The last four episodes of The Clone Wars were great, especially if you like seeing the clones in action. I thought the season opening Mon Calamari arc would be hard to topple as the season’s best arc, but the fight for the dark and bleak planet of Umbara proved me wrong. After the typical mid-season lull, Clone Wars has begun to pick up again! *WARNING – HEAVY SPOILERS AHEAD!*
So let’s set the story: You know about the galaxy spanning civil war that is sweeping over every planet, and you’ve seen this conflict on various worlds for the show’s tenure thus far, but I must say it’s never quite been like this. With hardly any battle droids to speak of (Seriously they were around for a few minutes in one episode.) we are introduced to the Separatist-aligned Umbaran people who fight to defend their planet from being conquered by the Republic. I can’t remember the planet’s strategic importance or if it was even mentioned, but really that’s beside the point. We finally get to see an organic army fighting the clones in the form of the Umbarans and their awesome technology. They have everything from aerial ships, tanks that shoot crazy looking lightning balls and walkers that rival even an AT-AT in bad-assery. And let me tell ya, these guys give the Republic quite a run for their money shouting in their bizarre chattering language the whole time.
The planet itself was presented to us as almost like Felucia… except someone turned the lights off. The place is cloudy, dark and dangerous and not just because of the indigenious Umbarans, referred to by one clone as the “Shadow People”.
The first attack on the planet is led by Anakin Skywalker and the 501st legion which includes our boy Rex and various other clones we know and love including Fives, Hardcase and Jesse. Another clone worth mentioning is future commander of the 501st, Appo, who plays quite the role in the Expanded Universe of Star Wars, leading the assault with Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader on the Jedi Temple all the way until his decapitation by Jedi Master Roan Shryne on Kashyyyk immediately following the birth of the Empire. It leaves one to wonder what will become of Rex since it is known in the movies and literature that Appo is the eventual leader of the 501st. I don’t see Rex being put in the middle of situations dealing with following or not following orders at this point, so that counts him being demoted out. In the world of Star Wars that may mean that Rex is eventually going to buy it on Clone Wars. I hope when that happens we get to see him go out as a hero in a blaze of glory.
After Anakin is “mysteriously” recalled to Coruscant by the Supreme Chancellor, his replacement as Jedi General arrives via LAAT in the form of Master Pong Krell. From my initial viewing of the trailer for this season of Clone Wars I was super excited to see this guy in action, which was awesome. The guy has two double bladed lightsabers that are collapsible! Brilliant! However, my hopes for him to be a brilliant and likeable Jedi general were dashed upon one realization – That he is a total asshole.
Pong Krell was a genuine enigma to me during the course of theses four episodes. Sure we’ve seen a couple Jedi who either distrust the clones or don’t see them as actual men. Master Rahm Kota was fortunate enough to survive Order 66 due to his mistrust of clones and using only his personally raised militia in battle. Quinlan Vos was also mistrustful of the clones but he still commanded them in battle and refrained from using their lives needlessly. Pong Krell however seems to have a knack for throwing the clone troopers at his disposal (literally) into unwinnable circumstances which all but guarantee their deaths. If not for Rex and his brothers creative thinking and their questioning of General Krell’s orders the battle for Umbara would have been lost at the very beginning. But as the story arc wears on you begin to see there is something more behind Pong Krell’s disdain and carelessness for the clones he commands. I’m sitting there thinking –“What a terrible Jedi this guy is.” And then by the end of the fourth and final episode the writers drop a bomb on you. Pong Krell is in fact a Jedi who is embracing the dark side and hoping to become Count Dooku’s new apprentice. Didn’t see that one coming….
Even when Krell was owning clone troopers left and right with his quadruple sabers I wasn’t under the impression that his motives ran so deep. The Dark Side, yes, but a plan to become Dooku’s apprentice no. It’s great that the show is giving us a view on how different Jedi are affected by the war and this is perhaps the most distressing. It was an even bigger surprise to me when Krell was finally executed, not by Rex but by newcomer Dogma who was on Krell’s side nearly until the end.
The last episode was most definitely a powerful one emotionally. I’m all about the clones and when Fives and Jesse were about to be executed I honestly wasn’t sure which direction things we gonna go. Another hard hitting portion of the episode was when the clones were killing one another in a firefight due to the information from General Krell that the Umbarans had stolen clone trooper weapons and armor. To see the reactions of the clones once they realize they are firing on one another was heart wrenching, then to see Waxer shed a tear before dying upon the realization of him killing his own brothers was almost enough to bring me to tears myself. Waxer was great in the epidsode from season one’s “Ryloth Trilogy“: Innocents of Ryloth”, where he made it his personal mission to save and protect the little Twi’lek girl Numa. When Rex removed his helmet we are reminded of his previous actions by the little Numa face picture painted on his helmet.
I have to give this arc a five out of five. It goes without saying that even had the story been crap, the visuals alone throughout the arc would have still carried it. Thankfully the story wasn’t crap as it brought us to a whole new perspective on how the Jedi are affected by the war and how loyal the clones are; not only to their Jedi generals but to themselves and each other.
Pong Krell was a pleasant surprise because of the scum bag he turned out to be. I’m not sure there had been a twist quite like that to leave me shocked in this show. I was actually kind of hoping that he would survive the ordeal to actually ally himself with Dooku and be an opponent of the Jedi for a time before he was killed, but I suppose that is why we have Savage Opress and Darth Maul for later in the season. Props to the Clone Wars creative team for giving us an excellent arc without the support of series regulars Anakin, Obi-Wan and Ahsoka: it goes to show us that the series has many other avenues to explore and could still possibly go another couple seasons.