‘The Clone Wars’ To No Longer Leave Netflix June 7th

‘The Clone Wars’ To No Longer Leave Netflix June 7th

I was watching the #CloneWars episode “Witches of the Mist” featuring Darth Maul’s brother Savage Opress (yep, you read that correctly) when a little notice appeared in the upper left hand corner of my computer screen. The notice informed me that The Clone Wars is only available on Netflix streaming until June 7th. Fortunately this has changed as of June 6th as there is no longer any indication of the removal from Netflix streaming.

The Clone Wars is an animated television series that takes place after Attack of the Clones and before Revenge of the Sith. Overall fans responded positively to the series. For many it continues to be the highlight of the prequel era. While certain story arcs and characters became a bit ridiculous at times, ultimately The Clone Wars serves as an integral and beloved piece of Star Wars canon. Whether you’re new to the show or a longtime fan here a few story arcs to watch ASAP.

The Mortis Trilogy

This trio of episodes in season 3 is arguably the most bizarre and imaginative story arc. That alone makes it worth watching, but it also provides profound insights into the nature of the Force itself. Obi-Wan, Anakin, and Ahsoka find themselves stranded on Mortis, a planet featuring beings unlike anything they’ve ever encountered before. While the Anakin-Ahsoka relationship is important to the arc and the story will be more meaningful if you understand their relationship up to this point, you can still follow and appreciate the story without watching every single episode that precedes the arc. I dare say no more, only that this is a set of episodes that not only have major ramifications for the prequels era and the original trilogy, but could even work to influence the sequel trilogy.

Season 3

Episodes: “Overlords” “Altar of Mortis” “Ghosts of Mortis”

The Onderon Quartet

saw gerrera
Saw Gerrera in ‘Rogue One’ (left) and ‘The Clone Wars’ (right) [Credit: Lucasfilm]
Before shouting “Lies! Deception!” in Rogue One, Saw Gerrera fought to liberate his homeworld Onderon from Separatist control during the Clone Wars. Discover Saw’s origins and where the earliest seeds for the Rebel Alliance were sown in a story arc that questions the costs of fighting for freedom.Season 5Episodes: “A War on Two Fronts” “Front Runners” “The Soft War” “Tipping Points”

Order 66 Arc

How did the clone troopers turn so easily on the Jedi they fought besides for years? How did no one anticipate such an elaborate betrayal? These questions that bugged me growing up are answered through the story of clone trooper Fives and how he nearly uncovered Order 66. This also serves as an arc that allows you to get to know the clone troopers as individuals you care about with unique personalities.

Season 6: The Lost Missions

Episodes: “The Unknown” “Conspiracy” “Fugitive” “Orders”

Yoda Arc

Imagine a series of episodes starring Yoda discovering how to become a Force ghost that incorporates why he he later chose Dagobah for exile. This is that story, following Yoda through adventures that further explore the deepest facets of the Force.

Season 6: The Lost Missions

Episodes: “The Lost One” “Voices” “Destiny” “Sacrifice”

yoda arc
[Credit: Lucasfilm]
There are plenty of terrific episodes and story arcs that I haven’t mentioned. Regardless of your Clone Wars exposure up to this point, these are the arcs I recommend to all Star Wars fans. Before Netflix next turns to the Dark side with threat of removing the show from their streaming service again, embrace these story arcs whether you’re a longtime fan or newbie of The Clone Wars.
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Daenerys As The Mad Queen: A Brilliant Or Problematic Potential Plot Twist?

Daenerys As The Mad Queen: A Brilliant Or Problematic Potential Plot Twist?

***Spoiler warning!

Game of Thrones thrives on manipulating and deconstructing fantasy tropes. This is partly what makes the story arc of Daenerys Targaryen so fascinating to analyze. Daenerys is one of the only characters whose arc has followed a common fantasy trope of the unordinary character who has nothing becoming a powerful, benevolent figure. In this trope the character becomes so powerful to the point of being indestructible and always finding a way to succeed.

