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TFN Review: Corruption

Posted By Eric on October 9, 2010

The Clone Wars Season 3 Episode 5: Corruption

It pains me to say this, because The Clone Wars is a phenomenal show overall, but this episode left me wondering if the writer of Corruption had been corrupted himself. I will say without a doubt that this was my least favorite episode of the entire series. There were far too many plot incongruities and incidents of general weirdness that did not befit a series this far into its run. (Its production number is 304, so they didn't work on it at the outset of the series.) I did enjoy a few bits and pieces of this episode, but overall, I was thoroughly disappointed.

Let's start with Satine. Her friendship with Padm? is interesting, because she favors pacificism at all costs, while Padm? supports "aggressive negotiations." It was easy to see how that relationship could get tense, as it did at the very beginning of the episode. Clearly Satine, like King Katuunko of Toydaria, blames the Republic just as much as the Separatists for the Clone Wars. This encourages us to really think about how much blame each side deserves, and to question the assumptions and preconceived notions established by the portrayal of Dooku and his followers in Attack of the Clones. Satine is also angry at the Senate specifically, which shows yet again how citizens of the galaxy are very conscious of the corruption at the highest levels of the Republic bureaucracy.

While Satine initially seemed to be a forceful leader who would do anything to protect her people, that attitude quickly vanished in favor of a general aggressiveness that I did not enjoy. The way she harshly addressed the Prime Minister seemed out of place. I believe he outranks her, and even if he doesn't, it was a strange breach of etiquette. Even though the poisoning of Mandalore's youth is a true crisis, a Duchess should never betray this much emotion. I found her far too aggressive for her role. Another example of this is the way Satine threatened the dock captain when she ordered him to burn down the building. (More on that command later.) In general, she seemed to be wildly out of control, and I could not see her people, even those who worked for her like the dock captain, tolerating such threats.

Beyond Satine's unexplainable and out-of-place aggressiveness, other strange plot points corrupted this episode. Almost from the beginning, strange things started happening that didn't seem credible given the context. Take, for example, the giant parade of people welcoming Padm?. Even if they are a "people of tradition," shouldn't they despise Padm? for threatening their safety due to her Republic ties? It's specifically because her Senate colleagues can't act to help them that they are suffering. Something else that didn't fit in this episode was the Satine/Padm? dinner conversation about the state of the Senate. The Duchess made good points about the corruption in the governing body, as did Padm? about the genuinely noble Senators, but it struck me as meaningless and a waste of several minutes. It should be self-explanatory that a Duchess who refuses to bring her planet into the Republic would be wary of Senate corruption, as it should be that an honest Senator like Padm? would recognize the other side of the story. Their conversation felt contrived and unnecessary.

I don't understand how someone like Satine could reach such a level of power and importance if she didn't understand basic safety protocol. Here's a pro tip: If you're observing a group of poison victims, and you have no idea of the source, method, or properties of said poison, you shouldn't go up to a victim and touch their forehead like Satine did. That could get you killed. To be fair, though, Satine is a pacifist, so she may have no concept of how warfare contagions work.

If that was perplexing, this next plot point was positive cringe-worthy. (There's a lot more cringing coming in the dialog section.) When the school superintendent attempted to escape, he made a comically transparent excuse and jumped into his skiff before participating in the most anticlimactic skiff chase ever. As if that wasn't odd enough, Satine made it worse by throwing aside her dignity and threatening to interrogate the superintendent. Padm?'s alarmed interruption provided the opportunity to have Satine recognize her error, but instead she brushed Padm? aside (a strange move considering how much faith Satine places in her friend) and kept pushing the superintendent. Overall, it really didn't fit the style we've come to expect from The Clone Wars.

