{Pop Culturally Insensitive will now be co-hosting (De)Constructing the Ion Canon, an ongoing blog surveying the entire official Star Wars canon according to its timeline. Check back every week for the next installment.}

Get caught up with the mission statementEpisode IEpisode IIthe Clone Wars moviethe first season of the show, and the second.

So what can we say about Season 3 from the outset? Well, if we were charting quality, S1 would look like a mountain range, S2 would be a steady incline (save one episode), and this season? Well, the incline is much more gradual, but solely because its reached a level of quality and maturity that successfully honors and at times surpasses the franchise its a component of. Of course, near the end of the season, there’s some movement, as there’s a swift swing upward, and then a steep, steep decline, but we’ll get to all that in due time.

Overall, the first thing to note is just how dark this show is willing to go. For two seasons, we’ve been enjoying a show at times too dark for mere children’s entertainment, yes, leaning towards straight-up drama. But this? Right from the get-go feelings were felt, tears may have been shed, and we witnessed an arc so unique and enthralling I for one immediately wanted to rewatch it. The subtitle of the season is “Secrets Revealed”, and it really is filled with revelations both great and small, inconsequential and groundbreaking, tragic and prophetic; and it all stars with episode one, and with a bang.

Remember those troopers we met in Rookies? Cutup, Hevy, Echo, Droidbait and Fives? Well, get ready to see their origin in Clone Cadets. Decked out in training uniforms but proving to be anything but uniform in their tactics, the so-called Domino Squad fail a practice test miserably under the watchful eye of their instructor Bric, a bounty hunter hired by the Republic who states he only cares about getting paid, which is just one more bullet point in my ever growing list of why the Republic really deserved to lose this war. While Jedi master Shaak-Ti and fellow bounty hunter El-Les convince Bric to give the recruits another chance, he suggest they’d be better suited in the maintenance division with someone called 99, presumably another clone who failed the test.

You would presume that its a clone that failed, because you probably still think of the Republic as the “good guys”. But you would be wrong. Oh so wrong. You see, after Domino Squad fails their test, in the privacy of the locker room, El-Les tries to convince Bric to let them retake it, while Bric once more expresses his doubts, except this time 99 himself is there to hear it. Except 99 isn’t in maintenance because he failed the test. He never even got a chance to take the test. 99 came from a bad batch, or was perhaps simply a one-off glitch. Whatever the cause, he doesn’t match his clone brethren. He’s deformed; a wrinkled face, a hunched back, and likely a non-existent sense of self-worth after being ruthlessly relegated to being the ****ing piss boy of the Republic army. I mean, Cut Lawquane can whine all he wants about being forced to fight, being given only one option for his life, but 99 doesn’t even get that. He’s robbed even of the artificial purpose. I mean, just look at that sad little bastard.

So, obviously, **** the Republic. But not the troops, they’re good dudes, even if Bric doesn’t see it. In fact, we learn that Bric is a bit of a dick. You see, after Fives and Echo (the latter of which received his nickname for constantly repeating people on the simulation battlefield) convince Shaak-Ti to let them retake the test, Bric confronts another member of Domino squad, the wise-ass of the group, in a hangar and tries to god him into attacking, in order to get the trooper and his squad dismissed, but the trooper won’t take any of it seriously, even embracing Bric’s snide description of him as a “cut up” to heart, claiming it as his nickname. Meanwhile, Hevy attempts to flee the base altogether, but is stopped by 99, who delivers a passionate and somewhat moving (to both Hevy and maybe the viewer…ok, at least me) speech about having brothers, having a purpose and when asked why he continues to call him “Hevy” when he’s just known by a numeric code like the rest, 99 tells him “To me, you’ve always had a name” and your heart breaks at this sad puppy of a trooper.

