Upon rewatching these episodes, I have a distinct memory of having seen them once before. Although most of the details of them had been lost to time and my bad memory. I think it was around a time where a friend of mine encouraged me to watch them as this was the part of the series where it “got good”, although upon this revisitation I feel like it’s been pretty good right from the beginning.
This is certainly a collection of episodes that acts as a major turning point in the series and a shift in the dynamic of power between a number of our character’s villains.
Season 3, Episode 12: Nightsisters
It’s just another day in the Clone Wars, Anakin and Obi Wan battle Asajj Ventress in another space battle. Ventress finds herself cornered by the Jedi and once again contacts her master asking for aid. Only this time, things don’t go quite as she was hoping.
In a brief conversation between Dooku and Sidious, the master Sith orders his apprentice to murder Ventress because she’s getting too powerful for his liking. Something Dooku tries to argue against but ultimately remains subservient to his master. Dooku seems like he’s ultimately pretty weak-willed here. It’s the whole point of the Sith to try and betray and overpower their masters, the fact that Dooku so readily bends to his master’s will makes him seem like a pretty ineffective Sith.
Although I don’t think Dooku was ever anything but a tool of Sidious to help him get what he wanted while he groomed Anakin to take over.
Anywho, his betrayal of Ventress is kinda sad to me. It’s obvious that he does have some connection with her, more so than anyone else in the series, but it doesn’t stop him from leaving her out to dry. The hate that comes at being betrayed gives Ventress the power she needs to escape the Jedi and return to her homeworld of Dathomir.
This would be the point where I take a little time to dig into the retcon of Asajj Ventress from what she used to be in the Legends continuity compared to now. Originally, Ventress was a Rattataki; a race that has all but been wiped from the Star Wars continuity after the reboot. Now, she is a subspecies of Zabrak, one in which the females lack the race’s distinctive horns. Going by the name of Dathomirians.
This is where the Clone Wars introduces a whole new concept to the lore: The Nightsisters. A culture steeped in the dark side of the force, the Nightsisters are called witches by the rest of the galaxy, able to use the force to create magic-like powers to imbue strength, near invisibility and farsight. It’s a step much closer to traditional fantasy-style magic than we’ve had in the series before, making the Nightsister Mother Talzin a very mysterious and powerful figure.
It’s during her healing that we learn of Ventress’s new origin story. How she was an unknowing hero to her people, being given to a mercenary as an infant in order to protect the Nightsisters from Bounty Hunters. From there she was discovered by a Jedi and trained as a Padawan briefly before her master was gunned down by pirates, leaving nobody to guide her and prevent her inevitable spiral into the dark side of the force.
Once healed, Mother Talzin creates a potion that obscures Ventress and two other Nightsisters from view, allowing them to sneak into Dooku’s home and attempt to assassinate him. Despite the advantage of them being both obscured and also poisoning him before the fight, the Sith Lord still proves too powerful for the three assassins to deal with, thus they’re forced to flee in failure.
Thanks to their choice in weapons, Dooku believed the attack to come from the Jedi. Something Mother Talzin seemed to anticipate from the beginning, as it only acted as the first step in her plan to aid Ventress in her quest for revenge against her former master.
A cool episode that introduced this whole new faction of the force into what had previously been a two-sided battle between the Jedi and the Sith. It also gave us some more insight into Ventress as a character, attention she sorely needed for a long time now.
Season 3, Episode 13: Monster
Dooku, now afraid of another attack from the Jedi is easily swayed into the idea of needing another assassin to defend him. For as smart and powerful as Dooku is supposed to be, he seems particularly easy to manipulate in these episodes, seemingly choosing to ignore how uncharacteristic is would be of the Jedi to send assassins after him, or not picking up on the very well-timed offer of assistance from his old acquaintance Mother Talzin.
Either way, she offers him a male assassin this time, one of their people who comes from the same bloodline as his predecessor; Darth Maul. It’s here we get what feels like one of the more strained recontextualizations of the older Star Wars lore into the new one.
This episode would imply that the Zabrak species are from Dathomir, even though we’ve seen both male and female Zabrak around the galaxy for a long time now, female ones too. The old canon used to imply that Dathmirians were the result of Zabrak-Human crossbreeding, I’m not sure if that’s the case anymore. It all just feels like an excuse to somehow link Darth Maul to Asajj Ventress to me.
Ventress journeys to the other side of the planet to select a male Zabrak to act as her pawn to infiltrate and then assassinate Dooku. It’s here we meet Savage Opress (voiced by Clancy Brown) and his younger brother Ferel. Through a serious of murderous trials we learn two things; Savage is a powerful fighter in his own right, and is utterly dedicated to the protection of his younger brother.
He readily hands himself over to Ventress in exchange for the life of his brother. Once back with the Nightsisters, Talzin performs some kind of magical ritual that both brainwashes Savage, but also makes him much more powerful, turning him into a tank of a man, much stronger and intimidating than ever before.
Made even scarier by the fact that he now follows orders without question, snapping the neck of the younger brother he once put his life on the line to protect. His only comment being that he was too weak. Savage is certainly an intimidating presence, as after being presented to Dooku, he is sent on a mission where he uses his brute power to eliminate a bunch of clones and kill a couple of faceless Jedi without so much as breaking a sweat.
