Heir to the Empire (1991) By Timothy Zahn Book Review

“You’re not the last of the old Jedi, Luke, you’re the first of the new…”

It was the end of the 1980s, an era which many Star Wars fans refer to as “The Dark Times.” There had been precious few Star Wars stories published since the release of Return of the Jedi in 1983, and the future of Star Wars was very much in question. Nevertheless, keen to test audience’s desire for the continuing saga, Lucasfilm hired Timothy Zahn, winner of a 1984 Hugo Award for Best Novella, to write a new Star Wars novel. Would audiences respond to it favorably? Much to the surprise of everyone, Zahn’s Heir to the Empire (1991) became a massive success, reaching #1 on the New York Times bestseller list and effectively launching the Star Wars “Expanded Universe” of books, comics, and other media. It also generated two more books to form the celebrated “Thrawn Trilogy,” a series which many fans regard as the best of the Star Wars litverse, or at least vastly superior to Disney’s sequel film trilogy.

It is five years since the destruction of the second Death Star as featured in Return of the Jedi (1983). There are still lingering echoes of the Empire throughout the galaxy, though they have been pushed back to the distant fringe. However, despite the defeat of the Emperor, the New Republic remains politically fraught, torn by internal divisions on their capital city of Coruscant (Lucasfilm later reused “Coruscant” in the prequel films). There are tensions within the Provisional Council, namely between Admiral Ackbar, Mon Mothma, and a Bothan named Borsk Fey’lya. Many people across the galaxy are dissatisfied with the New Republic –it sends the wrong message for the Council to take up office in the old Imperial Palace on Coruscant. Princess Leia Organa Solo is attempting to keep the fledgling republic intact, while serving as a diplomat to various planets, and slowly learning the ways of the Jedi from her brother, Luke Skywalker. She is also pregnant with twins and relies on support from her assistant, Winter, who has a photographic memory.

Her husband, Han Solo, and his faithful Wookie co-pilot, Chewbacca, travel throughout the galaxy (including to the famous cantina on Tatooine) to help locate smugglers who might be willing to work as legitimate businessmen shepherding necessary supplies for the New Republic. However, Han’s efforts are slow moving as smugglers are reluctant to get involved. On the other hand, Han does learn about a new criminal underworld boss replacing for Jabba the Hutt named Talon Karrde. Meanwhile, Luke Skywalker receives a final vision from Obi-Wan “Ben” Kenobi who says it is his time to move on (“It is the pattern of all life to move on. You, too, will face this journey one day”) but as he departs, Kenobi prophecies that Luke will build new allies and that he is not the last of the old Jedi, but rather he represents the birth of a Jedi Order.

The crux of the novel hinges on the allure of its mercurial villain, Grand Admiral Thrawn, a soft-spoken, blue-skinned, red-eyed Chiss who is renowned for his cold intellectualism. Unlike the impassioned rage of Darth Vader or the Emperor, Thrawn is an eerily calm and calculating tactician who explores culture and art as a means of uncovering his enemy’s weakness. He is “possibly the greatest military mind the Empire had ever seen” (6). Thrawn is the last of the old Imperial Grand Admirals after being sent to the unknown worlds during the Galactic Civil War where he conquered many of the still-barbaric sections of the outer galaxy (in Heir to the Empire Thrawn’s background remains shrouded in mystery). He leads a small but growing fleet of Star Destroyers alongside his associate, Captain Pellaeon, who both fears and respects the Grand Admiral. Interestingly enough, we are given a unique perspective into internal disappointments within the Imperial ranks about the late Emperor:

“There had been many commanders in the Fleet, he knew, who had seen the Emperor’s original Death Star as a blatant attempt to bring the Empire’s vast military power more tightly under his direct control, just as he’d already done with the Empire’s political power. The fact that he’d ignored the battle station’s proven vulnerability and gone ahead with a second Death Star had merely reinforced that suspicion. There would have been few in the Fleet’s upper echelons who would have genuinely mourned its loss… if it hadn’t, in its death throes, taken the Super Star Destroyer Executor with it” (5).

With this in mind, Thrawn stands apart from the flawed Imperial decisions of the past. He represents a new path forward for the revitalization of the Empire. So what is Thrawn hoping to accomplish? Why not simply rule over his distant regions? Reading Thrawn’s mind proves notoriously elusive.

At the helm of a Star Destroyer known as The Chimaera, Thrawn has been masterminding a series of new Imperial attacks on New Republic outposts. Despite having a young and inexperienced crew of conscripts, he uses each attack as an opportunity to better understand his enemy. On Obroa-skai, a planet which holds a strategic position in the borderland region, Thrawn accurately outplays his Elomin opponents by exploiting their only known defense against the classic Marg Sabl closure maneuver. Information learned on Obroa-Skai leads Thrawn first to a jungle planet called Myrkyr which has a native lizard-esque creature called the Ysalamiri (this creature possesses the unusual ability to block and push back the force). Myrkyr is also the seat of Talon Karrde’s underworld operation. After claiming a variety of Ysalamiri, Thrawn heads for the planet Wayland with the information garnered from Obroa-skai. On Wayland he finds a secret Imperial storehouse hidden within Mount Tantiss, guarded by an eccentric “Dark Jedi” with long hair and a long beard named Joruus C’baoth (pronounced “Sub-Bay-Eth”). At first, C’baoth attempts to kill Thrawn and Captain Pellaeon via force lightning, joining hundreds of others he has killed and commemorated with hundreds of candles lining this tomb. However, the Ysalamiri prevent any such force attacks. Surprised, C’baoth agrees to partner with Thrawn in exchange for the last two remaining Jedi –Luke and Leia (and her twins). In return, Thrawn is granted access to the Imperial secrets held within Mount Tantiss, namely rare cloaking technology, and something else far more important…

