“When did you become the good guy?” “Don’t insult me.”

maxresdefault

M: Asajj Ventress’s first appearance in the Clone Wars movie is honestly what sold me on the series… She’s feminine, terrifying, and serves as such a good counterpart for Obi-Wan.

K: Their rivalry is hilarious to me because he just flirts at her every time they meet. But yes, Ventress is a seriously cool character. Lady villains are as awesome as lady heroes in the Star Wars.

M: It takes a special person to dismiss Obi-Wan’s flirtations with the coolness that she does. But, we’re not here to talk about their rivalry, or even Ventress’s role as a villain throughout the first few seasons of Clone Wars. Today’s topic… well, it came about like this. I see this meme popping up all the time featuring Hondo and Obi-Wan that says something like “Villains who turn into awkward friends are SO important,” which is funny enough in its own way, but if we’re talking villains who turn into amazing neutral sometimes-allies, Ventress definitely takes the cake. Or meiloorun.

K: Haha. I think “neutral” is the key word here. There are other characters who are supposed to be neutral, like Hondo (though his presence usually offends me, so it’s hard for him to come across as neutral) but I think Ventress’s arc takes her to a place where she’s truly neutral in a way other characters aren’t.

M: Quick disclaimer– we’re talking just Clone Wars here. Dark Disciple is for another day, because although I’ve placed it on hold at the library, I haven’t gotten to read it yet.

K: Good point, I don’t know what the EU has to say about Ventress so this is strictly Clone Wars-based analysis.

M: SO, truly neutral. I think to understand why Ventress fills the neutral role so well, however, we need to start by looking at her backstory and her time as a villain. I think one of the most fascinating things about her is how similar she is to our heroes, Anakin and Obi-Wan.

K: *Obi-Wan voice* Do tell.

M: This is only something I’ve realized fairly recently, but Ventress is basically an alternate reality version of Anakin. She, like Anakin, started life as a slave and lost her initial Jedi master all too soon (the impetus of her journey to the Dark Side). And although she eventually becomes Dooku’s minion, she’s operates on a similar sort of cold justice–an “eye for an eye” kind of thing.

K: That is a fascinating parallel. I’m thinking back to the Clone Wars novelization by Karen Traviss and how so much of what Ventress does is driven by this need for revenge against the Jedi for something they didn’t do (help her homeworld) and how that also kind of parallels Anakin’s eventual hatred for the Jedi. She has a sense that her grievance is justified.

M: Yes, exactly! In a weird way she’s motivated by many of the same emotions as Anakin is. Things need to be set right, even if that means using questionable means. I also think it’s interesting that, like Anakin, she’s always seen as inferior by her peers. She’s never quite accepted into the Sith inner circle, always referred to as “Assassin” or derogatorily referenced as Dooku’s pawn. Anakin, given that he is a different sort of Jedi, also feels constantly on the outside.

K: Part of the problem for Ventress is that Dooku probably isn’t supposed to be training her in the first place. After all, with the Sith there can be only two, so he’s breaking the rules by having this unofficial “apprentice.” Which I suppose is another backwards parallel to The Team because Obi-Wan wasn’t supposed to train Anakin either–he went against the Council and they just gave in and basically gave him retroactive permission.

M: Oooooh yes. Good point. And finally, one last parallel for Anakin: Dooku (at Sidious’s command) turns on Ventress because she’s becoming too powerful. That fear of power and the idea that she is dangerous for the Sith is (again, a backward parallel) similar to Anakin’s position as “The Chosen One” and the fear the Jedi Council has of his power.

K: Definitely. The lineup of that situation also parallels RotS, with the leader (Sidious/Yoda) demanding that the master (Dooku/Obi-Wan) kill their dangerous apprentice (Ventress/Anakin). And in both cases, the masters fail.

M: Whoa, this goes even deeper than I realized. GAH, the Star Wars.

K: They don’t mess around.

M: Poetry– it rhymes, as George would say. Okay, but I don’t want to leave Obi-Wan out of this, because I think that there are parallels between he and Ventress as well, albeit more in terms of personality rather than backstory. I love the chemistry between Obi-Wan and Ventress, as we’ve mentioned, and I love how they both have a love of the craft.

K: Ok, for Obi-Wan I see that, but I may need an example for Ventress.

M: Ventress’s obsession with power and her commitment to the Dark Side come about in part due to a fascination with the Force and its power. In the “Nightsisters” episode when we get all those cool flashbacks of Ventress’s story, there’s this really interesting moment when she goes and seeks out Dooku to ask for training. He agrees, on the condition that she proves herself. I think Ventress’s way of fighting (again, mostly coming from the Clone Wars novelization) is very intellectual. She’s seeking out knowledge and improving her technique constantly– in order to prove herself.

K: Which relates to both our heroes: the constant knowledge seeking is very Obi-Wan, and we all know how desperately Anakin wants to prove himself.

M: She’s also intensely interested in what motivates people, and the psychology of her enemies. Whereas Anakin is more about the general strategy and gets into this zone where it’s all about the win and the fight, I think both Ventress and Obi-Wan carefully weigh the motivations and psychological processes of their opponents– which is what makes them so fun to watch.

K: Oh that makes a lot of sense. And when they do it to each other, it makes them really good opponents and also allows for the level of banter they reach so comfortably.

M: Yes! For example, going back to the great novelization of the Clone Wars movie, I love Ventress’s thoughts about Obi-Wan: “He talked too much. Maybe he liked the drama, or used it to work himself up for a fight.” Uh, accurate.

K: Yes! She uses her observations of Obi-Wan every time they fight to get more and more of a sense of how he thinks, and how he operates. She knows him pretty well by the later seasons of Clone Wars. Probably better than Anakin does in some ways, since Anakin’s not very good at paying attention…

M: I think she certainly has a better idea of Obi-Wan’s weaknesses.

K: For sure–if it had come to a duel to the death between the two of them, I don’t think Ventress would have tried to do a flip over his head to take the high ground (sorry, Anakin).

M: Bahahahahahaha no, she would not have. She would have read that situation much better. And finally, one more Obi-Wan parallel… everything she loves DIES.

K: Ow that’s not a fun comparison.

M: Seriously though– her master dies. She’s thrown out of the Sith. Her entire people die (and Obi-Wan’s the “last of his breed” as he says). Basically she turns into this Ronin of sorts, an outcast, constantly hiding… much like Obi-Wan on Tatooine. Which brings us to the new Ventress we find in the latter half of season 4. A neutral Ventress.

K: I mean, sure, she’s not above seeking occasional revenge or joining up with bounty hunters, but she’s no longer actively evil. However, she’s definitely not “good” either.

M: I think we first see this, speaking of, when she teams up with Baby Boba’s gang.

K: Ah yes, Baby Boba. A character I often forget exists because I have a lot of apathy for Boba Fett in general. (Cue gasps from the larger Star Wars fandom.)

M: Haha dude, me too. Especially Baby Boba, I have about as much feeling for him as Mace Windu does. Back to Ventress: this is in Season 4, the episode is called “Bounty.” Basically she was hired to be part of this whole kidnapping operation, and it goes south quickly, given Baby Boba’s lack of planning. The princess they’ve kidnapped appeals to Ventress, telling her “I never asked to be ripped away from my home.” Which strikes a chord in Ventress.

K: Ventress knows all too well what it feels like to lose everything.

M: Which leads her to finish the mission in a really fascinating way. She does this acrobatic double-cross where she manages to both get the bounty and give the princess back to her people (though for a price, of course), and also does the honorable thing by sharing the bounty with the team as agreed upon. It’s fascinating because it’s both acting in self-interest (which is at her core), but has streaks of both cruelty and integrity.

K: She finds a weird kind of balance.

M: Basically, she stops being nihilistic.

K: Her next big appearance is one of my favorites though–a somewhat accidental team up with Obi-Wan, where we once again get to see that neutrality at play.

M: I am so obsessed with this episode, despite he-who-does-not-exist-post-TPM, because the Ventress/Obi-Wan chemistry is insanely good. Maul lures Obi-Wan out by killing innocents, and Obi-Wan is… well, not his usual self, because Maul knows exactly how to hurt him and throw him off balance (Qui-Gon, that’s how).

K: (GAAAH) Plus he has a heavily armed, ridiculously strong henchman in his brother Savage.

M: Savage is so OP it’s obnoxious. Obi-Wan doesn’t really stand a chance. So he’s getting completely slaughtered when Ventress arrives, planning to kill Savage and collect the bounty/exact revenge.

