Star Wars Holocron

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Ashley Eckstein talks The Clone Wars, The Rise of Skywalker, Her Children’s Book, and Playing Ahsoka Again

by @holocronGeorge, @holocronJulie, @holocronJosh, and @holocronWilliam

As The Clone Wars coming to an end with the highly anticipated final two episodes of the Siege of Mandalore arc, we at Star Wars Holocron recently had the chance to speak with Ashely Eckstein, the voice of Ahsoka Tano, to talk about her character, her cameo in The Rise of Skywalker, her new children’s book “I Am Padawan”, and more. 

When asked what fans could expect to see from Ahsoka in the final two episodes of the show, Eckstein had this to say: 

“I will say, just when I thought I couldn’t love Ahsoka more, she continues to amaze me. Ahsoka is just absolutely incredible in this arc. The final two episodes that we haven’t seen yet, she’s just going to continue to blow people away. There’s a reason why I ask myself almost daily ‘what would Ahsoka do?’ because I feel like Ahsoka would always do the right thing and she would always help people. She would always choose the light. She would always choose hope. I don’t want to give anything away, but what she represents and what she stands for, I just admire her so much. It sounds so crazy to admire this fictional character in a galaxy far, far away, but I do, and I think everyone will agree with me after they watch these episodes.”

Eckstein has also played Ahsoka in other Star Wars projects, including making a vocal cameo in The Rise of Skywalker as one of the Jedi voices that Rey hears on the Exegol. Eckstein touched on the behind the scenes process of bringing Ahsoka into the film: 

“When I went in and recorded the lines [for The Rise of Skywalker], it was truly surreal. There were only three people in the room and it was at Bad Robot. Matthew Wood and JJ Abrams were the two other people. JJ could not have been nicer. He walked in and introduced himself and then immediately thanked me for being in the film, and I just couldn’t believe it! I was like, ‘Thank you for letting me be in the film!’ So it was really just a truly surreal session. The lines were already written by the time I got there and I didn’t get them ahead of time. I actually was handed the lines when I walked in the room, and talk about a cold read. I was literally reading the lines for the first time as I was performing them, so I was very nervous! But I actually read all of the lines, so all of the lines that you hear in that montage, I assume that everyone read all the lines and then they just mixed and matched and pieced it together. I will say this, [JJ Abrams] didn’t give me too much direction in terms of how Ahsoka would say it. He left that up to me in terms of how Ahsoka would say it. I read it three different ways. I read it really quiet like a whisper, then a bit louder, and then a bit more powerful. And then that was it. It was about a 20 minute session and it was wonderful.”

Beyond her role as Ahsoka, Eckstein is no stranger to branching out into different mediums within the Star Wars galaxy, having launched her own clothing line “Her Universe” and also writing a children’s book titled “I Am Padawan”, which was released this April. On what drew her to write this book, Eckstein detailed how the opportunity to inspire young kids through Star Wars was of great interest to her:

“I have to say, I wrote it from my own experience because Star Wars has taught me so much. I’ve learned many of these life lessons through Star Wars. And after traveling the world over the past 10 years and meeting a lot of fans of all ages, especially a lot of kids, I found that they’re similar to me. They relate a lot of these lessons that we learn in our everyday lives, they relate them to Star Wars, and especially kids. It’s much more exciting to learn a lesson about bravery or hope or even failure if you put it in the Star Wars context, versus if they’re just learning a lesson about failure with something they did at school, but at the end of the day they’re still learning a lesson about failure which is a very, very important lesson that everyone needs to learn. It’s something that I’ve always tried to do. I’ve always tried to relate kids’ everyday lives through Star Wars, so I really tried to take that approach with this book. I have to say, Lucasfilm called me and asked if I would write this, and I said yes without even thinking faster than anything I’ve said yes to in my entire life (laughs). So the credit goes to them for giving me the opportunity to write it, but I very quickly realized how much a book like this means to kids because I was one of those kids. I grew up on the little golden books. I grew up learning so many of these life lessons because of these books, so I wanted to pay it forward to the next generation.”

Beyond voice acting and book writing, Eckstein is keeping the door open to take on other hats in the Star Wars universe:

“I very quickly realized early on how much Star Wars means to people and I so badly wanted to live up to the opportunity given to me by being the voice of Ahsoka. By being a part of the Star Wars universe, it’s opened so many doors that I never thought would be open to me. I just took the approach of saying yes and seeing where it would take me because these were such truly life changing opportunities. I felt I might as well say yes and I’ll figure it out as I go. I once said I would never write a book and I was okay with that because I just didn’t think I had the talent to do it, and now thanks to Star Wars and Disney, I’ve had the opportunity to write two books. I once thought I’d never write a script or never direct but I will tell you that if I was given the opportunity, I would absolutely say yes just because I feel blessed to be a part of this universe, but it doesn’t come from a place of selfishly wanting to do it. It comes from a place of I see how much joy Star Wars brings to people and I want to continue to do that, so whether it’s through voice acting or whether it would ever be through live action acting or whether it would be directing or writing or whatever it may be. If it gives me the opportunity to continue to bring hope and joy to people, I’ll probably say yes and figure out how to do it later (laughs).”

With The Clone Wars coming to an end, many fans are wondering what’s next for Ahsoka. Although there are rumors that Rosario Dawson will come on board to play the character in the second season of The Mandalorian, the question still remains if Eckstein will ever play the character again after the conclusion of the Siege of Mandalore. On this topic, Eckstein reminded fans that she’s said goodbye to Ahsoka before, and that her reprising her role at some point isn’t fully off the table:

“I have said goodbye to Ahsoka so many times. I think what fans don’t realize is that from the time that Ahsoka walked away in season 5, she wasn’t in the next season very much, so I said goodbye then. Then when [The Clone Wars] was cancelled, I said goodbye to the character and wasn’t sure if I would ever get to come back. Then Star Wars Rebels happened and I said goodbye to Ahsoka then after Rebels ended, and then Forces of Destiny happened and I said goodbye to Ahsoka then. So every single time I’ve said goodbye, she’s always caught me by surprise. I’ll be honest, I said goodbye to Ahsoka after Rise of Skywalker and after Clone Wars and that’s where I’m at now. I’m currently not recording anything, but you never say never. She continues to surprise me and I hope one day I get to voice Ahsoka again.”

We’d definitely like to see more of Ashley Eckstein’s portrayal of Ahsoka in the future. Twelve years ago, the character burst onto the scene in The Clone Wars film to a mixed response from fans, but has since developed to become one of the most fleshed out, interesting, and inspirational characters Star Wars has to offer, much of which is due to Eckstein’s depiction of the character.

Images courtesy of Lucasfilm, Disney+, and Golden Books

Star Wars Holocron

REVIEW: Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season 7, Episode 10 – “The Phantom Apprentice”

by @holocronGeorge and @holocronWilliam for @sw_holocron

Who would have thought that a cool looking, albeit rather simple one-dimensional villain in Episode I: The Phantom Menace would, over the course of 2 television shows, another movie, and comics, become one of the most well developed, complex, tragic, and intriguing characters in the Star Wars saga? Well, by the conclusion of this week’s episode of The Clone Wars fittingly entitled “The Phantom Apprentice,” Maul’s position as a dynamic, interesting character, if it was in any sort of doubt, was affirmed. This week’s episode picked up immediately after last week’s as Ahsoka and Republic forces attempt to liberate Mandalore from the grips of its evil dictator Maul. However, as events settle into place, Ahsoka begins to realize that Maul’s intentions are not as black-and-white as mere control over a planet, but, rather, are tied to a more complex plan to thwart Darth Sidious’ schemes of galactic domination.

