March 02, 2013 7:00pm EST
Why isn’t Ahsoka in Revenge of the Sith?
That’s been the unifying question around which all speculation and rumormongering related to Star Wars: The Clone Wars since its inception five years ago has revolved. In fact, you could argue that few shows have been more defined by eventually finding out the answer to a particular question than The Clone Wars. On Lost, it was “How will they get off the island?” On Battlestar Galactica it was, “What happens when they find Earth?” How I Met Your Mother is, well, pretty self-explanatory in terms of its unifying question. These shows could be unnecessarily slavish to their defining questions, however. The more interesting series, still, are those built around questions related to a character’s ultimate fate. What will happen to Walter White on Breaking Bad as he becomes more and more a monster? Will Don Draper, that emblem of style and taste on Mad Men, ultimately be rendered a dinosaur, left behind by a more progressive culture that has no use for him or his chauvinism? (He doesn't like "Tomorrow Never Knows" for God's sake!) Star Wars: The Clone Wars, I think, falls into this latter category, because its central question about Ahsoka’s fate is character driven and reflective of the general uncertainty and impending doom facing the Jedi going into Revenge of the Sith.
Well, now we have an answer. Ahsoka Tano did not die. Asajj Ventress did not plunge a crimson blade into her heart, as many had speculated five years ago at the start of the show. Rather, Ahsoka, decided to walk away. She left the Jedi Order and its terrible war behind to create a new life for herself. Kevin Kiner’s traditional fanfare gave way to a subdued, string-heavy cue as she walked out of the Temple and into the hazy sunset of Coruscant’s twilight. Little does she know that her actions have probably saved her life.
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I can only imagine that Anakin’s despair over losing his Padawan means he will try to drown his sorrow via some hot-and-heavy babymaking with Padmé then promptly leaving for six months to fight the Separatists in the Outer Rim sieges. Revenge of the Sith is nigh, my friends, and the Dark Side’s slow process of stripping away everything Anakin holds dear—including his trust in the Jedi Order—has begun in earnest.
“The Wrong Jedi” began with Tarkin briefing the Council about how the Republic military wants Ahsoka tried for treason before a Senate tribunal. Any Jedi-led trial would be biased. In order to present her before the Republic’s governing body for judgment, however, she would have to expelled from the Order. Mace Windu, increasingly an unlikable hard-ass and the personification of how much the war has changed the Jedi, if you ask me, acquiesced immediately. Yoda seemed to have more misgivings, but he still agreed to summon Anakin and Ahsoka to the Chaber of Judgment. Anakin was bereft. On some level, his whole life has been devoted to bringing order from chaos, a preoccupation with control—and controlling outcomes—that’s essential for his ultimate fall to the Dark Side. He could only turn to impotent rage to protest his lack of control over his Padawan’s judgment at the hands of the Council.
Calling her “Snips” one last time, he stood with her on the platform that raised up into the Jedi’s Chamber of Judgment. A cylindrical cavern, much like the chamber where Jedi are proclaimed Knights, her platform hung suspended in a kind of limbo between Anakin below her and the Council above her, as her fate was decided by forces well beyond her control. It reminded me of Capt. Kirk and Dr. McCoy’s Klingon trial on Qo’nos in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, and I hoped a bellicose Mace Windu would shout at Ahsoka, “Don’t wait for the translation, answer me now!” Ahsoka pleaded her case but admitted that her awareness of these events had become clouded. “Clouded by the Dark Side these things are, Padawan Tano,” Yoda said. “Dangerously clouded. But not just surrounding you, surrounding many things in these times.”
NEXT: Ahsoka is expelled from the Jedi Order.
It makes you realize once again how little control the Jedi possess, even when it comes to the Force. For a long time, I, like probably most Star Wars fans, assumed that the Force obeyed the will of Force Users, and that it was a Force User’s intent that determined whether his or her actions are part of the Dark Side. Actually, the Light Side and Dark Sides of the Force exist independent of a User’s actions. By doing certain things, a User can gain the assistance, even approval, of the Light or Dark Sides, but the Force has a curious autonomy. Perhaps it’s because the Celestials we saw in the Mortis arc secretly govern—or serve as a cosmic conduit—for its ebb and flow. It’s almost as if the Light and Dark Sides are diffuse, God-like entities that have to be cajoled into rendering assistance. Even Mace Windu himself at the end of “The Wrong Jedi” used the decidedly religious phrase “The Force works in mysterious ways.”
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One thing is certain, the Sith are hellbent to master the Force, not just comply with its will. And to do that they needed to call upon the long-dormant Dark Side. Three generations before Darth Sidious, a Twi’Lek Sith Master broke through the Light Side bubble that had shrouded the Galaxy like a security blanket for a millennium and allowed the Dark Side to enter in once again—to the degree that its reemergence was felt even by the Jedi. His apprentice, the Bith scientist Rugess Nome, a.k.a., Darth Tenebrous, and then his Muun apprentice Hego Damask, Darth Plagueis, worked to widen this Dark Side rift until it could overwhelm the Light Side and engulf the Galaxy. The only way they would achieve ultimate victory is for the Jedi to become their servants, as well, which they finally achieved by getting them to give up their peacekeeper ways and fight this galaxy-spanning war for them. The sad truth is, Barriss Offee is right. And the wrongheadedness of the Order's Kafkaesque treatment of Ahsoka shows just how far the Jedi have fallen—they’re already doomed because they’ve strayed from the path of the Light. Order 66 is just a formality at this point. Just like how this ceremony to expel Ahsoka was merelt a formality. The Jedi weren’t going to listen to her testimony. They had already made up their minds. Anakin shouted “You can’t do this!” as they stripped her of her Padawan braid, and, with an extreme close-up of Ahsoka’s sad tennis-ball eyes as they read the verdict, told her she was expelled from the Order and would be served up to the Republic to face whatever justice they deem necessary to mete out.
