Star Wars Journey Through the New Canon


Star Wars: A Journey Through the New Canon – Part 9: Solo: A Star Wars Story

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A long time ago, a girl’s parents took her to see a science fiction film called Star Wars. On that day, she fell in love with all things Star Wars, even the extended universe that began with Timothy Zahn’s 1991 book, Heir to the Empire. But in 2012, Disney purchased Star Wars and proceeded to erase the majority of the extended universe she had come to know. With much of her Star Wars knowledge no longer applicable, she begins a journey through the new canon. Her goal – to travel the path of the new canon, experiencing as much of the new material in story order as best as she possibly can.

Warning: Spoilers

Yes, it has been almost a year since the last installment. What happened? Life. Let’s just say I pulled a Luke Skywalker and retreated to my personal Ahch-To.

Who knew a flyboy and a Wookie would pull me back in?

I didn’t.

When the project was announced, the collective Star Wars fandom did an epic eyeroll followed by a whiney, “Why? Why would anyone want to replace Harrison Ford? We have our Han, we don’t need another.”

I must admit that I was skeptical. Actually, I was more in the “Why Han when there are more interesting and non-white male characters money could be thrown at and, hey, if we’re getting this, then can we get Underworld and/or 1313?” camp.

Did we need Solo? No. Am I glad we got Solo? Yes.

One of the internet’s favorite activities is fantasy casting, and Donald Glover has a vocal fanbase. People lobbied for him to be the next Spider-Man (remember #Donald4Spiderman?), and when the whispers of Lando Calrissian possibly appearing in any cinematic form started, the internet screamed, “WE WANT DONALD GLOVER. DON’T YOU DARE CAST ANYONE BUT DONALD GLOVER!”

And when Glover was cast, there was much rejoicing.

Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian. Perfect casting.

For Han, the man chosen could not live up to the majority of the fandom’s expectations. Many of us grew up with Star Wars, myself included, and many of us are guilty of clinging to our visions of what the Star Wars universe should be. I had to wait years between films, and now we are swimming in a deep pool of content, with more on the way.

Our response? Complain. And we need to stop. We need to judge each new arrival on its own merit.

Alden Ehrenreich is not replacing Harrison Ford. There have been different versions of Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman, and Spider-Man. We must accept that those in charge of Star Wars want to tell stories from all parts of the timeline. Solo: A Star Wars Story, written by Jonathan Kasdan and Lawrence Kasdan, is the origin tale of our favorite stuck-up, half-witted, scruffy-looking nerf herder; someone was going to portray him, and Ehrenreich does a fine job.

Ehrenreich’s performance shows that Han has always been a quick thinker. In the scene with Lady Proxima (voiced by Linda Hunt), the smirk and bravado are a distraction from what Han’s doing – scanning his environment and scheming a way out. If anyone notices Han’s wheels turning, they would be prepared. Lady Proxima assumes Han bluffs about having a thermal detonator, and she’s right; the detonator is a rock Has uses to break a window, causing the light to harm Lady Proxima, creating the opportunity for Han to escape. Noticing Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson) and his crew pretending to be Imperial troops, the crack in the post that allows him to escape with Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), and the card up Lando’s sleeve prove Han sees the details, a skill necessary to survive in a galaxy besieged by tyranny, corruption, and greed.

At first, I was disappointed that Ehrenreich’s Han lacked the suave swagger of Ford’s Han, but the escape from Lady Proxima with Qi’ra (Emilia Clark) revealed that young Han was a romantic dreamer, a quality I didn’t think Han ever had. Young Han is similar to young Luke Skywalker; both dream of flying away and seeing the wonders of the galaxy. Instead of whiney like young Skywalker, Han constantly seeks opportunity. Ehrenreich’s Han cannot hide his obvious joy as he runs from one failed expectation to another. Young Han’s confidence and swagger are not genuine because it can’t be; he’s a “fake it till you make it” type, and he hasn’t made it until he has a best friend, Chewbacca, and a ship, the Millennium Falcon.

Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) and Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) take command of the Millennium Falcon.

Another knock against Solo: A Star Wars Story was the director drama. The first directors, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, were fired and replaced by Academy Award-winning director Ron Howard. Yes, Howard is talented, but many wondered if the man behind A Beautiful Mind and all of those Da Vinci Code movies could deliver a coherent Star Wars film in less than a year. He did. If you are surprised by how well he did the action, you need to remember that Ron Howard directed Rush, the 2013 film based on the rivalry between Formula One racers James Hunt and Niki Lauda, Far and Away, the 1992 film with the huge land rush scene with numerous horses, and Backdraft, the 1991 film with lots and lots of fire.

All of Howard’s skills are best displayed when the film lands on Kessel. Character and action combine during the entire sequence. L3-37 (voiced by Phoebe Waller-Bridge) wants equal rights for all droids, so she removes restraining bolts, inadvertently causing a rebellion. Qi’ra kills Quay Tolsite (Dee Tails) using a technique she learned from Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany), making what she does to Vos later a natural development in her arc. Lando sits in the Falcon until the fight matters to him when L3-37 is in danger. In the middle of the combat, Han’s true nature is revealed. Chewbacca and Han are in charge of obtaining the coaxium, but Chewbacca sees other Wookies being harmed. Acting like Beckett, he tells Chewbacca to follow the plan; Chewbacca resists, and Han realizes who he is – he can’t deny Chewbacca the chance to help. Also, Han doesn’t demand or expect Chewbacca to stay with him. The mission to Kessel shows us that Han has a code and knows what it means to be loyal.

Solo: A Star Wars Story is a fast-paced and fun film. The train mission is a bit too long, but afterwards, the film hits its stride. I could watch Glover’s Lando play sabacc and explain the significance of his capes for hours. Ehrenreich did the impossible; he gave us a Han full of romanticism and joy, and his performance makes me wonder what happened to Han during the time between Solo and A New Hope. Han and Chewbacca have great chemistry. If there’s a sequel and it’s just them gallivanting across the galaxy outfoxing the Empire, I’d be happy.

All I’m asking you to do is take a deep breath, relax, take off the jaded glasses, and watch the film. Solo deserves a chance. Give it one.


