In a previous post we looked at one of my favourite characters Darth Maul (which many people seemed to really enjoy reading) in which I mentioned Asajj Ventress. They are very similar when looking at their birthplace and the people they initially grew up around. However towards their adolescent years they both start to take completely different paths. Both owe their start in the use of the dark ways of the Force mostly to mother Talzin. Throughout the Clone Wars series we learn a lot about the young woman that Ventress is and the conflict she constantly feels within herself; where does her alliance lie? While the CW series does not give us her whole story, it is known from outside sources so in this post we will have a look at her timeline, her big turning points and what eventually became of her.
Asajj Ventress was born on Dathomir into the Nightsister hood, under the leadership of Mother Talzin who had been a former associate of the Sith Order. At a very young age Ventress was ripped from her family as she was given away as a slave to Hal’sted to ensure the safety of her people. He took her to Rattatak and treated him with more kindness than she had expected from her master. Rattatak comes under fire and her master is killed leaving her an orphan, however upon noticing that a Jedi master named Ky Narec is in trouble she saves him using a powerful force push. Noticing her sensitivity to the Force, Narec takes her in and starts to train her in the ways of the Force as his Padawan. Ventress spends ten years with her master who sees her powers grow and continues his intensive training. The two go on many missions and come into contact with Weequay pirates on numerous occasions, in one of these encounters however the pirates overpower the master and his young Padawan and Narec gets shot in the back. Ventress, witnessing the assassination of her master, grips her lightsaber and kills every single pirate in sight. Looking at this deed this is very similar to Anakin killing all the sand people in revenge of his mothers death. While Anakin is far into his teen years (if not older) when this happens, Ventress is still a young child. We can see that the act of killing the sand people haunts Anakin for many years to follow and so we can imagine it must have done the same to Ventress. Narec had been the first person she had really created a deep connection with and he had been ripped from her, much like she had been ripped from her mother.
Ventress continues to kill all the leaders on Rattatak and claims the planet as her own and rules it. This once again is very similar to what we saw on Mandalore where Maul and his brother take the planet as their own. Similar to their situation, the take over attracts attention, in this case the attention of Dooku who has heard of the powerful young force user.
A new apprentice
Taking a swift look at Dooku’s history we can see why he is so intrigued by Ventress, the both of them share a very familiar history. They both were trained by a Jedi however both strayed to the dark side as he left to serve under Darth Tyranus. He recruits her as he sees her potential and wants to use her to both overthrow his master Tyranus. Ventress is trained in the dark ways of the Force and receives her double edged lightsaber through a ritual where she was hung above a hot red bubbling substance and forced to break free and summon the lightsabers. I started to wonder where along her path she had decided to make such a big change going from light to dark so swiftly, what had made her succumb to the dark side so much? Anakin had done a very similar deed to her, killing all the pirates, however had not immediately switched to the dark side. However this is almost completely explained in one sentence;
“I hated the Jedi for abandoning my Master, and Dooku wanted an apprentice as filled with hatred as he was. It was a good match.” – Ventress
It is clear to see that she feels utterly betrayed by the Jedi order as they did not come to her rescue or her masters’ leaving her with a need for revenge, this is very similar to what we see in Darth Maul’s story.
Under Dooku she takes on a command role in the Confederacy of independent systems, an anti-republic separatist rebellion movement. She takes on many missions and starts making a name for herself as she gains a fearsome reputation for her brutality against clones and showing no mercy. On the battle of Geonosis, Ventress is very active and kills many making her a wanted figure by both the galactic senate and the Jedi order for committing war crimes. This is where the audience is introduces to the powerful Sith, as we see her for the first time on Christophosis in the Clone Wars movie. She immediately shows how manipulative she is as she continues to taunt Kenobi and Skywalker and manages to flee while leaving the two physically hurt. She is sent on a mission by her master to capture Jabba the Hutt’s son and eventually making it seem as if the Jedi are behind the kidnapping, allowing Dooku to make deals with the Hutt family. During this mission at one occasion Ventress kills all of the Hutt’s bounty hunters as sends their heads back to the Hutt. At this point it is good to stop and wonder, is she still doing this out of wanting revenge for the fall of her master or has she truly slipped into the dark ways of the Force and surrendered herself to the Sith order? It would seem the latter is more appropriate. The failure of her mission to successfully pin the abduction on the Jedi sees one of her earliest failures.
The Clone Wars and the falling of an apprentice
We see Asajj on multiple missions throughout the CW series, as her and the two Jedi Skywalker and Kenobi meet on many of her adventures. Ventress also comes into contact with Skywalker’s young apprentice Ahsoka very often which will be important for her later in her life (see ‘two fallen apprentices and an unlikely friendship’). Throughout many missions Ventress shows how easily she overcomes her opponents and how skilled she is in manipulation and using both her training by her former Jedi and current Sith Master. She manages to impress Grievous in Tipoca city however then refuses his help stating she can finish the mission on her own, once again dominating over leadership and showcasing her intelligence and wit. However her plans on Kamino fail and her failures slowly start to add up and her reputation starts to slowly fall. Dooku starts to become fed up with his apprentice failing to meet the requirements of being part of the Sith order. While she fails multiple missions, Dooku is still concerned by her growing powers and aggressiveness and is forced by Sidious to kill her. He attempts to do so by shooting down her command ship on Sullust and she is left for dead. Overall her time with Dooku is cut short however the betrayal of her master leaves her now on her own and with hatred for both the Jedi and the Sith. This leads to the question; where will she go now and where does her alliance lie now?