One of the core themes of this episode was intrigue, a theme that strongly resonates throughout the prequel trilogy. The audience is privy to information the characters are not and, therefore, know that the events that will soon unfold will have detrimental effects on the galaxy. Meanwhile, the characters, both in The Clone Wars and in the prequels, are trying to put the pieces together, but it is too little too late. This has always been a strength of the prequel era content as it creates a sense of impending doom, tension, and mystery as the Jedi try to uncover the Sith’s insidious plans. This theme is on full display in “The Phantom Apprentice,” which largely centers around discussions regarding Darth Sidious and attempts to uncover his true schemes and identity. These moments of intrigue, such as Ahsoka probing Maul for information about Sidious, Ahsoka and Obi-Wan speaking of the mysterious ways of Palpatine, and Maul later in the episode teasing Ahsoka of the horrible things to come if Sidious’ plan is actualized, are some of the strongest moments in the episode.

Maul and Ahsoka’s conversations about the unfolding events were a particular highlight in this installment. The episode really delved into Maul’s role in Palpatine’s plan and it was great to see Maul put the pieces together on screen regarding the plan, such as realizing Dooku’s true role in turning Skywalker to the dark side. Maul’s discussions on the forthcoming events were truly haunting, as it was evident he opposed Sidious, while at the same time not inherently opposing the plan to destroy the Republic. Maul was resigned to the fact that the Jedi would be destroyed, but still wanted to disrupt Sidious’ plan even slightly by luring Anakin to Mandalore and killing Sidious’ would-be apprentice. This was a great twist and one that was really unpredictable in the episode. After the conclusion of the last episode, it seemed clear that Maul made it known to the galaxy he had retaken Mandalore so that he could reinstate his power and lure Kenobi to the planet to enact his revenge. But Maul had more intricate plans to not only kill Kenobi when he arrived, but to kill Anakin and, in turn, disrupt Sidious’ plan. All of this was great to see and really hammered home how oblivious the Jedi were to the plots of the Sith.


More broadly speaking, “The Phantom Apprentice” continued a really impressive narrative that kicked off with last week’s installment. Everyone’s place in the episode makes complete sense and their motivations are entirely logical, well thought out, and developed. Maul’s multifaceted motives and plan is perfectly portrayed, making a potentially convoluted scheme completely interpretable by the audience, something the prequels didn’t always do. Ahsoka’s journey this season continues to develop well. Her altruistic motivations and reservations about the Republic are on full display, as are her continued suspicions into the political machinations at play and worry for her former master Anakin, who is at the center of all of this. Once again, this episode hammered home that Maul and Ahsoka are the centerpieces of this episode and, potentially, the series overall.

One of the exciting prospects heading into this season was the potential for overlap with Revenge of the Sith. Sam Witwer in our recent interview spoke about how they got to engage with Revenge of the Sith in very interesting ways, and we couldn’t agree more with Witwer’s verdict. Obi-Wan’s conversation about Dooku’s death situates the episode clearly in the Star Wars timeline. Despite Star Wars being full of prequel content, it’s never really done anything like this in regards to overlapping events across different projects. This was so interesting to see and really changes your perception on some events in Revenge of the Sith, given that the audience knows Obi-Wan was troubled by Anakin’s actions and that Ahsoka was concerned for him across the galaxy. The Siege of Mandalore arc is so intertwined with the third prequel that it has now cemented itself as essential viewing along side Revenge of the Sith in order to fully understand the context of the fall of the Republic and the rise of Darth Sideous and his new apprentice Darth Vader. In many ways, this arc feels like Revenge of the Sith told from another perspective, this time from the eyes of Ahsoka.

This episode had tons of other great parallels to other iconic Star Wars moments and characters. For starters, the similarities to The Last Jedi’s throne room scene were on full display during Maul and Ahsoka’s confrontation. Maul trying to recruit Ahsoka, another force-sensitive apart from her former master, to take down a common enemy was akin to Kylo’s attempts to recruit Rey following the throne room battle. In both scenes, you think there may be a chance for the two to align with one another, before their relationship disintegrates into combat. Speaking of sequel trilogy parallels, Maul’s manipulation of Jesse evoked imagery of Kylo’s usage of the Force to extract information from Rey in The Force Awakens, even down to the same sound effects. Perhaps one of the most unexpected connections to other material in the episode was the appearance of a young Dryden Vos, Paul Bettany’s character from Solo: A Star Wars Story, consulting with Maul and the other heads of Crimson Dawn. The lightsaber duel on the catwalk at the end of the episode felt similar to the duels on catwalks in The Phantom Menace, also featuring Maul.

It would be blasphemous to conclude this review without touching on some of the phenomenal technical and aesthetic aspects on display. As was announced at Star Wars Celebration Chicago, Ray Park returned to the fold once again to do motion-capture work for Maul’s fight scenes. And the work definitely paid off – Maul and Ahsoka’s duel was one of the best The Clone Wars has ever depicted, maybe only bettered by the three way duel between Sidious, Savage and Maul. The animation overall was once again breathtaking, as were the voice performances. Sam Witwer and Ashley Eckstein excel in their respective roles again and these episodes simply wouldn’t be as emotionally resonant without such powerful, commanding performances.

There are now only two episodes left of the final season of The Clone Wars, with the finale scheduled to drop on Star Wars day, aka May 4th. While the series may be approaching it’s end, it’s safe to say that the show is only adding to and cementing it’s legacy as a truly groundbreaking piece of this franchise.

Score: 9/10

Images courtesy of Lucasfilm & Disney+

Star Wars Holocron

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW PART 4: Sam Witwer talks The Mandalorian Season 2, Being Up for a Role in Season 1, Mandalorian Culture, and Easter Eggs in the Show

by @holocronJosh, @holocronGeorge, @holocronJulie, and @holocronWilliam for @sw_holocron

Star Wars Holocron recently had the opportunity to speak with Sam Witwer about a range of Star Wars related topics. Part 1 of our exclusive interview focused on the Siege of Mandalore, with Parts 2 and 3 covering Rebels and Solo respectively. In today’s Part 4, Sam Witwer talks about The Mandalorian.

Witwer is a fan favorite among Star Wars fans, so much so that many have pushed for the actor to appear in a live action film or TV show. When asked about whether or not he would be interesting in appearing in The Mandalorian, Witwer revealed that he was originally on a shortlist for a role in the first season of the show:

“I got put on a shortlist on Mandalorian for some role and I thought maybe that was from Dave [Filoni], but then I found out it was actually from casting. Casting came up with the idea. The way they do it, I guess, is they put a bunch of people on a list and then the producers pick someone. So I relayed that to Dave, and I think it was awkward because I was saying “When I’m on the show” and this and that. But what I was actually trying to say was I actually took myself off that list because I don’t want to mess with your show (Laughs). I was trying to say that. I don’t want to mess with the show, nor do I want to take the risk that I’m wrong for the show and then you hire me because I’m your buddy. I was trying to say that but it came off wrong (Laughs). And there was this awkward silent moment. I think I need to text the guy and tell him that’s not what I meant! But what I meant to say was that if [Dave] had a need for me and there’s something I can do for you, you can tell me yourself. I’m not going to try to get in the way. That’s what I was trying to say. Because I don’t feel like Star Wars owes me a damn thing. Star Wars has been very good to me.”

