Saturday, January 15, 2011

Battle Meditation on Star Wars: The Clone Wars: "Monster" (Episode 3.13 Review)

Author's Note:  In my Preview of TCW Episode 3.13 "Monster" which can be found HERE, I mistakenly believed that the final scene of tonight's episode would be a scene in the Jedi High Council Chamber which followed a scene involving the Republic Commandos.  As such I believed that the Republic Commandos would be making their debut in this episode.  I highlighted this fact in my Preview, I was wrong.  This episode was edited the scene before the dead Jedi's bodies are returned to Coruscant.  As such I apologize to any viewers that this confused or misled.  I originally saw all three Savage Opress episodes seamlessly played together as part of the screening and had to guess where they would be ending each episode. 

Episode Title & Number: "Monster" Season 3 Episode 13 (3.13)

Original Air Date: January 14, 2011

Review Blurb:  Mother Talzin plays Dr. Frankenstein and Asaaj Ventress plays Igor, as the Nightsisters create their own "Monster," to use against Count Dooku.   Just how much control do Ventress and the Nightsisters have over their creation?  Tune in next week to find out.  Oh yeah and a couple Jedi are one and done this week, RIP Jedi Halsey and Know, you are one with the Force. 

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
Mother Talzin:  Head of the Nightsisters' coven.
Savage Opress:  Sith Apprentice/NightbrotherBrother Viscus, Dathomiri Zabrak Nightbrother
Brother Feral, Dathomiri Zabrak Nightbrother
Jedi Master Halsey, Male Jedi
Padawan Knox, Male Jedi

Episode Summary:

After their initial assassination attempt on Count Dooku fails, the Nightsisters of Dathomir turn to plan B.  They will plan a sleeper agent close to Dooku as his new personal assassin and bodyguard, and when the time is right he will turn on his new master and kill Dooku.  With Ventress behind this, what could possibly go wrong.  Oh wait, her plots always fail...Ummm, well it was worth a shot.  Anyways back to the episode, Ventress travels to the Nightbrothers village where she sizes them up American Idol style, then after the initial round of cuts Ventress takes her potentials to a series of 3 tests to see which one is the strongest warrior.  In the final test Savage and Feral are pitted against Ventress, Feral the weaker warrior is spared only after Savage offers himself and pledges his life to Ventress.  Once she has her prize Ventress returns to the Nightsisters and they work their magics, transforming Savage Opress into the hulking monstrosity that he becomes.  After a final test, slaying his brother Feral, Opress is taken to Count Dooku on Serenno.  Opress' first mission for Dooku is also a test, to capture a Temple/Republic base on the planet Devaron.  With the aid of Battle Droids, Savage defeats the Republic troopers and two Jedi guarding the Temple and seizes the planet for the Confederacy.  His mission a success he returns to Serenno where Count Dooku names him his apprentice and pledges to teach him the ways of the Dark Side of the Force. 


I) Story/Writting

Written by Katie Lucas and directed by Kyle Dunlevy, TCW episode 3.13 was the introduction of a character

One of the more fascinating little tidbits in this episodes is the allusion to a past alliance between Mother Talzin and Count Dooku, as the Episode Guide mentions:

As he did in "Nightsisters," Dooku makes mention of an old allegiance with Mother Talzin, though the full nature of this association has yet to be revealed. "Long ago," presumably when he was a Jedi, Dooku helped Talzin out of some manner of predicament. Given Talzin's penchant for long-term planning, she may have been concocting this scheme since that day.
Is this just a bit of back ground noise, or is there a really good story here?  Perhaps we will find out more if we get more from the Nightsisters in future Clone Wars Episodes, I am intrigued.  

Savage is an intriguing character, because before he was corrupted by the Nightsisters magic, while he certainly seemed fierce, he also seemed almost heroic.  He repeatedly endangered himself to help protect Feral, his weaker more vulnerable kin.  After his transformation he cold bloodily chokes his brother to death on the command of Ventress.  While he is killing Feral, he says, "You make, weakling."  This quote is interesting and the way it is delivered leaves it open to different interpretations to its meaning.  The two main meanings would be either, 1) Feral forced Savage to kill him because he was to weak, or 2) in his caring for Feral, Savage had a weakness, by killing Feral he removed this weakness/vulnerability and made himself stronger.

