The Nightsisters of Dathomir have Dooku just where they want him. He is accepting their help, and he has no idea that they are plotting his downfall. They just have to find the right warrior to set up at Dooku's side. Enter Savage Opress. Episode 13 of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Monster, explores the creation of a villain.
Count Dooku travels to misty Dathomir to take advantage of Clan Mother Talzin's offer to help him find a new apprentice. He hints that they have a past of some kind, and she is helping because she owes him. Dooku uses the opportunity to ask the Nightsisters to pledge loyalty to the Separatists. Talzin points out that the sisters are loyal only to each other. Dooku abandons the question and instead discusses the issue at hand with Talzin over a mystically created beverage. Talzin brings up the Sith Lord Darth Maul. As it turns out, some of his bloodline remains among his brothers on Dathomir. The Clan Mother offers to provide one of these warriors to Dooku. He needs a new assassin as fast as possible; he accepts the offer.
Talzin tells a skeptical Ventress about the plan. She sneers at the idea of Dooku taking a “barbarian” as his apprentice. But the chosen Zabrak will be loyal to her, not Dooku. She will have a pawn, but she must choose the best fighter first. Ventress travels to the far side of Dathomir to find the best candidate for the position. She is greeted reluctantly by the Zabrak. The leaders of several tribes gathered for the selection. After weeding out a few unworthy options, she announces that there will be three tests in an arena to determine the final choice.
As the first trial begins, the candidates stand in a circle around Ventress. Each one nervously practices while keeping an eye on the Nightsister. Two Zabrak brothers seem to show particular concern for each other. The first trial begins with a clap from the clan leader. They attack Ventress from all sides, but she kills more than a couple of them. She is not impressed and calls out their weakness. The arena lights are dimmed for the second trial. Ventress points out that in order to fight the force, “you must see what cannot be seen.” The candidates have to use all of their senses to survive. Besides the obvious reason for the test, this also shows if anyone has any strength with the Force. They dodge Ventress under the starry crimson sky of Dathomir. Their glowing eyes sparkle across the arena. Two of the remaining four warriors fall quickly. At the end of the test, Feral and Savage remain.
The third trial pits the two Zabraks against Ventress and each other. To make it even more challenging, columns are rising and falling throughout the arena. The brothers try to stick together, but Feral goes astray. When Ventress corners him, Savage fights to protect him and asks for mercy. He offers his allegiance and life as a trade for Feral's survival. In a surprising move, she accedes and lets Feral go. Savage and Ventress engage in a fast-paced fight. He's a good match but not good enough. Savage pledges his life to Ventress. He boards her transport with a look of resignation.
Mother Talzin approves of the male specimen that Ventress has chosen. Savage is too young though. He needs to be as impressive as possible to Dooku, so the Nightsisters perform a ritual. They chant over the Zabrak, and he matures at a rate that cannot be healthy. They change more than his physical appearance. When he laid down, he was a Zabrak with feelings and ties. When he arises from the table, he is a monster. As soon as his eyes open, he reaches up and tries to choke Ventress. She quietens him with a command, and you can see the brainwashed response in his eyes. The sisters require one more test. They drag Feral in front of Savage and order him to kill his brother. He hesitates but with a slap of encourage from Ventress, he ferociously strangles his brother.
Since he passed the test, Talzin delivers Savage Opress to Count Dooku. He is formidable; Dooku calls him “a sight to behold.” Still, it's not enough just to have the word of the Nightsisters that Savage is skilled. Dooku sends his new assassin to Devaron to seize a temple that serves as a front for Republic military operations. The Separatists need to gain control there to take over that part of the galaxy. A fierce fight is already underway when Savage arrives. He wastes no time assessing the situation and blindly runs through slashing droids and troopers alike with his Dathomir made weapon. When he has fought his way to the entrance of the temple, he encounters and kills his first Jedi. He earns Dooku's praise with the swift victory. Dooku is so impressed that he's already making plans for Savage's future. He will teach him the ways of the dark side of the Force; eventually, they will rule the galaxy together.
Trivia & Notes
Clancy Brown voices Savage Opress. He is a prolific actor, but his most recognized voice role may be Mr. Krabs in SpongeBob SquarePants.Dathomir is not the only home of the Zabrak species. They can be found on different planets throughout the galaxy, and originate from Iridonia.