The subtitle for Season Three has always been a curious thing to me. Secrets Revealed. It didn't make much sense. But as we get into the second half of Season Three, not only does the subtitle make sense, I can't imagine why it would be called anything else.
After the revelations about Darth Maul last week, I wasn't sure how I could be more pleasantly surprised going into this episode. That they would be exploring the prophecy of The Chosen One has been teased since the very first press release about the season and I've been trying hard to keep my expectations low but it didn't really matter. This episode blew away all of my expectations and brought me near geeky tears more than once.
The best way to describe this episode is that they've set an entire three-episode arc of The Clone Wars in the domain of evil from The Empire Strikes Back. Things aren't what they seem. Voices and echoes permeate the surroundings. Bizarre apparitions appear based on the notions and emotions the characters bring with them. The possibilities of the future are foretold and it's all akin to a religious experience.
Anakin, Ahsoka, and Obi-Wan are sent out to investigate a 2,000 year old Jedi distress signal and arrive at a rendezvous point but nothing is there. I have to note that the ship cockpit, the dialogue, and the lighting all lend itself to feel very much like the scenes in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon in A New Hope. Confusion sets in when a bright light sucks them into the force nexus and the scene cuts to a close up of Anakin's face, unconscious. Perhaps it was just me, but in that shot specifically, I was reminded of his son, Luke.
The three of them arise, wondering what the planet is all about when they are met by a strange, angelic apparition who introduces herself only as Daughter. She leads our Jedi heroes into a bit of a trap, separating them before the dangerous nightfall. Anakin is forced to seek out shelter in a monastery and Anakin and Ahsoka seek shelter in a cave (much like the Domain of Evil from Empire) together.
The night brings visions to our heroes. First, Obi-Wan is visited upon by Qui-Gon Jinn (voiced by Liam Neeson, reprising his role) who speaks cryptically as ever about the future and the past and the possibilities that lie in the fate of The Chosen One. Ahsoka is visited by her future-self and is told that if she wishes to see her future she needs be taught by Anakin no longer.
Finally, Anakin is visited upon by a vision of his mother. Shmi Skywalker. (With Pernilla August reprising the role as well.) This scene was instantly heartbreaking. There isn't one specific thing that played so much on my heart strings other than the pain on Anakin's face and in his voice and the soothing tones of his mothers voice. It was a sad scene but descended further and further into being frightful.
This episode deals very much with the pain of guilt and how Anakin is letting it shape him. He's carrying around the guilt of his mother's loss and the subsequent slaughter of the Tusken Raiders like a ton of bricks and it weighs him down, preventing him from being what he can be. And it's incredible to watch these normally internalized issues play out.
But soon, the old man (known as Father) agrees to let Anakin, Obi-Wan and Ahsoka off the planet if Anakin agrees to a test to see if he's truly The Chosen One. He agrees and the Son and Daughter arrive in the form of giant winged creatures with Obi-Wan and Ahsoka gripped in their lethal talons. And Anakin is given a choice. He must choose which to save, his master, or his apprentice. Only The Chosen One can possibly save them both. And he does it. Through the strength and trust in the force and with a seeming hint of anger and fear of loss Anakin is able to subdue both the Son and the Daughter simultaneously and forces them to bow at his knees.
For the first time, I felt that the balance of the force in Anakin in this point of his life is that he can balance the light and the dark like no one else, but his Achilles heel is the fear of loss. He can do tremendous, powerful, sometimes horrible things, but for the most part (until his fall) he is able to keep the unchecked powers of light and dark within his body and soul.
And the Father confides in Anakin that his role as The Chosen One is to replace him. He is dying and it is Anakin's destiny to make a choice. He can keep the nexus of light and dark in balance and keep the Son and Daughter in check because he is The Chosen One, or he can choose the path of selfishness and his corporeal life to what will be his eventual ruin.
The prophecy of The Chosen One has never made more sense on a variety of levels.
This episode was incredible. On every level. The mythology of Star Wars was advanced. Secrets were indeed revealed. The animation and new models were second to none. The spirit of Star Wars was raised indelibly. The lighting (particularly of the Yin and Yang of the arena floor and the transitions from day to night and back again) was astounding. The voice work from all of the actors, particularly Matt Lanter, has never been better.
The music and audio was also second to none. There were hints of themes from The Phantom Menace and The Empire Strikes Back in the music, and there was that one tell-tale breath of Darth Vader that chilled me to the bone.
Every element of this episode was firing on all cylinders.
As much as I loved last weeks episode and thought that it tied 'Assassin' for my favorite episode this season, this episode far surpassed it. I'm going to be watching this one again and again.
It's sad and terrifying and tremendous.
Words are escaping me. But this is what Star Wars is all about.
And this is just the first episode of three. If this is just a taste of what's to come, I can't believe what we'll be getting in the next two episodes.