Each episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars starts with a bit of fortune cookie advice. They lead directly into the story about to be told and with the initial Newsreel like intro, you can anticipate what the story will be without watching it in its entirety.
For example, this week was something like “Arrogance erodes wisdom.” The preview then shows Obi-wan, Anakin and a planetary representative visiting a hostile snowy wasteland to investigate trouble in a Republic outpost. The representative is a hawkish figure accompanied by that planet’s senator, a young girl. You can tell the conflict will be between these two and the Jedi will be caught in the middle.
We start with Republic gunships carrying Anakin, Obi-wan, Chairman Cho and Senator Chuchi. The Chairman and Senator represent Pantora, a moon around the ice world of Orto Plutonia – a world assumed to be devoid of life. The group finds the Republic outpost has been attacked and Cho assumes it to be Separatists but Chuchi and the Jedi aren’t so sure. His arrogance is readily apparent and before the show moves any farther, you understand that his lust for power and land will end in tragedy. Clone scouts say a droid base is nearby and an investigation shows it was also attacked. A holorecording shows a battle droid attacked by a Talz warrior. (Talz have been seen as early as Episode IV in the cantina.) Cho calls the Talz savages and refuses to believe that Orto Plutonia is their world. Anakin and Obi-wan find the Talz and using drawings to communicate they agree to a ceasefire until negotiations can start. Cho doesn’t agree despite Senator Chuchi’s pleas and ends up organizing an attack on the Talz. The clones on their speeders are ambushed and the Talz’s greater numbers route the clone squad and mortal wound the Chairman. The Jedi and Senator arrive late aboard the gunships and the Senator makes a gesture the Talz understand and using Threepio to translate, is able to avoid further conflict and begin the process of peace talks.
Let’s get something out of the way: Calling an icy world anything with “pluto” in it is lazy and makes the Star Wars universe too much like an Earth based universe. This isn’t Star Trek where a history of human gods and places dictates what you call planets. I realize they speak what we call English, but I’m getting a bit annoying at the similarities we’re seeing in the creature and star system naming convention.
That said, I appreciated the change of scenery and the amount of action in this episode. The imagery of the clone speeders racing through snowy canyons countered the blind arrogance of the Chairman and the bloody battle that ensued because of his shortsightedness. It was also a good move from our last episode where the alien race was of a peaceful nature. The Talz are warlike and are provoked easily. The only way then there was going to be a fight was to introduce a character that wanted their land and degraded their status as civilized peoples.
The Clone Wars is nothing if not classically archetypal. There are very few grey areas or blurred lines. Each character is a stereotype, each villain is obvious and each hero is patently selfless and noble. I’m almost hesitant to say that the only characters who act remotely human are the battle droids what with all their quirky speech, attempt and comic diffusion and occasional bumbling. Where movies like The Empire Strikes Back forced us to see the characters on a deeper level, The Clone Wars snaps us out of that murky yet real depiction to leave us seeing everyone as though they are a one line description of a classic Greek protagonist. Chairman Cho was bad and greedy, but the question is, how did he end up leading a world for many decades with that kind of personality? Senator Chuchi was green and (until the end) indecisive. How did she end up being a Senator? The moon of this planet is civilized and enjoys space travel. Its planet is hostile with a tribal race that is less civilized but still numerous enough to fight off a contingent of clone warriors. How does a group like that go unnoticed? These questions can’t be answered in 22 minutes but they have to be raised and having characters with clearly defined roles force them to be asked.
And because Threepio was used as a translator and not a comic fop, “Tresspas” gets four out of five green lightsabers.