Witwer also talked about how he was a fan of the many Easter eggs and smaller details in the first season, one of which being the reappearance of the Flame Trooper from The Force Unleashed:

“I was really happy to see our flame trooper [from The Force Unleashed] show up in The Mandalorian. That was fun…That was so fun. Because that’s not just a flame trooper, that’s OUR flame trooper. That’s the markings on the armor from Force Unleashed. There’s so many things in Force Unleashed that we designed, so many ideas just like that that I think would be incredible to bring into the cinematic universe. It would be great. But yeah the flame trooper, I definitely smiled at that. I don’t know if… well, look, it’s Dave Filoni, so I have to believe it was done on purpose. (Laughs).”

Witwer also teased the second season of the show:

“There are things that [Dave Filoni] has coming in The Mandalorian Season 2 that are going to blow people’s minds. Because the thing is that Dave and George always had the same instinct when it came to this.”

Witwer elaborated on these instincts that Dave Filoni and George Lucas share, and gave an example:

“And what this is is that they would ask them, ‘Okay we need to tell a story about witches.’ And then they’d sit there and say, ‘Well do we have something like that in Star Wars? What about the Nighsisters of Dathomir. They’re witches.’ Yeah, okay, wait a second now, [George and Dave] go in and look at the designs and look at how it looks and go ‘yeah that fits.’ And sometimes [George and Dave] would be like ‘Oh that doesn’t fit, we actually have to do this instead, right?’”

Witwer also talked about his interest in Mandalorian mythology, which plays a big role in The Clone Wars and Rebels and seen again in the first live action Star Wars show:

“Start them out as passivists and then, you know, have their ancient past be warrior culture. Now, they’re passivists, but then they get corrupted by the war and become warriors all over again. I mean, I remember at the time, all the fans being up in arms about how they were pacifists. And you’re just like, don’t…”Only a Sith deals in absolutes.” Don’t think that people won’t change. That’s how stories work….And with the Mandalorians, it’s not interesting to say they were a warrior culture. What’s interesting is, why are they a warrior culture? Why is that? What drove them to that? How do they think about this stuff? And learning about, even watching The Mandalorian, seeing that that character [Din Djarin] is a way more orthodox, old school, religious type Mandalorian, whereas Pre Vizsla’s the guy who is dipping his toe into the water in terms of dipping into the old ways with Beskar. Not the best Beskar, but Beskar, y’know? They’re manufacturing that armor so that people who join them can start training and have their own set of armor. He built this. You know, he was the guy who was experimenting with that. Whereas, then you jump ahead to The Mandalorian, you know. The Mandalorian has the good stuff. They’ve rediscovered the art of creating the best stuff, creating the best Beskar, you know what I mean? It’s wonderful mythology, but, like, it’s not impressive or interesting if it’s just put in front of you like all at once. You have to build that story and watch it grow.”

We’re eagerly anticipating the upcoming season of The Mandalorian after the first eight episodes were so enthralling and entertaining. Sam Witwer’s inclusion in the show would have been great and we’d love to see an actor with such range and a passion for Star Wars appear in a future live action project soon. This concludes Star Wars Holocron’s 4 part interview with Sam Witwer! May the force be with you all!

Images courtesy of Lucasfilm and Disney+.

Interview was conducted and transcribed on 04/16/2020.

Star Wars Holocron

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW PART 3: Sam Witwer talks voicing Maul in Solo, the original version of the scene, and advocating for the role

by @holocronJosh, @holocronGeorge, @holocronJulie, and @holocronWilliam for @sw_holocron

Star Wars Holocron recently had the opportunity to speak with Sam Witwer about a range of Star Wars related topics. While Parts 1 and 2 focused on the Siege of Mandalore and Star Wars Rebels respectively, today’s third part of the interview will focus on Witwer’s experience in bringing Maul back into live-action in Solo: A Star Wars Story.

The production on the second Star Wars spin-off film wasn’t always smooth, but Solo proved to be a hit with fans, many of whom have since petitioned for a sequel. One of the most surprising aspects of the film was the reappearance of Maul, nearly 20 years after we last saw the former Sith Lord in live-action. Witwer talked with us about how he didn’t agree creatively with the decision to cast another actor to voice Maul:

“When it came to Maul in Solo, and I was asked about it, I rang them up. At many times, I’ve said it’s okay for you to go to someone else and that’s happened several times. But with Maul, I actually put my foot down and said ‘Listen. Do what you have to do, but I think you might be making a mistake if you don’t hire me for this’ (Laughs). Because you’re counting on the fans. A lot of fans are going to say I don’t get it, he died in Phantom Menace, and then a lot of other fans are gonna say, ‘Oh with The Clone Wars I get what’s happening here with the Shadow Collective. That’s what’s going on here with the Shadow Collective.’ So since you’re leaning on the fans who understand what the Shadow Collective is, and the way you want to construct the scene where you want to hear his voice and then see him, doesn’t that serve to reason that the fans have to recognize the voice? It’s probably got to be me, and not to mention I’ve been playing the guy for a decade.”

Originally, Peter Serafinowicz, who voiced the character in The Phantom Menace, voiced Maul in the film, which didn’t quite work out as they had hoped according to Witwer:

“[Peter] Serafinowicz has even said that he recorded stuff for Maul and it didn’t quite work the way that they thought it would. That wasn’t actually a decision thing. That was actually someone who was not totally in on the Lucasfilm camp going, ‘Okay who played him on The Phantom Menace? Serafinowicz, grab him.’ He’s such a talented, talented guy and I admire the hell out of his work, but it was not recognizably the character and it wasn’t even recognizably The Phantom Menace character. It was a very different thing and they weren’t getting the right stuff.”

Witwer revealed that the version of Maul in the initial script differed from the version seen in the film. The character even growled in the original version:

“[There were] a lot of things in this script where he growls, he does this, he does that.”

Witwer outlined that he disagreed the the growling and other aspects of the original scene with Maul, and was clear with Lucasfilm that he believed he needed to be brought in for the role:

“I don’t think those are right and I can tell you why I don’t think those are right. I can tell you what I think he should say instead (Laughs). So I did run the math and said in this case I’m actually going to play a card I haven’t played with Lucasfilm before and say, ‘You’re making a mistake if you don’t go for me.’ Now, do whatever you have to do, try out whatever you have to try out, but I think you’re making a mistake if you don’t get me in there…There were people at the company who were saying, ‘No, you made a mistake. You actually have to go for this guy. He’s the one who’s been developing the character under George Lucas and Dave Filoni…’ as I was told, one of the producers on Solo was just not aware of The Clone Wars. There were people at Lucasfilm, several camps that were aware of The Clone Wars who said from the very beginning, ‘No! You have to get Sam.’ There was a group at ILM that was pushing it. There was a group in the sound department that was pushing for it. There were a lot of different people trying to make them aware. And then once the Maul thing wasn’t working and they were asking the question of ‘Do we do this? Do we not do this?’ That’s when those voices came out loud and clear and said ‘No, no, no. You can make it work but you have to get this guy and you have to get Dave Filoni on board. You can’t actually make it work without these guys.’ That’s how I understand it all went down. And again, nothing against the producer who’s call that was. They thought they were doing their due diligence by looking through the production notes of The Phantom Menace….Once they realized damn, we didn’t totally research that, they brought me on board…”

Once being cast in the role, Witwer was glad that the creative team behind Solo incorporating his thoughts on how the character should be portrayed in the film:

“…they were very happy to hear what I had to say about what he should be wearing, what chair he should be sitting in, what lightsaber he should have, why he laughs, all that stuff. They were absolutely open to it. When Ron Howard discovered that Clone Wars is George Lucas’ baby, he was very happy to have me come in and continue the George version of the Maul character.”

