Saturday, February 16, 2013

Battle Meditation Review: Star Wars: The Clone Wars: The Jedi Who Knew Too Much (Episode 5.18)


"I assure you, he (Palpatine) rarely does anything without a strategy." ~Admiral Tarkin

What is better than killing two birds with one stone? How about five?

In "The Jedi Who Knew Too Much" Ahsoka Tano finds herself framed for the murder of a terrorist suspect as well as clone troopers.  In a daring prison break and flight across Coruscant Ahsoka flees towards freedom and away from her friends.

"Courage begins by trusting oneself."As the Republic military takes over the Temple bombing case, Ahsoka finds herself at odds with Admiral Tarkin.

Just when you think The Clone Wars can't get any better, you get a gem like this.  The Jedi Who Knew Too Much has the most stunning urban background animations we have seen on the show thus far.  The use of imagery to show the transition from Republic to Empire is incredibly effective but also incredibly cool looking.  The frenetic pace of the second half of the episode makes 22 minutes fly by in record time and the animators really out did themselves this time, effects such as the deflection of stun bolts with the lightsaber, the LAAT/i spot lights and the Star Wars 1313 shot are just too good for television.

I speak about visuals, because the use of color and visuals is very important in Star Wars.  While Empire is my favorite film, visually Return of the Jedi and Attack of the Clones because of the way they are shot, the effects and colors that are used are visual masterpieces.  This episode is equally compelling for me visually as those films.

There are two actors that are the focus of this episode and two others that set up those performances.  Stephen Stanton is deliciously evil as Admiral Tarkin and Dee Bradley Baker's performance as the assorted Clones (Fox and Rex in particular) set up tremendous performance by Matt Lanter as Anakin and Ashley Eckstein as Ahsoka.

It is interesting to think that the two "stars" of the series are probably the least experienced in terms of voice acting in the cast.  In the early episodes I think it is perfectly legitimate to criticize some of the range and tone of their performances.

In the first half of this episode Lanter maintains a cool measured and mature Anakin, while in the second half the anger, frustration and fear that is always boiling below the surface is ever present. You can feel the intensity of Anakin's emotions in his stare down with Captain Fox.

While Eckstein portrays a more mature and confident yet not cocky Ahsoka.  The scene in the Jedi Temple hallway between Barriss and Ahsoka points to the grounded nature of Ahsoka's character and the difference between her level of cockiness and her master's.  The final exchange between Anakin and Ahsoka is so well done and the way Ahsoka uses Anakin's name in that conversation speaks of a friendship that has grown beyond a master-padawan relationship towards one that is much closer to Anakin's relationship to Obi-Wan.

The use of names, titles and ranks was very skillfully done in this episode.  The subtle shift of how the Clone referred to "Commander Tano" before she was imprisoned and after she had "killed" clones is a subtle but important storytelling point.

From a storytelling perspective there is just a ton to unpack here.

If you assume (and I think we can safely) that Palpatine is behind all the evil shennanigans that are going on here, the question becomes, what is he hoping to accomplish.

1) Pressure on Anakin
2) Disillusioning the Clones
3) Tarnishing the Jedi in the minds of the citizenry
4) Removing a leading light from the Jedi's next generation
5) Elevating human military leadership above the Jedi

1) Pressure on Anakin

We all know Palpatine has had his creepy little eyes on Anakin for awhile.  Acting as Anakin's friend, mentor and confidant, he has cultivated a relationship with Anakin that allows him to learn all of the man's flaws and thus where his pressure points are.  The ultimate tipping point for Anakin on his path to the Dark Side is fear of loss of Padme.  One of the criticisms of Revenge of the Sith is that Anakin's turn seems to happen too quickly.  While we had seen rather extreme flashes of darkness from the character, the core of the confused and scared person still seemed to be good.

