Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (2017) – An Amazing Subversion of Expectations

   “The Last Jedi” is my second favorite Star Wars film. This is a series that is second only to “The Empire Strikes Back,” and in many ways has greater depth even though the structure of this film is a bit of a mess. What this film does though is upset the status quo, delve into the reasons the First Order and Resistance have for even existing in the first place and also a much deeper analysis of “The Force” that we haven’t really gotten since the Original Trilogy. Before I get into spoilers, this is a film with the best characters and themes thus far, amazing character development and emotional payoff, amazing action and it is easily the most beautiful of all the Star Wars films. Seriously, check it out.

The film was directed and written by Rian Johnson while being produced by Kathleen Kennedy and Ram Bergman.

The story involves the Resistance attempting to escape from the First Order who are attacking them after the destruction of Starkiller Base, while Rey is seeking Luke’s help in their fight. Things soon get more complicated when the First Order executes a trap that forces members the Resistance to seek outside help  to escape the First Order trap, and a clash within the Resistance itself between Poe and Vice-Admiral Holdo after General Leia is incapacitated.

SPOILERS

The Pros: The Cinematography – This is visually the best looking of any film in the Star Wars franchise. Whether it is the filming of fight sequences in space or within a ship…the camera executes the action beautifully and each planet was somewhere I wanted to return back to after it was done.

The Universe – This Star Wars has quite a few different environments and animals. From the adorable porgs, to crystal foxes, to the salt world of Crait, Luke’s Island and Snoke’s Flagship and a Casino World. I was never bored because there was always more to see as each environment was so rich.

The Reason for Resistance – One of the major themes of the film is the reasons to resist. We see this as a class struggle in regards to oppression through the eyes of kids and Rose, a character we are introduced in this film…and also that personal identity is a huge role too and that finding the balance between them is important. Poe is driven by ego and glory for much of what he does but comes to see that it is bigger than each fight, the war is larger than any one person as the individuals and groups define what it means to resist, just as much as if not more than the personal reasons to fight.

The Cost of War – So many people die in this film. There are lots of heroic sacrifices, but also the people who are being oppressed by those profiting from the war, the deaths of so many soldiers on both sides who die. You feel that in this and it does a good job humanizing both the Resistance and the First Order. War is hell and sometimes no one wins, this film captures that theme beautifully.

The Characters – The characters are the best part of this film. This film is all about relationships between characters, be it Leia and Poe, Rose and Finn, Kylo and Rey or Luke and Rey. Each relationship gets developed over the course of the film and reveals layers to the characters that didn’t exist in “The Force Awakens.”

Vice Admiral Holdo – Holdo is a character who has got a lot of crap from the fanbase, but she was one of my favorite characters in the film. She was respected for winning in the past but Poe doesn’t get that. She is presented as an antagonist through a good portion of the film, and the payoff of who she actually is and what she is doing is great.

Rose and Finn – It is through these characters that we get to see another face of the Resistance and why they fight. Finn is originally a part because of his friends and is even willing to leave in order to protect Rey but Rose reminds him of the bigger picture and that at the core they exist to fight oppression. It is handled on the casino world and seeing their friendship bloom was one of the more memorable parts of this film.

Master Luke Skywalker – Luke is done with everything. Like before in the Original Trilogy guilt defines him and it is mistake that helped lead to Kylo Ren’s creation and that guilt is something he carries with him and resists until the end. He is wanting to destroy the Jedi order and die as the last Jedi until Rey helps him realize there is so much more that he’s forgotten and that he can still make a difference and change things. Mark Hamill is fantastic.

General Leia Organa – I miss Carrie Fisher. It was great seeing her in this, her whole drive is survival and protecting the Resistance from the First Order. She is the mentor who is there to remind the young folks there is a time and place for glory but you have to work to keep everyone alive, or there won’t be anyone else left to fight. This was my favorite presentation of her besides “Empire Strikes Back” and I’ll miss her in these films, now that she’s gone.

Rey and Kylo Ren – One of the core relationships is that between Kylo and Rey both of who are alone and seeking more beyond the old order as so much of who they were was tied to the legends of the past. They are connected but still adversaries and it is great relationship to see explored as Ren becomes more confident and much more of a bully and Rey finds an identity outside of her parents and her expectations of Luke and the Jedi.

