The Clone Wars review: ‘Pursuit of Peace’

‘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.

Final Grade: C

13 thoughts on “The Clone Wars review: ‘Pursuit of Peace’

  1. Alex Johnson

    While the constant prequel episodes had my head spinning, I found Pursuit of Peace and the episode before it to be fine additions to The Clone Wars.

    I still stand by my view that Padme deserved these episodes, we hardly saw anything of her for two whole seasons.

    Also, being raised on the prequel trilogy, Star Wars and politics go hand and hand for me.

  2. Sean

    The other thing that you missed in here that rocked was Palpatine’s final bits of dialog. I think its the first time in filmic Star Wars that Palpatine has pretty much acknowledged his evil plan on camera.

  3. jawajames

    @Alex: I agree that Padme deserves episodes, and she got quite a few in this half-season (going to Mandalore, being bait in ‘Assassin’, and now these past two. But the key with political episodes is to not get stuck in a rut – and to have the politics make sense. This time the stakes were clear.

    @Sean: Good point – and it makes you wonder how much Mas Amedda knows about his boss.

    One of the bigger questions that I didn’t touch on in the review was: “How is this part of Palpatine’s plan?”

    While it makes sense that he wants to prolong the war in order to continue to pull in all power to himself in the government, how is he going to dig himself out of bankruptcy? Eventually, the Banking Clans will try to foreclose in order to settle accounts. Most likely, once this war is finished, the financial crisis would be the next disaster to face, and Palpatine’s solution would probably come from Hugo Chavez’ playbook – simply assume state control of the banking industry and erase the debts, by force if need be. Predatory lenders, beware!

  4. Sean

    @Jawajames Palpatine’s “evil” plan is the most disjointed, random and pointless evil plan of cinema history. It’s so full of holes that it hardly has any substance at all. He’s constantly shooting himself in the foot. His actions are almost constantly jeopardizing his whole scheme.

    I like to think that Palpatine dosn’t know what he wants. As the dark side of the force corrupts him more and more, he keeps upping what he wants to do. First, he just wants political power, then he wants to kill the Jedi, then he wants to rule the galaxy. I’d love to see a film or read a story that connects every single part of his plan and explains it, from his early days as a sith apprentice, his early political career on Naboo, which I believe includes his assassination of the king of Naboo so that Padme could take power? Which makes me wonder, was Darth Plagueis the king of Naboo? That would have been awesome. Please Lucas, we want to know everything! :)

  5. jawajames Post author

    Sean: King Veruna abdicated the throne, paving the way for Amidala’s election as queen. Veruna was later found dead, likely assassinated as part of Palpatine’s machinations. I don’t think Veruna’s death story matches Palpatine’s story of Plagueis’ death.

    I don’t think Palpatine is constantly shooting himself in the foot – he’s playing the long con, which means having several options for himself, and his end goal i think has always been the restoration of the Sith as rulers of the galaxy – total power and total revenge against the Jedi. His scheme is always in flux as new variables come into play, but he seems to have multiple angles covered and contingencies set up so his end game is the same – him ruling the galaxy and wiping out the Jedi.

  6. TitaniumWookie

    Great comment thread. James you’ve skewered the logical inconsistencies in this episode. It’s so disappointing that, by and large, the writers for Clone Wars seem to be idiots.

  7. jawajames Post author

    I appreciate the good feedback. I don’t think that the writers are idiots – I think that they start with an idea of what they want to have happen, and then wrap the logic of how that could happen around it if they can.

    It’s Star Wars, where adventure and excitement should be more important than the entire universe acting rationally. In a more realistic galaxy, the elite shock troops of a technologically-advanced military machine would be able to shoot straight against a handful of loonies running around their armored space station.

    I think that The Clone Wars lives up to the rules set by the movies: Main Characters just get into more danger but come out more or less intact, and it looked really cool on how they win the day. While I like to pick apart the logic of the episodes, I also realize that fun and adventure and general bloodlessness trump out common sense. It’s just that sometimes suspension of disbelief fails when things slip from improbable to preposterous, like with the speeder chase scenes in this episode. (Luckily it did not slip all the way to total insanity, like the second half of Pirates of the Caribbean 2.)

    And because I like fun and adventure and things making sense, I tend to be harsher on the “political” episodes, since there’s usually a bit less adventure and the need for things to make sense is higher.

  8. Stooge

    I think the overall failure of this episode is that it relies on the “big speech” climax, and those are intensely hard to pull off. And when they do work, it’s because they’re surprising — surprising that the person makes a speech, and surprising about what s/he eventually says. Here, it was a foregone conclusion that Padme would end up speaking, and it was also obvious about what she would say.

  9. jawajames

    I’m not sure that the ‘big speech’ climax needs to be surprising for it to work in the story. Here, it was fairly predictable how things would unfold, and so while I could see the outcome coming, I still wanted to see it – how Padme wins the day by focusing on a personal story of the people she represents.

    This episode dropped in a lot of Senators in the background – for someone like Duchess Satine, from a more neutral world, would she have voted to expand the war/bankrupt the Republic in the first place? Presumably that bankrupting would have impacts on the tax burdens of the Republic’s worlds…

    and why couldn’t the Republic simply issue war bonds at interest rates they get to set – unless the general population is so poor or uninterested in the war that only the Banking Clans are willing and able to finance the additional request.

    but back to Teckla’s situation: would a senator’s aide really live in such dire circumstances? is she more just a servant (like in her AOTC role as Lake district wait staff) or political staffer – she seems to have access to the Senate building. I had always assumed that most of the Naboo senatorial entourage had quarters as part of Padme’s penthouse complex, for better serving the senator’s needs and security, but this is not the case for Teckla, single mother. Or is her situation of being a Senator’s aide being hit by water rationing and rolling blackouts a sign of how bad things are on Coruscant? The blackouts/water rationing could just be a temporary side effect of the power grid sabotage, and not an ongoing presence.

  10. Stooge

    Now that you mention it, a scene of war-town Naboo (or at least poverty-striken Naboo) really would’ve helped the ep. It’s hard to imagine the place as anything other than bright and sunny, and Teckla’s family plight didn’t quite register.

  11. jawajames

    I’m assuming that Teckla’s kids live with her on Coruscant, where we see a blackout in effect (just as Ono is assaulted, they are announcing a blackout and curfew). But it is odd to have the Naboo senator talk about the plight of the people on Coruscant as the ‘people’ represented by all these senators, when Christo points out to Ono that very few senators seem to be in touch with their constituents. Shouldn’t there be a Coruscant senator, considering that the capital world is also one of the most populous? or are they like DC?

  12. Toph

    “or are they like DC?”

    Ha! Never thought about that before. Really interesting, especially since it’s the most populous planet in the galaxy.

    As for politics in TCW – it’s often simplistic and sometimes illogical, but if it gets kids to ask their parents about deregulation, interest rates, partisans, constituencies, etc., then I’m all for it.

    Also, Clone Wars troop strengths remain ridiculously low… but we’ve been over that before….

  13. jawajames

    one other thought – if the Republic is trying to buy more clones from Kamino in the middle of the war, do they have to wait ten years for them to mature? or did the Kaminoans “just” happen to make a larger batch in hopes that the Republic might decide to buy more…

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