Star Wars: Rebels, or, Something Like an Ending in a Franchise That Will Never End

rebelsfinales

Fixing to get jumped by some cats.

For the first time since, arguably, Return of the Jedi, there’s been a proper ending in a galaxy far, far away. After four seasons, Lucasfilm Animation’s Star Wars: Rebels has come to a close, or at least a premeditated line of demarcation between it and the future of the animated Star Wars saga.

The Star Wars that Rebels leaves behind is vastly different than the Star Wars it entered into in 2014, more than a year before the premiere of The Force Awakens. Looking at what Star Wars was then and is now, and considering the now completed story of the Ghost crew in its entirety, we can already gleam some sense of the legacy the (admittedly fantastic) Band-Aid Disney slapped on their unjust, premature cancellation of The Clone Wars will leave behind.

Star Wars: Rebels was the debut of a new era of Star Wars, the post-Lucas, Disney era, and it proved to be a smart, capable and worthy successor, but also a very appropriate one. The end of the Lucas era, the end of Star Wars made by the maker, was The Clone Wars, so it’s fitting that that ending would dovetail into the beginnings of the Star Wars we have today. In many ways, notably the oversite of Lucas’ heir-apparent Supervising Director/Executive Producer Dave Filoni, Rebels was the strain of current-day Star Wars that best carried on Lucas’ adventurous, if divisive, storytelling sensibilities. The show doesn’t skimp on TIE Fighters, which are starting to feel like an incessant nostalgia bell Disney rings throughout its every Star Wars entry, but Rebels was never content to rest on the past glories of the Star Wars franchise. It continually blazed forward, broadening the canvas of what Star Wars can be right through to its finale. The show often engaged with and introduced ideas and concepts that felt jarring, or goofy, or even heretical, challenging the notions of what the Star Wars universe encompassed. Not the controversial character decisions or shocking identity revelations that haunt the theories and vitriol of fans, but big, grand ideas of cosmic and mythological scope. Ideas about what a Jedi is, about what the Force is. It went weird, real weird, and profound, and Star Wars as a whole is more nuanced because of it.

But Rebels was also distinctly effective because of its smaller scale. Where Clone Wars was something of an anthology series bouncing across a sprawling cast spread around the entire galaxy, Rebels stuck like glue to a regular cast of characters, largely on one planet.

While I personally got a little sick of Lothal and relished any chance to see more exotic locales, the show’s focus on one planet lends a viewpoint of the Empire and the Rebellion that Star Wars viewers previously haven’t been exposed to. We’ve always known the Empire were bad guys because they blew up a planet and because the good guys fought them. But Rebels showed us what the Empire looks like on a Monday. It showed us what the Empire looks like to a fruit vendor, to a neighborhood, to a local government. In Rebels we got the day-to-day Empire.

Similarly, we got a better understanding of the Rebel Alliance and its severe limitations. What does the existence of some rumored band of radicals mean to one person on one subjugated planet amongst many? What does that one person mean to the Rebel Alliance? Rebels provides thoughtful insight into the conflict the world was first introduced to in 1977. It isn’t information you need to know to understand the Star Wars films, but if you’re curious, the information is there and it’s been presented with the same amount of thought and care that goes into the films.

Rebels won’t hold the same place in my heart as The Clone Wars, which is very likely more a matter of timing than of either show’s inherent qualities, but as with its predecessor, Rebels has given me some of my favorite moments and characters in all of Star Wars. Where Clone Wars had the daunting task of carrying the torch for the entire Star Wars franchise in its day, Rebels carried the torch for something more fleeting, more specific, that adventurous, beyond-the-establishment spirit that ran through all of George Lucas’ Star Wars, that urge to move the conventions and mechanisms of storytelling forward.

Rebels has now also given viewers something Disney’s Star Wars has yet to confront: something like an ending. And what an ending it was. The finale of Rebels was so exciting and well executed that it heightened the show as a whole, highlighting just how complete a story the series had been all along. Much as you don’t need to see Rebels to enjoy Rogue One, you don’t need Revenge of the Sith or A New Hope to enjoy Rebels. It’s a story with its own beginning and ending, its own heroes, its own challenges, mysteries and revelations. Whatever Lucasfilm Animation does next, if the folks behind Rebels are involved it’ll be well worth watching.

