SW Clone Wars Animated Series pt. 4: Anakin Skywalker – Descent into Rage

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 where 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…

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Audiobook short: Tarkin (a new Star Wars canon novel)

To hear me read this review, check out episode 499 of the Spiritblade Underground Podcast, go to timestamp 13:50.

A little while ago I took some very tentative steps into the Star Wars Expanded Universe, starting with the Darth Plagueis audiobook. Tentatively, because I didn’t want to commit, since the Lucasfilm Story Group banished the entire EU, once official canon lore, to the realm of what they now call Legends.

Of course I lost that not-very-hard-fought battle and am now swimming neck-deep in the entire original EU (now: Legends), so audiobooks, novels, comics and even game plot summaries.

However, I did want to try the new canonical continuity and tried two of the new novels in audiobook format. The first one is Tarkin, written by James Luceno and read by Euan Morton. Length: 9 hrs, 27 min.

Publisher’s summary

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

Best-selling Star Wars veteran James Luceno gives Grand Moff Tarkin the Star Wars: Darth Plagueis treatment, bringing a legendary character from A New Hopeto full, fascinating life.

He’s the scion of an honorable and revered family. A dedicated soldier and distinguished legislator. Loyal proponent of the Republic and trusted ally of the Jedi Order. Groomed by the ruthless politician and Sith Lord who would be Emperor, Governor Wilhuff Tarkin rises through the Imperial ranks, enforcing his authority ever more mercilessly….and zealously pursuing his destiny as the architect of absolute dominion.

Rule through the fear of force rather than force itself, he advises his Emperor. Under Tarkin’s guidance, an ultimate weapon of unparalleled destruction moves ever closer to becoming a terrifying reality. When the so-called Death Star is completed, Tarkin is confident that the galaxy’s lingering pockets of Separatist rebellion will be brought to heel – by intimidation…or annihilation.

Until then, however, insurgency remains a genuine threat. Escalating guerrilla attacks by resistance forces and newfound evidence of a growing Separatist conspiracy are an immediate danger the Empire must meet with swift and brutal action. And to bring down a band of elusive freedom fighters, the Emperor turns to his most formidable agents: Darth Vader, the fearsome new Sith enforcer as remorseless as he is mysterious; and Tarkin – whose tactical cunning and cold-blooded efficiency will pave the way for the Empire’s supremacy…and its enemies’ extinction.

©2014 James Luceno (P)2014 Random House Audio

My thoughts: “Not enough action, too little suspense”

Although well-read by Morton, this is definitely not my favorite Star Wars novel. I was curious what nuggets of new SW lore this novel would offer, but for me it fell flat. The story built too slowly, there was hardly any suspense and in my opinion it could have been at least 30% shorter.
And most importantly, it did not succeed in making me care for any of its characters, nor the main plot line, the problem that needs solving by Tarkin. Except, of course for Darth Vader and the Emperor – who are not nearly enough in it. Narrator Morton does a great Vader by the way, very well done considering nobody can really come close to James Earl Jones.

I’m a big fan of Luceno’s Darth Plagueis, which I highly, highly recommend to any SW fan, so I had hoped for a bit of that same quality of storytelling that kept me glued to my couch even though it was an audiobook, but alas. Perhaps Luceno had to make the most of a pre-outlined plot, or perhaps he just doesn’t ‘feel’ the new SW universe anymore, like he did so well with Darth Plagueis.

There are of course the usual SW audio effects, which I like. For instance, when Vader’s in a scene, we hear him breathing through his apparatus.

All in all a disappointment. I finished this audiobook anyway, out of a sense of completism for the new Star Wars universe. Which is about the only reason you should buy it.

Also follow my reviews on Audible.com! (where I am Katarina – if you’re an Audible listener, simply bookmark my Listerner page once you’ve found me)

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