2.07-2.08: “Legacy of Terror,” “Brain Invaders”
Star Wars has always been a compilation of countless mythological, comic book, B-movie, and adventure serial genre tropes, but one classic sci-fi/horror element that hadn’t appeared before now on screen was zombies. After this set of two episodes, that is no longer the case. I don’t have as much to say about the first episode as I expected when I was watching it. That isn’t to say it is at all a weak episode. In fact, I think that both of them are among the best the series has to offer up to this point. They are suspenseful and taut, even verging on being a bit scary at times–the Geonosians infected by the worms are particularly frightening, when they’re picking off Clones in the dark–and again demonstrate the series’ highly cinematic quality, but as with many horror movies, the focus on chills makes it a bit harder to analyze on a more literary level than some of the others.
At the same time, however, there are wonderful moments of character development. We get to see Luminara’s extreme bravery in going ahead alone through a potentially deadly sandstorm in order to due her duty, and then telling the others to turn back rather than save her. And we then get to see the awesome nuance of how Anakin has actually rubbed off a bit on Obi-Wan after all these years, when he ignores her warnings and continues on into the bugs’ lair, despite the danger. At the same time, he still has to hold Anakin back a few times. I love their interactions, with Anakin being nearly horrified with Obi-Wan’s level of patience before turning the attack on the alien queen and then refusing to help Obi-Wan secure a worm sample for study. “Study the bottom of my boot,” he replies, after stomping on one of them.
Unsurprisingly, Obi-Wan’s instincts turn out to have been correct–interestingly, here he demonstrates less hubris than Anakin, who seems pretty sure that the problem is solved at the end of “Legacy of Terror”–when the worms infect a Clone who then goes on to board Ahsoka and Barriss’ ship and infect all of the others. What is so stunning about this superb episode is how many layers it manages to play with, using the zombie film conceit. To begin with, it quite subtly uses the zombified Clones, who mindlessly turn on their Jedi compatriots, to foreshadow Order 66 in Episode III, when the Clones will eventually turn on them far more horrifyingly. In one extremely chilling moment, before subduing Barriss, one of the Clones says, “If there’s one thing we Clones know, it’s how to stop a Jedi.” And that line nails just how Palpatine is able to wipe out the Jedi in one fell swoop. Although Jedi are notoriously hard to kill, these troops have been fighting alongside the Jedi all of this time, and have come to know how they fight, their strengths, their weaknesses, their personalities on the intimate level of battle compatriots. In many ways, no one is better equipped to kill a Jedi. Furthermore, the Jedi have let their guard down with them and don’t expect what is coming.
On another level, the idea of the Clones acting like a hive mind both ironically comments on the fact that, as they are presented in Episodes II and III (and as the stormtroopers in the original trilogy are depicted), they seem to have a hive mind, devoid of individual personalities, particularly when Order 66 occurs. And although according to the information I can find online, the reason these men will turn on their former friends is only because they are bred to comply with the Chancellor’s orders, which at that point had deemed Jedis enemies of the state, I also wonder whether this is supposed to hint at the possibility that Order 66 was somehow embedded in their minds, as a sleeper command that would override their feelings about the Jedi. At the very least, it shows how, thematically, their actions during Episode III are reminiscent of a zombification.
Meanwhile, early in the episode, Ahsoka has a conversation with Barriss, in which she voices concern about what will happen when the war is over. Both she and Anakin seem more suited to being warriors in wartime than simple defenders of the peace, once the war ends, and she is uneasy about what life will be like for both of them at that point. Ironically, what she doesn’t yet know is that Anakin won’t ever have to discover what that will be like, as he will become Darth Vader and wage violence against innocents for years to come. And his gradual steps towards fulfilling that destiny continue in this episode. A few episodes back, we saw him leave Clovis potentially to die at Lott Dod’s hands, and here, in order to save Ahsoka’s life, he interrogates Poggle by secretly using the Force choke, an action which only users of the Dark Side of the Force ever undertake and which will be one of Vader’s signature moves in the future. Just as with the Clone’s earlier line, this scene is absolutely chilling, and all the more so because we know that Anakin is using it here with the best intentions at heart of saving his friend.
This mirrors Ahsoka’s later concerns that, when Barriss–who had the worm within her–begged her to kill her, in one moment of lucidity, Ahsoka made the wrong decision to ignore her pleas. After all, even though everything turned out alright, it very well could have gone the other way. Barriss could have gone on, along with the other Clones, to infect the medical station they had docked on and continue to spread the worms throughout the galazxy. Anakin consoles her by saying that letting go can be a struggle and that Barriss would be happy with the decision Ahsoka made, once she awakes, but Ahsoka isn’t so sure.
This is the first time on the series that we have seen Ahsoka make a choice that defies the Jedi code of letting go, succeed, and yet still remain conflicted about her decision, and it seems to be a sign that she is maturing (at least as far as not feeling good about saving her friend in a manner that specifically disregarded her friend’s philosophy) whereas Anakin, her Master, ironically is not. In some ways, he is growing steadily worse, and it is the very sort of decision that he made to abandon his principles in order to help his friend that will eventually lead to him doing even darker actions in order to save his wife, actions that ironically end up being the very thing that seals both her and his doom. This nuance is then subtly underlined by the masterful final shot in which the “camera” moves from an uneasy Ahsoka to a Republic ship that we know will one day become an Imperial Star Destroyer, the resonance of the impending future ringing louder than perhaps ever before on the show.
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