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I Know You Didn’t Think Disney and I Buried the Hatchet Just ’cause BB-8, or, Star Wars: Rebels Season Two

RebelsS2

[Insert PM5K’s “When Worlds Collide” Here]

Though I may not speak of it often and openly it’s important you understand that I haven’t simply abandoned the blood feud between Disney and myself that began with the unceremonious cancellation of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Years from now my descendants and the Disneys will probably be hiring bounty hunters to drag each other over state lines to stand trial for their various crimes against one another. That’s just their lot in life.

But between their deft handling of The Force Awakens, two spiffy Civil War trailers and Disney’s outspoken protest of proposed discriminatory legislation in Georgia my spite toward Walt’s lineage has cooled. As if sensing my softening sentiments Disney went in for the killing blow with last week’s conclusion to Season Two of Star Wars: Rebels with a finale that may not have apologized for Disney’s transgressions, but did effectively look me in the eye and shake my hand.

The worst part about the abrupt, unplanned ending of The Clone Wars was the dangling story threads of characters who were either introduced in or heightened by the series but were ultimately left without resolutions. It was something of a bitch slap to fans who’d become deeply invested in characters that, on paper, should have been little more than footnotes in some Star Wars encyclopedia in the bargain bin of Barnes and Noble, but over the course of five excellent seasons had become something much more.

Despite the undeniable quality and fun of Star Wars: Rebels, that slap still stung.

But the Star Wars M.O. of late is one of honoring the past. Much like The Force Awakens displays a reverence for the original Star Wars films and the new Rogue One trailer showcases a reverence for Fallout 3, Season Two of Star Wars: Rebels extends a true reverence to Clone Wars and, by extension, that series’ fan base.

In Tolkien terms The Clone Wars didn’t end before Return of the King even started, but based on what has been said in interviews with the cast and crew about what had been planned for the series, it definitely ended before the Battle of the Black Gate. And it doesn’t seem like we’ll ever get to see that battle outside of some tie-in book or comic. But Season Two of Rebels serves as, still in Tolkien terms, something of the Appendices to Clone Wars.

Old characters appear, unseen past events are eluded to and a few lingering story threads are picked up in earnest. It’s exciting watching characters from The Clone Wars interact with the cast of Rebels. There was a time when the characters organic to the animated Star Wars universe were so easily overshadowed by even the briefest promise of an appearance of a minor “real” character from the films, but now those same characters that had to fight for sunlight underneath the shadows of Anakin Skywalker or Yoda cast imposing shadows of their own when they show up in Rebels. It’s a testament to just how much of an impression The Clone Wars left on the Star Wars universe. Between the prequels and The Force Awakens, The Clone Wars carried the torch for the Star Wars franchise and the flame wound up brighter for it. This past season of Star Wars: Rebels put a concerted effort into acknowledging that.

So while I’ll never forgive Disney for canceling The Clone Wars, their posthumous treatment of their untimely victim has at the very least turned our blood feud into more of a scab feud. At this rate, maybe one day my descendants and Disney’s descendants might even institute a “no-kill” rule in their post-apocalyptic, gladiatorial honor-bouts.

Keeping My Enemies Close, or, Star Wars: Rebels

The details of my episodic, thoroughly self-documented feud with Disney are no secret. The war between us, one of intent blogging met with abject corporate silence, wages on to this very day. I’ve tried and failed several times to sell the television rights for the ongoing beef to ABC. But if you don’t read my blog or aren’t anyone within earshot of me anywhere at any time you may require something of a refresher.

Disney, upon acquisition of the Star Wars license, canceled the shit out of my favorite television show, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, so now I hate them.

Kill me, George. Just kill me.

Kill me, George. Just kill me.

And yet, two weeks ago I found myself tuned in to the Disney Channel for a full hour of my time to witness the dawn of the post-Lucas Star Wars age with the new animated series Star Wars: Rebels.

Despite spawning from the putrid bowels of the aforementioned villainous juggernaut, Rebels had something going for it before it even aired. While Disney just butchered The Clone Wars, I mean butchered, like a pack of feral dogs going at a lame horse, Disney kept show-runner Dave Filoni and other key creative voices in place for Rebels. Those voices are very much heard in Rebels, and the premiere immediately feels like the spiritual succession of Clone Wars because of it.