Subverting Expectations – If you go in expecting “The Empire Strikes Back” or another version of “Return of the Jedi” or “A New Hope” prepare to be surprised. This is a film where most things don’t work out for any characters. Things change, both in the First Order and the Resistance in regards to their identities…but it doesn’t repeat the cycle. We get away from The Ring Cycle a bit here and from that “Star Wars” seems to finally be developing it’s own identity outside of the past. We also see The Force not being tied to bloodlines and the fantasy feel of the past films and midichlorians are implied to no longer be a factor (Rey’s background and the last scene of the film). I loved that, this is no longer the Skywalker show, Star Wars has to be bigger than one family drama and I can’t wait to see where the series goes.

Everybody Loses – Poe finds out he was wrong, Rose and Finn get betrayed, Rey isn’t able to turn Kylo Ren and even the Resistance only barely survives. The First Order isn’t in great shape either after the events that take place and it is going to be transforming further or it will collapse. That is powerful and with it we see the most potential for change both within the Resistance and the First Order. They’ve lost too much to remain static.

Okay: Welcome to the Casino / Side Quest – This first point is related to the second point, there is a side plot on a casino world in order for Rose and Finn to get a code breaker in order to break onto Snokes’s ship so that they shutdown the Empire’s ability to track the Resistance’s fleet. It explores the meaning of the Resistance so I’m not putting it as a total negative but it could have been shorter and achieved the same purpose in the plot, and I would have traded a few Finn and Rose scenes for more scenes with the codebreaker played by Del Toro named DJ. He is fun.

Structure and Clutter – The greatest issue with this film for me was the structure and how cluttered some of the different plots are. It wasn’t bad, I saw this film twice but it does feel long during some of the side tangents. The overall story and themes greatly overwhelm this in quality though and it didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the film.

This is probably going to be in my Top 5 films at the end of the year. This is a film I’ve watched twice and is easily the most fun I’ve had at a film this year since “Baby Driver.” I can’t wait to see where things go after this film as it upsets so much of the status quo. I am a guy who loves the original Extended Universe and I always will, but I’m glad they didn’t repeat it (and I still enjoy it as another timeline of Star Wars). By the time of “The Force Awakens” I was done with the Skywalker drama, predictability will kill this franchise as so many of the problems that plagued the Prequels was the lazy recycling of the Original Trilogy. This film is strange, different, takes chances and changes things and honestly, it is the only way Star Wars can grow beyond the corner it was written in to. Here is to Disney embracing that change and giving us more great stories like this film.

Final Score: 9.8 / 10. Second best Star Wars film thus far.

 

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Star Wars Rebels – Season 2, Episode 8 – “The Future of the Force” – Ahsoka and the Inquisitors Make for a Great Story

Star Wars Rebels Season 2 Episode 8 Future of the Force

    I’ve been wanting to see Ahsoka in action since she was revealed at the end of Season 1 and this episode showed just how great of payoff that was. Here we see that she is stronger than both Inquisitors yet still has vulnerabilities and can be outmatched, though the Inquisitors clearly outmatch Kanan and Ezra. The fact the story is a continuation of a story from “The Clone Wars” helps matters as well and creates the best episode since “The Siege of Lothal.”

     “The Future of the Force” was directed by Saul Ruiz and written by Bill Wolkoff.

     The story involves Ahsoka sending Kanan and Ezra on a mission to a planet the Inquisitors are on to prevent them from getting their target. We soon their target is a child as Zeb, Kanan, Chopper and Ezra must rescue the child and escape the Inquisitors.

The Pros: Kanan – Kanan is in full Jedi mode this time and we see him in action as a protector and Ezra’s master as he helps Ezra find his cool when dealing with the Inquisitors. He is very outmatched but he puts up a good when he’s facing an Inquisitor one on one.

Ezra – Ezra shows he is the apprentice in this as much of this episode has him protecting the child and running. He’s good though even though he is no match for the Inquisitors. He is a survivalist at the end of the day and knows how to run.

Chopper – I liked Chopper in this episode as he goes from wanting to destroy the Inquisitor Ship with the baby in it to being a protective figure who enjoys being with the children. It kind of hits on the fact that the droid is insane.

Zeb – Zeb continues to show why he is part of the Rebels as we see him escape, protect and find the children even when he has no force abilities and everything he throws at the Inquisitors gets thrown right back at him. You never see him despair or stop fighting.

Fifth Brother – This guy is pretty awesome. I admit that I wasn’t all that impressed initially as the character has no prior history, but in this we see how ruthless he is and effective as he knocks out our heroes on multiple occasions, even though the Seventh Sister is the more talented of the two.