NEXT: Anakin goes where the Tooka cats roam…to hunt down Ventress and get some answers.
Anakin brought in Padmé to represent Ahsoka before the Senate hearing. If his former Padawan didn’t already know about their relationship, the fact that Padmé was Anakin’s go-to choice for her defense council probably sealed it. Anakin, meanwhile, went down into the Underworld to find Ventress and figure out what had happened.
Down in Blade Runner-ville, where the Tooka cats roam, life was returning to normal after that fire at the warehouse where Ahsoka was captured. The night was sticky, and the neon lights of cantinas shone with a hazy blur. Ithorians were clustered here and there. And a saber-less Asajj Ventress was strolling along, only to sense a hooded Anakin Skywalker on a catwalk above her, ready to pounce. When Anakin has his hood raised, like he did as Darth Vader when executing the members of the Separatist council on Mustafar in Revenge of the Sith, you know he means business. Where Ventress caught Ahsoka unaware, now Anakin caught the ex-Sith assassin by surprise. He Force Choked her, then clutched her slender throat with his fist, as if he was about to break her neck the way he does Captain Antilles' at the start of A New Hope. But he let her speak. “When I heard your little rat was on the run, I thought she might bring a large bounty. I was going to catch your pet and turn her over to the authorities.” She was interested in money and revenge but then realized she and Ahsoka had a lot in common. They had both been abandoned by their masters and were now left alone and directionless. She was basically saying that Anakin is no better than Dooku, which is partly true, since Anakin will even take Dooku’s place at Darth Sidious’ side.
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Ventress said that the hooded figure who snuck up on her and stole her mask and lightsabers must have been another Jedi. Not even Anakin was able to mask his Force signature around her as completely as this other person did. Then she realized Ahsoka had spoken to someone else at the Temple…Barriss. It was Barriss who sent them to that warehouse, knowing the explosive nanodroids would be there for the perfect frame-up. Anakin was convinced. But he left Ventress by notifying her that if she was lying, she was as good as dead. I loved Ventress’ reaction to that. “Such promises,” she snarled. Let’s face it, she did seem to go out of her way to antagonize him, though, by calling Ahsoka both a “rat” and a “pet” in the same breath.
Now for Ahsoka’s second trial in a span of 22 minutes. She was again on a platform hanging over an abyss, but this time stood in a cavernous chamber that looked much like the Death Star interior as revealed in the seminal game Star Wars: Battlefront II. Presiding over it was Palpatine himself. Yes, Tim Curry, Rocky Horror star and the one-time menacing concierge at New York’s Plaza Hotel, is now the voice of the Chancellor after the sad death of the great Ian Abercrombie. This Palpatine is a bit more snide because Curry is snide, though I thought all of the smoldering menace Abercrombie injected into the part was still there in this new interpretation. There’s just a little more growl in Curry’s Palpatine, a bit more emphatic rolling of the character’s R’s.
NEXT: Barriss Offee reveals her true nature, and Tarkin shows he’s a master of the sarcastic slow clap.
Tarkin, the prosecutor, said he would be seeking the death penalty on behalf of the state. As Ahsoka’s defense council, Padmé asked why the Padawan would kill someone using a method so easily traced back to her, i.e. Force choking the life out of Letta Turmond? When it came time for Tarkin’s rebuttal, he slow-clapped his mock approval of Padmé’s argument, the true mark of villainy, then brought up the valid point that Ahsoka had been seen fraternizing with known war criminal Asajj Ventress. I half expected him to follow that up with Chang’s “Sar-cas-tic claps” from Community.
Anakin was on the warpath. He showed up at the Temple and barged into Barriss’ dorm, where she was meditating, and grilled her about her last communication with Ahsoka. He picked up her lightsaber and inspected it, the way he does so many years later when he looks at Luke’s saber in Return of the Jedi. He decides there is only one way to find out the truth: to swing that saber at Barriss to see how she would react. If she didn’t raise another saber (or two) to defend herself and was struck down by his blow, then she would have been revealed to be innocent. And he would have killed her. If she withdrew Ventress’ twin sabers and defended herself, then she was guilty. Kind of a witch-trial scenario here. If she floats, she burns. If she drowns, she’s innocent, but still dead.
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So obviously Barriss revealed her true nature, as almost all of us had deduced last week, and withdrew Ventress’ blades to parry Anakin’s attack. “I think they suit me,” she purred when Anakin asked why the hell she didn’t get rid of them. They ended up fighting all through the Temple, and even on its rooftop where a younglings lightsaber class was taking place, with hotheaded young Petro and Gungi in attendance. She yelled at one point that the only thing the Jedi Council believes in is violence, which is I guess why she decided to mock their priorities by bringing a major fight to the Temple itself. She dueled with such ferocity, using I believe the Jar’Kai technique employed also by Ventress and Darth Plagueis, that it seems extremely likely she’s turned to the Dark Side. But she was also saying that she found the Jedi to be warmongers, a point of view that fits her since she’s spent part of the war as a healer dealing with the casualties from one of the conflict's most terrible battlefields, Drongar. Maybe she just had enough. And I know I know, this doesn’t account for her previously canonical demise at the blaster of Commander Bly, being gunned down alongside Aayla Secura on Felucia. But come on, that was just in a one-off comic (“Reversal of Fortune,” I believe), and isn’t this more interesting?
