Friday, January 21, 2011

Battle Meditation on Star Wars: The Clone Wars: "Witches of the Mist" (Episode 3.14 Review)

Episode Title & Number: "Witches of the Mist" Season 3 Episode 14 (3.14)

Original Air Date: January 21, 2011

Review Blurb: Count Dooku proves to be very tough grader as a teacher.  Wrong answer = Sith Lighting for his new Sith Apprentice Savage Opress.  Obi-Wan and Anakin go all Scooby Squad and try to track down Savage after the slaughter on Devaron. When a fly swatting mission to kidnap the Toydarian King Katuunko goes wrong, the Sith hits the fans about Count Dooku's flag ship as Jedi, Sith, and Nightsisters converge.  Lightsaber battles galore in this thrilling conclusion to the Savage Opress/Nightsisters Trilogy.  Oh and it looks like at least the top half of Darth Maul is alive.

Jedi Fortune Cookie: "The path to evil may bring great power, but not loyalty."

Episode Dramatis Personae:
Savage Opress: Nightbrother/Sith Apprentice
Asajj Ventress:  Sith Assassin/Apprentice & Nightsister
Count Dooku/Lord Tyrannus:  Leader of CIS and Sith Lord
Mother Talzin:  Head of the Nightsisters' coven.
 Obi-Wan Kenobi:  Jedi Master
Anakin Skywalker: Jedi Knight
King Katuunko, Toydarian King

Episode Summary:

Count Dooku begins training Savage Opress in the ways of the Dark Side on Serenno after Opress' successful mission on Devaron.  Meanwhile on Coruscant, the Delta Squad Republic Commandos return the bodies of the dead Jedi (Halsey and Knox) to Coruscant and Obi-Wan and Anakin are summoned before the Jedi Council where they are showed a holo-recording of the assault on Devaron and  assigned the mission to track down this "monster."  Opress' training continues under the cruel guidance of Count "Sparky" Dooku, as Anakin and Obi-Wan travel to Dathomir and visit the Nightbrothers and Nightsisters in an attempt to track down information on Opress.  Opress is given another mission by Dooku, to abduct King Katuunko of Toydaria.  Opress easily overwhelms the King's guards and captures the King but as he is preparing to leave Obi-Wan and Anakin show up and an epic lightsaber duel takes place, ending in Opress' escape and return to Count Dooku about his flagship.  Unfortunatley for Opress, during his fight with the Jedi, King Katuunko died and Count Dooku does not abide failure.  Dooku unleashes a ruinous barrage of Sith Lighting into Opress.  When out of no where Ventress enters the chamber and commands Opress to kill Dooku.  A a three way battle royal breaks out between the Sith sending Dooku fleeing, only to be re-engaged later by Ventress before he can escape. Ventress looking defeated flees to parts unknown, not returning to Dathomir as far as we know.  Opress meanwhile is re-engaged by Obi-Wan and Anakin aboard the Separatist vessel, after a brief duel Opress is able to escape the Jedi and the battle droids that suddenly turn upon him.   Opress returns to Dathomir shaken by his lack of strength and inability to kill Dooku returns to Mother Talzin, when she blasts continuity apart with the revelation that Darth Maul is alive, living in exile in the Outer Rim, and that Savage should seek him out with a nifty magic talisman and continue his training in the Dark Side from his brother.   


I) Story/Writing

Written by Katie Lucas and directed by Giancarlo Volpe, not only was this episode action packed, but it had very cool throwbacks to The Empire Strikes back in a twisted Sith way with the training scenes involving Dooku and Opress.  Those scenes hearken back to Luke's training with Yoda on Dagobah.

I absolutely love how Katie Lucas wrote Anakin and Obi-Wan in this episode, the banter between the two was hilarious.   My favorite line of the show was upon landing at the Nightsisters village, when Obi-Wan cautions Anakin to be careful and Anakin "you never know, I tend to be popular with the ladies."  Obi-Wan's response "too popular," had me laughing out loud at the screening in LA and still crack me up.  Just how much does Obi-Wan know about Anakin and Padme at this point?