During the making of Solo, Maul’s scene changed dramatically after the cast and crew did a reshoot, per Witwer and Dave Filoni’s request:

“There was stuff that had to happen once I got hired. There was a reshoot that had to happen because people like me and Dave Filoni were letting them know there were a lot of details that weren’t consistent. That’s not me saying these people didn’t know what they were doing because they were making a movie and doing it at lightspeed. Ultimately, they did the right thing because they hired the people who were the experts on this like Dave Filoni and, I dare say, me, because I’m kind of an expert on what we’ve been doing with Maul for the past decade, y’know? They were very open to hearing what we had to say and, again, they were so open that they did a reshoot. Like I said, you can have the most talented people in the world and people can still drop the ball for a second. It’s always the willingness to go and pick it back up that I give people credit for. I don’t want to say that what Serafinowicz was doing was bad. It just didn’t sound recognizable as the character from The Phantom Menace nor the character from Clone Wars. It was a totally different thing. They needed people to recognize the voice, so there it is.”

Witwer was also clear that he has more behind the scenes stories about playing Maul that he couldn’t yet reveal without getting into trouble with Lucasfilm:

“Look, there’s stories about Maul I won’t be able to tell for another 20 years. There’s just stories I can’t go anywhere near until about 20 years have passed and I think people are going to be very shocked when I eventually tell those stories (laughs). They’re related to all these things. All kinds of stuff. But you can’t tell those stories now. In 20 years, when I’m fully an old man and don’t care about anything, I will say things that will blow people’s minds and make national news and stuff. But no, I’m not that stupid yet (Laughs).”

Ultimately, Witwer saw firsthand the immense challenges in bringing Maul into live-action again, even more so than reintroducing the character in The Clone Wars:

“There were certain challenges in terms of, say, bringing Maul into Solo for the 3 minutes that he’s in it than there were creating spider-Maul mad in the cave, which is a way wilder idea than just putting Maul in Solo, right? Maul with spider legs and being insane and this whole mythology of these legs created of garbage and being animated by the dark side of the force and all that.”

Peter Serafinowicz did a great job in The Phantom Menace and, as Witwer outlined, is an incredibly talented actor. However, it’s safe to say that Witwer was the right choice for the role as he’s been the voice of Maul for 10 years now across multiple different animated shows. It’s a sign of a good studio and talented individuals to recognize their mistakes and correct them accordingly. The road to get to the final product for the Maul scene and, in general, Solo: A Star Wars Story wasn’t always easy, but Lucasfilm and co. definitely created a film that many people will continue to enjoy for years to come.

Stay tuned for more of our exclusive interview with Sam Witwer! 

Images courtesy of Lucasfilm, Disney+, and The Star Wars Show.

Interview conducted and transcribed on 04/16/2020.

Star Wars Holocron

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW PART 2: Sam Witwer talks Rebels, Maul’s state of mind, and initially playing Kanan

by @holocronJosh, @holocronGeorge, @holocronJulie, and @holocronWilliam

Star Wars Holocron recently had an exclusive interview with Sam Witwer, who plays Maul, about a variety of different topics, one of which being the Siege of Mandalore, the focus of Part 1 of our interview. In today’s Part 2, we shift gears to Witwer’s involvement in Star Wars Rebels. Witwer reprised his role as Maul on the show, as well as voicing Emperor Palpatine. When asked about Maul’s reappearance in Rebels, Witwer had this to say about the behind the scenes process of bringing back the iconic character once more:

When we did Rebels, there was definitely a sense of, because we had gotten away with bringing him back on The Clone Wars and the mad version of Maul and then building him up from there, we felt confident that fans were ready for a new, older version of the character. We felt that if we don’t do something new with the character, then we’re failing people and really letting them down. That’s the way we always have to think about it, and it comes straight from George [Lucas]. You always have to push things in the direction of what have people seen and what haven’t they seen before. So with Rebels, we were doing this extremely sincere, kind old-man version of Maul, which gives the fans the option of trying to decide how much of that is an act and how much of that was really his true age and where he is at this point in his life.”

Fans know all about how Maul’s character seemed to change in the time between The Clone Wars and Rebels, but his anger, particularly for his old nemesis Obi-Wan Kenobi, is still there.

Witwer also revealed that his presence on Rebels was originally greater than just playing Maul and Palpatine:

“Rebels, for a second according to a few people at Lucasfilm, was called ‘The Sam Show’ because I was Kanan. And then they found Freddie [Prinze Jr] after they heard Freddie’s audition. I’ve got to be honest, I had a certain take on the character, and what I was doing was not better than what Freddie was doing. What Freddie was doing was better than what I was doing in my opinion, and I realized that when I saw it. I was like, wow, this guy is absolutely that character. I think that’s the way to go.”

Witwer also spoke of his fondness for the introduction of the the TIE Defender from Legends into canon with Rebels:

“…the TIE defender showed up in Rebels. I remember having some talks with some people behind the scenes, just asking them like, ‘So that’s gonna show up. What is that? And someone who I will not name who worked on it was like, ‘That’s a different philosophy how you bring the galaxy under heel.’ You have the Death Star on one side. And then you have a different military project, where these characters think that all you need are really great fighters. Kind of working out like what are the rebels mostly using to great effect? They use starfighters. So let’s just beat their starfighters. That’s all we gotta do. That’s all we gotta do. Let’s create starfighters that they can’t compete with. Because right now our starfighters aren’t as good. They’re cheaper. We can put out millions, trillions of starfighters and they’re faster and more maneuverable, but they’re fragile. It’s an engine with a gun strapped on it. So, what if we really built expensive, really great fighter? You know the technological might of the Empire. And just beat them that way, that was their perspective. And the Death Star people were like, ‘No if you have a Death Star you don’t need to fight anyone. They’ll just surrender. So why spend all that money developing all these fighters. And, oh well, the Rebellion or anyone who might resist us, there may not be a lot of them, but we don’t know where they are. We’d have to pretty much cover the galaxy for those things. And that would be expensive. And we’re already working on the Death Star. Come on, man, ya know?’ And, like, this is all explained to me. And is that ever said in Rebels? Not really, but it’s hinted at. Because, in Rebels, that was what was going on behind the scenes, so you feel that conflict in the Imperial hierarchy with different philosophies of how to bring the galaxy to heel.”

Witwer provided some great insight into the shifting mentality of Maul in Star Wars Rebels and some information about the making of the show, including the fact that he was once going to play Kanan. Stay tuned to our Twitter account and blog for more of our exclusive interview with Sam Witwer!

Images from Lucasfilm, Disney+, and The Star Wars Show

Interview was conducted and transcribed on 04/16/2020

Star Wars Holocron

REVIEW: Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season 7, Episode 9 – “Old Friends Not Forgotten”

by @holocronGeorge and @holocronJulie for @sw_holocron

A Lucasfilm Limited production. The red Clone Wars logo. John Williams’ classic score. Within moments of the start of the “Old Friends Not Forgotten,” it was abundantly clear that this episode of The Clone Wars would be a special installment in the Star Wars saga. In the first episode in the Siege of Mandalore arc, Anakin and Obi-Wan are stationed on Yerbana when they receive a message from Ahsoka and Bo-Katan asking for their assistance to overthrow Maul on Mandalore.