And “monster” is right. The episode ends with Dooku declaring he’ll train the Zabrak as his new apprentice so that the two of them can eventually join forces and become powerful enough to kill his master Darth Sidious. I wonder if this is the same thing he told Ventress when he took her on, because if that’s the case then I don’t see his partnership getting much further considering Sidious will know about it and then just tell Dooku to kill Opress too.
Obviously, having seen the three episodes already, I know that’s not where this story ends up going. But it kind of makes Dooku’s betrayal of Ventress all the crappier a move from him. Certainly Savage Opress is a very powerful being, much more so at a glace than Ventress. But he is simple, straightforward by comparison. And it makes me wonder how much of his power comes from the Nightsister Magic, and how much of that power could easily be snatched back away from him in the future.
Season 3, Episode 14: Witches of the Mist
I’m going to start talking about this episode by stating that Savage Opress is a dumb name. It’s fine on paper, but hearing characters on-screen pronounce it the way they do makes it sound like a 12-year-old’s first edgelord D&D character.
Anyway, we open the episode with a surprise cameo. It’s Delta Squad from the Republic Commando video game, looking very cool in the pouring rain. They deliver the bodies of the two nameless Jedi to Coruscant, as the Jedi begin to wonder who could have enacted such savagery.
It doesn’t take long for them to connect this new assassin to Darth Maul, and being the character with the only tenuous connection to the former Sith apprentice, Obi Wan Kenobi is selected to travel to Dathimor and investigate the origin of this new piece on the game board.
Meanwhile, we see Opress’s training with Dooku. A much harsher and more punishing kind of training compared to the Jedi training we’ve seen in the past. Containing a number of fun parallels and nods to Luke’s training by Yoda during The Empire Strikes Back. It’s here we get a little look into Opress’s personality, in that he still has one after spending most of his time, post-transformation, as a silent blunt instrument.
His awe of the power Dooku possesses and frustrations at being unable to match it show he does still have some individuality in there, despite the brainwashing he’s been getting from everyone he’s encountered since his introduction. It’s during a mission to Toydaria where things come to a head.
Sent there to kidnap the Toydarian king alive, Opress encounters Obi Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker, who were directed to him by Mother Talzin. During a brief struggle, he kills King Katuunko rather than allowing him to escape. Despite his lack of training in the force, his brute strength proves formidable enough to brush the Jedi aside and escape back to Dooku’s flagship with the body of his quarry.
Something that infuriates Dooku. Although, before he can enact his wrath upon his new apprentice, Ventress shows up activating Opress’s programming and combining with him to try and kill Dooku once and for all. The battle, doesn’t go anywhere near as smoothly as Ventress would have hoped, Opress’s brute strength seemingly worthless over Dooku’s mastery over both the force and lightsaber duelling technique.
Some may forget, but Dooku is a master of Form II (Makashi); a form devised by the ancient Jedi for the express purpose of battling other opponents who are also using a lightsaber. It’s something that the animators don’t often portray all that clearly in the choreography of the battles throughout the series.
Opress gets increasingly frustrated as he is continuously hit by Dooku’s force lightning every time he tries to reenter the battle, eventually snapping and force choking both him and Ventress for long enough to distract the Nightsister and allow Dooku the opportunity to escape the battle. With Ventress in swift pursuit, still hungry for her revenge.
Meanwhile, Anakin and Obi Wan have arrived on Dooku’s flagship just in time to continue their battle with the Zabrak tank. Dooku brands Opress a traitor to his forces, shortly before Ventress catches up to him. Despite all her rage, she is still no match for the Sith Lord, and ends up choosing to narrowly escape with her life when it becomes apparent her schemes were all for nought.
During his duel with the Jedi, Opress is attacked by the Separatist forces, able to endure several blaster bolts before using his pent up frustrations to create a force blast that gives him enough time to escape and return to Mother Tanzin on Dathimor. The Clan Mother reveals to him that he still has room to learn and grow, revealing to him that his brother still lives in exile; revealing that Darth Maul still lives in the new continuity.
Because any of us familiar with the old Expanded Universe already knew hat.
These were a great trio of episodes. Ones that really started to feel like a shift in the style of storytelling the Clone Wars was working with. Focusing less on an anthology-style and turning more into ongoing narrative with a number of focus characters, these episodes really flexed some creative storytelling style.
The episodes started off focusing on Ventress, reestablishing her backstory and her quest for revenge against Count Dooku. But then it also doubled up as the origin story of the new character Savage Opress, eventually transitioning and becoming more of a focus on him in place of Ventress. Having him be the character we care about more than Ventress by the time they were over.
The internal politics of the Sith have already been interesting to me, one of pure power and constant betrayal and infighting. Yet now this episode adds the extra wrinkle of the Nightsisters and their place in this grand opera of good vs evil. Specifically Mother Talzin, who seems to be playing multiple angles at the same time, and whose true loyalties remain a mystery to me.
I looking forward to seeing the new direction the series will take regarding Ventress, the new character of Savage Opress and what they’re eventually going to do when Maul comes back into the mix. It’s exciting stuff.
Next time we get into episodes I somehow remember watching again back in the day. I’m sure these are the last bunch I have any memory of though. Linking into the origins of the force and creating more lore to play with too:
- Season 3, Episode 15: Overlords
- Season 3: Episode 16: Alter of Mortis
- Season 3, Episode 17: Ghosts of Mortis