The Clone Wars Season 6 Episode 6: "The Rise of Clovis"
Another Clovis episode, another twenty-two minutes of interest payments and secret bank accounts. I'll say one thing for this story arc: it is certainly distinguishing itself from the vast majority of The Clone Wars episodes. In a way, the Clovis episodes are very unfortunate creations. They're diluting some of the most fascinating themes in Star Wars -- Anakin's emotional attachment and the Sith Lords' machinations -- with a mind-numbingly boring financial storyline, a disappointing performance by Padmé, and a bland returning character who had served the series better by being abandoned on Cato Neimoidia. I will endeavor to point out the glimmers of excitement and thought-provoking scenes that were sandwiched between the monotony, but it is also important to discuss that monotony, because doing so will highlight how uncharacteristic it is for a high-caliber series like The Clone Wars.
Rush Clovis may have risen to a new position of power, but my increased interest in this story arc had nothing to do with him or the banking issues that formed the main plot of this episode. In fact, I would say that my interest level rose in spite of Clovis and everything he did. He is simply a boring, wooden, and predictable character, and his interests run to issues (like financial corruption) that drain the drama out of an otherwise promising story. Right after a phenomenal scene between Anakin and Obi-Wan, when my mind was racing with possible interpretations of their words, the episode transitioned to Clovis and Padmé sitting on a couch, eating finger food, and discussing Clovis' tough childhood. His little speech about "believing in the banks" -- really, that whole dinner conversation -- gave new meaning to the word "dull." The sheer awkwardness and boringness of that scene reminded me of some of the worst moments of the prequel trilogy. It was "I wish I could wish away my wishes" all over again.
Even as he was boring, Clovis was also hard to sympathize with, even though I appreciated his devotion to stamping out corruption. Bail Organa, who was always more of a realist than Padmé, was absolutely right to distrust Clovis, despite his genuine desire to right the Banking Clan's wrongs. I became convinced of this when Clovis obliquely threatened to expose Padmé's relationship with Anakin, in a blatant attempt to get her to forget her husband and give in to his advances. Clovis may be the right person to investigate financial corruption, but he's not the kind of guy you would want to date. And even after granting that Clovis' heart was in the right place with respect to his professional goals, I cannot ignore the fact that his personality type was unsuited to leadership of the Banking Clan. He genuinely wanted to do the right thing with respect to the bank and its two warring clients, but he couldn't escape his ambition, and Count Dooku knew this. The end of this episode made it clear that Clovis' ambition will be his downfall.
Speaking of downfalls, no one was more interesting in this episode than the future Sith Lord himself, Anakin Skywalker. I said earlier that I enjoyed this episode despite Clovis. That's mostly true, with one semi-exception: One of the best scenes in the episode involved Clovis, but the interesting dimensions of it were all reflections on Anakin. I'm speaking, of course, of Anakin and Clovis' little spat. I was stunned to see Anakin Force-choking Clovis, throwing away his lightsaber, and getting into a fistfight with Clovis, all while telling Padmé that she didn't "have a say in this." Arrogance aside, this scene showed how vulnerable Anakin was to his emotions. He was dangerously prone to getting lost in them, given the right provocation (like, say, a nightmare about his wife dying in childbirth).
If I was disturbed as a viewer, so too were those who interacted with Anakin, including, notably, Master Yoda. When Anakin pointedly asked Clovis if he coveted the top spot at the Banking Clan, Yoda glanced at him uneasily, conveying his discomfort with Anakin's tone. Part of the reason why I enjoyed the Anakin aspect of this episode is that, as I said in my last review, Anakin isn't totally out of line or unjustified in his coldness toward Clovis. His continued distrust of Padmé's professional relationship with Clovis was reasonably, as was his argument that people who are fundamentally dishonest have a hard time shedding that skin. Even so, he pursued his concerns too aggressively. "You don't have a say in this" was one particularly stark example, but earlier in the episode, he used his position as Padmé's husband to demand that she step down from her investigation. This harsh and misguided demand illustrated how trapped he felt: Clovis was doing the Republic a valuable service, Anakin had to act carefully so as not to arouse suspicions about his jealousy, and Padmé was too focused on her work to contain Clovis' feelings for her.
By far the best scene in this episode took place in Anakin's workshop at the Jedi Temple, where Anakin attempted to rationalize his concerns about Padmé and Clovis to a skeptical and perceptive Obi-Wan. It was fitting that we finally saw Anakin's workshop, his comfort zone, in an episode where he was dealing with so much personal anxiety and marital stress. He no doubt went there whenever he wanted to tinker and forget his troubles, and at the moment, he was dealing with serious emotional issues that he couldn't fix by tightening a screw or twisting a coil.
