side but ignored it as something that she as a rebellious youth fancies and now her unconscious is letting her know that maybe it’s time to not ignore it anymore before he leads you astray. The Qui-Gon apparition serves a check to Obi-wan living up to the standards as the teacher of the Chosen One, and as being as good a teacher as Qui-Gon once was.
Ahsoka’s character is put in front of a mirror here, and we see the conflict within her. When she was first paired with Anakin, it was in an attempt to perhaps tame Anakin’s wild recklessness by making him responsible for someone as equally rebellious. But it hasn’t worked out quite right, and Ahsoka recognizes the contradictions – she’s fiercely loyal and trusting to her master, but at the same time constantly warning him not to trust others. And yet some part of her knows that Anakin is leading her off the regular Jedi path and that her wildness may become her undoing. Last summer, Ashley Eckstein hinted at some big changes in store for Ahsoka’s character, and now we are seeing her grow again. First it was seeing the shades of gray in the war on her trip to Padme’s opposite among the Separatists, and now realizing that her mentor is not the ideal that she aspires to grow up to be. And with the teasers for this week, it looks like she’s going to be headed for even more shocks.
Finally, in the homage department, the entire scene of the three Jedi in the cockpit of the shuttle as they lose contact with Rex, lose power, and get pulled into the D8 of Doom, reminded me so much of Luke and Han and Obi-wan in the Falcon cockpit as they escape from Tatooine and get pulled into the Death Star. I almost expected Anakin to slap away Ahsoka’s pointed finger, or hear a “What’s that flashing?” reference. Reminiscent without directly copying the scene. Well done.
Overlord overload? While the story brought us some more pieces of the puzzle to play with, in terms of the larger Star Wars mythology, a few things bugged me:
- Makeup – in the scenes aboard the shuttle, Obi-wan’s cheeks appear a little ruddy. Is he wearing some kind of makeup? Some sort of Moulin Rouge?
- The rockslide: Would Jedi, with the Force and lightsabers, really be separated by a large boulder in their path? Storywise it’s important to isolate Anakin, but they could have come up with a better reason for why they couldn’t just levitate or carve their way through. And speaking of rocks, during one shot, the camera pans around some of the levitating crags and we hear a “heavy rock sliding” sound – do rocks make sounds as they float in place? While going for cool, it didn’t make any sense to have the boulders rumbling in air.
- The Overlords. I loved Father’s appearance – his style reminded me so much of the Sith Lords seen in their semi-Egyptian hieroglyphics in the Golden Age of the Sith comics. But Daughter – her human appearance screamed that she just fell out of a Japanese RPG video game cutscene, complete with that slight glowingness. Luckily we didn’t have to spend too much time staring at her bobbing giant green hairdo. Son – definitely fitting into some of those standard Sith destroyer type looks – I think he could have been more original. Their names kinda bugged me – while their main dynamic is as polar opposites caught in a cycle with each other (light/creator, dark/destroyer), their names don’t correspond to this dynamic, but to their relationship to their progenitor. Although as Sister and Brother, they’d be about as menacing as the Berenstein Bears.
- Mortis – at first glance with floating rocks and lots of green ledges, it felt a little too much like a sunny video game world. I was waiting for someone to jump up and break rocks with their head to find a hidden mushroom. Fortunately, by nightfall and the storm and the cool glowing tree trunks, it moved away from that and got better. And having day turn to night through Anakin’s actions as he faced Apollo and Artemis really showed Anakin’s nature as well as his tapping into the planet’s Force energy.
- Guilt – The theme of this episode revolves around Anakin releasing his guilt in order to achieve balance. In the arena test, father instructs the Chosen One to release his guilt to save one of his companions. What does that really mean? The real letting go of his guilt happened the night before, when he testified to his mother’s image about how he felt. His guilt was over the fact that he couldn’t save his mother, so perhaps this letting go of this failure was key to being able to save both Obi-wan and Ahsoka. But they could have made this clearer rather than him just using Mortis’ own Force to augment his power to bring the Overlord children to submit. In the end, the guilt might be released, but balance is not restored. Anakin is given a choice that will lead to more guilt: either abandon the galaxy and his wife to be the Chosen One of Mortis, or be forever haunted because he did not contain such a dangerous situation from potentially wrecking the galaxy.
Overall: All hail the Overlords! On its own, ‘Overlords’ has taken The Clone Wars to a trippy place – we’re no longer just dealing with a galaxy-wide war between the Republic and the Separatists, but, in a vein closer to some episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series, we run into nearly omnipotent beings, who toy with the mortals, but also need the one who may be their own salvation. With Daughter as the force of creation and life (green symbolism) and Son as decay and destruction (and maybe a future home on one of Gotham’s buildings), what does that make Father? and is there a Mother in this picture? The overlords all seem to speak in two voices – and we do have another character this season who does that: Mother Talzin. Hmmm. Or is this more of a single dad thing? With trying to keep his kids from destroying the fabric of the cosmos, I bet he’s too busy to date.
We also got some tremendously big returns in the voice talent department – two alums from The Force Unleashed, Sam Witwer (“Starkiller”) and Adrienne Wilkinson (“Maris Brood”) are back to duel as Son and Daughter. And of course, the return of Liam Neeson as Qui-Gon Jinn and Pernilla August as Shmi Skywalker. So cool that they could bring in the film actors to continue those roles, and a testament to the show’s status as part of the entire Star Wars saga. At first I was a little disappointed in Shmi’s animation – she seemed less old and wrinkly than when we last saw her, but then I felt that Anakin’s mental image of her would have been when he was still a lad in Mos Espa, and so her appearance fits.
In the end, ‘Overlords’ just broke so much ground in terms of going to play with the mythology, that I bet that this story and probably the rest of the arc will lead to more discussions and debates than any other storyline so far with the show. Anakin should be haunted by his actions here – it’s more proof that he is not the selfless Jedi he thinks he ought to be. While he is powerful enough to save his friends, he is not strong enough to give up his life to save the galaxy. Is his love for Padme the sole reason he turns down the job, or is it that the job frankly sucks compared to what he has – power, fame, friends, love, a fast starship, and plenty of chances to be the hero and kick butt. Of course everything I’ve poked and prodded at in this episode could turn out entirely different, based on the continuing story arc on Mortis – we got two more episodes to go! Artoo, we’re not on Dantooine anymore!
Final Grade: A-
Editor’s Note: Because the review was longer than normal, James’ usual summary of the episode was cut out to leave room for commentary. If you’re interested in James’ recap of the episode, please let us know and we may put it into another post.