Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Season 2, Episodes 12-14 – “Duchess of Mandalore Arc” – Shades of Grey and Power Plays

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      The “Duchess of Mandalore arc” is awesome! In this we explore the conflict of neutrality during wartime as well as the benefits and disadvantages of a warrior or pacifistic philosophy as both the Duchess Satine and Death Watch leader Viszla both have reason to believe what they do as sovereignty is the primary theme of this arc and how different factions seek to use that to their own benefit and make Mandalore a pawn.

    “The Mandalore Plot” was directed by Kyle Dunlevy and written by Melinda Hsu and Drew Z. Greenberg, “Voyage of Temptation” was directed by Brain Kalin O’Connell and written by Paul Dini and Henry Gilroy and “Duchess of Mandalore” was directed by Brain Kalin O’Connell and written by Drew Z. Greenberg and Brian Larsen.

     The story involves Obi-Wan arriving at Mandalore to investigate the terrorist group Death Watch who rumor has is being controlled by his past lover Duchess Satine. He soon discovers they are false rumors and when the Death Watch leader Viszla is revealed he must protect Satine as she advocates for Mandalore to deal with it’s own affairs and not have an occupation done by Republic Forces. She is later framed for the death of a Mandalorian and must reveal the truth of the recording of her Prime Minister to the Senate that speaks for Mandalorian Sovereignty that was doctored to present that as not being the case.

The Pros: “Duchess of Mandalore” – “Duchess of Mandalore” was my favorite episode in the arc as we got to see Viszla in action see Palpatine working actively against Satine so that Republic forces would have reason to occupy Mandalore (and in turn later the Empire) and how she and Obi-Wan navigate the political minefield using Padme to save Mandalore’s sovereignty, though it doesn’t solve the problem of Death Watch or how Death Watch is out of Satine’s control unless she gives up her pacifism. It’s a powerful plot. 10 / 10

Death Watch – Death Watch is a hyper-nationalist organization that wants to restore Mandalore to it’s former strength that it had in the Old Republic as an Empire. Viszla even wields an ancient Mandalore saber that can counter lightsabers. They are a small and powerful organization that has sympathy among the populace as Satine cannot protect them from the Separatist and just neutralized the Republic.

Mandalore – Mandalore is a once warrior nation that now is a primarily a trading world but it still carries it’s warrior roots through Death Watch and the Civil War it experienced prior. It is a beautiful world too and has a classic feeling to it, it captures both ancient mixed with modern with expresses the Mandalorian people really well.

Pre Viszla – Viszla has his own government on the moon where the losers of the Civil War were sent who aren’t pacifists. Unsurprisingly he is sympathetic and a leader of the populace he rules and because of that seeks to empower them as the current Mandalore is vulnerable to outside threats. Minus the hyper-nationalism he is an issue that Satine has not dealt with and his perspective is never dealt the justice it deserves as Mandalore needing an army to protect it’s sovereignty.

Count Dooku – Dooku is the one who sees the big picture and warns Viszla to wait when the assassin fails to kill Satine. He is a player of a long game of making Mandalore another faction that the Separatists control and it is his cool head even after failing Palpatine that make possible that Death Watch will be around for a long time to come.

Palpatine – Palpatine is a smart manipulator in this and would have succeeded if the Assassin had killed Satine. His end goal is control of Mandalore via Republic troops and he has reason to send them as the Separatists are a threat and Mandalore has no defensive force outside of Death Watch which it doesn’t see as representing it to the other governments. Even though his plan does not succeed he never lets on or breaks character with Satine or the Jedi that he was behind any of it. He is truly the Emperor for a reason.

Duchess Satine – Satine is an idealist and dreamer and the events of this arc change that in some ways. She still stands for sovereignty of her world and no involvement of outside troops but she is willing to defend herself. She explores her past with Obi-Wan and confesses that she loves him but afterword they are both so proper and don’t want to risk their friendship as Obi-Wan would never betray his Jedi vows. She respects that though and his call for defense while she calls for pacifism. She is also a nationalist and stands for her people regardless of the cost.

Obi-Wan Kenobi – Obi-Wan deals with his romantic interest Satine and we see that though he is committed to Satine he would have given it up when he was a Padawan if she had asked. It’s a great character moment that reveals the humanity in Obi-Wan as well as the fact that he is so committed to the Jedi Code because of that loss. The Code and his being a Jedi is all he has so he can be no closer to anyone beyond as a friend, but he stands with her and helps stop Death Watch’s plot.

Anakin Skywalker – Skywalker is getting closer to the darkside and Darth Vader as we see him justify the occupation of Mandalore since Death Watch is out of Satine’s control, we see him kill the Senate Separatist Spy when Satine and Obi-Wan are unable to do so and we see he doesn’t think about it at all. Killing someone is nothing to him as the ‘Imperial March’ plays. This show really does show Anakin’s descent really well. It starts with taking life for granted and he never lets up on that as the ends of protecting others are always the drive behind it, and it’s hard not to see the times he has taken that choice on the show as wrong, questionable for sure…but not wrong.

