Saturday, January 8, 2011

Battle Meditation on Star Wars: The Clone Wars: "Nightsisters" (Episode 3.12 Review)

Episode Title & Number: "Nightsisters" Season 3 Episode 12 (3.12)

Original Air Date: January 7, 2011

Review Blurb: Count Dooku learns the hard way that a wounded Sith Apprentice is a very dangerous creature. Nika Futterman stars as Asajj Ventress in the first part of the Savage Opress Trilogy. It was ret-con-tastic!

Jedi Fortune Cookie: "The swiftest path to destruction is through vengeance."

Episode Dramatis Personae:
Asajj Ventress:  Sith Assassin/Apprentice & Nightsister
Count Dooku/Lord Tyrannus:  Leader of CIS and Sith Lord
Darth Sidious/Chancellor Palpatine:  Sith Lord and Republic Chancellor
Mother Talzin:  Head of the Nightsisters' coven.
Nightsister Karis:  Nightsister Warrior
Nightsister Naa'leth:  Nightsister Warrior
Nightsister Talia:  Nightsister
Obi-Wan Kenobi:  Jedi Master
Anakin Skywalker: Jedi Knight

Episode Summary:

Asajj Ventress leads a Separatist battle group in a space battle against Republic forces, as the tide of battle shifts to the Republic, Ventress comms her master, the Sith Lord Count Dooku for aid.  Meanwhile Darth Sidious orders Count Dooku to kill Ventress because she is becoming too powerful in the Dark Side of the force.  Unbeknownst to Count Dooku Ventress survives the attack and returns to her home world of Dathomir to lick her wounds and plot her revenge.


I) Story/Writting

Written by Katie Lucas and directed by Giancarlo Volpe, "Nightsisters" was one of the most fun and visually interesting episodes of TCW to date.  There are a number of characters that make appearances in this episode but its really just a three way dance between Ventress, Talzin, and Dooku.  By keeping the story tight and focused on these three characters the pacing moves right along and it lets us get a great in depth look at both Ventress and Dooku, their personalities and their motivations.  It has a nice ebb and flow to it, as the story begins with the full out action of a space battle and lightsaber duel, then slows down as we get character development on Ventress and picks back up with the action scenes in the attack on Dooku, before quickly closing with the foreshadowing for the next episode.

II) Acting:

The stars of this episode are Nika Futterman (Asajj Ventress) and Corey Burton (Count Dooku).  For Count Dooku, the story, animation (sweet Sith Pajamas) and acting of Burton make a character who is both more menacing and more sympathetic then he typically is particularly in the movies.

Dooku even disoriented by a tranquilizer dart has more then enough skills to best Ventress and two of the Nightsisters' best warriors (Karis and Naa'leth).  A tremendous use of Sith lighting.  On the other hand, his interactions via holocomm with Darth Sidious show both the duplicitous side of Dooku and the naive side of Dooku, while he may be training Ventress as his own secret apprentice and denying it to his Master, he is still a prisoner to the idea of the Rule of Two and doesn't think about being replaced as unceremoniously as he will be in Episode III.  In the second scene between Sidious and Dooku, you can imagine Sidious ending the transmission and cracking up laughing about Dooku's loyalty, because in the end Dooku is nothing but a pawn for Sidious not a true apprentice.

Ventress really gets the chance to shine in this episode while holding her own against Obi-Wan and Anakin may be a bit of an exaggeration for her force powers, the sense of rage at being betrayed surely gave her additional access to the Dark Side.  Nika Futterman got to portray the full range of emotions for Ventress in this episode, from cornered and angry, wounded and unsure upon her return home, to happy in the flash backs, and even dejected and defeated.  This episode really humanizes what up until this point had only been a dueling dummy for Anakin and Obi-Wan, no we have more reasons to like and dislike Ventress.

III) Animation:

The animation in this episode was phenomenal, the facial details and character expressions have improved so dramatically over Season 1 and the Clone Wars movie, that its almost a different show now.  The space battles were impressive visually, but the coolest things visually was the water of life/Nightsister magic scenes and the invisible Nightsister effects. 

IV)New Characters/Planets Vehicles:

Don't mess with these sisters..