Watching Anakin wield two blades (his and Barriss’ old saber) in a fight through the temple eerily foreshadowed his role in Operation Knightfall, taking place possibly just months after this. The fact that a Jedi could be a traitor capable of turning against the Republic—not to mention the ease with which the Council could fall into Barriss’ trap and turn against one of the good guys in Ahsoka—unquestionably results in Anakin doubting the Jedi and thinking they can be corrupted. The pivotal puzzle pieces that’ll allow Order 66 are very much being put into place.
NEXT: So what’s the Hitchcock connection this time? And does Barriss have a point about the Jedi?
Anakin burst in to the Senate tribunal right as the verdict was about to be read. He had Barriss with him, in chains. She offered up a full confession. After all, if she was trying to make a point by bombing the Temple, shouldn’t she let people know what that point is, rather than try to shift the blame onto someone else? She said the Jedi have become an army for the Dark Side, fallen from the Light they once held so dear. She has a point. Except that no true pacifist, if that’s what she thinks she is, would execute a bombing to get that pacifist statement across. Not to mention that it seems very much like she has turned to the Dark Side herself. And finally, it seems impossible she could have bombed the Temple and been smuggled into that Republic prison to kill Letta without assistance. Assistance from those wanting to discredit the Jedi. Who else could that be but the Sith and their allies? The Sith who are in fact in control of the Republic and who already have the Jedi doing their bidding in this war. No matter how you look at it, Barriss’ actions don’t align with her stated goals. She’s hopelessly misguided, or has been terribly used, or in fact was lying on the witness stand because she outright embraces serving the Dark Side. I wouldn’t be surprised if she turned up dead soon enough, so that whoever her collaborators are can keep her quiet.
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All of this was devastating for Ahsoka, as you can well imagine. And it’s here that we have the Alfred Hitchcock connection writer Charles Murray intended for the episode to have when he titled it “The Wrong Jedi.” That’s an obvious reference to Hitchcock’s Neorealist-inflected The Wrong Man, the one time in his career that he rejected his mantra “My movies aren’t a slice of life, they’re a slice of cake” and made a movie that actually did hold up a mirror to society. To devastating effect. The Wrong Man starred Henry Fonda as a night club musician who is mistaken for an armed robber because of a striking resemblance and forced to stand trial. Whereas Hitch’s other “wrong man on the run” stories (The 39 Steps, Saboteur, North by Northwest) were stylish, sexy affairs of innocent men getting into adventures, meeting beautiful women, and not only clearing their name but saving the day by stopping some threat against the society that’s persecuting them, The Wrong Man shows the deeply felt, deeply disruptive, ultimately devastating effects of being wrongly accused. [SPOILER ALERT!!!] Though Fonda’s character is ultimately exonerated, his wife (Vera Miles) has lost her mind throughout the course of the trial and his incarceration and ultimately has to be confined to a sanitarium. This is what’s happened to Anakin and Ahsoka, but minus the romance and with the genders reversed. Ahsoka has been cleared, but she’ll forever be scarred, and Anakin may not have lost his mind, but it’s pushed him one step closer to embracing the Dark Side.
NEXT: Ahsoka proves she’s the Jedi the Order needs. Just not the one they deserve.
This ordeal was Ahsoka’s trial, the true test of whether she is no longer a Padawan but a full-fledged Jedi Knight. She passed. And the Order was ready to welcome her back as a Knight. But it was not meant to be. If the Council doesn’t trust Ahsoka, how could she trust herself? Not to mention that her experience of being on the run has given her a sense of the "shoot-first ask-questions-later" mentality the Republic has increasingly adopted. Could it be that Ahsoka actually agrees with Barriss’ assessment of the Republic and the Jedi? No matter what was fueling her decision, she realized the Order was no longer for her. At least until she had discovered more fully what she’s made of on her own. She’s been cloistered too long in the Jedi’s cradle of power. Now that she’s seen how so many of the Republic’s less fortunate citizens live, how could she stay there?
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When Anakin offered her back her Padawan braid, she closed his hand and gently refused it. And she walked out. My favorite moment in this scene, was how, on the right edge of the frame, Obi-Wan was actually going to go after Ahsoka and Anakin, but Plo Koon softly put a hand on his shoulder to hold him back. This was not a matter Obi-Wan, nor the Council, nor Anakin himself could decide. Only Ahsoka could. The fact that she wanted to walk away from a life of power, privilege, material comfort, and military authority, means that Ahsoka is the Jedi the Order truly needs, someone capable of letting go, who isn't defined by status and attachment. However, she may not be the Jedi the Order deserves. Just think how different she is from Anakin, who will cling to power and authority above all else, whose world is shattered when he’s not promoted to “Master” when earning a seat on the Council. He will fight to preserve everything he’s attached himself to, even if it means destroying all of it in the end like a petulant child who’d rather ruin his playthings than let someone else get their hands on them.
What was a revelation, though perhaps with hindsight not a particularly startling one, is that Ahsoka seems to be aware of Anakin's secret marriage to the good senator from Naboo. When Anakin said he had also thought about leaving the Order, she said, "I know." Eventually, Anakin will walk away, much like Ahsoka. Except that unlike Ahsoka he will insist upon leaving the Order in rubble in his wake.
Ahsoka’s choice to walk the earth—or walk the galaxy if you will—is the best possible outcome for her. It proves she’s the kind of Jedi the Order needs most of all, the kind of Jedi who, like Luke Skywalker a generation after her, is willing to lay down her lightsaber. And because of that, it means she made herself a true ally of the Light Side and will probably survive the events of Order 66 to come, as all of her former comrades around her fall.
