Saturday, February 5, 2011

Battle Meditation on Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Altar of Mortis (Episode 3.16 Review)

How many Rabies shots do you need to get when you are bitten by the Dark Side? 

Episode Title & Number:  "Altar of Mortis" Season 3, Episode 16 (3.16)

Original Air Date: February 4, 2011. 

Review Blurb: Evil Gargoyle bites lead to Dark Side Rabies, which leads to evil shenanigans for or intrepid heroes on the crazy mixed up realm of Mortis.  Oh and Obi-Wan goes all King Arthur except with an epic fail at the end. 

Jedi Fortune Cookie: "He who surrenders hope, surrenders life."

Episode Dramatis Personae:

Father, Male Force Wielder
Son, Male Force Wielder, Dark Side personified
Daughter, Female Force Wielder, Light Side personified
Anakin, Male Jedi Knight
Ahsoka, Female Togruta Jedi Padawan
Obi-Wan, Male Jedi Master

Episode Summary:


Mystery on Mortis! Sent to discover the origin of mysterious distress call, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker and his Padawan Ahsoka Tano are stranded on a distant planet. There, they discover three beings more powerful with the Force than any Jedi have seen before.

The Father keeps a fragile balance between his Daughter, who allies with the light side, and the Son, who drifts ever closer to the dark. With his strength failing, the Father asks Anakin to stay and take his place, preserving the balance between light and dark. But after passing a perilous test, Skywalker refuses.

Now we find our heroes about to depart for their journey home, or so they think....
Episode Guide Synopsis:

Before the Jedi can leave Mortis, the Son takes Ahsoka captive in an attempt to entice Anakin into joining him to use their combined strength to overpower his Father and Sister. To this end, the Son casts Ahsoka under the spell of the dark side. Meanwhile, the Father attempts to stave off a disastrous showdown between his children and maintain the Force's increasingly precarious balance on the planet. Fearing that the Son may be unstoppable, the Daughter does the forbidden by taking Obi-Wan Kenobi to the Altar of Mortis, wherein is kept the Dagger of Mortis, a weapon capable of killing a Force-wielder. The Son steals the weapon, and attempts to use it against his Father to steal his power and end his rule, but the Daughter sacrifices herself, placing herself in front of the blade.

I) Story/Writing

"He who strays ever closer to the Dark." 

There is a very interesting line in the newsreel of this weeks episode in mentions that Daughter aligns with the Light side of the Force and Son strays ever closer to the Dark.  It doesn't say that the Son is the Dark side.  What we see later in the episode through dialogue by the Daughter is that she is purely selfless by nature and that her brother is purely selfish by nature.  So in reality I think we are dealing with supremely powerful beings that stuck/landed on Mortis at some point and the planet's connection to the Force serves to increase their powers and to exaggerate their natural character traits.  i.e. Son gets more selfish and eviler and Daughter gets more selfless and good.  Supremely powerful beings with delusions of grandeur.

Anakin is the worst Jedi ever.  Seriously, calm, peace meditation.  Anakin is all emotion.  This episode makes me think that Yoda's Padawan for Anakin experiment is a failure.

Interesting emphasis on "chains" when Ahsoka is held captive by Son before she is "infected".  I find it interesting and made me think of the Sith code.

Very cool conversation between Father and Son:  
Father: You are growing stronger my son.
Son:  Am I father.
Father:  Vanity however is getting the better of you.
Son:  How So?
Father:  You have done what is forbidden, You have chosen the Dark side  and allowed it to feed you anger and desire for power.
Son: By bringing the chosen one here you have shown me my potential you have only yourself to blame.
Father:  Do not do this son. Do not become what you should not. Be strong  I implore you.  Or else I should be forced to contain you.
Son:  You look frail father...
Father:  I am not dead yet.
Son:  Well, perhaps I am tired of waiting.  I HATE YOU..
The Altar: 

What exactly is the Altar of Mortis?  Daughter tells Obi-Wan that "When you reach the Alter it will give you what you need," and  "He who wields the blade will be able to control my brother."

