Image Credit: Lucasfilm Ltd. & TMThe Clone Wars is not just a kids show. That was clear tonight in “Corruption,” an episode that took us far away from the front lines of that titular conflict and its kid-friendly laser blasts and lightsaber duels to explore that Galaxy Far, Far Away’s equally dangerous black market. Last week’s geektastic ep transported us to fan-favorite galaxy hotspots like Jabba’s Palace and the Mos Eisley Cantina, and at first glance “Corruption” seemed to promise the same: a return to Mandalore, homeworld of Jango Fett, with its long history of warfare and insidious court intrigues.
Mandalore was the focal point of my favorite season 2 story arc, which introduced us to Duchess Satine, advocate for peace in an otherwise militaristic culture and old flame of one Obi-Wan Kenobi. (Attention Moulin Rouge! fans. You will recall that Nicole Kidman’s Satine was the love interest of that erstwhile Obi-Wan Ewan McGregor in Baz Luhrmann’s musical tour de force.) Giving Obi-Wan, poster boy for chastity that he is, a love interest was an inspired idea, and in the hands of writer Paul Dini (the Rod Serling of TV animation), their repartee flew with screwball ferocity. But rapier lightsaber wit was not on display in “Corruption,” since it was Padmé this time who flew to Mandalore to discuss trade difficulties with the Duchess.
This is why I said The Clone Wars isn’t just a kids show—it’s hard to imagine younglings really being interested in the state of the galactic economy. I mean, three of the five episodes this season have taken on shipping rights, trade embargoes, or disputes over neutrality. Tonight, it was about the corruption of a Mandalorian school superintendent, no less, who contracted with smugglers to buy a cheaper black market tea for his young students (to keep the rest of the money for himself). Turns out, though, the cost-saving substitute was toxic and sent his little pupils scurrying to the hospital. If this doesn’t sound like the kind of plot you’d normally associate with Star Wars, you’d be right. I mean, we need more villains like General Grievous or, better yet for our purposes tonight, Mandalorian baddie Pre Viszla, the Jon Favreau-voiced, darksaber-wielding leader of terrorist group Death Watch. (Favreau was most likely too busy shooting his own sci-fi epic, Cowboys & Aliens.)
Still, I liked seeing Padmé team up with Satine. If Cad Bane was the Boba Fett we should have always had, then Satine is something of a new and improved Padmé, as well. Think about it. They’ve both served as accomplished negotiators and fought hard to preserve peace. They both possess royal pedigrees. And they’re both hopelessly entangled with certain Jedi. But it was refreshing to see that tinge of the dark side on Satine when she threatened the school superintendent: “Tell me what’s going on here, or else my guards will not be as conversational as I am.” Ooh, a little touch there of Darth Vader threatening “The Emperor is not as forgiving as I am.” Padme seemed shocked at Satine’s use of intimidation, although she then herself picked up a blaster and helped dispatch a fair number of smugglers, which either makes her a hypocrite, or shows that she understands the corrupting danger of using fear itself as a weapon—which Satine was trying to do. And fear is of the dark side.
So you can probably tell I was a little disappointed with this return trip to Mandalore. Were you also missing Satine’s comic banter with Obi-Wan? Weren’t you hoping for Pre Viszla to pop up? And can someone please pull Jon Favreau away from making hit movies to spend more time as a voice actor for basic cable?