Star Wars: A Journey Through the New Canon – Part 8: Revenge of the Sith

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A long time ago, a girl’s parents took her to see a science fiction film called Star Wars. On that day, she fell in love with all things Star Wars, even the extended universe that began with Timothy Zahn’s 1991 book, Heir to the Empire. But in 2012, Disney purchased Star Wars and proceeded to erase the majority of the extended universe she had come to know. With much of her Star Wars knowledge no longer applicable, she begins a journey through the new canon. Her goal – to travel the path of the new canon, experiencing as much of the new material in story order as best as she possibly can.

 

Warning: Spoilers

 

Revenge of the Sith (2005), written and directed by George Lucas, marks the end of the Prequel Saga. All the moments in each film, TV series, and book reach their crescendo and reveal the fate of Anakin Skywalker and the resolution of the Clone Wars.

The galaxy has been at war for years. Both sides claim they battle for order and peace. A segment of the population, feeling ignored and disenfranchised, broke away from a bloated Republic run by a corrupt Senate and formed their own government. The Separatists see themselves as rebels, clamoring for freedom. The Republic demands the galaxy stay as one and label the Separatists terrorists who threaten to weaken the Republic for selfish gains.

However, both sides are unaware of the presence of a masterful puppeteer, one who has played the long game to perfection – Chancellor Palpatine. To the Republic, he is a humble man working hard to restore peace and stability to the galaxy. But the Separatists only see Count Dooku, a leader against corruption. They don’t see the man behind Dooku; the one who is Dooku’s master is Darth Sidious, Palpatine’s Sith name.

The turmoil in the galaxy is mirrored in the turmoil of Anakin’s soul. The innocent boy we met in Phantom Menace has grown into a man who questions the ways of the Force, the policies of the Senate, and the actions of the Jedi. This anointed Chosen One is strong with the Force, but his emotions are raw, and his fear of loss often lead him to act impulsively. The Jedi way stresses no attachments and patience, but Anakin violated those principles when he slaughtered the Tusken Raiders because they killed his mother and when he married Padme Amidala.

Anakin has never had the opportunity to learn during a time of tranquility. After he was burdened with the fate of bringing balance to the Force, the Clone Wars began. The Jedi were transformed from being peacekeepers into generals, tasked by the Senate to lead armies of clones into battle. Many see the Jedi as dogs of war, quick to do the bidding of the Senate and betray their role as guardians of the galaxy. Throughout the TV series The Clone Wars, this issue is brought up repeatedly, and even some Jedi, including Anakin, question if they are on the correct path. Anakin’s faith in the Jedi started to crack during the last four episodes of The Clone Wars season five. Anakin’s Padawan Ashoka Tano was accused of murder. Anakin came to believe her and was upset when the Jedi Council abandoned her by kicking her out of the Order. Anakin discovered evidence and cleared her name, but she refused the Council’s offer to rejoin the Order. As she walks away from the Jedi Temple, Anakin’s heartbreak is clearly etched on his face.

Anakin painfully watches Ashoka walk away from the Jedi

 

Revenge of the Sith begins three years after the onset of the Clone Wars. The war has come to Coruscant; Separatist and Republic forces battle above the city-planet, and Chancellor Palpatine has been taken hostage. Anakin and Obi-Wan Kenobi are on a mission to rescue Palpatine. They find him. Dooku enters, and this time Anakin agrees to fight the Sith Lord together with Obi-Wan instead of charging in like he did in Attack of the Clones. Anakin declares that his powers have doubled since the last time they met, and Dooku senses the Jedi’s arrogance. Dooku knocks Obi-Wan out, leaving Anakin to fight him alone. They duel. Anakin cuts off Dooku’s hand and catches his lightsaber. When Dooku is on his knees, Anakin holds both lightsabers – the blue Jedi and the red Sith – to Dooku’s neck. Palpatine tells Anakin to kill Dooku. Of course, this surprises Dooku because Palpatine is his master. But the Sith crave power, and only the strong deserve to be Sith. Without Obi-Wan’s guidance, Anakin obeys the wishes of the other father figure in his life. Palpatine is pleased at the sight of Dooku’s head rolling away. Anakin is confused; this isn’t the Jedi way. Palpatine tells Anakin that vengeance is natural and reminds his young friend that he has acted as judge and executioner before. There is a glimmer of hope that all is not lost with Anakin when he disobeys Palpatine and insists on bringing the injured Obi-Wan with them.

After crash landing, Obi-Wan and Anakin have a quippy exchange about who has to deal with the politicians. Moments like this have been rare during the Prequel Saga. Anakin is full of rage, anger, and fear, and he is capable of love and compassion. Just as there are two sides battling for control of the galaxy, two opposing forces are warring inside Anakin. Each side is represented by a man: Palpatine and Obi-Wan. Both men influenced Anakin after he left Tatooine, but these relationships developed off-screen, leaving few clues to help us understand Anakin’s descent into darkness. The best way to fathom how a promising Jedi transforms into a Sith is to examine how each father figure teaches young Skywalker how to deal with the possible death of the woman he loves.

Anakin dreams of Padme dying during childbirth. These dreams are similar to the ones he had about his mother. The possibility of Padme dying for any reason triggers his fear of losing those closest to him. Obi-Wan is the sum of all the Jedi teachings, and Obi-Wan instructs Anakin to follow those teachings and obey the Council. While Obi-Wan is an individual, he willingly allows his voice to be joined by Master Yoda and Mace Windu. Yoda tells Anakin that dreams might be premonitions or they could be the manifestations of fear. Giving into fear can lead to the dark side. According to the Jedi, one must meditate the dread away and work on severing personal attachments. Yoda, Windu, and Kenobi offer no viable method of saving his wife. Anakin isn’t satisfied.

Enter Palpatine. He sympathizes with Anakin and pretends to reluctantly tell the tale of Darth Plagueis, a Dark Lord of the Sith so wise and powerful he could manipulate midi-chlorians to create life and to cheat death. Anakin wants to know if he could be taught this power. Of course, he can. All Anakin has to do is be willing to open his mind and to accept that there is more to the Force than the Jedi admit.