Well, Hevy takes the advice to heart and leads his squad to victory, even after its revealed that Bric actually stole the ropes needed to climb to the top of the course because he’s a dick, and Shaak-Ti allows it because she’s also kind of a dick, and the Republic doesn’t fire Bric over this because they’re all dicks, and 99 remains a saint among monsters. After the men are awarded their medals for passing the test, Hevy makes sure to find 99 before leaving to thank him for his advice. 99 is saddened to see him go, but Hevy assures him he’ll return, handing 99 his medal and saying he has to come back for it. 99 is touched, and finally feels like he has brothers, Hevy is touched that someone believed in him, and we the viewer are touched to see these clones exhibit the most humanity of anyone in the series.

The credits roll, and you almost wanna go back and rewatch Rookies to see what happens next with Domino Squad. I think…I think one of them died, right? Which one was it? Was it…no…no no no….no….

After intercepting a transmission between General Grievous and Asajj Ventress about an intended attack on Kamino, Anakin and Obi-Wan travel to the planet with Rex, Cody, Broadside, Echo and Fives. Echo and Fives reminisce in the hallway when 99 hobbles up to them (because he hobbles, because they just want to break my heart with the ****ing hobbling and the sad eyes) and he greets the two clones, eager to find Hevy and return the medal, which he promptly shows them, forcing the two to reveal Hevy’s fate, which clearly brings a hurt to 99’s eyes. Spoiler alert: This is not the only time ARC Troopers is going to shatter your soul with sadness.

The assault on Kamino begins and Anakin takes to the skies to combat the Separatists with seemingly great success as a torrent of debris falls into the water. Obi-Wan is suspicious, and his suspicion is soon proven correct as its revealed that Ventress has used the debris as an opportunity to sneak into the base fro below with a droid army, and she’s soon joined by General Grievous as their troops storm the facility to destroy all in their path while the Sith apprentice hunts down the DNA sample of Jango Fett from which the clones are made.

Obi-Wan ends up facing off against Grievous, and Anakin facing off against Ventress, and obviously there’s no victor or loser in the fights, so really there’s no need to go over it (I’ll admit there’s a pretty boss moment where Ventress uses the force to pull a guy into her lightsaber blade and then kisses him, though). At the end of the day, this episode is about one guy, one wonderful, caring, hobbling little trooper. After helping Fives and Echo fight off some droids by bringing them weapons, the trio take it upon themselves to get a group of young clones to the barracks for safety, and 99 equips them all from the armory, encouraging them that though they’re inexperienced, they can fight back. When a group of droids infiltrates the barracks, that’s just what they do, and when they run out of ammo, 99 valiantly offers to get more. The two eldest troopers try to dissuade him from risking his life, but he insists he’s a soldier, and even though he’s gunned down as he hobbles with an armload of supplies, the glimmer in his eyes seems to have never shined brighter. He was, at last, a soldier. Victory is secured for the facility, and Fives and Echo are promoted to ARC troopers. But its a bittersweet victory, as they remember those they lost, both now and in the past.

So, remember the very start of this series, the first episode, Ambush? Bet you didn’t expect there’d be a prequel to that, but you would be wrong. Remember the planet of Ryloth from that overly long story arc in season 1? Did you know we’d get a prequel to that too? And did you know that this prequel, while very entertaining, is so non-substantive that I’d have to stretch to fill a whole paragraph about it? Look, Supply Lines is an engaging enough episode where Senator Organa has to persuade the Toydarians to help them get supplies to Ryloth, which is currently under attack. He’s accompanied by Representative Binks (Ahmet Best is back!) and has to argue against representatives of the Trade Federation, both trying to sway Toydaria out of its neutrality. In the end, the king agrees to turn a blind eye if Organa wants to use Toydaria as a midway point to deliver supplies to Ryloth, and Jar Jar performs an “art piece” to distract the Federation representatives while the ships fly past the window. There’s also a Jedi defending Ryloth who dies both before the supplies get there and before the audience has gotten enough attached to him to care he died.

