Subtitle: the Jedi are their own worst enemy
a recap of episodes “Holocron Heist”, “Cargo of Doom”, “Children of the Force”
Heist is Right
The first arc of the second season contains three episodes: “Holocron Heist”, “Cargo of Doom”, and “Children of the Force”. And I want to talk about three themes or concepts I found threaded throughout the action. The first is the heist genre. It is one of my favorites.
There are four key elements standard to a heist story: a prize, a plan, a team, and a problem. The film Ocean’s Eleven (2001) is highly regarded as representative of the heist genre and may be used to detail these four elements. While the internal plot is complicated, the plot of the film is easily summarized: Danny Ocean assembles a team of criminals to steal 150 million dollars from a vault owned by Terry Benedict. Solo, Rogue One, and The Mandalorian are all examples of heists in the Star Wars universe, as well as numerous episodes of Clone Wars and Rebels. But these three episodes deliberately play with heist story tropes.
Introducing the Holocron
The prize in this heist story is not merely the holocron, but the information the holocron contains. Ahsoka is tasked with guarding holocrons, glowing cubes which contain all the Jedi secrets. This is the first appearance of the holocrons which continue to play an important role in Rebels and have some similarities to the wayfinders of Rise of Skywalker. My understanding is a Sith Wayfinder is a type of Sith Holocron, like an atlas is a type of book. The Jedi holocrons are locked in a vault that only Jedi council members can enter. I find this problematic. There are all of twelve Jedi on the council. Twelve! Twelve people in the entire galaxy who are allowed to access the holocrons that hold all their secrets. And they wonder why no one trusts or understands the Jedi? You don’t lock up knowledge. That is literally the opposite of what a library is for.
Anyway, bounty hunter Cad Bane is hired by Darth Sidious to steal a holocron and it leads us to many classic elements of a heist story. First, Bane explains the plan to his partner with maps and gimmicks and even quips supplied by his droid. Meanwhile, Yoda has had a premonition that the temple will be infiltrated, but Anakin and Obi-Wan mistake what they’re after. The rest of the episode is back and forth between the team trying to steal the holocron and the team trying to stop them. Ahsoka gets a win by finding and capturing the “inside man”, a shapeshifter pretending to be a Jedi. This includes a lightsaber fight with the (fake) librarian in the library, which is really fun.
Holocron to Crystal to List
But the holocron was only the first piece of the puzzle (think National Treasure). Sidious needs the holocron so he can fuse it with a crystal. Which will then reveal a list of Force sensitive children identified by the Jedi. Sidious wants to steal the children before the Jedi claim them so he can Force-brainwash them into secret Dark Siders and create an army of super spies (think Black Widow). This plan is CRAZY and I love it. I love that Palpatine is legitimately always both ridiculous and threatening.
Cad Bane is a fan favorite and while he’s not really my favorite, I get it. There is a lot of tension in the first episode, with the back and forth between Team Sith and Team Jedi. But in the latter two episodes he is consistently two steps ahead of the Jedi.
Having captured the holocron he heads off to “the keeper of the crystal” Jedi Bolla Rapol and literally tortures him to death. He is completely unfazed by both the torture and the death. The battle droids are more upset. (Aside: I actually really enjoyed the battle droids in “Cargo of Doom”!) Bane just decides to find another Jedi. Coincidentally, Anakin and Ahsoka are on their way. At this moment I got scared that Bane was gonna torture Ahsoka to get Anakin to open the holocron – and I was totally right. That’s not only what happened, that was Bane’s plan. He set up an intricate, specific plot to capture and use Ahsoka and Anakin and it worked.
Then he used another tried and true heist trope to escape: he faked his death (and the holocron’s destrucion) and dressed up as a stormtrooper. But the part that really sold it to me was when he leads Obi-Wan and Mace Windu —who know it’s a trap — into a literal booby trapped death chamber. It’s glorious.