K: She could just wait for them to finish killing Obi-Wan before doing that (although since Maul is incredibly Extra™, that might take a while…)

M: (“Your death will be beyond excruciating,” etc. etc. )

K: …but instead, she lures the two Zabracks away and then gets Obi-Wan back on his feet.

M: Cue my favorite Ventress line: “Kenobi! Don’t tell me someone’s finally knocked the fight out of you!”

K: Look at her word choice, she knows him so well haha. Also, she’s clearly been watching season 4 and knows that it’s just Obi-Wan constantly getting beat up.

M: Ugh someone help him– oh wait, Ventress does! And there’s this weird respect between them because she knows he’s not a quitter and he knows she’s a valuable ally. And then she slaps him awake– she’s not being *nice* after all. Haha, I love his confused “Ventress?” when he finally wakes up.

K: This is definitely not something he expected, hence his question/teasing comment “When did you become the good guy?”

M: “Don’t insult me.” Ugh their banter here is ON POINT.

K: I like the idea that for Ventress, the implication that she’s on Obi-Wan’s side is as insulting as it would be for him to be considered on her side. But it’s not “I am a Sith and could never be pathetic like you,” the way it might have been before. She’s found her own path now. And that doesn’t involve being one of the “good guys” either.

M: Yes yes yes. She’s doing whatever is in her own best interest, so she’s quick to team up with Obi-Wan. And I love how their previous rivalry turns into an easy, almost practiced duo. “Ready?” “Like you even have to ask.”

K: Yes! They fight very well together, switching places a lot, tossing lightsabers around–it’s fun to watch.

M: Toward the end of their fight, when they decide to run (“I learned from watching you!”), Obi-Wan cues Ventress, and she jumps over Savage while he flings her up with the Force. They don’t even have to explain what they’re thinking. I mean, this is some Obi-Wan/Anakin level choreography, as short-lived as it is. And once they’ve escaped, Obi-Wan points out that now they’re sort of a team. Because, as he says, Maul and Savage are after both of them. The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

K: The old Ventress would have immediately turned on Obi-Wan once they got out of danger, but neutral Ventress…she just kind of nods tiredly like “yeah, you’re right Kenobi, see you around.”

M: And she is “around” one more time– this time to awkwardly partner up with Ahsoka.

K: Going back to how Ventress has parallels with our heroes, that’s actually how Ahsoka gets her to help–by pointing out that they “aren’t that different.” In this arc, Ahsoka is on the run from the Jedi Order, alone and hunted in the undercity of Coruscant. Ventress, having been kicked out of the Sith and hunted by the Jedi and the Sith alike, can relate. So, though she initially is just going to turn Ahsoka in and collect the bounty, she reluctantly agrees to help Ahsoka clear her name instead.

M: Granted, Ahsoka makes some wild promises about getting Ventress a full pardon as well.

K: That makes me laugh every time. Like Ahsoka, sweetie, you’re on the run for suspected treason, it’s not like you have power.

M: But hasn’t Ventress got to know that, too? I always sort of get the sense that she’s in for the fun of it, rather than Ahsoka’s actual “reward.” Ventress never even admits to being on board, she just says she’ll go wherever the tide is flowing.

K: And she does have fun, particularly when she and Ahsoka take out a platoon of clones–although Ahsoka insists they do it without hurting them, of course.

M: And Ventress isn’t too perturbed about the whole “not hurting” them part either. You get the sense that she’s bored out of her mind being a bounty hunter. Ahsoka’s an amusement, as well as a way to fight against the Jedi in one way or another. So, Ventress helps Ahsoka out briefly and leaves her with a cryptic “These are strange times” as a farewell.

K: All would seem to be well, but a lot of unfortunate events transpire, and Ahsoka gets caught again. Then, once in custody, she tells Anakin she thinks Ventress is behind the things she’s accused of, so Anakin, being Anakin, tracks Ventress down and demands some answers at lightsaber-point. Which leads to another really interesting conversation.

M: Ventress explains that she was only after Ahsoka for the bounty… but then she tells Anakin that she realized she has a lot in common with Ahsoka (again, this reveals that Ahsoka’s promised pardon isn’t what motivated the team-up).

K: Anakin gets really angry about that comparison (predictably) until Ventress explains further: “My master abandoned me…and that’s exactly what you did to her! You and your precious Jedi Order.” And then he’s just really upset (and so am I).

M: Ugh we can’t get into how this plants more seeds for Anakin’s fall because that’s terrible, and makes me sad, but eventually Ventress gives Anakin all the right info– that it’s really Barriss who Ahsoka last talked to. Anakin heads off to attempt to set things right, and that’s the last we see of Ventress in Clone Wars.

K: Her journey is a long, twisty one but very interesting in light of the other journeys highlighted in Clone Wars. In particular, Ahsoka–who also becomes a version of neutral, albeit significantly more skewed toward the Jedi than Ventress would ever be.

M: Very true. Ventress and Ahsoka’s similarities only deepen over time. And while Ventress spends the remainder of her life caught in the after effects of the Dark Side, she manages to be the most fascinating “villain turned awkward friend” of the series… and I think it comes down to the fact that she ends up having sympathy for the people she was previously fighting against.

Advertisements

I am a Jedi, like my Father before me

return02

M: “I am a Jedi, like my father before me.” But Luke is also like his father in many other ways…

K: …and boy does it freak Obi-Wan out.

M: Poor dear never stops stressing. Even after death.

K: He and Yoda both spend a large part of ESB and RotJ just panicking that they are going to lose Luke to the Dark Side the same way they lost Anakin. Which is understandable considering the parallels between the two Skywalkers.

M: Let’s start with the basics. Both Anakin and Luke grew up on Tatooine–which obviously messes a person up, all that sand–and both enter Jedi-hood late in life, after some serious trauma.

K: The Jedi Council thought Babykin was too old, imagine Mace’s face if he got a look at 22-year-old Luke asking to be trained as a Jedi.

M: And he’s certainly not the Jedi Council’s idea of an ideal student. He’s whiny and stubborn and has some sort of revenge/heroism dream when it comes to fighting the Empire. He is so incredibly normal, I can’t stress that enough. Just a stereotypical 19-year-old kid who isn’t quite sure what he wants to do with his life… he just knows he wants it to be *different.*

K: And off of Tatooine.

M: His initial Jedi crash-course is frighteningly similar to Anakin’s. He’s helping some random Jedi Master get off Tatooine and then said Jedi dies before he really gets to train.

K: Ooh good parallel. It’s not quite as bad as Anakin with Qui-Gon, because Luke wasn’t promised a Master and training at the Jedi Temple only to have it seemingly taken away, but the loss of Ben is a big turning point in Luke’s life.

M: Given that his aunt and uncle have just died, he transfers his need for guidance onto Old Ben.

K: And then he’s just left adrift with this vague knowledge of the Force, a lightsaber that apparently belonged to his father, and a disembodied voice that occasionally appears in his head (and for all he knows, that might just be him going crazy).

M: Luke is incredibly unprepared for being “The New Hope.” He’s got all sorts of attachments, and has a huge amount of power with very little idea of how to control it or even what it is exactly. The whole situation is so similar to Anakin’s that it’s no wonder Yoda immediately tries to say he is too “like his father” for training.

K: Despite that, I think it’s important to note that Luke has made a lot of progress by the time ESB starts. He’s a commander in the Rebel Alliance, leading a fighter squadron. He’s more mature, and he’s clearly been trying to practice with his lightsaber and the Force. He just needs some guidance. Which Yoda is wildly reluctant to give him.

M: Post-Anakin-Stress-Disorder.

K: Hahaha. Compared to the way he taught Jedi during the days of the Republic, Yoda takes a very different approach with Luke. Very little combat training, that we see anyway. Lots of open talk about the dangers of the Dark Side and practicing with the Force and meditation. He’s trying to learn from his (and Obi-Wan’s) mistakes.

M: Of which there were plenty. Luke’s training with Yoda is basically “Difficult, being a Jedi is, deal with it you must.” Yoda immediately teaches Luke not to give in to fear or despair, and does not give him violence as an outlet– no practice lightsaber duels or special missions. Luke’s outlet is… Yoda Backpack Obstacle Course.

K: “I can be a backpack while you run.” He even replaces “hate” with “aggression” on the list of emotions for Jedi to avoid. He does not want a repeat of Anakin. But let’s back up for a second and talk about that scene in Yoda’s hut when Obi-Wan intervenes to get Yoda to train Luke.

M: Oh yes, go ahead.

