The Clone Wars Season 5 Episode 19: To Catch a Jedi
We got foreshadowing from all sides in the penultimate episode of The Clone Wars Season Five. Ahsoka Tano, Anakin Skywalker, and Asajj Ventress were each tested in their own way. It was a reflection of the grim nature of this story arc that the only character who seemed to look better as a result of this test was the former Separatist. She seemed to be transforming into a more dynamic, less evil character. In the cases of Anakin and Ahsoka, however, "To Catch a Jedi" was a less optimistic story. The pessimistic foreshadowing was part of what made this episode such a resounding success, especially in the context of its Ahsoka-centric story arc. We already know Anakin's fate, but we don't know every detail of it. After seeing how Anakin reacted to Ahsoka's behavior in this episode, I think it's safe to say that the wide-open nature of Ahsoka's future can only portend bad things for the final stage of Anakin's life as a Jedi.
Anakin's role in this episode, while minor, was important for several reasons. First of all, there was the obvious tension between him and the rest of the Council. When he heard that the rest of the Council believed Ahsoka guilty, Anakin's frustration with their hasty (and ill-informed) decision was obvious. Here we saw the seeds of his increasing distrust of the Council and its decisions. After all, these most senior Jedi Masters should have been even more mindful than someone like Commander Fox or Admiral Tarkin of the many other possibilities that did not preclude Ahsoka's innocence. Perhaps the shroud of the Dark Side was clouding their judgment, but in any event, their inability to think outside the box was just as frustrating to me as a viewer as it was to Anakin. Importantly, the only Jedi Council member who didn't seem convinced of Ahsoka's guilt was Plo Koon; his faith in the young Togruta stemmed from the fact that he had brought her to the Temple to be trained.
The other reason why Anakin was important in this episode is because he was given a chance to prove his impartiality concerning his Padawan. Mace Windu, ever the skeptic, openly disagreed with Yoda (a first as far as I can remember) about dispatching Anakin along with Plo Koon to track down Ahsoka. In the brief argument that followed, one thing became clear: Mace didn't trust Anakin to set aside his emotional attachments. He even said outright that Anakin was "emotionally tied to" Ahsoka. Mace had always been suspicious of Anakin's ability to handle the life of a Jedi, with all of the detachment that it required.
This element of Anakin's downfall was two-pronged. On the one hand, the very lack of trust that Mace demonstrated was one of the things that drove Anakin to the Dark Side. But on the other hand, Mace was right not to trust Anakin, as he had demonstrated an inability to control his emotions before he had even begun his Jedi training. Ironically, given Anakin's gripe to Padmé that Obi-Wan was "holding me back," it was only thanks to Obi-Wan's intervention that Anakin was able to pursue his apprentice in this episode.
Anakin's next important moment came as he and Plo Koon first located Ahsoka in the underworld. I watched his face carefully when he spotted Ahsoka and Asajj Ventress running away together. The next shot was Ahsoka turning, seeing her Master, and shaking her head at him, as if to say, "I can't go back with you, Master. I'm sorry you're stuck in this position of trying to stop me." In that moment, Anakin realized that Ahsoka had even lost faith in him. He was clearly also worried about Asajj's role in all of this, but the fact that Ahsoka was more willing to work with a sworn enemy of the Jedi than she was to surrender to her Master's custody clearly disturbed him.
I have a theory about what will happen to Ahsoka at the end of this season and how that will affect both her and Anakin next season, and a major component of my theory involves Anakin experiencing a profound and demoralizing sense of failure. We don't yet know how this will all shake out, but one thing is already clear: Anakin cannot be feeling too proud of himself and his abilities as a Jedi Master at the moment when he sees Ahsoka working with Asajj.
Anakin's sense of disappointment in himself seemed to take on another dimension when he and clone commander Wolffe discovered Ahsoka at the site of the explosives depot at the end of the episode. While this discovery solidified everyone else's assessment of Ahsoka's guilt, it did not fully sway Anakin, although even he seemed to be rethinking his staunch assertion of her innocence. When a cautious Plo Koon gave the Council his assessment of Asajj's involvement in the situation, he didn't have to do much more than glance at Anakin to warn him not to leap to judgment. Anakin was too busy contemplating what he had just seen. Anakin's recognition of Asajj as the X-factor in this situation will probably be just as significant in the next episode as his doubts about his Padawan. How will he confront Asajj in the season finale? To what lengths will he go to learn the truth?
"To Catch a Jedi" did a wonderful job of exploring Asajj Ventress' changing personality. When we last saw her, she was helping Obi-Wan fight Maul and Savage in "Revenge", the final episode of Season Four. Now she's working as a bounty hunter, which makes sense: it's the best-paying job out of the small handful in which the stigma of her Separatist past would actually be an asset. I like the way Asajj has been changing, because she's more interesting as a troublemaker than as a straightforwardly evil Sith harpy. Complicated characters are usually more interested, and Asajj's personality in this episode was certainly complicated.