Just like Supply LinesSphere of Influence is a lot more fun to watch than to describe. Baron Papapnoida (who in the live action films is played by George Lucas, and in the “Legends” universe is a playwright) attempts, with Riyo Chuchi (who you’ll remember from that “eh” episode in season 1), to seek Senate help with a blockade the Trade Federation has set up around their planet of Pantora (a planet populate by blue humanoids because **** you James Cameron). The Separatists respond to this pushback by sending Greedo (who, if you’re watching this all for the first time along with this blog, means nothing. Otherwise…holy s**t you guys, its ****ing Greedo) to kidnap his daughters, one of whom uses a religious statue as a weapon, resulting in the kidnappers placing it on a table instead of on the mantle, which tips Paranoid off that she’s been kidnapped. While the Jedi council intervenes, Anakin imposes his sage “**** the council” advice to Ahsoka, who goes with Chuchi to try and rescue one daughter from the blockade fleet, Baron Papanoida goes full Taken on the denizens of a Mos Eisley bar, straight up murdering everybody except Greedo himself and rescuing his kid. There’s some cool moments of Ahsoka’s force powers, but the long and the short of it is they rescue the other daughter and end the blockade in an ending that feels a bit rushed and anti-climactic. That said, seeing cartoon George Lucas dual-weilding guns is as badass as Papanoida having two daughters and a son to correspond with that at the time was the number and genders of George Lucas’ kids (at the time)) is adorable.

Next up is two episodes set on Mandalore. Corruption plays like a weird homage to Season 2 of The Wire as Padme and Satine uncover corruption in their shipping industry. It’s kind of a set-up episode, as they debate whether the Death Watch is behind the smuggling, and in a surprise to no one, they’re not. They discover the warehouse where the smuggled toxins are located, Satine demands they burn it to the ground and implores a departing Padme to send a Jedi who can investigate further into this conspiracy.

That’s how we end up at The Academy, where Ahsoka has arrived on Mandalore in order to “teach”, though really, she’s there to look into the source of the corruption. “Corruption”, by the way, is a word Ahsoka apparently needs to teach teenaged students at the Jedi academy on Mandalore, because I guess that word hasn’t come up in their diplomatic/warrior education where people being literally corrupted by the dark side of the force is a very real thing. Sure, we’ll go with it. Inspired by Ahsoka’s speech, these kids go out on a night time investigation into the rationed food supplies on Mandalore and stumble upon a group of Gotals, Mandalorians and a hooded figure all discussing something so blatantly nefariously that even these semi-Amblin innocents recognize it. The dubious group is alerted to the presence o the kids, but thankfully (for their sake, not the viewers) they get away. They bring the info to Satine, who urges caution and patience, advising them that they are too young to take on the task, so of course they decide to ignore her (and Ahsoka, who later appeals to them to e patient as well) and reach out to the prime minister, who orders their arrest. Ashoka, however, must have guessed these kids would ignore her and arrives to rescue them from the arresting officers, only to discover Satine has been kidnapped. After studying video from the warehouse and realizing the prime minister was the hooded figure, Ahsoka devises a plan to “arrest” the kids in order to infiltrate the prison, which seemingly works. She even Jedi mind tricks one guard into taking her to the imprisoned Satine, but doesn’t notice that a second guard who has;t been mind tricked also follows her, because apparently peripheral vision is a talent only Sith possess? Anyway, long story short, it was a trap, but Ahsoka and the kids manage to fight back and save the day, as you knew they would. The prime minister is arrested, Satine is freed, and Ahsoka leaves Mandalore. Day saved. Sure, does this two-parter teeter on the Amblin? Yeah. Is it predictable? Yeah. But at least you get some good Ahsoka moments (ok, beyond the not noticing second guard). The same, unfortunately, cannot be said for the next episode.