The moment Palpatine knows he has successfully tempted Anakin

Anakin’s a man of action, so he is tempted by Palpatine. Sensing he has Anakin on the hook, Palpatine gives Anakin another thing the Jedi enjoys – approval. Palpatine brings Anakin into his confidence; he needs Anakin to be his eyes and ears on the Jedi Council because the Chancellor is concerned the Jedi are not acting as nobly as they should be. However, the Jedi Masters, especially Windu, are not pleased Palpatine has forced Anakin on to the Jedi Council. While he is on the Council, Anakin is not given the title of Master, a rank all members of the Jedi Council have. Obi-Wan refuses to stand up to the Council and insist Anakin be promoted, frustrating Anakin even more.

Because Palpatine understands Anakin’s need for attention, he succeeds where Obi-Wan fails. Obi-Wan and the other Jedi assume Anakin will follow their lead, accept their criticisms, and do their bidding, even if it’s shady. Palpatine told Anakin that he feared the Jedi and others are plotting against him, wanting to take control of the Senate. Anakin doesn’t want to believe it, but he knows the Jedi haven’t been on their best behavior during the war.

Anakin does his best not to fall, but a series of small events trigger his descent into Palpatine’s hands. Obi-Wan and the Jedi Council want Anakin to spy on Palpatine. This is lying, an act that should be beneath Jedi, and is evidence proving Palpatine’s conspiracy theory. Knowing he has the Chancellor’s ear, Padme asks Anakin to convince Palpatine to pursue peace. Anakin is visibly hurt by this request. Padme is the woman he loves, the symbol of all that is right and compassionate, and she too is willing to use him for her own gains. She tries to convince him that her intentions are pure, but he accuses her of wanting Palpatine removed so she and the Jedi can control the Senate. Anakin does the right thing and informs the Council that Palpatine uses the Force. Instead of including him on the best course of action, Windu excludes Anakin. Palpatine told Anakin the Council feared how powerful he could be, and being shut out by Obi-Wan and Windu is more proof Palpatine is correct.

At the end of the fight between Palpatine and Windu, Anakin bursts in. Anakin is ignorant of the facts, but it’s not his fault. Standing over a weaken Palpatine is Master Mace Windu, the man who has been the most critical and untrusting of Anakin. When Palpatine claims that Windu wants to kill him and take over the Senate, Anakin believes the one who has been there for him most of his life, giving him opportunities, sharing information, and placing his trust in him. Anakin sides with Palpatine and tosses Windu out the window.

Anakin is no longer torn. With the gates wide open, his fear, anger, and grief erupt, transforming him from Jedi to Sith. Blinded by the Dark Side, Anakin willingly becomes Darth Sidious’s apprentice and carries out Palpatine’s commands, including the cold-blooded slaughter of Jedi younglings. On Mustafar, Anakin kills the Separatists leaders. Padme arrives and tries to convince him this dark path is wrong, but her argument is cut short when Obi-Wan appears, making Anakin conclude that Padme conspired against him. He chokes her as punishment.

Look how far our innocent podracer has fallen

The volcanic planet of Mustafar is the perfect backdrop for the epic lightsaber duel between Obi-Wan and Anakin. The erupting lava is visual representation of Anakin’s new worldview: using the dark side can bring peace and justice to a war-torn galaxy, and just as lava hardens to form new land, his powers can forge a new empire to rule all.

Anakin hasn’t been a Sith for more than a week, and he already dreams of being in charge. But his dream is cut short when Obi-Wan severs Anakin’s organic limbs and leaves the man who was the Chosen One, his brother, to burn.

Obi-Wan gets Padme to safety, but they are in hiding because Palpatine has executed Order 66, a command implanted into the Clones telling them to kill all Jedi. Allies of the Jedi, like Senators Bail Organa and Mon Mothma, have been sent into exile or killed. Palpatine spun his fight with Windu from being arrested into surviving an assassination attempt. The Senate, tired of years of war, eagerly ate up the tale and applauded when Palpatine brought peace by disbanding the Republic and establishing a unified Empire.

Palpatine is a Sith Lord, but his real power was playing the long game. He knew how to manipulate the few, rile up a base, and shred democracy before everyone’s eyes. Revenge of the Sith is the best film of the Prequel Saga. While we knew the ending, watching Anakin crack, shatter, and break hurt my heart.

The film ends with two rays of hope. Padme gives birth to twins, but dies from some unknown reason that couldn’t be treated by a medical droid in this world full of advanced technology. Anakin is a Sith Lord now, so Yoda decides the children need to go into hiding.

The girl, Leia, goes with Bail Organa to Alderaan. The boy, Luke, is taken to Tatooine and given to Anakin’s stepbrother, Owen Lars and his wife, Beru.

Wait a minute. Anakin is told by Palpatine that Padme and the babies died, so he doesn’t have an immediate need to investigate the situation, but hiding a baby with his family on his home planet and watched over by Obi-Wan Kenobi might raise a few red flags. They better be careful.

 

 

Up next: Kanan: Last Padawan (comic book)


Star Wars: A Journey Through the New Canon – Part 7: Kanan – First Blood

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A long time ago, a girl’s parents took her to see a science fiction film called Star Wars. On that day, she fell in love with all things Star Wars, even the extended universe that began with Timothy Zahn’s 1991 book, Heir to the Empire. But in 2012, Disney purchased Star Wars and proceeded to erase the majority of the extended universe she had come to know. With much of her Star Wars knowledge no longer applicable, she begins a journey through the new canon. Her goal – to travel the path of the new canon, experiencing as much of the new material in story order as best as she possibly can.

 

Warning: Spoilers

 

Star Wars: Kanan Vol. 2: First Blood is a trade paperback collecting issues 7 – 12 of Marvel’s comic book series, Star Wars: Kanan. First Blood was written by Greg Weisman with art by Pepe Larraz and Andrea Broccardo and colors by David Curiel.

A young man is eager to learn more about the Force and advance his training, so he searches for ways to rush his progress.

Sound familiar?

This story isn’t about Anakin Skywalker. First Blood is a flashback story of Kanan Jarrus’s time during the Clone Wars, when he was known as Caleb Dume and training to be a Jedi.

The Separatists have gotten bold. A Captain of the Confederacy, Rackham Sear, attacks the Jedi Temple because he, like many in the galaxy, despises the Jedi for fighting in the war while claiming to be peacekeepers. He tells Caleb, “You’re on the wrong side here. The Jedi are the bad guys, fighting against freedom and self-determination.”

