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TFN TCW Review: The Wrong Jedi

Posted By Eric on March 2, 2013

The Clone Wars Season 5 Episode 20: The Wrong Jedi

How to describe The Clone Wars Season Five's final episode? Brilliant. Heart-rending. Strong. Troubling. So many words, all of them insufficient. Ahsoka Tano's story may not be over, but her life as a Jedi certainly is. The events that led her to put that life behind her were both disturbing on many levels and painful to watch, with consequences for not just Ahsoka but also Anakin Skywalker and the entire Jedi Order. Whether or not "The Wrong Jedi" is the series finale, the team behind The Clone Wars can take heart: they produced a stunning episode of television that brought into focus the impact that Ahsoka Tano has had on the Star Wars saga.

The folly of the Jedi Council was more apparent in this episode than in any prior installment of The Clone Wars. Yoda began by emphasizing to Admiral Tarkin that the Jedi Order wanted a fair trial for Ahsoka, in accordance with "Jedi tradition." Yet when Tarkin scoffed at the idea of leaving things in the Council's hands, Yoda barely put up a fight. He merely looked warily at Tarkin as the Republic military officer laid out the Galactic Senate's position. Next it was Mace's turn to confront Tarkin. Exquisitely subtle strains of the Imperial March played as the Jedi addressed the admiral, stressing that the Council would decide how to proceed with Ahsoka. This was a bold move -- a reminder to Tarkin that the Order technically had jurisdiction over the young Togruta. Unfortunately, this only served to emphasize how embarrassingly timid the Council had become when they made the decision to comply with what was nothing more than a request.

Despite Obi-Wan's protestations (which must have been due in part to a concern about Anakin's reaction), the Council gave in to the Senate's wishes. They were worried that declining Tarkin's suggestion would make it look like they were opposing the Senate. Perhaps so. In any event, the Council had sacrificed one of their own to save their reputation and their standing within the government. This cowardly act was one of the most disturbing signs yet of the Order's imminent demise. These wisest, most honorable, most careful Jedi Masters had just abandoned one of their children to save themselves, setting a dangerous precedent for future intergovernmental conflicts.

Overall, this episode was a giant reminder of the fact that moral comprise and ideological complacency was infecting the Jedi Order just as surely as it was infecting the Senate. The Council's decision to throw Ahsoka to the wolves was the biggest component. Another example was the use of Jedi guards for the proceedings within the Temple. The Council didn't trust Anakin to keep Ahsoka in line when the two of them were brought to the Chamber of Judgment. Indeed, they didn't even trust Anakin to behave himself. Maybe the masked guards were a necessary precaution. Maybe they weren't. Either way, the guards symbolized the need to enforce discipline and compliance even within the hallowed halls of the Temple. They were a sign of the Council's recognition of its own potential weakness: Not all Jedi will go along with the Council's wishes voluntarily. Perhaps they were even worried about a full-on schism. In any event, these guards were another indication of the problems plaguing the Order.

At the end of the episode, with Ahsoka's name cleared, the Council tried to undo its mistake. At a private gathering of Ahsoka, Anakin, and several members of the Council, we saw the culmination of their ill-advised antagonism toward Ahsoka. After Anakin and Plo Koon apologized to the young former Padawan, Mace stepped up and effectively ruined the moment. "This was actually your greatest trial," Mace said. "Now we see that." He went on to talk about the Force working in mysterious ways. I almost couldn't believe it. He was blaming the Council's wrongheadedness on the will of the Force, putting too much faith in that energy field as a determinant of their attitudes. Immediately after apologizing to Ahsoka, the Council was shifting the blame to the Force itself.

If the Council was bafflingly irresponsible in their conduct toward Ahsoka, the Republic Senate, in its trial of Ahsoka, was even worse. No one was more offensive than Tarkin. He clearly relished prosecuting Ahsoka. He wanted to hurt the Jedi, and he knew he could do it by hurting one of them. This antagonism went beyond schadenfreude. Tarkin even asked that the assembled senators consider the death penalty for the teenager who stood before the court.

