Star Wars: The Clone Wars started up again with ‘Senate Murders’, and this time the wartime casualties are in the halls of power, and it’s up to Padmé Amidala and Bail Organa to crack the case.
The story: Padmé and her Senatorial allies, like her “uncle” Onaconda Farr of Rodia, are opposing a bill by the Kaminoan senator to increase clone production for the war and Padmé gives an impassioned speech in the Senate against the bill, claiming that the bill would escalate the war, bankrupt the Republic, and introduce death panels for seniors. Afterwards, the hawkish Senator Mee Deechi warns Padmé that her speech was downright unpatriotic – calling for less troops and more diplomacy. As Amidala, Farr, Mon Mothma, and the Rodian senator Lolo Purs celebrate Padmé’s speech with drinks, the elderly Kaminoan senator Halle Burtoni (get it?!) busts in, accusing Padmé of being a Separatist, but is shooed out by Farr. Returning to their toast, Farr clutches his heart and dies. *Thump*
Onaconda Farr gets a quick send-off back to Rodia in a box from a landing platform, and Palpatine introduces Lt. Tan Divo, a Coruscant police inspector on the case. He’s a caricature of the inept snide little detective, but he reveals that Farr was poisoned, and insists that he’ll do the inspecting while the senators stick to their senating. Padmé decides to delay the vote on the military spending bill in order to conduct her own investigation. Amidala, P.I. is on the hunt, and Bail Organa gets assigned to be her Watson. First stop is Farr’s political enemies: Deechi and Burtoni, who are conveniently together. They both deny involvement – Deechi out of respect for his colleague, and Burtoni out of complete lack of respect. Deechi does reveal that he was having Farr followed, and the night before he was poisoned, he went to the docks. At the docks, Organa questions Amidala’s motives for the investigation – is it grief? Before they can talk things out, a shipping crate gets dropped on them, and shots are fired. Running around in the dark docks, the assassin’s slight form is revealed, but she escapes after nearly knocking Bail over the edge of the platform with another dropped shipping container. Coruscant shipping terminals pretty much look like every other shipping container port chase scene seen on TV, but they use Aurabesh instead of English or Chinese. Lt. Divo shows up to the crime scene and dispenses the sarcasm to remind the senators to stick to the rules. Padmé supposes that what if this attack was a setup by Deechi, and she heads back to confront the warmongerer – but too late, the senator has been stabbed at his desk.
With the bodies piling up on his beat, Divo sequesters Farr’s friends for their own protection. Lolo disregard the orders and Padmé’s plea, and storms out. Divo goes off to find Burtoni, and Lolo returns, claiming to have been attacked by the old Kaminoan hag. Burtoni is caught and cuffed and professes her innocence. Lt. DVR reveals the tox report on Senator Farr – it was a poison designed to kill Rodians, made only by Kaminoans (Lt. Dan’s pronunciation of that word puts the stress on the Ka and No). Burtoni again pleads innocent, and Padmé realizes that if their celebratory toasts had the poison, Lolo would have also been killed – unless she didn’t drink. Under suspicion, Lolo pulls a pistol and tries to escape, giving her murder motive as anger at Ono’s betrayal that dragged Rodia into the war (back in Season One’s “Bombad Jedi”). Turning to face a pair of fezbots (the Coruscant blues), Lolo is blocked and gets punched out by Padmé. In the Senate, Amidala’s stop bill fails, depressing Padmé, who is cheered up by super-puffed-up-shoulders Palpatine telling her that though surprised by the vote’s outcome, peace will only come through a clone victory.
So, what went right with this episode? I enjoy seeing different characters getting their own stories in this season – Padmé starred in the Notorious-homage ‘Senate Spy’ earlier this season, and after focusing on the front and the Jedi (and their ex-girlfriends) for a while, we swing back to see how Padmé is faring in the Senate. Killing off Onaconda Farr was a bit bold for Star Wars – it’s usually the third tier (one episode only) characters that get killed in episodes, and not someone who’s been around for a few shows. Solving the mystery of the murders of Farr and Mee Deechi is enjoyable, although Padmé does some sloppy detective work – she starts off by accusing Farr’s current political enemies, without any evidence. Lt. Divo’s character, as a caricature of some old-time movie police detective who I can’t remember, was a great touch, and his general competence was refreshing. As sinister plots continue to unfold in the Senate, I hope to see more screen time for Divo and his datapad-toting rabbit droids in the future. Cute character names allude to Earth names – the Kaminoan senator’s name looks like Halliburton, and her ally’s name is akin Medici (and exhibits facial asymmetry, like some noted Medici family members).
What went wrong with ‘Senate Murders’? Again, the story setup just doesn’t make sense. There’s a bill by Halliburton to increase military spending and Padmé, always the opponent to anything military-related, fights against it, and pushes for diplomacy. When has diplomacy worked for her over a direct application of military force? Not in The Phantom Menace or Attack of the Clones – she’s a heroine with a belief system that continually is shown to not work when put into conflict with an enemy that isn’t interested in diplomacy. Like Palpatine puts it at the end, sometimes the shortest road to peace is through victory.
Also, Padmé should have left the detective work to the pros – While she helps to reveal Lolo as the prime suspect in the end as she remembers the time of the murder, all of her half-cocked Nancy Drew work around town ended up getting Deechi killed, and her and Bail nearly killed as well. Poor Ono! He gets murdered in the Senate and all that is shown is a small eulogy over his casket as it is being shipped home – no state funeral, or public day of mourning, or media frenzy. While the Senate is supposedly a large body, turnout for his final farewell seemed pretty small (at least Duchess Satine showed up).
Overall: ‘Senate Murders’ is a good welcome back episode – not action-packed, but a little slower paced, with the right amount of story for a single episode, unlike some other episodes that were overcrammed with plot to their own detriment. While Uncle Ono had appeared in a few episodes, he’s really only been fully fleshed out in Season One’s ‘Bombad Jedi’, and it was interesting to see the repercussions of his actions played out down the line, turning a one-off episode into part of a larger picture. Too bad we didn’t see more of him before his demise. Hopefully, we’ll see more of the Inspector in later episodes. While being a Padmé-focused episode, she felt like the weak link here.