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TFN TCW Review: The Jedi Who Knew Too Much

Posted By Eric on February 16, 2013

The Clone Wars Season 5 Episode 18: The Jedi Who Knew Too Much

Of all the episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars aired thus far, "The Jedi Who Knew Too Much" is easily a contender for the series' best. There are some themes, inherently associated with this time period, that are hard to mess up when they are addressed. Among them is the looming trauma and destruction of Order 66. Another is Ahsoka's growing independence and the way she plans to define herself within (or perhaps beyond) the Jedi Order. This episode single-handedly pulled off a better exposition of both themes than any prior installment. There was so much to love, from Imperial foreshadowing and Ahsoka's realization that she's serving a flawed system to Anakin's struggle between competing duties and the sinister specter of the Emperor's final solution to the Jedi problem.

The episode began with important reminders about the ongoing war that dominates the series. The funeral itself was simple, with the five covered coffins being lowered into the ground and pillars of light erupting from them. Yoda's words, though few, added tremendous weight to the scene. His speech about the fallen Jedi becoming one with the Force, accompanied by familiar strains of Original Trilogy music, recalled his lectures to Luke in The Empire Strikes Back. More specifically, his remark that we are all "luminous beings" was an obvious nod to his lesson about perspective and the limits of mortal existence in Episode V.

With the galactic conflict nearing its final stages -- and, perhaps, this animated series along with -- now was a great time to remind viewers about the costs of war. Battlefield deaths have been piling up throughout the series, but not until now have we truly lingered on what those bodies meant. They were family members and friends, not just warriors. The large gathering that witnessed this funeral was a testament to that unexplored aspect of death and loss. For this group of people, every dead body is a gaping wound in someone's heart. Just as I appreciated the reminder that loss is not an abstract concept, I also appreciated Yoda's final words of wisdom to his assembled colleagues: "Live for the living Jedi, we must." It was classic Yoda, and in the context of an episode that was so utterly devoid of comfort and safety, his words were heartening to hear.

This was without a doubt one of Ahsoka's shining moments in the series in terms of character depiction and development. Never before has she appeared so shaken by events around her. The episode began with Ahsoka seeking reassurance from her friend Barriss Offee. One of the series' most underutilized Jedi, Barriss presents a great opportunity for us to witness Ahsoka learning, commiserating, and just experiencing life with someone close to her own age. The two can empathize with and relate to each other in a way that's not possible with Ahsoka and Anakin.

Something else became clear as Ahsoka and Barriss discussed emotions while walking through the Temple's cavernous hallways. When it came to controlling her emotions, Ahsoka was clearly trying to follow her master's path and trust in his wisdom, but doubt was evident in her voice as she and Barriss talked about it. Barriss, in turn, seemed to put a lot of faith in Ahsoka. It made me wonder: Was there a widespread sense of respect for Ahsoka even among her fellow Padawans because of who her master was and, consequently, what they had accomplished? Again, like Ahsoka's relationship with Barriss, Ahsoka's reputation among the other Padawans is something that hasn't yet been explored in depth.

Ahsoka's problems in this episode really began with the recently promoted Admiral Tarkin. In the previous episode, "Sabotage", Ahsoka's territoriality with respect to Jedi investigations was clear. In this episode, she confronted the face of the Republic military and her distrust of him was equally clear. Once again, she got testy about the military stepping in on the Jedi's territory. She thought the Order should handle the matter alone. Her perspective could not have been too different from the attitudes of many Jedi Council members. There was doubtless a view in that hallowed chamber that Senate encroachment on Jedi affairs was a threat to whatever version of separation of powers exists in the Republic.

In part, Ahsoka's distrust of military involvement was borne of an Anakin-like impatience with the situation surrounding Letta, the prime suspect in the previous episode's bombing. On two separate occasions, once with Anakin and Tarkin and once with Barriss, Ahsoka let her anger get the better of her as she expressed a vehement commitment to the idea of Letta suffering for her crime. "This woman's going to pay for what she did," Ahsoka told Barriss. This was Ahsoka as we'd never seen her before. She was fixated on the attack on her "home" and she wasn't content to let anyone -- not Tarkin, not even Palpatine himself -- get in the way of what she perceived as justice. I could not help noticing the parallels to another young Jedi rashly demanding that an enemy pay for what they had done, in that case before charging unwisely into battle. I'm referring, of course, to Anakin demanding penance of Count Dooku in Episode II, just before the count sliced off his arm and nearly killed both him and his master.