Will we see Ahsoka again? Who knows. Part of me hopes not, for the sake of the character. But if Lucasfilm Animation ever wanted to continue the storytelling of the Clone Wars series past the events of the Clone Wars itself, much like the way the Star Wars: Republic comics series became Star Wars: Dark Times after the events of Revenge of the Sith, and explore the era between Episode III and Episode IV, Ahsoka would be an extremely worthwhile character with whom to do that.
Until that day, if it ever comes, I feel like Ahsoka has reached full maturity as a character. The circle is now complete. And the Force is truly with her, perhaps more than ever before.
To face uncertainty is to face life. That’s what Ahsoka did. And that’s what we Clone Wars fans must now do, since another season has ended and we don’t know when or where we’ll next see our beloved show. All we know is that there will be more. And when that day comes, when we get to explore that Galaxy Far, Far Away in animated form once again, your recapper will be there ready to geek out with you once again.
May the Force be with you all.
Follow Christian Blauvelt on Twitter @Ctblauvelt
[Photo Credit: Lucasfilm]
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February 17, 2013 11:00pm EST
I joked earlier in the season that Season 3 of Downton Abbey should have been called One and a Half Weddings and a Funeral but maybe it should have been called One and a Half Weddings and Two Funerals because now Matthew is dead. Yes, he suffered from a severe case of David Caruso-itis, which manifests itself as an insane ambition that leads a character to self-immoalte so he can attempt an inevitably unsuccessful movie career. It's such a sad and tragic illness.
But elsewhere there was a child born, a trip to Scotland, a lot of rather fruitless hunting (because Thomas wasn't invited, ZING!), and a day at the fair. All in all, a nice wrap up to this season. So, Brits, when can we expect the next installment?
Scotland: When I first realized that we'd all be going up north to Duneagle Castle in the season finale, I felt a little ripped off. This show isn't called Duneagel Castle, it's called Downton Abbey and I don't really care to learn about a whole different house, its lords, and its servants. But after our double-sized episode (which aired as the Christmas special in England, even though it was set in the summer) I was totally charmed. Not only did we have the glorious castles and all the spectacular shots of the scenery, but we also got to see a man named Shrimpy who wears kilts and our beloved Cousin Rose who was so much trouble at Downton and in London in the last episode. Then there was the theme music that was different but sounded wonderful, so that's an improvment. OK, maybe the highlands aren't so bad after all (Maybe there's a Duneagle spin-off in the future. Maybe we can call it Not's Landing.) The one thing I hated was when Mr. Bates said that the Grantham's hadn't been in a few years because of the war and Sybil's death, but they were going this year and Bates said it's the highlight of the Lord's summer. How does he know? He's never even been! He's only been at the house since just before the war. What a liar.
Edna, the Slutty House Maid: I'm sorry, but I love sluts and the only thing I love more than sluts are uppity sluts and that is why I have a huge passion for Edna, a slut of the first order with the worst accent this side of a Bostonian with a stutter. Edna comes onto the scene and out of the blue sets her sights on the one bachelor she thinks she can score with, Mr. Branson. I can't say I blame her because, as a fellow slut, I also have a weakness for the way he stretches out an undershirt. But how did she think this would end? Did she think that he would really marry her and get her out of the servants quarters for good? Didn't she realize she would be out on her duff faster than she could wash out her new man's mourning clothes? It was a good try though, Edna. Maybe should have made out with him a bit more before getting kicked out.
The Name Game: The most amusing part of the servants from Downton eating with the servants from Duneagle was the huge conversation they had about what to call each other. It's the custom, in a visiting house, to be called by the last name of the lord or lady that the servant is there serving (I guess it just makes things a lot easier than having to learn a bunch of stupid names). However it quickly devolves into a critique of how things are unconventional at Downton, like Anna isn't called Bates because there is already a Bates and she's been a house maid so they just call her Anna like always. It is a clever way to point out that, yes, Downton isn't really historically accurate, though it's a whole lot more fun.
Isobel and Violet's Feud: No matter how many miles separate them they still find a way to insult each other. When Violet is up north with her homely, mean, and screw-faced niece Susan, Isobel is back home dissing her to Branson. "I'm sure she doesn't like the working classes to read," Isobel scoffs about Violet's lack of progressive views. Still, I must say between getting Sybil to Downton for Mary's wedding, supporting Edith's new job, getting Ethel a post where everyone doesn't know she's a whore, getting Branson a job on the estate, and showing Rose some leniency because she's so young, our Dowager is too hip to be square.
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Everyone Knows Mary Is a Monster: Let's forget that Cora tells us that Lady Susan never liked Mary and that Edith knows that she is going to be mean about her new relationship with her editor Michael (and, honestly, Mary is unrelentingly cruel to poor Edith who had just been left at the altar a little more than a year ago). Even still both Mary and Matthew know that no one likes Mary. She knows that she's petty, cruel, and jealous with Edith and most people think that she's cold and heartless. Well, she is! What does Matthew see in her anyway? God, she's such a monster.
Hats: From Edith's orange headband to Violet's magical millinery to the deerstalkers (also known as "Sherlock Holmes hats") the men all wear hunting to this thing that Rose is wearing on her head, everyone was donning such wonderful chapeaux. No one does a headpiece like the British.
NEXT: Thomas and Jimmy Make Nice...
Thomas and Jimmy Make Nice: Wasn't it sweet that Thomas and Jimmy have become friends? Well, I don't really believe this plot line. It was just a year ago that Thomas tried to kiss rape Jimmy in his sleep and, even as Thomas is trying to make friends, he confesses that he was following Jimmy around the fair grounds like a gross stalker (maybe trying to catch a bit of drunk nookie with his intended?). But, yeah, I guess we'll just have to accept that they're peas in a pod now. And, boy, isn't it nice that all Thomas had to do to get Jimmy to trust him and be his friend is get the shit beat out of him? And all for a man who was going to ruin his life because he doesn't like the gays? Isn't that so nice? Man, this sounds more like something I hate.
