Anakin & Co.'s watery adventures on Mon Calamari come to an end. And this time, it's Ackbar who springs a trap.
Can squid cry?
Sorry to get all maudlin on you, but that was the first thing I thought of when I saw that veritable Mon Calamari Trail of Tears, as Riff Tamson and the Separatists led their prisoners single-file to an underwater detainment camp. The Mon Calamari looked so sad, their bulbous heads lowered in shame over their defeat. If only their constant exposure to water didn’t rule out the need for tear ducts! But maybe it’s for the best. Maybe their inability to cry allows them to sublimate their grief all the more readily into violence. And, boy, is violence ever what we got on last night’s episode!
“Prisoners” began with Karkarodon baddie Tamson leading Anakin, Padmé, Ackbar, and Jar Jar to his torture chamber. So much the better that it was an underwater torture chamber—that means you can menace your foes with electric eels! Kit Fisto, doing his best John Rhys-Davies impression, quickly declared the obvious: “Ah, eels. Very dangerous.” (Surely, fans of the Lucasverse recall Sallah’s “Ah, asps. Very dangerous” in Raiders of the Lost Ark.) Much of the Clone Wars series has been devoted to inverting classic moments from the Star Wars movies. In this case, I was sure Tamson was going to say to Anakin before he zapped him with a few thousand volts, “And now my Jedi, we will discuss the location of your hidden rebel prince.” At least we now know that Vader can take what he dishes out.
Oh, poor, easily duped Quarren. Did you really think Count Dooku cared about your marginalization in Mon Calamari’s politics? Didn’t you realize that, um, he’s fighting a galaxy-spanning war and the least thing that should worry him is whether you have your tentacles in a knot? And that if he actually does seem to care, he must have an ulterior motive? Of course, Dooku showed his true colors and revealed that Tamson would be in charge on Mon Calamari along with his Karkaradon allies. (Karkaradon is a Latin-scholar-friendly reference to the Carcharadon genus of sharks, of which Great Whites belong.)
See, all along the Separatists just wanted to use the inhabitants of Mon Calamari as slaves. Apparently both native sentient species are of hardy stock, and their unique coral-based ship designs are state-of-the-art. Diehards like myself know that when the Empire finally takes over, the Mon Calamari and Quarren are among the first races to be enslaved—for their engineering skill and shipbuilding prowess. That’s why Ackbar & Co.were so eager to join the Rebellion. Actually, Ackbar’s military record caught the eye of one Grand Moff Tarkin, so he became the Death Star commander’s personal slave. Unfortunately for Mon Calamari, the war didn’t end when old Palpy got sent down a reactor shaft and the Ewoks had a drunken orgy. As documented in the brilliantly weird Dark Empire comic series, six years after the Battle of Endor Mon Calamari would become a theater of galactic war again. A resurrected Emperor Palpatine (remember that whole business about his master Darth Plagueis finding a way to cheat death? Palpatine figured that out too.) sent his latest Death Star-caliber superweapons, the World Devastators, to literally gobble up the planet into raw materials for his military war machine. The weapons were stopped in time, but even that wasn’t the end of Mon Calamari’s misfortune. A hundred years later, the Star Wars: Legacy comic series showed us that the Empire (still around and this time led by the Sith Lord Darth Krayt) would unleash a plague that finally did wipe out all life on the planet. My point here is that at the time of the Clone Wars, these poor squid-headed sentients have no idea what they are really in for in the decades to come. That makes the events of this epic, under-the-sea Clone Wars arc all the more poignant, no?
NEXT: “Torture you? That’s a good idea. I like that.”
Apparently the defenses of the Separatist prison camp were all smoke and mirrors because Ahsoka and Lee-Char were able to break in and interact with half the detainees before being detected. You really can see how the Boy King has grown over the course of these three episodes, from naïve orphan to battle-hardened monarch, and I loved the nationalist zeal he inspired when he told some of the prisoners, “The next time I appear to you, I will appear as your king.” Lee-Char wanted to ready his troops for that glorious moment when they would free themselves and take back their planet.
