Note: This article contains spoilers for the new book, Star Wars: Dark Disciple.
Often in the real world do people lose themselves in the grasp of new love. They attempt to redefine themselves within the sheltering confines of a new relationship, only to emerge a changed version of the person that once was. We find that with Quinlan Vos, who falls in love with the enigmatic and exotic Asajj Ventress in Star Wars: Dark Disciple, the new novel by Christie Golden that was adapted from eight unaired scripts from The Clone Wars.
Vos, in his heady willingness to embrace new feelings of love, strays from the Jedi path he always knew and not only accepts a larger view of his emotional range, but also of the Force. And with this emotional bravery comes reciprocated feelings from the most unexpected person: Asajj Ventress, the one-time Sith acolyte turned yellow-lightsaber-wielding bounty hunter. Together, their relationship will force them each to face their past, as well as their affiliations to the dark side and the light, drawing in both the Jedi and the Sith as they grow into fully-formed beings of both light and dark that crave nothing more than freedom to be who they are.
However, it is one thing to be brought into the light after living a lifetime in darkness. It is quite another for a person who has lived in the light to fall to the dark.
As a reader I found myself excited for Master Vos and his daring exploration of what it means for a good Jedi to know love. On the other hand, I became anxious for the man and his too-quick compromising of his core beliefs. This sort of change did not feel healthy, albeit far too realistic. Who hasn’t had a friend change overnight when starting a new romance?
However I think Master Vos’ willingness to embrace love was the right way; it is a complicated area of the Force that the Jedi never truly conquered. If anything can be learned from the fall of the republic and of the Jedi, it is that the Jedi Order did not grow and change. It did not iterate upon itself to become a more perfect organization of Force devotees, and in doing so became obsolete. Quinlan and Asajj were on the right path; if only they did not have death, destruction and the dark side to unite them in common purpose.
Master Vos’ willingness to accept the power that the dark side granted him was another thing altogether. Asajj led him down the wrong path, and it nearly consumed the man. Throughout the entire novel, I grappled with the idea that it was possible to control the dark side. It went against all Star Wars canon to this point. The dark side consumes; it takes exceptionally powerful Force users such as Anchorites or Chosen Ones to balance the Force. Unfortunately, Quinlan Vos was neither.
I’m in an interesting position: I feel rather fortunate that I never knew the EU version of Quinlan Vos, who, for all accounts (and all my research), was a very interesting character. The Quinlan Vos I know is a glimpse of a background character in The Phantom Menace, a mere mention in Revenge of the Sith, and sadly, not much more than a caricature in a bizarre season three episode of The Clone Wars that actualy gave him a surfboard. Needless to say, there was a major opportunity to make something of the character in canon, and this novel does so exceedingly well. I had a clean slate for who this Vos is, and had nothing to compare and analyze. It was breath of fresh air to see his arc unfold without the trappings and baggage of previous work in the back of my head.
At the outset of the novel, Quinlan Vos is a good Jedi, perhaps a great one. He embraces the Force with a delight and happiness we see in Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back, and the self-awareness and experience of one who understands the ways of the Living Force. One wonders who Vos would have been if he never crossed Ventress. Who would he have become? Would he still have gone the same way? Clearly, his embrace of the dark side could not have been achieved without major doubt in the surety of the Jedi Order.
And to that point, the idea of an assassination attempt by the Jedi shows just how lost the order is. It is decidedly a bad idea, and not the way of the Force. This seems like a last resort for an order of knights who have lost their way in the fog of war. As the dark side shrouded and impeded their ability to use the light side of the Force, they have made decisions that are worse and worse. This feels like an all-time low for the Order. Kenobi is at his best in the anticlimax of the book, reprimanding the Jedi Council on how they have lost their way.
I am also relieved to see a genuine and deep friendship between Kenobi and Vos. It makes the younger Kenobi of The Clone Wars a more well-rounded character and less of a sarcasm machine for Anakin to bounce off. Kenobi’s depth is real, just as his admiration for Ventress is as well. It is always refreshing to understand a little more of Kenobi the man rather than Kenobi the master. Besides, who doesn’t love to see Kenobi in his natural habitat: a seedy bar!
The romance between Vos and Asajj is honest, well-won, and a pleasure to read. Golden is masterful in her development of this relationship, allowing the reader to see both points of view with equitable charity. Golden paints scenes with passion, sensuality and tenderness not often found in science fiction, and rounds the characters in ways not often seen in Star Wars. The romance in the first half of the book is legendary, and only sets up the tragedy of the second half to deliver upon.