Shortly after pinning Ahsoka to the ground and threatening to kill her to make it easier to collect the bounty on her head, Asajj was in a good enough mood to make a joke. As Ahsoka fiddled with the holocomm booth wiring, Asajj asked wryly, "Adding another criminal act to your record?" That remark, plus the light-hearted music that accompanied it, was a reflection of the peculiar transformation that Asajj was undergoing. If she still loathed Ahsoka, she did a great job of hiding it. Her joke suggested not only that the two women were getting along relatively well, but also that Asajj had an element of humor to her personality, even if she wasn't a "good guy."
Even more important was the fact that Asajj accepted Ahsoka's terms of combat -- namely, not killing any of the clones when they were cornered. This showed that Asajj had fundamentally changed. She was willing to restrain herself enough to keep working with Ahsoka. Cynical viewers will point to the fact that she was only concerned with getting Ahsoka to recommend her pardon to the Senate. Yet even that speaks to a remarkable change in Asajj's priorities and goals. She cared about getting that pardon -- about not having to run anymore. Asajj's restraint was also interesting given the fact that in her previous life, she had been let loose on Republic soldiers with orders to simply kill, kill, kill. Whether or not Asajj still hungered to kill clone troopers, she was no longer a servant to that violent desire. She could control herself. As befit her new persona, she even made a joke about her transformation, telling a surprised Ahsoka, "It's the new me."
Speaking of "the new me," this episode showed us a new side of Ahsoka as well. The fact that she asked Asajj for help showed how desperate she was to survive. A few weeks ago, she would have laughed at the idea of asking the Senate to pardon Asajj, but here she was agreeing to do just that. Far from what Asajj called her "luxurious temple on the surface," Ahsoka had to make tough choices and sacrifice some of her ideals for more practical concerns. In convincing Asajj to help her, Ahsoka even reminded the other women of Dooku's betrayal in a hard-edged voice. Put simply, she exploited Asajj's fears.
When they parted ways, Ahsoka acknowledged how unusual their partnership was, to which Asajj replied, "These are strange times." To me, the strangest part of that exchange was how unperturbed Ahsoka sounded when she remarked upon their temporary alliance. She was more okay with it than I had expected. Asajj had been her and her Master's sworn enemy, a menace to the government she was sworn to protect and the Order she was trained to defend. Yet Ahsoka's voice and facial expressions during her last conversation with Asajj registered only surprise, not disgust.
In part, this reflected Ahsoka's recognition of grey areas. Yes, Asajj had been the enemy, but there was no time to dwell on that now. Gone were the patriotic defenses of the Republic and the Jedi, as well as the taunts and insults, that a younger Ahsoka had eagerly hurled at the Sith assassin on previous occasions. Now, Ahsoka needed Asajj's help. She may even have meant what she said about recommending Asajj's pardoning to the Senate. That would represent a dramatic realignment of her principles, as well as a departure from the black-and-white, good-versus-evil, Jedi-vs.-Sith paradigm that had defined so much of her life. What we're seeing in this story arc is that such a realignment would not be surprising, given how sharply Ahsoka has already deviated from the simple rule-oriented maxims of the Jedi Order.
There were glimmers of light in Ahsoka's portrayal in "To Catch a Jedi". One such instance was Ahsoka's deliberate refusal to kill the security clones who confronted Asajj and her in the underworld. There was also the scene where she tried to save the young Twi'lek child after the two of them ended up in a falling elevator together. Even then, however, her mind was not fully on the mission of the moment. Panicking, not thinking straight, she started to slice open the roof of the elevator car, while the Twi'lek kid simply pressed the car's halt button. In the aftermath, Ahsoka was clearly embarrassed to be "not exactly on my game these days." Thus, while it was a light moment to emphasize that Ahsoka was still a caring person at heart, it was set against the backdrop of her frantic need to avoid the authorities and the thoughts of escape that dominated her mind.
This episode did something interesting with metaphors that I want to point out briefly. In the beginning of the second act, there was a shot of a feline tooka chasing a rodent through a dirty ally. It happened right before Ahsoka jumped down to street level and started walking away. Immediately afterward, Asajj confronted her. The metaphor was obvious: like the tooka and the rodent, Ahsoka and Asajj (whom we had already seen pursuing Ahsoka) were playing a game of "cat and mouse." Ironically, a similar scene, complete with metaphorical foreshadowing, occurred near the end of the episode. As Asajj was walking away after bringing Ahsoka to the munitions warehouse, she turned around and thought she saw Ahsoka emerging out of the shadows. It turned out to be a tooka whose ears had been distorted to look like Togrutan horns. Immediately afterward, the tooka became the rodent, as a new predator jumped Asajj and knocked her out.
