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Star Wars The Clone Wars: Young Jedi Arc Overview

December 16, 2012

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Star Wars The Clone Wars may take place in a small period of the Star Wars continuity but that doesn’t mean that the writers are frightened to expand and make stories that encompass old continuity and, in some ways, replace them. At the start of this Arc, known as ‘Young Jedi’ officially, the writers re-introduce and flesh out the point in a Jedi Younglings life where they go to the cavernous crystal caves on Ilum to obtain the energy crystals that will be the heart of their own lightsabers, the noble and elegant weapon of the Jedi Order.

(Overview from Wookieepedia)

 Ahsoka Tano, tasked with escorting the newest class of prospective youngling graduates to the Gathering, is awaiting her charges at the boarding ramp of the ship which is to ferry them to their graduation test: Petro, a Human; Katooni, a Tholothian; Byph, an Ithorian; Ganodi, a Rodian; Zatt, a Nautolan; and Gungi, a Wookiee. Their task is to find the crystals for their own lightsabers in the Crystal Caves on Ilum, the most sacred place of the Jedi. After a short briefing about the hazards lying ahead of them, Ahsoka takes the younglings to the harsh ice world of Ilum. After jointly opening the gates to the Caves using the Force, the group is received by Master Yoda, who opens the ice-covered inner door to the caves. The younglings are given just enough time for one planetary rotation to find the crystal which they will use to construct their lightsabers, or otherwise remain trapped within the Caves as the sun sets and the door freezes over once again

The Gathering, rather than being completely new to the continuity, instead fleshes out a well-known tradition of Jedi obtaining their lightsaber crystals in the ancient, almost sacred caverns of Ilum. The Gathering as written fits very well into the theology of the Jedi Order. Each Jedi Padawan learns something about themselves in the dark shimmering crystal caves, by over-coming their faults they can reach and obtain their own unique crystal successfully. In all the lore a Jedi looks inside themselves and outside to the force for guidance. In this respect the episode sticks very close to the ideals set down by the Star Wars movies and EU. It may not provide the monster-down-each-corridor thrills and chases but the episode reflects those times when, as youngsters,  we felt over our heads, and lost faith in our abilities. I enjoyed watching the younglings overcoming their fear, self-doubt, impatience or arrogance and, for an episode where all the tension is built around a freezing waterfall, the first episode in the Arc did a remarkable job of engaging me.

Sadly a cast of characters that are completely forgettable

Sadly a cast of characters that are completely forgettable

The second episode of the Arc once again shows the Young Jedi embarking on the next step of their journey as a Jedi. Bouncing happily around having got their lightsaber crystals, the youngling’s cheerful demeanor is brought crashing back down as they attempt to assemble their lightsabers with the help of droid Huyang (voiced by David Tennant).

As the younglings struggle to meticulously fit the components together using the force, their ship is attacked by none other than Hondo Ohnaka. The devilish pirate is out for big cash and the rare lightsaber crystals will bring a shiny penny. I actually felt a weird kind of anger towards Hondo, even though I usually enjoy seeing the character and hearing his dry humour, but though Hondo is a pirate, attacking children seems a little-low even for him. Perhaps my simmering anger was a result of me seeing Hondo as the good guy (even though there is plenty of evidence in previous series that he isn’t aligned to anyone in this war). Ahsoka obviously jumps to the defense of the younglings and works to keep the younglings safe, taking on the mantle of protector. You get the feeling that Ahsoka feels lost for a moment, no-one to encourage her decisions and no-one to ask for guidance. Just like in the previous Arc, the writers are showing her growing independence from her master, Anakin Skywalker. Ahsoka, however, has grown into a strong, capable Jedi and at the end of episode willingly sacrifices herself to keep the younglings safe and ejecting the pirates from the ship. The younglings, however, do provide a challenge for their pirate attackers with such hijinks as setting training drones after groups of pirates. Although trying to involve the younglings, the episode falls flat because of that. The meat of the episode revolves around Huyang’s introduction and lessons, and Ahsoka’s heroic efforts to protect her young wards.

Dueling Hondo, with the warning that, if she has to put him down she will, you see Ahsoka’s fierce personality bubble to the surface. Ahsoka has grown but her young, wild nature is still there. Her control and patience, and more general calmness show how far she has come and, for a regular watcher, watching Ashoka’s growth feels incredibly rewarding. For all her strength and determination however, Ahsoka is still young and head-strong, two qualities that end with her valiantly sacrificing her safety for the younglings. The younglings escape with their damaged cruiser while Hondo recoups his losses with a captured Jedi. Hondo’s vile and venomous warning to the captured Ashoka was so well delivered that I actually felt worried for Ahsoka’s safety and what the next installment would bring.

Huyang, brilliant character. However undermines some of the mysticism of the Jedi

Huyang, brilliant character. However undermines some of the mysticism of the Jedi

The Arc is about the young Jedi and their struggles, and though they were never boring there was no reason to be excited about watching them. The main plus of this third episode is that Obi Wan is actually in it! Since the opening episode Obi Wan has been really side-lined so it was amazing to see him again, and in full action mode. Defending his fleet from the droid fleet, Commander Cody (in his new armour) right by his side.

