My Comic-Con commitments wrapped on Saturday, the biggest day of the event, and I’ve finally had time to collect my thoughts and my notes on the Star Wars: The Clone Wars panel held this Saturday afternoon. I welcomed to the stage supervising director Dave Filoni and head writer Matt Michnovetz – who were escorted by a “security detail” of clone troopers, courtesy of the 501st Legion – and for the next hour we reflected on Season 4, peeked at Season 5, and answered fan questions from the audience. We also revealed that the season premiere will be screened for fans at Celebration VI.
The Menace of Maul
It made sense to start off where Season 4 ended off, by talking about Maul. In most of the press that accompanied the season finale, Dave had spent time talking about the deranged, scavenger Maul, but not the collected Maul that emerged once Mother Talzin exorcized the madness from his mind.
“He is a trained Sith. He had as his master the most successful Sith Lord ever in Darth Sidious. We don’t want the Sith Lords to be just blunt weapons, always burning, pillaging and destroying. We like to show that there’s an intellect behind that,” said Dave. “What we reveal about Darth Maul this season that you’ve never seen before is that he’s really quite sinister. He’s quite tactical. And he has great knowledge as to why Sidious was successful as a Sith Lord himself.”
And what of Savage, the mustard to Maul’s ketchup? “Savage expects a different relationship than he ends up with his brother,” said Filoni. “He doesn’t realize the wickedness of his brother, or his brother’s true intentions. He and Maul have to work out some issues between them.”
During Q&A someone rightfully pointed out that the so-called Rule of Two that keeps only two Sith Lords in hiding in the galaxy is being severely strained by these brothers. Filoni mentioned that this has not gone unnoticed by Darth Sidious. It’s time for the true Sith master to get things in order.
The Writer’s Room
Since we had Matt Michnovetz with us, I just had to talk about some of my favorite episodes from Season 4, the hard-hitting four-parter set on Umbara, which Matt wrote.
“George came up with the story,” explained Matt, “and he came into the room and pitched us this idea. He draws a lot of inspiration from classic movies, as a writer on the show, part of your homework is to go and look at the inspiration for these things. He wanted to do a battle from the movie The Longest Day. We had a couple of those. He wanted to base the story a little bit around an old Jimmy Cagney movie called What Price Glory, which is a great source of inspiration of this, as well as The Caine Mutiny. I took inspiration from an episode of M*A*S*H*, where we added a little bit of that idea of where the commanding officer was doing things that weren’t necessarily in the best interests of the troops.”
Dave revealed that in the original script, Rex was the one to pull the trigger on the hated General Krell, but they ultimately decided it was not fitting with Rex’s character, and Dogma would fill that role perfectly.
On the subject of the writer’s room, I brought up the fact that Season 5’s slate of episodes have some very impressive story credits: Chris Collins (The Wire, Sons of Anarchy), Christian Taylor (Six Feet Under, Lost), Brent Friedman (Gemini Division, Dark Skies) and Charles Murray (Castle, V, Criminal Minds) and Matt, who was a story editor and writer on 24.
“It makes you step up your game when you’re in a room with these guys, because they’re fantastic,” said Matt. “You sit down and read their scripts and you’re just blown away and you think, man, maybe I better take another pass on my script before I turn it in. I think George wanted to bring in a lot of drama writers and really craft the characters, especially in Season 5. I think it’s our best season yet. Were really honing where these characters are and where they’re going.”
Another credit to add to Matt’s name is a key writer on Star Wars 1313, which we can’t talk about in any detail just now.
The Heroes in Season 5
Turns out Anakin and Padmé’s relationship isn’t all picnics on Naboo. “There’s been this idea that it’s this kind of perfect bond,” said Dave. “We said, maybe they have challenges. Maybe they have to work on it. He’s a lot younger than her. He can be impetuous. He can be childish. She’s more mature. She’s the intellectual. She’s the Senator. Does that cause problems for them? That’s one of the things we looked into. We will find out, also, a little bit more about how much Obi-Wan knows about what’s going on. People have always wondered that.”
Those hoping Obi-Wan might catch a break this season after getting so clobbered last season had best not relax just yet. “You’ll understand at the end of this why he lives in the desert alone,” said Dave.
Ahsoka will have a very eventful season. “She has a great year. More than any other year there’s development on her character in a major way. I know that we’ve some things up with the character of Lux Bonteri last season, we follow through with a lot of that this season, and then we continue to see some pretty big things.”
The Rise of Death Watch
When George Lucas’s vision of Mandalore was first revealed in Season 2 of The Clone Wars, some viewers were surprised by what they saw – especially the beliefs held by Duchess Satine’s pacifist movement. Now, in Season 5, we’re seeing Pre Vizsla poised to retake the warrior heritage – all part of the big plan of the show (and something we all had to keep mum about during Season 2).
“They’re a culture, and like any culture in our world, they change and evolve,” said Dave. “They have highs and lows. If you’re a warrior race for thousands of years, chances are at one point you probably had a devastating effect on your people. The big question is how long – if that is truly who you are in your soul and your heart – how long can you deny that? How successfully can you deny that? That made it a lot more interesting for them as a civilization.”
Bo-Katan, only briefly yet memorably seen last season, returns to The Clone Wars (voiced by Katee Sackhoff) in a big way. “She’s gonna do more this season than Boba Fett ever did,” said Dave, throwing out an apologetic nod to Daniel Logan in the audience. Also, Dave took the time to clarify that, despite some rumors to the contrary, an armored Fett does not appear in Season 5.
“I really like that character of Bo-Katan,” said Dave, explaining the simple reason for her creation was to give female fans more opportunity for armored cosplay. “Let’s give the ladies some cool armor.”
We learned that Matt is working on a clone commando-centric story for a future episode, but only a single clone commando will appear in Season 5. (“He’s a very important character in his episode,” said Dave). And while there may not be many new armor types in Season 5, the role of the military – particularly the non-clone forces – will be examined.
“We brought Tarkin into the show for a reason,” said Dave. “Tarkin represents something that’s coming The Jedi made a deal, and they didn’t realize it. They told Palpatine that they’re keepers of the peace and not soldiers. That’s true, but it’s a mistake. Because they’re the right kind of leaders, and Tarkin is the wrong kind of leader. But Tarkin and his kind use that as leverage, and slowly but surely they start to get themselves in, and they start to take over what you know as the Republic military. You are going to see that happen.”
Pablo Hidalgo is paid to know the difference between Romba and Lumat and dies a little bit inside when you misspell Wookiee or Lucasfilm. He lives in San Francisco.