One theory that will ultimately deconstruct this trope is for Daenerys to become the Mad Queen. She will descend into total madness and become a ruthless dictator. Many have proposed this theory. Check out YouTube user The Last Harpy’s video to further understand this theory through an excellent choice of clips.

Brilliant!

Daenerys has been a fan-favorite from the beginning. We may not always agree with her decisions but we’ve always rooted for her and reveled in her triumphs. Thus, Daenerys descending into madness and becoming a psychotic dictator would brilliantly deconstruct the trope. It would make audiences reevaluate everything, wondering how they got behind this terrible person. This would be a more long-term and mind-blowing version of what we experienced towards the end of season 5 and all throughout season 6 with Cersei Lannister. Despite the atrocities she committed and influenced, we started to feel bad for Cersei and even rooted for her as the High Sparrow seized control of King’s Landing and her only remaining child Tommen. When Cersei crafted and executed a plan that murdered all her opponents in King’s Landing, we wondered how we possibly could have rooted for this woman calmly sipping wine as she watches her foes explode in a magnificent blast of wildfire. Now imagine a similar turn of events on the scale of our beloved Daenerys.

The plot twist would furthermore be brilliant because Daenerys has almost always sought to do the right thing and help others. She’s freed countless slaves, liberated a few cities by ending slavery in those locations, outlawed barbaric practices such as the fighting pits. Moreover, she constantly provides voice to her subjects and advisors. Yet it seems like these triumphs rarely last and the more permanent triumphs result from violent domination. She seems to thrive at conquering as opposed to ruling. We’ve seen this more and more, and it leads to thought-provoking questions about what happens when you attempt to rule through empathy, idealism, and humane intentions. In short, the savior becomes the villain.

Problematic

Game of Thrones constantly contradicts itself when it comes to feminism. Within a misogynist society where all individuals are expected to live within constrained social and gender roles, we’ve seen many incredible, complex women shatter these roles and become the most formidable figures in their universe. Cersei Lannister sits on the Iron Throne. Daenerys commands three dragons and the most impressive array of forces in existence. Brienne of Tarth is arguably the best warrior in Westeros and Arya Stark is one of the most dangerous assassins in all the lands. Olenna Tyrell and Ellaria Sand command their respective kingdoms. Many of the Ironborn refute Euron Greyjoy’s leadership and follow Yara instead. Most importantly, these characters are not just depicted as cunning and accomplished. Their vulnerabilities, human desires like love, and values are just as integral to their character development and depictions.

On the other hand, the show far too often portrays rape in a disgustingly casual manner or only to further the development of a male character. For example, Ramsay raping Sansa ended up being too much about Theon’s call to action in order to shed his Reek identity and reclaim agency by choosing to help Sansa. Jaime raping Cersei next to Joffrey’s corpse ends up not serving practically no purpose. Sure, there’s continued enmity between the incestuous siblings for a few more episodes but the show keeps making the enmity about Joffrey’s death and Tyrion’s fate based on the events of the Purple Wedding. The story even places an emphasis on continuing to redeem Jaime even though he’s a rapist.

Such problematic approaches would only increase with the Mad Queen twist in which one of the most powerful and complex female characters is ultimately defined by her psychotic nature. It is dangerous to show that one of your most iconic, beloved, empathetic characters, a survivor of sexual assault, one of the most powerful and charming women in the story, ends up becoming the primary human villain in the story. Why turn her into her father when she’s already so much more? Why rob her of nuanced character development only to see her become the latest tyrant?

What do you think? Would Daenerys becoming the Mad Queen plot twist be more brilliant or problematic?

If you enjoyed this blog post be sure to check out my novels as well!

4 reasons a Luke-Leia reunion is needed in Star Wars: The Last Jedi

4 reasons a Luke-Leia reunion is needed in Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa are at the heart and soul of Star Wars. The Last Jedi promises to give us more Luke and Leia than The Force Awakens.

