Finally! It’s here: part 4 of my spoiler-filled blog mini series on Star Wars Clone Wars – The Animated Series. I repeat: spoiler-filled! If you don’t wish to be spoiled about anything, please make sure you have watched all Star Wars movies, plus Seasons 1-4 of this animated series, before continuing to read this blog post.
One of the many things I love about Star Wars Clone Wars – The Animated Series (TAS) is that the series’ creators take their time to make us part of Anakin’s slow descent into a moral low.
In Season 1 we see Anakin’s temper and his rebellious streak, the second season shows the first signs of him being a killer: initially when he first practices his Force Grip and almost kills a prisoner, later when he wants to execute Ventress (but she escapes). Season 3 confirms this cold-bloodedness when Anakin without hesitation kills one of the three Force Wielders, during the Mortis story line.
The fourth season has Anakin further prodded in the direction of the Dark Side by his deep-seeded rage. For instance, when he has to deal with a Separatist-backed slaver planet and their queen, his rage and fear almost get the better of him. The queen also raises some interesting philosophical questions as to Anakin’s nature, calling him a slave at heart, wanting nothing more than to serve others with blind loyalty and a commitment at the expense of himself. It’s very clear she strikes a chord with Anakin, leaving him confused and at a loss for words.
In a later story arc, Obi Wan is murdered by a sniper – or so Anakin believes. This time his rage is fuelled by deep grief which he doesn’t seem to want to let go.
The Jedi want him to stay out of the murder investigation precisely for this reason, but (of course) Chancellor Palpatine encourages him to do it anyway. This sends him on a murderous hunt, using his Force Grip openly to squeeze information out of people – in stark contrast to Season 2 when he only does it when no one can see him.
In season 4, episode 19 we see Palpatine manipulating Anakin even more, slyly feeding his dormant anger about having been lied to about Obi Wan’s undercover mission, the one that made him believe his best friend had been murdered. The Chancellor’s whispered half-truths seem to have yet another effect on Anakin: they acutely address his deep need to be in control, to protect the ones he loves. Like a silent echo of the slaver queen’s notions about Anakin, Palpatine subtly coaxes Anakin into isolating himself from the Jedi and shift his fealty to the Chancellor, to focus his ardent loyalty no longer on his fellow Jedi, who seem not to trust him and even lie to him, but on the ever faithful Chancellor, who always expresses his confidence in and admiration for Anakin. When Anakin defends Palpatine against what seems to be an assassination attempt by Dooku, he’s hardly able to contain his rage and fights to kill. Both Dooku and Palpatine realize this, as is shown both in Dooku’s surprised eyes and Palpatine’s smug smile.
In this episode Anakin is not yet strong enough to defeat Dooku, not strong enough to become a Sith, which is only fitting. The duel was the perfect prelude to their future fight however – which as we all know will end quite differently, securing Anakin’s place at Darth Sidious’s side…
After Dooku has escaped, Anakin ardently expresses his loyalty to the Chancellor: ‘As long as I live, no harm will ever come to you’ – as if almost wanting to prove the slaver queen’s theory.
A kind of pre-catharsis for the viewer is of course the knowledge that in the end he will find the strength to break this misguided vow, sacrificing himself and saving the universe as he does it…