I’m gonna be honest, when writing my introductory paragraph, I declare this season a steady incline to a point, but I’d forgotten about this pointless, illogical, all around “eh” episode. So, here’s the deal with Assassin: Padme has to make a big speech, Ahsoka (ad nauseum) gets visions of the future concerning an assassination attempt on Padme’s life during this speech. At firs they don’t believe her, then they do, and take precautions like first trying to secure the room Padme’s speaking in (but the assassin, Aurra Sing, manages to get off a shot anyway), then using a robot in a hooded robe to stand in for Padme while she hides in her room (which Aurra gets to and attempts to kill her again before Ahsoka intervenes). Now obviously Padme doesn’t die in the episode, suspense kinda doesn’t exist for  it, leading us instead to ponder the strange choices they make. I mean, if there’s a threat on her life, why don’t you go straight to a hologram? You can’t shoot a hologram, and its not like the technology isn’t in ample supply of Coruscant. I mean, the fact that Padme puts her life on the line when she, even as a senator, had been using decoys (and not robots, actual human decoys) for such banal tasks as disembarking a ship, and consistently proven right to do so. Did she just one day decide to stop using decoys? When was this day? Will we get a prequel episode in, like, Season 5 explaining this? I’m usually against the kind of criticism where one faults a script for its characters not choosing the best, most thought out option because we real people don’t always do that. Hindsight being 20/20, decisions being made in the heat of the moment and all. I get that. But in this case, we had a character not only make less than optimal decisions, but did so well outside the typical strategy we’ve seen her employ thus far in the canon, making the whole episode feel a bit inauthentic.

Oh boy. Ok, I forgot about this one too. Turns out, before Hostage Crisis in season 1, Cad Bane needed the schematics of the senate building in order to carry out his Evil Plans, so he kidnaps C-3PO (and subsequently R2-D2), who are out on a supply run for a special fruit to top a dessert for a dinner Padme’s throwing in honor of Senator Aang. Bane manages to ensnare the droids by making them think they’re going to a “droid day spa” which is just….eugh. After finding 3PO has nothing useful, and getting the schematics off of R2, he wipes their memories so no one will ever remember this happened which is….eeeuuuuggghhhh. When the most memorable thing about your episode is the sheer dickishness of Senator Aang preemptively toasting to his cake, you done goofed.

In the events following Hostage Crisis, we discover Jabba the Hutt and the Hutt council had hired Bane to “rescue” Ziro solely that they might imprison him themselves. This rogue individual, you see, has a file full of their organization’s secrets, and they need to secure him in order to ensure the safety of the information, but it turns out he intended to get captured and already has an escape planned (this episode was apparently later remade as a hit film). While imprisoned, Ziro’s girlfriend Sy Snootels busts him out and they hit the road together like Bonnie & Clyde if instead of Warren Beatty they’d cast Rip Taylor. Cad Bane is sent on the Hunt for Ziro, while the Jedi Council sends Obi-Wan and a new, more edgy, cool jedi named Quinlan Vos (basically just imagine if there’d been a Star Wars comic back in the time of X-Force and the clone Superboy, picture what Jedi they would have made up for that, take out the skateboard he obviously would have had, and there you go) to track down Ziro as well. After a detour to Jabba’s palace and Ziro’s mother, whose name is Mama the Hutt, they finally track Ziro down on Teth, but not before Sy, to whom Ziro has revealed the location of his diary containing all the Hutt secrets, murders him in cold blood and escapes with the intel (by the way, when I say murders, I mean shoots in the chest in a full and glorious wide-shot where you even see his burned flesh upon impact, so good looking getting the kids to bed after that). We’re treated to a fabulously Western quote when Bane discovers the body (“I hate it when someone does my job”) and a gloriously Star Wars-y bit of banter as Obi-Wan and Quinlan hang from a ledge (“I never did enjoy hanging out with you”) as the trio duke it out. Bane escapes, of course, and we end with Sy delivering the information to her true employer, who naturally is Jabba the Hutt.