This episode benefitted tremendously, albeit in an understated way, from Padm?'s involvement. Ahsoka always considered Padm? a trusted confidant, and in this episode, when she was at her lowest point ever, she looked on Padm? as a friendly face amid the gloom. She smiled when the senator entered her prison cell to prepare for her defense, even as she admitted that she wasn't optimistic about Padm?'s chances of success. Ahsoka ended up judging the atmosphere of the court accurately. Padm? made clear and logical arguments in Ahsoka's defense, much like she did against military escalation in Episode II, but like in that film, her passionate argument fell on deaf ears. The Republic Senate was too corrupt to abandon its preconceived notions.

The centerpiece of the proceedings in Galactic Republic v. Tano was a speech delivered not by either party's advocate, but by the Supreme Chancellor himself. In a carefully, even insidiously worded address, Palpatine made the case that Ahsoka's seeming innocence was just an illusion. As he spoke, it dawned on me what he was doing: he was using Ahsoka's situation to make the case against the entire Jedi Order. By suggesting that Separatists could have infiltrated the Republic via the Jedi Order, he was encouraging people to suspect that any Jedi they see could actually be a saboteur. It was the perfect setup to his speech in Episode III where he revealed a Jedi plot to overthrow the Republic government. In this episode, under the guise of discussing Separatist sabotage of Republic unity, he was actually encouraging people to rethink the importance and honor of the Jedi Order itself. It was a positively chilling speech, due in part to new Palpatine voice actor Tim Curry's laudable performance.

Watching the Council behave irresponsibly toward Ahsoka and then watching the Republic trial in which she was wrongly vilified, I felt indignant on her behalf. But there was actually someone who was more outraged: Anakin Skywalker. Right from his first appearance in this episode, I knew that whatever happened to Ahsoka would weigh extra heavily on Anakin. As he waited with Ahsoka for the Council to address them, he was visibly agitated. A front-line commander and a fierce protector of those about whom he cared, Anakin was beyond frustrated that he couldn't help Ahsoka. He bristled at waiting around while the Council deliberated.

Anakin was never one to handle inaction well, but in this episode, with the very fate of his apprentice hanging in the balance, he was unusually emotional. His sharp reaction to the Council's line of questioning was followed by a shot of Obi-Wan looking acutely worried. He knew what was coming next and he had to know how Anakin would react. When the Council issued its pronouncement stripping Ahsoka of her membership in the Jedi Order, I was disturbed but not at all surprised by the way that Anakin leapt forward as if to physically challenge his superiors. Here, more metaphorical seeds were planted, in this case involving Anakin's festering disapproval of the way the Jedi Council ran their Order and the priorities that they seemed to be following. Watching Anakin bitterly dispute the Council's decision, it was easy to imagine his anger sending him over the edge. Once exploited properly, that anger would fuel Anakin's lightsaber duels with some of these same Jedi, with him clad in darker robes and a darker state of mind.

I enjoyed seeing Anakin investigating the framing of his Padawan on his own, even as I recognized that his having to do so without the Council's support only reinforced his own feelings of isolation and betrayal. He managed to track down Asajj, but in the process of confronting her, he almost let his emotions cloud his judgment. When he thought Asajj was the culprit, he telekinetically (and then physically) choked her. It's a good thing he didn't kill her, though, because her role in this episode was to serve as another catalyst of his lingering frustration with the Jedi Order. At first, Asajj didn't want to have anything to do with Anakin. She told him to "leave me alone," suggesting that she didn't want any part in the Clone Wars anymore and preferred to live under the radar.

When Asajj began cooperating, her words led Anakin to understand both the facts of the case and Ahsoka's state of mind. "My master abandoned me," she told him bluntly, "and that's exactly what you did to her." Anakin was visibly taken aback by the truth of her words. Here he was, a paragon of Jedi virtue, and a former Sith assassin was lecturing him about morality. The irony was even more devastating because of the bitter truth of it all. Anakin couldn't deny that the Order had mistreated Ahsoka. At first, he rejected the idea that Ahsoka was even a little bit like Asajj, but he soon conceded that both were experiencing similar feelings of abandonment and betrayal. This scene -- and the entire episode -- left unstated the implications for Ahsoka's future of this comparison to Asajj, but it's not hard to imagine Ahsoka struggling to contain her resentment and brushing perilously close to the Dark Side.