Seventh Sister – She is awesome. She discovers where the rebels are because she left her droid outside the tower to spy, she easily defeats Kanan and Ezra and we only see her lose when she’s facing Ahsoka, who easily stops her and the Fifth Son. This episode revealed that her power isn’t as great, but she makes up for it in guile as she prepares an Imperial Assault for the Rebels location after Ezra accidentally reveals it to her droid.

Ahsoka – Ahsoka has become the Knight or at least Master at this point. She easily beats the Inquisitors and even manages to escape the Empire when the Rebels escape with the two children the Inquisitors were trying to capture. I look forward to her eventual fight with Vader as he’s the only one who could easily beat her at this point since the Inquisitors were greatly outmatched, which makes me wonder why she hasn’t come on more missions…She has her own stuff going on that adds mystery along with her power. Can’t wait to see where her arc goes.

The Final Duel – The final duel is amazing! The Inquisitors beat Kanan and Ezra in an intense fight only for Ahsoka to defeat the two of them as the Imperials arrive. The battle never loses it’s stakes and is the best action in the series since Darth Vader’s fight in the Siege of Lothal.

   I’ve been missing this, this season has so far been a mixture of good and okay but every Inquisitor episode has been solid. I hope the writers remember that going forward as they are the best threat we have besides Vader, just like in Season 1 with the High Inquisitor and Tarkin being the primary threats. Rebels getting back to that will give us stakes again as the Inquisitors rarely completely lose which raises the stakes for the next episodes.

Final Score: 9.2 / 10

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999) – An Unfocused Mess Ruined by Child Actors and Comedic Relief

The Phantom Menace

    Before I say anything specific about “The Phantom Menace,” I have to admit now that I’m not looking forward to “Attack of the Clones” and can fully understand why George Lucas lost the rights to “Star Wars.” I wanted to like this film, it’s “Star Wars” after all and a part of my childhood, but nothing can save this mess of a film and script. No amount of nostalgia can change the bad ideas that lead to the creation of certain characters and how they were portrayed and this film is easily a net negative versus net positive neutral in overall quality.

     The film was directed and written by George Lucas and produced by Rick McCallum.

     The story involves the Trade Federation blockading Naboo to force a treaty that favors their monopoly leading to Chancellor Valorum sending the Jedi Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) to resolve the dispute. Manipulations of the Sith soon complicate things leading to the Jedi on the run as they seek to protect the Queen (Natalie Portman) and save Naboo.

The Pros: The Universe – The Old Republic is fascinating and there is so much we could have been shown instead of told. The Republic is corrupt and the Sith are clearing manipulating a lot behind the scenes but we don’t get any of that…we don’t even know how the Trade Federation really works and they are the main antagonists besides the Sith. Still, a lot of good ideas here just poorly executed.

The Soundtrack – It’s John Williams, you can’t go wrong with the soundtrack and even with very crappy dialogue and characters we still have a soaring score that works really well, especially in the fight with Darth Maul.

Qui-Gon Jinn – I actually liked this character. He is very much the maverick and a bit of a sociopath in how he manipulates others but it makes him compelling. I wish we had gotten more on why he clashed with the Council and the reason behind his focus on the prophecy. He is very much the chaotic monk and it makes him a lot of fun. Liam Neeson does a great job too. I actually cared that Darth Maul killed him and I wish he’d done something about the slave trade on Tatooine as the Council was clearly doing nothing.

Darth Maul – Darth Maul is wonderful and really should have survived this film. He has the same threatening feel as Vader did being the Emperor’s dragon and keeping him around would have given the chance to grow his threat and establish him as the corrupting influence on Anakin and even Obi-Wan. He is the enforcer and a truly terrifying character with an awesome character design. I know he was brought back in the “The Clone Wars” but he deserved that same chance in the films as the mystery of his character gives so much to explore.

Palpatine/Darth Sidious – The guy is surrounded by idiots and manipulates them so well. From setting up Padme to call the vote of no confidence leading to him becoming Chancellor to never revealing his intentions and remaining cypher so he can use all the factions of the senate. Ian McDiarmid is fantastic and is one of the interesting characters in the films as it really is about his rise to Emperor.

