The Clone Wars Season 6 Episode 3: "Fugitive"
The third episode in the four-part Order 66 story arc would have been hard-pressed to top the conclusion of part two. To its credit, it didn't try to do that. While "Fugitive" was an enjoyable episode, it wasn't groundbreaking, astounding, or any of the other terms that I could have used to describe the last few minutes of "Conspiracy." Instead, this episode built on existing themes like Fives' new friendship with AZ-3 and Shaak Ti's unenviable position between the clones and their programmers. There was enough in this episode to enjoy as long as you put it in perspective as the lead-in to the big payoff episode. The themes that it dealt with were not new, but they certainly were compelling.
First of all, Shaak Ti came off looking much better in this episode than she had in "Conspiracy." While she initially seemed to want to defer to the medical experts in the Republic facility on Coruscant, she appeared to have a change of heart, defying Supreme Chancellor Palpatine's instructions and instructing Nala Se to prepare the tumor for transport to the Jedi Temple first. By taking the initiative like that, she revealed that she was concerned with clone scientist Nala Se's eagerness to send the evidence to a non-Jedi facility. She must have sensed the Kaminoans' uneasiness toward the Jedi, and she certainly would have been able to sense that Nala Se was hiding something. I had been wondering when she would stand up to the Kaminoans, so I was happy to see her circumvent Palpatine's order and demand that Nala Se send the tumor to the Jedi. I was even happier when she comfortingly put her hand on Fives' shoulder as the latter was being prepared for his final medical test, though it was easy to sense trouble ahead upon hearing the foreboding music that played as Nala Se ominously bade him goodbye.
Later in the episode, as Fives and AZ-3 continued to poke around, Shaak Ti's evaluation of his actions demonstrated her perceptiveness, and, by extension, Nala Se's ignorance. The Jedi Master realized that Fives wasn't going rogue, but rather that he was trying to investigate something in the cloning facility. Rather than dismiss him out of hand as a threat, she approached the situation from a more open-minded perspective. She was considering his aims and desires, reflecting her empathetic tendencies as a Jedi. Nala Se, by contrast, simply saw Fives as a malfunctioning product that had to be terminated before it could disrupt the precious harmony of her facility.
Shaak Ti was not merely strong-willed and compassionate. She was also shrewd. Getting assigned to Kamino must have made her the object of sympathy among her fellow Masters. No Jedi could truly look forward to spending most of her time interfacing with dispassionate genetic coders who took a decidedly dim view of the Force and its lessons about individual worth. Yet here was Shaak Ti, doing her best to protect clone troopers who looked up to her and to safeguard the best evidence that the Jedi had of a plot against their Order. Alone on this half-forgotten world, she was nevertheless on the front lines of the deeper, darker mystery hovering in the background of the Clone Wars. When, at the end of the episode, Shaak Ti referred to Fives as the Republic's property, she was merely playing within the Kaminoans system to save his life and preserve his valuable insights into the events of the last two episodes. Fives continued to express his gratitude to Shaak Ti, but she wisely responded by putting her compassion in the context of prudence, not emotional attachment. She evidently realized that any show of sympathy for Fives would only undermine her status as a supposedly neutral arbiter of disputes between cloners and clones.
In addition to deepening my respect for Shaak Ti, "Fugitive" also expanded on Nala Se's almost monstrous nature and deepened my loathing for her. On a big-picture level, I enjoy seeing this series continue to expose the differences between the Jedi and the Kaminoans, because I think their differing views of the clones are a core part of the conflict in this time period. In this episode, the Kaminoan perspective did not come off looking so great. For example, when Nala Se told Fives that he might have killed Tup by removing his tumor, Fives pointed out that Nala Se wouldn't have cared about Tup's death because they were going to kill him anyway. This is very true. Nala Se couldn't make a moral argument against removing Tup's tumor because it would have been hypocritical.
After Shaak Ti forced Nala Se to send the tumor to the Jedi Temple before it made its way to the Supreme Chancellor, I wondered how the Kaminoan would react. She couldn't have known that the Supreme Chancellor was the mastermind behind Protocol 66 -- indeed, behind the entire army and the war it was fighting -- but she did know that she had to prevent the chip from reaching Coruscant. Her single-minded devotion to protecting the secret of Tup's "tumor" led her to defy the Jedi and (in her mind) the Chancellor by switching the carrying cases to keep the inhibitor chip on Kamino.
In conversation with Lord Tyranus, Nala Se expressed frustration at having her orders questioned and her plans undermined, openly disdaining the Jedi's habit of inspiring creative thinking in their clones. By doing so, she was indirectly criticizing the meddlesome nature of the Jedi as well. It was the first time I can remember where a Kaminoan gave voice to this criticism of the Jedi. I love it when The Clone Wars episodes focus on this kind of tension between groups with differing worldviews. To Rex and Anakin, clone troopers were superior to battle droids precisely because they had learned to think on their feet while working alongside the Jedi. To scientists like Nala Se, the Jedi were a messy element in the Kaminoans' otherwise tidy system.
