So, I’m back on the horse, having got my teeth stuck in nicely to my season three premiere episode, taken from Heroes on Both Sides / Pursuit of Peace / Senate Murders. My earlier analysis is here if you want a reminder.
I was hoping to release this one as a suprise, but I’ve run out of edit-brain for today, and I wanted to write up my thoughts.
This episode is yet another fantastic example of Clone Wars being goodbad and badgood, and why the episodic 22-minute structure often worked against the show’s good ideas BUT that pure aggregation also wouldn’t serve it particularly well. Taken as it stands, as this chronological trilogy (originally with the third part released long before the first and second), it’s such a weird story, even though it does have really great bits:
- Padmé, Onaconda, Bail and Mon Mothma try to convince the Senate to vote against taking out a huge loan to buy more clones, and manage to put the vote off temporarily as there’s no immediate emergency.
- Padmé illegally (but don’t worry about it) uses Ahsoka to make contact with a Separatist friend, Mina Bonteri, in the hopes of forcing peace talks, which very nearly go ahead.
- To subvert this, the corrupt Republic forces who are in league with the Separatists arrange for a bombing on Coruscant, so that the Republic’s fear will shut down the peace talks and they’ll take out the crippling clone loan.
- As the Republic Senate returns to the vote in an emergency response to the bombing, the Separatists kill Mina Bonteri, doubling down on shutting down the peace talks (though this does postpone Senate activity for a few hours).
- Bail, seen as a respected moderate, plans to convince the Republic to stay their hand, whilst Separatist-paid bounty hunters intimidate and beat up Senators including Bail, Onaconda and Padmé.
- Bail is injured by his bounty hunters, leaving Padmé (seen as more of a separatist sympathiser) to speak in his stead, making an impassioned plea (based on listening to her constituents’ needs) which successfully wins the vote against the loan.
- Padmé later makes a further, simpler plea, again to applause, though some other corrupt Republic forces (who are NOT in league with the separatists, and one of whom is a very obvious red herring) object and act very shadily.
- Onaconda is poisoned by his Rodian aide in a matter unrelated to the conflict, which causes an investigation which Padmé solves.
- The chaos of that murder again makes the Senate uncomfortable, and they ultimately change their votes (even though the vote already happened an episode ago?), instead voting in favour of the clone loan.
So, all of that is pretty much fine, and indeed really decent politics both for Star Wars and as general drama. It’s just a real mess when it’s all mashed together, and the ending kind of flops. Either way, you couldn’t ask someone to watch an hour of that. And what a crazy arc. Taken as a three-act structure, it’s about Postponement > Success > Failiure, which is an extremely weird arc, which undoes the strongest moment - Padmé’s speech. And in that trilogy of episodes there are about four different groups of antagonists, all with different motives, some of which are proven irrelevant.
So in editing this, I had a lot of decent content to use, but the challenge became which elements to preserve and which to drop, and which were necessary for each narrative part. This was especially tough as almost every scene is chat in and around the Senate building, and I didn’t want to pad it with action just for the sake of it. (Fun fact: You don’t need action if the drama is good! And there’s lots of good tension here.) As always we must identify the strongest emotional core of the episode, which is of course Padmé’s speech in Pursuit of Peace. To maintain that, the plot therefore must be structured around that being the victory moment, which means dropping most of Senate Murders (fine, as that was the weakest and most convoluted). To best support that moment then, the plot would be most enhanced by Padmé facing as much adversity as possible, making this a success of her heart and perseverance. Therefore, the plot simply needed to become:
Padmé, in spite of corruption, doubt, and the murder and assault of her friends, persists in smartly and successfully making a political move which will improve the lives of billions of citizens.
We must also preserve the Mina/Lux content, since that’s the most important to the overall plot, although it doesn’t serve our new ideal plotline quite as tightly as we might like.
This way, the new episode plays as follows, the whole running to about 35 minutes:
- Padmé buys extra time to put off the vote.
- Padmé works on plan A, spending about 15 onscreen minutes making peace with the Separatists.
- Separatist extremists counter, causing the bombing to trigger Republic cowards and intimidating Senators.
- Padmé persists, reverting to plan B, making good political moves, finding the heart of her message, and winning the day.
- The good Senators celebrate while the corrupt folk begrudge their loss.