At the outset, Vos and Ventress are at once complete opposites and kindred spirits. He is the optimist, a beacon of casual, unorthodox hope. She is world-weary and damaged, smoldering with anger at many futures lost. He is steadfast in his place in the universe, a loner who loves his friends and his home. She is lost, rejected at every turn, living day-to-day; a loner by necessity, not by choice. He seems to radiate unbounded light; she expounds a controlled darkness that’s apart from the ways of the Sith. Together, they forge their own way into a grey area of the Force based on the full range of their emotions, and it takes Vos to plunge into darkness and hate for Asajj to find her goodness.
Despite the twists and turns that Quinlan Vos takes between the dark side and the light, not a page went by that I didn’t think of the line from Episode III: “In short, they are going very well. Saleucami has fallen, and Master Vos has moved his troops to Boz Pity.” I knew the character would end up there, but in what form? For a while, I wondered if Vos would be an enemy retreating to Boz Pity!
I do think there was an opportunity lost here. The Outer Rim sieges should have begun here. It would have been great to see this final conflict in the war, to see Asajj and Vos fighting side by side. And, of course, did Vos survive Order 66?
Additionally, there are many interesting things to be learned about Count Dooku in this book. As the years go by, it is clear that the Count is one of the more enigmatic characters in the saga. Was he truly a Sith? (Sort of.) Did he really want to overthrow Sidious with Kenobi’s help? It turns out that yes, he actually did. Dooku, like Ventress, sought to use the dark side but not be consumed by it. We identified as Sith, but by his own admission in the book, he was not “a normal Sith.” This clarity and insight into the character alone makes Dark Disciple a must-read.
Surprisingly, one of the most boring parts of this book is the rather pedestrian adventures of Anakin and Obi-Wan. Anakin feels static; there’s nothing of the edgy, anger prone character from the Utapau arc. Where did he go? There was an opportunity to tie this book’s Anakin into the larger Star Wars saga here that was missed.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the amazing scenes at the Nightsister village, where Asajj pressures Quinlan to take a step wholly unnatural in his slaying of the Sleeper. Such twisting and darkness was beautifully portrayed—but did you catch the multiple references to Dune? Time and again, Frank Herbert’s seminal sci-fi epic provides inspiration for Star Wars. Here, it all but confirms that the Nightsisters are directly inspired by the Bene Gesserit of Dune. First, they are both referred to as witches. Second, they both drink a substance known as the water of life as initiation, which provides insight and power. Third, the water of life is created by a creature that lives deep below the planet’s surface. Fourth, their organizations are led by “Mothers.” Fifth, the entire idea of “awakening the sleeper” is a direct reference to Dune’s Kwaisitch Haderach, who is referred to as a sleeper that must awaken. These are unmistakable markers for those in the know, and it is very satisfying to see Star Wars still drawing influence from such a rich source even 40 years later.
Finally, the end of this book merits special attention. As our character converge for final confrontation, we finally see Quinlan Vos brought back to the light side through his own choice He did it for love, and was redeemed from within. However, none of it would have been possible without a momentarily prescient vision from Ventress. What spurred this? It would seem to be an honest redemption of her place in the Force; an acceptance of the light side through her love of Vos that led to unlocking newfound powers. And, in doing so, she understood she must sacrifice herself to save her true love.
In my accounting, Asajj Ventress was the first person in canon to die of Sith lightning. Not Luke, not Yoda, not Windu, not Palpatine, and not Vader (trust me; proof coming soon to RetroZap). Why did Ventress die, when all others did not? In my opinion, she accepted her destiny in this moment and allowed herself to succumb to this attack in a way others would not. Either that or Nightsisters are really vulnerable to it. No matter what, the redemption of Ventress, a character with over a decade of backstory behind her, was an absolute payoff, and the redemption of Vos was well deserved after his torture throughout this novel.
From a literary standpoint, Golden uses overuses litotes in her writing, creating paragraphs that cause a reader to be lifted out of the story. They stand out and feel unnatural in contrast to the other 99% of the book. I’d like to see this removed from her future works, as it does nothing to improve her considerable command of storytelling voice and pacing.
And, as for future work, I hope Golden writes many, many more Star Wars novels; she took what could have been a throwaway story that was never aired into an absolute classic of Star Wars storytelling. Honestly, I prefer this story as a novel; it allows us to get inside the minds of the characters and linger with their thoughts and motivations in a way that 22-minute animated storytelling just cannot do. It is far and away the best novel of the new canon. If this is the direction for the future, I am very, very pleased.
