Cad Bane hatches his plot to kidnap Chancellor Palpatine. Whoever wins, the Galaxy loses.

By Christian Blauvelt
February 11, 2012 at 09:42 PM EST
Lucasfilm
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The fourth and final episode of writer Brent Friedman’s epic “Obi-Wan Undercover!” storyline was called “Crisis on Naboo.” It’s a title that certainly fits. Naboo has been exposed multiple times now as the most dangerous planet in the Galaxy—for both the events that have taken place there, and the übervillains who are its native sons, Palpatine and Jar Jar Binks. But considering that this was such a thrilling procedural-style approach to a kidnapping attempt, I myself might have gone with a title paying tribute to that all time great movie about an elaborate assassination plot, Fred Zinnemann’s Day of the Jackal. Maybe Day of the Duros. Or better yet, Day of the Parwan, since the newcomer Derrown really kind of ended up stealing the show.

When all is said and done, I have to say that this four-episode yarn was my favorite arc of the season, rivaled only by the Umbaran storyline in the fall. What’s particularly satisfying is how different both arcs really are. Where the action on Umbara centered on a cast of relatively obscure characters, this storyline remained tightly focused on Obi-Wan Kenobi and Cad Bane. While the Umbara episodes took place on only one planet, these took place on five, by my reckoning. And while Umbara introduced a daring new aesthetic to the Star Wars canon, one based on phosphorescent dark-lighting (no relation to Biggs or Gavin) and chiaroscuro, the Obi-Wan eps relied on the “Used Future” aesthetic that made us fall in love that Galaxy Far, Far Away in the first place.

“Crisis on Naboo” opened with Yoda a very worried Grand Master. “With complacency comes vulnerability,” he said. “It is what we do not see that concerns me.” True, like the fact that your very leader, whose potential kidnapping is causing you such stress, is plotting your eradication. But no matter.

The Lady Luck arrived on Naboo, and our bounty hunters went about taking over a Theed hangar to use as a staging area: Derrown attacked one mechanic with his tentacles, Embo fought with his hat, and Bane fired one clean, point-blank blaster bolt right through a guard. They were in. And Dooku, bold as a Hutt sprawled out in the Tatooine sun, decided to join them in person!

NEXT: Even the best laid plans of Sith Lords and bounty hunters can go awry. Plus, a tribute to my favorite new Star Wars alien, the Beaker-like Derrown.

The Plan

Star Wars really has the best briefings. Whether it’s Jan Dodonna’s trench-run speech in A New Hope, Princess Leia’s blockade-runner plan in The Empire Strikes Back, Crix Madine and Admiral Ackbar’s attack strategy in Return of the Jedi, or even Captain Panaka’s stated strategy to invade Theed in The Phantom Menace, a Star Wars briefing hints at the underlying classicism of the whole saga, in which action is presented as cleanly and effectively as possible—for the sake of the audience as much as for the sake of the participants.

This time, the bounty hunters knew that Palpatine would open the Festival of Light from within a ray shield. Why, with the galaxy plunged into a horrific war, Palpatine thinks that overseeing a glorified fireworks show on Naboo to celebrate that planet’s milestone 847th year in the Republic is a great demonstration of confidence and resolve escapes me—he might as well have donned a flight suit and declared “Mission Accomplished” as far as symbolic gestures go. (I offer my greatest thanks to Mr. Friedman for sparing us the sight of Boss Lyonie at the festival.) I mean, if he’s showing the people of Naboo that he stands with them in solidarity, giving his speech inside the protective cover of a ray shield, while everybody else around him is exposed, might not be the best idea. And after Derrown’s handiwork, Palpatine will probably want to be transported in the Star Wars Galaxy equivalent of the Popemobile from now on.

The Parwan was to break through the shield—an ability only a member of his race could pull off—and deactivate it. Embo and Twazzi, meanwhile, would be disguised as guards protecting the Chancellor. Guards who would spirit him away in the ensuing chaos. Moralo Eval would be the getaway driver. And Hardeen would be a sniper overlooking the Festival of Light from his perch at the Theed Book Depository. All the members of the squad would be cloaked in Sinrich’s Holographic Disguise Matrix, a technology that allows someone to walk into a holographic shell and receive a new appearance. Cad Bane decided to appear like a Neimoidian—I suppose because that race is an offshoot of the Duros—but considering that the Neimoidians tried to invade this planet ten years earlier and are very much involved in the war against the Republic, you’d think he could pick a better cover.

This is a pretty awesome new piece of technology, though. Kind of a temporary alternative to the facial reassignment surgery Obi-Wan underwent. (Why didn’t Princess Leia use a holographic disguise matrix when she went undercover in Jabba’s Palace as the bounty hunter Boussh? She might not have been exposed and forced to wear a metal bikini as Jabba’s new trophy princess.)

