Why Star Wars’s Kaminoan Scientist Mother Nala Se is So Fascinating

I’m a Nala Se fanatic. If you’ve followed me on social media, you’re likely aware that the Star Wars Kaminoan scientist is one of my favorite characters.

In fact, I made a video about her two months ago, detailing her character, and [accurately] predicting her fate. You can watch my Nala Se video here.

Nala Se, the Ruthless Mother

Now that The Bad Batch has ended, I want to discuss her character. I will discuss why I love Nala Se, why her character is so fascinating, and why the Kaminoan scientist was fated to die.

Why I personally adore Nala Se

Yes, I love, love, love Nala Se. A big part of this stems from the fact I love the Kaminoans in general. As talked about on StarWars.com official site, the Kaminoans’ design were based on the alien grays of Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Being a huge fan of the The X-files, and Unsolved Mysteries in the 90s, I was partial to all things aliens with toys and shirts with them on them. So yes, I was always going to love Kaminoans based on that alone.

But what makes this fascinating on a mythic level, is how aliens in American pop culture have come to represent previous folklore stories of encounters with magical beings, deities, etc. We perceive of them as being more powerful than us, to the point of being magical or divine or terrifying.

In our alien abduction stories, they experiment on us as cold scientists, or are else compassionate gods that seek to save us. They are otherworldly beings that we project our own fears and hopes onto

And so Star Wars Kaminoans are presented as otherworldly beings, on a planet named Kamino just outside the main galaxy. They are creator deities on a world of rain and darkness, similar to the rainy dark world of the Genesis account of creation.

And thus Nala Se, chief scientist of Kamino, is otherworldly as a creatrix goddess generally is (let’s not forget the Greek Mother-of-All goddess Gaia, made a sickle for her children to castrate and overthrow her husband). But in addition to that, she is complex as a person, not just as a Star Wars mythic archetype.

Nala is a mirror to another morally complex character–Jango Fett

A few years ago, when The Bad Batch began, I wrote a comparison between Omega and her brother Boba Fett. Just as the Alpha and Omega are both mirrors and foils of each other, so too, are their early parents.

Both children are raised by a parent that can be fiercely devoted and loving to their chosen clone child. Both can commit ruthless acts for the sake of their work.

And both Nala Se and Jango Fett have viewed other clones as being less than people.

They are terrible, loving, and yet frighteningly human in this. Jango and Nala are mirrors of one another as characters, but they are also mirrors of an ugly aspect of society — we don’t love all children equally, or certainly our government policies don’t reflect our claims to.

It’s not hard to understand why Jango Fett would tell Taun We that the clone children he signed off to create are livestock. To claim every clone to be his son, as he has done with Boba, is to admit his own complicity in creating sons to be cannon fodder. Psychologically, he cannot handle the repercussions and implications of this. And so he rejects his own creations, projecting the responsibility of them onto the Kaminoans.

Jango Fett disowns the clones
Jango Fett dismisses his clones as livestock
Omega and Nala Se, with Boba and Jango Fett

And Jango Fett also does not hesitate to kill even associates such as Zam Wessell in Attack of the Clones. He does this to protect both himself, and his son. But we are also reminded in The Clone Wars by Hondo Ohnaka that Jango is an honorable man.

Jango Fett is a man that abides by his own set of honor and codes, and that includes killing when necessary. He is capable of love and loves his son, though one wonders if his love is rooted in seeing Boba Fett as an extension of himself.

So too, we find that Nala Se has dressed Omega in clothing the same as hers. Her daughter–for daughter she is–wears the same Kaminoan jewelry as herself. Nala Se could have allowed Omega to wear any kind of ferronnière, but she only wears the same one as Nala Se.

Like Jango Fett, Nala Se is honorable.

When we are first introduced to her in The Clone Wars episode “Shadow of Malevolence”, she chooses to stay on a besieged ship transporting injured clones. She is devoted to the clones she has created.

And yet, just as Jango Fett called his clones livestock, so Nala Se asserts that the clone Fives in the Conspiracy arc of The Clone Wars is “Kaminoan property”.

Nala Se’s behavior towards Fives seems at odds with how we see her in Shadow of Malevolence. But it’s not. She is committed to seeing her contract with Lord Tyrannus (neither she, nor Lama Su, know that he is a Sith) through just as Jango is committed to seeing his contract through to kill Padme.

And while Nala Se tells Shaak Ti that Fives must be terminated, she never actually kills Fives. In fact, the droid AZI tells Fives that he overheard the Kaminoans intend to wipe his brain, which, while bad, isn’t death. Nor does the drug she give Fives kill him, nor could she predict Fives would die from the following events.

Nonetheless, Nala Se is presented as something of a femme fatale figure in the Conspiracy arc, in keeping with the overall noir tones of the story line.