Obi-Wan Kenobi – Ewan McGregor was a great casting choice for young Obi-Wan and we see echoes of who he will become as he is cautious and tends to go with the Council versus Qui-Gon who could care less. In this we already see the Lawful Good Jedi Master he will become. He is also cold in his own way too as he talks about how Anakin should not receive training to Qui-Gon in front of Anakin…so he isn’t prefect and we see how his duty to the Council and Qui-Gon is why he decides to become Anakin’s master in the end. He also avenges his Master and is the one to defeat Darth Maul.

Okay: Tatooine – The Pod Race is cool but useless in the end as they could have found another way since all they had to do was get in contact with the Capitol, though we do get some good exploration of Padme, Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon at least.

Padme – She’s a cipher and she doesn’t approve of a lot. In the end she makes peace with the Gungans and is shown to have humility (learned from the Jedi?) but that is about it. She’s okay as a character but not great.

The Cons: The Jedi Council – These bland folks are not fleshed out at all and are oblivious to the corruption around them. It’s a sad state but we are never able to fully see just how corrupt and inept they are because they are heroes simply for being Jedi. I hated Windu and Yoda in this as they are just tools who fail to see past the Temple and never send any help out even when they know a Sith is probably going to be on Naboo. They are useless.

The Senate – The Senate like the Jedi is useless as we see that everyone is either a tool (Valorum) or a manipulator to their own ends (Palpatine). Like the Jedi they are a useless organization and how they got that way is never explored at all.

Naboo – Naboo is a blank slate as the Gungans are just aquatic rabbits and the people are people we never interact with or see. We hear about their suffering and dying but never witness any of it. We have to take everyone’s word on things when we have no reason too given the corruption established in the opening credits.

Midi-Chlorians – The force is not physical, Yoda establishes this in “The Empire Strikes Back,” I remember that and I haven’t watched the film for years. The very existence of these things cheapens the force and turns Anakin into “The One” which misses the point of the force being something that binds “All” of us together and is always with us. If only special people have it, than it ceases to be what binds us together it becomes something no more than genetics.

Anakin Skywalker – I’m sorry Jake Lloyd, but you can’t act. His lines all fit the “perfect child” syndrome that is a problem in a lot of movies and making him “The One” gives him plot armor enough to destroy a Droid Base in space when he’s never flown a ship before…and it all happens by accident! If he’d been a young adult at least there would be the excuse of him having experience from delivering stuff for Watto or the huts like Luke got experience playing with his friends.

Jar Jar Binks – Comedic relief and bad comedic relief at that. There is no point to Jar Jar as he is there for fart jokes, poop jokes, his stupid voice and mannerisms and trying to appeal to kids. Yet he is made core to the plot! He hooks up with Qui-Gon and is there through the entire film distracting from whatever is going on and making scenes worse. There can’t be a serious tone when Jar Jar is around so it makes all the other threats moot. This idiot was made core to the film which was one of the worst decisions George Lucas made. He gives nothing to scenes and only makes them worse as his jokes break the tone, his mannerisms and voice are incomprehensible…and yet he is made to be one of the heroes alongside the Jedi…

The Ending – Anakin destroys the reactor and there is peace on Naboo. The only interesting thing that kind of works is Obi-Wan adopting Anakin as his apprentice and the final fight with Maul. The Celebration at the end doesn’t mean anything because the people of Naboo are invisible to us. We never saw their struggles only heard about it. The planet was nothing more than statistics.

The Writing – The writing was the biggest problem. From having Anakin be a child, to Jar Jar being core to the plot and from the motivations of the Trade Federation, Senate and Jedi being big giant question marks. No one’s motivations are clear except Obi-Wan and Palpatine which is sad given how large the cast is. There is so much that could have worked if this script had not been written George Lucas as his world is compelling, “The Clone Wars” and “Clone Wars” are living evidence of this…but not so for “The Phantom Menace.” When George Lucas wrote and directed this story he killed whatever promise there was with a lot of poor writing and directing decisions.

    Anakin should have been a teenager already or Luke’s age, Midi-Chlorians should have never been a thing and Jar Jar should not have been in this film and Obi-Wan should have been the character we were following with Qui-Gon along as a rogue Master. If these things were done this film would have actually been good, even with the stilted dialogue as the circumstances of these changes would have forced a greater exploration of the world like the corruption of the Senate and the ineptness of the Jedi Council. Instead we got very bad comedy and mostly uninteresting characters in a world that didn’t feel lived in. The CGI isn’t the problem I remember, the problem is the script and the character choices that were made. You take away those things and we would have had a good film where what happens in the film would have felt real, had stakes and in the end, meant something. I get why Disney owns “Star Wars” and George Lucas no longer does. The choices made in making this film are ample evidence that George Lucas clearly had no idea what he was doing.

