The Clone Wars, Season 5, Episode 15: Eminence
This is the first installment of a 3-part arc.
Note: This arc is preceded by an earlier series of episodes. To start at the beginning of those, go here.
Well, friends, it’s time once again to sync up with our friends from Mandalore, the bananapants legacy home world of violent crazies and sanctimonious peaceniks who all kinda sorta look like they came from Arendelle.
This arc is pure, fantastic, classic Star Wars — and by that, I do not mean it involves a superweapon being blown up by X-wings on a trench run. No, this arc involves a lot of things that are as much a core part of Star Wars as Death Stars and explosions, but tend to get a lot less recognition: drama, improbable situations, and bad things happening to Obi-Wan that make me want to hurl the entire franchise into the nearest sun because WHY ARE YOU LIKE THIS, STAR WARS.
I digress: this 3-episode arc contains, in my opinion, some of the very best of TCW. We get a handful of loose-end-tie-ups, a metric ton of callbacks to Saga Episodes, many intense, beautifully-animated wide-shots that have become some of the most noted, screengrabbed, and discussed in this TV series, and it’s all set adrift upon an ocean of sadness. Terrorists, bounty hunters, Hutts, Sith, blood feuds, secret family members, politics, forbidden love, tragedy, a truly wild Ultimate Evil smackdown, an on-the-nose parallel to really drive home key points from Episodes 3 and 6, and not least of all the glorious insanity that is the Darksaber. This arc has virtually everything except a Skywalker, and even then we’re going to call back to both Luke and Anakin’s stories more than once, so they’ll be there in spirit.
I do have to apologize in advance, however, for the extensive amount of swearing I’m going to need to do in order to recap this one, though, because it is so very full of anguish and dammit, I really hate Darth Maul sometimes.
Match Made in Hell
Our journey begins when Darth Maul and Savage Oppress are discovered, nearly dead from their last encounter with our pal Obi-Wan, floating adrift in space. They’re discovered by those true rays of sunshine, the Mandalorian terrorist cabal Death Watch, headed up by Pre Vizsla, a guy whose name falls into that category of Star Wars characters that can be best described as “writer fell asleep on keyboard; we decided end result looked good enough.”
Vizsla is asked if they should kill them, but he knows better than to try and kill Darth Maul because as we’ve learned time and time again, absolutely no one in the entire galaxy will ever be able to do so. He holds up one of their lightsabers and says, nah — let’s see what their deal is first. If they hate the Jedi, then maybe we can strike up an alliance. I don’t know why he automatically assumes they’re not Jedi, seeing as he doesn’t even light up the lightsaber in question, and Maul and Savage are both unconscious and therefore have said and done nothing to indicate that they are Sith, but OK.
Maul wakes up at Bad Guy Headquarters, where he and Savage are each getting their respective robo-parts repaired/re-installed. Vizsla and Bo-Katan show up to start grilling Maul on who he is and what he’s doing and where he sees himself in 5 years, etc.
Maul confirms they are Sith, and I laugh forever when Vizsla says that he thought there could only be two Sith, so what gives? I love when Star Wars writes in dialogue to try and hand-wave some thing they wrote that overwrites something else they wrote. I see you guys over there trying to navigate the murky waters of this insanity.
Maul says they are brothers, and the True Lords of the Sith. I appreciate that in Star Wars you can just unilaterally declare yourself to be pretty much whatever the fuck you want and if you say it with enough grandiosity you can get away with it. Anyways, he tells the Death Watch that their ship was destroyed by the Jedi — or, A Jedi, really. Which Jedi was that, you ask?
So, what do you know: the Death Watch hate that guy too! Oh, that Kenobi: he’s so good at uniting people. Synergy! Kismet! It’s the Will of the Dark Side of the Force or whatever. They all want power, murder and mayhem, and to rain another torrent of bullshit onto Kenobi’s already-terrible life, so it sounds to me like we’ve got ourselves an Evil Supergroup in the making!
Bad Guy Tea Party
Maul gets called to Vizsla’s tent for teatime once his robo-legs are repaired. Vizsla’s got some goofy story about where the tea comes from and Maul starts his portion of the interview: who are you guys, anyways?
The lines they gave Vizsla here…they are something. He rants and raves about how Mandalorians were once feared and badass and OMG we could drink the most caffeine and stay up way past midnight and everything until Satine and her Pacifist Hippie Parade came riding into town. I’d like to take a moment to yell that EVERYONE IN STAR WARS IS SO BAD AT JUST MOVING ON, YOU GUYS. Every single damn person has some Ultimate Betrayal that clouds their entire life and they spend every other second shaking their fists at the sky while pontificating about it. I love it. These people are all such emotional disasters, and so it only makes sense that Anakin Skywalker ends up being the One Hot Mess to Rule Them All.