The Jedi Are Their Own Worst Enemy
If the heist is the structure and plot of the episode, Jedi overconfidence is the theme.
Friendly Reminder that Ahsoka is Fourteen
It starts with Ahsoka refusing to retreat because she thinks she’s winning and Anakin taught her to never let up when she has the advantage. Obi-Wan and then Anakin himself tell her evacuate but she pushes back and only relents when Anakin straight up orders her.
They end up in front of the council, getting dressed down by Yoda and Mace Windu. The Jedi Council is really the worst. They treat the war the way they treat everything: like a test. Ahsoka broke a rule, the biggest rule of all, disobedience and they punish her by taking her off the battlefield. Now, this is appropriate for a number of reasons. Structure is important in war zones and they need to know they can trust her to do her duty. Lives are at stake, as well as democracy and the galaxy, at least in theory. But the fact that they are removing a child from a position of authority in a war as a punishment is all kinds of twisted.
Friendly Reminder that Anakin is At Most Twenty One
Next up is Anakin, the most overconfident person in the galaxy all the way through Return of the Jedi. His “overconfidence arc” is best seen in his exchanges with Admiarl Wullf Yularen. I definitely had to look up his name, I just called him Admiral Sass.
Admiral Sass is an early practitioner of Imperial Order. He doesn’t like working with General Skywalker in the slightest (says as much at one point!) and their clash of personality results in disaster. Anakin comes up with a clever/absurd plan to capture Cad Bane and retrieve the holocron. Admiral Sass is unimpressed but Rex and Ahsoka not only back him, they literally call him a genius. The Cult of Anakin Skywalker is real ! (But I am totally a member.) When Anakin’s plan achieves none of its goals, and Ahsoka ends up captured, Admiral Sass feels vindicated. But that sense of vindication leads to him letting the bounty hunter escape because he chooses to make fun of Anakin instead of following his orders.
Friendly Reminder That the Jedi Are Terrible
Obi-Wan, Mace Windu, Yoda, and the Jedi in general also display overconfidence throughout this arc. I’ve already mentioned their secrecy and their detachment from the reality of war. Obi-Wan and Mace walk into a trap knowing it’s a trap and still spring the trap. Yoda has oddly specific visions/feelings, particularly in the first episode, but still completely fails to catch on to the truth. Every Jedi Council scene is painful. And they treat the list of Force sensitive children like it’s their personal property. Like those children are their personal property.
The Youngling Problem
The episodes suggest that the Jedi don’t separate infants from their parents. They identify the children. They inform the parents of the child’s potential. And then they come to collect them somewhere between the baby becoming verbal and less than nine. This does nothing to dissuade me from my belief that the Jedi Order is destructive to children and the practice of removing kids (of any age) from their family should be abolished. But yay they don’t steal babies?
Anyway, first Yoda, Mace Windu, Obi-Wan, and Anakin all use the Force like Cerebro to identify the babies that will be stolen. If Anakin wasn’t the protagonist I don’t think he’d be a part of this, but whatever. Obi-Wan sees a baby Rhodian and heads out to save him but is too late. He arrives to find an upset mom who wants to protect her child from the Jedi because Bane pretended to be one. And he uses Jedi Mind Tricks on her because of course. Then he tells the mom she was stupid to believe Bane because Jedi don’t use blasters. Obi-Wan, I love you, but you’re an elitist bastard.
Anakin sees a baby gungan on Naboo. He and Ahsoka not only save her, they capture Bane. But most importantly, both the baby and the mom are super adorable.
Look at them! I love them! The mobile is of a fish and a bigger fish and a bigger fish!! And Mom is so cool, I want a whole story about her. Also I am really worried about the fate of the Force sensitive gungan girl. Revenge of the Sith is only a year or two away in the timeline so she’s probably okay? But idk??