The idea of recalcitrant “Dark Jedi” is another fascinating addition to the Star Wars lore in this novel. Joruus C’baoth is revealed to be mostly insane, and Thrawn later reveals that C’baoth is actually a clone of the true “Jorus C’baoth” (note the slightly different spelling of his name). The real C’baoth was killed years ago by none other than Thrawn himself while on a mission to colonize the outer galaxy known as Outbound Flight. At any rate, Luke Skywalker begins receiving visions from C’baoth which sends him on a mission back to Dagobah where he locates a strange cylindrical artifact (and C’baoth hopes to lure him to the remote planet of Jomark) but Luke’s X-Wing is attacked by the Thrawn’s vessel and he quickly flees only to end up in a near-death situation where he is suspended in deadspace with no means of communication (interestingly enough, we learn that the Jedi are capable of placing themselves into a trance-like state during these deep-space travels). Luke’s death seems all but certain until he is suddenly rescued by a passing freighter helmed by the gangster Talon Karrde and his associate, Mara Jade –a green-eyed woman with a dark past who carries nothing less than passionate contempt for Luke Skywalker. Luke is then imprisoned at their base on Myrkyr while they discuss his fate –should they sell him to Thrawn? Or could they find a higher price with the New Republic?

Meanwhile, Thrawn has been sending out scores of Noghri assassins to hunt down Princess Leia (his own personal bodyguard is a Noghri named Rukh). She is attacked on several diplomatic missions (in a public market on Bimmisaari as well as on the arid planet of Bpfassh), narrowly escaping both times, thus they head for Nkllon (in the Athega system), a mineral-rich planet with a sun in close proximity to the surface that threatens to vaporize the hulls of ships. The planet has a successful mobile mining operation called “Nomad City” currently operated by none other than Lando Calrissian, but when the Empire suddenly appears again to confiscate the planet’s mining vehicles, Han, Lando, and Chewbacca decide to hide Leia away on Kashyyyk this time –but still the Noghri manage to find her. In time, we learn that the Noghri actually secretly revere Leia as the daughter of Darth Vader because he once saved the Noghri from certain destruction. This fact complicates matters.    

In the end, all parties converge on Myrkyr in a tense stand-off between Talon Karrde and Grand Admiral Thrawn (why does Karrde decline to hand Luke over to Thrawn?) Han, Chewbacca, and Lando arrive to discuss matters with Talon Karrde, while unbeknownst to them, Luke escapes captivity and crashes a stolen ship deep in the jungle where he is followed by Mara Jade. Together with R2-D2, they are forced to venture deep into the jungle filled with lethal Vornskr creatures (Karrde has two pet Vornskr named Drang and Sturm) and Ysalamiri which prevent Luke from using the force. At the same time that Grand Admiral Thrawn makes a surprise appearance under the auspices of obtaining more Ysalamiri, a contingent of his stormtroopers enter into a firefight with Luke, Lando, Han, and Mara Jade. In one of the biggest reveals of the novel, Luke confronts Mara Jade and demands to know why she despises him. As it turns out, Mara Jade was once the Hand of the Emperor, a force-sensitive assassin who served as little more than a “shadow, working outside the normal lines of command and protocol” (404). She was an undercover operative moonlighting as a dancer at Jabba’s Palace on the day that Luke Skywalker arrived in Return of the Jedi. The killing of Jabba and then of the Emperor sent Mara Jade out into the underfringes of the galaxy, a forgotten former Imperial assassin with no connections to her former life. After four and a half years, she has managed to work her way into Talon Karrde’s smuggling ring –and her hated for Luke Skywalker is boundless, though she cannot deny a certain intrigue about him when they finally meet face-to-face…  

This is a world of smugglers, struggling politicians, and the ever-looming threat of an Imperial uprising. There are numerous shadowy characters with potentially traitorous alliances –Talon Karrde, Joruus C’baoth, and Mara Jade –who among them can be trusted? Heir to the Empire ends with a surprise attack by Thrawn’s forces outside the shipyards of Sluis Van, and the heroes accidentally arrive alongside Wedge Antilles of Rogue Squadron where they find the stolen mining ships from Nkllon now hijacking the New Republic vessels, however Lando manages to remotely hack into the ships to accelerate their activities, which destroys a variety of New Republic ships, but in the long run it effectively melts the mining ships. Thrawn acknowledges defeat in the battle and retreats. He is “a true warrior, with his eye set on the final goal and not on his own personal glory” (475) though he plots a forthcoming war. The book ends with a conspiracy in the Provisional Council as Admiral Ackbar has been arrested and accused of treason (Leia returns to Coruscant from Kashyyyk). While the battle at Sluis Van has been won, the future remains very much in question. What is to become of the New Republic? Will Admiral Ackbar be rescued? Will Leia’s twins be born safely? Will Joruus C’baoth seek revenge on Grand Admiral Thrawn for thwarting his plan to lure Luke Skywalker to Jomark? Will Thrawn seek revenge on Talon Karrde for withholding Luke Skywalker? Will Mara Jade let go of old prejudices and give-in to her budding interest in Luke Skywalker?