But where The Clone Wars explored a galaxy at, you guessed it, war, Rebels quickly establishes a status quo of occupation, and its amidst this new order that the heroes of the show are introduced: the crew of the Ghost and an annoying kid they wind up with who will never be Ahsoka no matter how hard he tries ever, ever, ever. They seem pretty neat.

The characters of Star Wars Rebels are the show’s strongest asset, as they give the show something neither The Clone Wars nor Episode VII had or will have: a blank slate.

Who da hell?

Who da hell?

Clone Wars introduced viewers to dozens and dozens of new characters, but the core cast was always largely comprised of animated adaptations of characters from the prequel films, begging comparisons to their live action counterparts. Likewise, while I’m sure Episode VII will introduce no shortage of new characters it’ll be impossible for viewers not to be busy comparing the old guard with their younger selves.

The primary cast of Rebels, as of now, is comprised entirely of new characters. They may have similarities to fan favorites, but they are all uniquely themselves. They aren’t boxed in by predestined pasts or futures. They could come from just about anywhere, and they could end up just about anywhere too.

It’s an exciting prospect, and one that will keep me watching a show aired on the network of my most heinous enemy. Or maybe I’ll just pirate it.

So Clone Wars has at last been replaced and Disney has officially put their mark on Star Wars and it doesn’t suck.

Our conflict, however, remains entirely unchanged.

I may watch Star Wars: Rebels, but I hate you for what you’ve done, Disney. I hate you so much.

 

Seriously though, I don’t have Disney XD and I’d like to continue watching Rebels without getting scurvy if you know what I mean. Does it ever air on Disney proper? Is it ever going to go up on Star Wars’ website? If you know you should let me know so I can know. Okay, thanks.

The Lost Birthday, or, Clone Wars: The Lost Mission

Star Wars: The Clone Wars is one of my all-time favorite television shows. I’m a weirdo like that.

CAPTAIN REX IN DA HOUSE

CAPTAIN REX IN DA HOUSE

I didn’t catch a single episode the first season, but the show’s San Diego Comic Con panel between seasons one and two was televised on G4 and the footage they showed off gripped my attention and held it for the next four years. I was hooked. I scoured forums and fan sites and sifted through Google news for any scraps of information the show-runner Dave Filoni let out regarding future episodes.

Then, last year, just in time for my birthday, Disney announced the show’s cancellation after five seasons.

To hear some people talk about my reaction to the cancellation is like listening to a mental health professional explain the trauma behind the man in a strait jacket. It probably wasn’t that bad. Probably. But it was a stone cold bummer made all the more chilling by the fact that the final eight episodes of The Clone Wars were arguably the series’ best.

Thanks Disney. Way to “Let it Go.”

Bummed as I was you can imagine my delight upon hearing that this year 13 unaired episodes of the series would be put up on Netflix as a make-shift season six dubbed “The Lost Missions.” And in time for my birthday too!

The episodes went up several weeks ago. I sat down on my couch and watched all 13 in one sitting and when I was done I couldn’t shake the unmistakable feeling that something was missing.

Brought to you by goddamn Disney.

Brought to you by goddamn Disney.

At face value that emptiness is resolution. Those final eight episodes of The Clone Wars also left two massive, climbing-rope-thick narrative threads dangling in the wind and The Lost Missions didn’t so much as bat them around like a curious kitten. I would wager that of The Clone Wars sprawling, intergalactic cast a majority of the show’s fan favorite characters aren’t around for this 13 episode appendix.

But Filoni and crew can’t really be faulted for that. The Lost Missions is a bundle of the episodes that were closest to completion when Disney pulled the plug. When these episodes were being made they weren’t designed to be the end of the series, rather just business as usual. Which unfortunately means there are things the series was never allowed to get around to.

Filoni has since release several design concepts and sketches for the episodes of season six that never went into production. If you haven’t checked them out yet I’d almost be inclined to advise you not to, as all they did for me was cause my blood-feud with Disney to violently flare up and leave me with aches of what could have been.

Thanks, Disney.

Thanks, Disney.

But The Lost Missions’ straying away from my personal favorite story threads and characters isn’t what colored my viewing of the episodes the most. It was a lack of The Clone Wars.

