The Clone Wars review: ‘The Academy’

Let’s be honest: so far, this hasn’t been the best season of The Clone Wars. So when an episode exceeds my expectations, as this one did, I’m stuck wondering if it’s because the bar had been lowered in the first place.  In retrospect, ‘The Academy’ is the best mystery that this show has ever done, but because the previous episode was so riddled with plot holes and inconsistencies, I wasn’t even sure that I was watching a mystery until the third act.  Still, that third act was a doozy.

Let me explain.  At first, just about everything in the episode made no sense.  Ahsoka is sent to Mandasnore to teach some kids about corruption – which begs the question: whaaaa?  Since when does being a Jedi (padawan, no less) mean you’re qualified to teach a civics class?  And why is lecturing a bunch of Hitler Youth kids such a priority for the Jedi OR the Duchess?  And is it me, or is one of the kids named Anus?  (Oh, it’s me – according to the OS episode guide, the name is actually Amis.  Whoops.)  And why do these kids have access to the highest levels of government?  Well, that part they tried to answer, but it just rang hollow and false.

But in the third act – and I’ll try to lay low on the spoilers here – we learn the real motives behind Ahsoka’s assignment, and everything begins to make a lot more sense.  It’s a nice trick, and the episode pulls it off really well.  Throughout the third act, I kept wondering who was conning who, and I was kept guessing right until the final scene, when all the pieces fell into place.  It helped that Ahsoka was also kept in the dark, and I enjoyed seeing her being used as a patsy by, well, just about everyone on screen.  It made her much more vulnerable, even if she could, when necessary, still kick lots of butt.

So Ahsoka was used well, and the mystery was smartly done.  What’s not to like?  In my case, it was the setting.  Maybe other folks enjoy these Mandalore stories, but I find them remarkably dull.  Granted, it’s hard to make pacifism exciting, but even Season 1’s Lurmen has more personality than these Mando mannequins.  The four main kid characters were as bland as the Brady Bunch, and because they’re kids, we know they’re never really in any danger.  So much for suspense!  Meanwhile, Duchess Satine continues to be a pale (pardon the pun) imitation of Padme (who herself was just an echo of Princess Leia).  At least the villain, who I won’t reveal by name, wasn’t quite so boring, and I appreciated that his/her motivations were relatively novel.  And I liked the overall theme of war bringing out the worst in people.  But this villain was, in the final analysis, just another disposable baddie – not scary, not cool, not sophisticated, and definitely not memorable.

I do have one other quibble, and it’s with the episode’s final message.  (Um, spoiler alert.)  Ahsoka pledges her allegiance to Duchess Satine, saying – and I quote – “I never doubted you, Duchess.”  “Neither did we,” chimes in the kids.  Which is all nice and fine except it’s the exact opposite of what Ahsoka was preaching earlier in the episode, about how corruption can come from anywhere, and that we should always challenge politicians to keep them honest.  Not only that, but the scene ends with a hug.  There could have been real emotion in the scene – after all, Satine had just been betrayed and tortured (!) – but instead, the show contradicted its own principles for the sake of a schmaltzy reconciliation.

Aside from that, though, ‘The Academy’ managed to tie up its loose ends with intelligence and panache.  For once, it seems, all those nagging inconsistencies were just part of the plan.  Well played, Clone Wars.  Well played.

Grade: B

6 thoughts on “The Clone Wars review: ‘The Academy’

  1. Dunc

    One thing that stood out to me – just from going through the episode photo gallery – is the utter, generic blandness of these kids. Granted, I am very much not a fan of TCW’s character design in general, but it seems like the more human a character is, the less impressive the design is. I can look beyond the Thunderbirds thing with the non-humans, but here… It’s all I see.

  2. jawajames

    Another good review, Stooge. The revelation in this episode did partially fill some of the why’s left open in the last episode. While the final act did actually give us some answers and some excitement, it left this odd question to me:

    if a bunch of kids (i nicknamed them the Scooby Doo gang, minus the dog) can’t fight off a bunch of corrupt guards early in the episode (when Ahsoka jumps in and flattens all the bad guards), how the heck can they take out a whole squad of guards when handcuffed, just by falling on them.

    for me, the thing that got me most excited in this episode was Duchess Satine’s aquarium, with little colorful squid things swimming around. and sure enough, later in the episode, we see the aquarium broken and empty (with a dead little squiddy even, next to the poor guy whose head broke in the fishtank)

  3. Mark Newbold

    Oooohhh, hate to say it but the episode left me cold. the whole Mandalore thing is just not working for me, it’s bland and awkward.
    And Ahsoka going to Mandalore to explain to the kids (in a really pat manner) the meaning of corruption (and why they needed a Jedi to do that is beyond me), when the whole reason Chancellor Palpatine claims to bein the senate is in the senate is to wipe out corruption…it makes no sense.
    The first 4 episodes of season 3 were ok, but the last 2 have been hard going. I really hope things start to build up soon, because so far the season is at risk of becoming very disjointed and anti-climactic.

  4. Stooge

    Dunc, you may be onto something… the humans are, by and large, much more bland than the aliens. (I suppose it doesn’t hurt that the aliens usually have fun accents.) But even for humans, these kids were pretty boring. Like James, I thought about comparing them to the Scooby Gang… until I realized that even Shaggy, Velma, et al. had more personality than these tykes.

    James, the whole “falling on the guards” thing in the final action scene didn’t bother me so much, I guess because (a) Ahsoka was there to save their butts and (b) weaklings getting inspired to fight is such a dramatic convention that I hardly even notice it anymore.

    And yeah, I hope this is the last we see of Mandalore for a while. But I somehow doubt it.

  5. Clark

    After reading this I am left feeling how much better it would have been if they’d done a straight-up Scooby tribute. They’ve done such things before.

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