Let’s start with the incredible first few minutes of the episode, where not only were fans treated with the aforementioned score and logos, but the audience is plunged into events of the war taking place right before Revenge of the Sith. The narrator’s booming voice claims, “Outer Rim under siege!” and we are given some great shots of Aayla Secura on Felucia and Plo Koon on Cato Neimodia that evoke imagery from Order 66. Although it’s been known for quite a while, after the release of some of the final season’s promotional material, that this season would lead into and perhaps overlap with Revenge of the Sith, seeing this actualized in this episode added a certain relevance and impending sense of doom to the events on screen. Making it clear to the audience that the Siege of Mandalore will begin right before and likely overlap with the events of Revenge of the Sith feels akin to the added tension and suspense Rogue One exhibited by being a prequel immediately set before A New Hope. Little details throughout the episode, such as Anakin and Obi-Wan’s Jedi robes and the armor worn by the Clone Troopers, that mirror the aesthetics seen in Revenge of the Sith are really well thought out and, once again, implicitly convey to the audience the importance of the proceeding events.

As the episode begins, Anakin, Obi-Wan, Commander Cody, Captain Rex, and groups of Clones are engaged in combat with Separatist forces on Yerbana. This sequence highlights one of the many strengths of this episode in pacing. In avoiding immediately throwing the audience into an extended action sequence, this scene excels in purposefully slowing the pace down, allowing the characters to discuss and the tension to build. This whole episode benefits from such pacing in that, while the action set pieces in the show are incredible at times, the best moments are grounded in character dynamics and narrative. The more deliberate pacing of the episode is perhaps best exemplified by the incredible moment of Anakin approaching the Separatists on the bridges, feigning his surrender while Rex and his battalion organize an attack. The imagery of Anakin approaching a massive assembly of opposing forces from the distance was reminiscent of Luke’s approach toward the First Order during the Battle of Crait in The Last Jedi, another great moment of connectivity shown in this season of The Clone Wars. This whole sequence resolved nicely, with Anakin’s ability and arrogance on full display.

The crux of the episode’s central plot, however, is where it got truly interesting. Ahsoka’s reformed alliance with the Republic and the Jedi was done excellently, highlighting the extent to which Ahsoka was hurt and changed due to the betrayal of the Jedi, in addition to her journey since leaving the Order that has reshaped her perception on Jedi values and the broader war. Despite her reservations, her relationships with Anakin and Rex withstood this tumultuous time in her life, moments in the episode that felt well earned. The addition of the Clone Troopers who purposely painted their helmets as a homage to Ahsoka and led by Captain Rex was another nice touch that showed she still has positive, meaningful connections from her time as a Jedi. Moreover, even though she may not be a Jedi in name anymore, her actions and those that choose to follow her demonstrate that Ahsoka is as much of a Jedi as anyone else in the Order. Ahsoka saying goodbye to Anakin was another powerful moment as this was probably the last time they saw each other until their convergence in Star Wars Rebels. All of these sequences perfectly established Ahsoka’s state of mind in this episode and laid the emotional foundation for the events to come.

Next came the beginning of the assault on Mandalore. Director Saul Ruiz did an amazing job with the action in this episode as Ahsoka and the Clones land on Mandalore to try to find Maul. This is also helped by the stunning animation that is once again on full display this season. The fluidity of the camera movement made it easy for the audience to see exactly what was going on in a battle that, right from the very beginning, had many moving parts and a lot going on visually. It was also fun to see characters like Gar Saxon from Star Wars Rebels, make an appearance in this episode, foreshadowing his relevance during the Imperial era.

After Bo-Katan corners Prime Minister Almec, a pawn of Maul’s overarching plan, she quickly realizes that she played right into the former Sith Lord’s plan. Ahsoka leads the troopers down a dark tunnel before eventually being cornered by Maul’s foot soldiers. Surrounded and seemingly captured, Maul walks out from the darkness, saying “I was hoping for Kenobi. Why are you here?” Maul’s carefully executed plan was done in the hope that he would lure Kenobi in and finish him once and for all. However, this is not the case. This final moment of the episode is a great cliffhanger that sets the stage for the rest of the Siege of Mandalore arc. Sam Witwer, who Star Wars Holocron recently exclusively interviewed, was once again on his game, delivering this sole, important line perfectly. Moreover, the rest of the voice acting cast were also putting in great performances.

One of the few critiques of this episode pertains to the portrayal of Anakin, which is a more overarching concern related to the show overall. Matt Lanter’s voice work of Anakin has always been exceptional, adding depth and nuisance to the dialogue. And, as do many of the voice actors on the show, Lanter pays homage to his live-action counterpart, Hayden Christensen, while also forging his own version of the character. The issue, therefore, is not at all related to Lanter’s performance, but, rather, the personality, tone, and attitude of Anakin in The Clone Wars that diverges from the character’s depiction in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. The lighter, more friendly, jovial Anakin makes sense in the early days of a show geared toward a wide age range, but, now that the show is in its seventh season nearing the dark events of Revenge of Sith, it would be nice and more consistent with the broader themes of the prequel trilogy if we saw a darker side to Anakin more frequently. The Clone Wars in general offers some moments of darkness in Anakin, such as mercilessly beating up Clovis. However, for the most part, the show has always refrained from delving into Anakin’s dark side the way Episode II and III did. So, when we see a playful Anakin that doesn’t quite match up with the troubled Anakin we see shortly after in Revenge of the Sith, it creates so tonal inconsistencies.

This is an episode that many are calling one of, if not the best of the show thus far. This is the most cinematic The Clone Wars has ever felt and with an urgency to the story, top notch visuals and voice work, and a great cliffhanger, this episode truly shined in every department. Part 2 of the Siege of Mandalore arrives next week and we can’t wait.

Score: 9.25/10

Images courtesy of Lucasfilm and Disney+

Star Wars Holocron

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW PART 1: Sam Witwer talks The Clone Wars, Siege of Mandalore, Maul, and Honoring George Lucas’ Legacy

by @holocronJosh, @holocronGeorge, @holocronJulie, and @holocronWilliam

Star Wars Holocron recently sat down for an exclusive interview with Sam Witwer, who plays Maul in The Clone Wars, about a variety of different topics, one of which being the Siege of Mandalore. The final Clone Wars arc, which began today, is the culmination of 7 seasons of the show that George Lucas worked on extensively. When describing what he enjoys about the final arc, Witwer had this to say:

“The pacing is really great. The editing is fantastic. The cinematography is better than anything we’ve ever done. The sound design too. The music is Kevin Kiner’s best stuff on The Clone Wars I think. It’s really, really good. I think all the actors are on point, and the animation is awesome too. It’s interesting, because, in making season 7 of The Clone Wars, there was a little bit of a ramping up process because they had to get people back into the room working on the show again and they had to relearn how to do the show. The Bad Batch, for example, was an arc that they already had story reels for and all this stuff. So there were some alterations, and certainly the animation was new and stuff like that, so you can see that it’s lit better and everything. Joel Aron was killing it and the animation was better, but ultimately, Bad Batch is very aligned with the old, years ago Clone Wars. Then you have the next arc, which was getting them acclimated. Again, not all the work was done on the next arc. It wasn’t all set in stone yet. So then you have everyone coming in and throwing in a bunch of new stuff. Then with this final arc, it’s the brand new version of The Clone Wars. It’s a different animal, and you can really feel that because, aside from the broad story strokes that Dave [Filoni] and George Lucas made from having all these conversations about what the story was going to be about, the work hadn’t been done on the final arc. So, it was everyone having ramped up during the first two arcs, but then being freed to do what they had to do to make the best version of the show. When I say it’s the best Clone Wars, I mean this is the most modern statement of what The Clone Wars crew is capable of.”

Witwer last played Maul in Star Wars Rebels, another animated show from the mind of Dave Filoni. However, the Maul in that show is considerably different from The Clone Wars version of the character. When asked how he prepared to come back to that version of the character, Witwer said:

“When it came to coming back to do The Clone Wars version of Maul, I had to rewatch a lot of the Clone Wars stuff and see where he was at. But then we’re propelling him out of Son of Dathomir, which we wish we were able to do, but we didn’t get to do. It’s too bad, but those events, according to me and Dave and George Lucas, did occur.”

