The Clone Wars review: ‘Senate Spy’

Senate Spy

As a wise man once said: and now for something completely different.  Just two weeks after I complained that the show had gotten repetitive, I hungrily eat my words.  As the Senate Spy Episode Guide proudly proclaims, “Not a single blaster is fired in this episode, nor is a lightsaber ignited, nor does anything explode.”  Star Wars without ‘spolsions?  Isn’t that like Christmas without eggnog?  Or, um, Hannukah without fried potato skins?

Whatever it is, it doesn’t start out well.  Anakin returns to Padme’s apartment, and he’s all “Honey, I’m home from the war, and I got sushi,” and she’s like “You brought home dinner?  ‘Cause I cooked!”  Then he’s all, “Since when do you cook?”  And she goes, “Well, now you’ll never know.”  And then they make out.  Or maybe they don’t.  I was too afraid to look, terrified that this bizarre flirting might veer into Team America territory.  I generally enjoy the animation on The Clone Wars, but when Anakin and Padme start getting mushy, I get icked out.  Yes, icked out.  I went there.


Meanwhile, the Jedi Council are trying to determine if Senator Rush Clovis (new character alert!) is a traitor to the Republic, so they ask Padme to go undercover for them if you know what I mean.  Unfortunately, they’re Jedi, so they don’t know what I mean.  But Anakin does, and he objects to the plan, which naturally insults Padme and convinces her to do it.  Ah, young love.  By the by, Ani and Padi have this little lover’s spat on a floating pod in the middle of the Senate where, if memory serves, the acoustics are quite good.  What secret marriage?

At this point, with espionage the clear focus, everyone starts speaking in code.  The innuendo was so thick that it seemed like everyone was using airquotes… which, come to think of it, would’ve totally improved this Jedi Council scene:

PADME:  Clovis and I haven’t “spoken” in a long time.

YODA:  A surprise that is, given “your past.”

ANAKIN:  What does that mean, Senator?

PADME:  At one time, Clovis and I were “close.”  It was my choice to return things to a strictly “professional” level.  Clovis didn’t take it well.

MACE:  Do you think you’ll be able to “rekindle” your “friendship” with him?

(Note: dialogue is verbatim, only quotation marks have been added.)

Long story short, Padme “rekindles” her “friendship” with Rush, who immediately invites her to Cato Neimoidia, a plot point so confusing (didn’t the Neimoidians try to kill her last season?) that Dave Filoni felt the need to explain it in his episode commentary.  Anakin tags along as their pilot, proving once again that Naboo helmets are THE GREATEST DISGUISE EVER.  Of course, Senator Clovis is interested in more than just Padme’s politics, and faster than you can say Temples of Syrinx, Rush is putting the moves on her.  But Anakin starts flying wild every time Rush gets a bit too close, which made for some genuinely hilarious moments.

Smirky pilot Anakin

Then, in a twist worthy of Hitchcock, Senate Spy takes a screeching left turn and turns into, of all things, Notorious.  And I’ll be honest – your enjoyment of this twist probably depends on whether you’ve seen the movie.  Me?  I saw Notorious when I was fifteen (the perfect age to develop an emo crush on a long-dead beauty like Ingrid Bergman), and I’ve loved it ever since.  So I was absolutely floored by this unlikely homage, which the Clone Wars crew did very well.  Not only are several scenes directly lifted from the film, but Senate Spy even captures Hitchcock’s sense of moral ambiguity.  For all his sleaze and treachery, Rush genuinely loves Padme, and his devotion makes him seem downright noble.  Anakin, on the other hand, is only trying to protect his wife, but he comes off as a real cad.

And who knows?  Maybe this episode will inspire some kids to see Notorious, which could then act as a gateway drug to other Hitchcock movies, film noirs, and Cary Grant impressions.  Then again, my nephews, ages seven and five, would have been bored stiff by the Anakin/Padme/Clovis love triangle.  But screw it – I’m writing this review, not them.  And though Senate Spy had a rough start, it ended up being a very welcome surprise.

Grade: B+

12 Replies to “The Clone Wars review: ‘Senate Spy’”

  1. “Senate Spy even captures Hitchcock’s sense of moral ambiguity.”