It's worth noting that Anakin's workshop contained a poster that advertised famous Tatooinian podracers, including Sebulba and Ben Quadinaros. The poster reflected his past, but in this episode, it did so in more ways than one. It obviously recalled his high-octane joyrides in podracing competitions, but it also reminded the audience of the life he had left behind. In particular, it reminded us of his mother, and the forced separation from her that his Jedi training had entailed. After losing Shmi to the Tusken Raiders, Anakin must have felt even more insecure about letting Padmé take care of herself. This episode's opening message was brutally accurate when it stated, "Jealousy is the path to chaos."
Obi-Wan cautiously set the tone for his and Anakin's uneasy, indirect conversation when he told his former Padawan, "I understand, to a degree, what is going on." What followed was the most open discussion that I can recall between Anakin and Obi-Wan about the role of attachments in grounding but also distracting Jedi Knights. It was very interesting to see Obi-Wan practically tell Anakin to stop loving Padmé. Anakin was put on the defensive, and as he lied to Obi-Wan, the older Jedi looked almost saddened to hear his lies and his tone. The most gripping moment of the conversation was when he pointedly told Anakin that, if Padmé and Clovis weren't romantically involved, there shouldn't be any problems with Anakin's own emotions. It was a clear warning that Anakin should contain his feelings no matter the circumstances, or else face the consequences. There were obvious echoes of the tension between Anakin and Obi-Wan that would tragically come to a head in Revenge of the Sith.
I sympathized with Padmé in this episode, although I continued to be disappointed by her conduct. Her eagerness to vouch for Clovis despite the misgivings of Bail Organa and many other senators reflected a naivety that we have seen many times before, both in The Clone Wars and in the films. For reasons I can't fathom, Padmé and Clovis went to see an opera before finally starting their work. It's not like time is of the essence or anything. And what was Padmé doing wearing a dress that harkened back to her "fireside chat" with Anakin in Attack of the Clones? It was almost like she was trying to seduce Clovis without admitting it to herself. It was an irresponsible and ill-advised way to begin a "working relationship" with a man who clearly harbored feelings for her.
I've been very critical of Padmé in this story arc, but I also felt bad for her. Anakin's violent outburst showed how he was still a slave to his emotions, and Padmé was right to be angry at and afraid of him. The way she looked at him after he injured Clovis reminded me of the way she would later look at him when they met on Mustafar. Anakin wasn't evil -- not yet -- but Padmé was right to be disturbed by his loss of composure and discipline. I was also glad to see the contentious and emotionally fraught issue of their secret marriage finally addressed head-on in the series. For such a caring individual, it must have killed Padmé to tell Anakin that their marriage had no trust and was built on lies and deception, even though it was true. One got the sense that she was voicing her concerns out of desperation. Indeed, her desire to stop seeing Anakin for the time being seemed like a last-resort move. It was also a tragic one, given how quickly their rekindled love deteriorates during the events of Episode III. Padmé's pained comment that "I don't know who's in there sometimes" presaged the terrible conclusion to their forbidden romance.
The only person who really came off looking competent in this episode was Palpatine. His and Dooku's masterful control of events has rarely been more evident over the course of a single twenty-two-minute episode than it was in "The Rise of Clovis." From getting Banking Clan senator Nix Card to give Dooku the location of the secret IGBC accounts, to shackling the newly ascendant Clovis to their whims, the Sith Lords moved swiftly and carefully amid the cluster of principal actors whose emotions and ambitions were clouding their judgments and perceptions. By endorsing Padmé's cooperation with Clovis in this episode, Palpatine ensured that her actions would play right into his hand. It was just like when he got her to leave Coruscant for Naboo so that Jar Jar Binks could propose a grant of emergency powers that she never would have supported. Padmé, Clovis, and Anakin were all just chess pieces in his massive game.
It was fitting that the camera rested on Palpatine's face when Clovis said the words "unscrupulous few" during his speech to the Republic Senate. This episode was only interesting to the extent that it dealt with both Palpatine's unscrupulousness and Anakin's anxieties. The episode's final moments brought these themes together, with Palpatine continuing to poke at Anakin's attachment issues by telling him solemnly, "I can tell this has been a difficult time." I can't offer high praise for "The Rise of Clovis" overall; it was certainly more exciting than "An Old Friend," but that's not saying much. In this episode, Padmé disappointed me and Clovis utterly bored me, but Anakin and Palpatine's roles were enjoyable enough to make it a wash. I can only hope that the conclusion to this story arc focuses more on the arc's strong, compelling themes than on its dull, exasperating ones.
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