When Ahsoka went to meet with Letta, the latter woman's speech seemed to have an impact on the Togrutan Padawan. Letta wanted the Jedi to return to their more peaceful ways, and she wasn't alone in thinking that way. What's more, she thought that she was doing the right thing by sending the Order a message. Ahsoka may not have supported her methods, but the source of her frustration must have struck a chord within her. The thought of another Jedi who was willing to act so violently would have been disturbing to many young viewers, and it clearly disturbed Ahsoka. The fact that a Jedi Knight could be so desperate to stop the Order's involvement in military affairs could not have failed to rattle her.

Ahsoka's conversation with Letta -- the last time the prime suspect in the bombing would ever speak to anyone, in fact -- was, in my opinion, a major turning point for Ahsoka in terms of how she viewed the structures of the Republic. When she saw the key card sitting outside her cell, she thought Anakin had put it there to free her; that was all the evidence I needed of her intent to break out and disobey Republic law in pursuit of Letta's true killer. Of course, Anakin hadn't left the key card there. When a freed Ahsoka came across the injured security clones, the music took an insidious turn, reflecting the horror she felt at realizing that the situation was much worse than she had imagined. Her horror mounted when she came across the second set of clones, finding lightsaber slash marks across their torsos. In addition to the way this episode handled complicated interpersonal issues, I mustnít neglect to mention how beautifully -- and horrifically -- "The Jedi Who Knew Too Much" depicted the "set-up," from the clones' bodies to the ominous music to Ahsoka's shocked reaction.

The two primary conversations between Anakin and Ahsoka -- first in the hallways of the prison and then in the sewer tunnel -- were simply incredible. The voice work by Matt Lanter and Ashley Eckstein was nothing short of amazing. Although the two exchanged few words, their conversation carried tremendous weight. You could almost see Ahsoka losing faith in the Jedi Order as she reflected on the lack of support from her own master, let alone more senior Jedi. Anakin, Yoda, Mace Windu, Plo Koon: all of these Jedi were familiar with her basic decency, her honor, and her integrity. Yet none of them had come to advocate for her innocence. Military operation or not, the Jedi could have been more aggressive in seeking Ahsoka's release into their custody. Given all of that, it was perfectly understandable how, right then, standing in that prison corridor, Ahsoka felt utterly abandoned.

It's my belief that, no matter how this story arc wraps up, "The Jedi Who Knew Too Much" has set the stage for a fundamental realignment of Ahsoka's character. Bit by bit, The Clone Wars has given Ahsoka the strength to speak up and stand up for herself. She has disobeyed Anakin before, but to do it in such a bold way here, and to demand that he trust her, really emphasized how much she has grown just in the current season. Now, not only was Ahsoka physically capable of outmaneuvering the clones, but she was also capable of thinking for herself about the justness of the Republic and Jedi Order's position and actions. She was frustrated with the fact that no one listened to her, that everyone had prejudged her, that no one had stood up for her. In this episode, she was both capable of standing up for herself and perceptive enough to realize that, for unjust structural reasons, no one else would do so. Regardless of how the Season 5 finale concludes this particular situation, Ahsoka has been dramatically changed by what is happening to her. In the long run, there will be no turning back.

Anakin's role in this episode was complicated. He started out by practically parroting Grand Army of the Republic talking points, siding with Tarkin in the matter of the Jedi's place within the Republic. It was an ominous reminder of his chumminess with Chancellor Palpatine in Episode III, a chumminess that led the Jedi Order to ruin. Anakin continued to express sympathy with Tarkin's position when the two stepped into a Temple elevator, downplaying Ahsoka's impulsive rebuke of Tarkin's position by saying that "In ways she is still very young." It was as if Anakin were recalling his earliest days with Ahsoka, when she exhibited the same lack of focus and control that was resurfacing now. To equate the two contexts would, of course, be a grave mistake.

Thankfully, it seemed that Anakin didn't make that mistake when the Sith hit the fan. When Anakin was denied access to his imprisoned apprentice in the Republic prison complex, his appreciation for Tarkin and the military immediately evaporated. He clenched his fist as Commander Fox, head of prison security, told him that Tarkin's orders forbade him from seeing Ahsoka. While the focus of that particular moment was on Anakin's barely restrained anger, this was also an opportunity for the series to depict the widening schism between the Jedi Order and the Republic military.

