By Christian Blauvelt
Updated October 16, 2010 at 02:20 PM EDT

Image Credit: Lucasfilm Ltd. & TMYou have to hand it to Star Wars: The Clone Wars for taking some major risks in its third season. First, the series hasn’t lately put the spotlight on icons from the movies like Anakin and Obi-Wan. Instead it’s devoted episodes to lesser known characters like Baron Papanoida, Senator Chuchi, Bail Organa, Shaak Ti, and Duchess Satine. The objective of the series now is clear: to show that the Star Wars galaxy encompasses many more stories beyond those related to the Skywalker clan. Second, with the exception of the season premiere episode, The Clone Wars hasn’t featured…well, much of the Clone Wars.

Last night’s episode, “The Academy,” followed up on “Corruption” with another story set on Mandalore. Because corruption can’t be purged in one 22-minute ep, not even if a crime fighting duo as skilled as Padmé Amidala and Duchess Satine are on the job, the Jedi Council sent Ahsoka to lecture at Mandalore’s Royal Academy of Government.

“Don’t you think I’m a little over-qualified for this?” Ahsoka asked Anakin. “Don’t you think Ahsoka’s a little under-qualified for this?” I asked myself. I mean, Ahsoka’s all of 15, right? Still, I guess the thinking was that her students would be able to relate to an instructor their own age.

And it seemed to work! Her young cadets at the Academy were inspired by her anti-graft message. So inspired that they snuck out of their dormitory to investigate the docks late at night and uncover whether there really was a food shortage on Mandalore. Of course, they barely made it out the door before discovering a hooded government official, some crooked cops, and a smuggler making a shady deal. Remember, in Star Wars wearing a hood always means you’re evil.

I, for one, was hoping that Duchess Satine might be the corrupt official in question, especially after she was a little standoffish to the younglings when they brought her the evidence of corruption within her government. (Okay, I realize that absolutely nothing about her character suggested she would go in for this, especially after her crackdown on the black market last week. But if it had been her, that would be the greatest character reveal TV has given us since we found out Nina was the mole on 24 eight years ago.) But it didn’t take too much flexing of the old gray matter to realize that it was Prime Minister Almec. If only because he was the only other government official on this planet we’ve become acquainted with in any way.

Despite their clipped, British accents, impeccable posture, and all-around un-kidlike behavior, the cadets were hopelessly naïve in trusting Almec, even when he said “Bring the recording of the black market deal and all the cadets who know about it.” Um, even if you are a sheltered Mandalorian youngling, how was that not a dead giveaway? But before they could be hauled off by his corrupt military police, along came Ahsoka, fighting her way through the MPs without her lightsaber. The Lucasfilm animators have done a great job of varying their fight-scenes, and it’s especially satisfying seeing a Jedi fight without a blade in hand.

Ahsoka realized that if the cadets were being arrested, it had to be at the order of the Prime Minister. But to sniff him out she’d have to use a strategy almost as clever as Han Solo’s Wookiee Prisoner Trick. To win Almec’s favor, she turned the kids back over to the police. She did this because she hoped that by ingratiating herself with him, she could learn where he was holding Duchess Satine—although I hoped she had done this because, like her master, she finally learned the way to treat precocious younglings. But the Prime Minister saw through her plan—especially after Ahsoka attempted a Jedi mind trick on one of his guards—and brought her and the cadets to where he was a holding the Duchess in an imposing multi-level prison cell, something that looked like it could have been the feverish offspring of Franz Kafka and Terry Gilliam.

It was bad enough that the Prime Minister tortured Satine with a stun collar, but when he threatened to jolt a few thousand volts through one of the cadets, that’s when Ahsoka sprang into action, dispatched the Prime Minister’s guards, freed the Duchess, and restored rule of law to Mandalore. Corruption ended. And all sans lightsaber!

What did you think of the episode? Was the Force with “The Academy”? How did season 3’s return trip to Mandalore compare with season 2’s episodes on Jango Fett’s home planet? And does Ahsoka have a promising career in education before her?

THINK OF YOUR TELEVISION AS A VITAL MEMBER OF THE FAMILY? Then don’t miss this week’s TV Insiders podcast! Michael Ausiello, Michael Slezak, Annie Barrett, Dalton Ross, and Jeff Jensen weigh in on the returning series that are hitting creative peaks this season, and dish the latest happenings on Mad Men, Survivor, and Dancing With the Stars. Click here to download the podcast to your MP3 player, or listen to a YouTube embed below!