The Clone Wars review: ‘Ghosts of Mortis’

Two weeks ago, Star Wars: The Clone Wars wrapped up the three part story arc involving the Father, Son and Qui-Gon’s Ghost. Do good things come in threes? We’ve got three episodes, with three Jedi, and three Force wielders (err… two now!). ‘Ghosts of Mortis’ closed up the story of the Chosen One doing what a Chosen One does best, bringing balance by killing things. I guess important deaths do come in threes.

The quick recap: Anakin, still stuck on Mortis, decides first that he needs to kill the Son. Qui-Gon’s ghost is cryptic. But after seeing his future as Vader, Anakin instead joins with the Son to prevent his fate, until the Father erases the memory of those visions. The Father then kills himself to allow Anakin kill the Son. Ahsoka fixes then sabotages the ship. Obi-wan interferes only to get stranded. They all wake up in space.

What’s cool? Ahsoka has a skill! Even though the saga has established that Anakin is a mechanical genius, a goggle-wearing Ahsoka Tano is the one diving into the belly of the shuttle to repair everything while the men ponder the serious stuff. She even works so hard on generic repairs, she falls asleep until Obi-wan brings her a warm drink. But why is it that despite a crash landing, nothing on the outside of the ship needs work? And she gets possessive when Obi-wan starts telling her to sabotage the ship. But in the end, her Jaina Solo time is for naught, as when they wake up, no time has passed, and the shuttle hasn’t been damaged. Or is this a new shuttle, like Starbuck’s Viper?

Hints of things to come! Ok, we get to see Anakin Skywalker’s vision of the future but it is slightly different than in Revenge of the Sith (Padmé’s lack of pregnancy for one) – perhaps what he saw in his vision isn’t exactly what happens but close enough. But other hints of things to come – Qui-Gon’s ghost + Father’s disappearance upon death. Did Qui-Gon Jinn learn it here to teach it to Obi-wan Kenobi and Yoda later?

Portable pocket speeder bikes AKA “Scooty Puff Jr.” or “hover-segway”. Yeah, while Anakin tearing across the landscape didn’t exactly scream “Need for Speed,” having stow-and-go speeder bikes that can carry two Jedi and ascend out of the lava pit was pretty neat. I wonder if Obi-wan requests that the next version be lava-proof.

Anakin. I really felt like they caught Anakin’s character well in presenting his motivations in this episode. He’s been teased with big destiny ever since he’s landed here, and in this episode, rather than wait, he takes action and wants to team up with Father against Son. Father is not so sure about this, and sends Anakin to go seek other advice, which he gets from Qui-Gon’s spirit. Like we see later in Episode III, Anakin is ready to fight with his saber, but then loses control of the situation when Son starts talking to him, and offers him a gift – and that gift of a vision of the future as a pain bringer causes Anakin to try to fight his fate, and lets him fall into Son’s trap (which is also Palpatine’s trap): I can help you change the fate you don’t like. Good intentions and all that. Ok, it’s almost a copy here, but on a grander scale.

I also liked the scene with Obi-wan arguing with Father. When Father says that Anakin’s fate is in the will of the Force, Obi-wan points out that if the Force didn’t want me to act, the Force shouldn’t have brought me here. Good logic, but in the end, what does Obi-wan accomplish? He manages to warn Ahsoka to disable the ship and not engage Anakin, but also loses his Gobot moped.

The final moments of Father and Son. There’s two ways to watch it – Son genuinely shocked that Father would kill himself and not wanting his father to die (He previously states when raiding Daughter’s tomb for the dagger that he had loved her), or Son pretending to care about Father but more outraged that his Father would kill himself in order to weaken Son. Watching the scene a few times, I first thought that Son was more angry at the loss of his own power, but then I realized that he must not have known how tied he was to Father (else his plot to overthrow Father in the previous episode seems a bit silly). Watching the scenes again, it now appears to me that Son is genuine in his reaction. So in the end, Son really did have some love in his soul, and his father was right about him… and hugged him close so that Anakin could stab them both like Mortisian kebabs, and the Son brought back to the good side is defeated by the Father in an embrace of betrayal. There’s a reversal of good and evil there, and Dark Helmet is right: Evil will always triumph because Good is dumb.

And finally, the imagery of Mortis – a place near where the dark side cannot pervade (according to Father), Daughter’s tomb is on a mound, and has a ceiling window with moonlight casting the dark lines of Daughter’s insignia (curving four-petaled flower surrounding an angular four-pointed fire) onto her casket, while the dark side lair of the Son is underground, but a well lit by warm colored lava coming from the sides and below, with another opening up to the sky, and his emblem (flames surrounding the flower) in fiery lines etched onto darkened rock.

Time to call Ghostbusters? So after my first watching of the episode, I got stuck on the final bit – the three Jedi waking up aboard their shuttle to find Rex calling them, and no time had passed. They clearly remember their three-episode trip to Mortis, but was it real? Cue “Inception” music. I guess I was more interested in whether Mortis existed outside the normal galaxy (or how it stayed together at all if it was held together by the will or life of the Father, even though he vanishes before they get kicked out) than what had just happened to Anakin. Dreamworld? Interdimensional beings with crystal skulls? Ghosts? All the lessons of Anakin dealing with his future fell aside as I pondered the nature of the residents of Mortis.

Watching it a second time, we see Anakin turn to the dark side, get his memory wiped, and be fine – and Obi-wan encounters dark Anakin (and Ahsoka got a glimpse of him before zipping away). This is something that Obi-wan should be concerned about: Anakin being corrupted to the dark side. Then again, I suppose with Ahsoka’s brush with the dark side in the previous episode, Obi-wan might just chalk it up to the power of the Son. But Obi-wan also hears from dark Anakin that he feels that the Jedi are the ones in the way of peace, and if Obi-wan found out later that Anakin had seen the future but had been wiped by Father, he might suspect that the future of the Jedi is possibly in jeopardy.