Every fan of Star Wars novels most likely has a list of books they have always wanted to see. For me the book on the top of that list was a novel featuring my favorite Expanded Universe character, Quinlan Vos. With Del Rey’s recent announcement of a novel featuring Asajj Ventress and Quinlan Vos, it seems like I got my wish. In Summer of 2015 we will be getting a novel based on unused scripts from The Clone Wars animated series.
I remember when Dave Filoni posted his sketches of scenes from the unused scripts. I was happy to see images of Vos, but extremely sad at the idea I would never get to see those stories on screen. With the recent release of the Son of Dathomir comics I knew there was a chance I would see these other stories in comic form someday, but I never expected a novel. To me a novel is an even better option because it will allow us to really get into the character’s heads.
So you may wonder why I am so excited for a novel featuring a character who only had a significant role in one episode of The Clone Wars. That may be all he is to fans who have only seen the animated series, but to those of us who have been following the comics, he is so much more.
The return of Darth Maul to the land of the living has opened up a tremendous number of storytelling possibilities for The Clone Wars series. In Maul, George Lucas and Dave Filoni have reintroduced a character that brings with him the cache of being not only a film character, but also a character unlike most in the films in that he has an unknown fate. The possibilities for Maul run the gamut from being killed early next season to surviving the Clone Wars and becoming a Yoda-like Sith hermit somewhere in the galaxy.
Our friends at Knights Archive posted an article about a new Scholastic book that may shed some light on Darth Maul’s plan and the direction the character is going to go. Targeted at kids age 8 to 12, Scholastic’s Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Darth Maul: Shadow Conspiracy is a 160 page book due out this September. The summary (at Edelweiss) for the book reads as follows:
For the first time ever, Scholastic is publishing Star Wars Clone Wars… based off the hit Cartoon Network TV show, viewed by over 2.4 million every week!
Our story will follow the highly anticipated return of Darth Maul–the infamous villain of Episode I: The Phantom Menace–whose popularity rivals that of Boba Fett. When Darth Maul reunites with his brother, Savage Opress, can even Obi-Wan Kenobi stop him before he rallies the criminal underworld to his cause?
What is this talk about the criminal underworld? For further clarification we headed over to Amazon.com to see if they had the same or a different description;
For the first time ever, Scholastic is publishing Star Wars Clone Wars… based off the hit Cartoon Network TV show, viewed by over 2.4 million every week!
Waiting on details from LucasFilms regarding Season 5, but the novel will feature the highly anticipated return of Darth Maul, the villain of Episode I’s Phantom Menace, whose popularity rivals that of Boba Fett.
If you take Amazon’s description specifically mentioning “Season 5″ and Edelweiss’s description hinting at events we have yet to see, and combine that with the fact that the book will be released in the same month that the Season Premiere of Season Five will air, it is pretty clear that Scholastic may have dropped a major plot point from Season Five.
Before we get in to my wild speculation about where this story could go, I think it is useful to take a little bit of perspective on the history of Darth Maul and the history of George Lucas’s interest and involvement in the Expanded Universe, The Clone Wars, and the Live-Action Series. Based on anecdotes about Mr. Lucas, we know that he is focused on the stories that he personally crafts and tells in the Star Wars universe. While his company licenses and produces a plethora of EU works under the Star Wars brand, it is not like he is reading and approving every book written. It is also true that we have heard on multiple occasions that he enjoys the comics and from time to time will borrow an idea or look for something from the comics.
There are two significant stories that I believe Mr. Lucas had a larger hand in crafting than the standard EU fare. Those would be 1996’s multimedia campaign around Shadows of the Empire and 2008’s The Force Unleashed. Shadows of the Empire was significant for a number of reasons. The story itself was set between Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi so it had to fit in with Lucas’ vision of those stories. Shadows was also a bit of a trial balloon to gauge fan interest in Star Wars before the 1997 release of the Special Editions of the original trilogy and the 1999 release of the Phantom Menace beginning the prequel trilogy. It makes sense that Lucas had a strong hand in the project, but it was author Steve Perry (among others) who crafted the specifics of the story. As Steve Perry explained in an interview with EUCantina.net;
EUC: Let’s move on to specific projects: Mr. Perry, what can you tell us about being involved in the Shadows of the Empire Media Event? Mr. Reaves, what can you tell us about working on Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter, as Darth Maul is such a mysterious character ?