A Matter of Sovereignty – Sovereignty is a major theme this episode and the different ways it is sought. For Satine it is not involving outside power, while for Viszla it does involve outside power and a strong military to defend against threats. Neither side is wrong and that is what is debated this episode as we know that the Empire will destroy Sovereignty later while the Separatists may do that sometimes now, but not always. Does Sovereignty involve military strong power or diplomatic soft power, for me the answer is both are needed though the episode falls on soft power primarily as Satine is a pacifist. What this debate means for Mandalore still remains to be seen, the Republic and Separatists aren’t involved yet, but the war is far from over.

Okay: Romantic Potential – The romance feels more realistic than Padme and Anakin but that isn’t saying much. There back story of having to depend on one another for survival when they were younger was really cool and they do have good chemistry but I wanted to see more warmth between them, we only got moments of that.

The Assassin – The Assassin was awesome! He kills a Mandalore informant who passes the real info of the Prime Minister’s recording to Satine and dies in the process and he escapes every attempt at capture and manages to hold his own against Obi-Wan and Satine. We never learn more about the individual and I wish he’d done more damage but he was okay.

    This was a powerful arc, with “Duchess of Mandalore” being a personal favorite of mine as it establishes that Death Watch is not out of the game yet and also that Mandalore is alone for better and for worse to deal with it’s own problems. There is so much potential here as I don’t believe Satine is in control, her almost getting arrested is going to look bad in the public eye, not to mention the death of her Prime Minister. She has no control over Death Watch and they still control a lot of the narrative. This is something the episode doesn’t fully deal with and why I don’t consider this a victory for Satine. There was no middle ground of Republic help which could have stopped Death Watch, while now they have time to recruit and to grow.

Final Score: 9.8 / 10.

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Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Season 2, Episodes 4-8 – “The Geonosian Arc” – Senate Spies, Superweapons and the Masterful Geonosians

The Geonosian Arc

     “The Genosian Arc” is a pretty amazing one! We get to see war with consequences, have have complex villains, fascinating villains, flawed heroes and stories that make sense and that allow things to change. This episode also establishes how powerful the Geonosians are. Suffice to say, there was a lot to like about these five episodes.

      “Senate Spy” was directed by Steward Lee and written by Melinda Hsu, Drew Z. Greenberg and Brian Larsen. “”Landing at Point Rain” was directed by Brian Kalin O’Connell and written by Brian Larsen and Drew Z. Greenberg. “Weapons Factory” was directed by Giancarlo Volpe and written by Brian Larsen and Drew Z. Greenberg. “Legacy of Terror” was directed by Steward Lee and written by Eoghan Mahony, Drew Z. Greenberg and Brian Larsen and “Brain Invaders” was directed by Steward Lee and written by Andrew Kreisberg, Brian Larsen and Drew Z. Greenberg.

      The story begins with Padme being asked to go undercover to investigate a former lover who might be a Separatist spy. From here things unfold as it turns out he and Senator Dod are working with Poggle the Lesser to create a secret weapons factory on Geonosis. This leads to the invasion and Second Battle for Geonosis which echoes far beyond the battle itself as secrets of the Geonosians are revealed.

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The Pros: The Story – The story is fantastic. We get to learn so much about Geonosis and the people of Geonosis, we get to see that Padme’s former lover does have a heart and isn’t a terrible person, as well as seeing the flaws in Anakin, Obi-Wan, Ahsoka, Luminara and Barriss. There are hints of terrible things to come too when some Clone Troopers are taken over by mind worms from Geonosis.

The Action – The action has consequences, Obi-Wan’s entire team is wiped out, leaving him alone to work with Anakin and Ki-Adi-Mundi. We get open great battles with Super Tanks taking out the Republic forces until they are destroyed on the bridge and we see the Geonosians always fighting until the end. Their ability to fly and undead ones controlled by their Queen as well as Republic troops controlled by the Queen reek havoc on multiple occasions as the arc unfolds. The planet might be finally beat, but the Queen is implied to still be alive, and we know Poggle escapes as he is alive when Episode III comes around.

“The Senate Spy” – I really enjoyed this episode so am putting it as a pro as it adds so much to the overall narrative and explores the romance of Anakin and Padme and made it believable. Of course Padme had lovers before Anakin and obviously that makes Anakin jealous since he is now secretly married to her. We see this all unfold and it is from Padme’s actions that the Republic is able to mount their second assault on Geonosis in order to destroy the base. My only issue is Anakin was way too jealous at times, though this does show how close he is the dark side, which is a theme of this arc. Score would be 9.5.

“Legacy of Terror” – In “Legacy of Terror” we learn that the Geonosians have a Queen and she is terrifying as she births Mind Worms that are able to take control of the dead and the living. We don’t know if she is destroyed when her temple is destroyed, but given how extensive the catacombs of the world are she and her legacy will live on. “Brain Invaders” exists because she is most likely alive still and still causing havoc beneath the rubble. This was a good horror episode as Clone Troopers are pulled into the darkness or killed by undead Genosians. We also see that Obi-Wan’s detachment is a con when he almost lets Luminara get brain wormed to see what it does. He also tries to negotiate with an open threat showing that diplomacy is not always the way. 10.