K: Up to now, Luke’s whole experience with Yoda has been a test of Luke’s patience, literally. Then Yoda asks him “Why wish you become Jedi?” and Luke says “Mostly because of my father, I guess.” Which, ow, my heart. But right after that, Yoda says he can’t teach him because he has no patience. And then the clincher, “Much anger in him, hmm. Like his father.” But what I love is Obi-Wan’s response: “Was I any different when you taught me?” I mean, we’ve all seen Obi-Padawan–he’s got some repressed anger for sure.

M: “Why do I sense that we’ve picked up another pathetic lifeform?” Obi-Padawan is no paragon of humility or acceptance. But back to Luke– Yoda straight up trolls Luke. He makes Luke eat his weird soup while chirping “patience” like 5 times, and then as soon as Luke gets frustrated Yoda gets hella serious… but this time, it’s Obi-Wan who comes to the young Skywalker’s defense. Which I love. Because Obi-Padawan was NOT on board with training Anakin… but this time, given Obi-Wan’s hard-earned wisdom, I think he knows that Luke’s natural emotions don’t mean he’s going to go slaughter younglings as soon as he’s unsupervised. It just means he needs some good-old-fashioned Jedi Master guidance in controlling his emotions.

K: But, the fact remains, Luke’s training begins like his father’s–with a lot of doubt about whether he can pull this Jedi thing off. (Also with a claim about not being afraid, which Yoda sees through both times.)

M: Luke is so focused on the future, which Yoda is quick to point out to Obi-Wan. “All his life as he looked away to the future, to the horizon, never his mind on where he was. What he was doing. Hm. Adventure. Heh. Excitement. Heh. A Jedi craves not these things.” Meanwhile, Luke just wants to get going on this Jedi training so he can save his friends and fight the Empire.  

K: And get going he does, in the ESB scene that probably most closely parallels Luke and Anakin. Luke has a vision of his friends in danger–and his immediate reaction is to run to the rescue.

M: Ugh, this scene kills me. I’m just sitting here like a Force ghost: “No, Luke, no!” (Though of course we know this ends much better than Anakin going to his mother.)

K: (Or trying to save Padme.) Before we really get into Yoda and Obi-Wan’s freak out about this situation, I have to make a quick aside about Vader. Embarrassingly, it took me the LONGEST time to figure out why he tortures Han on Cloud City. Because, as Han himself says, “they never even asked me any questions.” But getting information was never Vader’s goal–he wants Luke. And as the son of Anakin Skywalker, it is more than likely that Luke has an affinity for terribly upsetting Force premonitions. Vader just needs to create the scenario of danger and pain that will bring Luke to him.

M: And Vader also knows from experience that loved ones– and wanting power to save them– will likely be a terrible temptation to the Dark Side.

K: It’s so smart and so creepy. I love it. But the Jedi do not. Because they are worried, justifiably, that Luke is going to make all of Anakin’s  mistakes if he attempts to save Han and Leia.

M: Cue the freak out. Yoda takes a “go big or go home” approach to his warning: “If you leave now, help them you could… but you will destroy all for which they have fought.” Harsh.

K: But it could be true. And it’s a risk Yoda is not willing to take with someone as important as Luke.

M: I love how for once Obi-Wan just comes straight out and explains why they’re worried: “This is a dangerous time… You’ll be tempted by the Dark Side… I don’t want to lose you to the Emperor the same way I lost Vader.” (cue tears)

K: Gah, we don’t want you to lose Luke the way you lost Anakin either, Obi-Wan!

M: But back to the action–this is the Star Wars, and limb loss is imminent. A mistake on Vader’s part. One I’m sure he regrets later bahahaha.

K: Yeah, nothing gets a person on your side like cutting off their hand. Immediately after this obviously painful moment, when he’s been utterly beaten, Luke faces the same offer that Anakin gets from Palpatine: “Join me.” He’s offered a chance to overthrow the Emperor and have unimaginable power at Vader’s side.

M: But darling Luke rejects the Dark Side, despite that tempting power.

K: And parallels his other parent by refusing to join Vader in evil.

M: So, Luke refuses the offer for power, but after losing his hand and having a traumatic encounter with a parent… has some angst. Similar to Anakin’s situation at the end of AotC.

K: It’s not an exact parallel of course–Obi-Wan is the one Dooku offers a partnership to in AotC, and Anakin’s mother is dead not a supervillain, but the trauma and the clothing choices these separate experiences lead to are undoubtedly similar.

M: And that brings us to the beginning of RotJ when Luke arrives at Jabba’s palace. Which, admittedly, is my *favorite* Luke entrance EVER. Boy knows drama, like his father before him.

K: And fashion, like his mother before him.

M: 10 points to Hufflepuff for Jedi threads.

K: That scene where Luke comes to Jabba’s palace sets the mood for the rest of Luke’s journey in RotJ. Yes he’s our hero, but he’s a little…ambiguous.

M: He’s wearing all black, very Vader, hood up in a way that would make my suburban mother call him a drug dealer, and he freaking Force-chokes some Gamorreans.

K: It’s understandable if the audience is a little worried about Luke going forward. He’s in more danger from the Dark Side than he’s ever been before this point. Which is important from a plot standpoint–if we didn’t believe there was a chance Luke could fall, we wouldn’t be so afraid of him facing the Emperor.

M: I also want to point out that RotJ was originally titled Revenge of the Jedi. Obviously, George eventually changed his mind about that, but I think that title makes it even more clear that this isn’t the same innocent Luke who wanted to go to the Tosche station and pick up some power converters.

K: In the novelization of RotJ, there’s a ton of commentary throughout the Tatooine section about Luke struggling not to *enjoy* killing all of Jabba’s minions and blowing up the sailbarge. He knows that’s the wrong way to approach it, but he can’t deny that revenge is sweet. He’s rescuing his friend and getting rid of an awful criminal, which are good things, but he’s still feeling that pull to the Dark Side.

M: I can understand Luke’s struggle not to enjoy it, because I sure enjoy watching it. The skiff scene is the best. But he does keep his promise and go back to Yoda. And I love Yoda’s subsequent warning: Luke is in danger of suffering the same fate as his father.

K: Yoda’s right–Luke very nearly does suffer the same fate (presumably minus the horrific injuries though).

M: Backing up though, I want to briefly mention Obi-Wan’s conversation with Luke prior to the Endor sequence.

K: Oh yes, please. Especially because Luke’s angry at him–very Anakin.

M: And Obi-Wan responds in his typical roundabout way as well. But also, Obi-Wan (probably unintentionally) piles on Luke the same pressures Anakin faced. Obi-Wan tells Luke that he is their only hope, that he has an important destiny, and that if he doesn’t face that destiny then the Emperor wins.

K: Yes, Luke is facing a lot of pressure in that scene with Obi-Wan, and he’s feeling more alone than ever after watching Yoda die. Like, jeez, poor kid.

M: And so he goes to face his father.

K: His first tactic? Trying to talk Vader out of being evil. Gotta love Luke. He really is determined not to turn to the Dark Side. And he does a good job initially, even when they get to the throne room and the Emperor is there egging him on.

M: But, like Anakin does and Yoda warns against, he underestimates the Emperor, as his focus is on Vader. (Luckily, Vader finally doesn’t underestimate the Emperor.)

K: The fact that Luke tries SO HARD to do the right thing over and over (“I will not fight you, father”), and that he finally does tap into the Dark Side out of desperation to save someone he loves–can we say “Anakin in RotS”?

M: Again, like Anakin it looks like his fear is what will weaken him.

K: But instead, his compassion for his father coupled with his realization (thanks, robot hand) that he’s in real danger of becoming the very thing he hates saves him.

M: Meanwhile, Vader watches the Emperor hurt Luke, in a way that reminds me of the scene where Mace Windu confronts Palpatine…the very night that Anakin turned to the Dark Side himself. And just like on that night, he has a decision to make.

K: Only this time Anakin gets it right! He stops the Emperor! And I get super emotional about it!

M: And Luke does what Anakin wanted to do all along– save a loved one from a terrible fate.

K: Well, and Anakin gets to save a loved one too. Win-win.

M: And the Force ghosts can finally stop worrying. Until Kylo shows up… *grumble*

K: But that’s a topic for a whole different post.

 

Now THIS is an inferiority complex!

image_6ccd525a

K: Today we tackle a subject I have a lot of feelings about–Anakin Skywalker’s mental/emotional health (or lack thereof). Specifically, the crippling amount of self-doubt our favorite Chosen One has. For someone who is so often chided for reckless arrogance, Anakin has one heck of an inferiority complex. But, if you look at it another way, it’s really not that surprising.

M: Just think of all of his cocky moments and translate them as cries for help. More often than not, Anakin’s hubris is a front to mask his self-doubt.

