The Clone Wars review: ‘Assassin’

Despite the title of ‘Assassin’, last week’s episode of Star Wars – The Clone Wars was really more about Ahsoka trying to stop a killer before she could strike. We also see more into Jedi ability to see visions of the future, and get an episode that passes the Bechdel test with flying colors. More importantly, this episode marks a change from the sluggish plots that we’ve been enduring for the past few weeks.

The story: After the defeat (and assumed death) of Aurra Sing and many other feats of heroics, Ahsoka is back on Coruscant to study on her own, while Anakin is shipped off again somewhere important to the war, leaving her with a ‘stay out of trouble’. That night, Ahsoka gets a warning in a vision that Aurra Sing is going to kill someone. After getting some pointers on Yoda about dealing with spooky premonitions, the padawan is off to the library, where she falls asleep over a stack of Atari cartridges and has another vision – Aurra’s target is Padmé Amidala. Ahsoka seeks out the senator and warns her that someone is gunning for her, but doesn’t really have any specifics. When is someone not seeking to assassinate Padmé? Apparently, this is not that big a deal (despite the previous assassination attempts,) so she continues to hang out on an outdoor living room overlooking the city.

Unable to properly convince Padmé of the danger, Ahsoka gets another vision and seeks out Yoda again, and finally decides to accompany Padmé to Alderaan where she is leading a conference to do something important about the war refugees. After losing a game of dejarik aboard the ship, Ahsoka expresses her uncertainty about her own abilities and Padmé shares some big sisterly advice about getting past her own fears when she was the teenaged ruler of an entire planet. That night, Ahsoka has a fourth vision, this one ending with Aurra taunting over Ahsoka in her bed. Alarmed, the Togruta Jedi dashes into Padmé’s bed chamber and swings her green blade around, waking the senator and freaking out Captain Typho. False alarm!

On Alderaan, Ahsoka (now followed by Typho) bursts in private meeting of some senators to warn that the hit will take place at this conference. Typho suggests that Ahsoka search the grounds to find the meeting hall that matches her vision. After Ahsoka expresses her confusion over trusting her premonitions over the reality that there’s no sign of a bounty hunter back from the dead, Padmé reminds her that she’s no stranger to taking risks, and will continue with the conference. In the opening session, Padmé gives her remarks about Naboo’s brush with conflict and refugees and yadda yadda yadda. *Blam!* A shot from an upper corridor hits Padmé in the shoulder – Ahsoka had arrived just in time to distract Aurra Sing from sniping a clean kill. Unfortunately for the padawan, Aurra Sing escapes.

Turns out that it’s only a flesh wound, and Bail Organa sides with Ahsoka in making sure that Padmé doesn’t risk her neck anymore. They hatch a plan, and resume the conference, with a hooded Padmé figure re-entering the conference and giving a speech. As Ahsoka and Typho glance around for security risks, the hooded figure is just a ruse – a Bettibot broadcasting Padmé’s rallying speech, while the senator is left in her own room with the microphone. Ahsoka realizes that Aurra Sing didn’t fall for their decoy, and is crawling through the air ducts to Padmé’s bedroom.

Ahsoka leaps into the room and deflects Aurra’s shots with her lightsaber, and then Force-pulls the assassin out of the Jefferies tubes. Rather than complete her mission, Aurra starts talking, being mad at Ahsoka for leaving her to die in a ship crash, and that the hit on Padmé has nothing to do with refugees, but is a revenge killing. With the exposition aside, Aurra opens up with both blasters, and Ahsoka deflects almost all of them, but then collapses as a shot wings her in the arm. With her Jedi guardian down, Padmé unveils a blaster and stuns Aurra just as Typho and the cavalry finally arrive to secure the area.

Back on Coruscant, Aurra is led away as a captive, while Ahsoka, still holding her unbandaged arm, tries to read into the Force to determine who hired Aurra Sing. Something large and purple, perhaps. Brushing aside visions of Barney and Tinky Winky, Padmé knows who is behind this plot. Anakin and Padmé visit Coruscant’s big old prison, where Ahsoka pulls out the old trick from Law & Order and gets Ziro the Hutt to confess to hiring Aurra Sing. Locked away again in his cell, Ziro vows revenge.

Where ‘Assassin’ hit the target: This episode of The Clone Wars really hit the mark after a few lackluster weeks. The story of Ahsoka overcoming self-doubt to save Padmé’s life was straightforward and balanced character development with action. Things mostly made sense in this episode, unlike some of the corruption-focused themes from earlier this season. The plot has a clear story as a plot is sensed and thwarted and even wrapped up with the Jedi busting Ziro the Hutt to bring closure to the episode.

Getting to see a Jedi having visions helps set the stage for Episode III, with Anakin also seeing visions involving danger and his wife. Ever since Luke had a vision of his friends in trouble in a city in the clouds, we’ve been posed with the Jedi’s dilemma of how to interpret potential futures and steer things toward the best outcome. After a few missteps – first a false alarm, and then reacting almost too late when the threat is present, Ahsoka manages to choose wisely and prevent the assassination.

