Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Season 3, Episodes 15-17 – “The Mortis Arc” – Dark Destiny and Philosophy of the Force

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     “The Mortis Arc” is an arc that has a lot of great character development and some interesting exploration of philosophy and the force, but also has some cons to in that the Family functions as archetypes and not actual characters. For this reason I wish it had truly been all in the heads of our characters and not an actual plain of existence as it made things to great when it was powerful just when it was personal without all the “Chosen One” bs that pervaded the Prequels.

     “Overlords” was directed by Steward Lee and written by Christian Taylor, “Altar of Mortis” was directed by Brian Kalin O’Connell and written by Christian Taylor and “Ghosts of Mortis” was directed by Steward Lee and written by Christian Taylor.

    The story involves Anakin, Obi-Wan and Ahsoka being sent to explore an ancient Jedi Distress call that pulls them into Mortis where the Father and his Daughter (Incarnation of the Lightside of the Force) and Son (Incarnation of the Darkside of the Force) do battle as he strives to keep them in balance. We learn he brought them there so that Anakin could take his place as he can control both, fulfilling his role as the Chosen One. Things go wrong though after the Son kills the Daughter and it is up to our heroes to stop him before he destroys the Universe.

The Pros: Mortis – Mortis is a really cool world. There is destruction and creation in flux as the Father keeps the balance between the two. It has reminds me a lot of some of the Ancient Sith Worlds and Dothomir as we see that the three beings cannot be defined as Jedi and Sith, for all of them are beyond that in different ways. That was a cool idea, that should have been explored more.

Qui-Gon Jin – Qui-Gon’s ghost makes an appearance and counsels both Obi-Wan and Anakin! Sadly since he can’t see the future he doesn’t know what the Chosen One prophecy means and the destruction that Anakin will wrought, only the Father knows and it dies with him. This makes Qui-Gon’s appearance sad, even though his moments with Obi-Wan especially are touching. Liam Neeson came back to play this role too!

Ahsoka – Ahsoka gets infected by the son and we see what Darkside Ahsoka would be like. Her pride and anger are great and she is a good fighter. One she is healed by  the Daughter’s sacrifice it is her thinking that stops a turned Anakin and the Son from getting off the planet and we also learn she is a tech. as she was the one fixing their ship. Her fears come from her future self who warn her to leave Anakin so she won’t fall. Her future self is right too as Anakin will become greater than Dooku in the Dark Side when he becomes Darth Vader.

Obi-Wan Kenobi – Obi-Wan experiences echoes of things to come as he tries to have them leave the planet no matter what as the longer they stay the more they risk the Universe with the Son’s escape. He isn’t wrong either as Anakin going to face the son alone leads to his turn as he sees the future and is willing to risk everything so he doesn’t become Darth Vader, even the Universe. It shows Anakin’s naivety and how his ends justify the means  and attachment will lead to his downfall.

Anakin Skywalker – In this we see how Anakin’s guilt and fear drive him to do horrendous acts. From slaughtering the Sand People and to what he will do later as in his vision he sees the slaughter of the younglings and the strangling of Padme and loss of Obi-Wan. It is this that leads him to work with the Son as he will go to any means, even becoming the Dark Side now to prevent that future. It is that drives Anakin at his core and where Darth Vader’s need for control comes from as he has lost so much already.

The Philosophy of the Force – The Force is about balance, the Son and Daughter need each other and the Son mourns the Daughter’s murder by his hands. It takes the Father doing away with it all together for the world to end and for the Force Gods to finally die out. The Dark Side and Light Side need one another just as all people need passion and calm, anger and kindness…all are a part of the whole.

The Cons: The Limitations of Archetypes – It didn’t feel like the Father, Son and Daughter had personalities beyond what they represented. This was the hardest part of the story for me as they were meant to be a new species but that is mostly unknown, they function more as a plot device for Anakin’s reveal of his power and destiny which for meant this could have worked as a force vision or our heroes trapped in their heads as them facing their fears was the best part.