Maul asks the obvious: um, OK, so if you guys are such hot shit and the “new” Mandalorians suck so much, maybe just go kill them already and take your homeworld back? Not so fast, Maul my friend: the Duchess has some powerful friends and one of them in particular is super handsome and always chopping peoples’ body parts off:
Maul agrees that this ill-advised alliance seems written in the stars, and agrees to help them reclaim Mandalore. Bo-Katan is like “PSSSHT, you guys can’t help us with shit! The Sith keep getting their asses kicked by Kenobi, you’re only alive now because of us, so what good are you gonna be to us now?!”
Maul responds calmly and kindly by force-choking her:
Bo and Vizsla wrap up this scene with an “I LIKE this guy!” exchange and Maul goes to check on Savage and give him an update on their new friends.
Maul tells Savage that these guys are going to be SUPER easy to double-cross later, and:
Vizsla and Bo-Katan return to the room to tell the Evil Brothers that they’ve decided to let them on to Team Mando, an assignment Maul smarmily accepts:
Maul then tells Vizsla that they’ll need a LOT more people than they have now if they’re going to reclaim Mandalore. He proposes that they seek out the Black Sun and some other various groups of bad guys in order to get a posse together that can take on the forces of good. Off they go!
Recurring Theme: Let’s Go Check Out That Boiling Cauldron of Lava
Naturally they end up in a lava landscape because that’s how this galaxy works: all you need to do to find the Bad Guy is to go to Actual Hell. They approach members of the Black Sun and asked to be taken to their leader to hammer out the deets of having them work together.
They all seem pretty unimpressed with Maul, which, spoiler alert, is going to not work out super well for them. They decline Maul’s offer to join him, and then check out this kid’s show everyone, as we are treated to a QUADRUPLE BEHEADING:
So, uh, the rest of the Black Sun likes having heads…so they agree to join Maul and Co.
Unclear Org Chart
Maul surveys what they’ve got so far and is unimpressed, while Vizsla’s game for pushing ahead with Operation Boot Kenobi’s Girlfriend From Power. Maul pushes back: this is MY plan, dude, and Vizsla’s not having it and basically it’s all going about as well as you’d expect a large group project run by sociopaths and megalomaniacs to go.
Maul wins this round, and Vizsla makes a sour face as we move to the next scene.
It’s the Social Event of the Season
The Pykes show up next, claiming, more or less, that they heard about this shindig through the Star Wars Bad Guy Craigslist or some message board they all post in, and they want in on this evil scheme, too. Vizsla welcomes them, and they all head off to Nal Hutta to go pick up some more scumbags.
Recurring Theme: Let’s Go Talk to the Hutts
The Hutts, as always, are decidedly unimpressed when Maul shows up and tells them to join them or die, laughing as they sic a bunch of criminals on the gang, including that one bounty hunter/pirate who kinda dresses like Yoshimitsu. Maul, Savage and Vizsla fight them, (and Maul force-chokes someone again,) and there’s a whole big skirmish where the Mandos show up and the pirates and bounty hunters are all shooting and explosions are happening and flames are being thrown. I give Filoni et al all my love at this moment for including the Darksaber in action whilst an ominous chorus sings in the background. Go big or go home, Star Wars. It’s what you do best.
Maul does yet another force-choke, the bounty hunters bolt, and all the Hutts escape except for one, who eventually spills the location of the rest of his buddies — Tatooine, because of fucking course we’re going there. Maul retorts, dude are you seriously telling me…
…and that’s the end of the Hutt informant. “Kids’ show”!
Recurring Theme: Sand, Sand, Saaaaaand!
The Three Tenors arrive at Jabba’s palace and make a much more violent entrance than, say, Luke will do later in Return of the Jedi.
They lay down the situation:
And the Hutts, their slimy hands forced, agree to join in.
What’s the Roadmap, Boss?
Maul and Vizsla are discussing how everything seems to be lining up pretty well for them:
Vizsla tries to figure out where Maul’s head is at, and what his next steps are:
Maul unveils his new, bold vision of the future where he’s the King of the Underworld, and Vizsla? Uh, he doesn’t look super enthusiastic:
He swallows his annoyance and uneasiness here and they agree to move forward.
Vizsla pauses en route to following orders to let Bo-Katan know he’s still got his own double-cross plans in place:
…and here I thought they were all gonna get along and play nice with each other! You just can’t trust anyone in this galaxy.
We hit this installment’s iris-wipe and we’re queued up for our next installment, in which Pre Vizsla will learn firsthand why the Sith make shitty business partners.