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Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Season 3 Episode 4: Sphere of Influence

What is it ? : The Trade Federation are blockading the world of Pantora, claiming it owes them money, and the world receives offers of political aid from the Republic and more immediate military aid from the Separatists. Although they prefer their membership of the Republic, the slow pace of galactic politics and the shortages the blockade is causing means that there is a growing movement among the people to accept aid from the Separatists and leave the Republic.
The leader of the Pantoran people, Baron Papanoida (as seen in Revenge of the Sith played by George Lucas himself) is on Coruscant to try to move the Senate forward and negotiate a peace, when his Daughters are kidnapped.
The search for them takes two paths, firstly him and his son find traces of Greedo's blood, and follow the trail back to Jabba's palace.
Confronting Greedo and Jabba, Papanoida diplomatically calls on Jabba's feelings as another father, and the friendship between Pantora and Jabba, and they discover that one of the daughters is being held in a bar on Tatooine. After a display of gunfighting from a beardy old diplomat and his son, she is rescued.
The other investigation is held by the Pantoran Senator and her friend, Ahsoka Tano, who decide to board the flagship of the Blockade around Pantora, and search for clues there. They overhear a conversation where the Captain complains about the kidnap victim being aboard his ship, and expresses dissatisfaction with Separatist intrigues.
They discover the other daughter in the prison cells aboard the vessel, and rescue her, but are captured before they can escape. The Senator confronts the captain, and threatens to out the Trade Federation as part of the Separatists. To avoid this outcome, the Captain blames his Administrator, and the Trade Federation ends the blockade as an act of good faith, and to "prove" that the Separatists menace hasn't wormed it's way throughout the entire Trade Federation.

High Points : After a few duff episodes this season, now we've got a good one. The story holds together well, and the dual investigations both feel solid and as if they could each hold a full episode.

I especially liked Baron Papanoida, he comes across as a solid and intelligent character. Perhaps there's a certain amount of making the character look good since it's the boss (George Lucas), and I personally found his sudden skill with twin blasters at the end to be a bit silly. But I like characters who seem capable and smart. and he swaps being capable of fighting, and being diplomatic, with some good investigative skills thrown in. Hope to see some more of him in the future.

When Ahsoka and the Pantoran Senator are spying aboard the Trade Federation vessel, they overhear the Captain and the Administrator talking. And during this conversation, the captain complains that the Administrator has spent too much time "scheming with the separatists" and is getting nervous. Now while later in the episode he sells out the Administrator to protect the secret that the Trade Federation is helping fund the Separatists, creating a lie that it was the Administrator working for Nute Gunray in secret who was behind this entire scheme. I felt that this glimpsed conversation showed that this captain wasn't 100% behind the Separatists, and that perhaps he felt it wasn't good business (getting a little Ferengi there).
Showing that all Neimoidians aren't all behind the war, and that perhaps some of them doubt the loss of trade and business that the war is causing and the cost of it all, I felt was great, and a nice move away from all members of a species being a stereotype.

Not really a good or bad point, but I must note the resemblance of the Neimoidians guard helmets to Darth Vaders one. Don't know if it's intentional, but found the similarity worth noting.

Low Points : Really enjoyed this one (especially after the last few), so these are more minor nitpicks than major complaints.

The voice of Papanoidas son was done by Seth Green, an actor I think is great and have loved his work ever since he was Scott Evil in the Austin Powers movies, and when he was in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. But I'm afraid, as he spoke during this episode, all I could hear was Chris out of Family Guy, which really took me out of the moment.

One of the kidnappers (I'll bet they're called Bounty Hunters in the script) is a Gotal, a species I'm pretty sure was first featured in the Cantina way back in A New Hope. But they've never spoken before, and the fact that the species is called a Gotal, and they've got horns, the voice direction decided that they should bleat slightly. And this violent and dangerous kidnapper talks like Larry the Lamb, which is one of the most ridiculous choices I've ever heard.

The main kidnapper in this episode is Greedo, which I thought was a sadly missed opportunity to have Anakin and him encounter each other for the first time since The Phantom Menace (or was that scene cut), I think it could have made for an interesting encounter, seeing Greedo spurred onto making more and more irrational choices which ends in his death in A New Hope, motivated by jealousy of his childhood acquaintance becoming a Jedi hero of the Republic. . . . oh well.

So what do you really think ? : This was a nice solid episode, with interesting characters and glimpses into the larger galaxy, if every episode of Clone Wars was this good I'd have no problems recommending the show at all.
Sadly, the hit/miss ratio of the series seems to be about 50%/50%, which isn't great enough for me, please Clone Wars, let me like you.

Final Words : Well, next episode is back to Mandalore, and since the last episodes there were far better than I expected, fingers crossed we're in for a few good ones.

Score : 8.5/10

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