There haven’t been any genuinely bad episodes of the Clone Wars. I’d say there have been a few missteps and less interesting stories told, but on the whole I’ve enjoyed what I’ve watched. This is the rare case where I feel like these three episodes in a chunk that didn’t really do it for me for some reason or another.
Maybe I was in a rotten mood. Maybe this is the show’s turn from anthology storytelling into crafting a longer, more developed storyline. I don’t know, I can only talk about what I see in front of me. So let’s get into that.
Season 3, Episode 05: Corruption
Corruption sees the return of Satine Kryze, the Duchess of Mandalore. After going through an entire drama in her last appearance to keep the Republic away from her planet, to prevent civil outrage at the potential occupation, it seems like that civil unrest is just going ahead and happening anyway.
Following what I feel to be an incredibly overblown welcome party for Padme as she arrives on Mandalore, she finds herself in the middle of a big old argument between the planet’s leaders. All over the import shortage the planet is suffering. I mean, they can plead their neutrality all they want, but there is still a war going on out in the rest of the galaxy.
From here the episode focuses on Satine and Padme looking into a smuggling ring that’s importing a product, bribing an official and supplying schools with food and drink that’s making them sick. All to turn a profit. It’s certainly a grim situation, but for some reason this entire episode rubs me the wrong way.
I know Padme and Satine are the types to barge their way into any and all situations with no fear, but their insistence on playing detective themselves in this instance, rather than letting the properly trained authorities do their jobs seems weird to me. Like an Agatha Christie novel where a nosy granny sticks their nose into everyone’s business to ultimately solve some crime she had nothing to do with.
And like Miss Marple, these two politicians manage to solve the mystery all on their own, and get involved in a firefight to boot during the apprehension of the smugglers and corrupt officials. Which is not something Miss Marple ever did to my knowledge.
The whole gist of this episode is Satine getting enraged about governmental corruption, to the point of getting violent. Which kind of goes against one of the primary character traits she displayed during her last appearance. Her rhetoric about corruption in government is something I totally agree with, but at the same time feels wildly naive coming out of the mouth of an experienced politician.
I get this is a kid’s show, and they need to teach corruption = bad as the message of the day. But everything being said in this episode just feels so utterly quaint and idealistic to me. Having lived through these past few years especially, I’ve become totally cynical of anyone in a position of genuine power, coming to believe that power inherently corrupts. I honestly think corruption and government go hand in hand and there have always, for as long as government has existed, been people abusing their position for personal gain.
The very idea that Satine was both surprised that there was corruption and that she believes she can extract it like some parasite is borderline hysterical. What was hysterical was her ordering the warehouse burned to the ground after arresting those responsible, even when her guard’s were exclaiming that the place was full of evidence. And it was in the middle of a busy dock, where the fire could easily get out of control. I don’t even get that as a symbolic move…
Season 3, Episode 06: The Academy
Following on from the previous episode, we join Ahsoka Tano being sent to Mandalore as a part of a long con that even she isn’t even aware of. Arriving to try and root out the corruption within the Mandalore Government. Again, corruption isn’t like having a tick on your skin, but whatever.
Ahsoka is on-world teaching the children of the ruling class, who themselves will be the future leaders of the government when they’re older. Oh, a caste based system of picking your ruling class? Wow, a super fair way of ensuring the rich stay rich and the working classes stay poor. I just seem to get like then whenever I talk about this new version of “Mandalore”. Anyway, despite her age, Ahsoka is a surprisingly good teacher.
Even if the class she’s teaching it baby’s introduction to the concept of corruption in government. Pretty much giving the dictionary definition of the term and the kids, who all look about the same age as Ahsoka, acting as though this is the first time they’ve even come close hearing of the concept.
Again, I get that this is a kid’s show, but both of these episodes feel like they’re throwing very low balls in terms of giving their audience enough credit to understand what’s going on here. Going from Miss Marple to Nancy Drew, a bunch of the kids take it upon themselves to break into a government warehouse to see if the food shortage is real or not.
And they just so happen to stumble upon a meeting that they believe to be shady business. To begin with, I kind of felt like they were jumping to conclusions, but as it turns out, the Prime Minister, who we’ve seen throughout all of the previous Mandalore episodes is the one skimming off the top and the apparent source of all corruption in government.
Please excuse me while I roll my eyes.