For all the terrible things that Nala Se has thought and done, she is undeniably an extremely devoted mother to Omega. While we can’t say she was the best mother in some respects; it seems she left Omega alone for extended periods of time, at other times she has sacrificed her wellbeing, freedom, and ultimately her life for her daughter.

And this is what is absolutely wild about Nala Se. On one hand, she’s a scientist who does experiments on people, and has likely intentionally or unintentionally killed a lot of the clones in her private lab. We see towards the end of season 1 that Omega is fairly traumatized by the idea of going back to the lab. Nala did say that only five enhanced clones remain, which means that something happened to all the rest, and I suspect Omega had to see that.

Nala Se and Omega

When we first meet Omega, she is standing beside several Kaminoans, including Chief Medical Scientist Nala Se. We quickly learn that Omega is officially Nala Se’s medical assistant. We see that Omega is dressed exactly like Nala Se, down to the same ferronnière on her head.

It’s a nice bit of visual storytelling, as it tells us that Omega is valued and treated like a Kaminoan girl. It may also suggest that Omega requested a ferronnière  just like her mother’s, as we see that Omega likes to imitate her brothers and even Phee later on. At any rate, whether the circlet was Nala Se’s idea, or Omega’s, Nala Se permitted her to have one.

In the very first episode, Omega escapes with her brothers, but only with the help of Nala Se. I have formerly gone over Omega’s Heroine’s Journey here. One of the first steps is separation from the Mother. It’s clear fairly early in the story that Omega identifies with her brothers and wants to live with them.

However, it’s very likely that Nala Se saw that Omega could be in jeopardy from the Empire if she stayed. Not only that, but Nala Se likely saw early on that Omega loved her brothers and wished to be with them. If there is one thing we see about Nala Se, is that she is willing to let her child go, not just for her own safety, but because they are her biological family and she wishes to be free and with them.

Nala Se and Omega’s final moment together

Even in the earlier episodes, we can see that Lama Su suspects that Nala Se has done something to let Omega go–he stares at her quite a while after Nala Se says that the Bad Batch has escaped. Lama Su notes early one that Nala Se is personally attached to her clone.

We never actually know why Nala Se creates Omega, not even at the end of the series. She knows what Omega is capable of physically, and one can surmise she made Omega for the purpose of creating a force sensitive clone. But if this is truly the case, it means she never told Lama Su. Why do I say this?

Because Lama Su never says anything about Omega being unique in any way to Dr. Hemlock later on, despite having every reason to do so. Nor does he initially care that Omega is roaming around with Nala Se. All his dialogue regarding Omega is about her being a source of DNA to create a new line of clones.

When Lama Su instructs Nala Se to kill Omega after getting a sample, she quickly goes into action to hire a bounty hunter to save Omega. This bounty hunter, Fennec Shand, kills Taun We. Nala Se has shown that she will lie and hire expensive bounty hunters to save Omega.

When she is ultimately arrested by Rampart and taken to Mt Tantiss, we see that she spends most of Season 2 in prison there. Keep in mind, that Nala Se knows exactly what Palpatine wants and tells Dr. Hemlock it is not possible. We will know in season 3 that she is lying, but more than that: she has been lying by omission for the entire year to keep Omega safe.

In season 3, Nala Se continues to deceive and lie to protect Omega. She tosses out her assistant’s blood daily until she is unable to do so, at which point she tells Omega to escape with her datapad. Marie Gould of What the Force, makes a good point that Nala Se is similar to such fairytale motifs as the doll that helps the heroine Vasalisa. She is in a role of positive mother figure, helping Omega to wake up and trust her own intuition to escape. This is a change from season 1 in which Nala Se helps Omega to escape with Omega never knowing her help or influence.

Nala Se continues to lie audaciously for her daughter’s sake. But just as importantly, we must remember that Dr. Hemlock’s goal in taking Omega to force Nala Se to work on Project Necromancer worked–Nala Se did work on the force sensitive children. As she will later tell Emerie, it was to protect Omega.

After Omega’s escape, Nala Se is imprisoned once more. And here she will interact with another character–Omega’s Shadow, Emerie Karr.

Nala Se and Emerie Karr

When we are first introduced to Dr. Emerie Karr in season 2 of the Bad Batch, we can already see that she seems to have some amount of disdain for either Kaminoans in general, or Nala Se in particular.

In the one scene where she is slightly negative towards Omega, it’s to express some mild distaste that Omega would trust Nala Se over her own sister. Coupled with the look she gives Nala Se earlier that season, it speaks to some bad blood towards the Kaminoan.

And that ended up being the case. Keep in mind, that Emerie fills the Jungian role in the story of being Omega’s Shadow. She is everything that Omega fears to be, something she could have been had she not woken up in episode three and seized her escape. And that Shadow is not one of wrath or pride, but docility.