But even the best laid plans are subject to the will of the Force. Derrown seemed to have the upper hand at first. He deactivated the ray shield, which knocked out the Chancellor, then electrocuted Anakin, because he’s a cnidarian. (Derrown is my absolute favorite new alien we’ve seen from Star Wars in a long, long time. The reason? Because he’s an alien who’s actually, um, alien. Part cnidarian, part cephalopod, part fungus, part Beaker from the Muppets, he’s such a great rejection of all the lazily designed aliens throughout science fiction that are basically just humans with odd facial markings or forehead ridges. Memo to James Cameron: if you had really wanted to make Pandora in Avatar seem like a place we had never seen before, you would’ve made the Na’vi truly alien, not just tall blue people with magical hair. Imagine how much more challenged we would have been had Sam Worthington fallen in love with a floating, three-eyed, jellyfish-like creature who is physically incapable of verbal communication. That’s a movie I want to see!) Poor Derrown was quickly dispatched by a well-timed sniper blast from Hardeen, and he was last seen hurtling away, his jetpack malfunctioning, tentacles flailing in the Naboo wind. There’s nothing to indicate here that Derrown’s dead, so here’s hoping we’ll see him again very soon!

NEXT: Obi-Wan proves to be Cad’s bane.

Meanwhile, things weren’t really going according to plan for anyone else, either. Yeah, Twazzi disguised herself as the Chancellor, while disguising the Chancellor as a Senate guard, to throw the Jedi off the scent. That allowed Cad Bane to all but stroll off with Palpatine in tow. But when Bane and Palpatine reached their rendezvous point courtesy of getaway driver Moralo Eval, Dooku was a no show. They’d been double crossed! Hardeen quickly revealed himself as Obi-Wan Kenobi and Bane and Eval were taken into custody, with the Duros vowing revenge.

All was well. But Anakin was still none too pleased by the Jedi Council’s decision to keep him in the dark about Obi-Wan’s undercover mission. His former master leveled with him. It hadn’t been the Council’s decision. He’d decided that himself, and justified it to Anakin as “I did what I had to do.” Anakin could easily use the same justification later when he unnecessarily beheads Count Dooku at the beginning of Revenge of the Sith and slaughters younglings at the Jedi Temple, so the apple (or its Star Wars Galaxy equivalent) doesn’t really far from the tree. Obi-Wan was left a little shaken by Anakin’s attitude, though, and started to realize that, despite everything, this plot was foiled too easily. Why hadn’t Dooku shown up?

Well, when Anakin escorted Palpatine back to his chambers in Theed’s palace, there sat Count Dooku, seemingly on the verge of saying Vader’s “We would be honored, if you would join us.” Obi-Wan realized what had happened when he discovered a comlink inside the briefcase that stored his sniper rifle. Dooku had been listening in! And he knew of the Jedi plot. Now Anakin had to face him alone.

After the countless lightsaber battles we’ve seen on this show, it’s incredible that they are still able to come up with new ones this original and visceral, with Dooku flinging lethal cutlery at Anakin through the Force, and a couple forks getting lodged in his mechanical arm. Dave Filoni & Co. did give us one sly close-up of Palpatine’s face during the battle, as if he was considering this Anakin’s audition for the role of his new Sith apprentice.

NEXT: The Republic will be reorganized as the FIRST…GALACTIC…EMPIRE…not quite yet.

If Anakin had defeated Dooku here and now, Palpatine would undoubtedly have encouraged him to kill “Darth Tyranus” and take his place at his side. But I wonder if he would have been able to accelerate his plans to transform the Republic into the Empire? Part of the reason why he was able to do that in Revenge of the Sith was because he capitalized off the fear generated by his recent kidnapping at the mechanical hands of General Grievous. That must have been his plan here, as well. (We know Palpatine himself, in the guise of Darth Sidious, hired Cad Bane to raid the Jedi Temple way back in season two, so he was obviously pulling the strings behind his own kidnapping attempt on Naboo.) Sure, I guess as the title says this was a “Crisis on Naboo,” but it’s not nearly as terrifying as having your minions on the other side of the war utilize secret hyperspace routes to launch a sneak attack on the galactic capital, Coruscant itself, with hundreds of starships and hundreds of thousands of battle droids—just so they can kidnap you. I mean, that’s the way to absolutely terrify your populace and make them all the more eager to embrace an iron-fisted dictatorship. And after these events on Naboo, I think Palpatine must have realized that to truly get his people scared—scared enough that they’d be willing to trade their liberty for the security that only an Emperor could provide—he’d have to make them fear for their lives as well, not just his.

Obi-Wan made his way to Anakin and the Chancellor and held off Dooku long enough that he was able to recover Palpatine once again. If only he knew that the person he was rescuing was both the kidnapped and the kidnapper! Sure, Obi-Wan won the day, and maybe delayed the formation of the Empire for all we know, but the fact that he further distanced himself from Anakin really does seal his inevitable doom. Especially with Anakin now pledging himself to protect Palpatine for as long as he lives.

What did you think of “Crisis on Naboo”? How long do you think it will take Obi-Wan to regain his hair? Can we expect a few episodes of him all babyfaced and bald? Only one more arc left this season! A four-parter that will see the return of a certain tattooed Sith Lord. Who’s ready to get Mauled?

Episode Recaps

Before the Dark Times, before the Empire, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker fight to restore peace and justice to a galaxy far, far away…
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