Seeing more of these characters isn’t enough, though. We deserve to witness a reunion between these two characters. Here are three reasons why this reunion needs to happen:

1. Last Carrie Fisher appearance, last time this can happen

The first reason is the most depressing and practical one. Due to Carrie Fisher’s tragic death and Lucasfilm’s decision moving forward this is the last Star Wars movie in which Carrie Fisher will appear. She will not appear in Episode IX. The incredible chemistry between Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill is one of the countless features that continue to make the original trilogy wonderful to watch. The Luke-Leia relationship is integral to everything Star Wars and in a story that so prominently revolves around these characters, we need to see them reunite, and we need to see that chemistry rekindled one last time.

2. Denied a Luke-Han reunion

The Leia-Han reunion in The Force Awakens due to the deep nostalgia and multi-faceted emotions developed over years of loving those characters nearly brought me to tears. Even during re-watches my heart still blooms with anticipation and love every time I watch the scene. Years had passed for both the characters and actors, but the chemistry and deep bonds still remains strong in all the scenes they share.

Thanks to Kylo Ren we were denied a Luke-Han reunion even though their relationship also features much nostalgia and emotion. There’s something comforting in the fact that the last onscreen meeting of Luke and Han is celebrating on Endor at the end of Return of the Jedi. But I still can’t help feeling a little bitter that these two characters didn’t get to meet. This new trilogy is about balancing the old with the new. The Force Awakens did a great job of this overall but it will be a major failure of the trilogy if we are denied not only a Luke-Han reunion, but a Luke-Leia reunion as well. That we never see Luke reunite with Leia or Han onscreen after Return of the Jedi is something I can’t accept.

3. The Force connection

Part of what makes the Luke-Leia relationship so special is their connection with the Force and how they’ve used it to communicate with each other. The scenes in Empire Strikes Back where Luke and Leia use the Force to communicate on Cloud City and Leia resuces and when Leia knows Luke didn’t die on the second Death Star in Return of the Jedi are iconic moments.

In a story that revolves so heavily around the Force, and the growing Force abilities of Rey and Kylo Ren, that connection should be further explored. Both Leia and Luke have changed in many ways but their Force abilities remain strong and that can have a significant impact on both Rey and Kylo Ren.

4. The Skywalker Saga

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is the eighth chapter of the Skywalker Saga. Luke and Leia are a foundation of the Skywalker family and what makes the story of the Skywalker family so compelling. Quite simply, it makes no sense to continue this family’s story without the two characters reuniting. We need to see them grieving Han’s death, reconciling with the actions of the younger Skywalker (Kylo Ren), and use friends and allies both new and old in order to save the galaxy once more.

Help us experience a Luke-Leia reunion. Star Wars: The Last Jedi, you’re our only hope.

Why LOST Actually had a Perfect Ending

Why LOST Actually had a Perfect Ending

***Spoiler warning!

Lost delivered one of the most polarizing series finales in television history. Through the misconceptions and frustrations, many viewers failed to embrace the finale’s brilliance and that Lost managed to create a series finale that stayed true to the heart of all six seasons. In the end it was still about the characters and their incredible growth. Part of what made Lost such a unique show in the first place is that it always chose to be character-driven rather than plot-driven.

The finale could’ve easily scrambled to answer most if not all of the remaining mysteries, sacrificing its character-driven nature. Instead, Lost stayed focused and in terms of plot focused on the two remaining core conflicts, both of which were already well established and developed. In the present and on the Island it was the Man in Black’s endgame. In what fans dubbed the “flash sideways” it was Desmond’s endgame to help the core characters “remember” and “move on.” The finale allowed the core characters to reach the final stages of their gradual, rich development through their reactions to these endgames, focusing on their incredible journeys rather than just the answers to remaining mysteries. The beautiful, touching scenes where each character “remembered” in the flash sideways perfectly exemplified the intricate evolution of these characters and their relationships with each other.