Anakin's final interactions with Ahsoka in this episode underscored the extent to which her departure from the Order affected and will continue to affect him. After he reiterated to Ahsoka that the Council was asking her back, he personalized it, holding her severed Padawan braid in front of her and saying quietly but powerfully, "I'm asking you back." He was showing her how much he wanted to keep teaching her, how much he valued being her mentor, but he was also showing her a lot of vulnerability. This amount of devotion and emotional investment could not have gone unnoticed by the assembled Masters. Of course, Ahsoka declined the offer and quickly left the Temple. Obi-Wan attempted to stop Anakin from pursuing her, but Plo Koon, who must have been rocked on his heels by the rejection from "little 'soka," restrained his fellow Council member. Plo Koon realized that Anakin needed to confront his former Padawan, because it might be the last time they would ever speak to each other.

No single scene in the history of The Clone Wars brought me closer to tears than the last scene in this episode. The centerpiece of it all was Ahsoka's quiet admission that she knew Anakin's deepest, most damning secret. In a last-ditch attempt to convince Ahsoka to rejoin the Jedi Order, or perhaps as a way of acknowledging (or even sanctioning) the feelings that were driving her away, Anakin said that he understood wanting to leave the Jedi way of life behind. He chose his words carefully, but it was obvious that he was referencing his secret marriage to Padm?. Before striding away for the last time, Ahsoka said simply, "I know." His back still turned to his former Padawan, his mind still reeling from his loss, Anakin realized that Ahsoka cared so much about him that she'd kept his secret this whole time. It was a beautiful moment between mentor and apprentice, and it encapsulated the deep respect and admiration that Ahsoka had for Anakin even as they parted ways.

Speaking of parting ways with the Jedi Order, I have a lot to say about Barriss Offee. First of all, I found it very surprising how far into darkness Barriss had fallen. She tried to convince Anakin that Asajj was the true culprit and thus shouldn't be trusted. However, Anakin was open to all possibilities, not trapped in a rigid ideological prism, and he recognized that Asajj could have been telling him the truth. When dissembling failed, Barriss drew her stolen red lightsabers and remarked, "I think they suit me."

In their subsequent duel, Barriss lasted longer against Anakin than I had expected. Then I realized something: the idea that Barriss could hold her own in a duel with Anakin made sense if we considered the possibility that she had tapped into her anger and drawn on the Dark Side. This explanation was entirely reasonable, but very disturbing. We were now casting aside the theory that Barriss had simply grown disillusioned with the Order in favor of the theory that she had rejected the Light Side itself.

Barriss corroborated this theory when she told Anakin, "I've learned that trust is overrated." She then said that the Jedi only wanted violence. As I watched the two Jedi duel, I tried to figure out from where this attitude could have come. What was the cause of Barriss' sudden change of heart? When Barriss delivered her speech to the Republic Senate, a possibility dawned on me: Darth Sidious.

In her speech, Barriss called the Jedi villains and said that they should be put on trial. Her arguments against the Order went too far, however. The Council, despite helping to lead a war, has tried to preserve peace whenever possible. They may have their priorities wrong (such as preferring the Senate to Ahsoka), but they aren't warmongerers. They despise their role and what it's doing to them. They wanted to go back to being "keepers of the peace, not soldiers." Barriss had clearly fallen far to have her perception that distorted. In fact, her position sounded more like a hyperbolic rant against the Jedi Order than an expos? of its real flaws. All of this leads to me believe that the Dark Lord of the Sith may have had a hand in Barriss' betrayal.

Ahsoka Tano, the young Padawan whose introduction in the middle of 2008 caught fans off guard and angered more than a few of them, completed a long, transformative arc in "The Wrong Jedi" and left me feeling simultaneously sad for and proud of her. This was certainly a trying time for her. As if the first three episodes of this story arc weren't stressful enough, she now had to face the scorn and suspicion of her fellow Jedi. She handled herself well during the Council's fast-paced, interrogatory questioning in the Chamber of Judgment. She only became flustered when Mace basically accused her of lying to the Council. Yoda noted that the Force was "dangerously clouded," and if I were Ahsoka, I wouldn't have been able to stop myself from saying that the cloud was confounding the Council, not me.

Ahsoka looked positively despondent when the Council announced its decision to expel her from the Order, separate her from her home and family, and isolate her from the only community she had ever known. When she confided in Padm? about her sorrow ("I thought I was part of that Order, but everyone except Anakin has abandoned me"), I reflected on the effect that this kind of rejection would have on someone. What does it do to a person when everyone who supposedly cared about them rejects them based on only circumstantial evidence? What does it say about the institution of which those other people (and until recently, the affected individual) are a part?

