Monday, March 22, 2010

Star Wars: The Clone Wars - 2.15 - Senate Murders

There are murders... in the senate! (These titles sure play it safe sometimes...)

As a one-off change of pace this was a fun experiment, though I'm not sure it was a good idea to return from a month-long hiatus with such an oddball entry. I enjoyed the send-up to classic parlor room murder mysteries, but it was all a bit too simplistic to leave a worthy impression, and a bit too far removed from the important goings-on of the galaxy to earn an important niche in the series' canon. It's always refreshing to see throwbacks to earlier plots, and it was nice to bring the Season 1 story-line of the Rodian senator Farr back into the spotlight (from 1.08 [Bombad Jedi]), but I can't see much of anything in this episode causing too much impact on future series events, and this might be the installment's greatest failing.

Character-wise, it was once again enjoyable to see Padme in a story that strengthens her character and plays her as a potent individual, separate from Anakin and their love story. She was her usual bundle of action and ideals here, and held the hero focus well. The guest cast didn't fair quite as well. Inspector Divo was diverting, but seemed to have been plucked out of some other television show and dropped into the wrong series. His by-the-numbers bumbling detective wasn't particularly original and didn't add much to the classic concept his character homaged -- especially considering that the Columbo-like Jedi Master Sinube from 2.11 (Lightsaber Lost) already tackled similar ground with more success. Bail Organa was a welcome addition of a known character to the Clone Wars, but served here only as a double for Padme's actions and opinions. His points of view and disagreements were very easily and quickly aligned with Padmes, making him a bit of a nonentity in the plot. And murderess Lolo was such a nonentity in the proceedings that the traditional last minute deflection of accusation from the obvious party to the surprise culprit would have worked far better with more possible suspects and motivations. There simply wasn't the depth of cast and character available in this episode to pull off an Agatha Christie style mystery.

The most interesting notion presented in the episode arrived with its most interesting new character. The concept that Kamino has only been granted a position on the senate (in the form of the Izma-like Senator Burtoni) because of their clone army production is an interesting source for dissent to arise from, and I'd like to see further exploration of this concept. The Kaminoans might easily be seen as war profiteers as a result, and I could see some hate spreading toward them from the other Republic members. But like most of the actual politics presented in Senate Murders, this was only a smokescreen for the more personal (and underdeveloped) motives of the actual killer.

I enjoyed the episode for its cool setting, brooding atmosphere, focus on Padme, and its attempt at adding a new genre of episode to The Clone Wars. But the mystery formula was only played out to its most basic of depths, and the intriguing politics presented ultimately lacked any over-arching developments or forward momentum. The visuals of the show continue to be strong, and it's noteworthy that even with a minimal amount of action the Clone Wars can still entertain, but if the writers want to continue expanding the kinds of stories they can tell on this show, they'd be better served weave them into the show's pre-existing fabric a little more carefully. Even as a stand-alone, this could have had some great drama and repercussions for the show as a whole, but instead remains one of the lighter weights in the series' rack. Far from a failure, but nothing to sing about. 3 stars.

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