Revealing the truth of the flash sideways occurred in a way that proved not only creative, but also made the previous events of the story gain further meaning. The misconception that the characters were dead the whole time would’ve devalued everything that happened. Understanding that everything that happened really happened and that the flash sideways is essentially a purgatory the characters created after they all died to reunite and move on together is brilliant. It allows all the events of the show to remain meaningful and illustrate the culmination of these characters’ journeys and the next momentous step they’ll take together.

The final showdown on the Island revolving around the Man in Black’s endgame yielded satisfying results for the characters still living (I could go through all the characters but will focus specifically on Jack, Hurley, and Ben). Of course Jack got to be heroic but more importantly we witnessed his complete development into a man of faith that had learned to trust others. Hurley remains compassionate and loyal, but also demonstrated the true leader he has become. Ben restored his faith in the Island and learned to use his unparalleled intelligence and experience to help the remaining survivors despite everything he’d done to them.

Everything came full-circle in the final moments as Jack died in the very same spot of the bamboo forest where he awoke after the Oceanic 815 crash at the very beginning. The story began with his eyes opening and ended with his eyes closing. Both times he was accompanied by the dog Vincent, most powerfully in the end depicting that the show’s oft-repeated phrase “Live together, die alone” didn’t have to be true. Jack not only found meaning through the Island and healed, living with and forging beautiful relationships with the likes of Kate, Sawyer, and Hurley. He also didn’t have to die alone as Vincent lay beside him.

At the end of the finale certain mysteries remained or were not explicitly answered, however, enough of the pieces are provided that one can find the answers if willing to engage in thoughtful synthesis of the various pieces.

Thus, the unceasing weirdness and deep investment in the show’s characters and their turbulent, yet rewarding journeys stayed strong to the very end.

Do you agree that the series finale was brilliant or could it have been better? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

If you enjoyed this blog post, check out my novels as well!

Game of Thrones season 7 trailer: 5 Major Takeaways

Game of Thrones season 7 trailer: 5 Major Takeaways

Watch the official Game of Thrones season 7 trailer before reading my 5 major takeaways!

1. Littlefinger and Jon Snow clash: Defeating Ramsay Bolton and his allies at Winterfell would not have been possible without Littlefinger and the forces he brought from the Vale. But despite this and the alliance forged between the North and the Vale at the end of the season, Jon Snow has plenty of reason to hate Littlefinger. The problem is that Sansa has told Jon precious little about Littlefinger, most importantly the role he played in the torment she experienced because of Ramsay. Neither Sansa nor Jon know how integral Littlefinger was to the War of Five Kings and the extensive suffering and death it caused the Starks and their allies. It appears Jon will learn at least a piece of these matters as he slams Littlefinger against a wall in the crypts of Winterfell. Or is this the moment where Littlefinger reveals Jon’s parentage and the newly anointed King in the North lashes out at the truth? Above all, how can a ruthless manipulator and the archetypal hero (arguably the only honorable character left in the story) find a way to work together, particularly considering Littlefinger’s crimes against Jon’s family?

2. Unsullied vs. Lannister army: Queen Cersei and Queen Daenerys are two of the major players left in the game of thrones. Season 6 left them in positions of prime power but left audiences unsure of when they would face each other for the first time. The first meeting of Cersei and Daenerys is unclear, but the trailer features numerous shots of the Unsullied battling the Lannister army. This epic battle will likely determine the futures of Cersei and Daenerys and their attempts to maintain or seize control of the Iron Throne. We may even see our first glimpse of Casterly Rock through this battle.

3. Robert Baratheon’s fear has come true:

There’s been plenty of war since this scene, but more specifically we now see the hordes of Dothraki that Robert feared rampaging across Westeros. What Ned Stark claimed impossible has come to pass thanks to Daenerys, though neither Ned nor Robert foresaw the giant dragon flying above the Dothraki army.

4. Daenerys and her allies will not be at sea long: Season 7 appears to waste no time getting Daenerys and her allies to Westeros. In addition to the numerous shots of the Unsullied battling the Lannister army and the Dothraki, there are several shots of Daenerys at Dragonstone. I’m glad Daenerys, Tyrion, and the rest of these characters won’t be stuck at sea long, isolated from the core events. This will help the story keep a swift pace and I look forward to seeing how Daenerys handles the treacherous Euron Greyjoy. Among the allies of Daenerys it’s also worth noting that romance appears to be blooming between Yara Greyjoy and Ellaria Sand and blooms further for Grey Worm and Missandei.

