Star Wars: The Clone Wars – War and Peace (Post #7)

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[Note: The following post contains spoilers for the Star Wars: The Clone Wars episodes, “Jedi Crash,” “Defenders of Peace,” and “Trespass”.]

1.13-1.14: “Jedi Crash,” “Defenders of Peace”

"Defenders of Peace"

“Defenders of Peace”

Since the start of The Clone Wars, we’ve seen a number of planets and peoples fall victim to the nefarious Separatists and beg the Republic and the Jedi for aid, but this fascinating two-parter introduces a new wrinkle into this dynamic in the form of a peaceful people who don’t want help from the Jedi at all. After crash-landing on a largely uninhabited Eden of a planet, the Jedi soon meet the Lurmen, a lemur-like species that deliberately set up their small village in neutral space in order to avoid the Clone Wars all together. As Ahsoka, Anakin, and Jedi Master Aayla Secura discover, the Lurmen are not only completely pacifistic but blame the Jedi and the Republic just as much–if not more so–for the bloodshed, because from their perspective, the very act of raising a weapon means that one is contributing to the violence. They would rather die with their ethics intact than live thanks to any form of violence, and these episodes deftly ride a delicate balance between acknowledging the nobility of these principles even while showing that they aren’t necessarily the wisest to fully uphold.

Significantly, the empathetic Aalya doesn’t dismiss the elder Lurmen, Tee Watt Kaa’s, beliefs but instead takes them to heart. She listens to him and realizes that she can understand why, from his perspective, even the presence of so-called peacekeepers such as the Jedi and the Clones could be threatening, because using violence to promote peace seems to him a contradiction in terms. That is why she and Anakin initially respect his wishes in not even raising arms to defend them when Trade Federation commander, Lok Durd (voiced by George Takei, making him arguably the most prominent, if not only, actor to breach the Star Trek/Star Wars divide), arrives with his droid troops to subjugate them (Tee Watt Kaa seems particularly irrational here, blaming the Jedi more than the Separatists). When they learn, however, that Durd is planning on annihilating them with a weapon that can wipe out all organic life within its blast radius–while leaving machines such as droids intact–they decide they can’t sit idly by. As they tell Tee Watt Kaa, just as they respect his philosophy of non-violence, so must he respect theirs, that they can’t allow defenseless people to be mercilessly killed, and so as a form of compromise, they put up a shield and form a defensive wall in front of it.

Eventually, however, Tee Watt Kaa’s son, Wag Too–who respects his father and the morals with which he was raised so implicitly that, despite his protestations and pleas to Tee Watt to change his mind, he obeys his wishes throughout most of both episodes–finally decides, along with some other young Lurmen, that they can’t allow others to risk their lives for their safety without joining in the fight themselves (this father/son philosophical conflict fascinatingly mirrors those between various Jedi Padawans and their Masters over the course of the saga). And so they do, but in such a way that doesn’t violate their upbringing too egregiously. Earlier in the first episode, we had seen Wag Too save Rex and an ailing Anakin from a huge bird beast by tying its legs together and dragging it away, rather than kill it. It seems, from the evidence in this episode, that even that was a step farther than Tee Watt Kaa would have approved of. Here, Wag Too and his friends utilize a similar method. They tie the walker droids’ legs together (reminiscent of the leg tying in the Hoth battle sequence in Empire), and thus aid the Jedi and the Clones in a way that doesn’t directly cause death to even these machines but which does protect both them and their protectors.

And that seems to be this episode’s main message: that, while laying aside all arms may be entirely noble, it isn’t practical and could lead to one being subjugated or killed by those who would take advantage of this, treating it as a weakness, rather than the moral strength it is; but that there might also be a compromise, wherein one can defend oneself while keeping death and destruction to a minimum. At the same time, there is also the underlying irony that the Jedi are fighting in a war that has been specifically concocted to destroy them. Speaking of which, it is telling that once again, we see a weapon created at the behest of Palpatine that causes utter destruction, without a single survivor remaining. It is devastating to watch large swathes of the gorgeous, green landscape of the planet be turned into a gray, barren wasteland by the defoliator. The imagery is a powerful reminder of the Star Wars series’ recurring theme of the Dark Side using technology against nature, unlike the Republic’s and later the Rebel Alliance’s droids, who tend to work in conjunction with it.

I also haven’t yet touched on the fact that for the majority of the first episode, Anakin is in a coma, having been gravely wounded while trying to rescue his friends. Like the Lurmen, he is utterly helpless, requiring the protection of Ahsoka, Aayla and the others to survive. The last time we saw Ahsoka, she was on a mission without Anakin, which forced her to work with the skilled but rather hubristic Jedi Master Luminara, whose rigid adherence to rules she was able to sway by the end of the episode. This episode again forces her to work alone with another female Jedi Master, but this time it is in the service of being her unconscious Master’s protector, a situation she has never before experienced, used to having to look to Anakin for what to do.

And Aayla proves to be a Jedi she can relate to far better than Luminara (it probably helps that they’re from similar species). Aayla empathizes with her, discussing Jedi philosophy openly and honestly with her, admitting that at her age, she too had trouble reconciling the lack-of-attachment rule with the compassion Jedis are meant to be spreading, but that in the end, it may come down to a decision between saving the life of one person you love versus thousands–indirectly implying that she lost her own Master in the past due to having to make a similar choice. And due to her kind manner and rational argument–and the fact that she ends up being right in telling Ahsoka to leave Anakin with the Clones, as because of her advice, they find medicine for him–Ahsoka, perhaps for the first time, starts to really understand where the Jedi are coming from in this regard. I’ll be interested to see if this is reflected in later episodes, or whether the influence of her Master and his lack of adherence to this philosophy (at least, on a psychological level) causes her to soon fall back into her default position on the subject.

Related to this nuance is the subtle bit of foreshadowing that occurs on the ship, shortly before it crashes, when the apparatus to which Anakin is hooked in order to breathe causes mechanically enhanced inhale/exhale noises that sound eerily similar to those he will constantly produce as Vader. This moment reminds us that, somewhere buried underneath this hero are the very seeds that will produce one of the galaxy’s greatest villains. It’s also both ironic and poetic that we first hear it shortly after Anakin helps rescue Aayla, one of the very Jedi who we will see slaughtered by the Clones in Episode III. Learning what a kind and openhearted Jedi she is here makes that brief scene in Revenge hurt even more.

Author: Robert Berg

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