That Clone Wars was canceled when it was and therefore ended on the episode it did made the final moments of season five all the more poignant and emotional in retrospect, knowing now that they are a goodbye to the series. Since that ending I haven’t visited those Star Wars forums and fan sites, or hunted down cast and crew interviews or speculated about the fates of my favorite characters. The fire of speculation that powered that engine burnt out last year. All of those activities were part of the Clone Wars experience for me, and when Disney pulled the rug out from under the show they pulled it out from under all of that too.

Unfortunately, through no real fault of its own, these last 13 episodes couldn’t rekindle that old fire.

There’s some great new stuff in The Lost Missions, particularly in the first story arc, but for better or worse The Clone Wars ended for me a year ago when Disney, knowingly and with malice and forethought, ruined my birthday.

How I hate you Disney. How I hate.

 

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:

1. Has a show you enjoyed that was canceled ever released material after the fact? Did that material live up to your expectations?

2. Has Disney ever ruined your birthday?

3. Where do they get off?

 

For more on Star Wars, The Clone Wars and my blood feud with Disney:

Star Wars Rebels speculation

Ahsoka Tano and women in entertainment

Ahsoka Tano, who I love, and Disney, who I hate to hell and beyond

Darth Maul and The Clone Wars

Rambling, Rampant, Irresponsible Speculation, or, Star Wars: Rebels

Spoilers for The Clone Wars ahead.

By the time I’d wrapped my trembling hands around the worn leather handle of the knife in my heart that was the cancelation of Star Wars: The Clone Wars and ripped the blade from my limp body the only sensation that survived was my singular thirst for vengeance. Disney will pay for what they have done, all in due time, be it through a strongly worded blog post or several strongly worded blog posts or several more witty, strongly worded tweets.

The Clone Wars marched the Star Wars banners forward into a new generation and revitalized a franchise that had been kept afloat largely by nostalgia and a handful of cool video games, comics and novels. This was due in no small part to the series’ supervising director, the fedora-clad Dave Filoni. Since heading up Clone Wars Filoni has becoming something of an ambassador to fans from a galaxy far, far away and, arguably, George Lucas’ creative heir apparent (eat your heart out Kathleen Kennedy, you know what you’ve done).

And it was Filoni who finally lured me out from my dank cave of malcontent when, a month ago, he posted an image of a sketch on Twitter with the caption “Hard to believe that I’ve worked at LFL almost 8 yrs, & this is the first time I have gotten to draw a TIE fighter.”

All my hopes and dreams, by Dave Filoni

All my hopes and dreams, by Dave Filoni

Oh shit.

It was easy to be optimistic. If Dave is in than so am I. But Disney had wronged me, egregiously so. While I was anxious for more information I wasn’t holding my breath.

Then, weeks later, the announcement came that Fall 2014 would bring a new animated Star Wars series, Star Wars: Rebels. The series is said to be set in the expansive nineteen-year period between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. One can surmise the show will follow the escapades of the pre-Solo/Skywalker rebellion. An exciting prospect made all the more thrilling by the news that Filoni would be returning alongside Art Director Killian Plunkett and CG Supervisor Joel Aron. Anyone who has seen the making-of footage on The Clone Wars Blu-rays and DVDs (me, me, a thousand times me) knows how intense these guys, along with the rest of the Clone Wars crew, are when it comes to making a baller as shit Star Wars story. If Disney gets nothing else right with this new animated venture they at least nabbed a few of the right people.

So theoretically the pieces are all set for a solid successor to The Clone Wars. But we won’t really know until Fall 2014 so, amongst the violent flames of my rage, let the rampant speculations-turned-suggestions ensue.

If Disney ever wants to get off of my shit list, and believe you me they do, a key move going forward will be the exact timeframe in which Rebels is set.

It isn’t simply the cancelation of Clone Wars that drove a wedge between myself and the entertainment juggernaut I’ve been ambivalent to apathetic about since I reached the age of ten, it’s the abruptness of it all. When Disney forced Clone Wars onto the guillotine and let that blade rip the cut was far from clean. Sure, sure, that thing is definitely dead, but there are tendons and sinews and muscles hanging to and fro, clinging from a blood spurting neck to a cold pale head like a stubborn hangnail.

Story tendons and narrative sinews and plot muscles! Clinging from a blood spurting neck of five awesome seasons to the cold pale head of a future cut short by Mickey godamn Mouse!

