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Acclaimed animation-and-comics writer Paul Dini (the “Justice League,” “Superman,” “Batman” animated series) amps up the action for Jedi heroines Luminara Unduli and Ahsoka Tano in “Cloak of Darkness,”
an all-new episode of the hit animated series STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS, premiering at 9 p.m. ET/PT Friday, Dec. 5, on Cartoon Network
In “Cloak of Darkness,” Ahsoka and Jedi Master Luminara escort captured Viceroy Nute Gunray to trial – but they’re unaware that Count Dooku has dispatched his deadly assassin Asajj Ventress to free the prisoner and eliminate the Jedi.
Supervising director Dave Filoni, who also directed “Cloak of Darkness,” and story editor Henry Gilroy have made concerted efforts to grow the series’ expansive universe of characters throughout the first season. When the focus turned to the strong female fighters of the Star Wars galaxy – both heroes and villains – they felt writer Paul Dini was a perfect choice to create the scenario.
Dini’s work in animation and comic books have built him a strong following among enthusiasts, and he is noted for creating stunning, memorable female characters. Dini, who has taken time away from the animation realm to be a story editor on ABC’s “Lost,” said he didn’t hesitate to take the assignment from Lucasfilm Animation.
“It was interesting to take Ahsoka, who plays by her own rules, and put her under the tutelage of a more established Jedi,” Dini says. “She can’t get around Luminara the way she plays with Anakin and Obi-Wan. It’s not just their generational difference, it’s a difference in methods – Luminara is very much by the book, and expects any padawan to follow the rules. Ahsoka grabs a lightsaber and runs into battle, whereas Luminara wants to take a moment and assess the situation through her mastery of the Force. Throw in the wildcard of Ventress and you’ve got a very interesting mix.”
Filoni says the Star Wars galaxy is filled with compelling female characters, but many of them have not had major roles – so far. “This series gives us an opportunity to use them in a much larger capacity,” he says. “In this episode, the focus is on how Luminara, an old-school Jedi master, would work with a young padawan like Ahsoka. Putting Luminara and Ahsoka together offers a real contrast in learning for both characters.”
In both comics and action-driven animation, Dini says, a preponderance of male characters provides a challenge to develop their underappreciated female counterparts with equal complexity and motivations.
“A lot of times, female characters – particularly the villains – come off as very one-dimensional,” Dini says. “They get the short shrift in that they’re only given the snappy comeback, or they’re relegated to a very stereotypical role. I want to know what’s driving them – that’s what’s really interesting. If you can find that human moment, then attach a human element of motivation, the character becomes more relatable and, even if she’s a villain, more sympathetic.”
But Dini says viewers won’t find much sympathy for Ventress – and not because she lacks crystal clear motives.
“Ventress has a savage desire to prove herself,” he explains. “She really wants to be the next Sith Lord, and she’ll do anything to achieve her goal. She’s as ruthless, cunning and merciless as any character in the series, and that intense, loose rage makes her a wild card. When she unleashes it, she becomes a berserker. When she fights, she’s like a snake, almost reptilian in some ways. If she kept her rage in check, she might win. But she gives in to that rage, and that is her undoing, her weakness.”