K: I mean, he definitely acts arrogant sometimes. But the guy is seriously powerful, so his claims about his abilities aren’t usually that far off. And yet, he spends a lot of his painfully short time as a Jedi worrying that he’s not good enough.

M: It’s this cycle of: “Oh no, I’m not powerful enough, everyone in the galaxy will die because of me,” to “OMG the Jedi Council/Obi-Wan just doesn’t understand how amazing I am, they’re such idiots,” to “BUT WHAT IF THEY’RE RIGHT.”

K: *radio announcer voice* This has been a brief insight into the brain of Anakin Skywalker. But seriously, that is so accurate. And Palpatine, master of manipulation, depends on this cycle in his plans for Anakin.

M: He feeds into both of those ideas– that the Jedi council are idiots and that Anakin needs more power– constantly.

K: It’s so awful. One minute, he’s stroking Anakin’s ego and the next he’s destroying Anakin’s self-confidence with some casual lament about the Jedi Council’s lack of faith in him. And it’s pretty clear that he also orders his henchmen to pour on the criticism whenever possible.

M: Hmmmm. Example?

K: Ok, you know the “Obi-Wan goes undercover” arc in Clone Wars season 4?

M: You mean, the “Obi-Wan finally gets his own arc but his beautiful voice and dashing good looks are rudely taken away” arc? Why yes, I do.

K: Hahaha, well, in the last episode of that arc, Dooku shows up and “kidnaps” the Chancellor. Anakin takes on the Sith Lord and three MagnaGuards in a long, involved duel. At the very end, Obi-Wan shows up to help, and he snatches the Chancellor off Dooku’s ship while Anakin keeps Dooku occupied for a little longer. Pretty standard Anakin and Obi-Wan adventure.

M: Yes, as I remember it, there’s plenty of Anakin’s typical flashiness and general awesomeness.

K: Indeed. Well, as Dooku’s ship pulls away, he calls “Well done, Master Kenobi. You are a worthy adversary. I cannot say the same for your young apprentice.” And Anakin just seethes.

M: Hey, yeah! It’s super unfair of Dooku to say that. Anakin just took out all the MagnaGuards and all Obi-Wan does is hop up onto the ship and drag Palpatine off.

K: Not only that, but during their duel, Anakin is doing much better against Dooku than he has at any point prior to this. Even though before the fight starts, Dooku claims that defeating Anakin is going to be easy, there are a couple of moments where Dooku’s usual calm sneer almost turns into a panicked look. He only gets away by pulling out the ol’ Sith lightning. In short, Anakin did a great job in that fight only to have Dooku just dismiss all of it and praise Obi-Wan (who, of course, Anakin already has a competitive problem with).

M: (that’s putting it mildly) Fascinating idea! We know that Dooku is the only one of Palpatine’s minions who has an inkling as to what Sidious has in store for Anakin. You almost wonder if they staged the fake kidnapping in such a way that Obi-Wan would get credit for the rescue rather than Anakin. They could have flown away a lot faster.

K: There was definitely some strategy to the encounter. Especially since Palpatine, galaxy’s worst Space-Dad, is there once Dooku flies away to tell Anakin he did a good job.

M: Well, and even then Palpatine only says he’s safe “thanks again to the heroics of the Jedi.” Palpatine was kriffing sitting there throughout the entirety of the duel. He knows that Anakin is the one doing the heroics, and intentionally does not thank him directly.

K: Also, friendly reminder, Anakin is like 22-23 at this point, which is younger than Obi-Wan was when he killed Maul in TPM (a feat that earns Obi-Wan no small amount of fame among the Jedi). Anakin is dueling Sith Lords/apprentices (and surviving) on a regular basis. But everyone acts like “eh, no more than we expected, no big deal.” Probably because he’s The Chosen One.

M: Well, it’s like in AotC when Anakin’s complaining that Obi-Wan won’t recommend him for the trials because Anakin is “too unpredictable.” While misguided, it is a true statement. Anakin is too unpredictable– the Jedi are terrified of his power being untamed! But because of that fear, the council constantly undervalues him. (I’m sounding like Anakin, haha)

K: (I would make a joke about whining but I’m kind of on Anakin’s side at the moment.) AotC has another moment that nicely illustrates just how much everyone casually expects of Anakin. After Obi-Wan jumps out of a who-knows-how-many-stories-high window to grab the assassin droid, Anakin has to get to a speeder, pilot said unfamiliar speeder through insane Coruscant traffic, find his master using the Force in said traffic, and then manage to get to him before Obi-Wan hits a vehicle or the side of a building. Anakin does all that and the first thing Obi-Wan says to him is “What took you so long?!” Which is banter, and Anakin responds in kind, but deep down that sort of thing has to have an effect on his psyche.

M: Ooooooooh the complications of Obi-Wan’s sarcasm with Anakin’s style of communication, a huge topic we’ll discuss in depth another day. Yeah, Anakin just wants a simple “good job” (although probably not the one he does get later in AotC). He’s just a kid. And because he hasn’t lived in the Temple his whole life, emotionally he really is just a kid compared to the rest of the Jedi.

K: The Jedi do show appreciation when appropriate, but they kind of frown on outright praise. They’re definitely never effusive in their compliments. And Obi-Wan, in particular, is not very good at making Anakin (or, to be fair, anyone else) feel validated.

M: Hence when Padme actually does get a *slight* compliment she responds by saying “A compliment? You should warn me next time, Obi-Wan. Give me a chance to sit down first” (Clone Wars: Wild Space by Karen Miller, pg. 135). You can see Anakin sort of making up for this lack of appreciation/praise in how he deals with Ahsoka. It’s not like he’s raining compliments on her, but “Good job, Snips,” is a very common utterance throughout Clone Wars.

K: Ooh good point. He’s determined to make sure Ahsoka doesn’t feel as unappreciated as he sometimes does. Although Ahsoka isn’t facing quite the same level of pressure as Anakin.

M: The poor guy was told when he was nine– NINE– that he was the Chosen One and that he has this huge destiny with the Force. That has to loom over him like stormclouds… I mean, what if he’s not prepared? What if he can’t do it?

K: It can’t help that no one can even tell him what said enormous destiny is. The Jedi are in the dark just as much as Anakin is about this whole prophecy thing, and so no one can guide him on what he’s supposed to do–if he’s even supposed to do anything. He just knows he has this power, which he doesn’t even know the full extent of, and that the other Jedi are slightly in awe, but mostly really worried about it.

M: He has no clue what to expect, or what to prepare for. It makes his future a void that feeds on anxiety.

K: Which Anakin has plenty of. And we haven’t even talked about what losing his mother did to this inferiority complex. Like, Anakin is complaining about feeling underestimated by Obi-Wan and the Council in AotC, and then he decides that Shmi’s death is entirely his fault because he wasn’t “strong enough” to save her. He switches from seeming arrogance to crippling inferiority so fast I get whiplash.

M: His introduction to the Jedi council probably had a lasting effect too. There’s this part in the EU novel Cloak of Deception by James Luceno where Obi-Padawan mentions that, because he nearly didn’t become a padawan at all, he’s always trying to prove himself and do more and be better, which Qui-Gon “Living Force” Jinn scolds him about constantly.. But this moment really sticks with me because Anakin’s beginning is 1138 times more traumatic. He was told by all of the most powerful Jedi that he was too old for training, that he’d never be able to do it. And the poor kid is just standing there, wondering if after everything that has happened he won’t even be able to fulfill his purpose. You’d constantly feel the need to prove yourself after that.

K: Which Anakin clearly does. Every stunt, every boast, every claim that he’s got everything under control–if you look at it in the light of a kid desperately trying to be what he thinks he’s supposed to be (unstoppable super-Jedi), it starts being more heartbreaking than amusing.

M: Look, space-dad! I CAN throw a lightsaber!

K: No hands!

M: (Literally, no hand.) Ok, sorry to keep bringing up novels but I’ve been doing a lot of reading.

K: No please, bring up the novels, I have a lot to say about them too.

M: In Clone Wars: Wild Space, Obi-Wan tells Anakin that he’s been given his first real command as a Jedi Knight (this is pgs. 105-111). He gets his own flagship and everything. Anakin’s immediately excited, and also immediately terrified. Then Obi-Wan tries to give him some advice… and it doesn’t go over well. Anakin’s response is: “You don’t think I can do this, do you? [ …] you still see me as a kid, your apprentice. Snot-nosed Anakin who can’t be trusted to get the job done.” I mean, Obi-Wan doesn’t think that– he just thinks Anakin is going to do normal Anakin things (and to be fair, he does). But what this exchange makes clear is that those words are Anakin’s. He’s saying those kinds of things to himself.

