The Clone Wars Season 6 Episode 9: "The Disappeared, Part II"
If you had asked me two years ago whether I would enjoy an episode about Jar Jar Binks and Mace Windu confronting Mother Talzin's Force-stealing death cult, I wouldn't have known what to say. I certainly wouldn't have predicted enjoying it as much as I enjoyed "The Disappeared, Part II." It was a great conclusion to the story of the Bardottan prophecy, because it built on the odd-couple themes of the previous episode without feeling stale. The episode began with Mace Windu harboring lingering frustrations about working with Jar Jar and ended with him trumpeting their joint accomplishments. For Mace Windu to revise his assessment of Jar Jar like that was rare enough. Even more surprising was how "The Disappeared, Part II" managed to contrast Jar Jar and Mace to make a point about different personality types without losing focus on the immediate mission or diluting a story full of exotic accents, Force powers, creatures, and music.
Jar Jar continued to steal the show in this episode, presenting a more complex version of himself than I think we've ever seen before. "Wisdom is born in fools as well as wise men," read the message at the beginning of the episode, and Jar Jar did appear to possess a measure of wisdom. He certainly cared about saving Queen Julia, wanted to work well with Mace, and was dead-set on preventing the dark Bardotta prophecy from coming to pass. But before he could confront the challenges of the mission, he had to, quite simply, calm down. This was a theme that recurred throughout the episode -- Mace trying to calm Jar Jar down despite his boisterous, even rambunctious personality. Before they exited their ship to search the city in front of them, Mace tried to get Jar Jar to center himself. This was not an easy task for someone as excitable as Jar Jar, particularly because he couldn't use the Force to see the value of sitting and perceiving. He even repeated his famous line from The Phantom Menace, "Maxi big da Force," when Mace said that he would use the Force to track the cultists.
Jar Jar is an energetic person and he wants to go, go, go. He didn't like the idea of waiting around while his old flame was in trouble. Mace wanted to know where they were going before he ran into the city, whereas Jar Jar would have been fine charging into danger and letting his instincts take him from place to place. In the first part of this story, The Clone Wars got a lot of mileage out of making stark contrasts between the powerful, competent Mace and the oafish, even unhinged Jar Jar. In this episode, the contrast was more about patience versus impatience. Mace's challenge was to get Jar Jar to settle down and trust the Force, even though he couldn't touch it.
For the most part, the episode handled this contrast in a serious way. There were some laugh lines, though. One of my favorite moments in the episode was when Mace, eyes closed and senses extended, said, "I see people, market, streets." To which Jar Jar deadpanned, "Yep, meesa see that from here too." It was a funny reminder of the fact that Jar Jar has rarely paused to consider what he's about to do. Now, working with a Jedi, he was forced to do more of that. "Do not center on your anxieties, Jar Jar," Mace told him as they entered the city. This excellent advice reminded me of what Qui-Gon said to Obi-Wan at beginning of Episode I: "Keep your concentration on the here and now, where it belongs." Later in the episode, Mace again reminded Jar Jar to stay focused on the mission when he noticed him anxiously making noises while riding to fight the cultists. Jar Jar expressed his concern for Julia's safety, showing that he was a more thoughtful person than the audience might assume, and Mace sought to reassure him that they would handle the threat.
As expected, Mace did most of the heavy lifting in this episode. The middle part of the story featured a fairly predictable series of encounters with the cultists, where Jar Jar would lead Mace to the various clusters of enemies and Mace would take them out. For the most part, Jar Jar just snuck around and discovered where to go, while Mace demonstrated why he was the Jedi Order's best warrior. (In some ways, this was really a twenty-two-minute demonstration of Mace Windu's combat prowess.) That being said, Jar Jar had his moments. When he encountered a cultist manning a blaster cannon, he told himself, "Meesa need to be brave," before charging out to confront the man. He was ready to risk his life, and even though Mace disabled the cannon operator first, it was still noteworthy that Jar Jar had acted bravely. Later, Jar Jar even ran up to and punched the unmasked cultist who had grabbed Mace's lightsaber, which freed the Jedi to Force-grab it and take out the gundarks.
It was only fair that Jar Jar risk his life to tackle that cultist holding Mace's lightsaber, because after all, it was Jar Jar's clumsiness in running into Mace and knocking him over that allowed the cultist to snatch the weapon. That was another theme that I was happy to see return in this episode. Jar Jar was still a very clumsy Gungan. After knocking Mace over and causing him to lose his lightsaber, Jar Jar went on to accidentally activate a bunch of the stone guardians at the cultists' temple. Granted, they probably would have activated themselves anyway, but this mishap was still a reminder of Jar Jar's accident-prone nature.