Carson and Little Sybil: Wasn't it so cute when Carson came in and was holding little baby Sybil, bouncing her up and down, and cradling her the same way Courtney Love cradles a bottle of Maker's Mark at a party? Yes, it was cute. But it brings up another problem that I sort of love: Sybill really has no nanny. Well, she does. There is some woman named "Nanny," (which would be hilarious if there was a governess with the name "Nanny" but I think they just call her "Nanny" like Kathleen Turner calls her cat "Kitty Kitty" in The War of the Roses) who is the baby's actual nanny. Nanny is never around. We hear about her, but we never see her.
We know Ivy and Edna ,the slutty new house maid who was around for just one episode, but they still haven't seen who has been cast as one of the more important servants in the house? What, are they hoping to land someone famous and British like Baby Spice or Judi Dench or something and they don't want to show her face until a famous actress signs on the dotted line? Or maybe she'll be like Norm's wife Vera on Cheers – some crazy woman we always hear about but never see.
Shirtless Branson: Finally! And it was everything we hoped for.
O'Brien Meets Her Match: Sure Wilkinson may have a face like a deflated basketball, but I love that someone finally tried to out-bitch O'Brien. O'Brien and Thomas – whether they are getting along or at each others throats – are great foils, but seeing her just go after someone and totally try to destroy her was giving us everything we really want from this horn-headed demon from below the stairs.
Still, the storyline was underused and a little bit unresolved. We have no clue why Susan was so mean to her maid (unless it was just because she was sort of awful to everyone) and we have no idea how or why O'Brien would try to ruin her. What would she get out of the deal but satisfaction? And what happened to Wilkinson after O'Brien was whispering to her mistress? Our O'Brien is awful, but usually she only uses her manipulations to get something that she wants, not to be cruel out of spite.
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Rose Is Coming!: Oh, goodness me, we're going to get young Rose at Downton full time next season. Oh what delightful story lines she'll bring but doesn't this show need a few more men in its numbers? With Matthew biting the dust the only male upstairs that we're left with is Lord Grantham. Maybe Rose needs a brother? Or a cousin? Something!
Lord Grantham Finally Comes Around: Yes, it only took an entire season of him being wrong and ridiculed by just about every member of his family, but one trip to Scotland and he's realized that Matthew is right about taking Downton in a new direction and everyone was right for supporting him. Well, better late than never, I guess. But who is going to be the villain for next year? Maybe it can be Mr. Carson? He seems to be the only real conservative left.
Violet's Quip of the Week: "It's bad enough parenting a child when you like each other."
A Year Later: The only thing I hate more than seeing "A Year Later" just after the opening credits of something is seeing "Guest Starring Jessica Biel." No one wants to see Mrs. Timberlake in anything and no one wants to see Downton continue to jump around like Amanda Bynes after one too many Sugar-Free Red Bull and vodkas.
I know, I know, they had to go ahead a year so that Mary could have her baby and Matthew could die after holding it in his arms one time, but really, were there no moments in that year that were worth noting? It's like nothing at all happens at Downton for months or years at a time and then in the course of three days there is a baby born, a man dies, a young cousin comes to live with them, everyone goes to a fair, Thomas gets beat up, Jimmy forgives him, Mrs. Pattmore is in and out of love, there's a new housemaid who tries to sleep with Branson and gets fired, and something ridiculous having to do with Daisy. All of that happens in a week, but nothing, nothing at all happened in the year before? Please.
NEXT: The Episode's Big Death...
We All Knew He Was Going to Die: Thanks to the insane amount of time we had to wait before PBS aired this episode and the proliferation of social media and people watching the show in England Tweeting about it, we all knew Matthew was going to die at the end. We all knew it. Even if you somehow avoided all the direct spoilers, you still knew that someone huge was going to bite it and that it would be Matthew and that colored how you watched the entire episode. That's sad.
As it unspooled in merry old England, the end must have come as an "Oh no they didn't!" moment that you just don't believe, like when Ned Stark got his head cut off (spoiler alert!) in Season 1 of Game of Thrones. But we didn't get that. No, we were just waiting for the inevitable and, while it was good, it just didn't have the same impact. It's like going to see Psycho now knowing about the iconic shower scene where the heroine dies. If you had seen that when the movie was released, it would have been revolutionary to see a movie where what appeared to be the heroine died after 30 minutes, but now the impact is dulled. Sad, but true.
Bagpipes: The cliche is true. We all hate them.
Pairing Up: I do not like this inclination to find the show's next power couple by trying to put every single person in the cast with every other single person. Isobel and Dr. Clarkson deserve each other (they are both awful and insufferable) but I'm glad their union didn't work. The same for Mrs. Pattmore, who shouldn't have to settle for a fat, old, ugly grocer who wants to flirt with all the ladies. Thank God she didn't want him anyway. There is a slow burn where Carson and Mrs. Hughes are being pushed together and I don't like it one bit. Can't they be equals and friends who respect and support each other without falling into bed together? Please!
The Boring Bateses: Speaking of power couples, how awful are the Bateses? We wanted them to get together so bad and then when they finally did it has fizzled out faster than Sam and Diane (yes, that is two Cheers references in one recap). We had that whole awful tedium of Bates being in jail and now they're going on picnics and Anna is dancing and the whole thing is just so damn boring. Maybe it's time to ship these two off to America to earn their fortune and we can get some new characters who actually, you know, do something.