When Emerie talks to Omega, she tells her small sister that the reason why Omega never saw her was that she was “sent away.” She also, strangely, compares Omega’s relationship to Nala Se, with her own to Dr. Hemlock. This strikes us as odd, as Dr. Hemlock likely does not truly care about Emerie, whereas we know that Nala Se loves Omega.

But this points to Emerie’s own cynicism about their relationships to their mentor/parental figures. Emerie is somewhat aware that while Dr. Hemlock sees value in her (and she does seek his validation), she believes it’s conditional, and simply how the world works.

Some time ago, when I was mapping out a tentative Heroine’s Journey map for Omega, I posited that it was possible the step of “reuniting with the Mother” could be done via the Shadow that was Emerie, rather than Omega directly.

And that’s what mostly happens here. When Emerie gets that much desired promotion, and sees it takes the form of experimenting on children (and apparently she was an experiment as Omega was), she is horrified.

Emerie doesn’t take this to Dr. Hemlock. She’s not in a place to contradict him or confront him. Instead, she rushes to the woman that she blames for giving her away. It’s one of the best scenes of the series–we see her hurt that she realizes she was a victim and doesn’t wish to make other children victims.

But her accusation or suggestion that Nala Se would “discard them”, shows she believes Nala Se threw her away. Even more shocking to Emerie is coming to understand that Nala Se does care about the children, but continues the work to protect Omega. Emerie’s hurt is as much at the pain of abandonment by Nala Se — why wasn’t I good enough?–as it is the realization that Omega was valued and the favorite.

Nala Se doesn’t say much to defend herself here. And whatever she would say would likely not be good enough. But Nala Se does what she has done with Omega: encourage her daughter to know her power. Emerie believes she is powerless, after years of being raised to believe she was by Dr. Hemlock.

Emerie Karr confronts Nala Se

Nala Se suggests to Emerie that she absolutely does have power. And it’s worth noting that despite Omega being Nala Se’s golden precious child, it is Emerie Karr that has ended up taking after her mother more. Neither Nala Se, nor Emerie Karr confront Dr. Hemlock directly to try and change his mind. But neither did Nala Se try and confront Lama Su. Their actions are to subvert and sabotage where they can, help others when they can.

Omega’s Shadow was created when the Mother sent one version of Omega away to her fate. And so it is to the Mother that Emerie needed to return to heal the relationship between Nala Se, Omega, and Emerie.

It is worth pointing out that the relationship between Nala Se, Emerie, and Omega seems to be symbolized in the finale by a datapad. The Mother provides her daughter Omega with a datapad to save herself, the healed Shadow daughter gives the datapad [that would have been used by Nala Se formerly] to her sister and heroine Omega, and finally the heroine gives the datapad back to her mother, Nala Se.

The datapad is the fairytale key to the Glass Mountain, the magic ring, the wooden doll of Vasalisa. They are tokens of fairy godmothers, who are often the heroine’s own deceased mother. And Nala Se has been a dead woman walking since season one.

Our Kaminoan Scientist-Mother’s Inevitable Fate

I’ve figured since season 1 that Nala Se was most likely going to die in this story. For one, Star Wars kills mothers off. Secondly, Jango Fett died, so the mirror character of Nala Se, the morally gray scientist was also going to die.

But also, it is in keeping with her own character. Nala Se is repeatedly referred to as “ruthless” by both the official Star Wars website, and by fans. And she is. She is ruthlessly maternal. Nala Se’s own nature was present since the character’s first introduction.

When we first meet her in the Clone Wars, Nala Se is willing to risk her life to protect injured clones. She has always been intensely devoted to a cause she is committed to, or a person she loves. Her actions towards Fives, stems from this same intensity of commitment. You don’t want to be on the wrong side of Nala Se’s devotion.

I don’t think Nala Se has been necessarily so intensely rigid throughout her entire life. I suspect raising Omega has encouraged a greater compassion to others, especially children than she had before, even if she does place her own beloved first. But she is aware that Emerie is someone who can be a greater, more compassionate scientist than even herself, someone who can expand her sphere of love to others.

Nala Se knows that she must protect her daughter and the other clones, and the only way to do that is to destroy all her knowledge the Empire could have. And that even means herself, as she could be tortured for that information. Killing herself, and the databanks, and Rampart is also her vengeance as a mourning goddess, lamenting her lost civilization.

For Omega to have freedom, she needed to “die” in the eyes of the Empire. It is Nala Se’s own death that permits Omega and her brothers to have freedom.

The clones are the legacy of two people: Jango Fett and Nala Se, with Jango as the genetic source, and Nala as the one who molded them into obedient soldiers. Both are gone, and their multitude of clones will survive them both.

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