The Clone Wars Season 6 Episode 7: "Crisis at the Heart"
The third time was the charm when it came to The Clone Wars' Rush Clovis story arc. After spending two interminable episodes setting up a banking scandal of galactically boring proportions, the story finally delved deeper into the Sith's role in orchestrating the crisis. Abandoning the financial angle allowed the story's delicious political drama some room to breathe. By the time it was all over, Clovis was ruined, the Senate was suckered, the Jedi were outfoxed, and the Republic was further imperiled. "Crisis at the Heart" was a classic demonstration of Palpatine's political talents, a Machiavellian masterstroke that would have impressed even House of Cards schemer-in-chief Frank Underwood.
I would argue that this episode portrayed Rush Clovis in his best light yet, although that's not saying much. He was still shown to be ambitious, but throughout the episode, he demonstrated that he was no prospective dictator. "I have no interest in controlling the banks," Clovis proclaimed on Scipio. "I am simply here to re-establish order." I still don't care for his character, nor do I think that he was a useful addition to The Lost Missions, but this episode emphasized his good intentions while simultaneously casting them as foolhardy. Unfortunately, good intentions were not enough to save his plan. He may have wanted to do the right thing, but he was not very smart about accomplishing it. He relied on Count Dooku's help, thinking that it wouldn't cost him, or that he could control the costs, but just like runaway interest rates, he soon found that this problem was spiraling out of control. When Count Dooku called him in his Banking Clan office, he finally realized that he was in over his head. He should have known that Dooku would extract a price for his help, but evidently he was more interested in stabilizing the bank's insolvent finances than stabilizing his own position.
Clovis was so preoccupied with his work that he didn't see how he was being set up to look like a Separatist puppet. He allowed himself to be manipulated to the point where even his old friend Padmé began to suspect his motives. When Dooku told her, "Everyone has their price," he was right, even about Clovis. The new head of the Banking Clan had wanted to stabilize things so badly that he'd ignored the danger of dealing with Dooku.
From the moment the Separatists seized Scipio, Clovis was on the defensive. "I had to strike a deal with Dooku," he told Padmé, "but don't worry -- I am the one in control." By continuing to insist that he could contain the situation, Clovis was refusing to admit to Padmé what he had already admitted to himself -- that he was in over his head. Denial soon gave way to resignation, and Clovis was forced to confront the fact that he had been played. He'd tried to do the right thing and made some compromises along the way, but in compromising his integrity, he had abandoned the commitment to impartiality that was a cornerstone of his new job.
Pondering his imminent arrest, it was not surprising to see Clovis consider his legacy and what people would say of him after. He had wanted to make a mark on the galaxy, but now it was clear that that mark would be a stain. When, a few minutes later, he found himself hanging precariously over the edge of his ruined office, he made the decision to forgo a future of shame and embarrassment and instead allow Anakin to save Padmé's life. Plummeting to his death was the noblest thing he ever did on this series.
Anakin's behavior in this episode was far better than in the previous one, but for this reason, there was little to say about it. Palpatine's suggestion that Anakin lead the "mercy mission" to Scipio was obviously made with the intention of rubbing more salt in the wound that was their marriage. Yet surprisingly, Anakin paid attention to his mentors in the Jedi Order instead of his mentor in the Galactic Senate. During a meeting before Anakin left Coruscant, Mace Windu and Yoda reminded Anakin of the stakes of his mission and cautioned him to put the Republic first. Yoda obliquely noted Anakin's feelings for Padmé when he said, "Great emotions you will find on Scipio," and Anakin's response did nothing to dissuade his certainty that young Skywalker and was more than just friends with the Naboo senator. When Yoda told Anakin, "Let go of your selfishness," he might as well have been saying, "Keep your eyes open and don't let your feelings for her distract you." When he arrived on Scipio at the front of a massive Republic assault, Anakin was obviously trying to contain his emotions, and by all accounts he succeeded. He didn't try to drop Clovis over the edge, as much as he may have hated him. In fact, his decision to keep gripping Clovis' arm even when he knew he could save Padmé by dropping Clovis spoke volumes about his discipline in that moment. The Republic wanted Clovis alive, and Anakin still wanted to serve the Republic like a good Jedi.