Heir to the Empire is my first foray into the Star Wars Expanded Universe and I can see why it is considered the genesis for a whole generation of Star Wars literary fans –it is truly the Star Wars sequel story we should have gotten had it not been for Disney’s bungling incompetence. However, in more recent years there have been efforts to subtly reintroduce some of Timothy Zahn’s characters into the new Star Wars “Canon” –including appearances by Grand Admiral Thrawn in Star Wars productions by Dave Filoni, such as Star Wars Rebels.

Zahn, Timothy. Heir to the Empire. Random House, New York, New York (2021). Paperback, Star Wars Essential Legends Collection.

The Clone Wars Season 7: The Final Season (2020) Review

In 2012, The Clone Wars was at its peak –a popular fan favorite show featuring a cohort of beloved characters and intriguing story arcs– until George Lucas decided to retire and sell his company to Disney for $4B. With the absence of George Lucas, the future of Star Wars was anyone’s guess. At the time, Kathleen Kennedy was appointed successor to George Lucas, and her string of hollow corporate business decisions has since become the stuff of legend in the Star Wars fandom. Aside from demolishing the beloved Expanded Universe (now derisively cast aside and known as “Legends”), and canceling the future of The Clone Wars, she rushed into production a trio of terrible sequel movies, which were followed by delays to Disney’s Star Wars theme park and a huge fan backlash to the particularly nasty, divisive tone of The Last Jedi as well as the clumsy script of The Rise of Skywalker. It became apparent that Star Wars was in a downward tailspin. Amidst all this collapsing scenery, Disney was desperately eager to win back some fans. At the time of cancellation, Dave Filoni and the production team for The Clone Wars had over 50 episodes already in pre-production. Sadly, those all disappeared and fans were saddened not to see the show return.

However by 2020, Dave Filoni made a surprise announcement to a contingent of loyal fans –the show had been quietly greenlit by Disney to release 12 new episodes of The Clone Wars, a compromise had been made to release an abbreviated final season. The decision was mostly announced as a way of driving subscriptions to the new streaming service Disney+, but regardless, the Star Wars fanbase was thrilled. Finally, Star Wars might return to the more capable hands of Dave Filoni. And indeed upon its release, Season 7 did not disappoint in the slightest. In particular, the final four episodes are some of the best of the entire Clone Wars series and, indeed, the best of Star Wars. With a transcendent score and impeccable 3-D animation, the cinematic closure offered in Season 7 of The Clone Wars is unparalleled.

Season 7: Episodes One Hundred-Twenty-Two to One Hundred-Twenty-Five The Bad Batch,” “A Distant Echo,” “On the Wings of Keeradaks” and “Unfinished Business”

“Embrace others for their differences, for that makes you whole.”
“The search for truth begins with belief.”
“Survival is one step on the path to living.”
“Trust placed in another is trust earned.”

Rating: 4 out of 5.

In Episodes 122-125 (“The Bad Batch,” “A Distant Echo,” “On the Wings of Keeradaks” “Unfinished Business”) Anakin and Mace Windu defend a Republic shipyard on Anaxes, while Commander Cody and Captain Rex join with experimental clone force 99 (or “The Bad Batch” perhaps dubbed 99 as an homage to the elderly clone earlier in the series named 99) behind enemy lines, meanwhile Rex has a vague suspicion that former trooper Echo is still alive. As it turns out the Separatists have been using Echo for an experiment involving his memory. The troops recover him, a bomb is deactivated, Admiral Trench is involved, and Echo is invited to join the Bad Batch.

Season 7, Episodes One Hundred Twenty-Six to One Hundred Twenty-Nine “Gone with a Trace,” “Deal No Deal,” “Dangerous Debt,” and “Together Again”

“If there is no path before you, create your own.”
“Mistakes are valuable lessons often learned too late.”
“Who you were does not have to define who you are.”
“You can change who you are, but you cannot run from yourself.”

Rating: 3 out of 5.