Visually and aurally, the episode was a treat. We got to hear some familiar Star Wars themes with Yoda’s theme when visiting the Jedi Master in his slatted meditation room (he needs to learn how to use the Venetian blinds in there) and when landing on Alderaan, we got parts of Leia’s music, I think. Visually, the outdoor scenery of Alderaan flowed well with mountains in the distance, and some of the characters looked fantastic – Ahsoka, Aurra Sing in her urban camouflage, and Typho with his almost five-o-clock shadow, and Yoda with a subtle translucence in his ears. Sadly, Padmé’s skin still makes her look more like a painted doll than someone with real flesh. A few minor goodies as well: dejarik in action, and some rabbit droids constantly carrying around Padmé’s luggage. Poor little guys.

As a side note – is this a first in Star Wars? The top three roles in an episode have gone to the ladies – assassin, target, and guardian. And that they get to have actual conversations that don’t involve relationships with boys – instead a little heart to heart about overcoming uncertainty and doubt, and a game of dejarik. It’s not wise to upset a senator – they’ve been known to write a bill to tax one’s arms out of their sockets.

Where ‘Assassin’ missed: Where this episode failed was in mostly minor territory – visually, the Alderaanians at the conference were mostly unappealing. They at least looked different from the Mandalorian citizens, but the Shaggy-wannabe was the most appealing. Maybe not all Alderaanians should wear white – after all, Bail Organa doesn’t. Maybe there’s some Labor Day clothing rule in effect on Alderaan.

Padmé’s speeches, while they were supposed to be background to the action, just felt a bit odd. In the opening session, she establishes her credibility on the plight of refugees by talking about the Naboo blockade a decade earlier, where she prioritizes its ill effects: hundreds forced from their homes, quite a few Naboo military and Gungan army casualties, and the death of one Jedi. Makes this conflict seem rather small – and while her goal is to lead a discussion on helping refugees, placing “hundreds of displaced people” over the casualties of the war just seems callous to the fallen, and then somehow one dead Jedi is worth mentioning by name, but not any real casualty numbers (probably a gray territory for the writers), again seems out of place. Whatever happened to Sio Bibble’s claim that “the death toll is catastrophic” when comparing to hundreds displaced. In her second speech, Padmé gives the typical you-can’t-silence-the-righeous speech that often people seeking to redefine themselves as martyrs might give. The treatment of politics doesn’t seem quite right yet on the show – is this conference to help refugees just a chance for speeches? To raise awareness? To convince Alderaan to be a refugee asylum? To provide relief for Tauron displaced by the fighting? A lot of politics in SW seems to be giving speeches and then blaming the bureaucracy for being unable to get things done. Even a single line at the end on Coruscant saying that the conference was successful would have brought a sense that Padmé is helping to win the good fight. And when Padmé’s off on missions, shouldn’t she bring her usual entourage of handmaidens? And Threepio comes along but gets no lines – but we’ll see in two weeks what he’s been up to!

The only thing that didn’t make much sense to me was relatively minor – bringing the prisoner Aurra Sing back to Coruscant aboard Amidala’s spaceship. Is that really a wise thing to do – putting assassin and target on the same ship? Is there even a brig aboard? How does criminal jurisdiction work in the Republic anyway? I’m sure that Aurra will get out of jail in due time. (StarWars.com places this episode, and thus the finale of Season Two, before the finale of Season One in the timeline.)

Overall: ‘Assassin’ may not be full of surprises, but it does satisfy. It has a good mix of characters, action, and even a little humor (that 2-1B droid exclaiming, “It’s only a flesh wound!”). Ahsoka really shines in this episode as she faces a situation where only she can determine the outcome – it’s these episodes where she is not paired with Anakin where she can really shine best as she struggles with being a teenaged superhero still learning how to use her powers for awesome. Matching her up against a character once thought dead helps to add to her doubt until she is able to save the day. Musical nods and nice visuals complement an exciting story. Even the fortune cookie “The future has many paths – choose wisely.” felt like an actual fortune cookie advice this time – or maybe a line from the Grail Knight?

Previously this season, Ahsoka has rescued the daughter of Baron Papanoida, saved the Duchess of Mandalore from a plot to depose her, and now she’s stopped an assassination attempt against the galaxy’s biggest target (who is also smart enough to carry her own weapon). What’s next for our heroine – stopping General Grievous from capturing Chancellor Palpatine on Coruscant?

Overall:

3 thoughts on “The Clone Wars review: ‘Assassin’

  1. Jason Ward

    This review was well written and funny.

    Although, I totally disagree about Padme’s speech running through the action. I thought it was a fairly classy way of keeping something boring from being the focus or a scene unto itself while but still including it as the backdrop. I do actually enjoy the politics of the series, but I think this was a rather ingenious way of handling the problem of pleasing everybody.

    Also, like I’ve posted before, there really isn’t a huge need to retell the story in the review. If the reader has seen the episode, it’s redundant. If not, you’re ruining it. I’d prefer analysis that sits alongside the retelling at the very least. I write this constructively and not as a negative criticism though.

    I always have fun reading the reviews here.

    Reply
  2. TitaniumWookie

    Ditto on retelling the story. that’s totally unnecessary and a bit boring to read. Really like your analysis though! Extra points for bringing up the bechdel test, important stuff.

    Reply
  3. Stooge

    The only thing I found odd about this episode was the concept of Force visions. Ahsoka’s seemed to be pretty spot-on… so why did Yoda make such a fuss about possible futures and whatnot? But overall, yes, a big improvement over previous weeks. Easily the best ep of the season.

    Reply

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