Clone Wars Weekly: Focusing on the Women

Clone Wars: Focusing on the Women

It's time for the women of Clone Wars to get the spotlight.

The previous episode of Clone Wars, “Bom-Bad Jedi,” ended with, of all things, Jar Jar Binks saving the day and capturing Viceroy Gunray. In last week’s column, we interviewed Paul Dini. He wrote “Cloak of Darkness,” the new episode airing tonight at 9:00 p.m. eastern (preview here).

“Cloak” starts up where “Bom-Bad” left off. The Jedi want to get Gunray (Tom Kenny) to a safe house where they can interrogate them at their leisure. To do this, they have assembled a special escort headed by the Jedi Luminara (voiced by Olivia D’Abo), Ahsoka (Ashley Eckstein) and the clone trooper Rex (Dee Bradley Baker).

That doesn’t mean the trip’s going to be easy. Count Douku (Corey Burton) sent assassin Asajj Ventress (Nika Futterman) out to stop them. He’s also given Ventress one special instruction, based on her past failures she must succeed, or die.

That doesn’t mean this is all going on in this episode. If one cares to notice, the bulk of the key players this episode are female. Yes, Rex and Gunray are factors, but the focus is on Ahsoka, Luminara and Ventress. Anakin and Yoda only do short cameos. Obi-Wan isn’t on screen at all.

Then again, the SW Universe always liked tough, smart women. Audiences saw women hold their own when Princess Leia stood up to Darth Vader in A New Hope’s opening scene. She went on to greet Luke Skywalker with the quip, “Aren’t you a little short for a stormtrooper?” Ahsoka is the middle bridge between the line that starts with Padme and goes on to Leia.

“We needed a character who could add the dynamic that a ‘student’ brings to the story, and that’s when we came up with the idea of Ahoska,” George Lucas said at a press conference last summer. “I had always wanted to explore the idea of a padawan for Anakin, but didn’t have time in the live-action movies. We bounced back and forth on a lot of ideas about her…would she be human or alien, male or female? We thought a girl would be just more fun to have in the story, and Ahsoka takes on that role of the younger person who is being taught, which is vital to the Star Wars movies.”

Another point of this episode is to measure Ahsoka up against some other women in the SW Universe. The interesting point is “Cloak” didn’t continue to employ Padme, who was prominently featured in “Bom-Bad.” Instead they brought in Luminara, a Jedi more in line with Obi-Wan or Yoda.

“It was interesting to take Ahsoka, who plays by her own rules, and put her under the tutelage of a more established Jedi,” Dini says. “She can’t get around Luminara the way she plays with Anakin and Obi-Wan. It’s not just their generational difference, it’s a difference in methods – Luminara is very much by the book, and expects any padawan to follow the rules. Ahsoka grabs a lightsaber and runs into battle, whereas Luminara wants to take a moment and assess the situation through her mastery of the Force. Throw in the wildcard of Ventress and you’ve got a very interesting mix.

“This series gives us an opportunity to use them in a much larger capacity. In this episode, the focus is on how Luminara, an old-school Jedi master, would work with a young padawan like Ahsoka. Putting Luminara and Ahsoka together offers a real contrast in learning for both characters.”

One person who definitely enjoyed the episode is Eckstein.

“It’s such a fun line of work because you really get to tap into your imagination,” Eckstein says. “The action is in your mind and it has to come through your voice, so you have to envision everything. I have to think, ‘How would I sound if I were fighting Ventress right now? How would I sound if I were picked up by a giant bird, flown across the room, and dropped on the floor?’ It’s like imagination boot camp when you go into a session with Supervising Director Dave Filoni and the rest of the cast.”

“The physical sounds are hardest because, well, you don’t think about these things in everyday life. We talk all the time, so the dialogue is easy compared to figuring out what sound you’d make if you got hit by a lightsaber or fell out of a spaceship. I definitely have to get physical in the booth, and I probably look like the biggest nerd in there, using a pencil as a lightsaber. I really try to get into it, and it just helps to sound like you’re in the heat of battle.”

Another thing the episode makes a strong point about is comparing the even more rigid and placid Luminara against Ahsoka.

“Ahsoka’s emotions are very raw, and kids and teens can look at what she’s going through and really understand it,” Eckstein says. “Even though they’re not fighting in life-or-death battles, they may be dealing with bullies or trying to make the sports team or trying to impress a teacher. All of those situations easily mirror her emotions. That’s one of my favorite things about Ahsoka – while her experiences may be different, the personalities and the emotions are the same for everyone.”

As it stands, there’s a small hint there might be a third chapter to this, for lack of a better word, Gunray arc. We’ll have to wait and see about that. If it happens it will be interesting who Filoni and company put on the screen that time.


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