Star Wars: Kanan Vol. 2: First Blood is a trade paperback collecting issues 7 – 12 of Marvel’s comic book series, Star Wars: Kanan

Star Wars: Kanan Vol. 2: First Blood is a trade paperback collecting issues 7 – 12 of Marvel’s comic book series, Star Wars: Kanan

Caleb helps Master Depa Billaba stop the bombing. Because of his actions, Billaba makes him her Padawan, even though he is considered too young to be one. During his missions with Billaba, we see more of the horrors of the Clone Wars and meet more clones who know they are bred to die. Caleb forms a bond with 1157, who finally earns the name Stance after he protects Caleb. The intense battles and losses Caleb endures shatters his romantic view of war. Caleb is tempted to give in to the sense of revenge loss can bring, but he brings himself back and realizes there is no triumph in killing.

First Blood is an interesting look at another Master-Padawan relationship and how devastating the war is across the galaxy. One of the story’s strengths is that you don’t have to have seen The Clone Wars to understand what is going on. I enjoyed the story and the art, but I would have appreciated it more if the story wasn’t about another young Jedi complaining about being called a “kid” and willing to bend the rules.

I like Caleb, and I’m interested in reading the first volume to learn about how he went from young Jedi Caleb Dume to Kanan Jarrus.

 

 

Up next: Revenge of the Sith (film)

 


Star Wars: A Journey Through the New Canon – Part 6: Darth Maul – Son of Dathomir

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A long time ago, a girl’s parents took her to see a science fiction film called Star Wars. On that day, she fell in love with all things Star Wars, even the extended universe that began with Timothy Zahn’s 1991 book, Heir to the Empire. But in 2012, Disney purchased Star Wars and proceeded to erase the majority of the extended universe she had come to know. With much of her Star Wars knowledge no longer applicable, she begins a journey through the new canon. Her goal – to travel the path of the new canon, experiencing as much of the new material in story order as best as she possibly can.

 

Warning: Spoilers

 

Star Wars: Darth Maul – Son of Dathomir is a four-issue comic book first published by Dark Horse in 2014. Written by Jeremy Barlow, with pencils by Juan Frigeri, inks by Mauro Vargas, and colors by Wes Dzioba, Son of Dathomir is based on unproduced scripts from Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Dark Horse published a trade paperback in 2014; Marvel took control over this comic to make it part of the new canon. I read the digital version of the comics, which were made available on Amazon.com in November 2015.

First big point to make: the cool dude from The Phantom Menace is alive!

Second point: I have no idea how Darth Maul got from Naboo to a junk planet on the Outer Rim, but hey, he’s alive!

We learn Darth Maul is alive in season four of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Asajj Ventress, wanting vengeance on Count Dooku for trying to kill her, has Mother Talzin, the head witch of the Nightsisters, prepare a new apprentice for Dooku, one secretly programmed to obey Ventress. This new apprentice, Savage Opress, becomes strong in the dark side, so he resists Ventress and Dooku and flees back to Dathomir and Mother Talzin.

Mother Talzin gives Savage a magical amulet and tells him to find his brother, Maul. Savage finds Maul’s upper half attached to a mechanical spider type thing. Maul is on the verge of insanity because he has been in this state for over ten years. Savage rescues his brother, has artificial legs attached to Maul’s body, and helps Maul create the Shadow Collective, a crime organization comprised of members of the Mandalorian Death Watch, Black Sun, and Pykes.

The Nightbrothers are successful until Darth Sidious shows up. Sidious sensed the growing power of Darth Maul, and, according to the Sith Rule of Two, only two powerful Sith are allowed to be present in the galaxy at a time. Maul and Savage must die because Sidious does not want to replace Count Dooku. Sidious is surprisingly quick and nimble and easily kills Savage, but he has other plans for Maul.

I covered the material from The Clone Wars because the comic assumes you’ve seen the show, which is a weakness of the book.

Star Wars: Darth Maul – Son of Dathomir is a four-issue comic book first published by Dark Horse in 2014.

Star Wars: Darth Maul – Son of Dathomir is a four-issue comic book first published by Dark Horse in 2014.

The comic picks up after the events in The Clone Wars. Maul is Sidious’s prisoner, and the Sith Lord has a plan to use Maul to coerce Mother Talzin out from hiding so Sidious can settle an old score. Count Dooku thinks Mother Talzin was killed during the attack on Dathomir, one he ordered because of Savage’s betrayal and the involvement of Ventress and Mother Talzin. But Sidious knows better, and he’s right; Mother Talzin saved her spirit.

Mother Talzin possesses a vast amount of power, and Darth Maul plots to help his mother regain her physical form. Darth Sidious and Darth Maul try to outmaneuver each other, thinking each has the upper hand because they know each other’s tactics. Count Dooku and General Grievous try to destroy Maul’s Shadow Collective in hopes that he will run to Mommy, and he does run to Mommy, but Maul and Mother Talzin know Sidious is after them.

It’s great fun seeing Darth Maul in action. Maul understands how to accumulate power, but as Dooku points out, managing and maintaining power takes effort and patience, which are not Maul’s strongest qualities. Like many villains, Maul is guilty of monologuing and assuming Sith are eager to turn on each other. Maul contacts Sidious after he captures Dooku and Grievous; Sidious tells Maul he can kill both. Instead of killing his captives and striking a blow to Sidious’s plans, he offers Dooku a deal to strike down Sidious so they can be the two ruling Sith. Dooku plays along, but he reveals his true loyalties by freeing Grievous and by helping Sidious kill Mother Talzin in the final battle.

Darth Sidious is pleased. Mother Talzin is dead. Maul’s crime syndicate has collapsed. He believes Maul’s future has been erased.

Not so fast, Sidious. Maul escapes, giving him the opportunity to rise again and seek revenge.