Dark Side Like a Virus – The Son infects Ahsoka by biting her, this simplified the Dark Side a lot and made me wonder why he just didn’t bite Obi-Wan and Anakin and take over from there. It cheapened choice by having Ahsoka have her choice to go dark taken away from her. She was the Padme stand-in for Episode III and it sucked as she is just as possible at going Dark as Anakin.

   I really enjoyed this arc, even with all it’s limitations. It gives us a chance to understand the Force better than we ever have before and to get the motivations and fears of Ahsoka, Anakin and Obi-Wan who are some of the best characters in this series. This is reason enough to watch the arc in the entirety and even though the Beings of Mortis don’t work as well, what they do and what it reveals about our heroes is reason enough to see it.

Final Score: 8.5 / 10

“Star Wars Rebels” Season 1 Retrospect – A Band of Outcasts Against the Empire

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     “Star Wars Rebels” is a great series. Such a great series in fact that it has inspired me to eventually review “Star Wars: The Clone Wars,” which was made by some of the same creators. What was it that made this series great? How would this series be defined? What made this series work were the characters, the themes and the writing and within that the fact that this is the only series besides “Firefly” that really captures the feel of a band of outcasts fighting against a force so much more powerful and overwhelming, all of which made this series work.

      The series was created by Lucasfilm and Lucasfilm Animation with Dave Filoni as Executive Producer and Supervising Director while also being joined by Simon Kinberg and Greg Weisman.

      The premise of the series is that a band of rebels fights against the Empire in the Outer Rim world of Lothal as Ezra Bridger learns he is force sensitive and must deal with his role as a force user with potential to become a Jedi as all of the crew of Ghost deals with the threats of the Empire and The Inquisitor.

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The Pros: The Soundtrack – Kevin Kiner does an amazing job adapting John Williams’s original score to fit the television series. The music is one of the strongest parts of the series as it creates tension and adds to the characters.

The Premise – The premise is wonderful as we explore the lives of one rebel cell and get to see what life is like for the Rebels in the Outer Rim and how complete Galactic control really is from the Empire.

The Characters – The characters are mostly all fantastic! Whether it is the Imperials, Rebels or even some minor characters, most of them get explored and it lends great power to the series since there is still room for all of them to grow, even though they have grown this season.

The Imperials – I really enjoyed the Imperial characters. Some of them weren’t completely bad and even the bad ones had moments of empathy or mercy and we were given a chance to sympathize with them even though they are the wrong side for obvious ethical reasons.

Agent Kallus – Kallus committed genocide against Zeb’s people and is a very hands on commander. We see him put himself out there on multiple occasions and be in the thick of battle. He is not underhanded and is very Mandalorian in how he does things. You can tell how much he loves battle and he does have respect for his troops.

Minister Tua – Tua is the one trying to put a nice face on what the Empire does and she does a good job at it as she isn’t outwardly cruel though she endorses the open cruelty that others do. She does have a conscience though and we see it when The Inquisitor executes Aresko and another Imperial Commander under orders of Tarkin. So much of what she does is truly ruled by fear even if true belief is there.

Commandant Aresko – I like Aresko, we see him train the recruits and he’s actually a kind guy who looks out for those under him. He may not always succeed but it certainly isn’t from lack of trying. For this reason I actually mourned this characters death.

The Inquisitor – Jason Isaacs is wonderful once more as a fantastic animated villain!  The Inquisitor is cold and calculating and does a good job at getting into Kanan’s head. He’s introduced as a force of nature and in defeat we see his humanity as he fears things worse than death that the Emperor or Vader would do to him for failing to stop Kanan and Ezra.

Grand Moff Tarkin – Tarkin is brutal and we see why he was put in charge of the Death Star as it is thanks to his fighting the rebels as a war and not a police excercise that leads to Kanan’s capture and forces the fledgling Rebel Alliance to reveal itself to save the Lothal Rebels. After his failure to stop them and the reveal of the Alliance he decides that Vader will be brought in to deal with this new Jedi and Rebel threat.

The Crew of Ghost – The crew of Ghost is a band of misfits and comparable to the crew of Serenity in the show “Firefly.” From the witty chemistry they have with one another and wounds they carry for being refugees and the last of their people or kind we see a rich humanity to them.