K: Exactly! He takes any sort of advice or warning as a direct criticism of his abilities, even when it’s usually not intended that way. Because that’s the only kind of advice or warning he gives himself. In the excellent novelization of the Clone Wars movie by Karen Traviss, there are an insane number of moments where Anakin, while doing his job to the absolute best of his ability, just beats himself up mentally. “[Anakin] wondered how long it would be before this numbness wore off and reality slammed him against the wall, screaming: Why didn’t you save Rex? Why can’t you save anyone who matters? What’s the point of being the Chosen One if you can’t save people you care about?” (Star Wars: The Clone Wars, pg. 148). That’s what “reality” means to Anakin–his brain screaming at him that he’s useless and a failure.

M: Again, textbook anxiety/depression. And probably a personality disorder or two, but I’m not a psychologist. Also, that book is MAJOR Anakin feels, sheesh.

K: ALL the Anakin feels and then some. I could keep pulling out examples like this all day, but it’s getting too kriffing depressing.

M: Yeah. *sniffles*

K: Honestly, if I see one more person saying that “Kylo Ren is everything Anakin Skywalker should have been” (implying that he has a deeper, more complex characterization) I will throw all of these examples and more at their heads.

M: You have to at least give Anakin credit for being seriously messed up. And yet he still manages to be the best villain in cinema history AND bring balance to the Force.

K: Proving that he really did have enough power to save the galaxy after all.

 

Zen to Sassy: The Jedi Spectrum

tcw_voices

M: K and I REALLY want to be Jedi.

K: Like REALLY BAD.

M: But, some aspects of Jedi-ism have us concerned. No, not the “no-attachments” rule. The only thing I’m attached to at this point in my life is my laptop and my favorite pair of fake pants.

K: The no attachments rule honestly sounds like the excuse I’ve been needing at every family gathering for the last five years to explain why I’m not dating anyone.

M: No, the thing that really concerns us is that whole… “accept everything as the will of the Force” thing–the whole “be chill” part. For while attachments we have none, chill we are not.

K: Preach. Lucky for us, there’s a bit of a, shall we say, spectrum within the Jedi Order. In an “on a scale from Anakin Skywalker to Luminara Unduli, how Zen are you?” kind of way.

M: Anakin “human disaster” Skywalker to Luminara “so Zen even Yoda rolls his eyes” Unduli. This wide of a range allows for a special specimen of Jedi. The Sassy Jedi.

K: The only kind of Jedi we could possibly be, because the Zen Jedi (even the ones we like) are just way too chill. About the good emotions as well as the bad ones. I don’t know that I could go without getting really excited as well as getting really angry.

M: You see, the Sassy Jedi do indeed experience this range of emotions. They just express all emotions as Sass. Obi-Wan, despite his severe emotion-repression, is about the perfect example. Instead of expressing his feelings, he either bottles them away… or lets them out in the form of extreme sarcasm.

K: He is the most obviously “sassy” of the Sassy Jedi. He can’t help himself, it spills out everywhere.

M: Flirting with Ventress, talking back to Dooku, being quippy with Anakin…

K: Seriously, it’s almost a problem. Except not, because we love him so much. There are a couple of other Jedi that fall more on that end of the spectrum too. For example, Aayla Secura, who, when asked if all Jedi are reckless, responds “Only the good ones.”

M: (*girl crushing so hard*) Yes, Aayla may not be as snarky as Obi-Wan, but she’s got style, is always up for a fight, and seems to acknowledge that emotions do, in fact, exist. I’d also put Even Piell on this list, now that I’m thinking about it. That one-eyed… thing *looks up species* Lannick has had ENOUGH.

K: Master Piell is another Sassy Jedi who doesn’t necessarily “sass,” but who isn’t so concerned with keeping his emotions in check that he won’t tell you what he thinks of you to your face.

M: That’s probably how he lost his eye, honestly.

K: I think Kit Fisto is also a Sassy Jedi. Like yeah, in that Clone Wars arc on Mon Cala, he’s super chill about the eels constantly shocking him, which is very Zen. But when he first sees them, he’s all “Ooh, eels! Very dangerous!” Like, he’s not…excited, exactly, but he is interested. Which is very Obi-Wan.

M: OMG, so Obi-Wan. “Which do you think it will enter? The ear or the nose?” (S2E7, look it up). Yeah, Kit Fisto takes on danger and life-threatening situations as if they’re a complete joke. He just grins through it all. It’s rather delightful.

K: What a gem.

M: I have a few Jedi I need help categorizing, but let’s move on to Zen Jedi to get a full idea of the spectrum first.

K: In that case, let’s start at the extreme Zen end of things: Luminara Unduli. It’s not that we hate Luminara…

M: Because hate is not the Jedi way.

K: And she does get the job done. It’s just… she’s the show off kid in class and sometimes that gets REALLY old.

M: I think an ANECDOTE is in order.

K: By all means!

M: So, in the Geonosis arc in Clone Wars (season 2, episodes 5-7, literally one of my favorite arcs), she is unbearably Jedi. The deal is that she and Anakin are going to create a distraction at the front gate of a droid factory, while Ahsoka and Luminara’s padawan, Barriss, sneak in through an underground system of tunnels and blow the thing up from the inside. A nerve-wracking situation all around.

K: Indeed. But guess whose nerves are not wracked?

M: Kriffing Luminara. Is she worried about Barriss dying? Nah, she’s willing to be unattached to her padawan.

K: *cue Anakin sputtering with shock*

M: Is she worried about the padawans getting lost? Nah, she made Barriss MEMORIZE the entire ancient tunnel system.

K: *cue Ahsoka sputtering with shock*

M: And then, when Ahsoka saves the day and everyone’s happily reunited, she doesn’t celebrate. NO, she just turns to Anakin and says something obnoxious about trusting in the Force or whatever. Such a goody-two-shoes.

K: The thing is, Luminara does EVERYTHING right, as far as the Jedi Code is concerned, but it’s super off-putting. In the movies, we see a lot of Obi-Wan and Anakin, and then later, Luke, as our Jedi protagonists, and we can understand and relate to them. But with characters such as Luminara, we see what the Jedi are technically supposed to be like. You can see why ordinary beings in the Star Wars universe find the Jedi a little bit cold and unreachable.

M: And why they see them as absolute mysteries. BUT, Luminara is an extreme. There are other Zen Jedi who are lovable as all hell. By which I mean Plo Koon.

K: Plo!!! Everyone’s adoptive Space Dad.

M: Plo does follow the Jedi Code diligently, but he does it with such intense compassion that he’s delightful. I seriously MELT every time he calls Ahsoka “little ‘Soka.”

K: It is TOO CUTE. And his relationship with his clones is the best. They call themselves “Plo’s Bros” for pity’s sake. But despite all of that apparent attachment (that most talked-about Jedi sin), Plo is very Zen.

M: Yes. He’s very calm and calculated. I’m thinking of that episode when he and Ahsoka go on a mission?

K: Haha and he’s like “what has Skywalker been teaching you, little one”?

M: Yeah! He’s just like looking cool as kriff in his really, really cool cloak and talking to people. P.S. I love his cloak.

K: Ahsoka spends a lot of that episode struggling to be patient–they’re tracking baby Boba Fett and a bunch of bounty hunters, and like her decidedly not-Zen master, Anakin, she doesn’t like waiting for the action to start. Through it all, Plo stays calm, thinks everything through, and makes all the right decisions. Because he is one with the Force, and the Force is with him, probably.

M: And his patience is also what makes him such an amazing adoptive Space-Dad! This is a more general observation, but I love that whenever the Jedi are considering an issue, he always seems to be the one asking more questions and looking at things from a different angle. He is definitely a think-before-you-act kind of guy.

K: Yes, for sure. It’s clear the rest of the Jedi Council rely on his patience and understanding when they’re struggling with all the decisions they have to make.

M: GAH PLO I LOVE YOU. Okay, also in the “Zen but cool” category: Shaak-Ti.

K: Shaak Ti, my actual queen. Hmm, she’s a little further along toward the Sassy side, but still definitely in the Zen camp I think.

M: Yes, she’s not quite as “emotions not allowed” as some of the other Zen Jedi, but she’s so incredibly… cool throughout all of her adventures. It would be very hard to get her riled up.

K: There’s a reason she’s in charge of the clones on Kamino–she has all the patience of a kindergarten teacher mixed with the take-no-crap attitude of a drill sergeant.

