This Star Wars article contains spoilers.
Star Wars villain Asajj Ventress remains one of the most popular characters introduced in the Clone Wars era, but she’s missing from The Clone Wars season 7. With the animated series coming to an end, fans might be wondering what happened to this fan-favorite baddie and why she’s not in the final season. Fortunately, this is a plot thread that Lucasfilm did address, but not in the TV series.
Faced with the strangest and most important choice in her life, Asajj Ventress gets one last Clone Wars adventure in Dark Disciple, a novel by Christie Golden built from unaired episodes from the original run of the show. The novel also represents an interesting time in the show’s history.
While The Clone Wars originally went off the air in 2013 after five seasons on Cartoon Network, the animated series found new life on Netflix in 2014. The Clone Wars‘ sixth (and originally final) season, dubbed The Lost Missions, was made up of 13 episodes that had already been in production before the show was pulled from cable. But those 13 episodes were only the tip of the iceberg of what showrunner Dave Filoni and his writers’ room had planned for further Clone Wars arcs. There were many other stories in development that never made it to the air, such as one arc that would have seen Boba Fett duel Clone Wars bounty hunter Cad Bane.
Other unaired stories include the arc that eventually became the comic book miniseries Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir, the standalone novel Ahsoka, and the “Bad Batch” arc that was eventually completed for the seventh season. But the most unique of these projects is the romance-heavy Dark Disciple.
So, what happens in Dark Disciple, what went into the making of the novel, and how does this story connect to the final season of The Clone Wars?
What Happened in Dark Disciple
Like the Prequel Trilogy itself, Dark Disciple is nothing short of a tragedy for Ventress and Vos. The book provides canon closure for both characters. In fact, it’s the only place you can find the answer to where Ventress and Vos ended up after The Clone Wars. In the show, Ventress disappears after the events of the Jedi Temple bombing in The Clone Wars season 5. That arc, which sees Ventress helping Ahsoka Tano, occurs right before the start of Golden’s book.
In Dark Disciple and the episode scripts on which the novel is based, rogueish, fan-favorite Jedi Quinlan Vos is sent on a mission to track down Ventress and recruit her to help him kill the evil Count Dooku. But Vos and Ventress fall in love in the process, leading to a twisting tale of shifting alliances.
During the mission to assassinate Dooku, Vos is captured and turned to the dark side by the Sith Lord, who makes the Jedi his new apprentice. Ironically, Ventress is tasked with rescuing Vos by the Jedi Council, who promise to pardon her for her crimes if she completes the mission. While Ventress is able to bring back Vos, the Jedi soon returns to Dooku’s side in an attempt to learn the identity of Darth Sidious.
The story reaches its climax on the planet Christophsis, a location previously introduced in The Clone Wars. Vos and Ventress confront Dooku inside the planet’s Separatist base, but they’re unable to take down the Sith Lord or discover Sidious’ true identity. During the fight, Ventress sacrifices herself, throwing herself in front of a Force lightning attack to save Vos from Dooku, who escapes the battle.
It’s a bittersweet ending for Ventress. Despite playing the role of villain throughout The Clone Wars, she gets a bit of redemption in the closing pages of the book, dying a hero while trying to save someone she loves. Dark Disciple also marks the last appearance for Vos, who, after burying Ventress on Dathomir, is said to have been one of the few Jedi to survive Order 66, although he’s not been seen in the flesh since.
Behind the Scenes
In 2015, at the time of the novel’s release, we talked to Golden, who told us more about the writing of Dark Disciple. She explained to us how she fleshed out the scripts of eight unproduced episodes to create the novel. The episodes, titled “Lethal Alliance,” “The Mission,” “Conspirators,” “Dark Disciple,” “Saving Vos Parts I and II,” “Traitor,” and “The Path,” were originally written by series regulars Katie Lucas (daughter of George), Matt Michnovetz, and Dave Filoni. Golden watched animatics for the first four episodes and read the scripts for all eight.