Upon re-watching the episode the thing other then Darth Maul, that has me most intrigued is Mother Talzin.  Not only does she reveal the identity/name of Savage Opress to Obi-Wan and Anakin, but she also tells them his location.  Based on her magic its pretty clear she is a very powerful individual and didn't have to reveal anything to the Jedi.  Why did she do this?  I'll get back to that in a second.  Then you have the rather curious conversation with Ventress where she claims they will not be able to keep Opress secret for long.  Well duh of course you can't keep him secret if you are telling everyone about him.  Then she uses Ventress' burning desire for revenge against Dooku, to get her to move up the attack date against Dooku early, and against Ventress' better judgement she agrees.  It certainly appears she is setting up both Ventress and Opress to fail.  She is attempting to get everyone Dooku, Ventress, Opress, Obi-Wan, and Anakin into close proximity.  I don't think she particularly cares for Ventress' fate, I believe much like Dooku, she was just using Ventress for her own ends.  Perhaps Talzin foresaw something in the force, that Opress would survive a confrontation and return to her for guidance, and without knowing what was going to happen exactly, knew which key players had to be put together to get the result she foresaw.  Is Talzin in league with Maul?  Is she only working in her own interests?  Or is she part of some larger other interested group in the galaxy that we as of yet don't know?

This episode had very good pacing, better then Monster and it kept you glued to the show the entire time. 

Savage Opress' Force Unleashed

II) Acting:

Matt Lanter (Anakin) and James Arnold Taylor (Obi-Wan) return in this series, we have gotten far too little Obi-Wan so far in Season 3, but I think these guys really nailed it in this episode.  It feels like this is how Anakin and Obi-Wan should be interacting, these two who consider each other brothers, were actually acting like brothers complete with humor and some sibling rivalry.

Nika Futterman (Ventress) and Corey Burton (Dooku) once again did a very solid job, but Clancy Brown (Opress) was the star villian in this episode.  From unsure student, to confident kidnapper, to defeated and deflated, he had to portray a large range in this episode and I think he did so very well. 

III) Animation:

This episode saw the debut of the Republic Commando character models, while we have already gotten a glimpse of them at Celebration V, after getting to see them again in the episode it looks like the Clone Wars animators did a tremendous job bringing these video game/novel characters to life on the TV screen.  With the glowing visors and the bulky armor they look really cool.  The individualization of the color schemes on the armor also looked pretty sweet. 

In the same scene with the Republic Commandos we also have some really well done rain effects on Coruscant.  The best part is the stream of water pouring through the boarding ramp.

One of the special effects that was heavily used in this week's episode and looked really good was the Force Lightning.  Dooku was throwing sparks all over the place, and visually both the lighting and the aftermath with small smoke effects coming from Opress' clothing were very well done. 

IV)  New Characters/Planets Vehicles:

Meet Jedi Master Saesee Tin & the Republic Commandos

Magic Sith GPS Talisman

Savage Opress' Lightsaber
T-6 Jedi Shuttle also available in Lego Form
V) Continuity Clashes: "How I learned to stop worrying and love the ret-cons"

The minor continuity issue that this episode resolves is the origin of Darth Maul as hailing from Dathomir instead of Iridonia.  I thought that this was handled very well in the Jedi Council scene.  With Yoda and Mace playing the role of Leland Chee. 

The major continuity issue is the potential that Darth Maul is still alive in some form.  We aren't going to get answers to exactly what is going on with Darth Maul atleast for a while, but fans will be buzzing about this revelation.  This Sunday (1/23/11) look for an in-depth article as I expound on my thoughts about what a living Darth Maul and an apprenticed Savage Opress could mean for The Clone Wars and the balance of power in the galaxy. 

VI.  Rating this Episode

This episode gets a 10 out 10.  It is a transformative episode for the series, not only does it prove that just about anything is possible in terms of continuity when George Lucas is calling the shots, it also opens up tremendous storytelling opportunities by creating a possible third major faction that was yet unknown in the galactic conflict known as The Clone Wars. 

VII. Next on The Clone Wars

The next episode of TCW is episode 3.15 "Overlord."  This will be the first episode of the Mortis arc which will deal with the Prophecy of the Chosen One, and feature guest star Liam Neeson reprising his role as Qui-Gon Jinn.

Jedi Fortune Cookie: "Balance is found in the one who faces his guilt."
Synopsis: A mysterious force draws Anakin, Obi-Wan and Ahsoka to a distant planet, and its inhabitants -- a family of exceptionally powerful Force-wielders -- in an attempt to determine whether Anakin is truly the Chosen One.
Director: Steward Lee
Writer: Christian Taylor

Key Characters: Obi-Wan Kenobi; Anakin Skywalker; Ahsoka Tano; Son; Daughter; Father
Key Locales: Mortis
Source: Episode Guide Preview


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