Riddles, mystery, and abstract characterizations are your Destiny this time. Having quickly dispatched the trials of Qui-Gon Jinn on Dagobah, Yoda leaves the world of 21st century science fiction and enters a series of prog rock album covers while dabbling in themes that aren't standard kid show fare. Five priestesses guide the Jedi master through the journey, effectively acting as the sequel to the storyline featuring the Son a few years ago. Read on!
While much chatter has been made of the true nature of the Force, we as the audience were largely kept in the dark with the original trilogy and had it over-explained in the prequels. "Destiny" builds on the mystique while giving us a peek behind the curtain without requiring us to really dwell on a quantifiable substance - although the midi-chlorians supposedly do come from the as-of-yet nameless planet. The prequels avoided the mystique of the original trilogy, granting every world and species and character a name, so there are precious few significant elements of the saga as-of-yet undefined. Yoda's species and this strange world are two such things, giving us a less technical, more abstract take on the saga which draws from countless franchises.
The nature of the alien, masked priestesses unravels as the story progresses and foreshadows the original trilogy. They speak to each other much like Obi-Wan and Yoda as Luke fled to Cloud City, which shows that wielders of the Force have much to learn over time or their dickishness infected Yoda and he liked it. The temptation of the Dark Side is never far away, although on this life-filled world he has to face his own demons much like Luke did in The Empire Strikes Back - although here, Yoda's dark side is much more literal. Perhaps it was done as such for the economy of storytelling, as the monologuing and battle here feel like a less mystical take on how a similar event may have been handled 34 years ago. Yoda's battle and rejection of his own dark side is just a little too neat and tidy for my liking, but it's not inconsistent with his character. George Lucas tends to be more literal about good being good and evil being evil, but I do think that another auteur's story would have had Yoda accept the part of him he ultimately must reject, just to show that he is powerful enough to control it.
Yoda's journey ultimately gives him insight into the future - or a future - as well as a degree of omniscience. Not content to merely face his own dark side, he also comes to terms with his own optimism - Star Trek fans will recognize the idyllic hallucination of Dooku, Obi-Wan, and Qui-Gon on Coruscant as being similar to Kirk and Picard's brief jaunt into the Nexus of Star Trek: Generations although it's a little less hammy here. Yoda's rejection of the lie allows him to see through the cloak of the Sith in between the sumptuous visuals before ultimately revealing what's behind the masks of the priestesses.
They ultimately send him to Moraband - a renamed version of another planet comic and novel readers will no doubt recognize - as we watch Yoda pick up R2-D2 and head toward the next level of his journey. I would love to know just how much insight Lucas himself offered to this story arc, as this feels like some bizarre, unrealized 1970s tale mixed in with the trappings of the genre as we know it today. This sort of thing would be right at home in an early Final Fantasy game, or perhaps even higher-minded paperbacks from that era. The story is uniquely tied to Star Wars and yet could probably exist outside the franchise, which as I try to continue to broaden my own horizons I see that this is an important element of success in any truly great franchise. Once you rely on the same tricks and puppets, and the narrative itself has no value without these characters, you're lost. "Destiny" certainly benefits from our familiarity with these characters and the tropes of this franchise, but with a few tweaks I don't doubt that a variation on this story could have been part of some completely different franchise.
Takeaway from this week:
The Five Priestesses would have been the easiest multi-pack exclusive Hasbro ever made, were this line to have any juice left in it.
The idealized, phony Jedi temple is probably a little too optimistic even for a kid's show, but it does serve as a reminder that there really could be something set in this universe with adventures and no overreaching war. We'll never be afforded the opportunity, but I certainly wouldn't mind seeing something set with Jedi off doing Jedi things prior to The Clone Wars in a post-Battle of Naboo galaxy.
By largely abandoning that which has come before it, this episode is genuinely compelling - we're not asked to suffer through the same characters or battles we always see, and instead are being given new things to process against the background radiation of what we've loved for years. This is incredibly refreshing.
Ahsoka makes a sort-of return appearance briefly, giving us some insight to the fact that while the Jedi do believe themselves to be all-powerful, even their best and brightest feel some remorse for their actions. This is good, as characters the Jedi need some humanity rather than being all-powerful all-good warrior monks.
Next time: The final episode "Sacrifice" rounds out the series, tying a nice little bow on the arc and the saga under the helm of George Lucas. See you next mission!