(Beware of Spoilers)
I’ve just finished reading Christie Golden’s Dark Disciple, a canon novel based on a story arc that never made it to TV because The Clone Wars was canceled. Now I wonder how audiences would’ve taken the news that you die at the end of your story when you saved your lover, Quinlan Vos, and former enemy, Obi-Wan Kenobi, from Count Dooku’s force lightning. Quinlan and Obi-Wan buried you on Dathomir, home to your people, the Nightsisters. At first I was sad and disappointed that you died instead of living happily ever after with Vos. But when your body was dipped into a pool, turning it green and the voices of your long deceased sisters welcoming you into their fold, was heard, I felt a sense of triumph. After all the years of pain and suffering you endured and afflicted on others, you were finally at peace. And you were reunited with your family.
Let me go back a bit. OK a lot. To 2002, after the release of Attack of the Clones. There was a book by Mark Cotta Vaz called The Art of Star Wars: Episode 2 – Attack of the Clones. On one particular page there was concept art of a grey-skinned, bald woman drawn by Dermot Power. He explained that he wanted this character to be a successor to Darth Maul for all the female star warriors but instead George Lucas went with the character now known as Count Dooku. No matter. It didn’t stop me from drawing a profile picture of you from the book.
And then you made your debut as Asajj Ventress in 2003 with Genndy Tartakovsky’s Star Wars: Clone Wars.
I watched the micro-series with excitement as you snarled your first famous line: “Jedi! Their order is a fading light in the dark. Corrupt and arrogant. They must be punished. The jedi shall fall!” Then you lured Anakin closer to the dark side with one of the most memorable lightsaber duels since Yoda fought Count Dooku on Geonosis. You lost that fight but you went on wreaking havoc in the comics.
Then there was a second Clone Wars series in 2008 where you caused more murder and mayhem even getting a scene cut from cartoon network because it was deemed too sultry for young viewers. But it was in this show we learned that you had a tragic past. You were ripped from your mother as a youngling and sold into slavery. You were eventually freed by a kindly jedi knight named Ky Narac, yet tragedy hit you again when your surrogate father was killed and you were orphaned once again. Your pain drew you to the Dark Side and into the guidance of sith lord Count Dooku where you were a scourge of the Republic. But eventually Dooku betrayed you and left you for dead. You just couldn’t catch a break! But you made your way back to Dathomir, vowing revenge and exciting times lay ahead. Katie Lucas wrote some of the best epsiodes of Clone Wars involving the Nightsisters – Force sensitive women who practiced the dark arts – and she admitted in the introduction to Dark Disciple that she loves writing stories about you. We fans had only been familiar with these mysterious women through Dave Wolverton’s Legends novel, The Courtship of Princess Leia and the 1985 TV movie Ewoks: The Battle For Endor. But now we would see, for the first time, how the Nightsisters operated as a society. As a student of warrior women history and folklore, I couldn’t have been more intrigued to see TGFFA’s take on the Amazon archetype. We also have you to thank (indirectly) for giving us back Darth Maul (shirtless of course).
But, alas, your quest for vengeance failed. Your experiment, Savage Oppress disobeyed you. Dooku slaughtered your sisters and you escaped but were alone yet again. Nevertheless you forged on and became a bounty hunter. It was through this unlikely job that your inner goodness came through. In The Clone Wars season 4 episode “Bounty”, you saved a young girl from a forced marriage after listening to her pleas for freedom. You also won our hearts further when you helped our favorite Togruta, Ahsoka Tano, clear her name with the Jedi Order.
Which brings us back, full circle, to Dark Disciple. The Jedi Council ordered Jedi Master Quinlan Vos to go incognito as a bounty hunter, team up with you and convince you to help assassinate Count Dooku. Sadly this led to disaster as you and Vos went down the path of the Dark Side and it nearly lost you the love of your life. But your better nature and intuition came through when you let the light side of the Force flow through you and show you the way to redemption. With this newfound enlightenment, you not only convinced Vos to come back to the light side, you also saved the soul of the Jedi Order by convincing them that assassination was not the Jedi Way.
Some would accuse Lucasfilm of making you another woman in a refrigerator so as to push a male character’s story forward, but I disagree. You had taken the lives of others, so eventually you would have had to repay their lives with yours. But the difference between you and other “fridged” women is that you went down fighting and you made your choice knowingly and confidently.
You lived as a criminal in the eyes of the Republic and died as a hero in the eyes of the Jedi Order. By forging your own path, you taught us that we are not bound by destiny but by choice. You started off innocent, turned corrupt and then redeemed yourself. But you were always, Asajj Ventress, one of the most multifaceted characters to ever emerge from Star Wars. In hindsight, I’m glad Lucas stuck with his original decision.
Rest in peace, Asajj.
And may the Force be with you.