Saturday, January 22, 2011

Star Wars: The Clone Wars - "Monster"

Spoiler Level: High

I'm going to review this episode in two ways:  First, on its own merits as a stand-alone episode in a stand-alone TV series based on six movies; and secondly, in a sort of silly high-pitched whine as a nit-picky fanboy who has spent a good deal of time in the "Expanded Universe."

This episode continues the story arc of Count Dooku and the Nightsisters of Dathomir, as Dooku comes to them for a new replacement.  They direct him towards the tribe of men on the other side of the planet, saying this is where Darth Maul came from, and that they can provide him with another assassin of Maul's proficiency.  It's all part of a trap, of course; the Nightsisters of Dathomir are still out for revenge against Dooku for betraying Ventress, so they send Ventress to bring back this replacement.  So we see a tribe full of Nightbrothers, aliens all the same species as Darth Maul, some red but most of them yellowish-orange.  There are absolutely no women there, so the implication is they've split their species in half.  The Nightbrothers are aggressive but honorable, and totally ruled by the Nightsisters.  As Ventress tries to weed out which one is strongest, we meet Savage (pronounced "Sah-VAHGE") Opress, who is ultimately chosen.  He's tough, an excellent fighter, yet he also cares for his brother.  It's easy to see how Darth Maul could have come from a place like this, and it all fits quite nicely with what we've seen before.  It's also heartbreaking to watch the Nightsisters wring all his compassion out of him to turn him into a true monster, ready to be handed over to Count Dooku.

Now, the show works fine if you stop there.  But this is Star Wars-- we can never just stop there. See, according to the Star Wars: Legacy comics, the tribal tattoos are a Sith thing, not a Zabrak thing.  Oh, and I suppose Nightbrothers can cover multiple species, but Maul was always said to have been a Zabrak, and that the Zabraks come from Iridonia.

 Ahh, but never fear, it's the episode guide to the rescue!  Zabraks have colonized lots of planets.  Okay, I'll buy that.  Many artists and writers have assumed that Maul's tattoos were Sith, but they're actually more of a warrior thing.  Hmm.  Okay, I suppose that'll fit. But... well...

...I think it's become pretty obvious that the makers of the show are simply trying to make a good show based on what they know-- the six Star Wars movies.  The writers don't necessarily have links to wookieepedia fused into their word processors, and they're probably working under production deadlines or something inexcusable like that.

Which would also be fine if, y'know, Star Wars treated its properties like everyone else treats theirs-- film trumps print.  But no, in Star Wars, it ALL has to be canon.  So what appears to be happening is after the episode is completed, its thrown to the staff, who then get the apologist work of trying to find ways to make it all fit together.

Really, it's absolutely no plastic off of my nose (as 2-XL used to say) if Darth Maul got his tattoos as a Nightbrother warrior, in a Sith ritual, or if he just went out on a drinking binge on Coruscant one night and woke the next morning going "what the--?!?" And while I admire Lucas's staff trying so hard to come up with reasons why it all still works together, the bigger the Star Wars universe gets the harder it's going to be to keep doing this.  I enjoy reading the episode guide for inside views on points I didn't catch and such, but I really think they're making it harder on themselves by not simply declaring that only the films are canon and everything else is just for fun.

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