Satine's order to burn down the poison-manufacturing building made no sense, and the way she threatened the dock captain with charges of conspiracy also didn't fit. Unless this episode was trying to illustrate Satine's incompetence and rash decision-making, it was out-of-place and bizarre. In other ill-fitting elements from this episode, I was really unimpressed with the way the alien smugglers sounded. Their voices were too bland given how they looked. I was also confused when Satine ordered the dock captain to have the building destroyed. Why would the captain have to give the order to Satine's personal guards? Couldn't she just tell them to do it? That made no sense to me, and unless there's some Mandalorian bylaw I'm unaware of, it was just plain inconsistent. Furthermore, I am unclear on Satine's relationship with the Prime Minister. Is she subordinate to him (in which case I would expect her to show more respect to him)? Or does she outrank him -- in which case, why would she (and Padm?) sit in front of his desk instead of him reporting to her?

To be fair, I did like a few things from this episode. The Mandalorian guards' armor looked fantastic, and they proved their worth in battle. In fact, the entire battle sequence was good, and I liked how the guards used their shields like riot police would. Padm? was appropriately proficient with her blaster, as you would expect from Episode II. And despite the fact that I disliked their voices, the smugglers looked great. Given their snakelike appearance, I would have enjoyed them in a more villainous context. True, they were doing something evil, but they didn't seem to relish the malevolence of it. I'd like to see others of their species working as Separatist enforcers, albeit with more sinister voices. Their ship was also pretty cool. The character of Siddiq also intrigued me. His indifference to Satine's urgency, and the fact that he was untouchable because of his corporate contacts, raised questions about the state of businesses and legal jurisdiction in the Republic. It was a minor part of the episode, but it made an interesting point nonetheless.

Unfortunately, there is no way to avoid discussing some of the really bad dialog in this episode. Let's start with Padm? and Satine's dinner conversation. Satine asked, "How do you feel about the war?" Why would she even need to ask Padm?'s opinion of a galactic conflict that is costing billions of lives? "My sources say otherwise." Why would Padm? need sources to tell her that it's not going well? That conversation struck me as incredibly forced, and Padm?'s response in particular seemed jarringly out of character. Another scene with bad dialog was the Padm?/Satine conversation while they snuck up to the dock. Their discussion about doing the dirty work of politics started out innocuously, but quickly became almost groan-worthy, especially when Satine said, "We are of the same mind." Once again, it was a scene that felt forced.

The dock captain had a few bizarre moments too. For one thing, he showed an alarming disrespect when Satine's retinue arrived at the smugglers' hideout. A lowly dock captain should never be able to say, "Duchess, I've been with you the whole time." His tone of voice was even more inexplicable. Later in the episode, after Satine orders the dock captain to give another order to her own guards, he says, "You heard her, men." That was probably the most out-of-place line in the episode. I've always thought that the use of "men" in that way sounded lame and wooden. It definitely felt that way here.

While this episode suffered from contrived interactions and bad dialog, the entire premise of poison tea seemed boring and uncreative. It led to the obligatory drink testing scene, which, in addition to showing off the school's conveniently-located chemical lab, was part of the reason why the overall plot wasn't a good use of 22 minutes. The focus on war-deprived Mandalore was interesting, and it gave Padm? the opportunity to point out the fallacy of justifying the black market by blaming the Republic's lack of aid. Even so, while I like that Satine wanted to look deeper into Mandalore's corruption, I do have to wonder at the logic of her plan with Padm?. Why would the Republic spend so much time and so many resources (most notably a Jedi) on a planet that's worth so little to them? Particularly since Mandalore isn't part of the Republic, they should have very little incentive to provide aid.

In short, I have never been so disappointed with an episode of The Clone Wars, and I only hope that whatever thinking was behind this episode and its execution does not appear again. We need more stories like Landing at Point Rain, Rookies, and yes, even Supply Lines. This series does not have to focus exclusively on combat, but it should always provide the combination of excitement, depth, and faithfulness to the Star Wars films that has made The Clone Wars such a celebrated part of the saga.

Related Stories

October 6, 2010   TCW: "Corruption" Episode Guide
October 5, 2010   Preview TCW: "Corruption"

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