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Second Look: Memories From the Menu of Dex’s Diner

Second Look is Eleven-ThirtyEight’s biannual tradition of highlighting some of our most interesting pieces from recent months. Every day this week you’ll find a different older piece back on our front page for another moment in the spotlight. – Mike, EIC

Cooking is supposed to help your mental health in these quarantined times. Unfortunately, peeling out laughter because a splatter of chicken gore hit your face is the opposite of helping. In fact, every step of making Aunt Lilja’s Liver Pancakes was tinged with horrified regret. Though the end result was an anticlimactic set of normal(ish) sausage(esque) patties, this is a journey I don’t aim to repeat. At least not with the liver pancakes.

See, my regret was premeditated. After all, one simply doesn’t purchase chicken livers on a whim (chicken gizzards, on the other hand, is a different story). This deliberate decision was driven by an unearned confidence from The Galaxy’s Edge Cookbook, a perfectly healthy fascination with Dexter Jettster, and a Finnish family tree.

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Second Look: What Have We Learned? – How Time Has Changed The Clone Wars

Second Look is Eleven-ThirtyEight’s biannual tradition of highlighting some of our most interesting pieces from recent months. Every day this week you’ll find a different older piece back on our front page for another moment in the spotlight. – Mike, EIC

I was cautiously excited when it was announced that The Clone Wars would make its triumphant return to the screen by airing three previously-unfinished arcs on Disney+. I’ve been hot and cold on the series in general, because while it does do a great deal to expand and deepen the era between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, the actual show itself has a very distinct tone and style that often rubs me the wrong way. It is a show unafraid to bring up big concepts and ideas, ones challenging to the era and the franchise as a whole, but often tosses them aside or bypasses them in favor of more sharply-animated action setpieces or references to other parts of the franchise.

The biggest issue that this raises is with the characters. Giving characters depth or exploring their motivations has simply never been TCW’s strong suit. Arcs like Ahsoka’s trial fall flat for me because the central character — other than Ahsoka — is the true culprit, Barriss Offee, who we hadn’t seen since the second season at that point and had apparently undergone a lot of change and turmoil in that time, all of it offscreen. While I wasn’t personally offended because I wasn’t invested in Barriss as a character, that in itself is damning; this character I didn’t care about because we’d seen so little of her was such a major part of the arc that my absence of feeling toward her motivations and fate felt like a hole in the story.

In the time between the show being cancelled from its original airing on Cartoon Network, the debut of its sixth season on Netflix, and now the seventh and final season on Disney+, the show’s crew has gotten up to plenty of other things. Dave Filoni and his team of animators moved to Star Wars Rebels, and then the animators worked on Star Wars Resistance while Filoni himself assisted with the production and direction of The Mandalorian. Filoni has said that all three of these shows were tremendous learning experiences that he and his team were able to bring back to TCW to make its final three arcs better. I assumed that he meant mainly in terms of direction and animation; I didn’t expect him to have taken some lessons from either of those shows in terms of how to write compelling character moments. And my expectation was borne out in the first four episodes of this new season, known as the Bad Batch arc.

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Second Look: The Continuity Trap: Could The High Republic Signal a Creative Rebirth for Star Wars?

Second Look is Eleven-ThirtyEight’s biannual tradition of highlighting some of our most interesting pieces from recent months. Every day this week you’ll find a different older piece back on our front page for another moment in the spotlight. – Mike, EIC

We all love lore. I think we can safely say that, right? No matter what angle of Star Wars tickles our fancies, be it the arrangement of the fleets of the Confederacy of Independent Systems or the hobbies and personalities of Padmé’s handmaidens, we all like uncovering new and unexpected details about the universe. But adding new lore—new continuity—to a shared universe like Star Wars is not a simple task. A well-intentioned author who loves Star Wars lore as much as we do can write what he thinks will be a fun detail: that all Mandalorian generals don green pauldrons in honor of the first mythosaur hunt, for example. Then a couple of years later, a Mandalorian general will appear in a movie or TV show, and the lead designer will have to give them red pauldrons to avoid interfering with the green screen. Was the author wrong in setting that detail in stone? Should the director have respected that choice even if it meant altering the shot?

There’s no easy answer here. The line to walk is tenuous and sometimes blurry. It’s common sense that the creators behind Star Wars should always aim to keep a certain level of consistency and plausibility. At the same time, it’s a bad idea to tie the hands of future authors just because of a self-indulgent need to classify and taxonomize every single item in the universe. Star Wars has walked this edge since its very beginning. It even rebooted a few years ago, partly because of how deep its lore has become. But how have things changed since the reboot? Have things become more accessible? Does accessibility also make things blander? And could a publishing program like the recently-announced The High Republic be the way to both have the cake and eat it?

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Second Look: Heisenberg’s Principle for Peace and Justice: Why the Jedi Never Seem Very Good at their Job

Second Look is Eleven-ThirtyEight’s biannual tradition of highlighting some of our most interesting pieces from recent months. Every day this week you’ll find a different older piece back on our front page for another moment in the spotlight. – Mike, EIC

The first thing we ever learn about the Jedi is that they were the “guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic.” Until I read Claudia Gray’s Master & Apprentice, it never occurred to me that this definition contains a contradiction. Peace and justice together are the defining conditions of the ideal polity. It’s an idealistic platitude too familiar to invite closer examination. That’s why it feels so revelatory when Gray shows us that in practice, Jedi often found that peace and justice were tragically at odds.

Master & Apprentice takes place eight years before The Phantom Menace, and reprises much of that film’s premise. Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon are sent to negotiate a deal between a planet’s willful teenage queen and a powerful, malicious corporation. Their lives are threatened by mysterious assassins, and they turn to a slave for aid. That overt similarity between the two stories allows Gray to take a second crack at a thematic question raised tangentially by TPM: is it right for the Jedi to ignore injustice in pursuit of the greater good?

In TPM, Qui-Gon doesn’t find this question very difficult to answer. He frees Anakin to gain a powerful Jedi, not to end the injustice of his slavery. He makes a half-hearted effort to win Shmi’s freedom too, but doesn’t press the issue. The question of freeing any other slaves never even comes up. They didn’t come to Tatooine to free slaves. The people of Naboo are counting on them; they can’t afford to get distracted by every injustice that crosses their path.

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Second Look: The Path to Immortality: Life and Death in The Rise of Skywalker

Second Look is Eleven-ThirtyEight’s biannual tradition of highlighting some of our most interesting pieces from recent months. Every day this week you’ll find a different older piece back on our front page for another moment in the spotlight. – Mike, EIC

The Rise of Skywalker may not be a film that stands up to much in the way of analysis. A lot of it is fun as you are watching it (even if it’s in an ironic MST3K kind of way), but very quickly falls apart when you step back and think about it for more than a second or two. Still, it does introduce some new ideas relating to the Force that are worth looking at in the context of previous entries in the saga, particularly those related to healing, resurrection and immortality.

In The Path to Immortality parts one and two, I looked at the Sith quest for eternal life as established in Revenge of the Sith, how it arose from selfish instincts and was tied to extending the life of the physical, biological body. Anakin’s desperate attempts to save Padmé at the expense of everything else drew him to this power, and to the dark side. This idea is contrasted in Lucas’s Star Wars with the Jedi path to immortality, which involves letting go of the physical realm and becoming one with the Force, a process that involves compassion, selflessness and sacrifice.

The Force healing abilities introduced in TROS, used by Rey, at first glance seem closer to the Darth Plagueis model of eternal life, but there’s a crucial difference, one that keeps TROS consistent with the themes and messages of Star Wars as established so far.

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