Despite going off half-cocked, the kids and Ahsoka manage to catch the Prime Minister and reveal his crimes. Now, here’s the part of the episode where I felt the show could have given its audience a little credit and create a moral quandary for us all to dwell on. The Prime Minster claims that he’s using the money he’s getting from his criminal activity to buy humanitarian supplies for the people amidst this trade shortage. Something that is never actually disputed by anyone.
So, while his actions may be illegal, his reasons at least are noble. Creating something of a bit of an uneasy feeling about taking him in. At least, that’s what we could have felt, had the writers not reduced him to a moustache twirling cartoon villain who tortures helpless prisoners and orders the execution of children with glee in his eye.
These two episodes felt like a PSA on holding your government responsible. All in the form of a Saturday morning cartoon. An ironic comparison I know, but I feel like this series has done a good job of treating its audience with some degree of respect when it comes to not pandering to their intelligence.
This entire storyline felt pandering to me, taking a very grey, very real problem that we have to deal with in out real lives, currently more than ever I feel, and boiling it down to a black and white issue. Of course corruption is bad, but the very idea that you can put a stop to it this easily feels mindnumbingly naive to me. Especially after the much more cinematic and Hitchcockian representation of an untrustworthy government during Satine’s last appearance.
Season 3, Episode 07: Assassin
The final episode I’m touching upon today is a standalone story. Assassin begins with the Jedi Council praising Ahsoka for her good work and growth since her apprenticeship with Anakin began. They then congratulate her by forcing her to remain on Coruscant alone while Anakin goes off to war without her. Lucky girl, Anakin leaves, telling her to stay out of trouble. So obviously we know what’s going to happen next.
The framing of this episode focuses on the concept of the visions of the future the Jedi have, with Ahsoka getting constant, invasive precognitive visions of Padme getting assassinated by the not dead Aurra Sing. What feels like a very obvious callback(forward?) to the same visions Anakin has during Revenge of the Sith and what ultimately takes him over the edge into falling to the dark side.
Unlike Anakin though, Ahsoka takes multiple rounds of guidance from Master Yoda. Although the visions remain unclear and they end up becoming more of a detriment to Ahsoka helping Padme than anything. The half seen glimpses of the future making her seem overly edgy and paranoid.
If anything, visions of the future seem like a terrible burden for a Jedi to shoulder. They’re never especially clear, they don’t ever seem to be actually avoidable based on the two visions I’ve seen in the franchise, and they end up leading Ahsoka to the wrong conclusion on multiple occasions.
They seem like distractions more than anything, something the Jedi would be better off without. Had Padme not been very familiar with Ahsoka, I’d have expected her to just get frustrated and tell most other Jedi to just leave her alone.
While Padme does indeed get shot by Aurra Sing as per Ahsoka’s vision, it’s not fatal, and upon the bounty hunter’s second attempt both Ahsoka and Padme manage to stun her before she can harm anyone, leading to the arrest of the final member of Boba Fett’s little crew.
The episode ends with Ahsoka using the force to guide her and Anakin to the person who hired Aurra in the first place: the return of Ziro the Hutt, who we haven’t seen since the movie I talked about in episode 0. I kind of don’t blame Ziro for holding a grudge against Padme, I mean, did you see that cell he’s stuck in?
Very inhuman, even for a slug.
I made my feelings on the first two episodes abundantly clear throughout. They felt pandering to me. The entire concept of rectifying a corrupt government by arresting a single member of it was depressing more than idealistic, like pulling a weed out of the garden and not realising there is a huge web of roots underneath, just waiting to re-sprout.
I get that this is a fantasy story, and one with a younger audience demographic to boot. But I just feel like Clone Wars has done a better job dealing with more complex and mature themes already in its past for how softball of an approach this one takes.
After that, Assassin also ended up feeling like something of a nothing episode in my eyes. The only event of significance being that Ahsoka displaying a stronger and more mature control and connection to the force by the time the episode was over. In the end though, it felt like a story I’ve seen the show tell several times already, separating Ahsoka with her master and then having her learn an important lesson about being a Jedi from anyone except Anakin.
The only difference being the constant dream/vision sequences being a fair bit weaker than Ahsoka chasing assassins down along the Coruscant skyline or eavesdropping on people down in the undercity.
For the first time ever, I’m going to say these are a bunch of episodes that maybe you can just skip. Unless of course this all comes back and leads into a larger, ongoing story. Then all my complaining would have been for naught.
Next time, just two episodes as we start jumping around the chronology for a little while.
- Season 3, Episode 02: ARC Troopers
- Season 3, Episode 04: Sphere of Influence