    I appreciated that, because the sleaziest character(s) in the story is actually the Jedi Council asking this of Padme. And it was a deliberate decision made by the makers of this episode to have the Jedi do this. Remember, they asked her TWICE!

  2. “Anakin tags along as their pilot, proving once again that Naboo helmets are THE GREATEST DISGUISE EVER.” <– seriously. Neither a senator nor a top Neimodian (or his fembot arm candy) recognize one of the top headline-grabbing Jedi generals. Security is not so tight on Cato Neimodia.

    Speaking of which, senators are allowed to just jet off to Cato Neimodia? Wouldn't that be like and American senator jetting off to Hamburg and staying with the mayor during the middle of WWII?

  3. Right on, Pabawan. Probably the most amazing thing about Notorious is that it has sleazy Americans, sympathetic Nazis… and it was made just one year after WWII! Only Hitchcock would have had the nerve to pull that off.

  4. I rather enjoyed having an episode that had no “‘splosions.”

    And I liked seeing Anakin and Padme have some alone time, but am glad they didn’t attempt to animate passionate kisses. :)

    More homage episodes, please!

  5. Digital Padme and Anakin creep me out, too. Granted, this one didn’t make me want to headdesk quite as much as the little innuendo play in the S1 finale (which was so lacking in chemistry it made Portman and Christenson in AOTC look like Brad and Angelina in Mr. and Mrs. Smith,) so I guess that’s progress.

    The 3-D Padme is still the most generic-looking of the characters though, which lends to the Team America feel.

  6. James, I was also baffled by the Neimoidian angle… and Dave Filoni tried to explain it during the episode commentary, but to no avail. Maybe it was just an excuse to show fembot arm candy?

  7. seriously, the fembot arm candy looks more like it came from Futurama. you’d think that Neimodians, makers of millions of droids, would make fembots that looked like beautful female Neimodians instead of humanoid females. or like Hutts, apparently having human/Twi’lek female companions (or droids resembling them) is more a sign of status.

    Filoni’s commentary makes the war much more confusing. If the Trade Federation, Banking Clan, etc are not actually the Separatists, but merely profiteering suppliers (who happen to be driving the Separatist war effort), then the actual Separatists seem to be the worlds (like Geonosis) that get duped into joining Dooku’s cause.

    It seems like giving a powerful defense contractor a senate seat, then allowing them to keep that seat even though they are actively sending their their own private military units and leadership to fight against American units on behalf of the Taliban, who mostly don’t end up fighting at all.

    What happened to these business conglomerates actually separating from the Republic?

  8. Regarding the Separatist and corporate entities… what hurts more, having the canon band-aid ripped off the EU quickly or slowly? ;)

  9. I loved the lack of shots fired, and think TCW showcases some truly beautiful vistas. I obviously need not remind anyone that the characters are a bit on the stiff side, but everything else is… well, impressive. I love Cato Neimodia.

    (I also love the classical Neimodian paintings, haha…)

    I’m perfectly willing to accept the explanation of Separatist politics, though I do remain confused.

    And I’d like to note the callousness with which Anakin treated the destruction of his freighter. This show does that a lot, and I’d say it was setting a bad example for the kiddies or w/e if not for the fact that these things do, as we know all too well, come back to haunt the Jedi….

  10. Ha, great review of a great episode. I think you missed one pair of airquotes though:

    ANAKIN: What does that mean, “Senator”?

    ‘Cause “senator” here means “secret wife” ’cause of the emphasis.

  11. Also, it could’ve been:

    PADME: At one time, Clovis and I were “close.” It was my choice to return things to a strictly “professional” level. Clovis didn’t “take it” well.

    “take it”, here being innuendo of sexual role-reversal…

  12. Gah – I’m in the monority here.
    True, the Notorious linkage is in place and was a fine homage, but for me, this was the weakest episode of any, including the first season.
    I think the problem lay in the animation – never before have I been so drawn out of the story by the terrible walk cycles and lip synching on view.
    I hate to say it, but I think I need some ‘splosions to make the taste go away. I’m such a neanderthal.

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