TCW, Season 5, Episode 6: Charlie and the Crystal Factory

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Season 5, Episode 6: The Gathering
This is the first episode in a four-part arc.

Today’s excursion is a weird one, but then, they all are, because we’re talking about this show. On with it! We’re headed to Ilum this time on a Very Special Journey.

We open with a Recap Voiceover that explains the following:

  • This war: it sucks!
  • Being a Jedi: kind of hard! You get stolen from your family and forced to go live with the maladjusted Jedi adults at the Temple! Also you die sometimes!
  • This is making it harder for the Jedi to find enough people to fight in the war!

This is framing up the focus of this multi-episode arc: a bunch of Jedi younglings constructing their own lightsaber and the wacky, pirate-related hijinks that ensue. I would like to mention that in the prelude to this episode as the voiceover tells us about how hard it is to be a Jedi, we are treated to a shot of a bunch of Jedi tweens doing what is basically a late 90’s boy-band-style dance routine as part of what I presume is their combat/agility training, and MAN the very idea of basically any of the adult characters in this franchise having had to do this at one point – including, and perhaps especially, Anakin Skywalker and his sour teenager face – is killing me dead.

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We’re told that all the stuff they make you do to become a Jedi is difficult, and important, and one of these things is called The Gathering, the quest to find the crystal they will use in their lightsabers.

This Weapon is Your Traumatic, Sorrow-and-Dismemberment-Filled Life

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We start on Coruscant, where a group of tweenish-aged Jedi kids with backpacks are getting ready for one Ahsoka Tano, Resident Badass Apprentice of the Chosen One, to put them on the field trip bus to Ilum so that they can go build a weapon that they might one day have to use to defend themselves.

Ha ha! Just kidding, we all know that lightsabers are most often used for more important and totally peaceful things, such as:

  • Committing genocide;
  • Being given a traumatic look into your past and future, and also pathos from other peoples’ lives, via Force Vision;
  • Cutting the face of a guy who just killed his own father;
  • Cutting the guy who just killed your father figure in half;
  • Cutting off your son’s hand when he won’t join you in murdering people;
  • Cutting off your partially robotic father’s hand when he keeps pressing the issue of you going into the family business;
  • Beheading the guy who cut off your hand earlier;
  • Dismembering your best friend in front of a volcano followed by rage weeping

…the list goes on. Also, I’ll get the ultimate bummer of this arc out of the way now by pointing out that none of these cute kids are likely to ever really use their weapons for anything, because Anakin Skywalker, Handsome Hero of this TV Series, is going to murder them all like a year from now (see first bullet above). Yeah.

Ahsoka tells the kids that there is no greater honor or challenge for a Jedi than what they’re about to do, and frankly given the list above I take exception to that, because the Jedi really seem to get stuck handling an awful lot of bullshit challenges that sound pretty daunting. Or maybe that’s just one particular group of Jedi. Whatever.

Recurring Theme: Child Audience Proxy

Star Wars is never one to shy away from a somewhat clunky conversation that will allow for exposition and (sometimes misleading) backstory. The hits span the canon, beginning with Episode 1’s What’s The Deal with Midi-Chlorians?, all the way to Episode 7’s What Are We Gonna Do About Our Bad Marriage and Evil Son? – and, of course, the timeless classics Who Killed My Dad? and Why Did You Lie to Me About My Dad You Handsome Bearded Bastard? from Episodes 4 and 6 respectively.

This time, it treats us to an Anakin-in-Menace­-style question when one of the kids asks, essentially, “Hey Miss Ahsoka, I was wondering: what IS The Gathering after all?” and like, really? It’s the biggest honor and challenge ever for a Jedi, and these kids don’t even know what it is? OK, Star Wars. She tells them, and one of them literally says “that’s so wizard” afterwards, so I guess I was supposed be reminded of Episode 1 here by design.

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Artoo, on a vacation from Anakin.