Our Poor Lady Edith: She can never be happy, our Edith, can she? Now she's in love with Michael, her editor, even though he is stuck married to a crazy lady. I love that Edith is going to have a "modern entanglement" with him and that she finally has someone to love who loves her back (though I did love Matthew's line, "We're not in a novel by Walter Scott!") but can't it ever be easy? Can't she just have someone who is actually available? Her father is never going to like this, but if it was too easy there wouldn't be much drama in this show, would there. Maybe the one upside of Matthew dying is that no one will know that her man is married to another, since he seems to be the only one that Michael told. But does Mary know the secret? And what will she do with it. Oh, she's totally going to ruin everything!
RELATED: 'Downton Abbey' Recap: Shocking Death Shocks Everyone with Deadly Shocks and Death
Daisy: How come the only person to win a prize at the fair is stupid Daisy! Why is she even around anymore other than to whine and be bad at her job? And wasn't she supposed to escape to a farm so we'd never have to look at her ever again? God, Daisy, go away!
Moseley: God, the only person I hate more than Daisy is stupid Mosely. Why not pair these two up and have them sail the Lucetania on their honeymoon or something?
There's Never Any Fun: There is one odd fact about Downton and that is no one can have a child without one of the parents dying (not only Sybill and Matthew, but the father of Ethel's son died too). But there is another odd fact: no one can have any fun without tragedy striking. The entire staff (minus Mr. Carson) gets the day off to go to the fair and Thomas gets the crap beat out of him and everyone has to go home early. The whole Grantham clan goes up north for a vacation and Mary goes home early to have her baby prematurely and then Matthew dies in a car crash. Can't these people even have a moment's peace?
Mrs. Hughes Making Us Cry: Why is Mrs. Hughes the sweetest and most noble character on the whole damn show? How does she turn a speech where she informs Branson that she has to fire Edna the slutty house maid, into a speech where she not only makes Branson cry but makes everyone watching at home well up too? Why does she have to let him know how great he is and how Sybill will miss him and how he's an inspiration for her daughter? Why does she make us all blubber and look like the bad example of runny mascara in a Maybelline ad? Why? Why?!
A Son: Really? Mary has a son? How predictable. Now of course I was saying that the show needs more men (wait until they do "16 years later" so we can see him all grown up) but wouldn't it have been more interesting if Mary had a daughter. Then who would be the heir to Downton? Maybe Edith would have to have a son to save the whole thing? This whole series started on the drama of who would inherit the house and that is not only a question for the family but, if you enlarge it, a question about who in England will inherit the burden of these houses. That is still a question worth asking and it might be more interesting if there were a few more daughters in the mix.
Mary Never Looks Bad: Why can't Mary, who is an absolute monster on the inside, ever look bad? She gives birth to this baby, prematurely, and the next you see her she is sitting in the hospital in a spotless white robe with her hair fixed so neatly, her complexion milky smooth, and her halo just in place. Meanwhile, Sybill gave birth and she looked like that little girl from The Ring after she woke up from a bad hangover. Edith gets jilted at the altar and renders her gowns asunder and messes up her air so she looks like a bald Britney Spears beating a paparazzi truck with her umbrella. But Mary, no, god forbid that she not look picture perfect for even one second. I'm sick of it! I'm sick of it all. If she's not all red-faced and blubbering in her mourning clothes at the beginning of next season, I'm quitting this series for good.
[Photo Credits: PBS (5)]
Kate Upton Bares All in Nothing But Body Paint: Video (Celebuzz)
November 19, 2012 4:00am EST
Biel reveals she had to turn to the Psycho star's grandson for information as she prepared to play Miles in the biopic.
The actress says, "Vera Miles wasn't interested... Vera is alive and did not want to speak to me because she doesn't have a public life and is not interested in a public life.
"I don't think that was an insult to me but her grandson was available and so I picked his brain for hours. He's married and was very nice and (a) very respectful guy, and he was very unsure about me at first. He is very protecting of his grandmother, but he was the best historian on her career and who she was at the time of Psycho.
"Her life is exactly what she wanted. I feel it's very challenging to have a private life. It's been very hard for me to have any sort of privacy in life. I get that it's a balance you have to try and create but it's very hard."
November 02, 2012 5:15am EST
The world premiere of Hitchcock took place Thursday night at the famous Grauman’s Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard, serving as the opening film of the AFI Film Festival. Before the screening, director Sacha Gervasi stood in front of a packed house — which quickly became choked up by the director's emotional display — speaking about the support Fox Searchlight gave the debut director. (Gervasi lovingly called Fox Searchlight “filmmakers disguised as a studio.”) It was a heartfelt moment that was followed by a video clip of Hitchcock co-stars Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren — who are currently in London working on only their second film together Red 2 — recounting their experience starring as the legendary director and his beloved wife Alma, respectively. The short video clip closed with Mirren thanking the audience for attending the screening and Hopkins, in his best Hitchcock impression, bidding the audience the classic, “Good evening.” The lights went down and the film began.
Hitchcock is a hugely entertaining and riveting account of the making of the classic horror film Psycho and the behind-the-scenes machinations of bringing the controversial film to the big screen in the early late 1950s/early '60s. However, the actual making of the film Psycho serves mostly as a fascinating backdrop for the film to explore the intricate, complex, and challenging relationship between the brilliant yet tortured genius Hitchcock and his adoring, equally brilliant and often neglected wife Alma. Based on the excellent book Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho by Stephen Rebello with a taut screenplay by John J. McLaughlin, the film perfectly captures the mood of the early '60s and the challenges of bringing the very controversial book Psycho by Robert Bloch — with its then very taboo themes of transvestitism, incest, and overt sexuality — to the big screen. Ralph Macchio of Karate Kid fame, in an interesting bit of casting, plays the neurotic Psycho screenwriter Joe Stefano.