M: Dude, perfect comparison! I just love how she sweeps into a room, being this scary-beautiful, beautifully-scary entity, and takes charge. I think I’d find her as intimidating as crap.

K: But also I would trust her with my life.

M: In the deleted scenes of RotS, there is a scene from a discarded subplot at the beginning of the film when Anakin and Obi-Wan are tracking down Grievous. In this version, she was captured by Grievous during the battle of Coruscant. When they find her, she only gets to apologize and say goodbye before Grievous kills her. It’s not a long scene, but she does make an impression. She’s so calm. It’s that moment that really makes me think of her as Zen. Not even being faced with death will cause her to lose control.

K: But even though she’s so Zen, you do NOT want to cross her. (I’m looking at you, creepy Kaminoan doctor from Season 6.)

M: OH MOST DEFINITELY NOT. She’s on the justice side of the Jedi.

K: Exactly. So, we’ve got an idea of what the spectrum looks like. Who are the Jedi you struggle to place?

M: Well, the two headliners, Yoda and Mace. Yoda is very zen pre-RotS, but I mean… Senile Yoda is a whole other creature.

K: True, true, but consider the following: Yoda is the one who teaches the younglings. All of the prequels-era novels I’ve read describe Yoda as this unpredictable eccentric. And of course, there’s my favorite “Lost a planet, Obi-Wan has. How embarrassing.” He is sassy, that one.

M: Oooh, good point. He speaks in riddles and you have to guess that some of that is just him messing with people. I guess a lot of when we see him, especially in RotS, he really has the weight of the galaxy on him. So sassy he may be, but worried he is.

K: But when Luke comes along, he’s given up on worry–it’s too late for that, so why not freak the kid out by stealing his flashlight and hitting his droid with a stick?

M: “MINE!” I LOVE YODA. Mace is also an interesting one. He’s very Jedi, but he takes NO crap, and always seems level 1000 annoyed with Anakin.

K: With Anakin especially, but also with everyone in general. It’s almost like he’s the Sith version of Zen instead of the Jedi version. He’s got that “controlled rage” feel about him. Emphasis on the “controlled.”

M: (Speaking of Sith, I’d rate them on a scale of “Palpatine takes Anakin to the bubble ballet” to “Palpatine jumps up and does a 920 degree Force spin while shrieking.”)

K: (I approve this scale.)

M: To finish off, I think there needs to be some sort of… side category. This would be the “Jedi Troll.” Super Zen, definitely trolling you.

K: Ok, I’ll bite, who would be in this category?

M: Qui-Gon Jinn.

K: OH OF COURSE.

M: Like he’s too much of a Sassy jerk to be a Zen Jedi, but he’s also so sanctimoniously Zen with his “Living Force” stuff. And we love him.

K: We do.

M: WAIT, we’ve forgotten to place one important Jedi– Ahsoka! Where do you think she’d be on the scale?

K: Definitely Sassy. It’s just a matter of degree.

M: Yes. Because she is Sassy. She’ll always be, it’s very innate. But I think her decision to leave the order is about the most Zen thing a Jedi in her situation could do.

K: Hmm, yes, I can see that.

M: I mean, yes, it’s not a “JEDI” thing to do, but it displays the more pure traits of the Jedi Code. “Emotion, yet peace. Ignorance, yet knowledge.”

K: She also does have that more serious side that lets her be more Zen than she first appears.

M: Basically she’s perfect.

K: She’s probably the kind of Jedi I would want to try to match. Sassy, yet Zen.

 

Zen

Luminara Unduli

Plo Koon

Ki-Adi-Mundi

Adi Gallia

Shaak Ti

Mace Windu

Ahsoka Tano

Kit Fisto

Aayla Secura

Even Piell

Yoda

Obi-Wan Kenobi

Sassy

Extra Sassy Anakin Skywalker

Troll: Qui-Gon Jinn

 

duh duh duh DUN DA DUN, DUN DA DUN

d25a806eede13bdfe968bad0d8f896fe

K: The only Star Wars score John Williams has won an Oscar for is the original 1977 Star Wars. (ESB, RotJ, and TFA were all nominated, but none of the prequels were, which is a travesty we can talk about another day.) I love the ANH soundtrack, as I love all Star Wars music, but it’s missing something the other Star Wars scores have–The Imperial March.

M: Certainly the absolute most iconic bit of Star Wars music, one identifiable within a few notes. However, given that it’s woven so deep into the fabric of popular culture, it’s easy to overlook not only its individual brilliance but also how skillfully John Williams incorporates the theme as a leitmotif throughout the rest of the soundtracks.

K: Although it’s called “The Imperial March,” its subtitle is “Darth Vader’s Theme,” and that’s how most people know it: the stirring and evil-sounding music that blasts every time Vader makes an entrance. But if we follow the story chronologically, starting with the prequels, that’s not how it first appears.

M: No, it first appears in “Anakin’s Theme,” arguably one of the best pieces of Star Wars music EVER, given what we’re about to talk about. And to clarify, I don’t know music very well… I’m sure there’s a lot more here than we’ll discuss.

K: Oh for sure. I bet there have been Masters theses written about the themes of Star Wars and all of the brilliant things John Williams does. I don’t have the technical knowledge to write one, but I do appreciate what I have learned and noticed while listening to the soundtracks. So, “Anakin’s Theme.” It’s a beautiful, hopeful sounding piece of music, full of the promise and potential of this sweet kid from Tatooine. But there’s something darker lurking both in the child and in the song.

M: I love the sort of unsettled nature of the tune. Despite how intensely melodic the song is,  it’s hard to break up into segments. The notes carry into each other, rather impressionistically (Think Debussy). But at the very end of the melody, those notes tumble into the notes of “The Imperial March.”

K: Not, it should be noted, as sinisterly as the theme appears throughout the OT. It’s a lot gentler, easier to miss. But it’s a reminder of the approaching inevitable.

M: Once you hear those last few notes and make the connection to “The Imperial March,” it’s hard not to have that mood flavor the entirety of the song. Its unsettled nature, as well as the struggle between the upwardly moving melody and the melody’s inevitable fall  at the end of the tune… it all comes down to those last few notes.

K: It mirrors Anakin in the prequels as well–trying to rise but eventually being dragged down to the Dark Side.

M: But it doesn’t stop there. We get to hear the Imperial March throughout Anakin’s fall, as well as in The Clone Wars.

K: I was surprised, listening to the prequel soundtracks, at how sparingly John Williams actually uses the Imperial March. It pops up only at the darkest points in Anakin’s fall, highlighting the big turns in his journey to darkness. And even then, it’s usually pretty subtle. For example, when Anakin slaughters the Tusken Raiders in revenge for his mother’s death, the Imperial March plays not over the shots of Anakin slashing with his lightsaber, but over the scene where Yoda feels his rage and distress in the Force. It also appears in AotC in its less-widely-used function as the theme of the Galactic Empire–as Chancellor Palpatine and select senators look out over the gathered clone troopers and the new battleships of the Republic (so eerily reminiscent of stormtroopers and Star Destroyers respectively) we get that melody again.

M: I love that it isn’t used blatantly in the prequels for two reasons: First, I think it’s important that Anakin is not yet Vader. They’re not one and the same person, hence Obi-Wan insisting that Anakin Skywalker was killed when Vader was created. Not using it oppressively gives Anakin the constant chance for redemption–it’s really not until the end of RotS, when he rises as Lord Vader, that he has completely become that character. Second, it is used so liberally in ESB and RotJ when Vader’s presence and power is a constant. This in contrast to RotS, when Anakin potentially could have avoided becoming Vader. By the time the OT rolls around, the March is unavoidable, drowning out many of the other themes once it arrives.

K: The OT Imperial March is so great. It can be bombastic and in-your-face as it comes striding down a corridor, or it can jump out and surprise you.Going back to your point about using it sparingly in order to emphasize that Anakin isn’t Vader, let’s talk about Clone Wars!

M: GAH, literally my (and I think your) favorite moment in The Clone Wars is in the episode “Voyage of Temptation” (S2 E13). Obi-Wan and Satine are caught in a pickle… this crazy senator dude, Tal Merrick, is holding a detonator that will explode the ship they’re on, but neither Obi-Wan or Satine can bring themselves to kill the man. Merrick says “Who’ll strike first and brand themselves a cold-blooded killer?” Obi-Wan and Satine both hesitate… and BAM, the guy gets stabbed in the back by Anakin, who seems completely unaware of the implications of the situation. And in the background…

K: Duh duh duh DUN DA DUN, DUN DA DUN. We could write a whole other post about that moment, because it is my favorite of all time, but the use of the Imperial March there…gosh. Painful. The same sort of thing happens a few times throughout the show–any time Anakin drifts toward the Dark Side, that theme lurks in the background, reminding us of what’s to come.

