Savage Opress

Don't piss off a Sith. Cartoon Network's Star Wars: The Clone Wars launches a spectacular three-episode arc on Friday that finds Darth Sidious issuing a fatwa on superstar assassin Asajj Ventress. The problem: She's becoming way too powerful and, therefore, no longer trustworthy. Naturally, Sid makes his apprentice Count Dooku do the dirty work, to prove his loyalty, but Ventress survives Dooku's murder attempt and bitterly vows to destroy her master. She'll need help with that, of course, and it comes in the form of a new badass character named Savage Opress. Here's the cool part: He's the brother of Darth Maul!

George Lucas' hands are all over this thing. According to Clone Wars supervising director Dave Filoni, Lucas "wanted to settle once and for all the Rule of Two he set up in the Star Wars films — that when it comes to the Sith Lords there can be only two at one time, a master and an apprentice. Many fans have said, 'Oh, yeah? Then what about Ventress?' Because it does seem like we've had a Rule of Three going here. This story is George's way of explaining that."

Lucas also wanted to use Savage (pronounced sah-vaj) as a way to give fans a deeper understanding of his famous sib. "Everybody likes Darth Maul yet we don't really know much about him," Filoni notes of the character, who appeared in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. "We're digging into the character's origins and revealing how he came from a whole tribe of people."

Call it damage control. "We've only seen Darth Maul as a ruthless warrior," Filoni reminds us. "We don't know what he was like before he got used as an apprentice by an evil Sith. So we'll see a whole other side of him through his brother, a very unexpected side. We also get into the training of a Sith and how it differs from the training of a Jedi, something the fans have always wondered about. Some big-time secrets will be revealed."

Savage, voiced by Clancy Brown, who played The Kurgan in Highlander, is a curious guy. "He seems all powerful and terrifying but there's a sadness and reluctance to him," says Filoni. "He doesn't want to become this sort of Frankenstein'd Darth Maul kind of person. He has a lot of good traits. There is an honor to him, which is true of so many people who turn evil in mythology. This is actually the set-up for a much bigger story."

And that's a promise. Says Filoni with a laugh: "Savage isn't one of those villains who will just go away. The fans are always accusing us of doing the 'show up and blow up' — we create a really exciting character, then kill him off really quickly. That won't happen here."

Star Wars: The Clone Wars airs Fridays at 8:30/7:30c on Cartoon Network.

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