Zeb – Zeb is one of the last of his people the Lasat and is an intelligent guy who doesn’t put up with Ezra’s crap, though they do become quick friends when they are forced to work together. Like Sabine he is the primary muscle and the one who causes distractions though he is good at pulling his weight for whatever the mission needs. He has a lot of pain over all he has lost and deals with it by being rough around the edges and first and valuing the time he has alone. He still has to kill Kallus for being one of the primary ones responsible for the genocide against his people.

Sabine – Sabine is a Mandalore and ex-stormtrooper who expresses herself through her art. She does a bunch of different kinds of art but specializes in graffiti and protest art. She’s a great actor and is the most witty against opponents. She also has a lot of awareness to and saves a data disk from Ezra’s home so he has a picture of his family again. Her biggest issues are trust issues because of how she was betrayed by the Empire when she served them.

Hera – Hera is the mother of the group and has to make the tough decisions. We see this in her withholding information in case the Empire captures them and the chances she chooses to run or stay low so the entire Rebellion doesn’t get eliminated. She sees the big picture, where none of the other members of the crew really do. She also gets people and is the one who makes Ezra aware of others.

Kanan – Kanan is one of the last of the Jedi who was never trained to be a Master but is forced to become one. He is unsure of himself but when he chooses to fight for his crew and to raise Ezra we see a will of iron born as he withstands torture and sacrifices himself so the Lothal rebellion lives on. He doesn’t die and they rescue him of course, but it shows that he is no longer about just surviving and is not afraid of being known as a Jedi.

Ezra – Ezra goes from a selfish thief to someone who is willing to sacrifice himself to protect his new family. He has a lot of anger and fear towards the Empire and the loss of his parents by the Empire but has potential to forgive as we see him do just that to the family friend who abandoned him as a child. He invents his own lightsaber (that also functions as a gun) and gets his first scar in the final fight against The Inquisitor. He has a lot of force potential but is very much a Padawan in training in over his head, which makes him human and gives him a lot of room to grow.

Chopper – Chopper trolls everyone but comes through in the end. Whether it’s conning Lando to steal his fuel while Lando was conning them or saving the crew on multiple occasions, Chopper may grumble an groan the entire time…but he or it comes through.

Minor Character Shout Outs – The informant Fulcrum is Ashoka (Want to “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” to know fully who she is beyond Anikan’s apprentice), Lando makes an appearance and uses the crew to his own ends and R2-D2 and C-3PO are in the first episode and show the role they play in the Rebellion. Yoda also makes an appearance in “Path of the Jedi” as a voice guiding the Jedi, which I think is what was his primary role in hiding. For those who seek the force he is there to guide them.

The Themes – The themes are fantastic! From dealing with the consequences of Genocide as Zeb’s people were wiped out, what it means to teach when training was never finished (Kanan teaching Ezra) trust and sharing of information during war (The ruling among the Rebels that they should reveal themselves and come together and Fulcrum’s secrets and Hera and Kanan being the only ones who know individual missions) and that just because you are a Rebel or Imperial does not automatically make you good or evil (which fits into the theme of the “Gundam Universe”).

The Potential – There is so much potential in this series and I love it! From showing that the Rebels could do unjust things for just ends and getting the perspective of the Empire and the players within both factions and putting them through arcs. Bringing Vader in and saying next season will be “The Empire Strikes Back” of this series is just what I needed to hear and I hope they follow through with that promise. So much potential to be a great series beyond just the first season.

The Cons: Empire Needed a Major Victory – The Empire needed a victory for me to give this show a 10. The rebels were always on the run but the one time they are “defeated” is only because Kanan surrenders himself to buy them time. It’s something he chose to do, a Imperial Victory is one where the Rebels don’t have a choice and are forced to surrender or lose one of their own. This did not happen, hope it does next season though.

   I really enjoyed Season 1, it did so much right and makes me want to watch a series I was worried about due to how much of a failure “The Prequel Trilogy” was in relationships to “Star Wars.” Not many shows can do that. I hope it will stay good all the way through but I’m not counting on anything, and for what it’s worth this first season was amazing and I highly recommend it to any “Star Wars” fan. You will see characters who grow and change, be in a world that feels lived in and experience some powerful and enjoyable stories.

