Obi-Wan goes undercover in prison. His fellow inmates? Boba Fett, Cad Bane, and Bossk. Don't drop the soap, Obi!
Sun Tzu would be proud. The opening moral of last night’s episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars could have come straight out of The Art of War: “All warfare is based on deception.” Kark yeah! It’s about time the Jedi get down and dirty to fight this war. They’re certainly not going to win it by heroic derring-do and high-handed moralizing alone. I mean, they’re really, really not. Actually, they’re all going to be exterminated. But maybe if they had adopted a little bit more of the cloak-and-dagger tactics we saw in “Deception,” from not only Cad Bane, Boba Fett, and Bossk, but one Obi-Wan Kenobi as well, they could have survived this turkey shoot. Or bantha shoot, as it were.
Actually, the whole plot of “Deception” reminded me a lot of Day 3 on 24. If you recall, Jack Bauer earned the loyalty of a hardened Mexican drug lord (played with typically gritty flamboyance by go-to villain Joaquin de Almeida) by helping spring him from prison. What? Our Jack had gone rogue? Well, it seemed like he had, anyway, until about five hours in when we learned it was an elaborate undercover operation to infiltrate the drug lord’s cartel and discover its terrorist connections.
In that Galaxy Far, Far Away, the Separatists had set in motion a plot to kidnap Chancellor Palpatine. Since he’s secretly pulling the strings behind both sides of the war, one wonders why he would want to orchestrate his own kidnapping at this particular point. I don’t know, maybe he wants to establish firmly enough in people’s minds that the Seppies want his hide so that when it happens for real at the beginning of Revenge of the Sith, nobody will blink twice.
The mastermind of this anti-Palpatine conspiracy? A bounty hunter named Moralo Eval, who I think must share some mutant DNA with Batman’s Killer Croc. But on their way to a meeting at the Jedi Temple about this evil plot, a more sinister foe awaited Obi-Wan, Anakin, and Ahsoka, and not one of the drunken revelers pouring out of Coruscant’s unending string of nightclubs, cantinas, tap cafs, and spice dens. (Despite being the urban center of the Galaxy, Coruscant really seems more like a planetwide version of Times Square in the ‘70s: a death-stick dealer down every alley, and a Twi’lek hooker standing on every street corner. Seriously, though, steer clear of the Twi’lek hookers. You don’t want to tangle with their Weequay pimps.)
NEXT: Obi-Wan becomes One with the Force.
Suddenly, a flash of crimson blaster fire pierced the city’s lime and fuchsia light. An anonymous sniper craving Jedi blood set his sights on our trio. Obi-Wan sprang into action, leaping into the fray without even knowing who or what was doing the shooting, or from where it was coming. If Anakin or Ahsoka were slightly deeper thinkers they might realize this was unusual for the habitually calm, cool-headed, deliberate Jedi Master. As Yoda would later say, “A better performance your corpse gave.” But Team Double-A suspected nothing. Obi-Wan, pausing a moment before truly plunging once more into the deep, stepped out from behind a rooftop barrier to make himself a walking target, and the shooter promptly gunned him down. This was a full-on, Dumbledore-falling-from-the-highest-tower death scene, with Obi-Wan knocked off his rooftop perch to crash down to the crowded street below. Anakin immediately cried, “Obi-Wan!!!” little expecting that some day he’ll gleefully cut down his old master himself. Ahsoka got to his “corpse” first, and cradled him in her arms like a veritable Jedi Pietà. Yes, Master Kenobi had become One with the Force. That guy played by Alec Guinness in the original trilogy was clearly the product of advanced Kaminoan cloning technology. He was bred to even think that he was Obi-Wan Kenobi. I can’t wait for Luke Skywalker to find out about that at the end of the Fate of the Jedi novel series.
Anyway, a full Jedi funeral was held for Obi-Wan. Well, almost. The traditional funeral pyre, the ritual destruction of a Jedi’s “crude matter” so as to let the spirit venture forth into the Netherworld of the Force, was left out of the ceremony. You’d think that there’d be some questions raised by this puzzling exception, but no. Instead, Obi-Wan’s body was lowered into some kind of mausoleum at the Jedi Temple. There to pay her final respects was Satine (!), Obi-Wan’s girlfriend, who I had hoped would use this occasion to reveal finally the roiling Mandalorian passion they shared while on the run from the Death Watch. But alas, this Duchess doesn’t kiss and tell. Anakin stood glowering, his hood over his head, looking more like a Sith Lord than ever, as what sounded like a Mon Calamari water opera (perhaps the same one he would attend with the Chancellor in Revenge of the Sith?) added musical punctuation to the solemn occasion. But Anakin grieves just like he experiences every other emotion: by taking action. Off he went in search of his master’s killer.
