Some new players enter the Clone Wars, the Nightsisters of Dathomir. What they do in these trio of episodes will change the course of the entire series.
Credits & Solicit Info:
I have to admit, Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season 3 has been a bit of a downer compared to it's predecessor. Really when you compare what this season has had thus far (seven Senate centric episodes) to the previous one, it just isn't fair. Thankfully, taking a note out of the past season starting the mid-point with a bang, this year we get a game changing three parter. Written by George Lucas' daughter, Katie what we're given changes the entire landscape of the show thus far.
After feeling her power has grown too much, Darth Sidious forces his apprentice Count Dooku to oust Asajj Ventress from the Separatist movement. Alas for the two Sith Lords, Ventress survives the attempt on her life. Seeking revenge, she enlists her kin, the Nightsisters of Dathomir. What follows is two attempts on Dooku's life from the new alliance and the birth of a new dark side nightmare, Savage Oppress.
The creators of this show weren't kidding when they said these three episodes would be a game changer (and it very much is on the bad guy side of things). Still, it was a very nice surprise to see at the onset of this episode to see Ventress in not only her "original" look from the original Clone Wars, but we see her ship from that series to boot that further links both. After that nice teaser, we get the shake-up with Dooku ending their partnership right when she takes on Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Really that's what startled me the most out of these three episodes. That the star and protagonist is Ventress herself. The actual good guys, Anakin and Obi-Wan, don't even appear in part two, and only show up for the first eight minutes of part one as well before disappearing until part three. They're nothing but side characters here, who're perplexed at the very least at what's going on of the new changes going on with the Separatists.
Seeing everything about Ventress laid to bare was very interesting. Betrayal and loss appears to be a common factor in her life, and even more surprising is again how similar her Expanded Universe origin remains completely intact when this is shown. This really makes me wonder if the creators of the show won't change her fate in this (she actually survives the Clone Wars and retires somewhere out in the Outer Rim). Still, I doubt we'll reach that point yet. It was a nice change of pace of the norm, of Ventress being the central figure in all of this. Instead of a simple Jedi or Clone tale, we get a full story from the other Separatist side. Here's hoping we get more of these episodes down the way since I found the change very refreshing. Though it appears this show will be going down a different path.
Even more we get an addition to Ventress's background which ties her to another group of dark side users, the Nightsisters of Dathomir. Long since used in the EU, the sisters make their in cannon debut here and what a debut it is. From the world they live on to the various designs of the regular sisters to the head Nightsister, who uses an old unused character model from Episode I. Regardless it's Mother Talzin, who sets all the events in motion and is almost a female Sidious in playing a larger game then the one Ventress and Dooku are at. Such a game leads to the greatest revelation of all: Darth Maul is alive?
Honestly, when I first heard the rumors from what people posted after seeing this trilogy in theaters I shrugged it off, thinking this has got to be false. But nope, at the end we're given a glimpse that the most popular Prequel character might very much be still amongst the living. Yes, this does open up some VERY intriguing story ideas, but a part of me can't help but wonder if this isn't just the head Nightsister being figurative of telling Savage that he should embrace the rage as Maul once did or he's within Savage. If that's not any of that psychological or mental jumbo, and Maul is actually really alive, again my jaw is dropped at Lucas and the creators of the show pulling that. If he's truly alive, then wow I'm really curious to see where they'll be going with it since this just about shatters probably every clone Maul story (which really is mute since they're all in the somewhat non-cannon Star Wars Tales), and makes you wonder just how long Lucas thought about this given the Visionaries story that had a surviving Maul hunt down Luke only to fight Obi-Wan one last time.
Still, I can't help but hesitate a bit for once more the creators of this show are introducing more concepts and just when you think we're at a crossing point (given they're now using Revenge of the Sith type models for Anakin and Obi-Wan), we're probably not even close to the finale to this series. I just really hope certain finality for certain characters aren't rushed at all. That they're given some due like Ziro the Hutt or the Clone "Rookies" got. I mean if we get somewhat closure in those stories, how long before we get that with the Death Watch? Zillo Beast 2.0? All those Separatists caught going to get freed(we know they get freed since they're all together to meet their end at Vader's hand in Episode III)? Though it does make me wonder if the finale for this season might pertain to Maul and Opress much like last season kept the Mandalore angle for that trilogy and it ended with the most memorable Mandalore of them all, Boba Fett showing up.
Really the greatest plus and negative I have for these trio of episodes is Count Dooku. On one hand we're given some great character expansion of his character. For the dude who many have viewed as nothing more than the replacement Sith Lord, Dooku gets to show off just why Palpatine chose him. The fight he has at the end of part one is the highlight for that episode and the training he gives Savage Opress also showcases just how far gone into the way of the dark side.