“You have failed me for the last time. You are no longer my apprentice. And now, you shall die.”
A sister comes home
Asajj however had only been unconscious and returns back home and lands near the fortress-village of the Nightsisters. They see their fallen comrade and help her and heal her in a ritual during which she experiences powerful but very painful visions of her past due to the dark magick. This is the first time as an audience we get to see her training with her former Jedi master and see a softer side to the assassin. These visions however manage to reroute her as she realises she needs revenge on all those who had done her wrong at this point. Together with fellow Nightsisters they go to assassinate Dooku after performing a ritual on herself and two others allowing them to become nearly invisible. They travel to Dooku’s whereabouts and almost manage to overthrow him in his chambers however through a sudden surge of power he manages to overpower the three with immense force lightning. The failure in assassinating Dooku however did not leave them powerless as they had now left him with a panic and need to protect himself, hence they knew he would be on the look for an apprentice/guard. They use this against him by offering him an apprentice from their neighbouring clan, the Nightbrothers. Through a trial designed by Ventress they find the perfect candidate; Savage Opress (for more information on him look at our previously linked Maul article!) and they perform a ritual on him strengthening his physique. Ventress uses the brother as her slave and makes him completely submit to her by forcing him to kill one of his own brothers to serve only her. While Opress continues to serve for Ventress the deed left him torn and instead of creating a master apprentice bond created a master slave relationship. When Ventress takes Opress with her to kill Dooku he fails to do so which results in Ventress taunting him about his inability to use his powers/strength. This proves too much for the NightBrother and he betrays both Ventress and his master Dooku and leaves them both behind, leaving Ventress to fight Dooku on her own. She once again is unable to kill her opponent and only narrowly manages to flee.
The Destruction of her home
Ventress has once again come home however sees her failures and decides to leave her days as an assassin behind and submit to becoming a Nightsister. Dooku however cannot let the betrayal of both his apprentices go and sends Grievous to put an end to the Nightsister clan and kill every single one of them. Ventress hears of the news that Grievous is on his way to kill them and they swiftly perform the ritual for her to become a Nightsister and Grievous arrives just as they finish. She orders her sisters to flee as she goes to meet the general herself, they strike a deal agreeing on a one-on-one match and if she wins he will leave the planet and her alone. However as soon as Grievous notices how easily she overpowers him he orders his troops to kill all the Nightsisters. In a huge battle the Nightsisters are completely wiped out while Ventress manages to flee once again under the instruction of Talzin and fellow Nightsisters . The lonely Ventress wanders into the Outer Rim territories where she starts to drink away her sorrows and in a moment fuelled in despair kills a pushy Oked. He however, was part of a gang of assassins and had joined the group as a bounty hunter. Once the group finds out they have lost part of their team at the hands of Ventress, they forced her to join the group in place of him and help them complete the mission. A hesitant Ventress joins them and on the mission, as per usual. starts to take matters into her own hands. After changing the original deal, and screwing some people over in the process, she takes her own agreed upon share of the deal and departs from the group on good terms.
Two fallen apprentices and an unlikely friendship
Asajj continues her ventures as a bounty hunter but this time in solitude on Mos Eisley. It is clear that she by this point has truly “accepted” the fact that she is supposed to live a life on her own (in her mind) without any help from anyone. I started to wonder whether this came from a place of hatred towards both the Sith and the Jedi who had done her wrong, or whether this was actually channelled by her compassion for her fellow sisters who had died protecting her alongside the loss of so many trustworthy figures in her life (like her Jedi master). It is easy to look at Ventress and see her as a vengeful, impulsive, dangerous and down right evil assassin, but there are so many more layers to her (as I hope this post has started to point out). Star Wars has a trend of having ‘bad guy’ characters that always seem to have a redeeming quality in them, and while her actions especially towards the clones really are unforgivable she also faces hardship and is hunted for most of her life.
Going back to Mos Eisley, this is where she falls upon a master Kenobi who is being beaten up by none other than Darth Maul and her old apprentice, Savage. She forms an unlikely alliance with the Jedi and helps him escape the two. While Ventress returns to her life as a bounty hunter she picks up a bounty for Ahsoka Tano who was wanted for war crimes by the Jedi (which she did NOT commit). Having chased Tano down, she starts to relate to the young apprentice who is set on her innocence. They make a deal which sees Ventress help Ahsoka prove her innocence and in return Ahsoka will request the council to pardon all of Ventress’ war crimes. In this heart racing arc between the two fallen apprentices they are played out against one another by the real mastermind behind the crimes; Barriss. She steals Ventress’s double edged lightsaber and uses it to impersonate her. While at the end the truth comes out, Ahsoka decided to leave the Jedi council behind after having been cleared of all charges and so never has the opportunity to request the pardoning of Ventress.