Season 3, as I’ve stated above, is full of episodes that are much better viewed than explained. On the surface, Heroes on Both Sides is a very simple story of Padme and Ahsoka sneaking across enemy lines to appeal to a Separatist friend of Amidala’s, with both appealing to their respective factions for peace, until the double-dealing Palpatine (through his Sith channels) has the Separatist ally killed. In the end, the only real change that happens that impacts the war is the Banking Clan being deregulated in order to better finance the war, but this episode isn’t a story so much as a meditation. For the kids viewing, and even some adults, its hard to understand, really, that there really are heroes on both sides. In the fog of war, lines are drawn not just on the battlefield but in our minds, and Ahsoka is our Alice, who falls down the rabbit hole into enemy lines, meeting a young counterpart she can’t quite conceive of as a Separatist, since he’s not the bloodthirsty warmonger she’d always cast them as in her mind. While at its core, the Clone Wars are merely a ruse to amass power for Palpatine, those fighting the war re truly just at ideological odds, and there’s validity to both sides’ claims. This episode, and indeed this whole season, show a great shift in the motivations of the three main characters: Padme becomes a crusader not for Republic victory, but merely an end to the war, and both Ahsoka and Anakin become disillusioned, Ahsoka in the cause, and Anakin in the Jedi Order. These slight drifts now will likely become seismic shifts in the seasons and films to come, shaping the fate of the entire galaxy; and all it took was a little change in perspective.

Pursuit of Peace is definitely an atmosphere episode. The plot is minimal yet labyrinthine to describe in detail, but essentially Padme, Bail Organa and Onaconda Farr’s efforts to curb military spending raw the ire of the Banking Clan (who they discover are gorging prices for the Republic while also funding Separatist ships) and thereby Count Dooku, who sends two thugs to attack Farr, then Padme, the Organa, none of whom decide to back down and eventually, with the help of Padme’s handmaiden providing a plebeian perspective, persuade the entire Senate that the rampant wartime spending is bad. There’s some great set-pieces in this episode, and a thrilling speeder bike chase. The neon city of Coruscant provides a great backdrop for the intrigue and action. Sure, it’s not the high point of the series (but don’t worry, that’s coming) but its definitely an enjoyable episode in its own right.

Ok, so…ho-ly s**t does this show go off the ****ing chain at this point, in the most glorious way. The first of two epic trilogies, the Nightsister/Monster/Witches of the Mist storyline is hands down the best thing the show has done so far, expanding the Star Wars mythos, drawing from the Expanded Universe (now dubbed Legends) and recalling past iconic figures, this has it all.

Darth Sidious, fearing Asajj Ventress has grown to powerful, commands Count Dooku to cut his apprentice loose, which he does by abandoning Ventress in her wrecked ship (damaged in a firefight with Anakin and Obi-Wan) and ordering his own pilots to attack the wreckage, seemingly ensuring her demise. Of course, cunning as she is, she escapes. Rescued by a salvage crew who intend to ransom her, she slaughters the bunch and flies their ship to the planet Dathomir, lorded over by the powerful Nightsisters (the clan from which Ventress originally hails), the leader of which offers to heal Ventress while inducing a dreamlike state that evokes images of Ventress’ past (a clever device allowing us to see her Jedi origins without bogging down the plot with afull narrative of it). She awakens healed and swearing revenge, which the head Nightsister, Talzin, agrees to help with, supplying Ventress with two assassins and some invisibility potions which turn the three into some kind of mist ninja (because this is now Game of Thrones, and I love it). Utilizing stolen Jedi sabers lest Dooku survives and traces the assailants back to Dathomir, the trio initially does overtake Dooku, but just when he seems finished, the Count unleashes a powerful attack of force lightning, ensnaring all three and forces them to flee. Though the mission seems a failure, Talzin sees another opportunity and contacts Dooku. After the attempt on his life, Dooku desperately seeks a new apprentice to guard him, and Talzin offers him a Zabrak warrior from her planet, and Dooku accepts.

