Asajj Ventress and the Canon Challenges of Multimedia Star Wars
Star Wars is a huge franchise these days, which is good news for dedicated fans – provided they’re willing to keep up not only with film and TV, but also with novels, comics and even video games. In a sense, Star Wars is a victim of its own success in that it’s actually really hard for anyone but the most dedicated fan to keep up with the story. Popular character Asajj Ventress is a perfect example of this.
Asajj Ventress: One of the Best Villains in Star Wars
Ventress was first introduced in the 2003 2D animation micro-series Star Wars: Clone Wars. One of the best new characters was this vicious Sith warrior named Asajj Ventress. We didn’t know much about her, other than that she worked for Sith Lord Count Dooku, was a match for any Jedi in a fight, and seemed to revel in death and destruction.
But the micro-series never gained mass exposure and back in those days there was a lot of flexibility over what was considered Star Wars canon. So was Ventress a real character in the Star Wars universe? No-one really knew. She featured in several novels and comics in the years after the 2003 micro-series, but these have all been relegated to the non-canon status of Star Wars Legends (as has the micro-series).
Any question of her canonicity was resolved in the 2008 feature film Star Wars: The Clone Wars, where Ventress was introduced to the wider audience as a new, dangerous villain. She became a regular foil to the Jedi Order over the next five seasons of The Clone Wars TV show, an immediate fan-favorite who grew far more complex than just the brutal assassin of the micro-series.
Asajj Ventress: Sith Assassin
At first, Ventress filled her expected role as a savage, Dark Side warrior with gusto. She was cunning, relentless, and skilled enough with a lightsaber to take on both Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker. As The Clone Wars progressed she frequently crossed blades with our heroes, even defeating Jedi Master Luminara Unduli in single combat before young Padawan Ahsoka Tano intervened at the last second.
Her most diabolical moment is during the attack on Kamino, when she Force-lifts a clone into the air, runs him through with her lightsaber, and then kisses him slowly on his cheek as he dies. It’s one of the most badass moments in all of Star Wars.
Ventress and Obi-Wan Kenobi
One of the most intriguing relationships throughout Clone Wars is between Asajj Ventress and Obi-Wan Kenobi. Their battles are spiced with witty banter and full-on flirtation and one has to wonder what their relationship might have been had they not been on opposite sides of both the war and the Force. Of course, it may all have simply been insincere, self-confident banter intended to unsettle or distract a dangerous opponent, but it’s fun to watch and it goes a long way toward humanizing both characters.
Ventress and Savage Opress
We start to learn more about where Ventress comes from when Dooku tries to kill her as a demonstration of his loyalty to his own master. Ventress barely escapes with her life and returns to her homeworld Dathomir, to the mysterious Nightsisters. We see a glimpse of her vulnerability when she’s reunited and re-accepted into the sisterhood, but her badassery continues when she’s sent to select a new champion from the Dathomiri males – the result of which is Savage Opress, a tragic Star Wars villain worthy of Shakespeare.
Opress is given to Count Dooku as a gift, but he’s a secret weapon as part of a larger Nightsister plan to kill Dooku. The plan fails, but not before we’re treated to the epic scene of three Sith warriors fighting each other. Dooku’s retribution against the Nightsisters is total, wiping out the entire clan and leaving both Ventress and Savage untethered in a dangerous galaxy. By this point Savage has been reunited with his brother Maul, but Asajj is truly on her own.
Asajj Ventress: Galactic Drifter
In Clone Wars Seasons 4 and 5, Asajj Ventress changed remarkably. We next see her as a bounty hunter in a gang led by none other than a young Boba Fett. She proves her fighting mettle and cunning as usual, but we then get a fascinating glimpse into her psyche when she turns on the gang’s employer and frees a young girl destined for slavery. It hints at a part of her past we’re not yet aware of, and while seemingly out of character for what we know of Ventress so far, it somehow resonates true.
