Alfred Hitchcock famously said, “My movies aren’t a slice of life. They’re a slice of cake.” And one of his tastiest confections, To Catch a Thief, provided the inspiration for Star Wars: The Clone Wars’ latest Ahsoka On the Run episode, “To Catch a Jedi.” What’s funny, though, is that whereas the Hitchcock film is all frothy, sun-dappled escapism about an ex-jewel thief (Cary Grant) suspected of resuming his catburgler ways, its Clone Wars counterpoint was a decidedly grim affair. Far from frolicking on the equivalent of that Galaxy Far, Far Away’s Riviera, poor framed Ahsoka Tano found herself taking refuge in the skuzziest, dirtiest, ugliest depths of Coruscant. It was a masterpiece of the “Used Future” aesthetic and a blistering portrait of urban decay in the heart of the planet that’s considered “The Jewel of the Republic.” I half expected Ventress to say something all Travis Bickle gloomy like, “Someday there’ll come a real rain to wash all this filth away.”
Before we dive into "To Catch a Jedi," I just want to extend a quick thanks to William Devereux and the guys at EU Cantina's "We Talk Clones" podcast for having me on their show to discuss "The Jedi Who Knew Too Much." You guys continue to prove with your witty, intelligent commentary that the Star Wars fan community is the smartest and most engaged in all of fandom.
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“To Catch a Jedi” opened with a dark and stormy night at the Jedi Temple. Admiral Tarkin was informing the Council of the evidence against Ahsoka in the death of Letta Turmond—not least of which was the fact that she had made herself a fugitive from justice. He called her actions “sedition,” with the implication that if any of the Jedi Council supported or defended her from the charges she faced they would be guilty of the same. “I do not believe Ahsoka could have fallen so far,” Plo Koon, her first mentor, said. We were reminded of their uniquely special relationship, going all the way back to the Clone Wars movie, and it’s not hard to wonder if Plo would have ultimately been the better choice to be Ahsoka’s master. He certainly would have cultivated a more introspective quality in his Padawan, a greater tendency toward spirituality, rather than the inclination toward aggressive action and take-charge leadership that Anakin’s imparted on her. Together Plo and Anakin would lead two separate teams to search the Coruscant underworld, and, in the words of Yoda from that Clone Wars trailer of a couple months ago, “bring back this lost child before it is too late.”
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Far below the gleaming skyscrapers and monads of the Temple and Senate districts lies the Coruscant underworld. Hundreds if not thousands of levels are stacked one atop the other, miles and miles into the sky. To get a sense of the scale of Coruscant’s massive cityscape, consider that the summit of the planet’s tallest mountain peak protrudes through the courtyard of Monument Plaza, surrounded by even taller buildings, for Coruscanti to gaze at. You could be miles below the artificial surface of the planet and be in total darkness save for artificial illumination, and still not hit Coruscant’s natural crust. It’s one of these places, Level 1312, where Ahsoka found herself. Yes, it was no coincidence that the cavernous cylindrical shaft she dove into at the end of “The Jedi Who Knew Too Much” looked so much like the concept art for the upcoming videogame Star Wars 1313. These episodes are very much getting us acclimated to that milieu. And what a sordid milieu it is! In fact, it reminded me of the decaying urban sprawl of Blade Runner: steam rising off the pavement, neon lights providing an eerie glow, menacingly-masked police officers patrolling the depths on their speeders, greasy-spoon eateries, an abundance of Twi’lek females milling about hoping, I’m sure, to check the midichlorian count of males with a few credits to spare. There was even a drunken, homeless Devaronian leering at those females in between taking swigs from a bottle in a paper bag. Ahsoka gave him some kind of food stuff in exchange for his cloak—but I’d be damned if that wasn’t really a death stick she gave him. Her one lifeline to the civilized world? Barriss Offee, her fellow Padawan, who was feeding her intel from inside the Jedi Temple and trying to find any evidence that could exonerate her. Os so Ahsoka thought.