Random Tangents: 

1. Familial bond between Son and Daughter but not between Son and Father.
2. Son gains strength from conflict?  Did the Clone Wars in the galaxy at large increase Son's power and this cause Father to call Anakin to Mortis. . 
3. How incredibly powerful is the Father, he just pimp slaps both his kids out the window with the flick of a wrist.
4. I was actually surprised during the battle, between Father and Son, the way they shot Ahsoka, I expected her to fight through the Darkside control at some point and stab Son with the Altar Dagger.
5. Interesting that Son's knockout finger blow to Ahsoka reminded me a lot of Mother Talzin's finger blow to to the top of Savage Opress.
6. Check out Father's necklace, two winged serpents(?) twisted together.  Cool looks a bit like.
Anakin the voice of hope.  Daughter's last act saving Ahsoka.
7. Interesting are the events on Mortis pre-determined by what happens to the galaxy at large instead of vice versa.  Given Father's speech at the end it has me wondering. 

Because of the 22 minute time constraints of these episodes, some of the best episodes of The Clone Wars are the ones with the smallest casts.  More screen time allows for deeper dialogue and more action on the main storyline.  Too many ancillary characters just sort of muddies the waters sometimes and because of its format the storytelling of the Clone Wars really needs to be lean and mean.

In this episode we get a total of 6 characters, and one setting only (Mortis).  We don't have to spend time getting from place to place, or introducing or re-introducing characters, and it really allows the story to hit the ground running.  

II) Acting

Even though he is one of the main actors on the show Matt Lanter's performance as Anakin sometimes leave a little to be desired.  I think he showed very good range in this episode.  He was able to convey Anakin's turbulent emotions through his voice and give some nice foreshadowing to the emotional turmoil that will ultimately be Anakin's downfall and redemption.

Ashley Eckstein also had to go outside the box for this episode and I loved the creepy and almost insane way she played Ahsoka once she was under the spell of the Dark Side.  As I said in the preview clip it reminded me of Harley Quinn, the Joker's sidekick from the Batman comics and cartoon series. 

III) Animation
What can be said about the animation this week.  I thought overall it was a better job than last weeks episode.  Particularly the facial animations that put this week over the top.  Anakin, Son, and Ahsoka all had tremendously expressive faces throughout the episode.  This is an incredible development considering where the show started in that department. 

Other cool effects visually were
1. the look of  Dark Ahsoka,  2. Daughter becoming less luminous when she died, and 3.  Pink Sith Lighting. 

IV) New Characters/Planets/Vehicles

Son visits Anakin in a Dream as Anakin

Son in beast mode kidnapping Ahsoka

Son's Dark Tower

Dagger of Mortis

Son in "prison creature mode"

Evil Ahsoka and her new "master"

The Three Musketeers

Stab in the back
More Dark Ahsoka.  She is creepy

Apparently Son never heard of the Force Choke

Father's Wings

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

There weren't any major continuity issues that bothered me this week.  I was afraid they were going to go nuts on what the Force is and how it operates based on what we saw in "Overlords," but the way Father talked to his siblings it makes me think as much power as they have and as much as they seem to personify the characteristics of their respective sides of the Force, they are not actually the Force itself but something else.  We shall see where this all goes in next weeks episode. 

This week's episode guide has a nice references featured in this week's episode to Wagner's Opera "Siegfried" (Altar) and The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (Tower of Orthanc and Saruman's Staff)

VI) Rating This Episode

I really enjoyed this episode even more so that last weeks.  Lots of action, cool visuals, and tons of Ahsoka awesomeness.  9.0 out of 10. 

VII) Next on The Clone Wars

Next week on TCW is Episode 3.17 "Ghosts of Mortis," the third and final part of the Mortis story arc.  It looks like we will get a ton of foreshadowing of Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.  Do we get a hint at a possible fate for Ahsoka in next weeks episode? Tune in and find out.

Next week should also see the second guest appearance of Liam Neeson as Qui-Gon Jinn. 

Synopsis from Star Wars Insider:

Anakin Skywalker must choose between the light and dark side of the Force as he gains a disturbing insight into his own future.  Meanwhile, Obi-Wan and Ahsoka prepare for a decisive confrontation their effort to unravel the mysteries of the planet.  Can they ever escape Mortis?

Next week looks indescribably awesome. 

Video Clips

Cartoon Network Preview of Episode 3.17 Ghosts of Mortis

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