When Dooku arrives on Dathomir, Talzin encourages him to consider a Zabrak warrior after evoking the memory of Darth Maul. Dock consents and even proposes an alliance with Talzion, which she rejects. Upon Dooku’s departure, Ventress heads to the other side of Dathomir in order to submit the Zabrak males to a series of trials, whittling them down until she’s found a warrior to her satisfaction. These tests are a visual delight, from straight combat against the agile Ventress to an evasive defense against Ventress in the shadows to a labyrinthine maze navigation which narrows the plethora of warriors down to two, the timid Feral and his protective older brother Savage Opress. Ventures attempts to kill the frightened Feral when Savage jumps to his aid, offering himself to her instead. She defeats Savage but spares his life, seeing enough in him to select him as their operative. Back amongst the Nightsister, Savage is possessed, granted greater strength and power, but becoming more animalistic (reminiscent of the silent, brooding Maul in Phantom Menace, successfully justifying the regal yet beastly posturing during Qui-Gon’s meditation in the film’s final battle). His submission to Ventress is proven when he kills his brother on command, and he’s sent on a mission to prove his worth to Dooku, where he slaughters an entire Jedi Temple on the planet Devaron, earning Dooku’s trust and admiration. Dooku takes Savage into his chambers (to the satisfaction of the Nightsisters, aware they now have a sleeper agent within Dooku’s inner-sanctum) and expounds to him the power of the dark side, and his goal of building up both his own power and that of his new apprentice in order to overthrow Darth Sidious.

Anakin and Obi-wan investigate the massacre at the temple, saying that since Ventress is presumed dead, this must be the work of another (which bugged me, and it may seem minor, but they’re saying “presumed”, as though they themselves don’t fully believe it, and then upon studying the crime scene just go “Well, guess its gotta be someone else” instead of giving thought to Ventress not actually being as dead as she’s presumed). When they finally uncover footage of the killer, Obi-Wan is shocked to find his appearance strikingly similar to that of Darth Maul, and is promptly sent by the council to Dathomir to investigate further. When Anakin and Obi-Wan arrive on the planet, they’re immediately set upon by the Zabrak, until Anakintakes their leader hostage and they concede that Talzin is the person they seek. Upon confronting Talzin, she reveals the identity and location of Savage Opress (though she doesn’t mention Ventress or their plan) and, upon their leaving, presses Ventress to enact the plan now.

Meanwhile, Count Dooku has been demonstrating the dark side of the force to Opress, having him levitate boulders and punishing him with force lightning at his failures, encouraging him to feed into the hate (at one point of canonical foreshadowing, Dooku even traps Opress in the same dual-lightsaber scissor at neck move that will later be employed by Anakin to kill the Count himself). When he feels Savage is ready, he sends him to Toydaria to kidnap King Katuunko. Savage arrives at the palace, slaughters the guards and gets to Katuunko without hinderance, but Anakin and Obi-Wan arrive on the scene, causing Opress to have to fight them back and destroy their ship while inadvertently force-snapping Katuunko’s neck, killing him quite brutally (as usual for these mid-season, in full view). Before Dooku can properly punish Savage for his misdeeds, Ventress arrives, revealing not only her survival but the entire ruse, and orders Opress to attack Dooku in tandem with her. Once again, however, Ventress has underestimated Dooku’s power, and he continually beats them both back. Savage’s two masters continually berate him for his weakness, driving him to such a fury he abandons them both, and after squaring off with the two jedi who he’d battled before (they’d stolen a Toydarian ship to get there, and Opress then damages that one as well, leaving the viewer to imagine a scenario where they awkwardly have to ask Dooku for a lift). Eventually, Ventress too flees, and Opress seeks the comfort of mother Talzin, who advises him to seek out his brother to further train and grow his strength, and through some crystal ball we see….holy s**t, you guys. It’s Darth Maul. Darth Maul is still alive lying low in some Outer Rim, and I for one can’t wait to have him back (spoilers, though: we have to wait at the very least the duration of this season, cause nothing comes of that revelation in season 3).

So not only does the Overlords/Altar of Mortis/Ghosts of Mortis story arc far exceed the previous stellar storyline, it’s easily the mot intense and hands down best aspect of the Star Wars mythos in the entire canon thus far (in terms of where we are in the timeline, I can’t speak to every piece of the canon yet) and it’s gonna be a really tough storyline to beat.