With the all-points bulletin out for her arrest, it was inevitable that some Coruscant cops would corner our heroine. So she ducked into a dingy subway and used some of her Ataru acrobatics to escape. I’m not certain if it was more or less depressing a form of public transit than the New York City subway I ride every day, but my gut tells me it’s the latter. She then ducked into a turbolift that began a dizzying free-fall descent even further into the depths. As Revenge of the Sith has already shown us, elevators can be terrifying in the Star Wars galaxy. The poor little Twi’lek in there with her was scared to death, but I think mostly because Ahsoka tried to cut a hole in the ceiling of the car rather than just, you know, hit the stop button on the access panel. That little Twi’lek did just that, and they got off no worse for wear. “I’m just not on my game these days,” Ahsoka said. No kidding! (Fun Fact: Do you know the longest elevator free fall anyone has ever survived? That would be the 75-story plunge endured by elevator operator Betty Lou Oliver in the Empire State Building in 1945 when the cable snapped following the collision of a B-25 bomber into the north side of the building. Apparently, the air resistance became so great against the bottom of the elevator car as it plunged, that it actually slowed it down to a survivable speed, with the thousand feet of cable that had fallen beneath it serving as a cushion. As always, life is stranger than any fiction.)
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But no sooner had Ahsoka left the turbolift car then a spindly, masked assassin bearing twin crimson blades got her between her lightsabers. Oh, Ventress, how you’ve been missed. With your willowy frame, albino complexion, and bald head, you provide such a dash of much-needed sexiness on this show. I’m not even kidding, though I’ll admit that it’s probably Nika Futterman’s husky, sultry voice that really does it for me. Out of all of The Clone Wars, she may be my favorite character, and her evolution from Sith trainee/Separatist war criminal to girl-power Nightsister to money- hungry bounty hunter is without question the most interesting character arc. As far as I'm concerned, her new transpirator mask only adds to her hotness. Now she had the opportunity to turn over Ahsoka to the Republic bondsman and collect the Senate’s handsome reward. But instead she listened to Ahsoka’s plea: if they worked together and find the evidence that would clear her, the Padawan would urge the Republic military and the Council to grant Ventress amnesty. Amazingly, the ex-Sith wannabe agreed, even though Ahsoka has absolutely no ability to guarantee that will happen. I think the thing that sold Ventress, though, was when Ahsoka said that they had both fallen from what seemed to be the paths that had been destined for them…and that whatever Jedi is setting her up may be Dooku’s new apprentice. And if Dooku has a new apprentice that person has a major target on his or her back as far as Ventress is concerned.
NEXT: A Stolen Identity...
With her new partner in crime standing by, Ahsoka contacted Barriss again. This time her friend said she’d discovered Letta had visited a warehouse on Level 1315 that used to house munitions. In fact, she visited that warehouse right before the bombing at the Jedi Temple. If Ahsoka wanted to find evidence that would exonerate her, it would be there. The only problem was that a full platoon of clone troopers corned Ahsoka and Ventress right at that moment. This would be the true test of Ventress’ reformation: would she be able to fight these clones and disarm them without killing them. She did! She used her lightsabers only to slice through the clones’ blasters, then knocked most of the squad unconscious with a few carefully timed fisticuffs. “See? Didn’t kill a one. It’s the new me.”
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They made it to the warehouse, and that’s when Ventress decided to part ways. Bad idea. No sooner had she left Little Miss Tano to go clue-hunting, a hooded figure knocked her out, and stole her lightsabers and her mask. The culprit was Barriss Offee, on Level 1315, with a lead pipe. Well, it sure seems that way, anyway. Suddenly, this hooded figure, wearing Ventress’ mask and wielding her lightsabers, jumped out at Ahsoka in the warehouse and locked blades. To Ahsoka, Ventress seemed to have had a change of heart!