 

 

Up next: Star Wars: Kanan – First Blood (comic)


Star Wars: A Journey Through the New Canon – Part 5: Dark Disciple

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A long time ago, a girl’s parents took her to see a science fiction film called Star Wars. On that day, she fell in love with all things Star Wars, even the extended universe that began with Timothy Zahn’s 1991 book, Heir to the Empire. But in 2012, Disney purchased Star Wars and proceeded to erase the majority of the extended universe she had come to know. With much of her Star Wars knowledge no longer applicable, she begins a journey through the new canon. Her goal – to travel the path of the new canon, experiencing as much of the new material in story order as best as she possibly can.

 

Warning: Spoilers

 

Dark Disciple is a novel by Christie Golden that is based on unproduced episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. The novel was originally published in hardcover in 2015 by Del Rey. The paperback version, which I read, was published in March 2016.

The war between the Republic and the Separatists has been raging across the galaxy for three years. Count Dooku, the leader of the Separatists, has amassed enough power that he can act out in the open by demanding the cooperation of worlds. When a planet refuses, he attacks. His slaughter of the inhabitants of Mahranee begins the story, and his actions prompt Jedi Master Mace Windu to suggest a bold idea – assassinate Count Dooku.

The Jedi way is to find light in the darkness, to find order in the chaos, to walk the path of peace, and to not act out of fear. Mace Windu argues Dooku’s death would plunge the Separatists movement into confusion because they would be scrambling to find a new leader (the Separatists don’t know about Darth Sidious). Obi-Wan Kenobi objects, but Windu counters that the Senate has charged the Jedi with fighting the war, a war they are not winning. Master Yoda, the head of the Jedi Council, reluctantly agrees. Save lives, Dooku’s death will.

Obi-Wan selects Master Quinlan Vos with the dreadful task. We met Vos in the episode of Star Wars: The Clone War called “Hunt for Ziro.” Vos is a warm fellow, cheerful, a good tracker, and has a reputation of being late and bending the rules. The Council usually assigns him undercover missions, and his familiarity with the galaxy’s underbelly is why Obi-Wan places this huge responsibility on his shoulders. Obi-Wan tells Vos Yoda’s plan – get help from Asajj Ventress.

Asajj Ventress is the second-best character from The Clone Wars (first place: Ashoka Tano; third place: the pirate Hondo Ohnaka). When she was a child, she was made a slave. After an attack by Weequay raiders, she was rescued by Jedi Knight Ky Narec, and he trained her as his Padawan. They lived on Rattatak for ten years; Narec was killed by Weequay, lighting the fuse of rage that led her to kill the Weequay warlords and take their place. Dooku found her on Rattatak and made her his apprentice, training her to use the dark side of the Force.

Although she was loyal to Dooku, Darth Sidious sensed her growing power and accused Dooku of wanting to strike him down and rule the galaxy with Ventress. To assure his Master this was not true, he ordered Ventress’s death. His betrayal sent her back home to Dathomir, and Mother Talzin helped her become reborn as a Nightsister, a practitioner of dark magic. Yoda wants Vos to solicit her help because she has tried twice to kill Dooku.

The existence of the film Revenge of the Sith reveals that Count Dooku survives this novel, so what the novel does well is explore mastery of the Force and the differences between being a Jedi and being a Sith. Golden’s language conveys what bodies go through and how the senses are activated when someone uses the Force, making you feel like a Jedi, a Sith, and a Nightsister. Another strength of the novel is it doesn’t assume you’ve watch Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Golden weaves exposition subtly throughout the story, never bogging down the action to dazzle us with unnecessary lectures on Star Wars lore.

Dark Disciple by Christie Golden

Dark Disciple by Christie Golden

Vos earns Ventress’s trust, and she trains him in the ways of the Nightsisters, not of the Sith. The difference is how the Nightsisters don’t completely succumb to the rage and fear like Sith do. The goal is to tap into your emotions while staying true to yourself. Ventress admits she was consumed by hate and rage when she was with Dooku, but as a Nightsister, she gained the ability to not be blinded by any emotion. Ventress insists on training Vos because she concludes that to go against his Jedi teachings he must be able to strike down Dooku in cold blood without hesitation, a quality Sith and Nightsisters have in common.

Unfortunately, intel causes Ventress to rush Vos’s training so they can enact their plan. For a third time, Ventress fails to kill Dooku, and Dooku takes Vos prisoner. Dooku exposes Vos to the ways of the Sith. After he returns to the Jedi, Vos claims that he was not turned, but Ventress senses something is wrong, but Obi-Wan dismisses her claim, thinking her judgement is clouded because she and Vos became lovers.

But Ventress is right, Vos does succumb, and Ventress fights to bring back Vos from the dark side. She’s never been in love before, so she stumbles as she tries to figure out the best course of action. After refusing to run away with her, Vos insists on accepting the Council’s mission, which is trying to kill Dooku again. This time Obi-Wan and Anakin Skywalker follow.

During the final confrontation with Dooku, Ventress plainly tells Vos the true nature of the dark side. To be Sith, one is a slave to fear, hatred, and rage; the dark side tempts with all one desires, but one is never satisfied because the dark side creates a black hole in the soul, devouring all joy, love, and control. Ventress confesses that she has left the path of the dark side, and she realizes that they have a choice between walking the path of peace or the path of fear. Ventress chooses the path of new beginnings, and she feels the true power of the Force.

Ventress pushes Vos and is struck by Dooku’s Force lightning, which was meant for Vos. Vos attacks Dooku in a rage and successfully gets Dooku on the ground. As Vos holds his lightsaber to Dooku’s neck, he looks over at Ventress’s broken body, and his tears release the pain and anger inside of him. It dawns on him that killing Dooku out of vengeance would be the final step in turning completely to the dark side. He turns off his lightsaber and proclaims to be a Jedi.

Like in many episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Dark Disciple explores the difficulty of being a Jedi. Choosing loving Ventress over hating Dooku saved Vos, and Obi-Wan admits that Ventress’s sacrifice saved them all from Dooku and from the darkness. By engaging in an act regularly used by the dark side, the Jedi Council betrayed themselves and the very nature of being a Jedi.

The Jedi are flawed, and it took the act of a reformed Sith to teach them that one act of evil to stop evil does not make the action good.

If the Jedi are tempted to use questionable tactics, then are they really the hope and the saviors of the galaxy?