What I think we have here is Palpatine working on Anakin from multiple angles.  First he is playing on Anakin's fear because Ahsoka is in danger.  Second he is playing on Anakin's self-perception of weakness.  The death of Anakin's mother caused the young Jedi to have an insatiable thirst for power so that he could control all of the events around him, including life and death.  Tarkin and the clones under his command rejecting Anakin's claim of authority pushes Anakin to the edge.  This plays into Anakin's underlying thought that systems whether it is democracy or the Jedi Order are flawed and that only through strength and force of will can one impose one's desires.

It will be very interesting to see where this arc goes not only for it's effect on Ahsoka but also for it's effect on Anakin.

2) Disillusioning the Clones

Way back in The Deserter we have seen Clones rejecting their programming, questioning the Republic and the Jedi and their role in the war.  This theme was brought front and center in last season's Umbara arc with the dark Jedi General Pong Krell. Krell's reputation for casually throwing away the lives of clones preceded his arrival on Umbara.  His trickery that caused clones to murder their fellow clones no doubt quickly became the gossip among the ranks in the Republic army.

The clones are a tricky issue, the make us confront issues such as free will and nature versus nurture.  The very idea of Order 66 is a brilliant way of Palpatine putting an execution squad around every Jedi in the Grand Army.  It is too simplistic to say that the Clones were simply programmed to obey orders blindly, because we have clearly scene that while they are clones, the are individuals, they are people.  No matter what programming they received they have evolved.  So it becomes important that Palpatine ensures that when he issues Order 66, that the clones will be ready to follow through.  How do you do this? You sew the seeds of mistrust between the clones and the Jedi.  By framing Ahsoka, you have another Jedi who views the clones as disposable, who is willing to sacrifice their lives for her own desires.  How pissed off do you think the clones are going to be at her? Even if she is ultimately exonerated, there will always be that nagging doubt in the clones mind, about Ahsoka and about other Jedi.

3) Tarnishing the Jedi in the minds of the citizenry

It is much easier to seize power with public support than without it.  In his declaration of the First Galactic Empire, Palpatine uses the Jedi "Coup" as justification for his actions.  Much like his sewing of doubt among the clones, this stealth public relations campaign against the Jedi is long in the making.  Portraying the Jedi as believing they are above the law, or that they are dangerous or unstable weapons of mass destruction makes it much easier to instill the fear or doubt of the Jedi in the hearts of the populace.

4) Removing a leading light from the Jedi's next generation

While it is clear that Yoda's decision to pair Ahsoka and Anakin together was largely for Anakin's benefit. To give him an apprentice to teach, develop a relationship with, and then learn to let go in a healthy way.  It is also clear that Yoda wouldn't have paired a mediocre padawan (looking at you Scout) with the Choosen One.  Anakin's padawan had to be able to keep up with one of the most reckless and powerful Jedi in the Order.  As Ahsoka is grown she has become a very formidble Jedi.  Her prowess is on full display during the chase sequences of this week's episode.

It is no doubt that during normal times, Ahsoka would have been on the fast track to knighthood and would be an early favorite for future master status and even potential Jedi Council status down the road.  If Palpatine is able to imprison, kill or force Ahsoka to leave the Jedi Order, he weakens the Order going forward.

5) Elevating human military leadership above the Jedi

The episode begins with the transfer of authority from the Jedi to the Republic over a non-Jedi. The episode ends with the Republic exerting authority over a Jedi.  For the most part whether in this series or in the EU the Jedi Order polices itself (Kyp Durron *Cough, Cough*).

The prisoner transfer, Fox's pulling rank on General Skywalker, and the arrest and imprisonment of Ahoka illustrate the struggles that the Jedi face from being grafted on to the Republic military's command structure.

The off-screen promotion of Tarkin to Admiral and his prominence and exertion of authority make clear that the Jedi are being slowly sidelined so that when Order 66 occurs the military will continue to function without missing a beat.

Before I close there are a couple things that I can't wait to see revealed:

1) Who is the "Jedi" behind the plot?

2) Who Force-choked Letta to death?

3) Does the Palpatine in judgment of Ahsoka scene come at the end of the arc? If so is exile imposed or the death sentence?

I could go on and on about how much I enjoyed this episode, but instead I think I am just going to go watch it again. Bravo Clone Wars crew.