5. Where is Arya headed? We see a couple shots of Arya with a horse out in the bitterly cold woods. This makes it look like she’s headed North where she could reunite with Jon and Sansa, and perhaps even her direwolf Nymeria along the way. But since winter has come, it’s plausible that these bitterly cold woods are farther south and she’s headed to King’s Landing to kill Cersei and the Mountain, the final individuals on her list.

This trailer did an excellent job showcasing shots of the new season and briefly reacquainting us with many of our favorite characters without spoiling anything essential. Some key characters like Bran, Varys, Olenna Tyrell, and the Hound were conspicuously absent from the trailer but I’m confident all will play prominent roles when the season airs. The story moves ever closer to the final battle not only for the Iron Throne, but for human existence against the threat of the White Walkers. We are less than two months away from the premiere of season 7!

What other takeaways do you have from watching this trailer? What are you looking forward to most in season 7? Comment below!

If you enjoyed this blog post be sure to check out my novels as well!

Why “The Final Battle” Should’ve Been Once Upon A Time’s Series Finale

Why “The Final Battle” Should’ve Been Once Upon A Time’s Series Finale

***Spoiler warning!

Once Upon A Time‘s season 6 finale “The Final Battle” reminded us more than ever of the show’s oft-repeated phrase “Magic always comes with a price.” While certainly not without its faults, the series has always proved to be delightful and make us believers in magic. But like anything of value, the magic needs an end deserving of its beginnings. The season 6 finale overall provides the ending we deserve for the whole series, not just this season.

Both parts of “The Final Battle” draw a number of parallels to the series premiere, helping to bring the story full-circle. The parallels vary in terms of creative strength. Testing Emma’s belief in a fresh way with world-shattering stakes yields a wonderful parallel. On the other hand, Snow or Charming saving one another with true love’s kiss for the millionth time (with dialogue of “I will always find you” and the latest obstacle “did give me pause”) already became stale long ago. Regardless, all the parallels usher the characters and the audience into the epic (and much different than expected) final battle prophesied from the beginning, ultimately leading the core characters to the happy beginnings most of them deserve and fought like hell for. There couldn’t have been a more perfect ending for the series and season 6.

As for the journey towards the finale, season 6 was not my favorite, largely because it lacked the narrative focus of earlier seasons. The focus of what it ultimately means to be the Savior and for Emma specifically received consistent focus. Many other narratives meandered and a few creative opportunities–particularly concerning a few villains–were squandered. How could the fascinating Jekyll and Hyde be killed so quickly and how could the Land of Untold Stories go so unexplored? Why incorporate a magnificent villain like Jafar if you’re barely going to use him? That being said, the season answered most of the questions heading in and as the episodes progressed (see the 5 burning questions I had for season 6: https://matthewrudoyblogfun.wordpress.com/2016/09/03/5-burning-questions-for-once-upon-a-time-season-6/). Longtime questions like who created the Dark Curse, why Malcolm resented his son Rumplestiltskin, the identity of Rumplestiltskin’s mother, and what the final battle would entail were all answered. The one question that went unanswered despite Adam and Eddy’s promises was the future of Lily and Maleficent and the identity of Lily’s father/Maleficent’s dragon lover. I thought the dragon guarding the beanstalk in the finale might finally provide some answers but alas it was not to be.

While not as focused and able to meet its potential as compared to earlier seasons, season 6 did provide answers and still found ways to be imaginative and engaging. Lana Parilla slayed as both Regina and the Evil Queen, investing the audience in the tension and unlikely resolution of their conflict. New concepts like the Wish Realm  and characters like Nemo enthralled us. The musical episode actually worked really well, Zelena’s “Wicked Always Win” being my favorite musical number thanks to the devious opportunism mixed with infectious optimism through the talented Rebecca Mader.