Ventress appears again to save Obi-Wan, who’s fighting for his life against Maul and Savage Opress, bringing her long-standing flirtatious duel with him to a satisfying conclusion. We don’t know exactly how the Jedi master and former Sith assassin left things, but we can probably rest assured that if Obi-Wan was able to repress his desire for Satine Kryze, he was probably able to resist the allure of Asajj Ventress.
Asajj Ventress: Unsung Hero
Now cut off from her Nightsister heritage and wanted by both Dooku and the Jedi Order, Ventress escapes into the shadows of the galaxy, but her role in the drama was far from complete.
Ventress and Ahsoka Tano
Ventress had crossed sabers with the Jedi Padawan of Anakin Skywalker before, but her final meeting with Ahsoka Tano was in a very unusual role – that of savior. At the end of Season 5 Ahsoka was on the run after being falsely accused of detonating a bomb in the Jedi Temple, and she found an unlikely ally in Ventress in the Coruscant underworld. Ventress led Ahsoka toward clues that ultimately revealed the true saboteur, Padawan Barriss Offee (a fascinating and complex character in her own right), but was still considered an enemy of the Republic and had to slip away into the shadows.
Although more story arcs for Ventress were planned, this was the last time she appeared in Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
Was Asajj Ventress a Jedi Knight?
But here’s where the multi-media aspect of Disney-era Star Wars kicks in. Although Ventress hasn’t appeared on screen since Clone Wars Season 5, her story has continued to grow. Much of her expanded story comes from two canon novels, Dooku: Jedi Lost and Star Wars: Dark Disciple. In these books we learn that young Asajj was handed into slavery by the Nightsisters, only to be rescued and trained by Jedi Ky Narec.
Wait… what? Ventress was a Jedi?
Well, sort of. She was a Padawan (despite the objections of the Jedi Council) for ten years, but when her master was killed she surrendered to her rage and went completely Dark Side. Her awesome power drew the attention of Count Dooku, who began training her as his secret apprentice (for when he inevitably challenged Darth Sidious for supremacy).
What happened to Asajj Ventress after Clone Wars?
So Ventress now has an interesting backstory that ties her to the Jedi, the Sith and the Nightsisters. But ultimately she wound up alone, a bounty hunter for hire on the fringes of galactic society.
Ventress and Quinlan Vos
Based on a Clone Wars storyline that was never produced, Star Wars: Dark Disciple brings us to the conclusion of the Asajj Ventress story. Spoiler alert – if you haven’t read this fine book, skip this section.
In the midst of the war, Mace Windu and the Jedi Council devise a plan to assassinate Count Dooku. They bring in the rogue Jedi Quinlan Vos – a good-looking, free-wheeling rogue who is the surfer jock to Obi-Wan’s chess club nerd – and Vos decides to enlist the help of bounty hunter Asajj Ventress, whose knowledge of Dooku will hopefully prove invaluable.
I won’t give away the details of the story (although it’s safe to report than Ventress failed to assassinate Dooku) but the relationship between Vos and Ventress is quite a bit more adult than most Star Wars tales, and she (spoiler!) winds up dying tragically at the end.
The blessing and curse of so many Star Wars media these days
Having the story of Asajj Ventress end (however brilliantly) in a novel is one of the problems of the new Star Wars: quite simply, many genuine fans don’t read the novels. Or the comics. Or play the video games.
Now, I’m an author myself, so I love the fact that meaty tales, epic moments and canon-defining events can happen in the books. But let’s be real: Asajj Ventress is a film character. She was introduced on screen and has played out her drama there. For her story to end in a book isn’t fair to all those fans who know her on screen.
Can we make a new rule? A major character can only die in the medium for which they’re best known. Nobody was going to kill off Han Solo or Luke Skywalker in a book or a comic. And nobody better be planning to portray Ahsoka’s death in print.
Asajj Ventress is one of the best villains in Star Wars, and if she’s going to be killed off, she deserves to die in the medium from which she came.
Leave A Comment