Anakin's devotion to his Ahsoka in this episode was commendable, but it was due to more than just his affection for his Padawan. As a former slave, he's used to systems betraying individuals, and he sympathizes with Ahsoka's situation. One of the reasons he initially dreamed of becoming a Jedi was to right the injustice of slavery on Tatooine. What was that if not an expression of his opinion that the Jedi Order's primary duty was to protect weak (or at least vulnerable) individuals from institutionalized oppression and brutality? It was easy to see how Anakin's slave past impelled him to do everything he could for Ahsoka -- everything within the law, that is.

Anakin's ultimate fidelity to the law, even when obeying it meant abandoning his apprentice, was especially evident in the scene where Ahsoka was seemingly cornered outside the prison complex. It was very instructive to watch his face during the brief glimpse we got of him as the dogs, clones, and gunships surrounded Ahsoka. He was thinking, "Please don't try to run. We can work this out." He genuinely wanted what was best for Ahsoka, and he hated the way this had to go down, but he believed that she would be better off following the rules and regulations. With those conflicting obligations in mind, Anakin and Ahsoka's final conversation in this episode might have been their best conversation in the whole season. Anakin had to let Ahsoka go off on her own, despite wanting to help clear her name. You could tell that he wanted to join her and fight back against the system, but he was equally cognizant of his duty to the Jedi Order and to the stability afforded by the rule of law.

The third key player in this episode, more because of what he symbolized than because of what he actually said and did, was Admiral Wilhuff Tarkin. Whereas Ahsoka saw the Republic military bureaucracy as needlessly meddlesome, Tarkin viewed the Jedi as impetuous and arrogant. Never before has Tarkin's disdain for the Jedi Order been clearer. His opinion was that the Jedi need to learn their place. He couldn't stand the leeway afforded to the Order, because it clashed with the hierarchy and discipline of the military. Tarkin must have also viewed the Jedi as incompetent, particularly after they allowed their own sanctuary to be bombed.

"An attack on the Jedi is an attack on the Senate," Tarkin told Ahsoka. This was his way of reminding the Jedi of their place in the official Republic hierarchy, a place with which they could not have been too content. Tarkin was probably just as unhappy with the position the Order occupied, albeit because he thought they were too powerful as opposed to too constrained. To a military man, the Order must have seemed woefully ill-prepared for the task thrust upon them. Tarkin alluded to this view when he quoted Mace Windu as saying that the Jedi were just "keepers of the peace." Given this sentiment, Chancellor Palpatine's off-screen decree that the Jedi's involvement in military matters was to be diminished no doubt earned him immense respect from Admiral Tarkin.

This episode contained several few ominous glimpses of Tarkin's eventual role as close adviser to the Emperor and overseer of his fearsome battle station. (Speaking of the Death Star, did anyone else notice the RA-7 protocol droid walking through the Republic prison? Those guys went on to serve Imperial officers aboard the Death Star.) One of the most obvious examples of Imperial foreshadowing was when Tarkin told Ahsoka that the Chancellor "rarely does anything without a strategy." Another appeared at the beginning of the second act, when Tarkin, flanked by two security clones, walked into Ahsoka's prison cell. His face carried the stern, cold look that he wore in A New Hope, and both the lighting and the music recalled the bleak scene in Episode IV where Tarkin interrogated Princess Leia about the location of the Rebel base.

Speaking of Leia, the way Tarkin dealt with Ahsoka was obviously meant to foreshadow his treatment of the Alderaanian princess. He even grabbed her chin, causing her to turn her head away from him. This was an unexpectedly bold bit of foreshadowing on the part of the series' creative team. The Republic's transformation into the Empire and Tarkin's increasing brutality have rarely been presented in such a stark, disturbing manner.

The foreshadowing of impending darkness most certainly did not end with Tarkin. In fact, it began with a decidedly imperial visual transition: a sweeping shot of Coruscant as the camera focused in on the Republic prison complex, with the Republic's pseudo-Imperial cog symbol emblazoned on the ground. Despite the series' proclivity for battle scenes, we rarely get to see the effects of the military-industrial complex on Coruscant, so this was a welcome sequence. In addition to the general Imperial vibe, hints of Order 66 were strewn throughout the episode. Tension began building as soon as Commander Fox escorted Ahsoka to Letta's cell. As he and his guards flanked her, there was a hint of Imperial music in the background, and the shot of the group walking down the hallway was framed so it looked like the clones were guarding Ahsoka.