All these pieces building to the high-stakes, unique take on the final battle provided the opportunity to end on a creative high note, the core characters’ hard-won progress coming to fruition. Instead they end with a cliffhanger that recycles the original story.

I’d be lying if I said I’m not somewhat intrigued by how Henry has become the person seen in the episode’s flash forwards. But the intrigue does not negate the failure to capitalize on a satisfying ending. The magic of Once Upon A Time will continue at the price of losing many of our beloved characters and robbing audiences of a fitting, satisfying end to the series for the core characters we know and love.

Do you agree or disagree that “The Final Battle” should’ve been the series finale? Share your thoughts in the comments below and on social media!

If you enjoyed this blog post check out my novels as well:

The Circle’s Transparent Approach to Exploring our Relationship with Technology

The Circle’s Transparent Approach to Exploring our Relationship with Technology

The Circle’s Transparent Approach to Exploring our Relationship with Technology

***Minor spoiler warning

Between promises to explore our dangerous relationship with technology and an impressive cast, I had high hopes for The Circle. While it proves to be an enjoyable film, The Circle fails to meet its potential through a lack of balanced or nuanced exploration of our relationship with technology. When Mae (Emma Watson) goes “fully transparent” under the direction of the Circle’s Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks) and his partner Stenton (Patton Oswalt), we get a complete view of Mae’s life through incredible technology. One of the best parts of the movie is seeing the comments pop up when Mae is “fully transparent” as these comments accurately reflect the comments section of almost any YouTube video or online article. Through this pursuit we see Mae fully embracing and even pushing the lengths at which technology should be used with Bailey and Stenton constantly bolstering these ideals. These characters and their actions are all pro-technology which makes sense for Bailey and Stenton but at a certain point just becomes confusing with Mae due to the negative consequences created by her use of all-consuming use of such technology.

On the other side, Mae’s friend Mercer is anti-technology from the start, and soon cuts off from technology completely. Mae’s parents go transparent along with their daughter but after a breach in their privacy also cut off from technology entirely. The movie struggles to tap into the potential of thoughtfully exploring our relationship with technology because the characters and their actions are too pro-technology or anti-technology with little middle ground in between. Ty (John Boyega) is a missed opportunity in this regard. As the creator of the TruYou software that is integral to the Circle, he works at the company but is morally conflicted about the Circle’s intrusive actions and exposes these intrusions to Mae. Through Ty we could’ve received a more nuanced exploration of the film’s overarching questions. Instead the film ultimately uses Ty as a plot device to impart necessary information and act as a resource to execute the film’s ending.

While disappointing in this sense, The Circle is still an enjoyable film. It kept me fully engaged as there is not a single moment where I felt my attention wander. The overall concept is intriguing and many facets of the story aren’t that far off from our current reality. Going “fully transparent” in many ways is Facebook live or any form of video live streaming taken to the extreme. The company culture of the Circle is rooted in companies like Google and Apple who provide their companies with more and more benefits in order to keep their employees at work, giving them everything they need at the company so they are incentivized to work as much as possible. The film even satirizes our society’s push to be extroverted and our relationship with social media and the meticulously crafted image many construct through their social media presence. The scene where two Circle employees approach Mae about her lack of presence on social media and lack of presence at the Circle’s social events is easily one of the film’s best scenes. As an extension of this, the ratings consumers give to employees of the Circle reminds one of ratings real-world consumers give to employees at companies like Lyft or Seamless, furthering the artificiality of a data-driven and data-defining society. The tension and stakes build swiftly, though the point to which they climax feels like a strange choice considering the events throughout the rest of the film. Ultimately, The Circle could’ve been stronger and more thought-provoking if it found more of a middle ground concerning our relationship with technology and imparting such balance and nuance to more of the characters and their actions. I am interested in reading the book and seeing how it compares to the film and if it perhaps provides a more balanced perspective.

If you enjoyed reading this be sure to check out my novels as well!