As much as the pre-magic Savage appeared to care for Feral, this line makes me wonder if some part of him did not resent having to help out his weaker kin.  It may have felt like a burden, that at least part of Savage was glad to be rid of. 

While Savage's motivations may be a little murky at this point, he is an interesting and complex villain and the coolest looking bad guy to come along since Episode I.  

II) Acting:

If Nika Futterman as Asajj Ventress was the star of the previous episode, then Clancy Brown (Savage Opress) and Corey Burton (Count Dooku) where the real stars of this weeks Clone Wars episode.  Brown's voice has a resonance and power that work for both the Savage character pre-transformation and post transformation.  The more reserved and slower speech of the character post-transformation makes you wonder what exactly is going on inside this creature's mind. Its interesting to note that as the episode progresses, Savage starts to talk more and more articulately.  Is the Nightsister magic wearing off?  Is he acclimating to his new reality?  I am not sure, but its pretty clear that he is smarter then he first lets on. 

The voice acting for the Nightsisters particularly when they are doing their magics is creepy and effective and seems to hold true the spirit of the culture and the way that they interact with the Force through spells and witch craft.  A sampling of the Nightsisters' Monster transformation spell:

Geiss kan erde mak / harden ob stein
geiss kan lewf mak / krig ob blitz
geiss kan pire mak / blud loge raga
geiss kan vass byn / skol zum Asajj
erde-blitz-raga-byn / ede-blitz raga byn
erde-blitz-raga-byn, zum Asajj!

-Source: Official Site's Episode Guide

III) Animation:

Nightsisters Magics
This section of the review may get boring with me gushing over the visuals of the series so often, but if I do see something that isn't well done I will point it out.  Two things stood out to me in this episode.  First, I absolutely love the way the Nightsister's magic is drawn, it looks really nice.  The other is the improved smoothness in character movement.  There was a lot of action in this episode between the Nightbrother testing scenes and the assault of the Temple on Devaron.  Early in the series many character movements would be wooden and very choppy, now they are much more fluid and smooth.  The movement appears much more life like.  On occasion it is still a little uneven, but the improvement is pretty dramatic.

IV)New Characters/Planets Vehicles:

Savage's Awesome spear/pike

The Three Amigos
Nightbrother Training Arena
Savage's Test
Zabrak Nightbrother Village

Master Halsey
Temple of Edit on Devaron
Padawan Knox defending the Temple
Brother Feral

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

There is a ton we don't know about Count Dooku, but the fact that he had another Sith Apprentice in Savage Opress is certainly a huge change to Star Wars  continuity.  If George Lucas is willing to change continuity by introducing a secret apprentice for Darth Vader, doing so for the less influential character of Dooku can't be much of a suprise.  One of the best things about introducing Savage Opress is that, since he is new to the EU, his story has not been told in any form yet, so there are almost limitless possibilities as to what happens to the character.

So many of the characters that we see have pre-determined fates either in the films or the EU, its good to get more characters whose fate is up in the air, because it increases suspense and allows for more surprising story telling.

Next weeks episode includes a massive Retcon and a nuclear bomb to continuity....

VI.  Rating this Episode

This episode was awesome, but different then last weeks.  I really enjoyed "Nightsisters," because I think Asajj Ventress' story in that episode was impeccably done and Nika Futterman's performance was brilliant.

In this episode, I enjoyed the second half of the episode more then the first, the Nightbrother selection tournament was entertaining in parts, but probably my least favorite series of scenes in the entire three episode arc. All that being said, this episode still ranks as one of the best of the series so far. 

This episode was more up and down for me then Nightsisters or the forthcoming Witches of the Mist, it gets 9.0 out of 10. 

VII.  Next on The Clone Wars

The next episode of TCW is episode 3.14 "Witches of the Mist."  Part 3 of 3 of the Savage Opress arc.  Some major secrets are revealed....If there is one episode of The Clone Wars you do not want to miss its this one.  There are major implications not only for the fate of certain characters but for the very alignment of various factions in the galaxy. 


For Dave Filoni's Episode Commentary:  LINK

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