The Father flips back and forth a few times in his philosophy. He’s so sure that Anakin is the Chosen One and will bring balance and thus mind wipes him to make sure that this future will happen. Yet when he talks to Obi-wan about what Anakin is doing (going to see the Son), he’s all “it’s the will of the Force” (i.e.: very hands off). It appears that Father is no longer sure in his role with the prophecy of balance after the death of Daughter, but then with his own eradication, he finally gets how Anakin will achieve balance here and still will bring balance out there.

Qui-Gon’s advice ends up being a bust. When Anakin asks whether he is supposed to leave (and let Son somehow escape into the universe) or kill Son, Qui-Gon says to do neither but look deeper. And when Anakin meets up with Son, and looks deeper, he ends up joining the dark side… but in the end, after Father hits the mental rewind button, Anakin kills Son. Looking deeper didn’t pan out so well, ghostly Qui-Gon.

Nitpicking the Force: Dark Anakin not detecting Ahsoka hiding right above him as he entered the shuttle. Even if sensing his padawan’s presence must be an action, and not a passive thing, you’d think he’d want to know whether Ahsoka was there or not before trying to start up the ship. Later, Anakin is batted aside by Son at the monastery, which in ‘Overlords’ was the scene of Anakin completely bending Son to his will. Either Son has gotten more powerful (which could be, if Mortis is now very off balance with Daughter’s death and Son’s choosing of the dark side), or Anakin, like many Jedi, thinks too much of fights as something to be done with the lightsaber and not something to be done with the Force. When will they learn?

Overall: As Stooge mentioned in his review of the previous episode, this arc is a lot like the Matrix movies when it comes to the mythology. The first one stood up well alone and introduced some good concepts, and then the latter two muddy up the message. Anakin sees the future but it gets taken back. As Luke learned in The Empire Strikes Back, trying to mess with the future ends badly for you. Then again, Ahsoka also had future visions, and managed to beat what they foretold – or at least learn that the final vision isn’t the conclusion that she believed it to be. And that is the message here – the fortune cookie “He who seeks to control fate shall never find peace.” spells it out. Anakin is not alone in his quest to fight the future, Father also seeks to control fate and learns the hard way about how controlling fate works. What is prophesied to happen will indeed happen, but usually not exactly the way you expected. Like Oedipus, Anakin is caught in the trap of fate versus free will, and destiny in Star Wars is a cruel winner. Anakin takes Son’s deal when promised that it will bring peace. While Anakin talks about having peace in his empire in Revenge of the Sith, I’m still not sure why he wants peace so much – he doesn’t really seem to have an aversion to this war that lets him be a hero. Would he, as a former slave, be more interested in wanting justice instead? Unless by peace, he really wants a galaxy free of distractions that would keep him from Padmé.

There’s a lot to like in this episode, and I’m glad that George Lucas ultimately decided to cut out the story idea that Son was urged to the dark side by the ghosts of Darth Bane and Darth Revan (as revealed in Dave Filoni’s video commentary), but not because of the existence of dark side spirits, but by the fact that Son shouldn’t be influenced by an outside force for this story really to work. But also they threw a lot of things at us in this episode that when unpacked, don’t always make sense. Ending it with the three Jedi waking up in the cockpit having not lost any time wrapped it up quickly but then redirected the episode to “What were those guys?” instead of focusing on the theme of the folly of fighting destiny. With the title ‘Ghosts of Mortis’ one wonders if there were more ghosts than just Qui-Gon here?

Final grade:

3 Replies to “The Clone Wars review: ‘Ghosts of Mortis’”

  1. That is the best recap of any review ever published on this site. bravo!

    Great review, witty and insightful. A pleasure to read

  2. Nice review.

    I have to say that I really loved Sam Witwer’s voice work in this trilogy. I hope they get him back for more episodes.

  3. So I finally got around to watching these episodes. Nightsisters, Monster, Witches of the Mist, Overlords, Altar of Mortis and Ghosts of Mortis are all on the same DVD. My take is someone found this really cool “gong” sound effect and they wanted to use it as much as possible when wiping people’s memory. Apparently it works best on Sith-in-Training. So they created six episodes to play the “gong”. I image there was great applause everything it was played.

    Back to some reality, I liked these three episodes. They summed up the six movies so well without Jar Jar (excluding the Son with Ashoka scene).

    I actually believe the plot is much deeper with foreshadowing of Anakin, Padme and Obi-wan on Mustafar. To me that The Father is actually Obi-wan, the daughter; Padme and the son; Anakin. To animate the father, son and daughter, it appears they started with Obi-wan, Padme and Anakin’s digital assets and went from there. Look at the daughters face when the father buries her. Also the face of the son when Anakin kills hims. In addition, the son looks like what Anakin might look like without the Vader helmet. There is so many moments of foreshadowing acted out my the father, son and daughter that will eventually be played out by Obi-wan, Anakin and Padme.

    Also the illusion that the force can only be in balance when a father has a son and daughter ala Anakin, Luke and Leia … so we can only imagine what happened to the mother.

    You mentioned that lack of Anakin seeing the birth of his children. I think it is fitting because Anakin/Vader had no knowledge of the children in episodes 4-6 (though his memory was wiped) but the son could only present the future according to Anakin’s knowledge and role in it — so again, no children.

    I would have cheered if the end of “Ghosts of Mortis” when they flash back to real time only Anakin had momentarily blacked out with Ahsoka and Obi-wan asking if he was okay. That would have been so awesome.

    I still laugh to think that the all-powerful force-wielders can only leave their planet via a ship? LOL!

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