Further changes and musings:
- Though this is an episode which ends in victory, it remains bittersweet since while Padmé got what she wanted, we know there’ll be more pressure on the clone army now (which naturally I’ll play up in the crawls). This is pretty nice since Padmé (who represents peace through diplomacy) has come into conflict with Anakin (who represents peace through war).
- This is a nice season opener as it gives us a well-earned mature Ahsoka, but contrasts her nicely with both Anakin and Padmé, so we get an early insight into the ideological differences between the three.
- Loads of great corruption in this episode, really showing why the Republic sucked independently of the war with the Separatists. It’s one of the best themes of TCW.
- I kept all the Mina/Lux stuff, except for Lux ogling Ahsoka and her tutting about ‘boys’. I took out a little of Padmé’s response to Mina, but borrowed some audio from Senate Murders where Padmé’s talking about her “dead friend” Onaconda to keep her dead friend Mina in mind instead.
- I did get some good value out of Senate Murders, notably a couple of repurposed scenes. Since Dracula and Halle Burtoni both appear in all episodes, we can have their appearances from Senate Murders shift to early in my episode to give our characters some adversity, and then the bad guys’ negative reactions as Padmé succeeds at the end seek to still give a satisfactory conclusion to their now short arcs. (Halle Burtoni’s arc also hints at the future developments regarding Kaminoan allegiances.)
- Senate Murders also gives us our closing scene, showing Halle Burtoni being petty whilst the pre-Rebels celebrate together (which was previously merely a false sense of happiness before Onaconda’s death).
- I cut Grievous out entirely, plus most of the scenes of the bomb droids, and all references to Dooku coordinating the attack. He’s aware of it but we assume that the attack has been set up by the corrupt Republic guys instead, which makes them more threatening and individual.
- Ahsoka now disappears halfway through. She had to, because she’s handed back to Anakin in a scene where the Senate has its emergency lighting on. I moved a few things around to emphasise this, so that it feels like Padmé knows she needs to get Ahsoka back to Anakin while there’s an unexpected situation happening.
- I skipped over a lot of Padmé’s action scene with the bounty hunters. Now, when it appears that the bounty hunters have been arrested (but before they escape to chase Padmé), I cut straight to her meeting Tecla, implying that they were indeed arrested. (I would have skipped the action scene entirely but she’s got the injury on her face later.) I also didn’t show Bail’s assault, instead just showing the effects of it. (Though I might remove this scene if I can remove injured Bail later.)
- The one bit of adversity I cut entirely was Bail being the one who was expected to make the speech, with Padmé only standing in once Bail was injured. This wasn’t really necessary - she’s a successful Senator and former Queen, and definitely a competent orator. We didn’t need the self doubt here, and this way she’s kept in focus through the story. Yes she’s a bit of a softie but I think that works well here - she wins because being soft is her strength. The political middle ground wasn’t required.
- Pursuit of Peace originally had Onaconda beat up during a “mandatory blackout”. But seeing as we’d literally just had a power station bombing cause a regular unintentional blackout, I felt I had to shift Onaconda’s assault to immediately after the explosion, while everything was chaotic, which also made the whole attack look more coordinated. I had to cut Onaconda out of some shots in the Senate chamber to achieve this, but there were so many Senate scenes in this trilogy that I had plenty of alternate reaction shots to use instead.
- Onaconda survives this story! He’s boring though and I didn’t care either way. I think in TCW:R he’s not even a senator, potentially just a political friend or part of Padmé’s retinue. I haven’t actively cut references to him being a senator though so who knows? But more importantly, who cares?
- We don’t see that horrendous investigator character in this episode (or indeed anywhere else in TCW:R).
- I haven’t done this yet but if I can find good sources to use I’ll use some scenes of destruction from Zillo Beast Strikes Back, to maybe imply that the bombing on Coruscant was more widespread.
I wonder what to call this? HEROES OF PEACE would respect the original names, though in this context it would feel like it was referencing the Rebel leaders more than Mina Bonteri / the Separatist side I think. SHADES OF GREY might hint nicely at the fact that you’re about to get a big mess of politics, or THE POLITICS OF WAR might tell the audience that while they’re getting a politics episode we’re going to keep it a little spicy. Maybe I’d even go with the Yin/Yang imagery and something like DARK WITHIN, LIGHT WITHOUT.