 

Up next: Darth Maul – Son of Dathomir (comic)


Star Wars: A Journey Through the New Canon – Part 4: The Clone Wars

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A long time ago, a girl’s parents took her to see a science fiction film called Star Wars. On that day, she fell in love with all things Star Wars, even the extended universe that began with Timothy Zahn’s 1991 book, Heir to the Empire. But in 2012, Disney purchased Star Wars and proceeded to erase the majority of the extended universe she had come to know. With much of her Star Wars knowledge no longer applicable, she begins a journey through the new canon. Her goal – to travel the path of the new canon, experiencing as much of the new material in story order as best as she possibly can.

 

Warning: Spoilers

 

Over the course of six seasons (2008 – 2014) and a movie (2008), Star Wars: The Clone Wars explores the devastation of war and explains the machinations behind the war between the Separatists and the Republic. Spanning the time between the films Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, TCW helps fill in blanks and develops characters.

The Clone War rages across the galaxy. Although the war is being orchestrated by Count Dooku/Darth Tyranus (Christopher Lee and Corey Burton) and Chancellor Palpatine/Darth Sidious (Ian Abercrombie and Tim Curry), their actions widened a crack present before the events of The Phantom Menace. Many are frustrated by the obvious corruption festering in the Republic Senate and are tired of the Republic imposing its will on them. Emboldened by how Count Dooku is willing to stand up to the Republic and form the Separatists army, many worlds decide to leave the Republic. The Separatists, also known as the Confederacy of Independent Systems, see themselves rebelling against The Establishment and only want to be able to govern themselves. They create their own Senate with Dooku as their leader. They see the war as more proof that the Republic is only out for power; after all, if Palpatine would recognize their government and negotiate a peace treaty, the war would end. However, Palpatine, the man who promised to restore peace and order, refuses, claiming that the Separatist undermine order by rebelling against him and the Republic.

What the leaders of the Separatists worlds don’t see is how Dooku and Sidious manufacture conflict to gain power and fuel their needs as Sith, users of the Dark Side of the Force. By season three, Dooku’s method becomes clear. The Trade Federation is supposed to be neutral, but we’ve seen in The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones that they are not. Although evidence has been presented of their duplicitous actions, the Senate is slow to act, so the Trade Federation can continue to collude with Count Dooku. This is the pattern: The Trade Federation places a blockade around a world. The world pleads with the Republic to help them, but the Trade Federation claims they are in the right because the world needs to pay a tax or a fee or a whatever. The Republic needs time to investigate the world’s claim, but the blockade cuts off supplies, and the world begins to need food, medicine, etc. Dooku and his Separatist resources come in and help, as long as the world joins the Separatist movement. Feeling abandoned by the Republic, the world agrees. After recruiting many worlds, Dooku becomes bold and begins to openly court worlds to join him and to actively coerce others.

Chancellor Palpatine loves it when his plans come together

Chancellor Palpatine loves it when his plans come together

We see the Jedi as heroes, but The Clone Wars has the time to show us how others see them. The peacekeepers of the galaxy are now generals, leading troops of clones in the war against the Separatist droid army. The Jedi must do the bidding of the Republic Senate, so they are the ones people see leading waves of death. Often, they are called slaves to the corrupt Senate, dogs, and warmongers. They are hypocrites. These guardians of peace turn their lightsabers on and cut down droid after droid after droid. The Council never considers defying the Senate and putting down their weapons of war. In fact, the corruption of the Senate has infected the Jedi. They decide not to tell the Senate or the Chancellor that the Dark Side is clouding and interfering with their command of the Force, and they hide that one of their own, Sifo-Dyas, worked with Dooku when ordering the creation of the clone army. Releasing this information would cause chaos and bring disorder and distrust. The way of the Jedi is to not cling to power, but the Council seems to have forgotten this.

A prime example of the Jedi’s determination in war and how some Jedi are not loyal to the cause are episodes 7 – 10 of season 4, the Umbara arc. The militia of the planet Umbara have sided with the Separatists, but the Republic needs the trade routes and supply lines connected to the world. General Obi-Wan Kenobi (James Arnold Taylor) needs to conquer a city to get them to surrender. There are air strikes and trench warfare. Obi-Wan’s forces are up against a skilled enemy feeling they have the right to defend their home and rid their world of Jedi and Republic scum. Helping Obi-Wan is the squad led by General Anakin Skywalker (Matt Lanter). Anakin is called back to Coruscant, and General Pong Krell (Dave Fennoy) assumes command. Krell doesn’t care how many clones he loses; winning battles is all that matters. The clones have named themselves, but Krell calls them by their numbers. Krell ignores the advice from Captain Rex, claiming clones are dumb and flawed. A few of the clones realize they are being used as cannon fodder and that Krell’s tactics are not as helpful as he claims. Those clones are right. Krell, a Jedi, reveals that he senses a rise in a New Order, and he wants to be on the winning side. Eventually, the actions of Captain Rex and his men help Obi-Wan win back Umbara for the Republic.

The clone war is brutal, especially to clones. Although they look the same and speak with the same voice (Dee Bradley Baker), the clones have a sense of individuality. In addition to naming themselves (Rex, Fives, Echo, Tup, Hevy, etc.), they express themselves by tattoos, haircuts, and hair color. They are loyal to each other, they see themselves as brothers, and to the Republic. Clones know their purpose; they know they have been grown and trained to be soldiers who live to die in war. Anakin and Obi-Wan have encouraged their troops to think and to be creative. This is the advantage to having a clone army. Droids are cheaper; machines need battery power while clones require food, water, armor, and sleep. But droids lack an inner strength to do acts for others in risk of self. Clones work together to save each other, to not leave a man behind, and to fight a battle that seems impossible to win. Episode after episode, numerous clones die in horrible ways, and they do so fighting their hardest for a cause they are obligated to believe. It’s heartbreaking.

Clones are not perfect. There has been a traitor (“The Hidden Enemy”), and one left the army to live a life of his own (“The Deserter”). A possible reason for the flaws is the rushed production of clones. Without a renewed source of the original DNA, the integrity of the original’s DNA is stretched thin as thousands of clones are created. The cost of the war on the Republic is high; the Separatist’s droid army is endless, and the Republic loses as many battles as it wins, incurring a high loss of life and ships. A few Senators want to curb spending and deescalate the war by negotiating peace, including Senator Padmé Amidala (Catherine Taber). However, petitions for reducing the rate of clone production and for allocating funds away from the war and back to programs to help education and health are seen as unpatriotic, and those who are anti-war are often accused of being pro-Separatist and investigated for treason.

