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TFN Review: Pursuit Of Peace

Posted By Eric on December 4, 2010

The Clone Wars Season 3 Episode 11: Pursuit of Peace

Halfway through this episode, I checked my TV. Yep, it was on Cartoon Network. "That's strange," I said to myself, "If you took away the airspeeders and floating pods, we might as well be watching C-SPAN." I'm usually not a big critic of political episodes -- I've enjoyed and praised my share of them. Still, there have simply been too many of them this season. I know that the Savage Opress episodes will kick off 2011, and I'm hoping they do so with a bang, because 2010 certainly ended with a whimper. There were several points in this episode where I asked myself why, in a series that's so pressed for time, did we really need to see this or that on screen? Even the fantastic final scene couldn't completely undo the damage that was the first twenty-one minutes of Pursuit of Peace.

Padm? undoubtedly took center stage in this episode, and I'm honestly starting to worry about that happening again. It seems like the Padm? episodes focus way too much on diplomacy, mundane conversation, and cookie-cutter ideological disputes. There was very little in this episode that was exciting, and that had a lot to do with the setting. That being said, we see a lot of interesting Padm? character development. She appeared to be very na?ve in her dealings with other Senators and with the situation in general. How could she not have known that announcing her insight into the Separatist Parliament would generate accusations of treason? To be sure, they are outlandish accusations -- Padm? only has the Republic's best interests at heart. Even so, her surprise at the treason comment seemed totally pathetic, given that she basically just announced that she was collaborating with "the enemy"? We as the audience recognize the shades of gray, of course. There is an important and profound difference between conversing with a member of the enemy population and aiding the enemy forces. However, in the middle of such a heated debate, Padm? displayed a surprising lack of tact, and her admission weakened her position before the Senate.

In the scene where Padm? and Senator Farr leave Senator Christo's apartment, Padm? displayed further naivety. For one thing, she announced when they left the building that she was certain Bail's speech would sway more Senators. I certainly don't fault her for hoping this, but she stated it with such confidence that I believe she felt it was certain. She gives Bail's reconciliatory efforts too much credit, particularly in a time where divisive issues are making Senators fearful and selfish. When Senator Farr offered to give her a ride, she na?vely declined and said she wanted to walk back to her apartment. She was heedless of the fact that the Coruscant streets are extremely dangerous at night, especially for a prominent Senator. She has already learned that Senator Farr was the victim of street thugs. It is as if she fails to realize that they were trying to intimidate him. Her idealism baffles me at times.

For all the times when Padm? was unreasonably sure of something (Bail's influence or her own safety), she also had some great moments of uncertainty in this episode. I liked Padm?'s contemplation on her apartment balcony. It showed how worried she was about the state of the Republic, which is something we see explored further in ROTS. Even though she doesn't discover the true cancer until it's too late, this scene shows that she's trying, unlike most of the Jedi. I liked that she used the plight of her aide to make her point to the Senate. She was savvy enough to realize that her aide would have genuine anguish, which she could display to her benefit. Padm? does care about the interests of her people, which distinguishes her from a lot of her colleagues. Her remark about the financial drain on social services proves that she is mindful of the common person's plight

Bail's inability to make his speech simultaneously sets Padm? up for the job and reveals her self-doubt at not having enough sway to make a convincing presentation. Padm? realizes that her opposition from the start will color her argument, and as we learn when the bill passes in Senate Murders, this fear is justified. (Senator Farr's death was the catalyst for the bill to pass, but Padm?'s admitted partisanship was the reason she couldn't salvage the situation from there.)

Even though the bill eventually passes, Padm?'s speech is powerful and depicted well on-screen. It's interesting seeing the faces of different Senators as Padm? addresses the chamber. Senator Farr and his aide look hopeful, while Mas Amedda and Palpatine look surprised. (Vice Chairman Amedda sounds reluctant as he acknowledges Padm?'s right to the floor.) Senator Mothma watches approvingly as Padm? speaks. Devious warmonger Orn Free Taa looks appropriately worried, and the scheming Halle Burtoni is, as usual, venomously angry. Burtoni even offered a grudging slow clap to indicate token respect when Padm? finished speaking. It was also nice to see various Senators' curious reactions to Padm?'s tale of her aide's misery. The fact that we saw Padm?'s speech projected elsewhere around the galaxy enhanced the sense that her message was resonating with regular citizens. The hopeful music that played during her speech added a sense of triumph -- sadly, one that will be short-lived.