In Episodes 126-129 (“Gone with a Trace,” “Deal No Deal,” “Dangerous Debt,” and “Together Again”) Ahsoka Tano has left the Jedi Order after she was wrongly suspected of committing a terrorist attack (as featured in Season 6). Now on her own and roaming through lower Coruscant, Ahsoka’s speeder bike breaks down and she befriends a slightly annoying mechanic named Trace Martez to help fix it up. However, it soon becomes apparent that Trace’s sister Rafa owes a gang money, but after working on some malfunctioning droids, Rafa reveals she has hired a pilot and a starship dubbed the Silver Angel for a job to earn some money. Almost immediately, they violate exclusive military space, but Anakin senses Ahsoka’s presence and simply allows the ship to pass. They jump to hyperspace and wind up at the corrupt planet of Kessel where they are greeted by Kinash Lock, King Yaruba’s majordomo and invited to a banquet where they are hired on a test mission to deliver three containers of unrefined spice, however Ahsoka is skeptical. Running spice from Kessel is a dangerous job as transport ships are regularly robbed –there is a great deal money to be made from the spice mines on Kessel. They are set to deliver the shipment of spice to the Pyke Syndicate on Oba Diah, however while they argue over strategy, Trace spontaneously dumps the spice. They attempt a deceitful negotiation with the Pykes, but the trio is imprisoned before they can escape. While in prison, Ahsoka learns their family was harmed by an accident caused by a Jedi chasing Ziro the Hutt (this episode shows the mixed opinions of ordinary people on the Jedi). Ahsoka attempts an escape but they are quickly recaptured by the Pykes. They devise a plot against the Pykes which ultimately leads to Darth Maul on Mandalore. Ahsoka plants explosives throughout the Pyke Syndicates spice operation and escapes with the Martez sisters back to Coruscant where they are followed by former Death Watch assassin Bo-Katan. She requests that Ahsoka join her in the fight against Darth Maul.

Season 7, Episodes One Hundred-Thirty to One Hundred Thirty-Four “Old Friends Not Forgotten,” “The Phantom Apprentice,” “Shattered,” and “Victory and Death”

(There are no quotes for this story arc)

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The next series runs concurrently with the events of Revenge of the Sith.

At last, we arrive at the brilliant final stretch of four episodes in Season 7, Episodes 130-134 (“Old Friends Not Forgotten,” “The Phantom Apprentice,” “Shattered,” and “Victory and Death”). On the distant planet of Yerbana we find Commander Cody of the 212th clone force in desperate need of assistance as the Separatists have launched an offensive along the Outer Rim. The Jedi Council dispatches Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker to help the beleaguered clones, however they receive a transmission from rogue Mandalorian Bo-Katan and Ahsoka Tano regarding the situation with Darth Maul. There is a nice, albeit brief, reuniting of Ahsoka with Anakin, and the clones under Rex deliver a gift to Ahsoka –a painted trooper helmet to look like Ahsoka, and Anakin returns Ahsoka’s duel lightsabers to her. Coruscant is attacked by General Grievous so Ahsoka and Bo-Katan and smaller contingent of clone troopers to battle for Mandalore. During the epic battle, which uses motion capture technology featuring Ray Park who played Maul in The Phantom Menace, Ahsoka is led into a trap by Maul in the network of tunnels in the “Undercity” while Bo-Katan captures Prime Minister Almec. Ahsoka squares off with Maul only to be rescued by a group of clone troopers sending Maul fleeing –but before he leaves he mentions the name of “Darth Sidious” who will soon claim power over the galaxy. Ahsoka brings this back to the Jedi where we learn that Anakin has killed Count Dooku while rescuing the Chancellor and he is currently spying on the Chancellor for the Jedi Council. Maul takes an older ARC trooper named “Jesse” for himself to learn more about the identity of Ahsoka Tano, and then later faces Ahsoka again. He offers to join with Ahsoka and fight Darth Sidious by preventing Anakin from becoming the apprentice of Darth Sidious. However, Ahsoka cannot tolerate this slander so she battles Maul in an impressive lightsaber duel which ends with Maul falling off a building nearly to his death but Ahsoka saves him and the clones capture him. All the while, Maul begins shrieking about their forthcoming doom. Unfortunately, Ahsoka –still distrustful of the Jedi Council– decides not inform them of what Maul said about Anakin Skywalker. Ahsoka and Bo-Katan part ways while Ahsoka travels with Rex back to Coruscant with Maul imprisoned in a giant block known as a Mandalorian Vault, a device which was previously outawed by Duchess Satine but the last one is used for Maul by Bo-Katan. During the transportation, Ahsoka receives a dark force vision that something terrible has happened to Anakin at just the moment that Sidious orders all the clone troopers to execute Order 66. They all begin firing upon Ahsoka but she escapes and frees Maul from his prison cell as a diversion. She then awakens a cohort of droids whose memory banks reveal the malfunctioning clone scandal on Kamino as featured in Season 6. Ahsoka then captures Rex and takes him back to the medical bay and locates the inhibitor chip inside his brain. After removing the ship, Ahsoka and Rex while Maul destroys the ships hyperdrive capabilities. The ship becomes caught in a nearby moon’s gravitational pull. Maul escapes in a ship while Ahsoka and Rex battle endless bands of clones without wanting to kill them. They narrowly escape as the ship comes crashing onto the moon and Ahsoka quietly stands before a line of deceased clone trooper helmets. She drops one of her lightsabers into the dirt. Some time later, perhaps around the time of the events of The Empire Strikes Back, Darth Vader arrives on this now-snowy moon (notified by scout droids) where he spots a clone trooper’s painted helmet alongside Ahsoka’s lightsaber laying in the snow. In this haunting scene, there is no dialogue. Perhaps he remembers the time long ago of The Clone Wars and all the Jedi and troopers who died for the Republic. he pauses and watches a bird creature circling overhead (likely the daughter of Mortis per the lore established earlier in the show, the embodiment of the light who is watching Vader, acknowledging that the balance in the galaxy has shifted). Vader, acknowledging all that he has left behind, then trudges back to his ship, his reflection slowly vanishing from the Ahsoka-colored helmet laying in the snow.

