Subtitle: a series of uncomfortable scenes
I love every spy story. I’ve created elaborate covert ops AUs for every fandom I’m in. So Padmé playing spy — and getting back story in the process!! — is catnip for me. But this episode also highlights cracks in the Anidala relationship and casts the Jedi as enablers (at best).
The opening scene is adorable and one of my absolute favorite between the star-crossed lovers of the prequel trilogy. It starts with Padmé on her balcony like Juliet and has the same feeling of young love and fleeting peace. They share longing looks. Anakin pulls Padmé into an embrace and spins her around. They clasp hands, cuddle on the sofa, and prattle about cooking and alone time. They’re building a life together as well as they can. Anakin surprises Padmé by calling her apartment “home” but that’s what she represents to him, what she embodies: somewhere to belong.
But it cannot be sustained. Anakin’s admission that his military transport blew up is barely addressed but drives home that their life is precarious. They cling to a quiet evening at home but the war surrounds them at all times and wherever they go. Their romantic downtime is interrupted by a summons from the Jedi and a secret mission to spy on one of Padmé’s colleagues.
There are a lot of interesting bits sprinkled throughout these early scenes. It’s set up that Padmé already refused to spy on Senator Clovis. Obi-Wan doesn’t think she can be persuaded but the others plan to exploit her relationship with Anakin. You know, the one they are not supposed to have. Anakin ignores Obi-Wan and the council for “seven clicks” but ultimately says duty calls and tells Padmé not to take it personally when she pouts. When he’s told they want him to help get intel from Clovis, Anakin immediately offers to interrogate him. Vader often employs torture so this gave me pause. Moreover, it indicates that is what Anakin understands his role (his duty) to be. An enforcer. A weapon.
A Close Personal Relationship
Instead the Jedi, in their infinite wisdom, have decided to order Anakin to coerce Padmé into spying on her old friend and fellow senator. They chose Padmé because of her past relationship with Clovis, a relationship described as “close”. This is news to Anakin and as always he’s no good at hiding either his reluctance to put Padmé in danger or his jealousy that he’s not the only man she’s ever shared a romantic dinner with. Obi-Wan makes this face:
Which is excellent. This whole part makes it clear the Council knows that Anakin is close to Padmé and Padmé is close to Anakin. “Close”. They are exploiting the relationship to serve their purpose. The Council sees Anakin, Padme, and Clovis himself as pieces in their game.
Basically Black Widow
Anakin being Anakin, he tells the Council he’ll do it and then basically orders Padmé to not get involved. So of course she immediately agrees to discover what Clovis is up to. If Anakin weren’t so clearly upset I would think he employed reverse psychology. This argument takes place in one of the floating senate boxes for privacy and I really enjoy that choice.
It’s also notable that Padmé says when Yoda asked her to take on the mission he didn’t mention that Clovis was linked to Separatists. So he just asked her to spy on her ex for fun? Because the Jedi wanted her to full stop? Yoda is truly the worst at communication.
In the most uncomfortable scene yet, Padmé and Anakin head to the Jedi Council room to go over mission parameters with Yoda, Mace, and Obi-Wan. At the Jedi’s urging Padmé basically agrees to seduce Clovis for the cause. I’d be way more into this if it was all Padmé’s idea. But the way it’s presented, three senior Jedi trick Anakin into tricking Padmé into throwing herself at someone they suspect to be working with the people who have literally been trying to kill her for the past ten+ years. What the what, Jedi?!
We finally meet Rush Clovis and he’s a straight up Lannister and pure creep. Within two sentences he’s invited Padmé to go away with him and takes her reappearance in his life as confirmation of her feelings for him. Anakin accompanies them in disguise as a Naboo pilot which allows him to break the seat harness next to Padmé’s and create enough turbulence to keep Clovis from making a move on Padmé. She very clearly does not appreciate Clovis’s attention, however, Anakin is focused on his own feelings.
Turns Out Padmé is a Good Spy
Once they meet up with the Trade Federation the Jedi’s suspicions about Clovis and the Banking Clan are confirmed. They’ve teamed up and are contracting a whole new army of battle droids. Lott Dod is distraught that Clovis brought along a member of the Senate, which is a weird way to put it since they are both also members of the Senate? What he means is a loyalist, and one of the chief ones at that. And he’s right to be worried because Padmé starts nosing around immediately and interrupts their secret meeting. Lott and Poggle the Lesser (Star Wars names continue to delight) decide to poison Amidala to keep her from learning the truth and to gain leverage over Clovis.
Padmé arrives for dinner in a scene straight out of Beauty and the Beast and Lott poisons her. It begins to affect her as she agrees to a private tour with Clovis. She successfully gets him out of the room and discovers the contracts between the Banking Clan and Count Dooku. She alerts Anakin and distracts Clovis while he leaves with the intel. Anakin, who’d become increasingly impatient waiting for her signal, looks murderous when he arrives to find Padmé in Clovis’s arms. But he trusts her, and gets the hologram to Artoo with orders to take it to the Council even if he and Padmé don’t return.
Meanwhile, Padmé faints and Clovis accuses Lott, correctly, of poisoning her but Lott argues she’s a Republic spy. Clovis realizes she has, in fact, stolen his plans and accuses her, correctly, of seducing him in order to spy. As she falls back into unconsciousness, Anakin interrupts them with a sinister take on Terminator: “Get away from her if you want to live.” (Yikes, Ani) Clovis tries to negotiate her life for the stolen disc but Anakin has the upper hand. They work together to get the antidote from Lott Dod and get Padmé onto her ship and then Anakin throws Clovis to the Neimoidian wolves.
Cured, Padmé wakes up and apologizes to Anakin for making him doubt her but he tells her he never did. He’d better not since the Jedi pretty much ordered her to do what she did! And I am fully convinced it wasn’t merely a mission for the Republic but yet another test for Anakin. The Jedi pushed Anakin to push Padmé to push Clovis to push Anakin to lose faith in Padmé. Anakin and Padmé’s argument in the Senate wasn’t a bug, it was a feature. Same with forcing Anakin to watch her get close to her ex-slash-the mark. The good news is Anakin passed. He trusted Padmé enough to wait for her signal and to leave her alone with Clovis while he got their intel to safety. He trusted her to complete the mission. The bad news is the Jedi set Padmé, and Anakin, and Clovis up, with very little concern for their safety or emotional well-being.
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