Bail Organa is a character of whom we don't see enough, in my opinion. Given the brave work he does to help the Jedi in ROTS and the scene of his cleverness in this episode, I believe his underutilization is unfortunate. Building up his character would make his death in ANH that much more tragic, and including him in more TCW episodes would make us feel more of a connection to Alderaan in Episode IV. That's ultimately one of the greatest things about an "in-between" TV series. He didn't do too much in the episode, but I did enjoy the scene in the speeder garage. I was pleased to see Bail lure the bounty hunters into a trap. He seemed more prepared for an encounter with Separatist thugs, which fits with his careful and wary personality. Unlike Padm?, he seemed to actually understand the danger he was in.

Although we didn't see Bail's speech play out as Padm? had hoped, I appreciated the references to his influence. His nonpartisan reputation would fit with Alderaan's own neutrality, and Bail's personality suggests that he would be a good voice of reason. Interestingly, the perception of him as a neutral figure indicates that he often disagreed with Padm? in the Senate -- otherwise he would have the same reputation that was problematic for her.

Now we get into the boring stuff: the actual wheeling and dealing over the clone funding bill. The argument over the Banking Clan's interest rates was incredibly boring. I admit that it did show the Clan's massive abuse of power due to deregulation, but it wasn't exciting to see and I thought it was a waste of several minutes. That exchange could have been referenced by Padm? or Senator Farr in another scene. Indeed, Padm? did make a mention of it to Bail, as we saw in the next scene. While I valued the exploration of the Clan's greed, I did not enjoy the scene overall. The only good thing about it was the revelation of additional battle droid purchases. Never is it more obvious that Palpatine has the Republic between a rock and a hard place than when we hear about the Separatists taking advantage of the financial dilemma to bolster their own reinforcements.

Quarren Senator Christo asking about Bail's opinion was an obvious plot device to establish Senator Organa's political weight and influence among his colleagues. That being said, it was integrated well into the scene at Christo's apartment. With all the beatings conducted by Robonino and his Selkath assistant Chata Hyoki, there's a fair amount of self-interest among Senators. They're supporting the bill because they're afraid of reprisal, and this highlights how broken the Republic is at this point. A simple pair of thugs can send ripples through the government's legislative body and actually sway crucial votes. That's almost as scary as the most fearsome Sith Lord when you consider how much worse Sidious and Dooku could make it.

It was important to show that not all Senators were voting for the bill out of fear for their lives; some constituencies were pressuring their representatives to support it. Without anyone expressing genuine belief in the need for more troops, the opposition to Padm?, Bail, and Senator Farr becomes caricatured as greedy and selfish. That being said, their justified reluctance was referenced countless times in the episode, and the time spent showing Padm?'s efforts to win them over felt wasted to me. I'm pretty sure that the writer of this episode could have included an exciting conflict by removing all the unnecessary stuff. In general, that's one of my main complaints about this episode: A lot of these interactions add to the atmosphere but don't need to be shown on screen.

One key element that was only touched on briefly actually intrigued me because of its relative absence from the debate. Padm? says that the clone troopers are people just like Senator Christo's constituents, but he responds that they were grown for this role and have no rights. It is an interesting argument, and one that we've seen before outside of this vote. True "citizens" of the Republic have grown up free and live autonomous lives, Senator Christo says. Padm?, in another telling instance of her compassion, considers the clones to be people too. Even so, are they ever really treated like people by the Senate or military at large? It seems like only the Jedi are interested in befriending them.

The actual combat in this episode revolved around the thugs sent by Dooku to intimidate Senators into supporting the bill. Chata Hyoki and Robonino are perfect low-level thugs, with just enough menace and skill to pose a threat. We've actually seen Robonino fair pretty well against Jedi before, so the idea that Dooku would choose him for this role made sense to me. Chata Hyoki sounded creepy, and I liked that his scream became a sort of calling card during the attacks on Padm? and her driver. The brief scene where the bounty hunters took out Padm?'s driver was, unsurprisingly, one of the best scenes in the episode. I say "unsurprisingly" because the significant lack of action made me relish every punch we saw. (Yes, I even perked up when Senator Farr was assaulted. I wasn't expecting that to happen in such a public place.) Chata Hyoki's noises helped make the surprise attack on Padm?'s driver into a scary sequence, even if we had to know it was coming.