Beyond the intrigue associated with simply getting the movie made (one example: Paramount studio boss Barney Balaban, played by Richard Portnow, so hated the idea of making the movie that he would not finance the picture), the film also explores the complicated relationship between “Hitch” and his beautiful female stars. Vera Miles (Jessica Biel) is singled out for poor treatment (and given a pretty thankless supporting role in Psycho) because she dared to chose having a child and family instead of allowing the director to “make her a star” when she declined the lead role in Vertigo (a role that went to Kim Novak). However, Janet Leigh, who is portrayed brilliantly by Scarlett Johansson (in a nuanced and striking performance), is presented as a woman who knows exactly how to handle the temperamental director and their relationship is perhaps the most perfectly uncomplicated in the film.
In the final analysis, it is the relationship between Alma and "Hitch” that holds the movie together; Hopkins is as brilliant as he’s ever been and creates an indelible portrait of the legendary director — he will certainly add this to his impressive list of iconic chracterizations. His mannerisms, voice and larger-than-life physical presence are manifested brilliantly in the transformation of the actor who perfectly channels the spirit, the essence and the well-known persona of Alfred Hitchcock, one of cinema’s most famous directors. Mirren’s performance is an absolute showstopper, with her quiet resolve and unwavering admiration for her husband’s talent simultaneously comingled with her feelings of disdain for his ill treatment of her and his lustful yearnings toward his beautiful young female stars. The essential beauty of Hitchcock is fully realized when the pair emotionally, romantically, and touchingly reconnect by putting their differences aside and work in earnest on the fledgling production together. Ultimately, Hitchcock presents a portrait of the truly deep love between Alma and Hitch tempered, tested and strengthened throughout the years and ultimately reinvigorated through their collaboration in making Psycho the massive financial, critical and cultural success it would become.
The highly anticipated biopic Hitchcock directed by Sacha Gervasi, features an all-star cast including Hopkins as Alfred Hitchcock, Mirren as his wife Alma Reville, Johansson as actress Janet Leigh, James D’Arcy as actor Anthony Perkins, Biel as actress Vera Miles, Portnow as Paramount Studio boss Barney Balaban, Kurtwood Smith as the Director of The Production Code Administration, Michael Wincott as serial killer Ed Gein, Macchio as Psycho screenwriter Joe Stefano, and Michael Stuhlbarg as Lew Wasserman. The director of photography is the brilliant cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth (son of legendary “Blade Runner” DP Jordan Cronenweth) and the music score is courtesy of Danny Elfman. Producers include Ivan Reitman and Tom Pollack. A Fox Searchlight release.
[Image Credit: Suzanne Tenner/Fox Searchlight]
Hitchcock: The Horrors of Making Psycho — TRAILER
Alfred Hitchcock Movie Is a Love Story, Naturally — POSTER
Anthony Hopkins is Nearly Unrecognizable as Alfred Hitchcock — PHOTO
September 20, 2012 3:12pm EST
Alfred Hitchcock was arguably the grandfather of the suspense and psychological thriller genres, and one of the most influential filmmakers, ever. So when we heard that the film about his life, Hitchcock was about the love story between him and his wife, well, we were a bit surprised! The film does take place during the making of his iconic thriller Psycho, and features Anthony Hopkins as the man himself.
The whole production seems to not slouch in its great talents--including a cast list that includes Helen Mirren (who plays his wife), Scarlett Johansson (who plays Janet Leigh), Toni Collette, Jessica Biel (who plays Vera Miles), James D'Arcy, Richard Portnow and more. Produced by Ivan Reitman who did the same for Up In The Air and I Love You, Man, it seems like a solid film worth being excited about. And the best news is, we won't have to wait too long for it, either! The film has a slated release date of Friday, November 23, 2012 in the US. Check out the new poster for the film, below.
[Photo Credit: FOX Searchlight]
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Anthony Hopkins Nearly Unrecognizable as Alfred Hitchcock — PHOTO
Scarlett Johansson to Do Naked 'Psycho' Shower Scene?
Jessica Biel Solves Scarlett Johansson's Death in 'The Making of Psycho'
August 03, 2012 2:00pm EST
Hedren filmed The Birds and Marnie with Hitchcock and now she's using the new TV biopic about the revered director to reveal all about what a tyrant he was on movie sets - if he didn't get his own way.
The 82-year-old star claims Hitchcock tried to romance her and when she spurned him, he turned life on set into a living hell.
She says, "When I first heard Toby's voice as Alfred Hitchcock, my body just froze. It was hard to go through all of those years that had been eclipsed into an hour and a half. HBO (network bosses) very graciously granted me a screening for 30 of my friends, and at the end of it, nobody moved. Nobody said anything until my daughter, Melanie Griffith, jumped up and said, 'Now I have to go back into therapy.'
"I had not talked about this issue with Alfred Hitchcock to anyone. Because all those years ago, it was still the studio kind of situation. Studios were the power. And I was at the end of that, and there was absolutely nothing I could do legally whatsoever. There were no laws about this kind of a situation. If this had happened today, I would be a very rich women."
Hedren can only hope that young actresses see the film and take a stand against demanding directors: "I hope that young women who do see this film know that they do not have to acquiesce to anything that they do not feel is morally right or that they are dissatisfied with or simply wanting to get out of that situation, that you can have a strength, and you deserve it."
And she only wishes more of Hitchcock's leading women came forward with their on-set horror stories, adding, "I know Kim Novak, and she never said a word about anything wrong. I didn't bring it up. I really didn't talk about this issue for such a very, very long time.
"While we were doing The Birds - because this manifestation happened during the latter part of filming The Birds - I remember Suzanne Pleshette saying to me, because I was a newcomer in the business; she said, 'It isn't always like this.'