Later, when Anakin arrived to visit Ahsoka, Fox's denial of access prompted another visual homage to the Order 66 portion of Revenge of the Sith. When Fox's guards approached Anakin, they activated their electro-shock weapons to remind him of his place. It was also a reminder to the audience of a similar scene in Episode III, in which Bail Organa tried to access the Jedi Temple and was warned away by similarly insistent 501st clone troopers. In both cases, we got a hint of something malevolent lurking just beneath the surface.

The scale of the search for Ahsoka reminded us of how powerful she was and how many clones were needed to take on even a Jedi Padawan. The entire third act was so rewarding, because I have consistently been angling for more hints of Order 66 and the tension between the clones and the Jedi. Watching the clones chase Ahsoka throughout and around the prison complex gave me chills because of its similarities to Order 66. I know I wasn't the only one wondering what Order 66 would be like from Ahsoka's perspective.

Even though this wasn't really about clones versus Jedi in the Order 66 sense, it was close enough to paint a disturbing picture about the relationship between the two groups. Any time we can upend established structures and allegiances (like Ahsoka and the clones working together), it makes for a great story. One imagines tensions that had been simmering beneath the surface for years finally bursting into view in this sequence. Some of these clones might even have been spoiling for a Jedi hunt after rumors began swirling that one of them had killed clones in the Temple bombing. There was an inevitability to this kind of standoff. This is the classic "it was only a matter of time" confrontation of the Prequel era.

The outdoor chase in particular was phenomenal to watch, with the clone units on foot, the squadrons of gunships hovering overhead with their spotlights, the search dogs, and even the ponderous AT-TEs tracking across the ground. There were some incredible shots in there that emphasized the frenetic pace of the search, like Anakin's desperation reminder to the clones, "Do not shoot to kill!" I loved the brief glimpse we got of the giant wall monument to the clones who had fallen during the Battle of Geonosis that stood outside the prison complex. It reinforced how dedicated the clone army was to honoring their memories and winning the war that their brothers had helped to launch. It was almost their way of saying to the Jedi, "We clones will have the Republic's back in this war, as we have from Day One. What will YOU be doing?"

Commander Fox's eagerness to believe that Ahsoka murdered Letta suggested that such a belief fit nicely with his overall view of the Jedi. After all, in a galaxy of telekinetic super-powered beings, it couldn't have seemed impossible to a neutral observer that Ahsoka was innocent and that someone else really had been nearby to frame her. Fox clearly was not thinking outside the box or using the creativity that all command-level clones were expected to possess. Why not? Was it because, as I have suggested, this conformed to his expectations about the Jedi? For that matter, how many other clone commanders similarly resent serving the Jedi or view them as holier-than-thou ne'er-do-wells? We are beginning to see a context for Order 66 that does not rely as extensively or exclusively on "brainwashing" to explain the clones' behavior as many existing theories do.

Perhaps no moment better summarizes this episode's disturbing parallels than the message that Captain Rex broadcasts to all prison security forces following Ahsoka's escape: "General Skywalker has just issued an all-points bulletin on Commander Ahsoka Tano. She's killed three clones and should be considered armed and dangerous." "The Jedi Who Knew Too Much" not only set in motion a fundamental shift in Ahsoka's character, but it also laid the groundwork for serious and ultimately irreconcilable tensions between the Jedi and the clones. With the end of the war and the initiation of Order 66 just beyond the horizon, The Clone Wars is right to begin exploring these issues in this kind of depth. By keeping the focus of on Ahsoka, this episode was able to address two strong themes with equally brilliant results. Just it will have fans wondering "What happens to Ahsoka?" it will also have fans questioning the psychology of the clone response to Order 66 and the extent to which Chancellor Palpatine really had to convince his soldiers to turn on their former commanders.


-------------------------------------

You can find all of my TCW episode reviews on TFN's review index page.


Related Stories

February 23, 2013   TFN TCW Review: To Catch a Jedi
February 21, 2013   Preview TCW: "To Catch A Jedi"
February 16, 2013   Leland Chee's TCW Chronology Breakdown Part #8
February 12, 2013   Preview TCW: "The Jedi Who Knew Too Much"
February 9, 2013   TFN TCW Review: Sabotage
February 7, 2013   New TCW Trailer Spells Trouble For Ahsoka





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