However, there's parts of Dooku's character I kind of wished they explored more, but I assume they just decided to focus those minutes more on Ventress. There's a scene in part one where you see Dooku hesitate and even question his master's orders. Yet in the very next scene after his cutting of Assajj when he performs the act it seems without question. Then flip back he's all wavering back and forth again at what he just committed. I just wish they stuck to a better portrayal of Dooku here. They should have had him stick to his guns so the revelation in part two that he actually announces to Savage he wishes the pair to kill Sidious makes more sense.
As for Savage Opress, I really didn't expect much from his character. Even more I kind of cringed when I first heard he was "Darth Maul's brother." I mean really? What is this a cheesy action flick? Thankfully, we're given a more Klingon-like answer (the tribe Maul once was a part of is now an outcast one and they've taken up residence on Dathomir). Even more we're bared fully to the tragedy that befalls this character being used exactly as Maul before him was, as nothing more than a blunt instrument. Though unlike Maul, Savage lives up to his name as he delivers some VERY brutal attacks and is just an utter beast in the battlefield (as noted of him mowing down anything in his path in part two).
What adds more to the character is the vocal talents of Clancy Brown. Yes, that's right they've cast the Kurgan into the Star Wars universe (though really his second outing actually since he was involved in the voice cast of the Star Wars: Bounty Hunter video game). Brown adds very much depth here not overplaying Savage as an unholy bastard. Instead, he reminds me of Frankenstein's monster. A kind soul who totally got the raw end of the deal from both Ventress and Dooku. Plus if not for the pair, could have lived a simple honest life instead of becoming an utter fury unleashed into the galaxy.
So yeah the best thing about these trilogy of episodes is the fight sequences. The action here is very memorable with the capping stone for part one being Dooku blind and drugged vs. Ventress and two Nightsisters, for part two with Savage vs. EVERYONE, and the finale Dooku vs. Ventress vs. Savage with Obi-Wan and Anakin caught in the middle. In each fight there's a much more quick and even more savage tone here. I think this is the first time since the actual movie that kicked this series off that our two main bad guys (Dooku and Ventress) actually bring their game face and throw everything they can at each of their opponents. When Savage is involved you get a more literal savage tone as all this dude dishes out is loads of damage to anything around him. He's almost like a force of nature that you should just avoid. All the animation of movement here was VERY smooth and just goes to show you how much this show has improved upon since the movie.
Another thing that I enjoyed remarkably in this episode was the music. Kevin Kiner's music here. From the Nightsister theme to Savage's the dude is channeling his inner John Williams here and I cannot help but hope that somewhere down the line this year we finally get a soundtrack released of the work he's comprised for this show. He's truly doing a bang up job of what Williams laid throughout the Star Wars movies by giving all these characters and locations various themes.
However, for all my drooling over this episode there are errors to be sure. For example, Dooku doesn't even bat an eye or we're given little to no plot development of him recruiting and developing his own personal Darth Maul. The very sort of person who killed his student, Qui-Gon Jinn. Part of me wonders if Katie Lucas addresses in his actions in part three where he harshly trains Savage. Sure this he's giving dark side training, but that extra bolt of force lighting makes me wonder if Dooku is doing this on purpose in abusing his new apprentice. Still, I feel like I'm grasping at straws here when we get that more with Obi-Wan when he learns the identity of the slayer of two Jedi.
The other plot points that bother me is there should have been a fourth part. I felt like as the viewer we where jetting through all of Savage's training and bam he already has a lightsaber. What about the dude's unique spear weapon from the previous episode? I just felt we as the viewer where quickly spirited through out part 3 with the training and then Savage's second assignment for Dooku, before we skip right to the big free for all duel.
A third thing that bugs me is that Dooku now knows how deep this betrayal went. He knows the Nightsisters screwed the living hell out of him. I can only wonder that their world is so getting reduced to ash down the line. But, that is a minor nitpick that can be addressed in a future storyline.
Still, this arc promised change and boy did we get it. Dooku is without an underling. Ventress has no one but herself now and is hunted by her former allies (though the Republic it appears still doesn't know she lives. So she has that at least). Then the revelation that Darth Maul might be alive and Savage Opress will be his apprentice. Damn, the creators of this show weren't kidding around when they said this three parter was going to be balls to the wall action and things would be changed. I'm very curious to see where this leads the various force induced rogues gallery of the Clone Wars next.
The Nightsisters: 3 out of 5
Monster: 5 out of 5
Witches of the Mist: 4 out of 5
Review by: Zechs