Friday, March 19, 2010

Season 2, Episode 15 - Senate Murders

Much like the fourth episode of Season 2, Senate Spy, Senate Murders follows Padme Amidala's work in the Galactic Senate. 75% less laser guns, to be sure. As one might guess, Senate Murders is about some Senators getting murdered. It's up to our serious and determined heroine, Senator Amidala, to make things right.

Senate Spy had its heart in the right place, but failed (for me) to really hang together as a cohesive piece of storytelling. The tone just wandered around a bit too much. Senate Murders is far clearer and more effective. A character we know from Season 1's Bombad Jedi, Rodian Senator Onocanda Farr, dies mysteriously, directly after his coalition with Padme makes its case in the Senate to reduce funding for the war. I won't give away the ending, but I'll say it's pretty much a dead-on genre piece of short mystery writing, complete with red herrings and reveals.

What works well is this singular sense of purpose. Senate Murders sticks rather slavishly to a formula, and in doing so, is effective entertainment and it elegantly resolves.

It also gets Padme right, which is something that doesn't happen as often as it should. Padme just isn't a plucky wisecracker like Leia was (will be?). Padme is a serious woman, and its always best when she's played with a sense of single-mindedness and stubbornness. That's not to say she's humorless. It's just that her defining trait seems less her bravado and more her keen sense of what's just and true.

The existing characters from the films - Bail Organa, Mon Mothma - are well written and animated. They seem to fit well with Padme, and its clear that they could carry future episodes or story arcs themselves. The newer characters were a mixed bag. Kaminoan Senator Halle Burtoni is a fun invention, aged and mean-spirited. Not what we've come to expect from Kaminoans at all.

Lt. Divo, though, just didn't quite do it for me. It was clear the idea was a sort of bumbling detective, but the voice acting here (by voice acting star Tom Kenny of SpongeBob fame) just is a bit distracting and over the top. Also, Divo never seemed funny enough to be truly enjoyable to watch, or effective enough at his job to add much to the proceedings. I'm open to seeing more of the character, but this wasn't an auspicious debut.

The other thing that kept this episode from being among my favorites was simply that it felt a bit too by-the-book. Much of what happened never really felt in doubt to me, and while it was all perfectly acceptable, it never really soared. I think, perhaps, I'd like to see a story like this one over several episodes, much like many of the show's story arcs. If this mystery was resolved in three episodes as opposed to in 22 minutes, it would have packed a bit more punch. At least as good a punch as, apparently, Senator Amidala can throw

Rating (out of five): ***

No comments: