Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Clone Wars: The Wrong Jedi

“The Wrong Jedi” was more successful than other season finales of The Clone Wars because it looked backward rather than ahead. In the past, finales have been used to introduce new characters such as Cad Bane, Chewbacca, and Darth Maul. While “The Wrong Jedi” suffers from having a very obvious solution to a mystery, it also has an event that rocks the show more than anything else and uses the established characters to create an emotionally powerful finale that actually feels final.

With The Clone Wars’ Season Six presumably airing on a Disney channel instead of Cartoon Network but nothing confirmed, the episode was ready to be a milestone from the start. It also wows with dramatic content that illuminates Anakin’s feelings, Ahsoka’s character, and both of their places in Revenge of the Sith.
The episode is more slow-paced than many, leading up to a somber last ten minutes. After the second commercial break I didn’t know how they were going to wrap it all up. The pacing gives a meditative feel to the first two-thirds, switching between the underworld of Coruscant with its urban beauty and the similarly intimidating Jedi and Republic courtrooms with an abundant variety of alien onlookers.

One victim of the short format is Obi-Wan, who has only a brief appearance. Presumably he discusses everything with Anakin later, though. I’m also of two minds about the cameo from the younglings introduced in “The Gathering.” It was fun to see them, and Tera Sinube, and it got a smile from me, But it also makes me wonder whether there aren’t any other Padawans in the Temple. That could go either way, though, and their appearance continues the excellent continuity in this arc.

I was initially not pleased with the perpetrator being Barriss. Both her willingness to frame Ahsoka and her Force strength seemed out of character. (Was there really any question whether a Padawan could defeat the Chosen One, even if she gained as much skill as Ahsoka has over the last few seasons?) Like the Padawans from “The Gathering,” her involvement with Ahsoka makes the galaxy feel a bit scarcely populated. However, I love the continuing theme of Jedi who see that the Order is going against its morals to fight the war, and Barriss’ betrayal eventually sets up an effective reason for Ahsoka to not be present in Revenge of the Sith without her dying. Barriss has some interesting things going for her. She’s certainly tough, as shown in her willingness to die for the cause in “Brain Invaders” and other episodes. The EU also established that she believed in the Unifying Force, unlike many other Jedi of her time, and this disbelief in a black-and-white world could have given her strength as she worked against the Jedi Order. Her role in this arc doesn’t necessarily contradict Barriss’ involvement in Michael Reaves’ MedStar novels, since their exact placement relative to The Clone Wars has not been established, but it does directly contradict Reversal of Fortune, a webcomic that ran from 2004 to 2005 and showed Barriss perishing in Order 66 after becoming a Jedi Master.

Although her work was for an understandable motive, Barriss still was willing to let Ahsoka take the fall for her and stated that Ventress’ lightsabers suited her, so she’s a bit vain and self-serving as well as fighting for a noble, pacifist cause. It’s nice to see such inner complexity in an antagonist. I hesitate to call her a “villain” because she did work alone, unwittingly aiding Tarkin and Sidious while trying to keep the Jedi Order as she knew it alive, and because it seems she’ll be in Republic custody for the foreseeable future. Her dialogue to the council was nicely poetic: “We’ve so lost our way that we are the villains. We should all be on trial!” There’s irony and tragedy in the way she is fighting to aid Sidious’ grand plan to militarize and discredit the Jedi without knowing that she’s doing it.

As with the other episodes in this arc, it almost seems redundant to write a section of my review specifically to talk about the female characters, since so many of the main players were female. It’s Ahsoka, Barriss, Padmé, and Ventress for the women while Anakin, Yoda, Tarkin, Palpatine and most of the Jedi Council represent the men. Padmé is the only one of the women in a clear position of power, but the women get far more dialogue and are a more central part of the plot individually as opposed to as part of an organization. I would have liked Shaak Ti or another female Council member to speak up, but the episode does better than some entire television shows at putting the women, especially teens, in the non-romantic spotlight. Unfortunately none of them come out especially triumphant.

I’m not very invested in Ahsoka but I know a lot of fans who are, and no matter how you look at it her story in “The Wrong Jedi” was a sad one. The Clone Wars has been building up to this, and it makes the whole series more bittersweet. I’ll look back at all of Anakin’s and Ahsoka’s interactions differently now. It would all have been even more affecting if Anakin and Ahsoka had been shown in more quiet scenes of camaraderie in the past, but this is a place where The Clone Wars might be suffering from an abundance of writers. Charles Murray largely makes up for that, particularly setting up their bond in the arc’s first episode, “Sabotage.”

The last few minutes of “The Wrong Jedi” lingered on Ahsoka’s tense choice: to stay with the Order and become a Jedi Knight, or remove herself from the Order out of grief, disgust, and confusion. The offer of knighthood and the Council’s retroactive statement that this all was her (rather literal) Jedi Trial upped the stakes immensely. I was surprised at the choice she made, and it’s such a big one that I have to wonder what she’ll be doing in Season Six. Going back on her decision would cheapen the whole thing inexcusably. Maybe if she becomes a bounty hunter, or – my favorite alternative – teams up with Ventress again, she’ll get a new outfit.)

At first I thought her motivation within the episode was unclear, but it’s easy to extrapolate. The Council was so dead set against her, with no concept of “innocent until proven guilty” and too much concern for politics. Now they’re set against her best friend, who preaches but does not practice nonviolence but whose arguments against the Jedi might ring true for Ahsoka, too. Ahsoka is making the same decision Anakin will later in Revenge of the Sith, just earlier and less violently.

Ahsoka’s characterization took an effective turn in “The Wrong Jedi,” finally showing how her flaws are an integral part of her. She could be a loner instead of hot-headed; she goes her own way, without replicating Anakin’s rebelliousness against authority. Ahsoka does not dislike authority, but simply ignores it. Maybe she made the decision to leave the Jedi Order when she jumped into the air shaft at the end of “The Jedi Who Knew Too Much.” Historically Ahsoka is friendly but doesn’t get close to people – she left both Lux Bonteri and Riyo Chuchi (who makes a brief cameo in the courtroom) without looking back, and if Barriss was her only friend in the Temple and then she may not have much to stick around for. This episode not so much deepens as widens her characterization, and makes it more evident that she might have been a bit of an outsider all along.

A few side notes: I’m really glad the Council mentioned the shroud of the dark side and how this whole situation would have been a lot easier if they could have just sensed when a Jedi was lying. Tim Curry’s turn as Palpatine was unusual, and I’ll have to hear more to figure out if this talented actor can sound anything like Ian McDiarmid. A Sidious who doesn’t sound like Sidious talking to a Darth Maul who doesn’t sound like Darth Maul could really bother me later.

“The Wrong Jedi” featured some beautifully lit, dramatic scenes, including Barriss’ dark room, the removal of Ahsoka’s Padawan beads, and the gold-pink sunlight at the end of the episode. This was by far one of the best episodes of The Clone Wars, although it does reinforce a problematic theme in Star Wars recently brought to my attention by The Last Jedi: the women who gather around the Skywalker men tend to be killed or driven out of the limelight. Surely Ahsoka will be back in a new capacity next season, but regardless of what channel it’s on, “The Wrong Jedi” has made one thing certain: The Clone Wars will never be the same.

1 comment:

  1. I agree, Ahsoka should team-up with Ventress, that would be great.
    I found Ahsoka's resolution satisfying. Although I originally thought she would die, this was a more fitting way to keep Ahsoka out of Ep. 3's story line. Wonder if she will make an appearance in the new Trilogy, not sure if I would want it, but it could work in a cameo role.
    On the topic of strong female characters in television, you should watch Fringe if you haven't already.

    -James

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