Final Score: 5 / 10. 50%, the reason it isn’t lower is because of Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Ian McDiarmond and the fact that Darth Maul was used very well as a Dragon.

Star Wars: Clone Wars (2003): A Truly Epic Tale of the Clone Wars and the Fall

Star_Wars_Clone_Wars

   Tartakovsky’s “Clone Wars” is one of the greatest things to come out of the “Star Wars” Universe and shows us just how great the Prequels might have been with vision, direction and the consequences of War fully explored and realized. This is a series where even the minor characters are given moments to shine and we see just how powerful the Separatists truly are as well as Sidious’s endgame and watch him put all the pieces in motion for Anakin and the Republic’s fall.

      The series was written and directed by Genddy Tartakovsky and produced by Sam Register and George Lucas.

      The story involves Anakin’s fall as the planets continue to fall to General Grievous and the Separatist forces as the Jedi fight against them, making their forces thin. Elsewhere Dooku and Sidious plot while the war continues leading to a large scale attack on Coruscant.

The Pros: The Animation – The animation is beautiful and reminds me of “Samurai Jack.” Genndy Tartakovsky did a great job and it is beautiful watch as he uses his strength in this animation style to capture the wonder of these worlds and Universe.

The Soundtrack – The soundtrack is beautiful and feels very “Star Wars.” It captures the epicness of battle or the individual fears and struggles as the characters wrestle with the Dark Side in opponents or themselves. James L. Venable and Paul Dinleter did a great job.

The Writing – Tartakovsky and his writing team did a great job on this script. The main focus is on Anakin and how different worlds fair against the threat of Dooku and the Separatists and we see an overall narrative leading to the Climax of the battle of the Episode III with Grievous’s invasion of Coruscant and the capture of Palpatine. It’s powerful and there is so much showing rather than telling, clearly George Lucas did not write this script.

The Universe – The “Star Wars” universe is rich and we get to see so many worlds in this. From the homeworlds of the Mon Calamari to the Capital Coruscant…and many Separatist worlds. Each one is distinct and rich.

The Organizations – The Separistists and the Republic both get development, as do the Jedi as we get to see their philosophy.

The Separatists – The Separatists don’t have the complexity they recieve in “The Clone Wars,” but they feel like a threat the entire time. Their generals manage to defeat and kill many Jedi and their superweapons are pretty well designed and are usually only taken out by Jedi Masters.

Asajj Ventress – Ventress wants to be a Sith and bests all the contestants in Dooku’s competition. She is just evil in this and isn’t as complex as she is in the “The Clone Wars” but she achieves a similar purpose in driving Anakin to the edge as his obsession to try and kill her and defeating pushes him closer to the Dark Side. She is an awesome threat and Grey DeLisle (Azula) does a wonderful job.

Count Dooku – Dooku defeats all his Generals and apprentices and even Grievous who we have seen kill multiple Jedi at once can’t hold his own. Dooku is fully in control of the War and working with Sidious is making the Jedi spread thin so that their attack on Coruscant will most likely succeed and the Jedi will fall. Corey Burton does a great job voice acting.

General Grievous – This is the General Grievous I expected in Episode III and “The Clone Wars” and only found disapointment. This Grievous is scary and is a warrior with honor who can take on multiple Jedi at once and kill them. He’s a Jedi killing machine and nothing can stand against him, you get why he’s a general and Dooku’s apprentice and he’s always one step ahead. John DiMaggio does a great job adding threat to his voice too and he is the scariest enemy in this series…it’s a shame that this is the only place you will find a Grievous worthy of his name.

The Republic – The Republic is interesting though we don’t get much development of side characters who aren’t Jedi (similar problem “The Clone Wars” had though they were better at developing senators) we still get a glimpse of an Empire about to fall as they are cut off from the war until it arrives on their doorstep and the populations of the Republic are far too dependent on the Jedi to protect them. In this we get to see Padme in action as she helps rescue a few times and goes on mission with Yoda.

The Jedi – The Jedi are interesting in this but I’m going to focus on the ones who I felt got special exploration and were more compelling because of it.