M: Honestly, it’s a bit of a killjoy in that it’s this little reminder of the tragedy to come… Anakin will cease to be himself and will turn into Vader instead.

K: Thanks a lot, show–can’t just let us pretend that it’s all going to turn out fine, oh no. Interestingly, when Anakin really does fully commit to becoming Vader in RotS, the Imperial March still isn’t used nearly as heavily as it is in the OT. Probably because RotS is meant to show the absolute tragedy that is Anakin’s Fall, and the Imperial March is so entwined with this idea of Vader as a terrifyingly powerful force of evil.

M: I mean, it’s a march. It has this confidence and ruthlessness and drive to it that isn’t yet appropriate for Anakin. He’s not at ease with that level of evil until his transformation is complete and he leaves behind all traces of his former life.

K: But by the time we reach the era of the OT, the music fits perfectly with Vader’s persona. He is completely relentless and unstoppable, just like the rhythm of the march.

M: OOOH, which is why I love the little snippet of the March we get in RO. We don’t really hear it until the very end, when Vader has boarded the Rebel Cruiser and is watching the Tantive IV fly away, cape billowing in the “wind” (wind doesn’t exist in Space, obvs a bit of Vader using the Force to be extra), the literal definition of BADASS.

K: Dang, that Vader scene is still the coolest, most breath-taking (in the literal sense) 45 seconds I have ever seen on a theater screen.

M: *SHINK* Red lightsaber glows in the darkness as we listen to the same alarm sound from ANH… I DIE, we must change subjects before I talk about this all night. Back to the March in RO, I love that we only hear it, really, at the very end. We hear a few bars of it in the “Do not choke on your aspirations” scene, but using it in its full glory only at the end lets the audience know that the best/worst is yet to come… Vader is just getting started (additionally, this reflects the absence of the March in ANH). Also, I feel I must insert a word for Rebels here, which uses the March in a more Rogue One fashion (except for when they make it major during the Empire day celebrations?! Weird?!). He’s a mystery… scary, but not yet a direct threat to the entire galaxy.

K: I also like that, I think it works best to give the March its biggest and best incarnations during the movie that features everything going Vader’s way (well, until his son jumps down a death shaft rather than join him in ruling the galaxy): The Empire Strikes Back.

M: Exactly. And in ESB the March is kriffing everywhere. Every time we see an Imperial ship, every time we see Vader. I love how larger than life this makes Vader feel. And honestly, at this point, the gang don’t know what exactly they’re facing. They’re only now realizing how big of a problem he is.

K: And once they realize it, there’s no escaping it. Suddenly, Vader is everywhere: hunting the Millennium Falcon through an asteroid field, appearing to Luke in a creepy tunnel on Dagobah, even sitting casually in a dining room in Cloud City. And his theme comes everywhere with him.

M: I especially love it in “The Battle of Hoth,” mostly because that’s one of my favorite tracks, but also because even amidst the thrumming of the AT-AT’s theme, the March STILL manages to be the scariest and most bombastic tune in the suite.

K: Gah so good. But, if the March manages to completely take over ESB, it has a much more complicated life in RotJ. It starts out as the same powerful theme, playing over Vader’s and later the Emperor’s arrival on the Death Star 2.0. But things are less clear to Vader these days. And his theme doesn’t always pound out confidently the way it used to. In particular, I’m thinking of the scene where Luke is brought to Vader on Endor. The Imperial March as we usually think of it IS present in the scene, but there’s this whole other section where bits and pieces of the March try to assert themselves only to disappear into the other melodies.

M: I think it’s a signal… Vader isn’t going to be Vader for much longer. It has less surety, more hesitance.

K: VADER isn’t sure anymore. Not sure about the Emperor, not sure about his decision to embrace the Dark Side, not sure what to think about his son–his son, who is insisting that there is still good somewhere inside of that black shell. It’s the Emperor’s theme, not the Imperial March, that takes center stage when Luke and Vader duel–it’s the Emperor Luke truly has to defeat, not his father. Which brings us to the last, really beautiful use of the Imperial March, during Anakin and Luke’s final conversation. As Luke helps his father take off his mask (literally and figuratively shedding Vader), a really high, haunting version of the March plays.

M: It sounds full of regret… just an echo of Vader’s evil and, really, the person he used to be. But also, and I’m just going to go ahead and assume John Williams did this on purpose, it sounds like Anakin’s Theme, especially with the harp at the very end.

K: Yes! It’s got that melodic quality again.

M: And because Vader has become Anakin again, Luke finally gets to meet his father.

K: *gross sobbing* Once it plays over Anakin’s death, the theme does not appear again. Instead, when Luke burns his father’s body we get a powerful version of the Force theme, and I cry and cry…

M: Vader is no more! Anakin is one with the Force. *weeps* Praise the space conflicts.

K: And praise John Williams for scoring them.

Meme Monday: When Your Young Padawan Makes a Good Call

6fc07ce7fa30224b06abe2bef6856b8595b3c9c4f4621ab911080d090330e723

This meme was my gateway drug to the Star Wars Meme universe, and I always snort-chuckle whenever I see it. Three things:

  1. A while ago I was watching AotC with my little sister and we kept laughing at how Obi-Wan always addresses Anakin with too many modifiers. “We will not exceed our mandate, my young padawan learner.” “Only in your mind, my very young apprentice.” For the next few days, every time we talked to each other my sister and I would extend this as much as possible. She asks for me to pass the salt, I respond with “Of course, my little tiny baby young child apprentice student padawan learner.” This meme bastardizes the phrase “my young padawan” in the same way.
  2. This is that perfect balance of Dad Joke and Absurd that the internet, especially Tumblr, does so well. It is… an exquisite specimen.
  3. I feel a special connection to anyone who spends their free time badly photoshopping unflattering pictures of Anakin. I think said connection is the closest I’ll ever get to the Force.

–M

Skywalker Family AU: Padawan Edition

2d074a26845dc1ce58c4478b2cf624c5

K: Few things have the power to reduce me to mush the way fanart and/or headcanons featuring the Skywalkers all living happily as a family sans Anakin’s Fall does.

M: Seriously. I’m not one for AUs, generally speaking, but despite the fact that I love the prequels and their place in the Star Wars story, it sometimes seems… unfair that the prequel folks don’t get their happy ending, while OT folks do (ignoring you, TFA).

K: Exactly! And it’s not like I’m saying I wish this is how things actually worked out. No matter how much I cry and wail about the Star Wars, I love the emotional resonance amid all of the tragedy. And you can’t get the powerful resolution of RotJ without the equally powerful devastation of RotS. But it sure is nice to dream sometimes!

M: Especially where it concerns little Leia and Luke getting to interact with their awesome parents & parents’ friends!

K: *squeals about the cuteness* Obviously, given both of their affinity for the Force, they would be training as Jedi in this AU. (Also in this AU, the Jedi are totally cool that Anakin and Padme are married and had kids in the first place, because why dream if you don’t dream big). Which means we get to think about who would train them!

M: Little Luke and Leia, tripping over their robes, calling out to Master… Who?

K: A lot of people who share our enjoyment of this AU have Anakin training them. And in many ways, that would be the cutest thing.

M: Seriously, especially because we know how much Anakin loves to teach (see: Ahsoka), despite his unconventional ways.

K: And despite how much he initially protests. We also know he likes kids (see: Clone Wars Gambit: Siege pages 108-110, aka my cause of death). Dadakin would have been a glorious sight to behold.

M: But the thing is, in this AU, Anakin has also had extensive therapy, and knows that being his children’s Jedi master probably isn’t the wisest thing, despite his need for control. He’d rather just be dad.

K: That would be more than enough of a satisfying challenge, I’m sure. Also, him trying to train Leia would just end in disaster, can you imagine the ARGUMENTS?

M: OH DEAR I CAN.

K: Padme would laugh. And then tell Anakin to let someone else do it.

M: So, who else? I mean, if this is sans Fall we have the whole of the Jedi Order to choose from… but obviously we have our favorites.

K: Yeah, we’re not letting someone like Luminara Unduli get her hands on Luke and Leia. (Although, that could be entertaining in a terrible, train wreck way).

M: I feel like Leia would end up pranking her in some horrible way, or desperately trying to break rules just because Luminara is such a stickler, which would continue to escalate until Yoda had to intervene and split them up…

K: And Luke would just be so scared of getting something wrong and so miserable from trying to do something ridiculous like memorize every junction in 200 meters of convoluted tunnels that he’d never learn anything.