Answering a 2000 year old distress code, Anakin, Ahsoka and Obi-Wan are drawn into a strange crystalline structure which seems to contain a planet. When they disembark, after observing that the “planet” is strong with the force, they’re greeted by an ethereal figure seemingly made of pure light who identifies herself as Daughter, asking Anakin is he is the chosen one, and offering to take them to Father. On the way, a boulder falls along a mountainside, cutting of Daughter and Anakin from the group. Daughter fears tis is the work of her brother, and Anakin sends the other two Jedi to send a distress signal while he carries on. The two find the ship missing and are confronted by the Son, who asks whether Anakin is the Chosen One. A storm brews, and we see all three Jedi take shelter as the Son retreats. From his cave, Anakin spots a light in a monastery and seeks it out when the storm passes, finding an old man, the Father, meditating. He explains to Anakin that he will have to endure tests on this planet to see if he is the chosen one and invites him to stay the night. Meanwhile, Obi-Wan is greeted by the ghostly visage of Qui-Gon Jinn (actually voiced by Liam Neeson in the coolest thing to happen thus far in the series because Liam Neeson) who warns him that the trials Anakin shall endure on this planet may cause him to stray from his destiny, and Ahsoka receives a vision of her future self advising her to avoid Anakin for fear t will corrupt her and drag her down with him. Back at the Monastery, Anakin is visited by a vision of his own, this one of his mother Shmi (actually voiced by Pernilla August, the original actor from the prequels, though she’s actually quite good here, proving she was hampered by a bad script rather than a lack of talent) to whom Anakin confesses the source of his guilt. The vision of Shmi briefly transforms into a monster before disappearing, causing Anakin to seek out Father, who he now believes to be a Sith. He explains, however, that he and his children are neither Jedi nor Sith, but rather “Force Wielders” who through their heightened sensitivity to the force cannot stay in the material world and sought refuge within the crystal vessel, and that Anakin must endure the trial before he and his companions can leave. The trial, it turns out, is that the Son and the Daughter, each transformed into a creature, have kidnapped Obi-Wan and Ahsoka, and Anakin must choose who to save. However, drawing upon the force around him, he dominates both the Son and Daughter (clearly the personifications of the light and dark side of the force), making them both return to human form and release his friends. The Father instructs Anakin he has passed but still needs to discover himself, imploring Anakin to stay and take his place balancing the Son and Daughter. Anakin refuses, however, leaving in his ship while the familiar tune of the Imperial March plays.

As they’re about to leave, Anakin is plagued by a dream of the Son asking him to come to the dark side, and upon waking, discovers the Son has indeed made his way onto the ship. The Son kidnaps Ahsoka and flies away (taking the form of some winged beast), and in their attempt to catch up with him, Anakin and Obi-Wan crash the ship before a large glowing structure. Anakin disregards Obi-wan’s warnings about it being a trap and charges in, leaving Obi-Wan to seek out the Father to consult him. Meanwhile, the Son has now taken the form of a small creature who preys on Ahsoka’s fears and insecurities, trying to goad her into giving in to her anger. When she refuses, he releases her from the chains that bound her and bites her arm, infecting her with the dark side as he regains his human form. The Son then seeks out his father and sister, and after Father warns him of his descent into the dark side, the Son attacks him with force lightning as Obi-Wan arrives. Over the body of the weakened father, Obi-Wan implores the Daughter to help him and Anakin defeat the Son before he brings chaos to the galaxy, but she refuses to fight him, claiming its simply his nature, conceding only to showing Obi-Wan a blade made of pure Force energy, which could be used to kill the Son. Anakin attempts to find the Son, only to discover the corrupted Ahsoka, who tells him he must join the Son or she will be killed. When Anakin refuses, she attacks him. Soon Obi-Wan joins the fray as the Daughter battles the Son before the Father arrives and easily the most insanely epic battle since the Jedi swarmed the arena on Geonosis occurs, before Ahsoka obtains the Force blade and brings it to the Son. He then exclaims Ahsoka is no longer of use to him and drains her of her life force before attempting to attack his father with the blade. The Daughter, however, dives in front of her father, sacrificing herself that he may live. Horrified at what he’s done, the Son flees as Anakin runs to Ahsoka’s side, desperate to help her. In her final moments, the Daughter (using Anakin as a conduit) transfers her life into Ahsoka, reviving her, as the Father commands them to leave before the Son can steal their ship and spread his darkness throughout the galaxy.