The main reason why I enjoyed this episode more than its two predecessors is that it actually focused more on Palpatine and Dooku's manipulations than on the financial kerfuffle that launched this whole escapade. "Crisis at the Heart" demonstrated that the Separatist side of the war was hopelessly in the thrall of the Sith Lords, even though most of the people who were rebelling against the Republic thought their movement was organic and honest. In this context, the importance of Separatist Congress Leader Bec Lawise in this episode cannot be underestimated. Here we had the leader of the Separatist Senate, ostensibly one of the most powerful people in the Confederacy of Independent Systems. Lawise's presence on Scipio was a reminder that the CIS does have a real government, even if Dooku's actions in the war zone constantly overshadow it.
Lawise, for his part, seemed to genuinely want to work with the Republic on the issue of the Banking Clan's neutrality. He seemed like a pragmatic leader, a man of principle who could find common ground with Padmé on diplomatic terms even if he considered her government an illegitimate and oppressive institution. He seemed as surprised as Padmé when Clovis announced that the bank was raising interest rates on the Republic, suggesting that Dooku had kept him out of the loop. Thus, for all of Lawise's good intentions Dooku demonstrated an absolute ability to control the Separatists' affairs. Only someone with supreme authority could guarantee that the Separatist Senate would endorse Clovis for the position of Banking Clan leader.
Dooku's actions led me to wonder what kind of power the Separatist Senate (and its Congress Leader) really had. We've seen episodes that focus on this theme before -- we first met Bec Lawise in the episode "Heroes on Both Sides," which dealt with similar themes -- but "Crisis at the Heart" handled it in a particularly stark, tragic way. No scene better encapsulated the Separatist government's vulnerability to Sith manipulation than the one where Dooku, annoyed at Lawise's defiance, used the Force to point Padmé's stolen blaster at him and pull the trigger. Given that Lawise was the only reasonable Separatist in sight, it was particularly cruel to make Padmé kill him.
Dooku's use of the Force to swing and fire a blaster was like a metaphor for the unseen hand of the Sith in galactic affairs. It quickly became clear in this episode that Palpatine had engineered the entire situation, including the Separatist attack on Scipio, as a pretext for the Republic's seizure of Scipio and the assets of the Banking Clan. This brilliant move was conducted in a way that made it look defensive, further solidifying its legitimacy and insulating it from criticism.
Watching the Republic Senate's eagerness to invade Scipio, it was easy to see how Palpatine used outrage and fear to compel the approval of any action he wanted to take. What's more, he made it look like he was simply respecting the senators' wishes ("As Supreme Chancellor, I must abide by the consensus of the Senate") when in reality the senators were acting on evidence that had he had orchestrated. Later, as the Muuns ceded control of the Banking Clan to Palpatine, the only senator who could be seen objecting was Mon Mothma, who crossed her arms in disgust. The ominous music that played as Palpatine continued to proclaim the glory of the Republic was a reminder that liberty was just a few years away from dying to thunderous applause.
Overall, I enjoyed "Crisis at the Heart." It mostly avoided the actual banking controversy at the heart of the story arc, which contributed to its success. There was one early scene where Dooku ordered Clovis to raise interest rates on the Republic and Clovis responded with shock and horror, in a clear attempt to make mundane financial matters exciting. Other than that, however, the episode dealt with darker and more exciting matters. Take the ruin of Clovis, for example. By the time Palpatine's plan for the banks had come to fruition, Padmé evidently believed that Clovis was responsible for everything, thus leading her to forgive Anakin. This was, in a sense, a perversion of justice. Padmé was right to be angry with Anakin for how he behaved, and Clovis, while ambitious, wasn't evil. Yet Padmé had fallen for the Sith Lords' ploy.
Padmé certainly wasn't alone in being suckered by the Sith. "Crisis at the Heart" succeeded in large part because of how neatly it illustrated Palpatine working both sides of the war to get exactly what he wanted in both the short and the long terms. Furthermore, this particular plan feeds into the formation of the Empire. Vesting control of the banks directly in the office of the Supreme Chancellor secures resources for the Republic -- and, ultimately, the early Empire -- and makes the Separatists easier to defeat after the execution of Order 66 and the dismantling (or rather, dismembering) of the Separatist Council. The Jedi, meanwhile, were only vaguely aware that something was amiss. Watching the Senate condemn Clovis' betrayal, Mace Windu recognized that Clovis' early move was foolishly antagonistic, while Anakin observed that his behavior didn't make sense. Both men realized that there was more to the story, but, in a moment emblematic of the prequel era, they had no idea what to do.
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