Sunday, April 24, 2011

Season 3, Episode 15, 16, 17 - Overlords Trilogy

If Luke Skywalker's journey is the classic hero myth, then what does that make Anakin's. At once the hero and villain of the Star Wars mythology, Anakin's journey spans what are essentially two life-times, two selves. In The Overlords Trilogy ("Overlords," "Altar of Mortis" and "Ghosts of Mortis") the meta-narrative of the Star Wars series is transformed into an allegorical showdown.

Here, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker, and Ahsoka Tano are drawn to a mysterious, uncharted planet that appears populated only by three Force-Wielders: Father, Daughter and Son. These spirits represent the Light Side, the Dark Side and a sort of parent/cop that keeps the two sides in check.

Clearly, the creative team of The Clone Wars threw everything but the kitchen sink at these episodes. For that reason, there are great pleasures for fans to be found in these episodes, such as the voices of Pernilla August and Liam Neeson, as well as images re-rendered from the films. There's an operatic sensibility at play here in the best tradition of Star Wars. I'm sure that this trilogy, for some, will mark the high point of the Clone Wars series. They're gorgeous, intense, and creative.

If I have reservations about these episodes, then, it's simply that the show is speaking it's subtext out loud. In short: to display struggles between the Light Side as a glowing woman and the Dark Side as a Sith-ish angry's all a bit too literal, even for a series that isn't hiding it's influences. For all the beauty and grandeur of the Overlords Trilogy, and all the intriguing additions to the mythology of the series... it really never tells us anything we don't know. In fact, it expressly tells us everything we would pick up simply by watching the films, and thinking about what they mean.

I also am perpetually skeptical of erasing the memories of characters in order to avoid continuity issues. It ranks right up there with "It was all a dream" for storytelling cop-outs. If you can't fit what you're doing into the existing mythology without cheating, maybe a few storytelling tweaks are in order. For example: what if Ahsoka saw Anakin's future, instead of Anakin himself? Wouldn't that fuel the existing series without complicating or challenging the character arcs of the films?

Obviously, the above aren't small problems with the storytelling, but they're not deal breakers either. Any Star Wars fan would be foolish to let those quibble overwhelm the exceptional animation, character moments and drama of the Overlords Trilogy. A terrific and exciting part of Star Wars, built to be controversial for sure, but also with a keen eye on pleasing fans and enriching the mythology.

Rating (out of five): ****

Note: Yes, I realize the season finale has come and gone as of this posting! I'm catching up. My apologies!