NEXT: Obi-Wan finds that you only live twice. And his “killer” almost gets some action from an anti-Jedi bar patron.
Meanwhile, that very assassin decided to celebrate his big kill with a ruby bliel, so into a cantina he went. Immediately, a horny female patron sized him up and announced, “Wow, I’m gonna check his midichlorian count!” which must be a go-to pick-up line in the Star Wars galaxy. (Cougar bar! It must have been the perp’s facial tat.) Seriously, that has to be the single funniest line of dialogue that Dave Filoni & Co. have ever given us. I even wrote a couple weeks ago that Queen Miraj of Zygerria “wanted more from Anakin than just his awesome midichlorian count,” so apparently the Force does surround us and penetrate us and bind the universe together because I clearly read the mind of “Deception” writer Brent Friedman when I said that.
Before the assassin could cozy up to his new admirer or even get that drink from that awesome snake-like bartender, a droid approached him to let him know his employers were waiting in the back.
Shocker! It was Obi-Wan Kenobi. He’s still alive! Now, who could have seen that coming? Oh, right, every Star Wars fan who’s ever lived. Mace Windu basically approached this bounty hunter—his name is Rako Hardeen—ordered the hit on Obi-Wan, then had him arrested for murder. That meant Obi-Wan could have his face artificially transformed into that of Hardeen and swallow a voicebox of the bounty hunter’s speech patterns to, um, basically steal his identity. Think Face/Off as directed by George Lucas. This required Obi-Wan to shave off every last follicle of hair on his head, rendering him smooth, baby-faced, and apparently thirty years younger. (Why not just use this new alopecia look as a disguise?) Basically, Obi-Wan’s plan was the plot of You Only Live Twice, when MI6 decides to stage James Bond’s death in order to allow him to infiltrate SPECTRE all the more easily. Unfortunately for the real Hardeen, he would still be facing a charge of murder, since, you know, he did accept a hit-job, even if he didn’t succeed in actually killing his quarry.
That begs the question: did the Jedi somehow put a blank blaster cartridge in Hardeen’s rifle? Was this some elaborate set-up like Emily ensuring that there weren’t any bullets in her gun when Tyler stormed Daniel’s birthday party on Revenge? I guess it’s entrapment, but clearly Hardeen deserved to be locked behind bars. But instead, Obi-Wan would take his place in a Republic prison—the same prison where Ziro the Hutt had been locked away, and where Moralo Eval now resided.
NEXT: Obi-Wan adjusts to life in the big house and almost gets a taste of shark-fin soup.
Anakin found the newly Hardeened Obi-Wan at that same cantina and brought him to the Republic slammer. He made a point of saying that he only spared his life because the man Hardeen killed wouldn’t have wanted that kind of eye-for-an-eye justice. Like all prisoners in any pokey, Obi-Wan was immediately fed a hot meal. Notice how all the inmates are dressed in an orange jumpsuit similar to the training outfits worn by clone cadets on Kamino, a similarity I chalk up to a blistering critique by Lucasfilm of the Republic’s military-industrial-penal complex. (Expect Lock-Up: Coruscant to dominate MSNBC’s weekend lineup this fall.)
At lunch, and armed with a new voicebox and talking-points to lure Moralo Eval, he had to fend off incarcerated heavies eager to pick a fight with a tough-guy Jedi killer. When one sharky Karkaradon muscled his way into Obi-Wan’s personal space, he immediately stabbed the guy’s hand/flipper with a fork and said, “This food tastes terrible. Maybe you’d taste better.” To quote Keanu Reeves… “Whoa.” That’s the most badass moment of Obi-Wan Kenobi’s life, edging out cutting Darth Maul in half by just a nose (or shark snout). Moralo immediately sensed a kindred spirit, and tried to get “Hardeen” to join his plot to kidnap Palpatine. After all, why would Palpatine ever just cancel his speaking engagement on Naboo and save everybody all this trouble? It would be a sign of weakness! So Obi-Wan told Moralo that he killed a Jedi just because he was bored, Moralo’s same justification for killing his own mother. And that was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
When Obi-Wan made it back to his ray-shielded cell, already planning how careful he’d be not to drop the soap in the sonic shower, Moralo was already there waiting for him, along with a companion: a flinty, dead-eyed Duros named Cad Bane. The erstwhile wide-brim-hat-wearing bounty hunter was none to pleased with his employer Moralo bringing in another hired gun for their mission against Palpatine. So much so that he automatically doubled his rate. He had fighting words for “Hardeen”: why should he respect someone who killed a Jedi with just a sniper shot? “Who said I wanted your respect?” Obi-Wan replied. Make that “triple” Cad Bane’s usual salary.
NEXT: Boba Fett starts a prison riot!