Final Score: 9.5 / 10

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Star Wars Rebels Finale – Season 1, Episode 13 – “Fire Across the Galaxy” – Unifying the Rebellion

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       What a fantastic end to a great season! I got to say after the reveals at the end of this episode and the character growth we see take place, I’m excited to see where this series goes. “Star Wars Rebels” has the potential to be one of the greatest animated television shows made if it can handle it next season(s) right and have an ending.

   “Fire Across the Galaxy” was directed by Dave Filoni and written by Simon Kinberg.

    The story follows from the last episode with the crew of Ghost mounting a rescue of Kanan who has been brought to Mustafar by Tarkin in order to be destroyed. It is at this point the Rebels plan is put into motion and they infiltrate Tarkin’s Star Destroyer with the Tie Fighter taken from “Fighter Flight.” On the ship they mount their escape as The Inquisitor prepares to destroy both Kanan and Ezra as Tarkin works to destroy the Rebel Cell for good.

The Pros: The Plan – The plan starts out with stealing an Imperial Transport with Sabine being the distraction while while Zeb and the other take the ship. Next the Tie Fighter Zeb and Ezra stole is used to get into Tarkin’s Star Destroyer and a Energy Pulse is used to shut down all power on the ship (and knockout the troops). From here they make their way through the ship with Chopper staying behind to help them escape once they get off the Star Destroyer.

The Inquisitor – The Inquisitor is the main focus as the most that Tarkin does is call in more troops to overwhelm and destroy the Jedi…but it is The Inquisitor who pushes Kanan to the dark side and makes him despair over the fact that he ran during Order 66 and didn’t stay and fight. He is good at the mind games and is only defeated when Kanan is fighting with two lightsabers and nothing to lose. In the end he chooses death though as he rejects Kanan’s offer to be saved knowing their are far worse things than death if he were to change. R.I.P. The Inquisitor, what a great enemy.

Kanan – Kanan shows that he has truly become a Jedi Master. He is rescued by Ezra and believes that Ezra has died after The Inquisitor knocks Ezra off the bridge they are fighting on. This leads to him fighting with nothing to lose and we see how he has grown mentally as he even offers to save the Inquisitor’s life. He has truly become a Jedi to be reckoned with.

Ezra – Ezra is the one who came up with most of the plan and he sticks with it all the way to the end, risking his own life on multiple occasions to save Kanan. We see how devoted he is to his new family and that he is the glue that is holding them all together and truly becoming a great Padawan.

The Rebellion – The Rebels would have been killed if Senator Organa hadn’t arrived with reinforcements to Mustafar to help them escape the overwhelming forces of Tarkin. The victory at Mustafar is a major blow to the Empire as was Ezra’s transmission which has given people hope and a reason to fight. A United Rebellion is what we see at the end and they are ready to stand openly and together against the Empire.

Fulcrum Reveal – Fulcrum was Anakin’s apprentice from “Star Wars: The Clone Wars!” Ahsoka Tano survived the purge and Order 66 and is now an open resource for the surviving Jedi and the Rebellion. It’s a powerful reveal especially since the Empire is bringing in Darth Vader to deal with the Lothal Rebellion. Can’t wait to see what’s done and seeing her playing such a big role in this series makes me want to watch “Star Wars: The Clone Wars.”

Empire Rising – The Empire knows that it is fighting a larger rebellion now and is risking in turn. Tarkin is still on the scene but now Darth Vader is as well. Vader is famous for being the ultimate Jedi killer and I hope we get to see him do just that when Season 2 roles around. There is so much potential with using Vader as the main threat, especially since the creators said they want Season 2 to be “The Empire Strikes Back” of the series.

  This show is an amazing show that captures the spirit of “Star Wars” so well. The Finale did this in a great way too, even if we got less character moments with the crew as it was primarily focused on the overall arc and setting the stage for next season. Still fantastic action, amazing story and a great sign of things to come to end a fantastic season.

Final Score: 9.7 / 10.