This anger at the Jedi was the inevitable result of the clashing ideologies that made the Kaminoan cloning facilities such diplomatic minefields. The Jedi perspective stressed "going with the flow" and expressing empathy and understanding toward one's fellow beings. The Kaminoan approach, by contrast, focused on order, structure, precision, and discipline. There was no room for deviation, and as we have seen in previous episodes set on Kamino, the scientists created punishments for deviant behavior in clones. One can perceive the basis for Nala Se's opinions even if one rejects them. As she contemptuously told Tyranus, Fives is "just a soldier" to her. They're all just soldiers to her, tools in an arsenal that the Kaminoans' highest-profile client requisitioned from them. Nala Se's derisive attitude was obviously intended to be repugnant to viewers who have come to appreciate the clones' individuality, and I knew that her character was well-designed when I found myself rooting for Fives and Shaak Ti to outsmart her. I was very see Fives foil her dastardly plot to switch the carrying cases when he discovered it.
Speaking of Fives, he was truly in top form in this episode. Watching him verbally spar with Nala Se and submit to various medical treatments, it was easy to forget that he was a highly-trained ARC Trooper, one of the most elite soldiers in the clone army. For this reason, it was refreshing to see Fives easily take on an entire clone security squad when he made his escape. It was a reminder that none of the security guards on Kamino were a match for him. He continued to think on his feet as he and AZ-3 escaped, setting the Kaminoan pod ship on autopilot as a diversion to cover his return to the facility. Further welcome evidence of his advanced tactical training came when he noticed that the Kaminoans in the genetic records hall were quietly evacuating, and immediately started thinking about alternate exit routes.
Fives' friendship with AZ-3 developed even further in this episode, and I enjoyed watch the growth of this bond between two ostensibly dispensable pieces of property. Fives' decision to save AZ-3 from a memory wipe in the first place was further evidence of his desire to allow the droid to develop his own personality. Against his better judgment, he was growing attached to the floating robotic surgeon. Of course, the little droid had his uses, as he demonstrated when he transformed into his survival mode to carry Fives back to the facility faster than he could have swum. When Fives responded by saying "Droids" approvingly, he wasn't just indirectly thanking AZ-3. He was also acknowledging that, like Fives himself, the droid was exceeding his programming and thinking on his "feet." AZ-3 was becoming more like Fives with each passing minute.
AZ-3 continued to take the initiative when the pair returned to the cloning facility, luring a clone trooper into a storage room so that Fives could take his armor, and later sealing the access hatch in the genetic records room to delay their pursuers. No wonder Fives told AZ-3 that he trusted him with his life. They had basically just met, but the droid had demonstrated numerous times that he understood the value of Fives' mission and was willing to violate orders to help him accomplish it. There were still moments of levity between the two, such as when Fives told AZ-3 to "try to act normal" and the droid responded by whimsically singing "La la la la," but overall, a very real bond was developing between the two of them.
When Fives told AZ-3 that he needed his own chip removed and the droid expressed skepticism about its presence, the ARC Trooper grimly replied, "I know it's there." That comment initially took me by surprise, but I soon grasped what it meant: Fives realized that Tup's Order 66 dreams, which he and the other clones had shared, were the result of the chip, and that the dreams suggested that he, too, possessed the chip. In yet another commendable sign of loyalty, Fives demanded that AZ-3 undertake the risky procedure to remove his chip, because he would rather die than endanger the Jedi the way Tup did. Fives' face betrayed his fear as AZ-3's tools hovered in front of him, but he courageously insisted that the droid proceed. It was all the evidence I needed of his bravery and dedication. True courage is not doing something without fear; it's doing something despite fear.
At the end of the episode, as Fives was being taken away on a hover-stretcher, he said to AZ-3, "I'll see you on the other side." "The other side of what?" his new friend asked, genuinely puzzled. Fives responded by chuckling and muttering "Droids" to himself. The fact that he had uttered the same remark when AZ-3 had impressed him with his "survival mode" is not a coincidence. In both cases, Fives was observing the unpredictable nature of his robotic companion. Droids could be both unexpectedly resourceful and predictably clueless. They were, in other words, multifaceted creations, not unlike organic beings. I would venture a guess and say that Fives was chuckling because this independent-minded droid was starting to remind him of a person.
Despite the occasional laughs and the strong behind between clone and droid, "Fugitive" ended on a dark note with dangerous implications for Fives' mission. It occurs to me that the Sith Lords' decision to disguise Protocol 66 as part of a "structural inhibitor chip" might not have been accidental. In fact, it was a very clever ploy. Obviously, it piggybacked on the Republic's obvious desire for obedience in its soldiers, and that alone was a smart way to disguise its sinister nature. But as Fives' situation demonstrated, this pairing of the obedience programming with the insidious sleeper code also helped Protocol 66's guardians discredit any clone who learned about and tried to disrupt it. When Fives removed from his body a chip the stated purpose of which was to make him obedient, he opened himself up to charges of disloyalty and recklessness. Nala Se made that exact case in an attempt to discredit Fives' theory about the chip. By attempting to sabotage Protocol 66, Fives unwittingly helped his adversaries make the case that all of his subsequent actions were the result of an unbalanced man with a flaw in his genetic code. "Fugitive," the third episode in a four-part story arc, expanded on existing themes without offering up anything revelatory, but it also laid the groundwork for a dramatic conclusion to one of the most interesting and exciting story arcs in the history of The Clone Wars.