Count Dooku's Palace on Serenno

Dathomir from Space
Mother Talzin (Center)

Serenno from Space

Ventress' commandeered vessel the Tusken "Raider"

Ky Narec

V) Continuity Clashes: "How I learned to stop worrying and love the ret-cons"

There are two big glaring continuity issues that come up right away in this episode and that is the back-story of Asajj Ventress as shown in the Dark Horse Comics Star Wars properties, and the portrayal of the Nightsisters and the planet of Dathomir as shown most prominently in The Courtship of Princess Leia but subsequently used repeatedly throughout the EU.

The philosophy of Lucasfilm is that there is one unified continuity that exists for Star Wars across all platforms and storytelling mediums, that everything fits together.  When conflicts arise it becomes the job of people like Leland Chee to try to stitch the continuity back together.  It is also up to clever writers to ret-con (retroactive continuity) stories together.

One way that I look at continuity that helps me embrace Star Wars continuity warts and all, even if it changes what I thought I knew about my favorite characters or cultures (Mandalorians cough, cough)  is to look at it through the prism of history.  Star Wars is set "A Long Time Ago" so in effect what we are seeing is a historical account of what happened in the Galaxy Far Far Away, with any historical account there are going to be errors and differences concerning events.  Sometimes this is the result of the historians individual biases, sometimes its the result of meaning lost in translation, sometimes its even the result of the principles of the historical event purposefully distorting fact to make their side look better and the other side look worse for posterity.  Whatever the case may be, the best way to approach continuity is that any difference that we can't seem to shoehorn together are simply a case of an inaccurate account of the events.

All that being said, I am not an expert in the Star Wars comics, but from what I understand Katie Lucas did a pretty good job incorporating the fact that Asajj Ventress was found and raised by a Jedi Ky Narec and that her partial training and reaction to his death are what led her to the Dark Side.

The fact that her home world has been retconned from Rattatak to Dathomir is a big change, but given the intermingling of different colonists across different planets in the EU, this is hardly a new thing that we find a species or hybrid species in a planet far from their origins.

In someways Asajj Ventress is an EU creation, but at her core she was pretty fully realized in concept art for Episode II, as a possible female Sith Lord and apprentice for Darth Sidieous.  The fact that George Lucas feels an attraction and affinity to this character makes sense as it probably feels to him like one he left on the cutting room floor, more so then one he is simply taking from the EU.  So we really should give him a great deal of leeway in regards to this character.

From' Episode Guide:

For The Clone Wars series, writer Katie Lucas preserved much of this EU backstory for this authoritative depiction of Asajj and her history. In the flashbacks seen in the episode, young Asajj is handed over by her Dathomirian mother to a Siniteen criminal named is Hal'Sted. The flashbacks then move to Rattatak, where she is discovered by Ky Narec after Hal'Sted dies from an assault by Weequay raiders.
The changes that the Clone Wars makes Dathomir and the Nightsisters could be more long lasting.  Just how large is the coven of Nightsisters, are there multiple groups of Nightsisters on the planet?  In the novel the Nightsisters were more of outcasts from traditional more light or grey Dathomiri Witch Clans, do these other clans still exist in George Lucas and Katie Lucas' vision of Dathomir?  What about the Chun'unthor, the mobile Jedi Academy that crashed on Dathomir?  Hopefully we will get some clarification on this in the future, but its not going to happen in the next two episodes. 

VI.  Rating this Episode

This episode gets a 10 out of 10, I thoroughly enjoyed the ride, in a story that doesn't feature the series main characters, but highlights the villains and sets the stage for another awesome two episodes.  Katie Lucas, Dave Filoni and the rest of the crew nailed this one. 

VII. Next on The Clone Wars

The next episode of TCW is episode 3.13 "Monster" part two of the three part Savage Opress story arc.


Dave Filoni's Episode Commentary

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1 comment:

  1. This was definantly one of the best episodes of the clone wars period I agree. I know u seen the the screening and i just cant get out of my head how good this whole arc was put together into a mini movie. I wish everyone could witness it in that format cause it truly made a lasting impression on me and just was a testament to the heights that this series can reach. Like you said the animation from the movie to this point has been dramatic to say the least. I also feel like star wars is in good hands with Dave, Katie and the rest of the crew. These were the best written stories of the series to date and i hope they continue to churn out stories like these because in essence these are the stories that most have that "Star Wars" feel.