Monday, November 8, 2010

Season 3, Episode 5 - Corruption

In Corruption, The Clone Wars returns to Mandalore and Dutchess Satine, one of the best characters introduced in Season 2 (and from the best of the story arcs as well). The episode itself is actually the first of a duology, although it stands up perfectly well on its own.

Here, we see the complications inherent in attempting to remain outside of the system. The pacifism of Mandalore has meant that they are neither dealing directly with the Republic nor the Separatists. Resources are scarce, and a black market rises to fill the hole left where regular commerce is failing. When the profit motives and unethical business practices become a real hazard (unhealthy doses of a toxin leak into children's meals) it's up to Satine, with Padme's help, to move beyond the political squabbles and discover the culprits.

The episode plays out in a relatively straightforward manner. Satine and Padme follow leads, find themselves in danger, are horrified by the corruption around them, and unravel the mystery. The animation has evolved to the point that little character moments are far more nuanced, and Mandalore's design is always fun to see. I also enjoyed the relationship between Satine and Padme well-enough, although geniality isn't exactly dramatic.

Which is, perhaps, the biggest issues. Corruption is never exactly ho - hum, but it never feels inspired either. There's no villainous character whose invention seems sinister enough to be more than generically greedy, and never a heroic moment that's unexpected. Neither disappointing nor exhilarating, this episode sort of left me feeling unmoved. Which is, shall we say, not a good thing.

As with Supply Lines, it's admirable to see the writers tackle complex issues like political corruption and greed in a way that's palatable for younger viewers. Unfortunately, it's a delicate balance to communicate this type of nuance to children, and there were, for my taste, a few too many lines that bring down the subtlety hammer in order. The word Corruption itself is stated...five times? More? In 22 minutes? Is this overkill for a viewer like me, or simply necessary for some viewers? Hard to tell. For me, as a longtime fan, the hamfisted "teaching moments" stick out a bit too often.

Again, watching this episode never made me feel unhappy to have tuned in, or overly bored. But a lesson in civics followed by a couple of gun fights? Bring on Savage Oppress please.

Rating (out of five): ** 1/2

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