Next day in the yard, Obi-Wan spotted Bossk acting as a spotter for a fellow inmate doing some serious bench presses. Glad to see that the Trandoshan bounty hunter is all into gym safety. (No matter what galaxy you’re in, prisoners will always spend the vast majority of their time lifting weights.) Somehow Obi-Wan knew that underneath the bench the Jedi had left an encrypted comlink. He called in to the Temple and identified himself as “Ben,” which is the first time I think we’ve ever heard him use that nickname on the show. Could it really be that he adopted that nickname on Tatooine merely based on the callsign he used as an undercover prisoner? If so, could he ever have imagined that the savior of the Jedi Order, Luke Skywalker, would name his son “Ben” as a tribute?
Anyway, it was back to the lunchline after his workout, and no sooner could Obi-Wan get his tray of vittles did a little snot-nosed kid come walking over, looking for a fight. The little punk accused “Hardeen” of stealing one of his bounties and snapped his elder’s tray right out of his hand. While a chorus of fellow inmates shouted to Hardeen to “Kill him! Like the Jedi!” Obi-Wan let the brat strike first. Their bare knuckle brawl lasted but a moment with Hardeen quickly getting the kid into a “cry uncle” position. Luckily, he had backup. “You got a problem with Boba, you got a problem with me,” Bossk rasped.
Yes, the little runt in question was Boba Fett, the one character in Star Wars lore who could perhaps one-up Darth Vader as an iconically badass villain who’s been utterly neutered through a whiny childhood backstory, and, when you think of it, an astonishing lack of actual achievements to justify his fearsome reputation—not to mention cult standing. That was why Seth Green and Matthew Senreich’s take on Boba in Robot Chicken Star Wars was so epically brilliant. They imagined the famed Mandalorian as a pathetic braggart, someone who’s cultivated layers of mystique via playground taunting alone. I mean, what has he really ever done? In The Empire Strikes Back, Darth Vader does the hard part by actually capturing (and carbon freezing) Han Solo for him; he flirts with the backup singers at Jabba’s palace but doesn’t foresee the respective threats represented by Princess Leia or Luke Skywalker; he lets his employer, Jabba the Hutt, get strangled by his slave girl, not to mention lets his barge blow up; and he allows a blind Han Solo to ignite his jetpack, sending him right into the maw of the Great Pit of Karkoon. Sure, somehow he escapes the Sarlacc, which I guess is kinda cool, and he does come to lead the Mandalorian people, but the damage had been done. By the time he was reimagined as a whiny kid with a strong case of Daddy Worship in Attack of the Clones, the damage had been done. However, I do like the theory of commenter Ricky Kennedy, who said last night during my Clone Wars live blog on viEWer, that maybe Boba finally develops that reputation, because he’s the one to kill Cad Bane. I gotta admit. That would be pretty awesome, and would at least partly justify his standing in bounty hunter-dom. Dave Filoni, take note!
NEXT: As if any prison could hold Cad Bane.
Anyway, Bossk joined the fight to avenge Boba’s humiliation and before you could say “Oz” we had ourselves a prison riot. Which of course Cad Bane had orchestrated by paying off young Boba to pick a fight with Hardeen in the first place. (Wow, Ziro must have had a really, really hard time in here, with that Truman Capote accent.) Cad, Moralo, and new recruit Hardeen—hey, he killed a Jedi—made their way out the cafeteria. The escape had begun! Only problem was that Cad found the lock to a door he needed to open had been changed. Hardeen sealed his place with the group by finding a way to hotwire it, while the others stood guard. And by “hotwire” I mean use the Force to open it the old-fashioned way.
The plan was to escape via the morgue. They’d hide in coffins, get sent down to the crematorium, then bust out. Careful timing they would need to avoid getting toasted. But they all jumped out when the guards noticed life signs in the coffins. Obi-Wan hesitated to shoot a guard, which Cad Bane surely noticed. (The Republic even has clones serve as prison wardens? Karen Traviss’s “Three million clones” theory is looking more and more laughable.) Clearly the Jedi Master isn’t willing to go all the way to maintain the deception. And that will likely be his undoing.
Once outside, they stole a speeder and then a ship from an unsuspecting Quarren. Really, a Quarren can never get a break, can he? And then it was off for parts unknown. Or rather, parts very known, since the kidnapping plot is to take place on Naboo in the next couple days.
Could Boss Lyonie redeem himself by heroically laying down his life to protect Chancellor Palpatine? Do you think Ricky Kennedy’s idea that Boba develops his reputation by killing Cad Bane is spot on? And did you ever suspect that Obi-Wan could play the part of a thug so well?
Sound off in the comments below, and be sure to join me next Friday for our viEWer live blog of The Clone Wars. Obi-Wan voice actor James Arnold Taylor will be on hand to co-host and chat about this big arc for The Negotiator. And he will be taking your questions! Until then, may the Force…well, you know.