The scene where Padm? fled from the bounty hunters was the only really "tense" scene. I liked seeing Padm? rely on the police droids for a moment, only to panic again when the ruffians defeated the police. I thought it was funny that Robonino continued banging the police droid's head into the ground. He was really more of an impish provocateur than a thug, and indeed, Chata Hyoki did most of the grunt work. The ensuing speeder chase had authentic sound effects and excellent music, and Chata Hyoki's attachment to Padm?'s speeder reminded me of AOTC. Still, I felt that the chase itself took too long. The views of Coruscant we got were excellent, but I got bored watching it after a while. Also, Chata Hyoki screaming "My eyes!" didn't fit at all with his menacing character.

One of the most boring parts of the episode was when Padm? was cornered by the Coruscant police droids at the end of the second act. Oh no! Will they believe her story?! What a harrowing moment! ... Really, writers? We knew that she wouldn't be detained, so why show that scene? It was just more wasted time. With other scenes that I didn't consider necessary, I could at least understand the intent of the writers. In this case, however, I was honestly confused and disappointed. I'll grant that this scene allowed the thugs to escape, but they could have just decided to regroup when it was clear that Padm? was too difficult to kill. It would also give them a reason to silence Bail in Padm?'s place.

Before I get to the hands-down best moment of the episode, I'll address some miscellanea. I was very impressed with the variety of Coruscant cityscape shots we saw, and I continue to believe that this show outshines every other cartoon series in terms of animation quality. Furthermore, given that this was a Padm?-focused episode, Catherine Taber needed to pull a lot of the character's emotional weight with her voice acting. She definitely succeeded as far as I'm concerned. I was, however, puzzled by the fact that Republic Senators don't have extensive security details like their counterparts in our own world. Given, as I've said before, that tensions were running particularly high at this point in the war, I would have expected more security for Senators Farr, Organa, and Amidala.

Something I didn't like early in this episode was Senator Farr's "ammunition joke." First of all, he doesn't strike me as a light-hearted character, and secondly, that grim scene was no time for jokes, especially about the very dilemma facing the Republic. I also found it to be pretty lame when Robonino said, "She doesn't have the votes!" It wasn't nearly as villainous or gleeful as it was probably intended to be -- mostly because they were rejoicing in a very mundane victory. It would be like a comic book super villain cackling about budget cuts. That's just not very exciting stuff to watch. I felt that Mina Bonteri's death came too soon in this series, and I would have liked to see more from her. Still, Dooku's trickery was exceptional here; he was able to use her "untimely" death as the crux of his master's plan to pass the bill.

Despite all of my complaints about this episode, I'm not prepared to denounce it completely. Most of my reluctance to do so comes from the last scene. With just one minute of conversation between Palpatine and Mas Amedda, the writer made up for the preceding twenty-one minutes, which arguably contained some of the least impressive TCW material I've ever seen. I honestly loved the ending in Palpatine's office. I thought it was excellent, overt, and ominous foreshadowing the likes of which we'd never seen before in this series. I feel like that was the first moment where even the youngest of viewers would start to suspect Palpatine (assuming they understood the dialog). Even in TPM and AOTC, we never saw Palpatine scheming as himself -- only as Sidious. I'm now very interested in seeing more of what Palpatine is planning as the ambitious Chancellor and how it fits into his ultimate goal of galactic domination.

That final scene mostly redeemed this episode and infused the "phantom menace" quality of the Prequel Trilogy into an otherwise dull political story. That was the kind of scene we should see more of -- but it doesn't require twenty-two minutes of buildup to take place. I understand the desire to show Padm?'s opposition to the clone funding bill, but given that we've already seen it pass (in Senate Murders), what do we really gain from the plot of this episode? Sure, we see that Padm? has the ability to make great speeches, and sure, we see Dooku attempting to manipulate the Senate, but there's really nothing in this episode that pushes the plot forward. The only truly impressive scene in the entire episode was the one at the end with Palpatine. I understand the need for political episodes, but not this many, and not one after another after another. Let's get back to the war, please.

Related Stories

December 6, 2010   TCW: "Pursuit Of Peace" Now Online
December 2, 2010   Preview TCW: "Pursuit Of Peace"
December 2, 2010   TCW: "Pursuit Of Peace" Episode Guide

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