You are either with Chancellor Palpatine or against him. There is no other way.

A person who is with Chancellor Palpatine is Anakin Skywalker. Anakin is now a Jedi Knight – the trials happened off screen again. He quickly earned the reputation of being an impulsive and aggressive general. No one is surprised when Anakin defies the Council or ignores direct orders from Obi-Wan. In “Cat and Mouse,” the Republic built a stealth ship, and Anakin is told to use the ship to deliver supplies on a mission of mercy. Instead, he attacks the Separatist fleet. Anakin succeeds, which stokes his fire more. The Jedi Council doesn’t really discipline him. How could they? The brash leader has the respect of his men, and his tactics win multiple battles.

Anakin's relationship with his Padawan Ashoka is the #1 reason to watch the show

Anakin’s relationship with his Padawan Ashoka is the #1 reason to watch the show

It’s interesting to note that the Council won’t kick Anakin out of the Jedi Order for being good at war, but they would if they knew he was in love and married to Padmé.

Of course, his actions do not set a good example for his young Padawan, Ashoka Tano (Ashley Eckstein). Anakin was reluctant to accept having the responsibility of a Padawan, but her “snippy” personality won him over by the end of the film. Over the course of the show, their bond grows as she learns the ways of the Force, how to lead a squadron, and how to bend the rules. Anakin tries to teach her the proper ways, but, as Obi-Wan pointed out, he has a “do as I say, not as I do” approach. Anakin should not be surprised when Ashoka disobeys his orders in “The Citadel.” Instead of staying behind, Ashoka thinks the time has arrived for her to decide when to put her life on the line, so she makes herself a part of the mission to save Master Even Piell. Anakin is angry and disappointed that she disobeyed him, but he admits that she becomes a vital part of the mission’s success. Their dynamic mirrors the relationship Anakin had with Obi-Wan, so we can see why Obi-Wan eventually agreed to allow Anakin to go through the trials.

However, Anakin never gets to decide if Ashoka is ready for the trials. Episodes 17 – 20 of season 5 are about Ashoka being accused of killing suspected terrorist Letta Turmond (Kari Wahlgren). Feeling no one is helping her, Ashoka flees in the style of The Fugitive so she can prove her innocence. Anakin does prove her innocence, but Ashoka feels betrayed by the Jedi Council because they banished her and sent her to be tried by the Senate. The hurt on Anakin’s face as he watches Ashoka walk into the sunset punched me in the gut.

Being a Jedi isn’t easy, even Obi-Wan struggles with his love for Satine (Anna Graves), a woman he fell in love with when he was a Padawan. Unlike Anakin, Obi-Wan would have left the Order if Satine said she wanted to be with him. Anakin told Ashoka that she needed to put purpose ahead of feelings, but Anakin fails to do so many times. Palpatine telling Anakin that his feelings make him special doesn’t help. Anakin’s relationship with Palpatine is very important; he will often follow Palpatine’s council before a Jedi’s. Anakin is made for battle, but he loses control over his emotions when it comes to Padmé. He gets jealous easy, especially when Padmé has to get information from a former flame, Rush Clovis (Robin Atkin Downes). Anakin demands she not work for Palpatine when she goes undercover, and he beats Rush when it looks like Padmé and Rush are going to kiss. Padmé stands her ground against tyranny, the Senate, and Anakin, proving she is an independent thinker and a capable leader. Anakin’s erratic nature takes a toll on Padmé, and she questions their marriage, stating the marriage isn’t working is because it is built on lies and secrecy.

Sometimes love isn't enough

Poor Anakin and Padmé. Sometimes love isn’t enough

Watching The Clone Wars clarifies the central conflict of Republic vs. Separatist by exploring this issue in a variety of ways. Does the Republic have the right to demand the loyalty of worlds? What happens to the attitude towards war when you manufacture the soldiers fighting it for you? What does it mean to be a Jedi? Can you be a peacekeeper and a general of an army? Is it okay to lie to maintain order? Anakin’s journey shows how these contradictory ideas can do harm. The season 4 episodes 15 – 18 are about Obi-Wan faking his own death to discover who is behind the plot to assassinate Chancellor Palpatine. This deception is crucial to save a person, but Anakin is outraged because his mentor, his friend lied to him. How many more lies have the Council told Anakin and the rest of the Republic?

Deception, cruelty, fear, and war fuel the Dark Side and have allowed Palpatine to rise in power to legitimately save the Republic and to destroy the Republic as Darth Sidious. The galaxy’s only hope is the Jedi, but Palpatine’s growing influence on Anakin and Anakin’s ability to confront the Jedi Council about their hypocrisy reveals that it is likely that the Republic will fall.

 

Up next: Dark Disciple (novel)

 


Star Wars: A Journey Through the New Canon – Part 3: Attack of the Clones

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A long time ago, a girl’s parents took her to see a science fiction film called Star Wars. On that day, she fell in love with all things Star Wars, even the extended universe that began with Timothy Zahn’s 1991 book, Heir to the Empire. But in 2012, Disney purchased Star Wars and proceeded to erase the majority of the extended universe she had come to know. With much of her Star Wars knowledge no longer applicable, she begins a journey through the new canon. Her goal – to travel the path of the new canon, experiencing as much of the new material in story order as best as she possibly can.

 

Warning: Spoilers

 

Star Wars: Attack of the Clones (2002), directed by George Lucas and written by George Lucas and Jonathan Hales, takes place ten years after The Phantom Menace. The film begins with the traditional crawl. Things are not going well in the Senate. A separatist movement threatens to split the Republic in two, which Chancellor Palpatine vows to stop. Because the Jedi are under the Senate’s control, they are spread thin across the galaxy. Some Senators work towards avoiding war, including former Queen of Naboo, Senator Padmé Amidala (Natalie Portman). A measure is up for a vote; passing the measure will approve of the creation of an army to assist the Jedi. Amidala lobbies for peace, making her the target of assassins.

This film is clogged with more politics than Phantom Menace. You have been warned.