However, Witwer was clear that the Maul we see in the Siege of Mandalore is different from his previous appearances on The Clone Wars:

“There’s an anxiety that this character has in the Siege of Mandalore that we’ve never really seen from him before, so you have Maul at the height of his power, but also working some things out and trying some new things that, frankly, he may not be very good at.”

However, not everything about Maul in this arc will be objectively clear:

“I really can’t wait to see how the fans react and see what their interpretation of that is going to be because there’s plenty to interpret. There’s plenty of fan debate that I think may come in terms of what Maul’s intentions are in this next arc…One of the things I’ve learned from Dave and George is that you really do, as much as you can, need to let the fans interpret things.”

Witwer went on to explain how friendly disagreements between he and Dave Filoni led to interesting moments in the Siege of Mandalore arc:

“There’s some stuff that happens [in the Siege of Mandalore arc] that I wasn’t aware of. When I read the script, I was like ‘Wow, okay. This is what happens. This is how the war ended and these are the specifics. This is what Maul was trying to do’. I was floored when I read the script. I was very surprised and very interested, and the fun of that was having disagreements with Dave as to where [Maul’s] heart is at (Laughs). That’s the fun of working on this stuff. George and Dave are the overall story guys who say ‘here’s how the story goes. Here’s the shape of it and this is what we’re trying to say.’ Then it’s my job to push against the boundaries of that story as much as I can so that little things make their way into the episode that spark debate. That’s at least what I think my job is, y’know? So what will happen inevitably and what’s happened many times in the past is that me and Dave will have a disagreement as to what’s going on with the character, and then we’ll be doing takes and both agree on the take that we liked. And it’s a fascinating thing because he’ll hear something different in it than I do. I’ll say ‘Well no, clearly the character is saying this when he says this’. And then Dave goes, ‘Well no, I wrote it. Clearly when he means this and that’s in the take’. And then I go ‘I think my interpretation is in the take’ and then [Dave] goes ‘Then that’s the take’ (laughs). And that’s the one [take] because people get to import their own beliefs in what is going on with this character.”

Witwer also spoke about how the Siege of Mandalore feels like a Star Wars film, with his preparation for this stretch of episodes more akin to his live-action work than previous voiceover work:

“Funny enough, Dave Filoni’s live action experience definitely played into this final arc, because this final arc is more of a film read in terms of the vocal stuff that I was doing. I was like, ‘This is how I would do it if I were shooting it and Ray Park was on the set. This is how I would go about it.’ By the way, Ray does a great job in this season.”

With the Siege of Mandalore, Dave Filoni and co. are finishing a Star Wars project that George Lucas himself started over a decade ago, and one that he truly cares about to this day. Because of this, Sam Witwer (Maul) has high hopes that Lucas will like the final arc:

“My main priority is this last Star Wars that has his fingerprints on it, my main priority is that he likes it. More than anyone else, I just hope that George likes it.“

Moreover, Witwer revealed that Lucas has been staying in touch with Dave Filoni, a protégé of his, and has been giving him his thoughts on the episodes of the final season he has watched so far:

“George [Lucas] has been calling Dave and giving him nice little comments on the episodes. I really, really hope we get some positive feedback from the maker himself when this comes out. This show has such a special place in George’s heart. He was so happy when he was making this show, and we were so happy to be implementing it for him…you really did just get a directive from George, and that directive got discussed and translated by Dave Filoni, and then it went right to the actors, animators, lighters, everything. It just got done. That’s the fun of watching the Siege of Mandalore, because it just feels pure in its intention… It’s so cool that this is the last George Lucas produced Star Wars. The last Star Wars that has George’s fingerprints on it. I truly loved to hear that George was reacting well to [the final season of The Clone Wars]. And I’m happy to hear that he likes how Clone Wars is going so far this season and I really hope he likes our finale because that’s where it all counts.”

Clearly, the cast and crew of the show are hoping that George Lucas himself continues to like the new season of The Clone Wars. Given the quality of the first episode in the arc, “Old Friends Not Forgotten,” we wouldn’t be surprised if this is the case.

Stay tuned to our twitter account and blog for more from our exclusive interview with Sam Witwer, where he talks about Solo: A Star Wars Story, The Mandalorian, The Force Unleashed, and more!

Images courtesy of Lucasfilm, Disney+, and The Star Wars Show

Interview was conducted and transcribed on 04/16/2020. Full transcription will be released soon.

Star Wars Holocron

REVIEW: Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season 7, Episode 8 – “Together Again”

by @holocronJosh for @sw_holocron

Together Again” concludes Ahsoka and the Martez sisters’ arc of the final season of The Clone Wars in an entertaining, somewhat lackluster episode. This episode sees Ahsoka hatching a plan for her and the Martez sisters to escape from the clutches of the Pyke Syndicate involving the Martez leaving to retrieve spice, while Ahsoka attempts to escape on her own.

As this four-episode arc came to an end, it is clear that this narrative was perhaps not best fit for the final season of a beloved show, especially a shortened season with only 12 episodes. This arc was not initially designed to be part of the show’s final season and that’s understandable given the relatively inconsequential plot, character reveals, and introductions. The creators behind this arc have clearly adapted it to make it more suitable for the final season, including the set-up for the Siege of Mandalore that will soon be discussed. However, despite these efforts, this stretch of episodes simply did not reach the heights of previous Clone Wars episodes, some of which stand alongside the best theatrically released films as truly great Star Wars content. This is not inherently indicative of the arc’s quality, necessarily, but, rather, suggests that these episodes do not have the plot or character moments one would expect from the final season of such an amazing show. Especially when viewed within the context of a shortened final season, these episodes feel even more frustrating given the slew of interesting tales occurring throughout the galaxy that these stories could be centered around.

In looking at this particular episode more narrowly, independent of its role in the larger scheme of the show, once again, The Clone Wars delivers a really enjoyable 25 minutes of Star Wars content. It was obvious where this episode had to pick up, given the conundrum Ahsoka and the Martez sisters found themselves in at the end of the last episode. And the prison break elements of the episode that followed suit were quite interesting. The Martez sisters’ journey to obtain more spice was light and friendly and humorous. But, Ahsoka’s journey in this episode was far more interesting and suspense-filled. Her plan to escape the Pyke facility, while the Martez sisters obtained the spice, was well conceived, but did not culminate in the way it was intended. Along the way, however, the audience was treated with some great moments of tension, particularly centered around the much anticipated introduction of Maul into this season. Although the Pyke Syndicate’s relationship with Maul has been touched on in the earlier seasons of The Clone Wars and Solo: A Star Wars Story, it was still a pleasant surprise to see the once Sith apprentice turned underworld leader on the scene again. Coupled with the updated animation that makes Maul look better than ever, Sam Witwer’s performance as the villain is as chilling and menacing and enthralling as it is has ever been. Perhaps the biggest surprise in this episode came from Maul’s mention of Crimson Dawn in this scene. Not only was this a really cool reference to the organization Han Solo and his crew are working for in Solo, but it also establishes that Crimson Dawn has been around longer than fans may have thought. The Shadow Collective was the criminal alliance that saw Maul collaborate with Death Watch, Black Sun, the Pykes, and more in the earlier seasons of The Clone Wars to takeover Mandalore. This episode confirms that it wasn’t too long after the Shadow Collective fragmented and Maul escaped Sidious that Maul kickstarted a new criminal empire, one that seemingly proves more deadly and menacing than its predecessor as future events indicate. Once again, this brief moment of dialogue highlights one of the strengths of Star Wars – the interconnectivity of characters, organizations, plots, locations, and the galaxy overall. An organization first introduced in Solo, led by a character first introduced in The Phantom Menace, is now being elaborated on in The Clone Wars. The Clone Wars and Rebels have excelled in establishing such connectivity between characters and events in the Star Wars saga and every scene like this one in “Together Again” is a real treat for Star Wars fans.

