Because this does seem to indicate that she just might have some deeply buried capacity for kindness, one might almost think that when she spares Savage Opress’ brother, due to Savage’s pleas, she is going momentarily soft. But this proves to not be the case at all. After the Nightsisters magically turn him into their servant, completely subject to their bidding, her first order to him is to murder the very brother he had tried so desperately to protect from Ventress, and in what might be the most exceedingly dark moment on the series to date, he does, brutally and unquestioningly, a powerful reminder that once someone surrenders to the Dark Side, any remaining good hiding deep within them can be almost impossible to access. It makes Vader’s actions at the end of Return of the Jedi seem even more impressive. That isn’t to say that this is the exact same situation, since in this case, Opress was forced into the Dark Side by a spell, keeping him in thrall, but at the same time, the Dark Side does robs its followers of their selfhood. They may think they have free will, but they’re actually operating under the dictates of dark powers that they only think they are controlling.
The reason Ventress needs this Zabrak warrior–of the same race as Darth Maul–is that Mother Talzin, the head of the Nightsisters, has come up with a brilliant scheme. She has Ventress and two of the other sisters attack Dooku in his sleep with lightsabers, after casting a spell to make them invisible, not expecting them to win–and it says a great deal about Dooku’s power that, even though he is attacked by three invisible warriors, who drug him, he still manages to best all three and brutally at that–but instead wanting to frame the Jedi for the assault so that he would feel compelled to seek another assistant from Mother Talzin, an assistant who would actually be a sleeper agent, subject to the commands of Ventress. Mother Talzin convincing Dooku to take on a new assistant who is actually, unbeknownst to him, his enemy, carries with it wonderful resonances with the long game Palpatine is currently playing with the Galactic Republic, under the guise of wise beneficence.
And just as Dooku’s training of Savage eventually mirrors Anakin with his son, so does it initially call to mind Yoda’s training of Luke, and at one point deliberately paralleling it, when Dooku asks Savage to lift multiple heavy rock sculptures with the Force, and after trying, Savage cries that it’s impossible. Dooku, however, then shows us one of the key areas Dark Side training diverges from Jedi training when he attacks Savage repeatedly with Force lightning, to make him angry and to then channel it into his task. Significantly, (a) it doesn’t work, and (b) the next time he tries Force lightning on him it will also be mere seconds before Ventress enters the room and “activates” Savage against Dooku. This next time he tortures him will be due to his failing to follow his orders to the letter.
The problem is that Savage, while immensely powerful, is also completely uncontrolled and undisciplined, so when Dooku sends him to fetch the Toydarian king, as punishment for his slight against Dooku all the way back in the show’s first episode, “Ambush” (proving again that Dooku does not forget, and making me wonder whether Hondo and the other pirates did take Obi-Wan’s advice and clear off of that planet before Dooku could return to exact his vengeance against them), Savage doesn’t heed his command not to harm the king. In the heat of the fight against Obi-Wan and Anakin–which can’t help but recall the classic Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon vs. Darth Maul duel from The Phantom Menace–he kills King Katuunko, a moment made all the more shocking by the fact that the king is a character who we came to like a great deal in his previous outings, for his wisdom and fairness.
This lack of control also proves to be a problem for Ventress as well, because once the Force lightning hurts Savage enough to undermine his performance against Dooku in the duel he and Ventress stage against him (a truly awesome sequence, as it’s the first time we’ve seen not two but three Dark Side users fighting each other), both Dooku and Ventress criticize him for being weak, leading to him lashing out against them both and finally having to face the Jedi at greatly diminished strength.
And in the episode’s final moments, Mother Talzin points Savage in the direction of a “brother” of his who has been living in exile on an Outer Rim planet, showing him a vision of another of his kind who looks a great deal like Darth Maul. Could he actually have survived being cut in half and plummeting down that shaft? I guess we’ll find out…
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