Standouts for me in Season 7:

  • Episodes 130-134 “Old Friends Not Forgotten,” “The Phantom Apprentice,” “Shattered,” and “Victory and Death.”

Return to my survey of the Star Wars series

The Clone Wars Season 6: The Lost Missions (2014) Review

Initially released on Netflix, the fifth season of The Clone Wars was once thought to be the conclusion, however a sixth season of the show was already in production before being abruptly canceled (leaving about half a season worth of story-telling available for release). Disney decided to focus its Star Wars resources elsewhere, much to the dismay of many fans. In a word, the Empire had struck back. Nevertheless, the abbreviated sixth season offers another great collection of Star Wars adventures –this unique show just seems to age like fine wine with each successive season.

Season 6, Episodes One Hundred-Nine to One Hundred-Twelve “The Unknown,” “Conspiracy,” “Fugitive,” and “Orders”

“The truth about yourself is always the hardest to accept.”
“The wise benefit from a second opinion.”
“When in doubt, go to the source.”
“The popular belief isn’t always the correct one.”

Rating: 5 out of 5.

In the first four-part series of Season 6 (“The Unknown,” “Conspiracy,” “Fugitive,” and “Orders”) we are dropped into the battle for Ringo Vinda where Anakin and a band of clone troopers lead the attack. However, one clone trooper named Tup experiences some sort of strange mental break and he kills a Jedi (General Tiplar) by shooting her point blank. While muttering “good soldiers follow orders,” Tup is transported to Kamino for further inquiry, but his transport is intercepted by buzz droids at the behest of Count Dooku. Tup is taken away but Anakin and a pair of clone troopers intercept his Separatist ship and he is redirected by Rex and Fives back to Kamino. Upon arrival, Rex is ordered back to the frontlines while Fives is separately inspected. The Kaminoans secretly attempt to terminate Tup in order to inspect a tiny inhibitor chip placed in each clone, of which Tup’s seems to be malfunctioning, however since Master Syfo Dias has passed away, only the Separatist forces and the Kaminoans, led by Lama Su, are aware of the inhibitor chips. The Kaminoans speak with Lord Tyranos (Count Dooku) who instructs them to terminate the rogue clone, while the Jedi Council instructs General Shaak Ti to retrieve Tup and bring him to the Jedi Temple on Coruscant. With the help of a friendly droid, a secret biopsy is conducted which discovers an odd “tumor” that Chancellor Palpatine requests to have sent to the Grand Republic Medical Facility on Coruscant instead of the Jedi Temple. However, General Shaak Ti sends it to the Jedi Temple, but the Kaminoan medical expert Nala Se switches cases –a plot which only Fives discovers. He commandeers a ship on autopilot as a diversion butt quietly returns to Kamino to investigate the situation. In the Genetic Records Hall, Fives and his droid discover that the “tumor” was implanted inside Tup, likely implanted as an embryo, and Fives asks to have his own chip removed. Shaak Ti orders Fives back to Coruscant but he is shot and killed by Commander Fox before revealing the dark truth about the inhibitor chips implanted inside each clone. Thus ends the last of Domino Squad whom we first met in Season 1.

Season 6, Episodes One Hundred-Thirteen to One Hundred-Fifteen “An Old Friend,” “The Rise of Clovis,” and “Crisis at the Heart”

“To love, is to trust. To trust is to believe.”
“Jealousy is the path to chaos.
“Deceit is the weapon of greed.”

Rating: 4 out of 5.

In “An Old Friend,” “The Rise of Clovis,” and “Crisis at the Heart” Senator Amidala travels to the neutral planet of Scipio for a banking transfer where she encounters an old acquaintance, Clovis, who warns her that the banking clan is on the verge of collapse. They hatch a plot to gain access to the vault where Anakin becomes tied up in a plot involving the Chancellor. He does not trust Clovis who is elected new leader of the banking clan. However, Dooku has been working through Clovis, raising interest rates on the Republic but not the Separatists, and this leads to war on Scipio and ultimately the death of Clovis.

Season 6, Episodes One Hundred-Sixteen and One Hundred-Seventeen “The Disappeared, Part I” and “The Disappeared, Part II”

“Without darkness there cannot be light.”
“Wisdom is born in fools as well as wise men.”

Rating: 2 out of 5.

In “The Disappeared, Part I” and “The Disappeared, Part II” we return to another ridiculous Jar Jar Binks episode alongside Mace Windu on the planet Bardotta. Jar Jar Binks falls in love with Queen Julia of Bardotta but before she can reveal a dark secret to Jar Jar, she is kidnapped by a demonic cult intent on harvesting her life force for a “great mother” –who turns out to be Mother Talzin. This is a bit of a far-fetched tale.

