As a main character, C-3PO doesn’t exactly scream excitement. Sure, he’ll sometimes scream, and yes, exciting things do happen to him, but it’s hard to imagine ol’ Goldenrod jumping into action. Or even just jumping, for that matter. What we do expect from Threepio is humor. After all, a prim and proper butler plopped into galactic warfare should be endlessly amusing — and it is, up to a point. But is it enough to sustain a whole episode?
Well, the short answer is no. (Though there’s also a long answer, which I’ll get to in a bit.) C-3PO getting kidnapped and tortured sounds like a recipe for instant comedy, especially since – unlike Cad Bane’s last torture victim – we know 3PO will survive the experience. Still, there was something off about his performance, and unfortunately, I think it was the voicework. Anthony Daniels did the honors, of course, and kudos to him for keeping the character consistent throughout the franchise. But in this episode, he seems to be sleepwalking through his lines, not infusing them with nearly enough energy or urgency. I mean, 3PO was absolutely livid at Chewbacca at the end of The Empire Strikes Back, and that was just for banging his head a few times. Yet here he’s being repeatedly probed and electrocuted and he barely raises his voice. And I honestly can’t explain it. The dialogue was fine, nobody knows the role like Sir Anthony (he is knighted by now, isn’t he?), and apparently he was directed by Dave Filoni. Maybe the sound mix was a bit low? Maybe it’s me?
In any case, the long answer is that C-3PO’s antics may not be enough to carry an entire episode, but it doesn’t really matter because there’s so much else to enjoy about ‘Evil Plans.’ To start, the episode is a droid bonanza, filled with familiar positronic faces such as IG-88, 2-1B, and 8D8. (Okay, not those three exactly, but other droids clearly modeled on them.) The newer units, though, completely stole the spotlight. I particularly enjoyed the rabbit droids, who got to deadpan some great one-liners. (The best was one rabbit dude who, after being berated by 3PO over some minor party details, wanders away and says, “Okay then.”) There’s also a hilarious droid murder, as well as some clever banter from Todo 360, once again voiced by an unrecognizable Seth Green, who cons R2-D2 with a shpiel worthy of one Bender Bending Rodriguez.
And lest we forget, this episode also features the unforgettable droid spa. I now understand the appeal of an oil bath. R2-D2 goes there to get both his casings and his ego scrubbed, and though it’s not shown on screen, I’m fairly sure his massage had a happy ending. The hyper-clean spa also nicely contrasted with Threepio’s garish torture chamber, and I got a sick kick out of seeing R2 getting pampered in one scene, then 3PO getting zapped in the next. And despite my misgivings about 3PO’s performance, ‘Evil Plans’ totally nails its portrayal of R2. At first, he comes off as somewhat vain (hence the spa), but later on, he has a beautiful moment of loyalty and compassion. Both sides of his personality are totally in character, and both, in their own way, are absolutely charming.
Cad Bane, alas, is mostly wasted, but he does do something which no other bounty hunter could pull off: he finishes his job without getting caught. For his plan to succeed, R2’s rescue effort had to fail… which was something of a shock. (Though seeing the mind-wipe in action was undeniably cool.) Bane also leads into the single greatest scene of the season so far: a conference call between the heads of various Hutt families. I cannot emphasize enough how absolutely perfect this moment was. Not only did they look like movie gangsters, they didn’t all look exactly alike. The EU tends to show all Hutts as variants of Jabba — look, it’s Jabba with a beard! Look, it’s Jabba with an earring! Look, it’s a purple Jabba! — but these dapper dons had unique faces and, I hope, personalities to match. I honestly can’t wait to see what they do next.
The episode ends with a perilously balanced cake, and I was absolutely convinced it was going to topple over. Yet somehow, it didn’t. It’s fun having your expectations subverted, just as it’s fun to see the bad guys win every once in a while. And it’s really fun to see a Hutt chomp a cigar.