Master Luminara and Barriss Offee – These two give us the philosophy of the Jedi as Barriss is making her lightsaber when Dooku attacks the Temple with some cloaked droids leading them nearly dying even though they manage to take out a lot of the droids. It is only when Padme and Yoda arrive that they are rescued showing just how threatening even the non-organics of the Separatists can be.

Yoda and Windu – These two are powerhouses and they earn their stripes as Master in this. It is very superpowered in some ways but given the mystique surrounding these characters it was great to finally see how powerful their connection to the force was in action. Yoda is extremely entertaining too as he has a great sense of humor to balance out Windu’s seriousness. He feels like the wise sage in this.

Obi-Wan Kenobi – In this we see how great Anakin and Obi-Wan’s friendship is as Obi-Wan goes against part of the Council to promote Anakin becoming a Knight. It shows that he knows Anakin is prideful and an outsider but truly values him as a friend and companion. We see Obi-Wan’s patience too as he fights an enemy who refuses to die (Durge) and is the calm to Anakin’s passion in their adventures when Anakin is Knighted. Obi-Wan is also always the diplomat as he learned countless languages from his time with Qui-Gon.

Anakin Skywalker – This series really shows Anakin’s fall as we see his obsession with winning and defeating his enemies lead to him chasing Ventress to a world where his troops are all killed by her and he is nearly killed as well driving him into a rage where he leaves to her die as he is consumed by his darkness. He later has a vision quest on a world where he seeking the warriors of their people and sees that he will someday become Darth Vader. This doesn’t stop him from saving the twisted warriors and bringing an end to the experiments showing that even in his rage, Anakin and Vader have some semblance of honor to what they do.

    This was a show that took it’s characters and worlds seriously. We see countless people die to the different forces and see just how much of a threat the Separatists truly are. It was a shame that “The Clone Wars” and “Episode III” turned Grievous into a joke (though I appreciate how much development it gave Ventress), the story is self contained and doesn’t feel like it is 2 hours long as it the action, animation and character development keep the story going to the point that you want to see more. In a way the biggest downfall is that we don’t get enough of Tartakovsky’s vision…we get a wonderful glimpse and story within the world he made but there is more that could have been told.

Final Score: 10 / 10. I highly recommend it to anyone who likes Star Wars or his past works.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Season 6, Episodes 10-13 – “The Immortality Arc” – Yoda Against the Darkness

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  There is a lot I want to like about this arc. We get to know the force more, we visit Moraband the Homeworld of the Sith…we learn at least some of what happened in regards to Sifo-Dyas and we get to spend time with Yoda, this really is his arc at the core. The problem is we don’t get to know him all that well. Yoda never had the vulnerabilities that Anakin and Obi-Wan did and that made the temptations he faced not feel as strong as they could have been, Yoda also asks with wisdom the entire time so the arc once we leave Sifo-Dyas doesn’t feel like it really has stakes. I’ll get into that more though.

    “The Lost One” was directed by Brian Kalin O’Connell and written by Christian Taylor who also wrote the other episodes in the arc. “Voices” was directed by Danny Keller, “Destiny” was directed by Kyle Dunlevy and the final episode “Sacrifice” was directed by Steward Lee.

  The story begins with the search for Sifo-Dyas as Anakin and Obi-Wan visit the Pykes to find the missing diplomat who was traveling with him while dealing with the threat of Dooku who has to silence the last missing link. This sparks Yoda’s vision quest as Qui-Gon is communicating with him to help him achieve immortality so that his life force can live on to train the one who will bring balance to the Universe.

The Pros: “The Lost One” this is a really great episode. We get to see the former Chancellor Valorum and see Dooku being strangled by Sidious for not killing all the missing links to the Clone Creation. We see Anakin and Obi-Wan and the Pykes attempt to stop him and Dooku show why he is Darth Tyranus as he kills the Pyke leader and escapes from Obi-Wan and Anakin after suppressing the only person who knew what had happened. It is a great arc and shows some wonderful dynamics between Palpatine and Yoda and Dooku and Obi-Wan.

Score: 10 / 10

Anakin and Obi-Wan – When they are investigating Sifo-Dyas’s disapearance and death they have some great conversations and we see how powerful they are Jedi too as even the gangster Pykes respect them. They don’t succeed in their plan but they do a good job to try and succeed.

Count Dooku/Darth Tyranus – Proves once again why he is a Sith Lord. Kills the leader of the Pykes who was trying to kill him. kills the Chancellor Aide who had been traveling with Sifo-Dyas and manages to escape from the Pykes, Obi-Wan and Anakin as well as helping Sidious attack Yoda later.