M: Plus, Luminara doesn’t have a great track record with padawans. (See: Barriss Offee) (I’m a terrible human, forgive me.)

K: (She had it coming.) So, there’s one option eliminated, not that she was ever really a choice in the first place. There’s a much more obvious choice though, of course. Our other favorite Space Dad.

M: OBI-DAD! Or, in this case, Obi-Uncle? Uncle-Wan.

K: Too cute! Of course they would both love him so much anyway, since he would be over at their house CONSTANTLY and they probably get into fights about who gets to be his padawan while they’re still younglings.

M: GAH the cute. I mean, we see how easily Luke gets attached to Obi-Wan after knowing Crazy Ben for approximately 3 days. And who can blame him? He’s cuddly! And behind his innate Jedi-ness there’s a twinkle in his eye and a heart of gold.

K: But sadly, as we learned when Qui-Gon first offered to take Anakin as his apprentice in TPM, no Master can serve two padawans. So a decision must be made.

M: I feel like the obvious decision is Luke, just because they actually do train together, albeit briefly.

K: Yes, and I think that Obi-Wan would be so relieved to have a padawan like Luke for a change. Like yeah, Luke’s had his fair share of bad choices and reckless moves, but he APOLOGIZES for them. He’s really humble when he makes mistakes. And he says where he’s going before he flies away in his X-wing to do dangerous things.

M: Luke is a darling soul.

K: In the now non-canon EU his favorite drink is hot chocolate for pity’s sake.

M: GAH ADORABLE. I mean really, let us not get caught up by his (brief) whining in ANH. Really, he’s game to do anything, cares deeply about his friends, and is fairly soft-spoken.

K: I can just picture him and Obi-Wan finishing a lightsaber sparring session and then just hanging out sipping tea and discussing whatever weird theory about healing crystals has been discovered in the past few weeks. Because let’s face it, they’re both nerds.

M: They’d read books about Jedi history together and Obi-Wan would teach him about animals. It all sounds very relaxing haha.

K: Indeed. Which, who ever heard of a Master/Padawan relationship being *relaxing*? Maybe this isn’t the best scenario after all.

M: So, Obi-Wan trains Leia? First thoughts… UM, ADORABLE. Why had I not thought of this sooner?!

K: The sheer number of times Obi-Wan would put his head in his hands and say “You are JUST like your father, may the Force give me strength.” But secretly he’d love it.

M: I mean, we’re talking all the benefits of the Skywalker/Kenobi partnership without all the trauma and competition. This is an older, wiser, softer Obi-Wan who has the patience to handle a feisty Skywalker and the life experience needed to bite back sarcasm.

K: Not that Leia needs him to cut back on the sarcasm as much as Anakin did. She can dish it right back, girl’s got her mother in her too.

M: I think Leia would make Obi-Wan LAUGH.

K: Which he NEEDS.

M: DESPERATELY! Imagine Leia trying to use a Jedi mind trick on him as a round-faced 8 year old. That might be enough to get him to full on belly laugh. And I think Leia would adore him right back. He’d be game to chuckle while she uses him as a verbal punching bag, rather than correct her right away.

K: He’d challenge her to solve problems on her own and come up with solutions to tricky things. There’d be absolutely NO patronizing. Which is the kind of mentoring she needs.

M: Yes, he’d see that innate talent and pull it out, and then not buckle underneath her sharp tongue and stubbornness.

K: I feel like they’d settle into a rhythm so fast. And then they’d be unstoppable. Also they’d gang up on Anakin ALL THE TIME.

M: “Leia, let’s put sand in your father’s robe pockets.”

K: “Way ahead of you, Master Kenobi.” Also can you imagine down the road when Han inevitably enters the picture and not only does he have to face Anakin, but there’s Obi-Wan, deceptively inviting him in for tea and then just scaring the crap out of him.

M: Bahahaha, I mean Han and Obi-Wan already know how to irritate each other so perfectly, but Han would have to hold it all in because Leia would be fiercely loyal.

K: For sure. Han would have to pass the Obi-Test before she gave him a chance.

M: A nerve-wracking thing indeed from a man known for his deceptive maneuvers. UM YES, I’m sold on this partnership. And it would also be a second chance for Obi-Wan to be a master, this time fully prepared and not under the pressure of fulfilling the dying wish of his master.

K: And no matter how exceptional Leia is, she’s not “The Chosen One” which is another relief for poor Obi-Wan’s sense of responsibility. With the experience of training Anakin, and more years of wisdom under his belt, I bet he’d be very good at helping Leia control that Skywalker rage she’s got lurking in her veins. With a lot of humor, and a lot of patience of course, but also with an open and serious warning if things got bad. I think he’d try really hard not to dance around her–and she’s too direct to take it anyway.

M: She’d dig the straight answer out of him, anyway.

K: Which is another reason she’d be good for him.

M: Yes, I think Leia would teach Obi-Wan a ton. “Truly wonderful, the mind of a child is,” after all. But that leaves Luke without a master!

K: And we can’t do that to Luke! So…who gets to train the one Hufflepuff to come from the Skywalker-Amidala bloodlines? (Wait, I tell a lie, Shmi.)

M: Well, there are wealth of Jedi masters who we love and got to know in Clone Wars and EU novels. Plo Koon, primarily. Another stellar Space-Dad.

K: I do love Plo, and he would adopt the twins whether he got to train them or not. He can’t help himself.

M: Adoptive Plo’s Bros! But none of them have as much of a connection with the Skywalkers, or would be up to taking on the offspring of The Chosen One.

K: Not to mention his wife, the former Queen of Naboo (and probably Chancellor of the Republic in this AU if we’re being honest, she’s got the nerves of steel required). But yes, a daunting task.

M: I know a person not properly daunted by daunting tasks! Ahsoka KRIFFING Tano.

K: AW YEAH. (Because Ahsoka also gets to stay with the Jedi in this AU!!) But really, Ahsoka is the best. And she would be a GREAT Master.

M: Especially with Luke! Ahsoka is feisty and a touch reckless, like Anakin, but she also has this intense maternal side. She’d push Luke out of his comfort zone, but not scare him off.

K: She’d see the toughness inside him, because it does exist. He’s a ray of sunshine, but sunshine can give you sunburns if you’re not careful. She’d show him how to make the best use of his not-inconsiderable talents. Plus they would just have a lot of fun. They’d do a lot of flying together and sparring and stuff. I can see them going on lots of training field trips and coming back covered in mud and grinning. She would DEFINITELY call him Skyguy Junior.

M: OMG that’s adorable. I think what they have in common, which is what would make their relationship work, is their sheer enthusiasm.

K: They’re also both really hopeful people. They have a pretty good handle on their emotions (Obi-Wan has control of his emotions but only because he brutally represses them). And they enjoy a good display of acrobatic daring-do (see: Luke does a flip off the end of an execution plank).

M: (also see: Ahsoka always) Yes, I think together they’d be intensely energetic. And then, on the flip-side, I think they both have the same style of seriousness. RotJ, Clad-in-Black Luke reminds me of Ahsoka’s more serious, grown-up side. They’re both very thoughtful people, underneath the goofiness and flipping.

K: Oh for sure. I imagine their partnership as one that leans toward teasing more than arguing. And they’d take the time to really listen to each other’s concerns. It’d be one of those pairings where they head into battle with only a quick look at each other to determine their plan. They would know each other really well.

M: In terms of their differences, I think Luke would balance out Ahsoka’s wildness. By the time she’s older she has a really great hold on her temper, but Luke’s sensitivity would help her continue to fine-tune that.

K: Anakin would be so proud of them both, gosh. Also of Leia, of course.

M: And after a long day of training they’d all get together for family dinner.

K: I can see it now: Padme’s had a long day in the Senate, so Obi-Wan insists on cooking. Or trying to. Ahsoka and Luke take over when things start burning, (letting Obi-Wan retreat to observe quietly in the corner with a cup of tea,) even though Luke is hardly tall enough to reach anything and has to Force-float ingredients into the pot. Leia tells her mom all about the latest stunt she pulled on her twin while they were supposed to be meditating, with lots of hand gestures and getting up to demonstrate exactly what happened. Anakin just sits on the couch with his arm around his wife, smiling. Or maybe giving her a foot rub.

M: It’s the life Anakin always wanted with his mother, and the life he wanted to create for Padme and his children.

K: Ok, quick, let’s leave them there before I start crying. And-they-all-lived-happily-ever-after-the-end.