“Brain Invaders” – “Brain Invaders” shows us the dilemma of survival and what to do when your own people turn against you, whether against your will or no. Ahsoka has to debate killing a friend and we see that even when defeated the Geonosians are one of the greatest members of the Separatists and the influence of the Queen expands from beyond Geonosis. This episode was fast and smart and there is something a Clone says where he expresses their end purpose of killing Jedi. 9.5

The Characters – The characters are amazing in this arc! Whether they are Republic or Separatist, no one is unexplored and we get to fully understand the stakes the flaws of the characters because of it.

Senator Dod – This Neimoidian is pretty smart as he nearly removes Padme as a threat and makes Senator Clovis question his love of Padme when he mentions the obvious of her being a spy. He is ruthless too as he either captures or kills Clovis for failing, even if he did provide funding and means for the base on Geonosis. The Neimoidians tend to make great villains.

Senator Clovis – We never get why he joined the Separatists, but we see in the end that he truly loves Padme as he risks everything to save and all he gets to it is a possible firing squad. He is a flawed antagonist and I wish we’d gotten more time to know his motivations for his loyalty to the Separatists better, beyond money.

Padme – Padme is awesome in “Senate Spy.” She doesn’t put up with Anakin being controlling and treats Clovis as a friend and sees him as such until his betrayal, even though she is a spy. She is instrumental in the war and her loyalty to Anakin and standing up for herself make her a great character.

Poggle the Lesser – Poggle manages to survive through the fall of his world and we see that the Weapons Factory was his plan to a major degree as it was on his world. We also see how he serves the Queen and though he represents their world and is high up within his society, even he has a Master. He is not affected by Jedi Mind control and it is only after he is tortured that he gives up what he knows about the Mind Worms. I really like this antagonist. His people are pretty awesome.

Barriss – Barriss  is Luminara’s apprentice and we see her mentor Ahsoka on a few occasions when Ahsoka isn’t saving her. She is a great character and we see how calm she is and at peace with her Master’s detachment from her possible death. Ahsoka rubs off on her too and we see her become more active because of her time Ahsoka.

Luminara – Luminara is shown to be pretty aggressive and willing to go to great lengths to end the Battle of Geonosis. This leads to her getting caught when she is searching for Poggle the Lesser. In this way she does have a fair amount of Anakin’s personality type as a part of her. She is very much a Jedi Master though and is at peace with losing others and letting go of them, which she councils Anakin on when they are searching for their apprentices.

Queen Karina – Queen Karina is an ancient Geonosian and their Queen. She wants control over everything and her own people fear her, for good reason. She has a zombie army and doesn’t put up with threats from anyone.

Obi-Wan Kenobi – Obi-Wan had a few overly analytical moments this episode. When Luminara is caught he wants to capture a live worm and understand how to fight them better, he also didn’t negotiate very well as he asks the Queen to surrender and submit to the Republic. He is most like Ki-Adi-Mundi and has a high level of detachment, both for better and worse as his wanting to talk to the Queen and study the worm lead to Luminara almost being made a slave wen they had no way to destroy the worms at the time.

Ahsoka Tano – Ahsoka gets some great inspiration this episode. She stands up to Anakin not letting her do her job and she has a competition with him on destroying enemies showing her disconnect for life and love of battle that Anakin has. She also learns patience from Barriss and teaches Barriss hope when they are trapped and she finds a way for Anakin to find him. She also learns that war offers no good choices when Barriss pleaded to be killed to no longer be a threat. She is left to consider the choices that may happen and we see how much she grew this episode.

Anakin Skywalker – This episode is about how the war is pushing Anakin to the dark side. From his jealousy of Senator Clovis, his pride when he interrupts Ahsoka, to his torture of Poggle and his willingness to go to any lengths to save Ahsoka to the point that it blinds him to the consequence of battle and war around him. He is a great soldier and friend but not a good Jedi. This makes him complicated and very much a shade of grey and sympathetic too.

Anger and the Dark Side – We see Anakin torture Poggle the Lesser for information on the Mind Worms and from it get what he needs. When he is asked how he got the information he dismisses it. We see part of it when Anakin force chokes him and the “Imperial March” plays showing that Anakin’s desperation to save his apprentice and men is pulling him closer to the Dark Side.

Ends Justify the Means – One of the major themes of this arc is ends justifying the means. We see this when Anakin tells Ahsoka that if she had listened to Barriss and killed her when she was being controlled by the Brain Worms that might have been the right thing. In the end the Jedi’s goal is to save as many people as possible, regardless of the cost.

    There is so much to love about this arc that I can’t help but recommend it all.  Even “Landing at Point Rain” and “Weapons Factory” are good as episodes that show Ahsoka and Barriss making a good team and Luminara and Anakin. You also see how much it costs to get to this victory through these episodes and they are needed to really appreciate the whole. You see so many die, Obi-Wan injured, Ahsoka and Barriss nearly dying crushed beneath rubble as their sacrifice destroys the base and so much else. This entire arc is amazing and the glimpses of Anakin’s dark side and what the cost of war is in battle cannot be underestimated. Definitely a favorite story in this show.

Final Score: 9.7 / 10

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