In keeping with another aspect of Jar Jar's character, however, this episode also showed him unwittingly defeating enemies with his own clumsiness. Watching him get a bunch of stone guardians to attack each other by hopping around on top of them reminded me of when he got snagged on a battle droid during the Battle of Naboo and ended up shooting several of them, including a droideka, with his panicked foot motions. Finally, as Mace battled Mother Talzin at the end of the episode, Jar Jar knocked over the Force orb as he fell off the temple platform. Unwittingly saving the day by releasing the stored energy and foiling Mother Talzin's plan: Just another day in the life of Jar Jar Binks.
Mace increasingly came to appreciate working with Jar Jar during this episode. I sensed burgeoning respect for the Gungan from Mace that I never would have imagined prior to this mission. When they first arrived on the planet to confront the cultists, Jar Jar enthusiastically told Mace, "Weesa make a bombad team." Mace's reply was an encouraging "Indeed." Later, as they rode through the desert, Jar Jar asked Mace if "weesa good guys will triumph." At this point, you can imagine that Mace just wanted this mission to be over with. Yet he swallowed his frustrations with his partner, smiled at him, and said, "Yes."
For all his impatience with Bardottan customs and frustration with Jar Jar's mannerisms, Mace recognized that the best way to accomplish their objective was to work together, which meant that he had to make his partner feel comfortable and appreciated. When Jar Jar picked up a stone guardian's weapon and told Mace, "Meesa found a bang-boomer gun," Mace's reply wasn't "Jar Jar! Stay focused! Stop messing around!" It was "Nice work." Mace wasn't even being sarcastic there; he genuinely wanted to encourage his partner. By the time they reached the top of the temple, Mace had fully embraced his partnership with Jar Jar. When a cultist told Mother Talzin, "The Jedi have defeated the stone guardians," Mace was quick to declare, "You mean the Jedi ... and the Gungan." It was a clear sign that he respected Jar Jar as an ally, which -- even if he wouldn't have chosen Jar Jar to guard his back in a firefight -- was more than enough to indicate that he had revised his opinion of the Gungan.
When Mace and Jar Jar jumped into the system, Mace said that he sensed "a darker presence" at work there. The cultists, he had realized, were stealing the "Living Force" from the Bardottan sages. Once we rejoined the cultists themselves, we learned that they were intent on sacrificing the queen to bolster the power of their "Great Mother." At first, I didn't consider who this "Great Mother" might be; we had already met several new characters and I was expecting her to be just another one of them. Yet The Clone Wars surprised me again, bringing in the familiar and wicked face of Mother Talzin, the Nightsister matriarch, and adding a new twist to her quest for power.
It was truly great to see Mother Talzin again. We hadn't seen her since the Season Four finale episode "Revenge," and I had been wondering what she was up to. Her role as the cult leader in "The Disappeared, Part II" reflected an interesting strategic choice on her part. Having failed to use Maul to increase her power, as she had evidently planned to do, she was looking for a new avenue to galactic domination. As she told Queen Julia, she isn't "a natural Force-wielder," so she needed the Bardottan queen's "strong connection to the Living Force" to enhance her connection to the power source.
Mother Talzin may have been a desperate power-seeker who would mingle with even the most primitive death cults to tighten her grasp on the Force, but she remained a powerful dark witch in her own right, and I was eager to see her fight Mace Windu. In truth, ever since we first met Mother Talzin, I've wanted to watch her fight either Mace Windu or Yoda. What happened in this episode surprised me. I figured that Mace would have easily been able to take her, but instead the fight seemed more evenly matched. Mace was the most skilled fighter in the Jedi Order, second only to Yoda in terms of overall mastery of the Force. How could Mother Talzin hold her own against him? I suppose one could chalk it up to Mace's unfamiliarity with her brand of dark magic, but that's not entirely convincing.
When the dust settled and Mother Talzin had retreated into the ether, "The Disappeared, Part II" had proved itself on the battlefield of critical analysis. It really enhanced Mace and Jar Jar's partnership -- which was already interesting and fun to watch -- by emphasizing the differences between their fighting, thinking, and planning styles. Each man was forced to accommodate the other's worldview and mannerisms. Mace had to put up with Jar Jar's exuberance without snapping, while Jar Jar had to accept Mace's slower, more cautious approach to problem-solving. It wasn't easy, but they had successfully completed a mission together. Thanks to their teamwork, Queen Julia of Bardotta not only survived; she began to re-evaluate her negative view of the Jedi Order. By saving one life, Jar Jar and Mace had opened the door to better relations between the Jedi and an entire society dedicated to contemplating and studying the Force. The thrillingly exotic music that closed out the episode as Mace, Jar Jar, and Julia rode away into the sunset perfectly captured the upbeat, fun, and unpredictable story that was "The Disappeared."
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