Speaking of Jedi Mind Tricks
So the Jedi have Bane but need to retrieve the list of pre-Jedi. Actually they call this list of Force sensitive infants “the future of the Jedi” more than once and it’s honestly gross. The Jedi do not own the Force!!!!!!!!!!! But I digress. Bane refuses to give them any intel so they decide to use Super Mega Combined Jedi Mind Tricks to basically invade him mind and rip the info out.
This scene is EXTREMELY UNCOMFORTABLE. I am not alone in this assessment. Here is Ahsoka.
Ahsoka, you in danger girl. For real.
Anyway! The combo JMT doesn’t work to trick him into telling them. But the ordeal (OF HAVING HIS MIND INVADED BY THREE VERY POWERFUL JEDI) is enough to convince Bane to at least pretend to be cooperative.
Anakin and Ahsoka
These episodes are important to the characterization of Ahsoka and of Anakin and of the relationship between the two. I’ve heard people say that The Clone Wars only gets good starting in the second season and while I disagree, I understand their point. These first three episodes are where the series really starts to play with their relationship. There are direct, explicit, parallels drawn between Anakin and Ahsoka and Obi-Wan and Anakin. It’s purposeful, it’s obvious, and it’s fascinating.
Two moments especially stand out. The first is when Ahsoka and Anakin first fall into Bane’s trap. After they appear to be winning (which hearkens back to the very beginning and Ahsoka’s initial mistake) and Bane runs away, Ahsoka follows like a woman on a mission. Or more to the point, like Anakin. And Anakin calls for her to wait and says “we’ll take him together!” in a clear echo of Obi-Wan to Anakin on Geonosis. The doors close between them and it is legitimately heartbreaking.
Then, when Bane is explaining Anakin needs to open the holocron or he will kill Ahsoka, he says “Isn’t negotiation the Jedi way?” Obi-Wan is known as ‘the negotiator’ so this is another, more subtle nod to Anakin’s role as Obi-Wan and Ahsoka’s role as Anakin. Anakin, of course, chooses to lay down his weapon and do what Bane wants to save Ahsoka. I have no doubt that Obi-Wan would do the same for Anakin. But Obi-Wan would feel immense guilt over it and Anakin is certain he did the right thing.
A Thin Line Between Light and Dark
Anakin is very clearly a proto-Vader throughout this arc. He is arrogant, commanding, dismissive, hotheaded, and convinced he is right. But what is so incredible is how each of those traits show up in the rest of the Jedi, too. And they are not derided, but accepted. Anakin’s wrong choices are his own. But they did not occur in a vacuum.
Toward the end, when they’ve captured Bane but haven’t figured out the whole plot Mace and Obi-Wan don’t want to tell the Chancellor what’s going on and Anakin disagrees. He argues that as long as the Jedi are acting as the military they need to report to the Chancellor, even about internal decisions. Obi-Wan turns it back on Anakin, telling him he just volunteered to go chat with the Chancellor. THERE IS A LOT TO UNPACK IN THIS THROWAWAY SIDE SCENE.
First of all, again, the Jedi explicitly avoid transparency and it ultimately dooms them. Obviously. telling the Chancellor what’s what ends up being the wrong way to go. But if the Jedi were just less secretive in general, literally everything would be better.
But mainly, it remains absolutely wild to me that the Jedi Order explicitly chooses to throw Anakin and Palpatine together every chance they get despite the fact that don’t trust him, or politicians in general. They consistently exploit the attachment between Anakin and Palpatine even though they don’t believe in attachment and don’t trust either Anakin or Palpatine. It’s WILD.
Anyway, the whole sequence made me very emotional. Especially especially Ahsoka’s desire to be accepted and Palpatine’s absolute rejection of her. I CRIED.
Finally, two aesthetic points:
(1) Anakin accepting responsibility is sexy.
(2) Ahsoka wears this long sleeved red get up as part of her space suit and I really wondered why she has to wear a bandeau top regularly. Just saying.
All seven seasons of Star Wars: The Clone Wars are available on Disney+.