With her life in danger, Palpatine has the bright idea to assign Master Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and his Padawan Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) to guard her. We first met Anakin in Phantom Menace. He was a kind, sweet nine-year-old boy who was taken away from his home planet of Tatooine to be trained as a Jedi. Obi-Wan promised his former Master to train the potential Chosen One. At the end of Obi-Wan & Anakin, the relationship between Master and Padawan seemed to be set straight.

Well, things got worse between the end of the comic and this film.

Hey, Anakin, why are you so angry?

Hey, Anakin, why are you so angry?

Anakin openly questions Obi-Wan and argues about how to best guard Padmé in front of her and her group. For some reason, Anakin is angry and frustrated. His worst characteristic is his creepy obsession with Padmé. He’s upset when she barely knows him and sees him as a boy. News flash, Ani – she’s twenty-four now and the last time she saw you, you were nine. Padmé is five years older than you, boy, so why are you surprised?

After another assassination attempt, Anakin and Obi-Wan go on a thrilling and dizzying chase through the levels of Coruscant. Because of the information they learn after catching up to the assassin, the film splits, following Obi-Wan and Anakin separately. Obi-Wan investigates who is behind the assassination attempts while Anakin protects Padmé.

While on Naboo, Anakin aggressively pursues Padmé. He confesses that he has thought about her constantly ever since they parted. He touches her without her consent; he kisses her, and she tells him they can’t be together. He continues to flirt with tickles and discussions about politics. And he shows her his emotions, venting about how unfair Obi-Wan is. Anakin believes he is ready for the trials to become a Jedi Knight, but thinks Obi-Wan is holding him back because of jealousy.

Anakin’s outbursts are the opposite of Jedi teachings, as is his romantic pursuit of Padmé. Jedi are forbidden to have emotional attachments, and Anakin’s biggest issue is letting go. Anakin has been plagued with bad dreams about his mother. He tells Padmé that he must abandon his duty to protect her to discover the source of his nightmares. Padmé volunteers to go with him.

On Tatooine, Anakin meets his stepfather, Cliegg Lars (Jack Thompson), his stepbrother Owen (Joel Edgerton), and Owen’s girlfriend, Beru (Bonnie Maree Piesse). After learning Tusken Raiders took his mother, he rushes to her in time for Shmi (Pernilla August) to die in his arms. In a rage, he kills every Tusken in the camp – men, women, and children.

Master Yoda had reservations about training Anakin, sensing fear in the young boy. Anakin’s actions prove Yoda right.

She woke up like this. She woke up like this. Flawless.

She woke up like this. She woke up like this. Flawless.

While Anakin was trying to break the Jedi rule about no sexy times with the fabulously dressed Padmé, Obi-Wan got to work and discovered a huge plot brewing against the Republic. He follows the clues to a planet the Jedi archives says shouldn’t exist, Kamino. The inhabitants of this mysterious water planet with bad weather welcome him, believing he is the Jedi Master who placed an order for a clone army ten years ago. Playing along, Obi-Wan learns the army are clones of Jango Fett (Temuera Morrison), a bounty hunter. These clones are designed to grow fast, be easily trained, and obey any command. Obi-Wan wants to question the bounty hunter, but he escapes with his son Boba (Daniel Logan), who is an unaltered clone. Thinking fast, Obi-Wan plants a tracker on Fett’s ship and follows him to Geonosis where he discovers that Count Dooku (Christopher Lee), the former Jedi and Separatists leader, is amassing a droid army.

Earlier, Padmé thought Dooku was behind the attempts on her life. Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson) dismissed her claims because a former Jedi would never do such a thing. Wrong.

Obi-Wan gets captured. Padmé and Anakin go to help him. After a silly sequence through the droid manufacturing plant straight out of a video game, they get caught too. Instead of killing their captives immediately, Dooku and company decide to execute their prisoners by big beasts in an arena show, but all does not go as planned.

The best part is when Padmé saves herself by picking the lock on her restraints and climbing to the top of the pillar. Mace Windu appears, thinking a few Jedi can handle a droid army.

Earlier in the film, Yoda (Frank Oz) said that many Jedi have become arrogant; they haven’t turned to the Dark Side, but they have become complacent.

Mace Windu is one such Jedi. He should not be surprised that many Jedi lose their lives and how quickly the droid army surrounds them.

Back on Coruscant, Representative Jar Jar Binks is manipulated into proposing a motion to give Chancellor Palpatine emergency powers. The motion is approved. Palpatine’s first act is to approve the activation of the clone army. This allows for Yoda to swoop in and save the day.

During the second wave of attacks, Mace kills Jengo Fett. Hey Mace, you knew Fett had information about Dooku and the Separatists, but you killed him anyway. Yeah, cutting off his head looked cool, but you’re either an incompetent Jedi or have your own agenda. Either way, your track record isn’t looking good.

Dooku flees, but Anakin and Obi-Wan catch up. Obi-Wan has a plan, but Anakin charges ahead and gets quickly tossed aside by Dooku. Saving the day again is Yoda. The coolest scene in the film is the duel between Yoda and Dooku. Yoda catches the lightening and throws it back at Dooku, and he flips and leaps during their lightsaber battle. Dooku puts Yoda in the position of having to either go after him or save Obi-Wan and Anakin; he decides to save his fellow Jedi.

Master Yoda, Jedi badass

Master Yoda, Jedi badass

Is the film bad? No. Is it great? No. The film is borderline forgettable because it lacks major developments or character growth.  Over the course of ten years, corruption in the Senate has metastasized, allowing for Palpatine to seize control, but he still seems like the man who wants to restore order to the galaxy. He does approve of the clone army, sparking the start of a war, but he claims it is to protect the Republic from Separatists attacks. The Dark Side has become stronger, forcing Yoda to admit the Jedi’s ability to use the Force has weakened, but they haven’t learned who Dooku is working with.

Everything is not good in the galaxy. But the film takes 142 minutes to tell us this.

The biggest change happens to Anakin. The whiney, emotional brat loses part of his arm, but his creepy persistence pays off. Padmé marries Anakin in a secret ceremony.

Oh Padmé, you deserve better.

We all do.

 

Up Next: Star Wars: The Clone Wars