Since the brilliant season five finale, which has since become series finale, Dave Filoni has gone on record as to say that he finds the ending of Ahsoka’s story appropriate and in a lot of ways he’s right. It was an effective, moving ending that sent the young warrior off into the sunset toward an uncertain future free of the murky morality of the Jedi order. The series finale gave viewers a definite conclusion to a large chapter of Ahsoka’s life while leaving the horizon wide open for future chapters.

Which is great or whatever, I guess. But Ahsoka isn’t the only character on The Clone Wars.

Sure we know what happens to Anakin and Obi Wan and Yoda and all those rascals, and some long running characters like Pre Viszla and Dutchess Satine had their stories wrapped up neatly, but what about Cad Bane?

Its cool cause its noir.

Its cool cause its noiry.

Cad Bane is not only a blue cowboy monster, he’s also the reason I started watching Clone Wars – a compelling, original villain that snaps peoples necks and talks in a slow southern drawl. What’s not to like? Last we saw of Cad Bane he was sent to prison for like the hundredth time for trying to kidnap Palpetine. That’s it? He just finally stays in prison? We saw the hint of a Boba Fett team up in season four. Nothing on that front? Nice try, Disney.

And let’s not forget that after Darth Maul’s galactic onslaught Mandalore, the planet of Boba Fetts, is in a freaking awesome civil war! Boba Fetts versus Boba Fetts! Some of whom literally with horns! And that just sort of happens and then… goes away? Cool, yeah that’s great. I definitely didn’t care at all about a planet full of Boba Fetts killing the shit out of each other. So glad that got cut short.

And Captain Rex too. What about that guy? Eh? Eh? We’ve seen the Captain doubt orders and eventually even go against them when his morals conflict with their end result. Are we to just assume he throws that doubt to the wind and slaughters Jedi left and right come Order 66.

Are we to assume, Disney? Are we to assume?!

And of course my personal favorite loose end, Maul. After the rampant publicity, criticism and outrage surrounding the Phantom Menace villain’s return from the dead The Clone Wars pulled off the impossible and made his revival worthwhile, while simultaneously improving on the stoic character tenfold. The epic finale to Maul’s last arc not only left Mandalore in shambles, it may have been the greatest episode the series’ has ever produced. But when it wrapped up the vicious, cunning Maul had lost what power he’d gained and lay begging at the feet of Darth Sidious who exclaimed “I’m not going to kill you. I have other uses for you.”

Look out behind you cool guys! It's a load of bullshit, courtesy of Disney.

Man it sure would have been lame to have let this continue…

Is there a line for people who are glad that we may never figure out what those uses are? Because I’d love to be at the front. Because I’m so godamn glad I’ll never get to find out what those uses are because that would be dumb and I way prefer being left hanging as payment for my years of loyalty to a show for godamn ten year olds!

However, this can all be remedied. All of these questions and characters can be revisited against a new and exciting backdrop should Disney decide that Star Wars: Rebels is set in the early section of that nineteen-year timespan between Episodes III and IV. Is it a stretch to catch up with these guys ten or fifteen years later? Maybe. But two or three years after the end of the Clone Wars? Works for me, yo. And if they want me to suspend my blood feud with the Disney Corporation, the Disney Channel and the Disney Family they will be very interested in what works for me. Yo.

Or they could set it in the mid to late section of those nineteen years and we can all frolic about on Saturday mornings at the prospect of watching animated Leah hone her political skills and animated Luke bull’s-eye womp rats in his stupid T-16. Boy wouldn’t that be great.

Do the right thing Disney. Give me more horns and robot legs and brutal murders on a kid’s television show. Give me more Maul.

Or so help me God I will tweet Downey Jr. and tell him not to do Avengers 2. I will tweet Downey Jr. so godamn hard.

I Love You Ahsoka, or, I Loathe You Disney

Warning: Spoilers ahead for the season five finale/series finale of Star Wars: The Clone Wars

This. Is. Awesome.

This. Is. Awesome. And no longer accurate.

Call it a May the Fourth be With You/Revenge of the Fifth weekend miracle, but at long last I finally feel emotionally stable enough to sincerely contemplate the season five finale of my favorite television show of all time, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, which, shortly after airing, became the series finale after Disney went off the rails hardcore and cancelled it like a ^%#* $#@!% who don’t know $%^& about #$%@. But I’m going to keep my feelings regarding the cancellation of Clone Wars close to the chest. Though I will say this, before the Clone Wars was cancelled I had always thought of bullshit as organic refuse from any creature of bovine descent and I can now honestly say that is no longer my definition of the term. But I’m going to keep my feelings about the unjust ending of Clone Wars out of this post because that’s not what this post is about.

