Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Before the Deluge

So what’s the plot of Episode 2? Roughly, the peaceful Republic doesn’t have an army. They are debating whether to form an army to deal with separatists, which some liberals (Senator Amidala) feel will give up their ideals. Amidala is chased off Coruscant by a series of assassination attempts, Obi-Wan follows bread crumbs to a secret clone army, and then to the staging ground of the separatists. In the final act, the Senate votes emergency powers to the Chancellor and uses the army to fight the separatists.

These are the short term causes of the revolution, where the liberalism of the Republic finds itself giving way to the fascism of the Empire.

Amidala is the strongest politician opposing this militarization at the beginning of the movie, so really what the Sith need to do is remove her from play.

That is all that is going on at the beginning of the movie. There’s this complicated mystery of who wants to kill her, when it’s as simple as “get her out of town for a vote.” I’d say it’s lamentable that she falls for it, but she doesn’t even put up a fight. Palpatine asks her to leave “for her safety” and she agrees (it’s off-screen so we don’t know if her compliance was meek or eager, but there’s no indication she’s upset about it.) No one can force her to run away, she does so of her own choice.

The most absurd scene of the movie isn’t the oft quoted Sand scene, or the gamified fight scenes at the end, it’s this short dialogue:

And, truthfully, I was relieved when my two terms were up... but when the Queen asked me to serve as Senator, I couldn't refuse her.

I agree! I think the Republic needs you... I'm glad you chose to serve. I feel things are going to happen in our generation that will change the galaxy in profound ways.

I think so too.

She says this as she is moving her luggage and settling into Naboo, away from the Senate. It’s mind-boggling. They’re very proud of their sacrifices!
Meanwhile back on Coruscant, Jar Jar is appointed in her stead, and flattered by Palpatine into proposing that he be given emergency powers. Lesson: the heroes are not very good at what they do, or even caring about what they profess to care about.


Personally, I suspect Jar Jar’s arc was always supposed to be more pronounced in the last two movies. Intention is not determinative here, but we can still guess at it. I suspect Lucas always envisioned Jar Jar putting the Emperor in power like this, because to him Jar Jar was key to the arc of the movies. I further suspect that Anakin would have killed Jar Jar in Episode 3 originally, as a symbol of the powerful protagonist (from Episode 1) killing off the innocent protagonist. Instead Binks is one of the few loose threads that we don’t know what happened to between 3 and 4, probably due to very intense negative fan reaction.

(It’s amazing how a character so overwhelmingly unpopular, can be criticized as crudely playing to some baser audience. It’s always someone else who’s being pandered to.)

To make up for it, Lucas gave the fans the finale of Episode 2, with Yoda going crazy wild in vulgar displays of power. Which is it’s own message, that we’ll explore tomorrow.

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