I am currently on a rewatch of the 2008 The Clone Wars series and realized that S1E08, ‘Bombad Jedi’ is an absolutely fascinating episode! Not only funny, it gives room to some major development for two of Star Wars‘ most interesting characters: Padmé Amidala and Jar Jar Binks. ‘Bombad Jedi’ works on a lot of different levels, reintroducing the political element of the Clone Wars and showing how war leads to suffering and betrayal. The episode, directed by Jesse Yeh, starts with the fortune cookie-esque ‘Heroes are made by the times‘, but rather than focus on our accepted heroes, Anakin Skywalker or Obi-Wan Kenobi, the episode goes out of its way to show that heroism exists on different levels and can be found in everyone.
From the very start of the episode it is clear that Padmé is in control of this mission. Her unwavering loyalty to her friends has brought her into dangerous territory and yet she goes there believing in the strength of diplomacy and peace, in itself the start of a very heroic quest. In choosing Jar Jar as her companion, she also reveals her recognition of similar principles in Jar Jar. Chancellor Palpatine functions as a good point of contrast to her behaviour when he mocks Jar Jar’s “qualifications”. He not only disregards JarJar but also looks at him with contempt, unable to see the potential Jar Jar holds. Palpatine respects martial strength and Jar Jar’s own brand of strength is not something he recognizes, initially. In some ways this is similar to how he considered Padmé naive in The Phantom Menace only to have to admit by the end of the film that she is a lot stronger than he thought.
Jar Jar reveals his unique power early on in the episode. While C-3PO regards the local swamp life with a mix of disregard and fear, Jar Jar’s first instinct is to see in them beings familiar to himself and he tries to communicate with them. Throughout the Prequel films and The Clone Wars, Jar Jar always takes steps towards communicating and understanding those that others disregard, whether it is his own species or the Astro-bots aboard Padmé’s ship in The Phantom Menace. As argued in previous posts here on Clone Corridor, Jar Jar is a character used to show the discrimination, and even the racism, of the Republic and the galaxy. Representing the natural and indigenous elements of the Star Wars galaxy, he is a constant reminder to both the people within Star Wars and to the audience that everyone matters and anyone can save the day.
Jar Jar and Padmé’s narratives develop side by side, showing both of them refuse the roles they’ve been given and save themselves. Filoni allows JarJar to inadvertently slip into the role of a Jedi. Suddenly considered a genuine threat by those around him, Jar Jar doesn’t give up but tries to use this new kind of prejudice against him to his advantage. Expected to be stronger than he is, Jar Jar uses the stereotype of the Jedi to try and save Padmé. Although he does so in his own gangling way, Jar Jar puts up a fight and is crucial towards saving him and the others. When everyone expects him to continuously fail, Jar Jar is able to reinvent the way others see him without losing his own identity. Still a Gungan, he shows us that the pre-existing notions about him and what he can do are mistaken and wrong. Throughout The Clone Wars we repeatedly are shown Jar Jar being put in difficult situations and adapting to them.
Similarly, Padmé is initially placed in a stereotypical ‘damsel in distress’ position. Expected to simply accept her fate, Padmé refuses to wait for a saviour to come rescue her. After trash-talking the battle droids, she tricks them into believing she is being rescued, when instead she has freed herself. Again we see how the prejudices about the strength of Jedi’s can be used against those who hold them. In their fear over the Jedi, Gunray and the battle droids fail to fear the strength of Padmé and Jar Jar, leading to their defeat. As a fan of The Attack of the Clones I loved seeing Padmé use the same trick she did in the arena on Geonosis. All this resourceful woman needs is a screwdriver. With some truly impressive karate-skills, Padmé goes on to literally kick her way out of imprisonment. She continues this streak of independence by saving C-3PO and then mounting a rescue for Jar Jar. Although not entirely successful, Padmé refuses to bow down or give up. Continuously resourceful and watchful, she is a hero not only because she kicks ass but also because she keeps her head throughout the fight.
Rather than be vengeful over his necessitated betrayal, Padmé understands that the times force some to make decisions they’d rather not make. In her position of privilege, she sees and understands the desperation of Senator Onaconda Farr’s position and forgives him. Rather than put her own safety ahead of their need, Padmé remains diplomatic despite momentarily slipping into the role of warrior. She is capable of being both warrior and diplomat, both strong and understanding, without it forming a problem for her characterization.
Jar Jar’s response, “I am just a Gungan”, to Onaconda’s praise is equally calm and crucial. The heroism of these characters doesn’t lie in boasting and body-count but in kindness. Marginalized and made a joke off, Jar Jar in ‘Bombad Jedi’ is a reminder that heroes can be found in unexpected corners and that, under the right circumstances, everyone can become a hero. Jar Jar’s ability to see the best in everything comes in handy numerous times, while Padmé’s equal belief in the power of diplomacy prevents much more bloodshed. Heroes are made by the times and as we find ourselves in equally dreadful times, ‘Bombad Jedi’ can give us hope that such heroes will rise again.