Direct Link to Watch Star Wars: The Clone Wars: The Jedi Who Knew Too Much (5.18)

Clone Wars Download #518: Military Might



Next Time on Star Wars: The Clone Wars:

Episode 5.19 "To Catch a Jedi"

"Ahsoka makes a deal with Asajj Ventress to find answers about who set her up for murder."

SOURCE: StarWars.com

5 comments:

  1. Amazing episode. Actually, I think its my favorite episode ever. It was thrilling, visualy stunning... well, you said it all in your great review. Your analysis of why Palpatine woould set up Ahsoka is very good. I hadn't thought about reason number 4. Its true that, when you look at her resisting to an entire batallion of clones, you can't help but think that she will be one of the survivors of order 66 if she stays in the order.

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  2. Re: the implications this episode has towards Order 66, one of the main objections to this as part of the canon has always been "Why don't the troops simply arrest their Jedi officers instead of killing them?" and, just as with the difficulty the 501st had capturing Krell on Umbara, this points out the near-impossibility of non-Force users using nonlethal means to subdue a Force-powerful subject.

    One intriguing moment in this story was the moment after Anakin, Fox, and Rex have their discussion of the situation over the bodies of the dead troopers. Anakin rushes after Ahsoka leaving instructions that her capture is to be by the minimum force needed. But after his departure Rex broadcasts the instructions using very severe language and includes the information that the fugitive has killed Republic soldiers.

    Until this point the Rex-Anakin relationship has been portrayed as unquestioning on both sides. But I thought that this little throwaway spoke to how, at least from Rex's viewpoint, his faith in his Jedi officers has been badly shaken - again, perhaps the result of Umbara? - and he is starting to think in terms of force protection not just from the Seps but from his own officers.

    And if that's happening to a "company guy" like Rex...

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  3. Fantastic post! I really enjoy your perspective on The Clone Wars...keep it up.

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  4. Great Read- I really hope they don't kill her in the end, so much character to no point.

    Just a note, as a Jedi her development is definitely warped, need someone to lead a campaign or a fight, she's your girl. A bit of wisdom and self restraint, not so much.

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  5. "If Palpatine is able to imprison, kill or force Ahsoka to leave the Jedi Order, he weakens the Order going forward."

    But I really wonder if even a Sith Master can see that far ahead or juggle that level of detail.

    My thought is that - at least based on the canon - that all this, the whole CIS "rebellion" and the Clone Wars are all about Palps as Darth Sideous looking for levers to destroy the Jedi Order. He's picked Anakin early on as both a powerful Force-user and emotionally and psychologically damaged and thus a good bet for turning. And he's also picked up on Anakin's fear of weakness and its role in him being unable to protect the people he cares about.

    So my suspicion is that he sees Ahsoka as just another lever, a tool to work Anakin a little further towards the Dark Side. I'm sure he doesn't mind killing her off as just another @#!$! Jedi, but for a guy who seems to regard masters as powerful as Windu and Yoda as more annoyances than threats it would seem a little out of character for him to fixate on her as the next head of the Council and plot her specific destruction.

    Not saying it ain't possible, just that of the five points this one seems the sketchiest.

    But...one thing I think is worth considering is your mention of "its effect on Ahsoka".

    For a while now I've been wondering where this character is heading.

    Her Master is doing a pretty damn poor job of instilling any sort of self-control or reflection in her; as the commentor above points out she's a hell of a soldier which is pretty much the antithesis of what we're told the Jedi are all about.

    I wonder if this is sort of the reverse of Ventress' dilemma - the decisive act that drives a wedge between the student and the master? Does this repel her by revealing the degree to which her master and, by inference, the other Jedi masters have fallen from their notional ideals (tho I would suggest that if she hasn't taken thought about the morality of leading an army of slave-soldiers into battle for a "republic" than has done nothing to deserve their sacrifice that it is probably time she should...)?

    Or does this push her closer to the Dark Side? Or does she "survive" Order 66 by joining the darksiders working for the Empire and her fallen master?

    Either way, a thumping good entry into the series and a tantalizing tease for the future...

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