Season 6, Episodes One Hundred-Eighteen to One Hundred-Twenty-One “The Lost One,” “Voices,” “Destiny,” and “Sacrifice”

“What is lost is often found.”
“Madness can sometimes be the path to truth.”
“Death is just the beginning.”
“Facing all that you fear will free you from yourself.”

Rating: 5 out of 5.

In “The Lost One,” “Voices,” “Destiny,” and “Sacrifice” the story begins much like many a classic Star Trek episode. The Republic receives a distress signal from a ship thought to be lost long ago, belonging to Master Sifo Dyas. He was the Jedi who secretly ordered the creation of the clone army on Kamino. He foresaw the coming of a great war and that the Jedi would require an army, however he was later expelled from the Jedi Order for his controversial ideas. He was killed en route to Fellucia to solve a minor dispute and his ship was presumed lost until now. His file has been curiously remained closed by the Chancellor’s office. His ship was found crashed on a moon, and the investigation leads to the Pyke Syndicate. Tyranos paid the Pykes to shoot down Sifo Dyas’s ship, but he was with Silman, former Chancellor Vallorum’s aide. As it turns out the Pykes have been keeping him imprisoned all this time and he has grown insane. However, Count Dooku is dispatched to prevent Silman from revealing too much information –Dooku is revealed to be the elusive Tyranos. Yoda speaks with Qui Gon Jin through the force who tells him to go to Dagobah alone where he will receive a dark vision of the growth of the Sith. Yoda is then sent to one off the points of origin of all life in the galaxy. Lastly, Yoda allows the force guide him to a remote craggy planet, he leaves R2 on the surface and travels into a large volcanic beam of light where he encounters otherworldly beings in order to learn how to manifest himself after death (“Serenity” of the five priestesses). It is the birthplace of midichlorians, a place with a deep connection to the force –Yoda is forced to confront the darkness within himself, as well as an apparition of Count Dooku, Yoda’s former padawan. Yoda is then sent to Moraband where he confronts the tomb of Darth Bane. This leads him on a supernatural quest to discover the identity. of Darth Sidious while he learns to communicate after death.

Here, thanks to Disney, season 6 abruptly ends.

Standouts for me in Season 6:

  • Episodes 109-112 “The Unknown,” “Conspiracy,” “Fugitive,” and “Orders”
  • Episodes 118-121 “The Lost One,” “Voices,” “Destiny,” and “Sacrifice”

Return to my survey of the Star Wars series

The Clone Wars Season 5 (2012-2013) Review

The fifth season offers another terrific installment of The Clone Wars. Narratively, it is bookended by the rise and fall of Darth Maul as he claims the darksaber, takes control of the planet Mandalore, and is appointed leader of the rogue Death Watch squad of assassins. Season 5 concludes with a memorable finale as Ahsoka Tano is wrongly accused of being a terrorist by the Jedi Council. She is forced to choose whether or not she will continue along the path of a padawan, especially if the Jedi Council distrusts her. This season gives a much better perspective on how/why the Jedi Council have lost the faith and trust of citizens throughout the Galactic Republic.

Season 5, Episode Eighty-Nine “Revival”

“Strength of character can defeat strength in numbers.”

Rating: 5 out of 5.

In the Season 5 opener “Revival,” Darth Maul and his brother Savage Opress return as they attack an intergalactic vessel –we learn that Maul has grown very powerful, and Opress is now his apprentice. Obi-Wan Kenobi and Jedi Master Adi Gallia track Maul and Opress to a band of pirates led by Hondo, and they are able to persuade Hondo to join their side. During the battle, Adi Gallia is tragically killed by Opress. Obi-Wan then claims her fallen lightsaber and battles both brothers, wounding Opress by slicing his arm. Then Hondo’s men chase the brothers and shoot out Maul’s legs again. The badly wounded Zabrack brothers try to escape, but Hondo’s men shoot down the ship in a nearby desert. But upon inspecting the crash site, Obi-Wan finds it is empty –where did Maul and Opress go? At the end, Chancellor Palpatine instructs Obi-Wan not to pursue Darth Maul. The Jedi Council fears the underworld has grown too bold while the Jedi have perhaps been overly focused on the Clone Wars.

Season 5, Episodes Ninety to Ninety-Three “A War on Two Fronts,” “Front Runners,” “The Soft War,” and “Tipping Points”

“Fear is a malleable weapon.”
“To seek something is to believe in its possibility.”
“Struggles often begin and end with the truth.”

“Disobedience is a demand for change.”

Rating: 4 out of 5.

