I have a distinct memory of watching these episodes out of context with the rest of the series back when they came out. So much so that they activated another memory in my brain of a piece of fan fiction I wrote about some video game I was playing at the time directly inspired by the events of these episodes.
There’s a slim chance I could find those incredibly plagiarising writings, but I think it’s better if I not bother. For I feel the amount of cringing I would do would cause me to turn into a singularity and consume the Earth. And none of us want that.
Season 3, Episode 15: Overlords
We jump into this episode seemingly part way into the events as they’re unfolding. Anakin, Obi Wan and Ahsoka have stumbled into some kind of impossible space and are abducted by a giant Borg Cube/Sith Holocron. Right away this episode seems to be diving into the more high fantasy elements of the world than any mainstream element of the series has before.
Consequently, this trio of episodes become something unlike anything we’ve seen in the series up until now, playing with the headier fantasy and science fiction concepts than they would normally dare to. What these episodes appear to be, in my eyes, are the Clone Wars’s writers attempts at adding some context and resolution to the whole “chosen one” aspect of the Anakin Skywalker character. Something that ultimately never goes anywhere in the movies themselves after the prequels.
After being brought to some world seemingly outside of the known Star Wars Galaxy, our heroes encounter the “Daughter”, the “Son” and the “Father”. These ancient force wielders fill multiple roles; as a kind of precursor race, a common trope in science fiction and also the very personifications of the light side and the dark side of the force. With Father representing the balance between them.
The very concept of the “balance to the force” has always been a vexing one to me, the way the movies dealt with this prophecy, it seemed to be no different than the light side overcoming the dark side for good, which is actually the total opposite of “balance”. This story at least seems to imply that the Jedi interpretation of this prophecy is wrong and this family of ancient force users are the real reason behind it.
The entire plotline reminds me of what turned out to be the overarching plot of J.J. Abrams’s LOST, in which a character was drawn to an island in order to fulfil the role of its protector and prevent chaos from running rampant in the world outside. A role that seems more like a curse than an honour. Anakin, as the chosen one, is drawn to this planet so that Father can die and he can continue in the old man’s stead as the scales that prevent either the light or the dark from throwing balance out of whack.
A role he rejects. Despite the planet itself feeding him with force power and making him all-powerful, Anakin’s inability to let go of his earthly connections, the very thing that causes him to fall to the dark side, is what prevents him from taking on the role. Which is totally understandable to me, but actually pretty contrary to what you might expect from a more typical example of a Jedi. Almost all of which are supposed to be selfless and heroic.
It’s actually a pretty interesting recontextualisation of the whole prophecy aspect of the prequel movies, one that shows that both the Jedi and the Sith are inherently flawed in different ways. It also brings backs Liam Neeson to reprise his role as Qui-Gon Jinn, and further implies that Obi Wan’s old master probably was the Jedi closest to understanding the true need for actual balance in the force, beyond the narrow-minded light vs. dark perspectives of the Jedi and the Sith.
Anakin’s rejection of the role as the new “father” ends up being the act that gives Son the opportunity to really make his move and escape the planet, risking the dark side becoming significantly more powerful across the galaxy. Possibly becoming an even greater threat than the Sith could ever be.
Season 3, Episode 16: Altar of Mortis
These episodes really delve into the more mystical aspects of the force and the Jedi. All three of the characters are encountering visions, and struggling with the mistakes they’ve made in the past and the choices they’re going to have to make in the future. Based on information we, as the audience, know all too well at this point. The only real mysery being Ahsoka’s role in a post-Order 66 Galaxy.
Which means the writers and animators can have some real fun with the weird and otherworldly sequences throughout these episodes. The Son’s constant mental torture of Anakin turns into some pretty cool looking sequences, including a scene where he tries to sway Anakin over to his side, his voice changing between his own, Anakin’s own and Palpatine’s.
These episodes really do show what a narrow perspective on the force both the Jedi and the Sith exercise. Despite their many claims, both organisations have pretty strict codes on how they behave and gain their power. Despite the seemingly contrary to that the Sith have operated in the same, secretive way for millennia, which is how they remained undetected by the Jedi for so long. Operating on the basis of the “Rule of Two” since the days of Darth Bane.
After failing to turn Anakin to his side using pretty simplistic tactics, Son prevents the trio from escaping by kidnapping Ahsoka and corrupting her with his dark side powers, turning her into a brainwashed slave. From here, everything turns into a fantastical Shakespearian tragedy. One with a lot of Tolkienesque overtones. While Son perpetrates a betrayal of the Father, Obi Wan is lead to a magical cavern and given a magical sword, the only thing capable of killing one of these ancient force wielders.
It seriously feels like we’ve stumbled into a D&D campaign. And that’s not a bad thing. Star Wars has always been as much fantasy as it has been science fiction, it’s only natural that a collection of episodes focusing on the force would become more fantasy than the series has ever delved into before.
No Greek tragedy ends without a familial death, and this story is no different, with Daughter throwing herself in Son’s way and getting herself killed to protect Father from a deadly blow. Embodying the light she represents by using her last breath to purify and revive Ahsoka. With these characters all being one giant metaphor for the force itself, the death of Daughter is the first indication of the dark side’s eventual triumph with the execution of Order 66.