In some ways, the trial itself and the contempt that the Senate appeared to have for her was only the preface to the real gut-punch that Ahsoka received: watching her best friend admit that she had set her up and committed the crimes. Ahsoka was clearly stunned by this revelation, but after everything else that had happened to her, she didn't have any emotional capacity left. The revelation that Barriss had set her up not only disturbed her; it also helped convince her to take some time to sort out her life. Her entire world had been upended. First her family kicked her out and then one of her best friends betrayed her and everyone she loved.

With the true culprit revealed, Anakin seemed to think that everything was okay now. He smiled at Ahsoka, but, in a sign of things to come, she barely met his smile before looking down. By that point, she had made up her mind to leave, and she was steeling herself against the emotional impact that her decision would have on her former Master. It was as if she were trying to emotionally deaden herself so that she wouldn't have to experience the pain of cutting ties with her devoted mentor and close friend. She knew that she couldn't trust the Council anymore, and because of that, she couldn't operate as part of the Order. In her last interaction with Anakin, she tried to make it clear that her departure wasn't because of him, but while watching this episode, we all knew that he would blame himself for failing her. In a voice choked with emotion, Ahsoka said quietly, "I'm sorry, Master, but I'm not coming back."

As Ahsoka walked away into an uncertain future, the episode faded to black. The mournful music ended on a solemn, powerful note and then transitioned to Ahsoka's Theme for the credits. This marked the first departure from a traditional "outro" sequence in the five-season history of The Clone Wars, and Dave Filoni and his team could not have chosen a better episode to highlight with such a departure. This was without a doubt one of the best episodes of the series, with one of the most powerful endings in all of television. Ashley Eckstein and Matt Lanter brought energy and emotion worth of Emmy Awards to their performances as Ahsoka and Anakin. I want to especially note Ashley's delivery of the line, "I'm sorry, Master, but I'm not coming back." I don't think I've ever heard a voice actor infuse a piece of dialog with so much emotion. It was nothing short of remarkable.

Perhaps more than any of its predecessors, The Clone Wars Season Five ran the gamut of story arcs and took us from one part of the war to another. There were many noteworthy moments, from the triumph of the rebels on Onderon to Darth Sidious' reclamation of his discarded apprentice Maul, but Ahsoka's transformation and her departure from the Jedi Order loom large over all of them. Ahsoka was created for The Clone Wars and is its second most significant character, next to Anakin, on whose actions the future of the entire galaxy will turn. The fact that Ahsoka has only been with us for six years only makes her character development that much more incredible. As Anakin's apprentice, she's faced challenges that no other Padawan could imagine (Mortis, anyone?) and emerged stronger than ever.

Since the beginning of this story arc, I've predicted that Ahsoka would be proven innocent but would choose to leave the Order regardless. There was no way for her to go back to the way things were. She had learned and realized so much since returning to Coruscant to investigate the bombing of the Temple, and she couldn't ignore all of that. Moreover, she wouldn't want to do so. She discovered that her place was no longer among the Jedi, and in an act that forever solidified her status as a strong and impressive Star Wars character, she knew when to let go of that which she had long held dear.

What will the future hold for Ahsoka? Our ability to answer that question depends on whether or not The Clone Wars gets a sixth season. I sincerely hope that it does. I have hoped so since rumors began to circulate about the effect that Disney's acquisition of Lucasfilm would have on the animated series. After seeing "The Wrong Jedi", my hope for the series' renewal has only grown more fervent. Disney would do well to look at online reactions to this episode and to the lingering uncertainty over the show's future. If this is what the end of Season Five did for Star Wars, I can't even begin to imagine what the beginning of Season Six would look like.

If The Clone Wars gets renewed, I'll be right here at TheForce.Net reviewing each and every new episode. If "The Wrong Jedi" ends up serving as the series finale, it has truly been a wild and thrilling ride, and I have thoroughly enjoyed sharing my thoughts every step of the way. In any event, this is the end of my reviews for another season. Thank you all for reading, and may the Force be with you.


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

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February 28, 2013   Tim Curry Joins TCW Cast As Palpatine
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