SP: SOTE was a test-run by Lucasfilm, designed to see how such a multimedia project would work, during the time before the second set of movies. A very collaborative effort, which was laid out during a meeting at Skywalker Ranch, wherein a bunch of us sat down and hammered out a storyline, then parsed it out — I took notes, then went home and wrote an outline upon which the novel, comics, games, toys, etc. were based. It was a lot of fun, and I got to play with the original cast, plus come up with some interesting EU characters.
Lucas also had a large role in The Force Unleashed and that story and game’s development. The video below goes in depth on Lucas’s role in the story of the secret apprentice.
Then of course there is the currently on hold Live-Action Series which already has a full season of scripts written. With the working title of Star Wars: Underworld, the Live-Action Series is suppose to focus on the seedier side of the galaxy during the rise of the Empire. Notice the connection between Shadows of the Empire and the Live-Action Series. It seems like criminals and scoundrels have a fairly large part to play in Star Wars, but we will get back to that in a minute. In terms of The Clone Wars, we know that George Lucas has a very strong hand in the show, and while Dave Filoni is the supervising director and the show runner, Lucas is present at story conferences where stories are “broken” and many ideas are developed. This can be seen in behind the scenes clips released as well as numerous comments by Filoni and other TCW staff members.
Lucas has set up a story in TCW where we know have Sidious in control of the Republic, his apprentice Count Dooku leading the Separatists in this charade. We also have Sidious’ eye on a potential new apprentice in Anakin, two former apprentice’s of Dooku in Asajj Ventress and Savage Opress and a former apprentice of Sidious in Darth Maul. This is a lot of Sith or would be Sith for the Rule of Two to attempt to contain. At this point there is no reason to believe that Sidious knew that Maul survived, but that is possible. Operating on the assumption that Maul is now a wild sabacc card that doesn’t fit in with Sidious’ plans, then it would make sense that there isn’t a place for Maul at Sidious’ side. Count Dooku certainly wouldn’t react well to his Master’s previous student returning and seeking to usurp his position. Sidious may also be reluctant to accept Maul back into the fold.
Actor Sam Witwer has been making the media rounds giving interviews to promote Darth Maul’s return. Christian Blauvelt of Entertainment Weekly got some interesting quotes from Witwer regarding Maul’s future.
You won’t necessarily see all the layers of the character right away, it takes time to unravel. I don’t think I’m spoiling too much when I say that he’s going to be around for a little bit. You will see a lot more of him going forward than you would have expected.
There are major consequences for Darth Maul being reintroduced to the Star Wars galaxy. This guy doesn’t just show up, wave his lightsaber around, have a few mean lines here and there, then pass into obscurity. He makes a major splash in the Clone Wars, and it’s entirely consequential the things that he’s up to and tries to accomplish.
That goal of revenge is not something that goes away, but what does change is how he’s going to go about it. And some of that involves Asajj Ventress. You’ve seen her become a bounty hunter. But Darth Maul would never become a bounty hunter. He’s way too ambitious for that. He was trained as a Sith Lord and that’s what he wants to be… But the revenge that Maul wants starts out very straightforward — I’ll lock lightsabers with Obi-Wan Kenobi! — but then it becomes a lot more complicated. Simple revenge isn’t good enough. It’s gotta be grand revenge, on a huge scale, and the galaxy’s going to know about it.
Some of Darth Maul’s past may point to what he may do in Season Five. At the end of Season Three when they telegraphed the return of Darth Maul, my initial thought was that Maul and Opress would combine with Mother Talzin and the Nightsisters to form another base of power in the galaxy to throw a wrench in Sidious’ plans. In Season Four we saw the Nightsisters (except for Mother Talzin) wiped out by General Grievous and his droid army, so this potential power base has been removed from Maul. There is another possibility that Scholastic may be hinting at in their book description however.
In 2000 Dark Horse Comics published Star Wars: Darth Maul, a comic series about Maul’s mission to decapitate the Black Sun criminal organization’s leadership. Black Sun was the entity created by Steve Perry for Shadows of the Empire with Prince Xizor at its head. Maul: “Do you wish Black Sun destroyed utterly?”Sidious: “No. One day it might prove useful to me, For now it must be thrown into disarray so it cannot threaten our designs.” In Black Sun we have an as yet unexplored base of power, thrown into disarray by Maul’s slaughter of the Vigos, Black Sun may be ripe for Maul to assert control over the organization. While we have seen criminals, smugglers and bounty hunters explored in TCW series we have yet to see Black Sun appear on the show in any form. If Maul is going to be rallying the “criminal underworld to his cause,” what better place to start then Black Sun? By uniting Black Sun and other criminal operations under his control, Maul has the opportunity make a much bigger impact in the galaxy. It may be that Black Sun and the criminal underworld was a backup plan for Sidious, an external threat he could use to justify centralizing more power or more military buildup if the Separatist plan didn’t work correctly or was cut short by the premature death or capture of Dooku and Grievous.
