One of the things that Clone Wars does especially well is to develop characters who were poorly developed in the prequel trilogy. And, after a lackluster performance in the season opener, Darth Maul has become an exciting character to watch as he and Savage continue their renegade Sith act. Last episode, Maul and his new Death Watch allies went on a spree through the galactic underworld, forcing every crime syndicate to join their new Shadow Collective. This week, things slow down just slightly as they enact the next phase of their plan: take over Mandalore.
We open on the multispecies Shadow Collective as Maul and Death Watch leader Pre Vizsla discuss their plan to usurp the Mandalorian Duchess Satine and install Vizsla in her place. It's a nice, simple plan: Maul's new criminal allies will attack various targets in the system, sewing chaos and exposing the pacifist Satine's weakness. Then Death Watch will swoop in to arrest Maul and company, winning the will of the people.
And it goes off without a hitch. There's something really nice about the public confrontations between Vizsla and Satine. Yes, Vizsla's plot is underhanded, but he's no fool when it comes to diplomacy. He approaches Satine as an intellectual equal, calmly telling her that her philosophy has failed and that he will prove that the old warrior ways are best for Mandalore's security. For the sake of brevity, the Mandalorian public is portrayed as fickle, ready to through their lot behind Death Watch from the moment they appear on the scene. But I do wish we had a chance to see life from the perspective of Mandalore's civilian class. Do old warrior trappings become trendy when the tide of popularity turns toward Death Watch? Do people enroll in training classes? Are there lively debates between Satine's loyalists and the Death Watch supporters, and do they end in fistfights?
Once Death Watch fake arrests Maul, Savage, and their allies, Vizsla quickly deposes Satine, hiding her away in a jail cell (much to the amusement of Satine's own prisoner, former Prime Minister Almec, whom Satine imprisoned for corruption). He tells the people that Satine has fled and installs himself as Prime Minister. Of course, now that Vizsla has what he wants, he no longer needs the Shadow Collective, and imprisons Maul and company for real.
This is where Vizsla makes his great misstep, and a bit of a baffling one. He must realize that a jailbreak is a rather simple proposition for the Sith brothers. All it takes is one word from Maul and Savage breaks out of their cell and neutralizes the guards, giving the brothers free reign of the prison. Maul stops first at Satine's cell, trying to get a feel for who in this prison might make a good puppet leader for Mandalore. In last week's comments, there was much praise for Sam Witwer's performance, and Witwer continues to nail Maul's dialogue here. Maul is a sinister character, but he's also wonderfully blunt. He has no need for games or subterfuge; he simply asks Satine for what he wants. Satine is in very "Woe is I" mode and laments that the only person Maul will find is the treacherous Almec. An experienced but morally flexible politician is exactly what Maul is looking for, so he taps Almec as his agent on Mandalore. After that, it's just a matter of storming into the throne room and challenging Vizsla to single combat. According to Almec, once Maul defeats Vizsla, Vizsla's soldiers will be honor bound to fight for Maul.
And of course, Maul bests Vizsla. To his credit, Vizsla is the graceful warrior to the end, uttering the words, "Only the strongest shall rule," before Maul decapitates him with his own sword. (Incidentally, we're having a very decapitation-heavy arc.) With that, Bo-Katan is now the central figure of Death Watch, which is what we've been waiting for. Pre Vizsla's true believer schtick is great and feels authentic, but he lacks Bo-Katan's fire. And screw honor, Bo-Katan rounds up her own band of loyalists and battles her way out of the throne room, leaving Maul and Almec to rule over Madalore, at least for the time being. Today Mandalore, tomorrow the galaxy? We'll have to wait and see what's next for Maul, but things won't be any easier for him with the thorny Bo-Katan ready to stab his side.