'Star Wars: The Clone Wars' - Episode 305

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Star Wars: The Clone Wars has made great efforts—especially in the last two seasons—to tell stories that take the viewer far from the field of battle to tackle the moral and ethical issues that emerge in real-life warfare. Since its inception, the series has dealt with a plethora of moral issues, ranging from wartime neutrality to hot-button topics like prisoner torture. Most of the time, these stories help bring perspective to the sprawling, galaxy-wide conflict between the Galactic Republic and the Confederacy of Independent Systems.

However, by spending no less than three straight episodes dealing with the ever-so-dull intricacies of trade disputes and shipping embargoes, it’s as though Dave Filoni and his crew  are going out of their way to disengage the audience. Case in point: the villain in the latest episode, “Corruption,” is a budget-conscious school superintendent. Wait, what? You read that right.

In “Corruption,” Senator Padmé Amidala arrives on Mandalore for a diplomatic visit with Satine Kryze, the pacifist duchess we first met last season in “The Mandalore Plot.” Although Padmé’s visit is a friendly one, it takes a chaotic turn when she and Satine learn that hundreds of Mandalorian children have been poisoned by a diluting agent in a popular tea drink. Unraveling this heinous plot, the duo learns that the school’s superintendent had made a deal with a group of smugglers, purchasing the diluted (and toxic) black market tea in the interest of turning a profit.

Still awake? Good.

Aside from a brief firefight in the smugglers’ warehouse, “Corruption” is uneventful and borderline dull. Sure, Padmé and Satine are in a race against time to save dying children, but the sense of urgency just isn’t there. Plus, since there is absolutely no mystery to the audience as to why the children are sick (we watch the smugglers deliver and add the diluting agent to the tea), we’re forced to watch the characters fumble toward the conclusion while already knowing the outcome.

If you remember Satine from last season, you probably fondly recall her witty (and at times flirtatious) exchanges with Obi-Wan Kenobi. She was charming then, wasn’t she? In this episode, it’s as though her fervent stance of neutrality during the Clone Wars has hardened her to the point where she’s a completely different character. It’s a bit jarring when a noted pacifist is barking orders at her guards, threatening suspects and destroying crime scenes. In “Corruption,” the Clone Wars team essentially strips Satine of just about everything we liked about her. One hopes this dramatic shift is an intentional evolution of her character to showcase that the Clone Wars affects even those who choose not to participate in them.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars is capable of telling mature, compelling stories that appeal to both young and old. So why is the third season so relentlessly boring?

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