In Revenge we see that Maul knew about the Grand Plan and the planned Clone Wars when he sighs and says “Oh yes, so it began without me.” If Maul knew about the backup plan then perhaps he knew about other back up plans or could at least extrapolate based on Sidious comments what his intentions might be. In a very in depth interview on The ForceCast, Sam Witwer discusses just how smart Maul is and how much he would have learned as the apprentice of Sidious. There is a nice symmetry to the idea that Maul who was found in the trash on Lotho Minor, could rise to power again atop a heap of criminal trash and villainy. King of the Underworld may not be as good as Galactic Emperor, but it’s better than nothing.
As Darth Plagueis said, “You must begin by gaining power over yourself; then another, then a group, an order, a world, a species, a group of species… finally, the galaxy itself.” In Revenge we saw Maul gain power over himself through his healing, in Season Five we could see him gain power over another in Savage and possibly over a group in the attracting the criminal underworld to his banner.
Hello and welcome back to another review of the latest installment in The Clone Wars! This week Asajj Ventress returns home to the Nightsisters, and Grievous leads an attack to destroy the Dathomiri tribe, in the strangest and possibly darkest Clone Wars yet, “Massacre”. This is season four, episode nineteen, which means we only have three episodes left until the end of the season, and these last few episodes look fantastic judging from the new trailer we saw last week. Really though, if you have not seen that trailer, watch it now! Okay, enough about future episodes (I’m sure I’ll bring them up again at the end of my review.), time to talk the latest episode!
This episode revolves entirely around the Nightsisters, over a year later from when we saw them last. This episode starts with Asajj returning to Dathomir after an unknown amount of time wandering the galaxy since her betrayal in the last season. It has me wondering why this episode (and the next episode) will be focused on Asajj so much, since “Massacre” continued right where the conflicted character of Asajj left off, I wonder if this will be the end of Asajj’s character, one way or another. She’s a character we’ve been seeing less and less in the series since season one, and honestly, I just don’t see her going back to the Sith, or making anymore mayhem for the Jedi in the war.
So how will they take this character out of the series? The more I watch it, the more I feel like they’re going to go the comics route and allow her to escape and flee into hiding, which would be pretty awesome. I think an ending like that would capitalize the tragedy that her role has turned into, first being betrayed by her master, then by Savage, and then being the last of the Nightsisters. I’m also wondering if she will even be around long enough to face Obi-Wan again, or maybe even Savage. One thing I hope doesn’t happen is leaving her character at a cliffhanger again, letting us guess where she is and what she’s doing for another year.
Massacre was, I would say, the most out-of-universe episode to date. Some parts just didn’t feel like Star Wars, which I guess was bound to happen when you’re creating an episode about a group of witches. But there were lots of things that kind of made me wish for a little familiarity in this episode (besides battle droids). Instead of using the Force, the Nightsisters replaced it with their magic, summoning Nightsister zombies to their aid in battle, (those were really weird, and well-designed I might add). There was one part that even reminded me of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, with the voodoo doll, to torture Dooku, even at one point allowing Talzin to emerge from his torso to warn him. There were no Jedi, no clones, and no good guys in this episode. This was a brawl of the baddies, and combining that with the bizarreness of the Nightsister’s magic, and you’ve got one strange episode, not knowing who to root for, if anyone.
One thing I’d like to touch on briefly before I wrap up my review is the return of some season one technology. The “Defenders of Peace” Defoliator tank is back; it’s always great to see stuff from past seasons show up in current episodes, even though it is strange it’s taken this long for it to show up again. Hopefully we’ll be seeing it in some large scale battles soon.
All in all, “Massacre” was a very unique episode, the red colors of the world of Dathomir fit the dark and evil mood perfectly. Like I said before, it did not feel as much like a part of the Star Wars universe as I would have liked, but the story was decent, exciting, and the ending left me with a great sense of uncertainty for Asajj, and pity for her character. And that wraps up my review this week! What did you think of the episode? Love it? Hate it? Let us know by leaving a comment below! Thanks for reading, and I cannot wait for next week’s episode with the return of some classic characters! May the Force be with you… always!