But we knew better. Instead, someone with a ballpark physical resemblance to Ventress—certainly the same body type—and comparable Force powers had taken her identity. Someone who knew exactly where Ahsoka would be, or had deliberately sent her there. Obviously, it’s Barriss who’s the only other person who knew Ahsoka’s location. It all makes sense now: in “The Jedi Who Knew Too Much” her dialogue with Ahsoka about how she questioned the Jedi Order’s aversion to attachment and desire to purge emotion showed how she really felt. Barriss wasn’t merely asking questions, she already had the answers. She told Letta that she felt the Jedi had become warmongers and wanted to bomb the Jedi Temple to make a statement. In a way it makes sense. Since we’re nearing the end of the Clone Wars, with the start of the Outer Rim Sieges, Barriss has already seen the horrors of war firsthand for several years, including her time as a healer on the planet Drongar (as seen in Michael Reaves and Steve Perry’s MedStar books). She’s fed up. And there have been other Jedi who have left the Order during the war, like Master Echuu Shen-Jon, who exited the Clone Wars after his Padawan died in the Battle of Krant three months into the fighting as seen in the Galactic Battlegrounds: Clone Campaign game. But no Jedi would kill innocents to make any kind of statement—certainly not a pacifist statement! And the ferocity with which she attacked Ahsoka suggests she really has turned to the Dark Side.
This would put Barriss alongside Sora Bulq, and a few others, as a Jedi who doesn’t just oppose the war, but whose disillusionment is so great that she may in fact have joined the Separatists. However, if so, she’s only the second Jedi we’ve seen, Krell being the other, presented in a less than thoroughly noble light on this show. About time we get a more balanced view, especially since a few Jedi will even pledge themselves to hunt down their brethren once Order 66 comes, like Master Jerec from the Dark Forces games, who’s currently off on a battlefield fighting the Clone Wars somewhere. He’ll become a big deal in the Empire one day. I know, it’s a possibility that the Clone Wars is faking us out here. But it seems unlikely that the culprit here could be anyone but Barriss at this point. Why would the show introduce a wholly new villain into the mix this late in the game? And if it’s Barriss, it’ll feed into the idea that the clones are starting to distrust the Jedi. Not to mention that she’s a dead ringer for Ventress underneath that mask. I loved the sexy, form-fitting black jumpsuit she wore, with a Sith-ly cape draped over it. She’s a little bit curvier than Ventress, which isn’t saying much since Asajj is about as bony as they come. Say what you will, though, the Dark Side definitely makes people hotter. Barriss has officially gotten my attention.
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Hotness aside, she was also pretty lethal. After a knock-down, drag-out fight with Ahsoka through the warehouse, she left her unconscious, right next to a crate of explosive nanodroids. When Anakin and the clones would find her, they would think for certain she had orchestrated the bombing, and that’s why she had to kill Letta.
For even more evidence that it’s Barriss, let’s take a look at the Hitchcock film that inspired this episode’s title, To Catch a Thief. That movie stars Cary Grant as an ex-jewel thief who’s accused of returning to his old ways, when a copycat criminal starts making off with diamonds along the French Riviera in exactly the manner that he used to. It’s the perfect crime…you make off with the loot, while pinning it squarely on someone else. SPOILERS IF YOU DON”T WANT TO LEARN HOW TO CATCH A THIEF ENDS. But in the end it’s revealed that it’s in fact a young woman—a young woman wearing a slinky black outfit!—who’s setting him up. Someone you never would have expected. Just like Barriss.
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I just wish that writer Charles Murray had given us a sexy fireworks scene like To Catch a Thief’s most famous moment. But I guess we have to put some dreams away. Ahsoka’s been captured by the Jedi and is implicated in worse crimes than ever. We’re headed toward some kind of big endgame in next week’s episode, “The Wrong Jedi,” named after one of the darkest, most serious-minded Hitchcock films ever, The Wrong Man. Will that episode follow suit?
See you next week!