Ahsoka repairs the damaged shuttle (because apparently they just decided Ahsoka was good with ship engineering even though that’s never been demonstrated thus far, while Anakin, who built pod racers and droids at 9 just chills because plot convenience) while Anakin seeks out the Father to express his doubts at stopping the Son. The Father tells him to look inside himself for the answers, a sentiment echoed when Anakin is visited by the ghost of Qui-Gon, who advises him to seek out the Well of the Dark Side. As Anakin journeys there, Obi-Wan worries and, when the Father tells him of Anakin’s journey to the well, sets off after is one-time apprentice. Upon his descent, Anakin is treated to visions of his future by the Son, in a gorgeous sequence that reveals in glimmers and flickers the events of Revenge of the Sith and finally envelops Anakin in a dark cloud with a familiar helmet shape. Anguished, he agrees to join the Son if it means he can prevent the future he’s seen, and once Obi-Wan arrives, he realizes its too late. Swiftly, Obi-Wan tells Ahsoka to disable the ship she’s just finished repairing, which she does right before Anakin arrives. Desperate, the Son arrives at his sister’s tomb to obtain the Force blade while Anakin is stranded with the failing ship. The Father seeks him out and erases his memory of all the visions of the future (though its good to know if Anakin had known what path he would take, he would do anything to change it, but then again that’s a demonstration of how fear could turn him to the dark side, which is what leads him down that future path in the first place), and soon the Father and the three Jedi confront the Son. The Son proves too powerful for the three Jedi, and the Father takes the only measure that might succeed, driving the blade through himself (so Shakespearean, as are lines like “And so you have betrayed me, father”. I’m telling you, guys, this was the point where I knew I was gonna rewatch this trilogy) to rob his Son of some of his power. The Son runs to his dying father as Anakin spears him with his lightsaber. In his final moments the Father tells Anakin he brough balance to the Force on that planet and will do so again. A crystal pierces the top of the monastery and a light envelops the trio, who awaken back aboard the ship, with Commander Rex calling in to check on their status, saying only a brief flicker of a moment has passed since they’d set off after the distress signal.

Everything about this trilogy is a masterwork, from the classical storytelling to the brooding visuals, and it’s highly recommended. If you watch nothing else of the series, give these three episodes a view.

Oh boy. I’m gonna level with you folks, its all downhill from here, so we’re gonna wrap this post up quick (after all, it’s Comic Con weekend, we all have things to do). The Citadel trilogy (The Citadel/Counterattack/Citadel Rescue) is an overly long prison break story whose only redeemable highlight (besides being continually name-checked in Tarkin, a novel that bridges Episodes III and IV) is watching the relationship build between Abakin and Tarkin, both of whom acknowledge the Jedi are ineffective as a force of order in the galaxy due to their unwillingness to achieve victory, law & order by any means necessary (and they’re not wrong). This trilogy is followed up by easily the most pointless arc in the series, Padawan Lost and Wookie Hunt, where a bunch of Padawan are captured (including Ahsoka) with the intent of them being hunted for sport (you know, the plot of Predators, but way more boring). Somewhere along the line, Chewbacca becomes a thing for some reason, and after a really convoluted series of events there’s no point in even summarizing as it doesn’t advance the general plot of the saga at all, we end on a final shot of Yoda (who has been of no consequence for the entire back half of this season) nodding to Chewbacca, who as far as he know he hasn’t met yet, but I guess this was their attempt to explain why he knows him in Episode III? I don’t know. It was a really awkward way to end a really awful arc that was part of a pair of really weak stories which followed up the best story the series has told thus far. So, you take the good with the bad in Season 3: Secrets Revealed. The bright side: in terms of both quantity and quality (how good is the “good vs. how bad is the “bad), the good far outweighs the bad this season.

Alright, check back next week for the last 22 episode season of Clone Wars, Battle Lines.

11 thoughts on “(De)Constructing the Ion Canon: Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season 3

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