The emotional crux of this episode pertained to Ahsoka’s inevitable revelation of her Jedi background to the Martez sisters. While this reveal panned out rather predictably, it still delivered an effective message that aligned with the episode’s initial statement of changing who you are, but not being able to run away from yourself. Although the reveal that Ahsoka was a Jedi has obvious positive implications for the Martez sisters’ perceptions of Jedi overall, the reveal and its aftermath were more important for Ahsoka’s journey and understanding of herself. In discussing her background as a Jedi to the Martez sisters, Ahsoka realizes that, although she is no longer a member of the Jedi Order, this doesn’t mean she is not a Jedi still, exhibiting the values of selflessness and unwavering care championed by the Order. The notion that a person is defined as a Jedi, not by their participation in an order, but the inherent values they exhibit is a powerful message and one that resonates throughout a number of characters, including Anakin in Return of the Jedi, Luke in The Last Jedi, and Ben Solo in The Rise of Skywalker. For these characters and Ahsoka, they are still inherently Jedi, loving, caring, compassionate, and selfless, despite events and choices in their lives that have driven them away from what we traditionally conceive Jedi as.

The last point of interest in this episode was alluded to earlier and involves the full introduction of Bo-Katan and her recruitment of Ahsoka to liberate Mandalore from Maul. It’s clear, given the previous points, that this episode was not originally meant to lead into the Siege of Mandalore arc, but the writers did a good job making the transition from the Martez sisters arc as seamless as possible. The episode doesn’t linger as long as it should on the moment of Ahsoka’s deliberation regarding whether or not she should join Bo-Katan to Mandalore, instead opting to quickly, formally introduce the Mandalorians into the fold before flying away. It would have been nice for the episode to take a little more time with this moment as deciding to jump back into the fold of the Clone Wars, potentially running into her former Jedi and Clone trooper comrades, is a decision Ahsoka probably wouldn’t take lightly. Nevertheless, this tease for the final arc of the Clone Wars was still effective. Although people were excited to see the Bad Batch and Ahsoka again, much of the anticipation surrounding this season is centered around the Siege of Mandalore, which seems to be a fitting conclusion to the show overall. And this episode does a good job setting that arc up.

So far, two of the three plot arcs of The Clone Wars’ final season have concluded to mixed results. Both arcs had their downs, with some sluggish plotting and inconsequential narratives, but both also had their highs, with some great character moments, stunning animation, and exciting teases of what’s to come. Although this episode certainly doesn’t hit the heights of previous episodes of this arc, the season, or the broader show overall, it still does its job of offering Star Wars fans an exciting 25 minutes with beloved characters, an entertaining, lightweight plot, and great animation. And now that we’re nearing the final episodes of The Clone Wars, our anticipation for the Siege of Mandalore couldn’t be greater.

Score: 6/10

Star Wars Holocron

Have You Ever Heard The Tragedy of Darth Plageuis the Wise?: The Importance of the Opera Scene in Revenge of the Sith

by @holocronGeorge for @sw_holocron

“Have you ever heard the tragedy of Darth Plageuis the wise?” This infamous line and the tale that follows it have become key fixtures of Star Wars lore and even broader pop culture with memes, analytic videos, art, and more centered around Ian McDiarmid and Hayden Christensen’s conversation. As the Skywalker saga has concluded with its ninth installment, now more than ever seems like an appropriate time to revisit the importance of one of Star Wars’ most enthralling and tense scenes. Below are 5 of the main reasons this scene is integral to the Skywalker saga and the galaxy as a whole.

Reason #1: It Establishes Anakin’s Key Motivation to Turning to the Dark Side

Perhaps the most obvious note of importance in this scene is how it sets the stage for Anakin’s transformation into Darth Vader. Anakin’s vulnerabilities and dark side inclinations are on full display throughout key moments of the prequel trilogy and The Clone Wars. From his slaughter of innocent Tusken Raiders, to his angry outbursts against Obi-Wan, to his impulsive actions in The Clone Wars, to his forbidden relationship with Padme in the first place, Anakin exhibited a number of vulnerabilities that laid the groundwork for Palpatine to exploit in order to fulfill his ultimate plan of galactic supremacy. And, despite a whole host of vulnerabilities, perhaps Anakin’s greatest ones were the visions of his mother Shmi dying and the trauma he experienced in failing to save her from the doomed future these visions prophesied. At his core, Anakin fundamentally changed after this event, plagued by the thoughts of his lost mother and, eventually, visions of the same thing happening to his wife. And, to Anakin, despite Master Yoda’s pleadings otherwise, if his visions came true before, why couldn’t they come true again? It is this key internal conflict that the opera scene explores more openly than ever. Palpatine knows that he can manipulate and exploit an already fractured, impulsive, frightened man’s deepest fears, especially given the father-son type bond they’ve cultivated over the years. Anakin’s deepest fear in this moment is helplessly losing Padme like he lost Shmi and, unlike Yoda who urges Anakin to let go of his fears and not do anything about the visions, Palpatine presents himself as the sole person in the galaxy offering him a way to proactively solve his problem. In this sense, Palpatine’s account of Plageuis, in particular the sentence, “He had such a knowledge of the dark side that he could even keep the ones he cared about from dying,” is vitally important to Anakin’s transformation. Up until this point, Anakin has lived in fear of what may happen to Padme and has a resentment over the Jedi for forbidding his attachment to her and not offering any solutions to his problem. This is the inverse of Palpatine’s stance on the matter as he is offering a seemingly legitimate way to ameliorate these fears. Without the opera scene, Anakin’s turn against the Jedi would be unjustified and unreasonable to the audience as unstable personality characteristics and a resentment over some Jedi values wouldn’t alone explain his mass slaughter of Jedi and continued reign alongside Darth Sidious for years.

Reason #2: It Offers Rare Insight Into Palpatine’s Origins.

For being the main antagonist of the entire Skywalker saga, Palpatine’s origins are mostly clouded in secrecy. While his political origins have been expanded upon in some canon books, Palpatine’s childhood and Sith training is fairly unknown to the audience. The opera scene, however, provided real insight into Palpatine’s Sith background. Not only does the audience get its most explicit mention of Palpatine being a Sith Lord yet in this scene, but it also is provided with some really interesting information about Palpatine’s rise to become the predominant Sith Lord in the galaxy at this time and the conniving, treacherous way in which he did it. Obviously, the Plageuis novel that is now Legends delves quite deeply into the Plageuis-Palpatine dynamic and it would be great to see more of Plageuis in canon, perhaps even in the High Republic era material.

Reason #3: It Provides Information About Sith Lore and Sith Apprentice-Master Dynamics.

