‘Pursuit of Peace’ was the year’s final broadcast episode of The Clone Wars, and if this season started off with a bang, it ended more with a yawn. Padmé Amidala races to prevent a war appropriations bill from being passed else it destroy the Republic through bankruptcy, with her and Senators Bail Organa and Onaconda Farr getting roughed up in the process. If only senators like Amidala, target of countless assassination plots, ever learned to travel with a security team, half of the plot and all of the action could have been avoided.
The story: The most recent attempt by the Separatists to reach out for peace has been sabotaged by a droid suicide bombing on Coruscant’s power grid, and the Senate is back on the war path. Dooku calls in and says that the Republic’s forces have derailed the peace process in return by killing Padmé’s friend on the Sep side, Senator Bonterri. Kamino’s senator Halli Burtoni pushes forward a bill to get more troops, but it will cause the Republic to take out more loans from the newly deregulated Banking Clans. Padmé, Bail and Ono must defeat the bill as the interest charges alone will cripple the Republic whether it wins the war or not.
Senators, including Onaconda Farr, start getting beat up by thugs intent on making sure the bill passes. Bail prepares a speech to sink the bill while Padmé and Ono try to sway another senator, who may yet listen to Bail’s plea. On her way home, Padmé is attacked by Robonino and Chata Hyoki, who have been ordered by Dooku to eliminate her. She manages to escape, and steals a speeder bike and leads them on a chase through the airways of Coruscant. She manages to shake them when Coruscant PD corners her for vehicle theft. Back at home, she talks with her aide Teckla about how the war is affecting Tekla’s life and family.
Bail Organa gets ambushed by the two bounty hunters in his own MTV Cribs-sized garage, and injures himself by crashing into the wall. Unable to reach the senate floor for his speech, he calls up Padmé, who receives a confidence boost from Ono and Tekla. Senator Amidala takes Bail’s turn to speak and directs her attention to Teckla and the others of the Republic who are feeling the war’s effects through rationed water and power, lack of social services, and other places where funding has been cut because of the war. Padmé argues that if the goal is to save the people for whom the war is being fought, expanding the war will only create more suffering for those people. The bill is defeated, and Palpatine unhappily confides in Mas Amedda that this time, he will allow the wheels of the Senate to continue turning.
What rocked this episode? Probably the most interesting thing to come out of this episode is the boiling down of the politics of the war to simple economics: war is sometimes just about bankrupting your enemy. Many in the Senate are willing to expand the war, but when they have trouble in keeping basic conditions met on Coruscant, it shows how stretched they might be for resources. We got a lot of nice detail in the visuals of this episode: Senator Christo’s fish tank (is it for decoration or for food storage?), the nunas squabbling on a barrel in the alley, and the passengers and clones milling around the rail station while the stentorous Padmé looms over them on screens, and all the senators booing and cheering – there’s one bit where a pod of Bith seems to get in a shouting match with a pod of Ithorians. And then there’s the cops in the squad car spilling their caf as they respond to a speeding stolen speeder bike – wait, what are droids drinking in their cruiser?
One final neat visual was seeing Padmé in less formal dress in the office, with her hair down – and Teckla handing her that bulky head-and-hair piece that she’s been sporting in the past few episodes. Glad to know that someone doesn’t have to coif her hair into that lattice thing each time she wears it. But the winner: bounty hunter Chata Hyoki, a Selkath, a species first seen in the KOTOR video games.
Where ‘Pursuit of Peace’ lost us: While the overall political plot was a bit dry, the action sequences, though exciting, just don’t add up. Dooku entrusts Robonino and Chata to off Padmé, and they can’t seem to do more than scratch her face in an alley brawl. In the ensuing speeder chase scenes, the armored Chata is being dragged along at high speeds and slammed into breakaway pedestrian lights, a stack of boxes, and eventually a holo-sign, even getting leaking fuel splashed into his face, without any sign of being hurt. There’s having a comedy in an evasion sequence, and then there’s just breaking disbelief. (And breaking that even further, the Coruscant Police speeders have 911 on their sides – apparently, 911 really is the universal number to call for the po-po.)
And Padmé – ever since the opening acts of the Clone Wars, she’s been a target for assassins of all kinds (Zam Wesell, Jango Fett, Aura Sing, Cad Bane, etc.), and after seeing several Senators limping or wearing slings, she’s willing to wander around the streets at night without security. Is she that confident in her main-character status that she knows that she immune to death? Even after her escape from the bounty hunters, Teckla suggests consulting the Jedi over this latest security threat, but she shrugs it off. At least Bail Organa is smart enough to carry a Life-Alert, and use it when the bad guys break into his garage. Not smart enough to have a vehicle with an airbag, however. Since the bad guys aren’t competent enough to injure Bail, his getaway driving skills will have to do it for them.
And those bad guys – were they getting Count Dooku’s call while they were in a Twi’lek strip club? You’d think that if you were going to get on the holocomm with the enemy leader, you wouldn’t do it in a crowded place filled with seedy clientele. Maybe Fishface isn’t the A-lister that we’ve previously seen hang out with. And did we just go into a strip club on a cartoon aimed at kids?
Overall: ‘Pursuit of Peace’ gives us more politics in a season that had quite a few political episodes. Padmé pursues peaceful policies, preferring the power of public persuasion while packing pistols to pick off prodigal pipsqueaks of a pensive puppet. But while the politics were fairly straightforward here (guns vs butter), the story just wasn’t that intriguing, and the action sequences brought it to liven it up fell flat because the expectation of danger just wasn’t there. We’ve seen episodes done a bit smarter, and this one faltered on the common sense level. Making Padmé-centric political episodes is a challenge to avoid repetition, and it seems she does better as the main character when she’s either got a sidekick or she goes off planet.