Re-introducing General Grievous back into the series with a bang was a real treat. Grievous boarding Obi Wan’s capital ship and cutting his way through Clones, and mercilessly breaking the neck of a crippled Clone Trooper in his mechanical, claw-like foot in front of Obi Wan. Obi Wan’s compassion at this hateful cruelty pushes him to rush for the general.

It’s been a long time since General Grievous has felt like a real threat in the series, he always seemed to get beaten and make a hasty retreat in earlier episodes. It was almost a given that the Jedi would prevail against Grievous, even if they couldn’t capture him. To see Obi Wan fail at defending from Grievous’ onslaught was refreshing, and a big set-up for a dramatic lightsaber duel in the following episode.

Meanwhile, the Jedi Younglings (who I am having real trouble writing about) join a traveling circus on Florrum so they can infiltrate Ohnaka’s compound and free Ahsoka. Although a little too much like Deus Ex Machina it was quite fun to see the Jedi younglings use their abilities practically, and it’s highly enjoyable watching the drunken Ohnaka being distracted by the tumbling and back-flipping younglings while Katooni (one of the only memorable younglings) set Ahsoka free.

The real problem about this arc starts showing itself though, even though the younglings are fairly entertaining, the massive ensemble isn’t working in the story’s favour. Two of the younglings, Gungi and Byph, do not speak, and most of the others are forgettable because none of them are given enough time for any real sort of characterization. Perhaps it was ambitious to take on so many new characters at once. It would be strange for the Gathering to only take groups of two or three Jedi younglings, but it would have not harmed to focus on fewer characters.

Grievous' introduction is certainly bang for buck!

Grievous’ introduction is certainly bang for buck!

The start of the final episode in this Arc, is one hell of an opening. The exhilarating chase across Florrum’s wasteland with the Jedi ship ‘Crucible’ speeding along above the two speeder tanks is perhaps one of the best choreographed and intense action scenes I’ve seen in the series to date.

The episode takes another odd twist when, as the pirates are taking the captured Jedi and droids back to Hondo’s compound, General Grievous arrives with his droid army. Grievous is not here to negotiate with Hondo, Grievous wants control of the system and either Hondo stands aside or he will be pushed aside. Count Dooku’s hologram makes it clear that this is the long-awaited payback for Hondo holding the Count hostage in the first series.

Ahsoka manages to strike a temporary alliance with Hondo after saving him from imprisonment, Hondo only agrees after demanding Katooni build her lightsaber in front of him. The fact that Hondo holds merely seeing a lightsaber being assembled in such high regard is a nice touch. We sometimes forget how rare and mysterious Jedi would seem to an outsider, and the fact that even merely seeing a youngling assemble their lightsaber is so completely in touch with the force.

Hondo and Katooni seem to develop a very father/daughter relationship in the last twenty minutes of this arc, which is kinda acceptable, but in many ways pointed out the flaws of having an ensemble of younglings. I wish, having watched Katooni’s respect and warmth towards Hondo grow after his encouragement to finish her lightsaber, that she was developed more as a character.

The Arc concludes with a dramatic speeder chase through vast canyons on Florrum and the introduction of Boba Fett’s Slave I, which Hondo uses to evacuate the younglings and his men from Florrum.

First though, Ahsoka stands against Grievous in a duel which for once seems very charged with danger. It’s almost unimaginable that the writers would ever kill off Ahsoka. No one knows what is going to happen to her, and perhaps it’s that unknown that plays up the tension in the duel, Grievous is back and badder than ever, I was on the edge of my seat wondering whether Ahsoka’s story was going to finally conclude.

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What I enjoyed about the Arc : –

  • Obi Wan back even for just a short moment.
  • General Grievous is finally back and feels a very credible threat (I even thought perhaps Ahsoka would sacrifice herself and be killed by Grievous to save the younglings).
  • The space battle, the pirate tank chase and final lightsaber between Ahsoka and Grievous were some of the best choreographed sequences in the entire show.
  • A more in-depth look at the journey of becoming a Jedi.
  • The awe Hondo showed while he saw the young girl building her lightsaber.
  • David Tennant’s voice performance was amazing.
  • The end where Obi Wan congratulated the Jedi younglings and they stood ritualistically in a circle with their lightsabers.
A real Star Wars moment

A real Star Wars moment

What I didn’t enjoy about the Arc :-

  • David Tennant’s character felt like it made lightsaber building a mindless process, like some kind of Design/Tech Exam instead of the spiritual experience I always imagined it to be.
  • Hondo. His writing is fantastic and the way he legimatises his swinging allegiances is great, but I think we have seen too much of it in this series.
  • Hondo’s threat towards Ahsoka’s safety was strong, I was actually concerned for our heroine. Too bad the threat never paid off meaningfully.
  • Rather than focusing on the most interesting younglings, the ensemble is too big and doesn’t flesh out all the younglings (My favourite was Katooni, she related more to Ahsoka and It would have been better if more of the story focused on her struggles).
  • The circus performance ‘Dues Ex Machina’.

‘Young Jedi’ was, on the whole, an enjoyable arc and shows that the writers can make great plot points, characterization and drama but the idea of introducing this many new characters I felt held back the potential to make this arc really stand out for itself.

Image Links:  wikipedia.org, clonewarspodcast.com, trakt.tv, ign.com – ‘A Necessary Bond’ Review, galactichunter.com, Skymovies.sky.com

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