This new predator deserves extensive consideration. Based on the trailer for this story arc that appeared online several months ago, I initially thought that Asajj had framed Ahsoka. She had been shown attacking Ahsoka, and naturally that meant that she was the villain of this story arc. Or so the trailer would have had us believe. The true villain wasn't Asajj; that much is obvious now. But just as obvious is the real identity of the antagonist. Based on the evidence available, I can only conclude that Asajj's attacker -- and, presumably, the mastermind of this entire series of events -- was Barriss Offee.
I had to re-watch this episode to be sure, but once I started to pay close attention to every aspect of every moment in which Barriss was on-screen, it seemed perfectly clear. (As I lay out this evidence, imagine that I am pacing around a room containing all the major players, like at the end of a detective movie.) First, there's the fact that when Ahsoka contacted Barriss for help at the beginning of the episode, her friend was dressed in an unusual outfit. They were definitely not her typical robes. Next, there's the question of how Barriss learned what she learned about the munitions warehouse. Ahsoka was curious about that, too. When Barriss said she had information for Ahsoka, the latter asked "from where," but Barriss dismissed the question by saying "we don't have much time." A minute later, Ahsoka asked again, but Barriss merely made a comment about doing "some digging." These were suspiciously cryptic answers to give to a close friend, even if she thought their transmission could have been monitored.
The rest of my evidence comes from a careful observation of the mysterious cloaked figure who attacked Asajj and Ahsoka. The way that mysterious enemy defeated Asajj was very graceful, very minimalistic; in short, very Jedi-like. The shot of the attacker bending down to retrieve Asajj's mask and weapons was framed so that you saw everything but the person's face, which was very creepy and a great way to set up the character's sinister intentions. But the next time we saw the attacker, it was obvious that she was a young woman. Equally obvious were two other facts. One: this person knew exactly where to find Ahsoka, and thanks to the Togruta's technical tinkering, it was unlikely that anyone had been eavesdropping on Ahsoka and Barriss' conversation. Two: the duel between Ahsoka and the mysterious attacker was unsettling easy for the latter woman. Ahsoka looked desperate. By the end of it, she looked beaten and scared. This enemy seemed to know her fighting style very well. Ironically, the cloaked figure's appearance and weaponry led Ahsoka to believe that Asajj had betrayed her, just as (presumably) the same individual had set up Ahsoka in the eyes of the Republic and the Jedi Order.
If I'm right about the identity of the mysterious attacker, that would be a shock to the system of this otherwise mostly stable TV show. Not only have there been few indications of anything evil stirring within Barriss (only the brain worms come to mind), but a betrayal of that sort -- even if it had been foreshadowed -- would wreak havoc on Ahsoka's proverbial center of gravity. Just when she thought she knew the system in which she worked, it turned on her at the first sign of her guilt. Then, just when she thought that her long-time friend was her only ally in the Temple, that turned out to be false as well. If The Clone Wars is taking Ahsoka down the path I suspect (and hope) it is, Barriss Offee's betrayal of the Jedi Order would be the perfect catalyst for a dramatic change in Ahsoka's relationship with the Order. When everything you thought you knew turns out to be a lie, what else can you do but abandon it all?
"To Catch a Jedi" was a phenomenal episode of The Clone Wars. It pushed forward the transformations of three major characters and built to what I'm sure will be a stunning season finale. It also gave us another glimpse into the underworld, where many of the people who work in the Jedi Order's ivory tower have to return at the end of their work day. This episode was filled with shots of the massive vertical tunnels that served as portals into and out of the underworld. The use of such portals to separate the slums from the city above emphasized the fact that these were two different worlds. Even the appearance of the law enforcement officers reflected this. The lower-level police looked like they were dressed in riot gear. They were armored for confrontation with the underworld’s more hostile cast of characters.
At no point was the divide between the two major levels of Coruscanti society more obvious than in the scene where Anakin and Plo Koon's troop carriers entered the underworld. The ships flew over the edge of Coruscant's landscape and descended down one of the underworld conduits, as grim music played to remind us that they were entering a less-civilized area of the planet. Given what we saw in previous episodes -- average citizens of Coruscant rejecting the war, the Jedi, and the clones -- this stratification has major implications for the eventual fall of the Republic. "To Catch a Jedi" centered on the transformations of two Jedi Knights and a former Separatist assassin, and it did so in an environment full of the discontent and despair that would eventually lead the people of the Republic to throw their full, desperate support behind a charismatic politician with a horribly scarred visage.