Mesa need no thinking time to consider whether he should have given that kind of hope to Tamson’s Gungan prisoners. Despite hopscotching across the galaxy and discovering that the seaweed is not always greener in somebody else’s lake, what exactly did they accomplish with their attack? As far as I can tell, the only way Jar Jar made himself useful was when he spit out a wad of mucus to seal up Padmé’s breached SCUBA suit. Prior to this I was unaware of the adhesive properties of Gungan phlegm, but it does hearten me to realize that this means there are some things about their physiology that we still don’t know. For now, anyway. Still, let’s raise a glass to Jar Jar. He was quicker on his feet than Anakin. So, let me think, he’s the all-powerful Chosen One, but he fails to realize that he can use the Force to prevent Padmé from drowning in her diving suit? I guess love truly does blind.
Tamson was determined to torture his quarry, even if they didn’t know where the Bonnie Prince was. “To be honest, it matters little to me,” Tamson said with a Michael Madsen-esque purr. “I would torture you either way.” This reminds me of possibly my favorite bit of dialogue from the entire Star Wars canon, in the video game Knights of the Old Republic, when you have to watch your beloved Jedi companion Bastila Shan get tortured because you won’t give up a crucial piece of information. If you choose the Dark Side dialogue option—and, really, who doesn’t?—you can say to Bastila after her ordeal, “I only kept silent so I could watch you suffer.” All of this is to say, I understand where Tamson is coming from.
Since he was already in their camp, Lee-Char basically just decided to turn himself in, so he could directly beseech disgruntled Quarren leader Nossor Ri about his ill-advised Separatist alliance. Nossor Ri was already receptive, having just been told that Tamson would be ruling Mon Calamari, not the Quarren. Let’s just say Riff Tamson altered the deal. Pray he doesn’t alter it further.
NEXT: “Smile, you son of a…”
Tamson set-up a public execution for the would-be king. And everyone was invited! I honestly don’t understand how Dooku and his shark-snouted ally would’ve thought making Lee-Char a martyr would be a good idea. Somebody needs to show the Sith Lord Le Passion de Jeanne d’Arc. I’d like to see one delicate teardrop roll Anna Karina-style down his bearded cheek and know that he’s discovered the error of his ways. Or at least that they’re not very practical. Because it was the scheduled public execution of Lee-Char—I suppose he was going to be fed to some other Karkarodons?—that tipped the Quarren over to the good side. Nossor Ri promptly inked himself and rescued the prince from the hungry jaws that were waiting for him. I half expected him to quote the sea captain from The Simpsons: “Ah, squiddy, I ain’t got nothing against you.”
The ocean floor coruscated with laser fire, but the coolest weapons were the exploding knives the Karkarodons were using. The blade would sink into your flesh, then the whole knife would explode, and you with it. When Lee-Char got a hold of one, we knew for whom it was intended. He all but squinted Roy Scheider-like and said, “Smile, you son of a…” when Tamson exploded. Okay, that’s what I wish had happened. But it was pretty darn satisfying nonetheless. The Separatists were defeated, Tamson was killed (removing the issue of how to incorporate him as a villain in storylines set on terra firma), Quarren and Mon Calamari were reunited, and Lee-Char became king. It almost makes you forget the decades of misery this planet is about to endure.
I thought this was one of the most satisfying, richly animated stories The Clone Wars has given us yet, right up there with last year’s Nightsisters three-parter and season two’s Mandalorian arc. By the Force, can you imagine if the underwater scenes in The Phantom Menace had been a fraction as good as the aquatic action in these episodes? It really does make me want to see even more of Ackbar & Co. Maybe a future storyline should delve more into the slavery angle, how there are all these sinister forces that want to exploit the people of this planet? Or we could just visit another water planet like Kamino or Manaan.
Until then, though, it’s back to Naboo next week for another Gungan-centric episode. Wizard! Will we finally learn what happened to Boss Nass? Will relations between the Gungans and the Naboo deteriorate after Mon Calamari turned out to be their Gallipoli? And has there ever been an amphibian-vs.-cyborg showdown more eagerly anticipated than that between Captain Tarpals and General Grievous? I think not. But feel free to differ Padawan readers. After all, the wisdom to be found on the EW.com message boards surrounds us and penetrates us, it binds us all together. Until next week…
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