20 Years Ago Today, General Grievous Killed the Crap Outta Shaggy From Scooby Doo

Mike Powers
20 Years Ago Today, General Grievous Killed the Crap Outta Shaggy From Scooby Doo

General Grievious’ first appearance is a momentous turning point in Star Wars history. After Genndy Tartakovsky’s stunning Clone Wars animated series had given fans chapter after chapter of the Jedi at their apex, performing feats unlike anything seen in Star Wars on screen, a metal monster was here to humble them.

And he started by killing Shaggy from Scooby Doo.

The 20th, final episode of Clone Wars’ first half, the Battle of Hypori is not just one of the miniseries’ standout moments, but unlike anything we’d seen before. Just as much as the original, 2D Clone Wars’ is fondly remembered for its all-killer-no-filler approach to action, it’s also remembered as a love letter to the power of the Jedi. Not in their approach to diplomacy or oratory skills, not even with their mastery of the Force: Tartakovsky’s vision for the Jedi in his show was about showing them as superhuman warriors, men and women who could turn the tide of a planetary-scale conflict with a sweep of the laser sword in their hands. If not categorically framed as the heroes, Clone Wars’ Jedi would be horrifying, especially if their foes were not othered in reams of faceless battle droids, or monstrously alien bounty hunters and peculiar Sith witches.

It’s fitting then that the first threat to really turn things against them is a mirror held up to their faces. Grievious’ debut is incredible, as we’ve said before—his cool steel body giving him the approximations of the Force and the Jedi’s athletic grace, his twirling hands making lightsabers spinning discs of death and destruction to contrast the balletic swordsmanship of his foes. His single line in Chapter 20 is not a witty remark about the state of things or an order, like much of what we hear from the Jedi generals we’ve met over the series prior, but a bone-chilling threat: “Jedi! You are surrounded, your armies decimated. Make peace with the Force now, for this is your final hour—but know that I, General Grievous, am not completely without mercy. I will grant you a warrior’s death. Prepare!

For as much as what Grievous’ debut says about him as a villain—especially contrasted to his eventual appearances in Revenge of the Sith and the 3DCG Clone Wars as something more approaching an ineffectual vaudeville antagonist—it says so much about the Jedi we see him face, and mostly brutally cut down, in Chapter 20. Jedi new and old, Masters and Padawans, Jedi who, at the context of that moment in time, had become cult fan favorites thanks to other Expanded Universe material, were known to be some of the finest on the war’s front lines.

Image for article titled 20 Years Ago Today, General Grievous Killed the Crap Outta Shaggy From Scooby Doo

Screenshot: Lucasfilm

And then there was Shaggy. Sorry, Sha’a Gi.

This is not some glib joke based on his appearance; the poor Padawan who holds the unfortunate record of being General Grievious’ first on-screen kill—breaking from cover in a shriek of fear and rage, only for Grevious to ascend and flatten him under his heel so hard he is there one frame, and gone the next—is, simultaneously, a gag about Scooby-Doo’s best friend. Tartakovsky himself noted the Easter egg on Clone Wars’ DVD commentary, with the intent to design the character as an homage to one of his favorite animated series. Although named simply “Padawan” in the original credits, he was given his gag name Sha’a Gi—only rivaled in absurdity by the iconic Ima-Gun Di, a Jedi who debuts and dies promptly before the opening titles of the Clone Wars episode “Supply Lines”—by the official Star Wars website’s databank shortly after.

Sha’a Gi is one of my favorite stupid Easter eggs in all of Star Wars. It is a beautiful example of everything the franchise should be, and is: Clone Wars is often held up as the ideal Star Wars for reasons that fail to understand its true greatness. People see it as the “badass” version of the franchise, what Star Wars could be if it discarded that pesky theme and meaning—ignorant that the series’ spartan storytelling still holds plenty depth for those paying the attention it deserves—and was simply cool action. What if the Jedi were not merely misguided peacekeepers, but anime-inspired, gung-ho action heroes? What if everything was explosions and lightsaber fights and death and destruction all the time? And Grievious’ debut is the perfect encapsulation of that train of thought—a badass, serious villain, going up against and absolutely owning some badass, cool Jedi.

And yet none of them really are those empty shells of action, they’re people, people who can buckle under the surface and falter, great warriors who can be humbled in the turn of a tide. And one of them exists to die as a gag about a generations-old Hanna-Barbera cartoon series. It’s incredible. It’s layered. It’s cool. It’s sincere. It’s incredibly silly. It’s Star Wars.

Happy Birthday, General Grievous. Happy death-day, Sha’a Gi. You are all Star Wars is, and should be.

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