In addition to setting the stage for Anakin’s fall by introducing the concept of dark side abilities being used to save loved ones from death, Palpatine’s discussion of Plageuis’ apprentice killing his master is particularly informative for broader Star Wars canon. While Jedi lore is built out substantially in the prequel trilogy, the Sith are intentionally shrouded in secrecy, with only a few brief scenes of Sidious discussing his plans with people like Maul, Dooku, or Grievous. In all, however, the Sith mainly serve as the antithesis of the Jedi, driven by fear and selfishness. One key aspect, however, of the Sith is revealed in the opera scene as Palpatine inadvertently confessed to killing his master. This is a theme that obviously dates back to Return of the Jedi, in which Vader fulfilled his prophecy as the Chosen One, slayed his master, and restored balance to the Force. But Revenge of the Sith, in particular this scene, sheds more light on the concept of Sith apprentices killing their masters. One would think the Rule of Two would bind the two Sith Lords together to such an extent that their loyalty and collaboration is a key part of what keeps them alive, and to an extent this is true. And, while Sith work toward a common insidious goal, Palpatine’s speech to Anakin in this scene really cements the concept of Sith apprentices always seeking to usurp their masters. This is a pattern seen in Charles Soule’s Vader comics, in which Vader resents Palpatine in a way and, going off his speech with Padme on Mustafar in Revenge of the Sith, thinks he can overthrow Palpatine. This is a pattern also seen in The Clone Wars in which Dooku is clearly thinking of overthrowing Palpatine, something the Sith master notices and attempts to quell by dispelling Asajj Ventress. This is also a pattern most recently seen with Kylo Ren’s killing of his master Snoke and, how The Rise of Skywalker visual dictionary confirms, this act was Kylo’s true test of his mettle as a Sith Lord. In other terms, betraying one’s master is a key barometer of being a true Sith, a concept introduced fully and explicitly in the opera scene.

Reason #4: It Sets the Stage for Palpatine’s Return

J.J. Abrams has spoken about his love for this scene, claiming it was the greatest setup for him to reintroduce Palpatine in The Rise of Skywalker. And, in looking back at the opera scene, it truly does feel like a great tease for an ominous event to come. Many fans have expressed their dismay at Palpatine’s return, claiming it invalidates the victory in the Battle of Endor and takes the opera scene in Revenge of the Sith too literally. But, in, listening to the scene’s dialogue, especially lines like, “Darth Plagueis was a Dark Lord of the Sith, so powerful and so wise he could use the Force to influence the midichlorians to create life,” it really feels like great foreshadowing for what is to come in The Rise of Skywalker. Not only does this scene introduce the concept of saving people from death, but also the ability to create (or recreate life) itself. Palpatine’s line, “The dark side of the Force is a pathway to many abilities some consider to be unnatural” explains to Anakin the ability to save Padme from death and outlines more broadly that the Sith are capable of many mysterious Force abilities related to the creation and maintenance of life, beyond what most people would consider normal. So, when Palpatine inevitably returns in The Rise of Skywalker, the opera scene has already laid the groundwork for phenomenon like revival, cloning, dark magic, etc.

Reason #5: It Sets the Stage for the Rey Palpatine Reveal.

Expanding upon the last point, the tale of Darth Plageuis also lays the groundwork for the reveal that Rey is Palpatine’s granddaughter. Following the logic from the previous point, Palpatine’s discussion of unnatural Force abilities pertaining to the creation of life aligns closely with the fact that Rey is the daughter of a failed Palpatine clone, as revealed in The Rise of Skywalker novelization. Without the opera scene, this reveal may have come across as more jarring for fans (and to many, this reveal still feels unearned and misplaced) without the previous context that the Sith and Palpatine have played around with ideas of creating life, cloning and dark magic. In this sense, the scene serves many purposes, one of which is providing some of the necessary context for explaining Rey’s true parentage.

Overall, the opera scene remains one of the most iconic and quotable scenes in the Star Wars saga. It’s surface level tension and suspense and plot importance are great, but there’s also a lot of depth to the tale spun by Palpatine and how his words harbor deeper meaning related to Anakin’s transformation into Vader, core issues of Sith master and apprentice relations, Rey’s parentage, and Palpatine’s origins and eventual return to power. In all, the scene is arguably the moment that ties all three trilogies together and affirms that the Skywalker saga is just as much about Palpatines as it is about Skywalkers.

Images courtesy of Lucasfilm and Disney.

Star Wars Holocron

Why Kylo Ren Wears His Mask Again In The Rise of Skywalker

by @holocronJulie and @holocronJosh for @sw_holocron

Kylo Ren’s mask has been a key fixture of the sequel trilogy, beginning all the way back to the early days of The Force Awakens’ promotional material. And, while the mask is brilliantly designed, paying obvious homage to the iconic mask worn by Vader, its symbolism and meaning across each of the sequel trilogy films is particularly noteworthy. One year after the events of The Last Jedi, Kylo Ren very quickly repairs his mask and wears it for a substantial portion of the final installment of the sequel trilogy. Since The Rise of Skywalker’s release, many fans have wondered exactly why Kylo repaired the mask he destroyed recently as an answer isn’t explicitly stated in the film.

One potential answer to this intriguing question relates to why Kylo wore the mask in the first place. In The Force Awakens, we are introduced to Kylo Ren as a masked, faceless villain. Rey even calls him a “creature in the mask,” because that is what she and everyone else around him view him as. However, the audience soon learns that Kylo wears the mask for a very different reason than his grandfather once did. Whereas Vader needed a mask to breathe, a perpetual scar he must bare due to his violent actions in Revenge of the Sith, Ren uses his mask to hide his vulnerability. He begs the burned helmet of his grandfather to “show him the dark side” once more. The call to the light is so strong in the man who was once Ben Solo that he can barely control it, and he knows that Snoke and others around him can feel him drifting away as he struggles with this conflict. Therefore, he wears a mask to hide his inner conflict, putting a physical and metaphorical barrier between himself and the atrocious actions he engages in order to fully commit himself to the dark side of the Force.

In The Last Jedi, this inner conflict takes a back seat to his rage and anger at Luke Skywalker. Because his mind is more on Luke than his inner conflict, he doesn’t feel as vulnerable, and therefore doesn’t need the mask. As The Last Jedi is certainly the darkest in the trilogy, it makes sense that the villain is also in his darkest moment. In a sense, Kylo’s intentions are more focused than ever in The Last Jedi and in the year leading up to The Rise of Skywalker. He knows he wants to connect with Rey. He knows he wants to be rid of Snoke. He knows he wants true power in the galaxy. He doesn’t need a mask to conceal the discrepancy between his natural inclinations to the Light and his conscious commitment to the Dark, because, for once, these conflicting visions are in line.

Flash forward to The Rise of Skywalker, Ren finds the Sith Wayfinder and heads to Exegol. While there, Palpatine tells him to kill Rey, something that Kylo clearly doesn’t want to do. Once again, similar to his murder of Han in The Force Awakens, he’s been given a task that would perhaps permanently cement his place in the dark side. Even after The Last Jedi, he still feels the call to the light, and he still feels vulnerable, so he repairs the mask in order to not let others see that side of him. He is no longer free of the mask and, therefore, free of the burden of doing things he does not truly feel inclined to do. The purpose and unified vision that led him through the conclusion of The Last Jedi, where he let the past die, is gone. Once again, he feels the conflict, perhaps now more than ever, and, in order to reconcile what he feels he has to do, he believes he must cover himself and his vulnerabilities up again. As The Rise of Kylo Ren comic notes, he’s simply not as ingrained in the dark side and evil as others around him, like Palpatine, Snoke, or Allegiant General Pryde. He simply wants to fit in and make sure that no one else around him finds out about his inner conflict. He doesn’t want to kill Rey, so he repairs the mask in order to not let that be known to others around him.

While the decision to bring back the mask has been criticized by some and labeled a “retcon” of The Last Jedi, there are also legitimate reasons why this is done, however implicit they may be. Very similar to the literal and figurative meaning behind Vader’s mask, Kylo’s mask serves an interesting purpose beyond just looking cool that is up for interpretation and is worth exploring

Images courtesy of Lucasfilm and Disney