The final arc of season five had gigantic shoes to fill as it came after the jaw-dropping Maul/Mandalore story arc that may have been the best material the series has ever produced. The four episode arc, “Sabotage,” “The Jedi Who Knew too Much,” “To Catch a Jedi” and “The Wrong Jedi,” probably had fans even more suspect because the show’s focus moved from the jaw-dropping, perfectly executed fan service that was Darth Maul and an army of Boba Fetts fighting on a planet of Boba Fetts for Boba Fett supremacy to Ahsoka Tano, an orange lady many fans have had mixed feelings about.

Ahsoka certainly started off a bit grating. She was something of a young punk with a snarky attitude who had seemingly no place in the Star Wars cannon and no qualms about deluding the already waning quality of intergalactic dialogue with nicknames like “Sky Guy.” But then she did something that only the finest of characters are capable of: she developed, evolved and undoubtedly earner her place amongst the pantheon of Star Wars protagonists. With a pacing nothing short of brilliant Ahsoka went from being an obnoxious teenager to a level-headed young woman who had undeniably been shaped by the galactic war that was the stage for her formative years  (puberty or the Clone Wars – jury’s still out). Ever since her meeting with Chewbacca and the Trandoshians at the end of season three Ahsoka has proven herself a full on badass worth investing in and the finale arc kicked all of that up a notch. Kind of like Disney’s cancellation of The Clone Wars kicked my capacity for rage, anger and loathing up a notch. I mean I knew I could be irritated in the past, I’ve seen 2 Fast 2 Furious after all*, but man did it all hit a whole new level win Disney started poking its dumb, cocaine-scabbed, mouse nose where it didn’t belong. But I’m going to keep my feelings on that matter close to the chest.

The good ol' terrible nickname days.

The good ol’ terrible nickname days.

The “Jedi” arc started off with a staple of children’s animated television series: a terrorist attack. The attack on the Jedi temple and the reactions among the Jedi, the government and the public were dope in a heavy, meaningful, dope kind of way. It’s not often that the Star Wars universe takes the time to actually delve into the public psychological effects of living in a universe were star wars are constantly happening. Sure, Star Peace sounds stupid, but you can’t help but understand the citizenry being fed up at a seemingly endless war raging across the galaxy that probably has no overall bearing on their day to day lives. Seeing the Jedi as the symbol of that war makes sense. Unlike the cancellation of Clone Wars by the bloated corpse of a torpid dynasty that is Disney. But don’t bother trying to surmise where my feelings lie on the matter.

But the terrorist attack was just the tip of the iceberg as Anakin and Ahsoka investigated the attack and set into motion a whirlwind of events that saw Ahsoka wrongfully accused of murder and on the run from Tarkin and the full might of Republic law enforcement. Like Jason Bourne. In space. But a girl alien. It’s a tale that, throughout its four episodes, showcased everything The Clone Wars has done best over its five years.

Every season of Clone Wars has seen the animation take a leap forward and season five was no exception, particularly during the Maul/Mandalore arc, but even compared to that epic the “Jedi” episodes managed to turn out some of the best, if not the best, animation in the series’ run. From Ahsoka and Anakin blazing their Jedi star ships through the sky-cities of Cato Neimoidia  and the sprawling holographic security footage of the terrorist bombing, to the wallowing depths of level 1313 and the rigid authoritarian architecture of the military prison the settings in these four episodes were vibrant and textured. It’s amazing how much more lifelike the worlds we are taken to in the Clone Wars appear when compared to the stale, CGI-laden locales of the prequel trilogy. Kind of like how it’s amazing that Disney would have the gull to cut a successful television show that has single-handedly carried the torch for a decades-old franchise and brought new generations of fans to a galaxy far, far away as if it were excess gristle on leftover steak. Not that I plan on sharing my feelings on the matter.