“I would watch the episodes and I would research the things they gave me, the animatics and the scripts, and I did lots of pausing,” Golden said. “Pausing to capture some of the elements of action, to try and get a better look at costuming, to get those voices in my head.”
Golden really focused on making the book feel as close to an episode of The Clone Wars as possible.
“My goal is for people to read this and have no idea which dialogue lines are mine and which of them are from the show. It should be indistinguishable, and if I’ve done that I’ve done my job right,” Golden said at the time.
Playing with characters from the Star Wars saga is not something a writer gets to do every day and Golden told us that she developed a real affection for both main characters while writing the novel. The writer particularly enjoyed the way Ventress takes an unconventional approach to the Force. Never a Sith but a dark Jedi for most of her life, she’s been a bounty hunter, a Nightsister, and worn many other hats in her rivalry with the Jedi, especially against Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker.
Like Anakin and Kylo Ren, Ventress’ embrace of the dark side comes from a place of great emotional fear and trauma, and the novel refers back to the major tragedy she suffered in The Clone Wars season 4 when Count Dooku had almost her entire family of Nightsisters killed during an attack on the planet Dathomir. Making the massacre all the more heartwrenching is the fact that Ventress had planned to leave the war behind for a new life with the Nightsisters when she was harshly reminded of her former master’s wrath.
“She’s giving up being a Sith, she’s giving up revenge, she’s just going to be a sister and have this connection,” Golden explained in 2015, fleshing out how Ventress’ part in the Clone Wars had changed. “That hope, that fresh start, that openheartedness is so awfully, horribly taken away from her so quickly. Ventress is prickly. She’s not a particularly nice person. I think, though, that no matter what you thought of her, if your heart isn’t breaking a little bit for her at the end of those arcs, you’ve got a problem.”
On the opposite side of the novel’s moral struggle is Quinlan Vos, whose tendency to act before he thinks and casual disregard for Jedi rules rubbed Obi-Wan the wrong way in earlier seasons of the TV show. In the book, he’s forced to take himself and his situation a little more seriously.
“Quinlan also thinks he knows more than he does about himself,” Golden said. “When we meet him in the first part of the book, he’s absolutely confident, he knows what he’s good at. He was raised in the temple, he knows [the Jedi] are his brothers and his sisters. It’s only later when he meets Ventress that he starts questioning. Is that all, and is that going to be enough?”
When Dark Disciple was published, there was little hope that The Clone Wars would ever return for another season. But now that season 7 is here, does Dark Disciple tell us anything new about the end of The Clone Wars?
Connections to Season 7
While there’s no mention of the events of Dark Disciple in The Clone Wars season 7, both Ventress’ story and Ahsoka’s journey after leaving the Jedi Order have some surprising things in common.
For one thing, both the book and the final season of the TV series take place in 19 BBY (Before Battle of Yavin), the final year of the Clone Wars. While it’s impossible to pinpoint when exactly Dark Disciple takes place in relation to season 7’s “Ahsoka’s Walkabout” arc, the two stories do take place roughly at the same time. They also almost, but not quite, cross paths, with both stories taking the characters to Coruscant’s seedy Level 1313 and the Pyke-controlled world of Oba Diah.
They’re also thematically connected. Like Anakin and Padmé, or Rey and Kylo Ren, Vos and Ventress find their romance influencing how they look at the Force. When your lover is on the dark side, it’s tempting in an entirely different way. Likewise, Ventress embraces the light side when she needs to, especially after she’s found a family she believes she can trust. The choice is as personal as it is political, at least in this case.
Dark Disciple isn’t mandatory reading in order to understand what’s going on in The Clone Wars. But it’s an interesting side story that gives fans a fuller picture of the final year of the war and how it changed the lives of all its major participants. Like Dark Disciple did for Asajj Ventress and Quinlan Vos, The Clone Wars season 7 provides Prequel era closure for characters like Ahsoka, Captain Rex, and Maul.