Season 3, Episode 17: Ghosts of Mortis
Once again, the Jedi are trying to escape the planet, preventing the Son from leaving and spreading his dark side influence throughout the galaxy. Except the ship is busted and Ahsoka is left to fix it. I thought that Anakin was the engineer in the group. Although it does make sense, as I’ve seen Padawan’s lumped with the grunt work throughout the franchise. Also, Anakin is kind of preoccupied.
Unable to bring himself to simply leave, Anakin returns to Father for answers and to help him try and put an end to Son, feeling the dark side manifestation will eventually escape the planet. Both Father and the ghost of Qui-Gon see that the turmoil within Anakin is something holding him back, so they send him on something of a mystical vision quest. Down into a volcano that looks suspiciously like the surface of Mustafar.
This leads Anakin to another confrontation with the Son. However, whatever power the planet once granted him through balance is long gone, and he is gravely outmatched by the Son’s strength. At which point, Anakin is shown his own future. He sees the evil he commits and the black-clad, cybernetic monster he will become.
A revelation powerful enough to bring Anakin over to the Son’s side and he becomes a vessel for the dark side. The Son brings Anakin to the dark side in much the same way Palpatine manages to convert him later on, taking advantage of his good heart and making him think that he needs to commit evils for the eventual greater good.
I remember loving this moment as a kid and thinking it was so cool. Today, I’m not so enthusiastic about it. It feels like the writers wanted their cake and to eat it too. The whole revelation to Anakin of what he’ll end up becoming it cool and all, but its impact is totally rendered ineffectual when Father simply erases Anakin’s mind moments later and resets us to where we were at the beginning of the episode.
I remember the other Clone Wars animated series did something similar, only in that series, Anakin’s fate was implied but left ambiguous. It was a sinister warning of what Anakin would become but was nowhere near as blatant as it was here. So blatant in fact that the series had to rely on a memory wipe plot device to prevent it from time paradoxing itself. Which I don’t really like.
In the end, the Father betrays his Son, allowing Anakin the opportunity to finish them both off. In essence, bringing balance to the force. Or at least addressing the imbalance the presence of three Jedi on this planet caused in the first place.
Which is actually the closest thing Anakin ever does to fulfilling the prophecy of the Chosen One. Because, while Anakin may eventually kill Palpatine in the future, the sequel trilogy of movies and Palpatine living on in clone bodies therein rendered any interpretation of Anakin as bringing balance to the force even harder to swallow than it ever was before.
These were a great bunch of episodes. Three that stepped away from the more grounded world of the franchise and dug into the more mystical, fantasy-inspired roots. While I do appreciate that this is probably the closest thing the franchise actually has to explaining Anakin’s “chosen one” status, it’s also a trio of episodes that never really feels like it means anything in the grand scale of the story.
The events and character introduced in this episode feel like they’ve got stakes with a grand importance. That they really could have a major impact on the rest of the galaxy, but by the time they’re over it feels like it ends on an ambiguous “and it was all a dream” note. I know that these episodes need to slot nicely into a larger franchise that can’t contradict those original three movies, but the feeling that this story was overreaching made me feel kind of bummed that I know it’s not going to matter again at any point. At least in this continuity.
The events of these episode should really shake up the entire Jedi Order and their entire interpretation of the Force itself, and yet I feel the events of these episodes will never come up again. Which, in the end, is simply a casualty of the fact that the Clone Wars is a “midquel” series, one that needs to slot nicely into the existing canon. In the end, I should happy that the writers of The Clone Wars haven’t let that fact hold them back when it comes to the types of stories they want to tell.
One more thing:
I wasn’t going to mention this at all, but I couldn’t help myself. I kind of love how this story connects to the Fate of the Jedi book series that was coming out around the same time as these episodes of Clone Wars. It’s one of the interesting things about This Clone Wars being the thing that straddles the edges of both the old Expanded Universe and the new, Post-Disney, canon.
Fate of the Jedi was the final long-running novel series of what is now known as the Legends continuity. The major villain in this series was a being known as Abeloth. The franchise’s dipping its toes into Lovecrafitan cosmic horror, Abeloth was once a mortal woman who acted as the servant to Father, Son and Daughter millennia ago.
Despite being a servant, the trio came to love her like family and she became the “Mother” that their family unit. However, due to being mortal, she realised she would die long before they did. In an act of desperation, she bathed both in the Font of Power that Son had used previously, and then the Well of Knowledge, as Daughter had done once before. An act that twisted her mind and turned her into something monstrous. The very embodiment of chaos in the force.
An act that caused the family to abandon her, and also acted as the instigation of the rift between them that would eventually cause Son to want to betray his Father. This kind of interconnective storytelling was the thing that I love about Star Wars.
Next time I’ll be talking about these three episodes and I realise that I’m very quickly approaching the end of season 3. In fact, I’m just not passing the halfway point of the entire Clone Wars series.
- Season 3, Episode 18: The Citadel
- Season 3, Episode 19: Counter Attack
- Season 3, Episode 20: Citadel Rescue