Darth Sidious – This guy is evil and knows it and we see him moving forward on his long term plans while still having the patience to wait. After Yoda gets out of their trap he recognizes the power of Yoda and the Jedi and knows that their plans cannot be rushed. He’s a smart powerhouse.

The Philosophy of the Force – Minus how often they bring up Midi-chlorians, which has always been a stupid idea…the relationship between the living force and cosmic force is really cool. The living force feeds the cosmic force which gives back and keeps balance in the Universe. Yoda learning all of this and making peace with his death and all he will lose is powerful.

The Cons: The Force Priestesses – These five are all different personalities and being that still have their being even though their bodies are one with the force. They are archetypes so not really characters, which was a shame.

Moraband Was Underwhelming – For the homeworld of the Sith this place was pretty boring. Darth Bane is revealed but they don’t do anything with him and for all the talk of the Dark Side they do not do enough with fear and temptation…the fact this is Yoda makes it so there are not stakes either.

   The show got canceled at this time, which was a shame as Grievous was just beginning to become an actual threat, Mother Talzin’s overall agenda is still unknown, Darth Maul is missing and we have no idea what became of the Separatist Parliament. For an ending this could have been a lot better, but I appreciate that they attempted to answer the question of Yoda becoming a Force Ghost. I’ll have a write up on the series as a whole later as well as my Top 5 Episodes/Arcs. Suffice to say though, this has been a fun journey.

Final Score: 8 / 10

Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Season 6, Episodes 1-4 – “The Clone Conspiracy Arc” – When the Only Freedom is in Death

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   This was a powerful arc that showed that there really isn’t any sort of happy ending for Clones. They were made to be weapons and whenever they assert their agency their creators or the Republic remind them that they are property and within that have been made to a do a very cruel task that breaks the minds of two Clones who find out. One of these Clones is one of my favorites who we have gotten to know since the beginning of the timeline, Fives. This is a tragic story but fits the theme of the last 2 seasons that the coming of Order 66 is inevitable as well as the Republic becoming the Empire.

      “The Unknown” was directed by Bosco Ng and written by Katie Lucas who also wrote the other 3 episodes in the arc. “Conspiracy” was directed by Brian Kalin O’Connell, “Fugitive” was directed by Danny Keller and “Orders” was directed by Kyle Dunlevy.

     The story involves Tup killing a Jedi when the chip in his head activates early. From here The Kaminoans and the Palpatine seek to cover up what happened by killing Tup and removing the chip or discounting Fives who has begun to figure it out, especially after he removes the chip from his own head. As a fugitive he seeks to reveal the truth to Rex and Anakin when all is working against him, including his own mind.

The Pros: The Conspiracy – The conspiracy to control the Clones is brilliant and it makes sense that Palpatine would have that fail safe so that when the time came, no Jedi would survive. It also makes sense that a fluke would mess things up and that Fives would seek the truth as he has always been a rebellious Clone.

The Kaminoans – These guys are all about the bottom line and we see them talking to Dooku on multiple occasions as they seek to fulfill the Clones original programming and keep the secret safe. They know the Jedi are going to die and don’t care…this goes for just how detached this species is that the Clones are just property and assets and the Jedi are nothing to them.

Count Dooku/Darth Tyranus – In this we see that as one of the original folks who commissioned the Clones he is keeping a close eye on events. He knows what is at stake if the truth is revealed and that the fake war could end and that all the Sith are working for could be undone. To this end he goes to any end to prevent the truth from getting out.

Palpatine/Darth Sidious – This guy frames Fives for trying to kill him after he’s been pumped up full of drugs by the Kaminoan Doctors and after he sends his own special Clone Force that wears Red to take out Fives. He is brilliant in this and anytime Fives makes progress at getting the truth out, Palpatine reveals something else (a Parasite made Tups and Fives violent) that discounts their stories. This is an episode where he wins.

Fives – Fives is my favorite Clone outside of Rex and in this we see his rebellious nature work to his advantage to seek the truth as he goes against the Republic and his creators to get the truth out there (The Kaminoans pump him up with drugs) so that Clones can be truly free and not slaves to programming. He was always the more sensitive of the Clones and it motivated him to risk his life against Krell and this time too against the Republic and Kamino. R.I.P. Fives, you were one of the best. In the end he does have freedom as the chip is gone and all it was suppressing (kill the Jedi) is released so his nightmares finally end.