"As far as I know, Vera Miles had a terrible time with Hitchcock, and she wanted to get out of the contract. He didn't let her. She did Psycho, and I believe there isn't one close-up of Vera, not one. But she would never even speak about him to anyone. So I think it is common knowledge that Hitchcock had fantasies or whatever you want to call them about his leading ladies, which is very confining.
"Peggy Robertson, his assistant for so many years, and I remained friends until she died, and she, at one point, said to me that he would have these kind of feelings for his leading ladies, and she said, 'But he never got over you'."
The actress is portrayed by Sienna Miller in the film, which chronicles Hitchcock's treatment of Hedren.
April 18, 2012 5:46pm EST
Anthony Hopkins is best-known for playing Hannibal Lecter, but he's tackling Psycho in a different way for his latest role. Hopkins plays the title role in Hitchcock, and the first photo of the Oscar-winner in costume as Alfred Hitchcock is as uncanny as anything in the director's films.
The movie, which covers the making of the 1960 film Psycho, started filming last week (appropriately, on Friday the 13th). Hopkins will be joined by Scarlett Johansson as Janet Leigh and Jessica Biel as actress Vera Miles.
'Karate Kid' Ralph Macchio Makes 'Psycho' with Biel and Johansson
Jessica Biel Solves Scarlett Johansson's Death in 'The Making of Psycho'
Remake of Alfred Hitchcock's 'Rebecca' in the Works
April 18, 2012 5:00am EST
The actor will play revered screenwriter Joe Stefano opposite Sir Anthony Hopkins, who will tackle movie legend Alfred Hitchcock in the film.
Macchio has tweeted his excitement about working with Hopkins, telling fans, "Really looking forward to the privilege of working with one of the greatest actors of our time."
Helen Mirren will portray Hitchcock's wife Alma Reville, while Scarlett Johansson and Jessica Biel have signed on to play Psycho stars Janet Leigh and Vera Miles, respectively.
March 21, 2012 7:35am EST
Although the term "the making of" is generally reserved for DVD extras you sit through after you've exhausted your entire movie collection, the phrase is now being applied to a particularly interesting project. Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho, a cinematic depiction of the great director's most celebrated work, is gathering a pretty amazing cast. The latest individual to join: Jessica Biel, taking on the role of actress Vera Miles, who played Psycho heroin Lila Crane.
Biel joins Scarlett Johansson, who is playing Janet Leigh, the performer who immortalized Psycho's groundbreaking shower scene. Hitchcock will be played by Sir Anthony Hopkins, with Dame Helen Mirren playing the director's wife Alma Reville.
In Psycho, Miles' Lila Crane paid a visit to the Bates Motel after the mysterious disappearance of her sister, eventually learning the truth about innkeeper Norman Bates—played in the film by Anthony Perkins, who will be embodied in The Making of Psycho by James D'Arcy. The project is being directed by Sacha Gervasi, who is also working on another big screen tribute to a pop culture icon: My Dinner with Herve.
October 13, 2011 8:01am EST
In The Thing a prequel to the 1982 John Carpenter film of the same name a team of paleontologists Norwegian diggers and rugged helicopter pilots unearth an alien creature with the ability to disguise itself as the organic material surrounding it i.e. feeble humans. Ironically the movie itself also a deceptive shapeshifter impersonating its chilling horror predecessor with the same beats same characters and same scares—but completely void of soul.
A great remake brings something new to the table either in the form of plot twists design or fresh performances but The Thing begs to be compared to the original by cowering in the face of innovation. The movie forgoes character building wasting no time flying us to the familiar Antarctic setting: Girl-who-examines-unfrozen-animal-corpses Kate (played by the movie's saving grace Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is introduced by her friend Adam (Eric Christian Olsen) to sinister scientist Sander Halvorson (Ulrich Thomsen) who quickly convinces her to throw away her life for a trip to the icy continent. When she arrives Halvorson reveals his team has discovered an alien life form trapped inside a block of ice and he needs Kate to watch him thaw it out.
Anyone with knowledge of the 1982 Thing (or horror movies in general) knows that the beast is far from dead and what unfolds is a flaccid translation of the first film's monster mayhem. Yes the movie has plenty of jump scares insane flesh effects and an increasing sense of paranoia throughout the group—but only because the first movie dictates that it must. Thanks to the charm of Winstead and her Kurt Russell-esque co-star Joel Edgerton the copy/paste script occasionally entertains (who doesn't love a gal who can wield a flamethrower?) but without characters to invest in the alien's rampage of violence is mostly a bore. By the time the group points fingers attempting to sift the real persons from the fakes by checking their teeth (their foe can't recreate metallic material so everyone with fillings is safe!) the movie's floundered its chance to get you to care.
If the titular "thing" was slick enough in its bloodthirsty frenzy perhaps The Thing could redeem itself as a creepy popcorn flick but sloppy CG creature effects end up separating the beast from his prey and obliterating any sense of danger. If they could pull off a guy's head erupting with tentacles using puppetry and prosthetics back in 1982 why not in 2011? When the movie does employ practical effects the results are terrifying—but the moments are few and far between. That speaks to the bigger picture: director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. attempts to mix the original Thing's slow burn terror with modern filmmaking and intriguing sci-fi concepts but can't seamlessly weave them together. Every time Heijningen Jr's Thing defaults to mimicking the previous version the movie craps out.
The Thing's nondescript title once represented the fear of the unknown but for the contemporary rehash it's an indication of a generic lifeless 100 minutes. Buried underneath layers of icy homage is a decent flick but unlike the film's otherworldly opponent it's DOA.