In the next four-part series (“A War on Two Fronts,” “Front Runners,” “The Soft War,” and “Tipping Points”) we trace the fall of Onderon to the Separatists under the rule of a new king, King Rash. There is an interesting debate among the Republic leaders about the ethics of supporting a rebel group to overthrow the government. Ahsoka is placed in charge. Lux Bonteri reappears after his dramatic departure from Ahsoka in the previous season (their subtle romantic connection is again alluded to), and we also meet a young Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker) for the first time, and his sister, Steela, who is elected to lead the rebels from within. She and Lux also have some sort of romantic affinity it seems. The Jedi infiltrate the city of Iziz where they engage in a prolonged battle with enemy droids while inspiring an insurgency, in an effort to reclaim the planet for the Republic and restore the elderly King Dendup. It is another case of a planetary ruler seeking neutrality only to fall prey to the Separatists. There are several moments in this series when King Rash could have easily been captured or assassinated by the rebels and/or Ahsoka. Why did they not take action? At any rate, Dooku escalates the crackdown on the rebels on Onderon, which leads Ahsoka to beg for help from the Jedi Council, but instead Anakin develops a ploy with the pirate Hondo to provide supplies. Sadly, Steela dies in a cliffside accident, and her brother Saw blames himself. In the end, Count Dooku decides a prolonged war on Onderon is not in his interest. He instructs his droids to kill King Rash as Dendup is reinstated as King and Lux is appointed the planetary representative. Despite his prior hesitations, he decides to follow in his mother’s footsteps and join the Republic.

Season 5, Episodes Ninety-Four to Ninety-Seven “The Gathering,” “A Test of Strength,” “Bound for Rescue,” and “A Necessary Bond”

“He who faces himself, finds himself.”
“The young are often underestimated.”
“When we rescue others, we rescue ourselves.”
“Choose your enemies wisely, as they may be your last hope.”

Rating: 4 out of 5.

In the next four-part series (“The Gathering,” “A Test of Strength,” “Bound for Rescue,” and “A Necessary Bond”) Ahsoka and Yoda take a group of younglings to an ancient Jedi temple inside a cave on the snowy planet of Ilum to perform a Jedi rite of passage called “The Gathering”, where they must quickly overcome an internal fear in order to harvest their own particular Kyber crystal and begin constructing their own lightsabers. This episode offers a bit of fascinating lore to the lightsaber mythos. However, while returning to Coruscant, the group is attacked by the pirate Hondo while Ahsoka and the younglings force the pirates off their ship, however in a last-minute accident, Ahsoka is captured by the pirates. The younglings are left alone to commandeer their ship, The Crucible. While Obi-Wan is surprised and over-run by the Separatists, the Younglings stage a rescue of Ahsoka by posing as circus actors. However, the planet Florrum is soon invaded by General Grievous and the younglings are forced to negotiate with the pirates to fight together against the Separatists (Count Dooku was intending to punish Hondo for capturing him and planning to sell him to the highest bidder). The younglings and pirates narrowly escape with Hondo returning them to the Republic forces.

Season 5, Episodes Ninety-Eight to One Hundred-One “Secret Weapons,” “A Sunny Day in the Void,” “Missing in Action,” and “Point of No Return”

“Humility is the only defense against humiliation.”
“When all seems hopeless, a true hero gives hope.”
“A soldier’s most powerful weapon is courage.”
“You must trust in others or success is impossible.”

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The next four-part series is a bit farcical (“Secret Weapons,” “A Sunny Day in the Void,” “Missing in Action,” and “Point of No Return”). A team of Republic droids including R2-D2 is led by slug-like Colonel Meebur Gascon on a top secret mission to invade a Separatist dreadnought and recover an encryption module, however en route back to Coruscant, they encounter an asteroid belt that damages the ship, sending it rocketing down to a desolate planet called Abafar –information on the planet is “void” per the droid’s memory banks. After experiencing delusions, they soon encounter a herd of ostrich-like creatures who lead them to a remote facility in the void. Here, they meet a renegade clone trooper named Gregor who has been stuck on this void, as well. They help him escape from his servitude as a diner employee to an odd character named Borkus. Next, they gather themselves and sabotage the Separatist facility while Captain Gregor remains behind and sacrifices himself so Colonel Gascon and the droid “D-Squad” can escape. However, when they return to a Republic ship it turns out that it is hijacked by Separatists and the entire ship has actually been retrofitted into a bomb –it is headed straight for a large Republic conference! Thankfully, they manage to avert disaster by detonating the ship and escaping in a pod which returns them safely to the Republic.

Season 5, Episodes One Hundred-Two to One Hundred-Four “Eminence,” “Shades of Reason,” and “The Lawless”

“One vision can have many interpretations.”
“Alliances can stall true intentions.”
“Morality separates heroes from villains.”

Rating: 5 out of 5.