We arrive on Ilum in a snowstorm, and Artoo is with them for reasons unexplained. So is that like, apprentice privilege or something? Ahsoka just gets to take Artoo whenever she feels like it? Where is Anakin right now?  Did he and Obi-Wan Padme go away for the weekend? Why doesn’t he need his droid? Or is Artoo like, sick of him and just decided they needed some time apart?

The Jedi Never Do Anything by Halves

They walk towards a frozen entrance and oh the glorious, silly Star Warsiness of the next sequence: in order to open the entrance, they must all use the Force together. I cannot even believe I am only 2 minutes into this episode.

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A gigantic sheet of ice comes crashing down, and they head inside to a temple, with huge statues of hooded Jedi and oh hey! Yoda’s already here, chilling out.

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He explains to them that their task today is to find the crystal for their lightsabers, and oh my God the ostentatiousness of this scene and this temple and like, who even constructed this room? The Jedi like to play that whole “we’re so humble and understated” card but seriously, no guys: YOU ARE NOT.

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The Understated Décor of the Jedi

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Yoda does this whole thing where he directs sunlight through a giant crystal on the ceiling, which melts open a door leading into a cave. The task before them is perilous, because they have to get in and out before the door re-freezes over, and they get trapped inside until the next group comes through in what is later calculated to be like 19 days. Well, that’s not child endangerment or anything! Good thing none of these kids have parents to complain about this, and they didn’t have to get any permission slips signed!

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Obi-Wan Really IS Going to Kill You

I have a question: do adults who lose or break their lightsaber, like in battle or because they left it on a bus after they got drunk one night, have to go through all of this again? Every single damned time? If so, no wonder the Jedi are getting their asses kicked a lot lately and are overwhelmed and understaffed. Half the freaking order is probably stuck wandering around in a damned ice cave right now on this goofy quest. Anakin alone has probably spent like 2 solid years in there total.

Recurring Theme: The Jerkass Jedi

The kids each have something they need to personally overcome in this episode, in a sort of Willy Wonka-esque situation, except that they’re not all horrible brats who get their comeuppance: one is fearful, one is too reliant on technology, etc etc. Sort of Standard Quest Fare. One kid is also kind of a cocky bastard:

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And I’m a pilot, you know.

 

I’m kind of surprised at how often the theme of The Jerkass Jedi comes up in the canon. Given how many of them are kinda snotty and/or bossy and/or into themselves like this, I’m sort of impressed that the universe wasn’t already crawling with Darksiders. Anyhow, this kid, Petro, decides he’s going off on his own to find his crystal and leaves the rest of them alone. They split into smaller groups.

The bulk of the remaining episode is somewhat difficult to recap, because it’s a lot of content showing each of them wandering the cave and seeking their crystals. Each naturally has to find a way to get past whatever it was that they needed to rise above in order to find what they seek.

Womp Womp

Initially Petro finds his “crystal” immediately:

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… and of course is proven to have been wrong when he gets outside and discovers he found ice instead:

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He ends up back inside, scrambling as the others all find their crystals one by one.

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I’d be missing out on a clear shoutout to me that the writers threw in there if I ignored this line:

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No argument here.

Recurring Theme: Make Your Choice

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And then at the very end, Petro the Bratty is tested when one of his classmates gets trapped and needs his help, which he initially declines to provide because time is running out to find his crystal. He’s forced to choose between abandoning her or trying to complete his own task. As the clock runs out and the door begins to seal, everyone now waiting outside is getting ansy:

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Yeah kid, your little friends are just going to be encased in an icy tomb for a few lousy weeks.

 

Of course, since Petro needs to Learn A Lesson About Selflessness, once he does help her, he sees his crystal waiting for him. Awwww.

Now That All That Weirdness is Behind Us…

So in the nick of time, as The Wall of Overwrought Craziness freezes back over, each kid is safely outside with a crystal, where Yoda and Ahsoka are waiting for them. Yoda tells them to head back to the Temple for their next steps, and we iris-wipe out. And this arc is JUST getting started bringing the crazy.

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