  This was a tragic episode as Fives and Tups never find justice as Palpatine and Dooku win and the plan for Order 66 remains hidden and ready for activation at the end of the war. Fives is the one railing against the system in a very “Brazil” like fashion and like in “Brazil” there is nothing he can do against it. He is a cog in the machine and in the end it devours him and destroys his mind, and from that the only freedom he receives is in death.

Final Score: 10 / 10

Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Season 5, Episodes 17-20 – “The Trial of Ahsoka Arc” – The Life and Times of Ahsoka Tano

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   “The Trial of Ahsoka Arc” is a solid arc that really shows that the Republic is on the brink of becoming the Empire and just how useless the Jedi Council and the Republic truly are at bringing about any form of justice. It is a powerful arc and it forever changes Ahsoka and pushes Anakin further to his path of later destroying the Jedi.

    “Sabotage” was directed by Brian Kalin O’Connell and written by Charles Murray, who wrote the rest of the episodes in the arc. “The Jedi Who Knew Too Much” was directed by Danny Keller, “To Catch a Jedi” was directed by Kyle Dunlevy and “The Wrong Jedi” was directed by Dave Filoni.

     The story involves an attack on the Jedi Temple by an unknown Jedi who sets up Ahsoka to take the fall. Over the course of events Ahsoka must prove her innocence while being hunted by the Jedi and the Republic. This leads to her making an alliance with Ventress and later her being cast out of the Jedi Order before her trial before the Republic.

The Pros: Ventress – Ventress is working a Bounty Hunter still and sympathizes with Ahsoka so decides to help her if she will vouch for her after and help get clemency from the Republic. She helped her as well as she could relate to being betrayed…as Ahsoka was betrayed by the Council, Ventress was betrayed by Dooku. It is a powerful scene and we see that Ventress is very much a shade of grey Jedi now.

The Jedi Council – The Jedi Council is a political entity and people in the Republic are distrusting them more, especially since it was a Jedi who did the bombing. They are military generals but are beholden to no one yet still wield military power. In this we see them holding on to it by giving up Ahsoka for the trial as they try to remain neutral, when they never were.

Admiral Tarkin – Tarkin is Ahsoka’s prosecuter and is cold hold dealing with the facts. He builds his case and nearly wins the trial against her if not for Anakin’s capture of Barriss. We see that humans are taking over control of the clones and all of it under the watchful eyes of Palpatine and Tarkin. The Empire is becoming a reality.

Barriss – Barriss blames the Jedi and believes she speaks for the disillusioned people who see that the Jedi are simply tools of the war and started the war (Tyranus and the Clones and the Battle of Geonosis) and to this end she has joined the Dark Side. Her point is not forgotten though and the fact that she came from idealism very much shows that she is still more Jedi than Sith when she did the act.

Anakin Skywalker – Anakin is losing it all in his mind. When Ahsoka is on trial he goes to any means to get the confession and at the beginning is full of regret for how he hunted and turned on his own Padawan under the guise of Jedi and Republic justice. This pushes him further and makes him afraid to lose others as in the end he has no real loyalty to the Jedi Code either and wants to leave, which Ahsoka does, which breaks Anakin…as he understands why she doesn’t trust the Council or the Republic any more.

Ahsoka Tano – This is the arc where Ahsoka realizes she was a tool all along, and an expendable one at that. No one is there to defend her, not even Anakin in the beginning when she is framed for a crime she didn’t commit. It is up to her and working with Ventress that eventually lead to Anakin finding Barriss but in the end it is too late. She can’t trust the order, herself or Anakin anymore and with that she leaves to make her own path. She survives Order 66 because of it and leaving the Jedi Order (though not going Sith) is one of the best things a Jedi can do during this era.

The Cons: “Sabotage” pacing – This episode’s pacing is really slow and I didn’t care about the robot detective. I felt this arc could have been done in 3 episodes or that we should have spent more time with the players at stake and the drama between the Jedi and Republic. This was the only part of the arc I didn’t like though.

This was a powerful arc that shows just how incompetant and corrupt the Jedi Council and the Republic are. The Jedi make excuses for their actions saying it made Ahsoka a better Jedi ( really guys) and ask for her back, the Republic is just silent on the matter and the only one who fights for her is Anakin but only after he realized by fighting for the Council and the Republic he’d been wrong all along. This is a wonderful and tragic arc and one of the best in the series.

Final Score: 9.5 / 10