Of course said worlds are made even more vibrant by the animations of the characters moving within them and the character animations in the last Clone Wars arc are in my opinion the most impressive to date. Ever since Clone Wars started in 2008 some of the character animations, particularly those involving running, would catch my eye in a bad way. They weren’t necessarily ugly, but they didn’t flow or feel as natural as most visual aspects of the show. That all changed in this arc, particularly where Ahsoka was concerned. As badass as it was to see the young Jedi perched atop ledges and statues like Batman, the amazing chase sequence/Fugitive reference that ended the second episode “The Jedi Who Knew Too Much” completely blew me away as Ahsoka, lightsabers in hand, maneuvered her way through battalions and gunships and sewers with a finesse that someone outside of the women’s U.S. gymnastics team has no right possessing.

But above all else the real tour de force of what have now become the final episodes of The Clone Wars to air on television was the story. It can be hard to really compensate how the Jedi went from their high standings in Episodes I and II to their near obliteration at the end of Episode III, but the stories told in The Clone Wars, this one in particular, go a long way to filling in the gaps.

Goodbye, any semblance of happiness my Saturday mornings ever knew.

Goodbye, any semblance of happiness my Saturday mornings ever knew.

In a time of peace Ahsoka would have grown to be an entirely different person and an entirely different Jedi. But she didn’t come up in a time of peace, she came up in the Clone Wars, a time where being a Jedi didn’t actually mean any one thing as the millennia-old organization found itself trying to compensate being keepers of the peace with being generals and war fighters. It’s an identity crisis that Ahsoka has come to personify and that crisis reached a head with the series finale “The Wrong Jedi.”
When the Jedi council turned their back on Ahsoka they turned their backs on the Jedi ways of old and cemented not only themselves as war mongers and political tools, but also their looming fates. Palpetine is no doubt to blame for his active role in the fall of the Jedi order, but his plans would never have succeeded without the corrosion of the Order from within.

Of course viewers already knew how things turned out for the Jedi and the Jedi Council, it was the semi-unveiling of Ahsoka’s fate that proved the most poignant. Her decision to leave the Jedi order felt like the perfect next step for the character and her conversation with Anakin on the steps of the Jedi Temple hit me in the heart like a torpedo hitting Red October in that movie**. We all know about Anakin’s struggle to separate himself from attachment and the revelation that Ahsoka was well aware of this, with her simple declaration, “I know,” which voice actress Ashley Eckstein absolutely nailed, was incredibly powerful. We now know why Ahsoka isn’t around in Episode III and its impossible not to wonder what could have been were the Jedi Order not such a gang of holier-than-thou d-bags.

Kind of like it’s impossible not to wonder what Disney douche bag from hell decided The Clone Wars didn’t deserve to wrap up the slew of fantastic narrative threads it spent five years creating. I mean, I’m not going to sit here and spill on my opinion of the matter, but I will tell you that I totally appreciate Disney trying to win my fandom by dangling carrots in front of me like J.J. Abrams and the Big Three while they gut the things that have actually earned my fandom through hard work and solid story telling. I think that that is a very stand up thing to do and that it bodes well for Disney’s use of their newly acquired property. Also I’m being sarcastic and I think that this is bullshit and I wish Mickey Mouse were dead like my happiness. But personally, I’m keeping my thoughts on the matter close to the chest.

On an unrelated note – this is bullshit. Disney is bullshit. Everything is bullshit. Clone Wars is the best. Rest in peace. Never forget.

*I have never seen 2 Fast 2 Furious. I am not an idiot.

**I have never seen The Hunt for Red October. Is Red October a submarine? It’s a submarine. Right? Is it?

I was Right and Literally Everyone Else Ever was Wrong About Everything, or, Darth Maul is the Coolest of Cucumbers

Note: Spoilers ahead for The Clone Wars episodes “Witches of the Mist,” “Brothers,” “Revenge,” “Revival,” “Eminence,” “Shades of Reason” and “The Lawless.”

If I would have known that The Clone Wars television show’s decision to revive Darth Maul was going to be as awesome as it is now back when the seemingly impossible resurrection was first announced I would have acted exactly like I acted when the seemingly impossible resurrection was first announced.

I guess what I’m trying to say is “pay up bitches, I totally called it.”

Even in 1999 I totally called it. And I was 9.

Even in 1999 I totally called it. And I was 9.

Having appeared in six episodes over the course of the last year or so, including a four episode arc this season that may have been the show’s best to date, I think it’s safe to say that The Clone Wars crew has done right by Maul in a number of ways including, but not limited to; force-trash-spider-legs, witchcraft-robot-velociraptor-legs, casual-Friday-pants-robot-legs, etc.

