#CloneWarsSaved, or, A Poe Boy Hot Take

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I’m not crying, you’re crying. Ah, look at that, now you’ve got me going. I guess we’re both crying now. So silly.

Have you heard the good news!? No, not that, the OTHER good news! I have a brand new Star Wars podcast, Poe Boys! Check it out on Podbean and Apple Podcasts!

It was a confluence of events that threatened to sour Star Wars, my great pop culture love, for me.

Solo: A Star Wars Story had performed poorly at the box office and thus any and all discourse to the film was relegated to everyone and their mother’s hot takes on what went wrong, rather than any sort of discussion regarding the contents of the actual film.

Unfounded rumors began to swirl that Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy would be resigning and that Disney was entirely scrapping any and all planned Star Wars anthology films.

It became impossible to forget that Solo and Star Wars were products, to the point that it began to feel as though that’s all they were.

Around the same time, Kelly Marie Tran, who played Rose Tico in The Last Jedi, essentially expunged her social media presence in response to the toxic little pigs that have coopted Star Wars fandom for their own racist, sexist agendas.

And of course who can forget the rogue band of fans offering/threatening to fund a remake of Episode VIII, a pursuit for which they claim to have raised… $400 million.

All this left me feeling like Star Wars fandom was something best left unengaged with, like politics at Thanksgiving. I felt like I’d been looking at Star Wars through rose-colored glasses and now my third eye had opened to reveal a dollar sign.

Look gang, I’m just trying to talk about the progression of heroism from Episode III to Solo and how that progression serves as a thematic bridge between the prequel and sequel trilogies, but it feels impossible to pry Solo out of its hardened fiscal resin!

And then San Diego Comic Con rolled around, and it was announced there would be a panel celebrating the tenth anniversary of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and they showed concept art and talked about the development of the show and OH YEAH THE CLONE WARS IS COMING BACK BABY THIS IS NOT A DRILL THIS IS HAPPENING THANK THE MAKER OH BOY OH BOY!!!

I don’t know that I’ve been as excited for a Star Wars announcement since I learned there would be an Episode VII.

The Clone Wars was what took me from a casual Star Wars fan most moviegoers could identify with to waking up at four in the morning in Orlando, Florida to wait in line for the Star Wars: Rebels panel at the last Star Wars Celebration. It is the beating heart of my fandom, and shortly after Disney acquired Lucasfilm Mickey buried a rusty axe in it, leaving untold stories in various stages of development and production dangling before fans’ imaginations, pesky what-ifs and what-could-have-beens just out of reach.

I’ve talked about it here one or five times.

I don’t remember if I wound up officially forgiving Disney for their flagrant transgression, but if I did I take it back, even in the face of the show’s eminent return.

#CloneWarsSaved rekindled my excitement for a franchise that seemed to be moving further and further from the contents of its actual stories and characters, not only because of the prospect of seeing more of my favorite show, but because of the fandom I saw on display during the panel at which it was announced.

Not every Star Wars fan is a Star Wars animation fan. We’re certainly a smaller subset of the sprawling audiences that flock to theaters for the live-action films. And if the panel in question is any indication, we’re also a subset that won’t immediately harass and berate creators and performers into digital oblivion because we don’t like the cut of their jib.

Perhaps because of that there exists a transparency, an openness between the creative forces that be and the fans of Lucasfilm animation that is not mirrored elsewhere in the Star Wars machine. Reading through The Art of Solo: A Star Wars Story, for instance, I found no mention of the directorial transition behind the scenes and how that may or may not have affected the art direction of the film. I’m not looking for juicy gossip mind you, I genuinely am curious about the creative mindsets at play and how the film’s art direction grew. But that’s unseemly and secret and even though anyone who’s buying The Art of Solo knows exactly what happened behind the scenes, we just don’t talk about it. Inversely, on the Clone Wars panel, Star Wars animation guru Dave Filoni openly jokes about episodes fans have deemed “filler” and story arcs that viewers were ultimately less than enthusiastic about. There’s an openness to the conversation in which fans are just as ready to dislike something as they are to like it and creators are ready to acknowledge those feelings playfully because it never devolves into the Thunderdome. It’s the kind of back-and-forth you get when a fan base isn’t littered with ointment-sullying maggots.

The return of Clone Wars doesn’t make me excited just for a dozen more episodes tying up loose ends, it makes me excited for a discourse that, for a brief moment, felt in danger of being beaten to death by bigots and bullies. For me, and my relationship with the multi-billion dollar juggernaut of a franchise, it isn’t just The Clone Wars that was saved.

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The Thrill is Gone, or, The Walking Dead Season Six Finale

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Who can forget the ending of Jaws? After an hour of off-screen shark attacks our protagonists finally set out to sea to face the titular monster in its own domain and the screen fades to black. Classic. Or the ending of Ridley Scott’s Alien, in which a space ship’s crew member is attacked by a spider-like alien that clings to his face only to curl up and die, leaving us to witness the crew sitting down for a dinner we can’t help but feel uneasy about as the screen fades to black. Harrowing. And I’m sure we all recall the Stephen King miniseries It, in which a little boy’s paper boat goes down into the sewer and then the screen fades to black. Chilling.

“Last Day on Earth,” the finale of a season of The Walking Dead that has already tried viewers’ patience with fake-outs and clumsy cliffhangers, follows in the footsteps of such iconic moments in horror. At least partially.

By the time the last ten minutes of “Last Day on Earth” rolled around I can confidently say I was more invested in The Walking Dead than I have ever been before. The finale slowly, dreadfully worked its way towards what I knew from reading the books was inevitable – the lineup.

Every step along the way ratcheted up the tension exponentially until the Saviors had gone from seeming like a menial nuisance to a malicious force of nature. When the moment finally arrived I was genuinely frightened. I felt a sense of tension, the curation of which was nothing short of masterful. The music, the lighting, the sheer horror on the faces of the actors. The whole scenario was so helpless and gut-wrenching that I wanted to stop watching.

As more a halfhearted viewer than a full-fledged fan I was incredibly taken aback by the stage the show had set: bottom of the ninth, bases loaded, tie game, two strikes, two outs. You don’t have to be a baseball fan to feel the drama of it all.

And then, just like that, the catcher’s mom called him home for dinner and the game just kind of ended.

Sure, sure, they’ll get the teams back together tomorrow and they’ll say “bottom of the ninth, bases loaded, tie game, two strikes, two outs.” But it won’t be the same. The victory won’t be as sweet and the defeat won’t be as bitter.

The Walking Dead had an opportunity to concoct what could very well have been the greatest moment in the series’ run thus far and it squandered it brilliantly. They’ll never get the tension they’d earned with the season six finale back  in the season seven premiere this fall. It’s one hell of a wasted opportunity.

I’m not even angry. I’m disappointed. Disappointed on the show’s behalf for vibrantly ruining its own hard work. I feel like I watched a neighborhood boy to whom I am ambivalent at best run a lemonade stand all summer, squeezing the lemonade by hand, telling his friends he couldn’t play with them, sitting in the hot sun bright and early to catch the morning commuters, only to discover in August that he spent all of his earnings on grocery store lemonade. Like a dummy. Like a real dummy.