The Bald Banshee
After her lightsaber has been stolen, Ventress acquires a new yellow lightsaber on the Black Market. I think this is so appropriate for her character since at this point she really has no allegiance to either side and as seen before chooses this life of solitude. She is hired by Valaad for a mission, however the mission goes completely wrong and the whole crew is killed while she is left unconscious. She is taken in y Rhayme who upon finding her lightsaber thought that Ventress would make the perfect bounty hunter-partner to retake one of the ships. However after helping Rhayme in return for nursing her back to health she declines a partnership as she is still convinced she is meant to live a life of solitude.
A romance and a betrayal
Continuing her life in solitude but still working as a bounty hunter she accept a bounty and starts her chase once again. However in the middle of her chase she interrupted by none other than Vos, a Jedi master who is working undercover as another assassin to get close to Ventress and through her discover Dooku’s weaknesses and attempt an assassination on him in the name of the Jedi Council. From the get go Ventress is wary of him however is forced into a partnership after completing the bounty together. While the two of them start to develop romantic feelings for each other they keep them under wraps throughout missions, especially as Ventress starts to catch on on the fact that Vos seems to be somehow force sensitive as he survives falls he shouldn’t, and seems to always have information on the whereabouts of their opponents (which he retrieves by holding objects and using the force to find the location of the owner). Vos eventually comes clean to Ventress about everything and is surprised to find her sympathetic towards him as she at this point had already connected all the dots. While Ventress has left her days of vengeance behind, she agrees to help Vos assassinate count Dooku and in the process encourages Vos to really let the dark side of the force into him as she believes this is the only way they can kill Dooku together. While the two get closer to one another she takes him back to her birthplace, Dathomir, and shows him what is left of her village. Vos shares his pain with her of the death of his former master but is unaware of the fact that Ventress actually killed him. She lies and tells him Dooku killed him to further fuel his anger towards the Sith master but also towards the council for apparently withholding this information. She trains him on her home planet and allows him to stray further and further from the Jedi ways eventually completely seducing him and kissing him (hence breaking the ‘no attachments’ rule the Jedi live by). He destroys his commlink – the only thing still linking him to the Jedi – in complete submission to her and they go to kill Dooku. The Sith lord however soon realises Ventress has feelings for Vos and captures him while she is forced to flee as their plan completely unravels. Dooku tells Vos who his masters’ real killer is and he seems to completely ‘lose it’ and embrace the dark side becoming notorious in the galaxy for his killings. In the meantime Ventress goes to the Jedi council in the hope for aid to help her fallen love but of course their turned evil Jedi master. It is decided that Kenobi will lead Ventress and Skywalker on a retrieval mission. Once they get to Vos and Dooku, Vos reveals to Ventress that it was all part of his plan as he had intended to get Dooku to trust him and then lead him to Sidious, where he intended to (somehow) kill both Sith Lords. Ventress however does not believe him at all and believes the darkness has completely taken over (and of course with this blames herself for the fall of her lover). All four manage to escape and bring Vos back to the Jedi council, where Ventress is pardoned for all her war crimes. The romance between the two though seems to have come to a complete end as Ventress cannot trust him and he seems to have gone back to the Jedi ways which means, no attachments.
A Nightsister returns home
Heartbroken and confused Ventress returns back to Pantora where her and Vos had met for the first time. Little did she know Vos had also come here in search for her and the two reunite. Convincing her of his love for her, they restart their affair which this time however is cut short. Vos reveals he has once again been missioned to kill Dooku and after long deliberation she decides to join him. Dooku however quickly overpowers the two of them as he locks them in a force hold and in an attempt to kill Vos, kills his old apprentice Ventress who throws herself in front of her love. Ventress dies in Vos’s arms and him and Kenobi bring her back home and lay her to rest in the waters of her village.
We’ve seemed to come to the end of what I personally believe is one of the most complex female storylines in all of Star Wars. While we don’t get to see the later part of her life in the Clone Wars this can all be found in the book “Dark Disciple”. Something that really drew me to Ventress was that she seemed to always embrace every single part of herself. She was aware of her femininity and uses this often to manipulate men or finish a job in an efficient way by making sexual advances. While often we see this tactic used in films when female characters seem to have no other way to get the job done, with Ventress she uses this femininity once she really has already defeated her opponent. She lets out this feminine side once her opponent is already at her mercy, asserting her dominance in the situation. While she uses this technique it never ever takes away from her integrity and skills with a lightsaber. She is known of course for this flirtatious behaviour but more so for her ruthlessness and efficiency in getting a job done. In the end she accepts companionship back into her life after so much loss, however it seems she never manages to really find the ending she deserves.