Fabulous legwear aside, the show’s writers also turned Maul into a fascinating, fully-realized character. Before his appearance on the Clone Wars it hadn’t really registered just how little viewers really knew about Maul. Sure, we knew he loved revenge, but does he drink tea or coffee? What’s his stance on gun control? Does he think Bigelow was robbed by the academy? Maul is a bad guy and he looks like it, but other than that the guy is largely a blank canvas, and the Clone Wars writers painted a masterpiece.

He’s a brilliant tactician and a systematic and cunning warrior, but deeper than that that he’s a broken man who spent his life being groomed for a conflict that proceeded without him. The dude is wicked bummed. He was all ready to roll out for the Clone Wars and had a baller playlist and was on the guest list way before 99% of the galaxy and then all of the sudden he’s basically dead and that was all it took for everyone to totally forget about him.

@darthmaul #bullshit.

It’s a spin on the villain that makes him as sad as he is scary. The conflict between Maul’s being a vindictive, murderous sonuvabitch and his tragic bummer of a life is a complex one. In the moment he realizes the Clone Wars have begun without him it’s hard not to feel bad for him even if he did remorselessly gut Qui-Gon Jinn. Pinpointing just how to feel about Maul is something of a philosophical challenge, and it gives viewers a lot to think about for a show that airs immediately after a cartoon with a protagonist whose name is literally Ben Tennyson.

He looks like the devil cause he is basically the devil.

He looks like the devil cause he is basically the devil.

Maul’s inner workings are a lot to process and they make for a tragic, dangerously rabid character that actor Sam Witwer has completely brought to life. His voice wavers between spastic instability and calm, collected, poise and damned if it isn’t chilling.  In every episode he’s appeared in thus far Witwer’s Maul has a line or a monologue that will stick with you, be it his delirious reciting of the Sith code or his pathetic whimpering as he begs for his life. Needless to say, the character has come a long way from “at last we will have out revenge.”

But The Clone Wars hasn’t just left its mark on Maul, Maul has left his mark on The Clone Wars and in a very big way.

By the end of Maul’s brief reign over Mandalore Pre Vizsla, Duchess Satine and Savage Opress, three major players in the show, were dead, Palpatine came out into the open and dealt with things in person (a series first) and Mandalore, the leader of the galaxy’s neutral star systems, was left in chaos.  For one half of one dude, Maul has carved quite the path through the galaxy, so much so that it’s hard to imagine where the conflict would have gone without him.

A huge part of Star Wars’ appeal is the idea that one person can have an effect not just at home or in town, but across the galaxy. In the films we see it with Luke and Anakin and a cast full of other characters, but we’ve never seen that message portrayed in quite the way Maul encompasses it. Whether he’s getting chopped the funk in half or having some old dude rain on his reign, Maul is again and again spurned by the galaxy –  which is kind of what he gets for pretty much being the devil and all, but still – in a way few other characters in the main film/television Star Wars cannon are.

The galaxy has chewed Maul up and spit him out twice now and the state he was in at the end of “The Lawless” was nothing short of pathetic. It was hard not to feel bad for him as he begged for his life in front of his former master after being on top of the world only two moments earlier and then being in a dope as dope lightsaber battle only one moment earlier. Maul’s future is up in the air and will no doubt serve as one of the primary forces of momentum driving The Clone Wars ahead.

And none of it could have come to fruition without George Lucas’ decision to bring Darth Maul back from the dead. Retcon for the win, punks. Retcon for the win.

LOLOL WTF?

LOLOL WTF?

Does Maul’s survival spit in the face of death with the nonchalance of a young Jeff Bridges type? Sure, but it also brought about fascinating narrative twists and turns and vibrant characterization that otherwise would have been left dormant and untouched. Sometimes ridiculousness serves as a catalyst for great story telling, and if you can’t put up with a little ridiculousness for narrative’s sake, that’s your prerogative.

But you’re totally wrong.

Deciding that Maul survived could have been dumb as hell. But it wasn’t. The writers knew it was a long shot and they made sure it paid off. It was awesome. And I totally called it.

I was right assholes. Darth Maul is awesome. The Clone Wars is awesome.

You’re welcome.

Now let’s bring back Jango Fett.