I don't know quite why I was expecting grand things from this episode when I saw the preview at the end of Assassin. Suffice it to say, I was left wanting more. Sure, there were good moments, including some that elicited a chuckle. That being said, coming off of the last episode, this was a tremendous plunge on the excitement scale. Both as an individual episode and as part of a season with the tagline "Secrets Revealed," Evil Plans left me disappointed. I think the only satisfied party in the aftermath of this episode was the Coruscant droid spa that got free publicity.
Let's start with the best part of the episode: how everything looked. Watching this series, particularly in HD, makes you really appreciate the improvement in the quality of the animation since the movie and the beginning of Season 1. Padmé's apartment looked nice, and the hubbub of worker droids behind the main characters properly set the atmosphere of dinner preparations. My favorite setting by far was the Coruscant street market. The variety of alien species in the background made the place look authentic, and the sounds were reminiscent of a real market. I would have enjoyed seeing a more crowded market, perhaps with more street vendors selling their products, but as it was, this locale looked and sounded realistic. I continue to be very impressed with the way the series depicts the capital planet -- particularly in the scene where Todo 360 brings C-3PO to a waiting Cad Bane, Coruscant looked exactly like it did in AOTC. Probably the best part of the Coruscant market scene was the voice of the street vendor who sold C-3PO the Jogan fruit. He sounded a lot like Pumbaa, which strangely worked for me, and the way he easily swindled C-3PO said a lot about the droid and the vendor alike.
In act two of the episode, Bane took C-3PO back to his hidden base on Coruscant. Ironically enough, his base appeared to be located in The Works, an industrial district on Coruscant from which Darth Sidious conducted his clandestine operations. As someone who enjoyed the novel Labyrinth of Evil and other depictions of Sidious' secret lair, it pleased me to see that section of Coruscant getting some screen time. The shady alleys of Coruscant also played heavily in this episode, with R2 hiding from Bane's IG droid to avoid capture. During that chase, we saw some cool species, including the street vendor whose booth R2 destroyed, the background characters watching the IG unit give chase, and the drunken Nikto in dark alley. The glum atmosphere was further enhanced when the IG droid shot the wrong astromech, and a nearby RA-7 protocol droid screamed, "Murderer! Murderer!" as it ran away. I thought that was a nice addition to the scene.
Now that most of my compliments are out of the way, it's time to address a few things I really did not like. For one thing...party planning, really? I understand the reason for Padmé hosting a dinner for Senator Aang -- this episode may take place before Senate Murders, which would explain why Padmé was seeking assistance from someone on the Senate's military committee. I didn't even mind the way the party was depicted at the end, but only because it was brief. Senator Aang himself was a fairly interesting character -- powerful, as Padmé pointed out, but prone to simple fancies, as we saw with the Jogan fruit. However, it was the several uneventful minutes at the beginning of this episode that I felt were boring and wasteful. We didn't really need that much time to establish that Padmé needed C-3PO and R2-D2 to run an errand to finalize her plans for a very important dinner.
Sometimes, I don't like to criticize parts of these episodes because they're hilarious. All too often, however, I find myself required to point out how poorly they fit in with the rest of the episode -- and sometimes the series overall. The "droid spa subplot" in this episode was one such element. I will admit to laughing a lot at R2's spa adventure when I re-watched this episode, but none of the massaging and oil-bathing could change the fact that this plot point was both contrived and boring. True, this wasn't an "action-packed" episode, but without the spa scenes that dragged on and on, it could have been. Todo's sudden appearance could have taken an interesting direction if he had, for example, stolen the Jogan fruit to make the droids give chase. Instead, his marketing pitch for the droid spa (I'd like to imagine that it was called "The Happy Circuits Robot Resort") brought the episode down to a very unexciting level. (Now, if R2 had been sucked into a corruption plot in the spa, I might have had a different impression.) The moment that brought me closest to thinking "Is this really The Clone Wars?" was when the spa droid said, "It doesn't get more soothing than that, does it?" Believe me, droid, Evil Plans was anything but soothing for someone who has enjoyed the progression of this series so far.
The two droids themselves had their high and low points in this episode, but they each played their parts well. R2-D2 was quirky as always, whether he was toppling a vendor's stand to escape Bane's cronies or raising his telescoping viewfinder to see out of the oil bath. His noble personality was accurately reflected when he willingly gave away his location in the alley to spare C-3PO from dismemberment. There were also little details in his behavior that I enjoyed such as when Anakin threw him the credits and he used his claw arm to snatch them out of the air. His characteristic act of rocking back and forth to show his nervousness also contributed to what I consider an excellent anthropomorphic portrayal.
C-3PO, for his part, was his usual clueless and bumbling self. At first, I didn't think his behavior was credible -- even given his personality -- when he met Bane. I expected even C-3PO to act more reserved and solemn when he realized what was happening. However, I will admit that it was refreshing to see him out-of-his-element like this. I wasn't pleased to see that he gave up R2, but it does fit with his personality of never keeping his mouth shut.
The only thing I didn't understand in this episode with regard to the droids was why Anakin didn't suspect that their memories had been wiped. It's not like C-3PO to be anything less than meticulous when it comes to telling stories (one of his defining characteristics is that he'll babble forever if you don't "shut him up or shut him down"), and R2 would have his own report for Anakin after being out on Coruscant for that long. The absence of 3PO's talkativeness and R2's report didn't make Anakin suspicious, and that bothers me. He was already impatient that they were taking so long; surely he began to suspect that something was amiss.
Ironically, a lot of my criticism this episode centered on Cad Bane. Why did he keep interrogating C-3PO when he knew that the droid's brain was devoid of anything useful? And what was that electroshock technique, anyway? Was it torture or some sort of data interface method? 3PO's screams indicated the former, but R2's schematics on Bane's display monitor indicated the former. Even if it was both, I would have liked a brief one-liner about the technology, as you don't often see those two functions combined into one technique. Furthermore, while I'm glad this episode explained that it was the Hutts who hired Bane to break out Ziro, I didn't find Bane's actions in the Hutt conference to be realistic at all. When we first met Bane, he was supposed to be the callous, ruthless, amoral bounty hunter who didn't care about much of anything except getting paid after the job. Now he seemed almost desperate to get the Hutts to hire him. I liked him more as the kind of bounty hunter who would walk out of the room if you didn't offer him enough, but walk just slowly enough to give you time to raise your price to his satisfaction. His eagerness in this episode didn't seem to fit in with his past behavior.
Sometimes you just have to accept that TV shows aren't perfect. Even so, I'm starting to worry about The Clone Wars Season 3. We're starting to experience the messy side of the chronology-jumping. For Pete's sake, why couldn't we see the Hutt plot to free Ziro in the order in which it happened? This would be so much easier to follow! Additionally, we've been treated to more than our fair share of the groan-worthy moments this season, including several in this episode. Todo 360 saying "Thanks for the memories" was almost obnoxiously out-of-place, and the fact that the already-lame episode title was the first thing out of the newsreel announcer's mouth didn't help at all. (I can't decide whether that's more blatant and annoying than the abundance of the word "corruption" in the Corruption episode.) To be fair, I enjoyed several parts of this episode, but most of what I liked had to do with visuals or minor character traits. The plot itself was lackluster at best. This was not a great episode at all; in fact, it was one of the only episodes that actually made me say, "I can't believe they're stretching this out to fill twenty-two minutes." To say that TCW Season 3 needs to pick up the pace very soon is an understatement.