The three-episode Mandalore arc in Star Wars: The Clone Wars wrapped up with ‘Duchess of Mandalore’ as Satine and Obi-Wan fight to protect Mandalore in the Senate, and the Duchess in the streets of Coruscant. The plot to set the stage for a Death Watch coup on Mandalore is defeated, and once again, Satine and Obi-Wan see the world from different points of view, which strains their relationship, which at this point is, as she puts it, “friends and nothing more.”
The story: Satine and Obi-Wan arrive on Coruscant, and Satine pleads to the Senate that she can handle Death Watch, when Palpatine plays a holo from Satine’s deputy minister Jerec reporting that Mandalore is close to civil war, and Republic help is desperately needed. Satine jaw-drops at the message and the discovery that Jerec can’t confirm his message as he is now recently deceased. Palpatine orders a vote on the issue of whether Republic forces need to be deployed to Mandalore, which would play into Dooku’s and Death Watch’s plan to use a Republic occupation to rally the people to overthrow Satine and install Death Watch. Outside, Obi-wan appeals to Satine to avoid foolhardy decision-making, but Satine coldly pushes back that the Jedi is the foolhardy one on a crusade. A Mandalorian, sent by Viszla, triggers a small bomb in Satine’s speeder, but she is cocooned by her guards and survives, losing her driver.
The Republic concludes that the incident was merely an accident, and while Satine is meeting with Palpatine and Mas Amedda, the Senate votes to send troops to occupy its member world for its own security. Satine and Obi-Wan are surprised by the early vote, and the Duchess keeps Obi-wan out of the loop as she plans to meet with her own intelligence contact, Davu Golec, regarding the speeder attack. As she receives Jerec’s real message from Golec, he gets sniped by the Mando from Death Watch, and Satine, with blaster drawn for defense, is spared assassination when a police droid shows up and concludes she killed the man. With the assassin still gunning for her, Satine goes on the run from a group of police droids and clonetroopers, managing to lose them after shooting down the hovering police probe.
Framed for murder, the self-reliant Satine realizes that she needs help and calls Obi-Wan, who meets up with her in a plaza for a handoff of the recording. As they leave, the Mando throws in a concussion grenade and starts to fight the Jedi. Disarming each other, the two slug it out in an alley, until Satine tosses Obi’s lightsaber back to him, and he goes all Force Unleashed on the armored soldier. After being Force-tossed off an edge, the Mando jets off to escape. As they planned, Satine turns herself in at the Senate entrance to allow Obi-wan to enter to give the recording to Padmé, who introduces it as new evidence. The real message contains Jerec pleading against Republic intervention in Mandalore, and the Senate hits the undo button. Back in his base, Viszla tries to get Dooku to back him in a takeover anyway, but Dooku calls the Death Watch leader a neophyte who wouldn’t last in power without either the popular support or Separatist assistance. Standing in Palpatine’s office, Satine comes close to actually thanking Obi-Wan for his help in saving her and her planet’s sovereignty, and Obi-Wan muses that in this war, with someone in the Republic having forged Jerec’s message, the lines between friend and foe have blurred.
So, what went right with this episode?
Ithorians everywhere! In the senate hallways, in the darkened streets of Coruscant, and even getting hassled by the clones who later realize that maybe one Ithorian just doesn’t understand Basic.* Also popping up for cameos are a bunch of familiar senators, like Mon Mothma, Chuchi, and Vice-Chancellor Mas Amedda, who apparently is wearing Caucasian-shaded guyliner, and some cane-toting Kaminoan. Satine and Obi-wan’s relationship seems to have changed a bit from their journey – the attacks en route have driven a little wedge as they see each other as they are now, and not as they once were when they had been in love. Their dialogue, formerly laced with bitterness of being ex-lovers, is now more solid, focusing on their ideological differences with frankness and wit, without trying to exude romantic tension. Satine’s lines about Obi-Wan being the foolhardy one, on a crusade, harken back to Uncle Owen’s fear that Luke would join the same Jedi on a “damned-fool idealistic crusade.” I also found it appropriate that Satine’s guards would step into attack position when Obi-wan grabs Satine’s arm for her attention on the dock – symbolizing a greater barrier between the two than when we saw them back-to-back on her ship in the previous episode.
Some of the visuals were great – we are shown the sunny, well-lit cityscape of Mandalore in the beginning, when one of the Duchess’ men returns from a spy mission on Vizsla, and then in comparison, we see Coruscant, well-lit in the Senate building, but always dark on the streets and plazas, one of which apparently has the main focal point being a giant rock (Come see the last bit of nature on Coruscant!**). One highlight is the detail on the painting of the Duchess seen in Mandalore’s capital – in HD, one can see the actual canvas fabric. On Coruscant, the Mandalorian assassin poses in front of some neon advertisements, similar to Jango’s meeting place with Zam in Attack of the Clones. I also really liked the look of Dooku, aboard his flagship, and underlit with green from the control panels as he skypes with Viszla.
What went wrong with ‘Duchess of Mandalore’?
The story just didn’t grip me – I found myself more interested in the backgrounds than the plot. Once Satine is on the run, she feels that someone is framing her for murder, when really, she mostly framed herself. Having a gun drawn over a dead body and then running away when the cops and crowds show up probably makes you a likely suspect or at least a person of interest, until they can get Horatio Caine and his glasses to show up. Later, the pacifistic Satine decides to shoot down the siren droid, in a crowd on the street, which seems against her character, and the ensuing crash manages to cause the keystone cops and clones to all crash in a pile, letting her escape in the throngs – comic but forced. The Death Watch assassin, while menacing, didn’t seem to be especially competent in his job, but perhaps his goal of not making it look like a hit made his task challenging. And when we see Padmé in the senate hallway, reporting that the vote had already taken place, I didn’t even recognize her. And, who’s the republic senator representing Mandalore?
Overall: As the ending of a story arc that focuses on Obi-wan and Satine, this third act is less about Obi-Wan and the relationship and more just about Satine, and her balance between being self-reliant and being able to ask for help from her friends. With more time for politics, there’s less action, though we finally see Obi-Wan actually use the Force to subdue his opponent in combat. Unfortunately, the combat has the predictable problem of a lightsaber wielding Jedi versus a non-lightsaber wielding organic enemy: in order to make it a fair fight for a while, Obi-wan gets disarmed. The Duchess of Mandalore gets her win – the Republic reverses course and allows Mandalore to deal with this matter, but what exactly is she going to do against the Death Watch? While the greater goal of Republic non-interference is gained, what will happen to her pacifist ideals when dealing with an army of warriors that employ terror tactics? That would make for some interesting drama, but I doubt we’ll see it play out – my guess is that Death Watch will become the new elite Separatist force for the Jedi to play with. The moral, “In war, truth is the first casualty” is good, although in this case, truth manages to win out in the end. Good visuals and references to the larger continuity, but the slow plot leaves me a little disappointed.
* According to the episode guide, the Ithorian’s dialogue indicates that he does understand them, and is reporting that he saw the suspect, but the clones ironically don’t understand him.
** According to the episode guide, the rock is both homage to McQuarrie concept art of Coruscant and its last exposed mountain peak, and an actual boulder that gives the name to the Lucasfilm Animation’s headquarters at Big Rock campus of Skywalker Ranch.