Saturday, January 15, 2011

Season 3, Episode 13 - Monster

Monster, the second part of the "Nightsisters Trilogy", is notable for many reasons. One is that it is the introduction of Star Wars latest villain, the much-anticipated Savage Opress. Second, it's main characters, apart from Count Dooku, are entirely of the Clone Wars continuity. Asajj Ventress, the Nightsisters, The Dathomirian Zabraks, Mother Talzin, Savage himself: none of these characters appear in the films. Still, though, they are richly drawn here, brought to a level of character development and emotion that rivals their more established counterparts. Third, it's one of the darkest tales the Clone Wars has yet attempted, and that daring will undoubtedly pay dividends. Finally, it actually deepens Darth Maul and therefore, The Phantom Menace.

The story picks up where Nightsisters leaves off, as Dooku, attacked by shadowy figures with red and blue lightsabers, believes he has been targeted by the Jedi. He asks Mother Talzin to create a new assassin for him to replace Asajj Ventress, who he believes to be dead. Talzin sends Asajj to a nearby village of males, Zabraks all, much like Darth Maul. Yellow, instead of red, (because of their homeworld? Racial difference?) these Zabraks are forced to fight for their lives, to prove themselves worthy of becoming a servant to the Nightsisters.

The ensuing episode is superb. Savage, voiced by veteran actor Clancy Brown, is a far better character than I'd anticipated, a spirited and even heroic warrior. What fuels him to "win" the competition is a fierce desire to protect his kin, Feral. It's this very heroism that causes his downfall, as he is forced into servitude and essentially has his identity wiped away by the magic of the Nightsisters.

The entire enterprise does more to establish the villainy of the Dark Side than many. Here, we literally see what were good characters destroyed and turned into destroyers. Death is dealt to the innocent. And all the while, there's something surprisingly sad about Savage. Is the good individual buried inside this new Sith Assassin? Or has it been entirely eviscerated? Savage is a "Monster," all the moreso for having been once generous and good.

Of course, it also begs the question, is this the process that created Darth Maul? And, if so, doesn't it mean that his former self could possibly have been just as sympathetic?

The action is excellently choreographed, and the mood is chilly and frightening. The final action sequence, designed to highlight just how dangerous Savage Opress is, is quick and effective. The final moment, though, and Dooku's declaration, brings us back to the very nature of the Sith and their cycle of power struggles for their own sake.

Sensational all around, and one of the best episodes of the series. All the better for resting the weight of the drama on as yet unseen characters.

Rating (out of five): *****


Kisho Meteora said...

Definitely best episode of season 3 so far, possibly best clone wars episode ever.

Geekstrosity said...

I'm a fan of Savage too. He's becoming an acceptable replacement to Darth Maul. Let us hope they don't kill him off too.