At last, we return to Darth Maul and Savage Opress (“Eminence,” “Shades of Reason,” and “The Lawless”). Floating through space in their cold ship, barely alive, they are rescued by the Death Watch –the rogue band of Mandalorians led by Pre Vizsla who believe they are the inheritors of the true warrior tradition of Mandalore, unlike the Duchess Satine who has betrayed the warriors ethos with her preference for pacifism. The brothers and Death Watch form an alliance with other crime syndicates including the Black Sun (who provide an army only after Maul and Opress behead the Back Sun’s leaders), spice traders known as the Pyke Syndicate, and then to Nal Hutta where they slaughter a contingent of bounty hunters hired by the Hutts, and then to Jabba’s Palace on Tatooine where they takeover the Hutt’s criminal underworld supply chains. However, the relationship between the brothers and Death Watch is uneasy. Maul wants vengeance on Obi-Wan Kenobi, but he pretends to be building a vast criminal empire, while Death Watch merely hopes to assassinate Duchess Satine and reclaim Mandalore. Regardless, the uneasy alliance attacks a base on the Mandalorian capital of Sundari and they stage a coup in which it seems as if the Death Watch has saved Mandalore. The Duchess is imprisoned beside Almec whom she previously imprisoned for corruption. When Maul and Opress are betrayed by Vizsla, they easily escape confinement, and Maul challenges Vizsla to a duel –one of the best in the series as Maul’s raw power is pitted against Vizsla’s dark saber. In the end, Maul succeeds. He claims the dark saber for himself and beheads Vizsla, thereby claiming Mandalore and the loyalty of the Death Watch, according to rigid Mandalorian traditions. Almec is instated as Prime Minister and Bo-Katan (Katee Sackhoff) escapes with a couple recalcitrant Death Watch soldiers who refuse to bow the knee to Darth Maul. Duchess Satine issues a plea for help to her former lover Obi-Wan Kenobi who, despite the Jedi Council’s decision, travels undercover as a Mandalorian to rescue Duchess Satine but they are captured by Maul and his forces. Then, in a shockingly gruesome turn of events, Darth Maul executes Duchess Satine right in front of him. A despondent Kenobi is led away to imprisonment but he is rescued by Bo-Katan who is revealed to be the late Dduchess Satine’s sister. This brilliant and dark series ends as Chancellor Palpatine/Darth Sidious arrives and decides to fight both Maul and Opress, claiming they are now “rivals.” Duel-wielding lightsabers, Darth Sidious executes Savage Opress –reminding Maul that the rule of the Sith is that there can only be two, and Maul has been replaced. With Darth Sidious’s two lightsabers, and Maul wielding both a lightsaber and the dark saber, Sidious defeats Maul but decides not to kill him, instead preferring to cause him great pain using force lightning. He will be kept alive for other reasons as yet undetermined…

Season 5, Episodes One Hundred-Five to One Hundred-Eight “Sabotage,” “The Jedi Who Knew Too Much,” “To Catch a Jedi,” and “The Wrong Jedi”

“Sometimes even the smallest doubt can shake the greatest belief.”
“Courage begins by trusting oneself.”
“Never become desperate enough to trust the untrustworthy.”
“Never give up hope, no matter how dark things seem.”

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Amazingly, the previous group of episodes was not the season finale! In the concluding four-part series (“Sabotage,” “The Jedi Who Knew Too Much,” “To Catch a Jedi,” and “The Wrong Jedi”) Ahsoka Tano rescues Anakin from a crisis on Cato Neimoidia which nearly kills him. Then, they are both called back to Coruscant by Yoda because the Jedi Temple has been bombed by a terrorist. This leads to a dark plot involving nano-droids placed into the bloodstream of a munitions expert named Jackar whose wife Letta was involved. Letta is then imprisoned but she is only wiling to speak to Ahsoka Tano. But when Ahsoka arrives, Letta claims she was forced to commit the bomb plot by an unnamed Jedi. Before she can finish saying who initiated the bombing, Letta is mysteriously force choked to death and Ahsoka is framed for Letta’s murder. Admiral Tarkin arrests Ahsoka and then an elaborate escape effort is staged for Ahsoka so that is looks as if she has murdered several clone troopers. She flees desperately through the sewers –knowing she is innocent– and she leaps to freedom after Anakin fails to persuade her. to return to make her case before the Jedi Council. Ahsoka feels as if she can trust no one. Who has framed Ahsoka? She trades for a cloak off a drunken homeless goat-like creature on the streets of Coruscant and communicates with her friend Barriss to help solve this mystery. Ahsoka is chased all over the city by the police as she is a wanted criminal. Suddenly, she bumps into Asajj Ventress working as a bounty hunter. This leads to a clue in an abandoned warehouse in which Ahsoka faces off with a mysterious Jedi. During the fight, Ahsoka is sent crashing down into a collection of nano-droids at just the moment that clone troops arrive to arrest her. Ahsoka is then imprisoned and brought before the Jedi Council for questioning. She is then found guilty of sedition and officially expelled from the Jedi Order. Ahsoka is handed over to Admiral Tarkin and the Senate for a tribunal (Padme volunteers to represent her). The court is about to read Ahsoka’s conviction when Anakin bursts into the room to reveal the true perpetrator –Ahsoka’s friend, Barriss, who has come to believe the Jedi are warmongers and the war is a great crime as the republic seems to e descending into a tyranny. In a tearful ending, feeling betrayed and isolated, Ahsoka decides to leave the Jedi Order.

Standouts for me in Season 5:

  • Episode 89 “Revival”
  • Episodes 102-104 “Eminence,” “Shades of Reason,” and “The Lawless”
  • Episodes 105-108 “Sabotage,” “The Jedi Who Knew Too Much,” “To Catch a Jedi,” and “The Wrong Jedi”

Return to my survey of the Star Wars series