The Worst Assassin in the Star Wars Galaxy, Remembering Zam Wesell
Some of us saw Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace and liked it right away. Some disliked it immediately. For some, it took many viewings to cement an opinion. And for others, there was a feeling that wherever happened in its follow-up, Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, would help make sense of whatever George Lucas was up to with The Phantom Menace’s rougher storytelling choices.
Then Attack of the Clones came out and immediately hit us with Zam Wesell, a character who – good or bad – introduced more questions than answers and felt a bit confusing for no reason. Looking back now, stuff like this is just part of the Prequel vibe, but for those first viewings back in 2002, when we were ready to overanalyze every Star Wars thing as they happened, Zam Wesell gave us a lot to consider early in the film. Maybe too much.
Which Character is This Again?
Attack of the Clones begins with a couple of assassination attempts against Queen Amidala. First, her ship blows up, which only kills an Amidala-alike. Next, a robot enters her sleeping quarters and drops off a couple of poisonous space worms. This attempt fails via Jedi. Both were Zam Wesell jobs and both prove maybe she isn’t the greatest assassin out there.
There is a lesson here, by the way. If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. The worms worked for a robot, who worked for Wesell, who worked for Jango Fett, who worked for Count Dooku, who worked for Darth Sidious. That buck probably should have stopped with Fett. Yes, he’s a bounty hunter not an assassin, but come on. He later whips Obi-Wan. Surely he could take out Amidala.
In any case, Wesell fails. Obi-Wan and Anakin chase her through Coruscant. Eventually, Obi-Wan cuts off her arm and the two Jedi question her. But before she can spill the beans, Jango Fett assassinates her – so he CAN assassinate! – by shooting her in the neck with some special dart Obi-Wan later uses to jumpstart his whole mystery plot.
We’ll call this portion of Attack of the Clones the Zam Wesell chapter. It ends with her dying and turning into an alien because she is a shapeshifter. That is it for her run as a Star Wars character. She seems overly built up as something special, is all I’m saying.
Does this Character Warrant a Toy?
Yes, of course she does. For starters, she is a major part of Clone’s first act. This is not one of those one-shot weird Star Wars characters who gets a toy no one wants and then later becomes a collector’s item. Her outfit isn’t super cool, but there is too much toy opportunity with her dual faces. She has a regular human face (provided by actress Leeanna Walsman), used for blending in and, for some reason, flying while chased. And she has her cool alien face. I don’t know that she is anyone’s favorite character. She’s no Aurra Sing, for instance. But the temptation to make a figure with two attachable heads must be very strong for toymakers.
Regular little Star Wars toys likely do not have this option, however. So what do you choose? Alien Zam Wesell or fake-human Zam Wesell. The alien looks way cooler, but her human face gets much more screentime. I’m going with the alien version, but we must all look deep within our souls and make this decision for ourselves. There is no right choice.
How Important is the Character?
That’s the question, really. You turn on Attack of the Clones and there she is, setting the plot in motion and giving the film its first big action sequence. And also being a shapeshifter for no real reason.
But it’s hard not to imagine a version of Attack of the Clones where Jango Fett delivers those space worms, leads the Jedi through that exciting chase, and manages to escape while leaving behind enough evidence to drive Obi-Wan to Kamino. It is great to have more Star Wars characters to discuss and obsess over, but here is one case where someone comes across as completely superfluous. We all entered into Clones hungry for that sweet Jango Fett action. And to be fair, we do get a couple of great sequences with him. But this could have been yet one more, one that also streamlined his part in the story early on, cementing him as a primary villain, and making Clones a bit less cluttered overall.
Instead we have Zam Wesell, a character just a tiny bit more complicated than she deserves given her screentime and narrative importance. That whole shape-shifting factor is exactly the kind of detail that begs for more development yet ends up being more or less a throwaway thing.
Is this Secretly a Great Star Wars Character?
If Zam Wesell had not died, she could have gone on to be a great Clone Wars character. That shapeshifting ability is just too good, and she could have gotten up to all kinds of hijinks with Cad Bane or young Boba Fett. But instead, she dies in a bar gutter, never to be resurrected. Sorry, Dave Filoni.