This week, we reach the conclusion of our story on Umbara, the 501st continues to contend with the local resistance who seem to be only a little less deadly than their own substitute commander, the Jedi Master Pong Krell: a Jedi with an utter disdain for clones. We jump right back in as the platoon have managed to capture a vital airbase in the invasion of the Shadow World.
Season 4, Episode 09: Plan of Dissent
The third episode in this story arc picks up in the recently captured airbase and we get another look at the Umbaran’s strange technology. Most everything else in the Star Wars universe has an almost uniform look to it when it comes to technology, it’s unusual to see a place where everything from the starfighters to the hologram technology have such a unique and distinct look. It’s cool.
Krell is on the horn to Obi-Wan once again, being informed that their capture of the airbase has caused problems for other fronts of the war, and assaulting the capital would be a suicidal act as long as a Separatist support ship continues floating in the planet’s upper atmosphere. Krell seems disinterested in Obi-Wan’s recommendations and tells him they’re going to attack the capital anyway.
Obi-Wan is cut off before he can actually comment on Krell’s reckless and terrible combat strategy. Rex seems to immediately have a strategy in mind; making use of their captured starfighters to infiltrate the supply ship and sabotage it from the inside. It’s a solid plan, one that this time has some precedent in actually working considering the events of the prior episode.
True to form though, Krell dismisses this plan as a “frivolous adventure”, apparently deeming the lack of just two clones in his fighting force as something he simply cannot afford. Which is laughable considering how callously he’s been throwing away their lives leading up until this point.
Upon learning this, it appears that Fives has had enough of Krell and is plotting with some other clones to execute Rex’s plan anyway, even against Krell’s orders. They’re taking the Anakin Skywalker approach of just getting the job done now, and then facing the consequences later. Although one clone, Dogma, seems a little less willing to break the rules than the rest.
We get yet another debate between Fives and Rex, where Fives says outright that he can’t follow orders when he knows they’re wrong, something Rex can’t get on board with officially. Although he knows Fives is right. The biggest issue with executing the plan is that the Umbaran fighters are difficult to pilot, having that unique technology that means the clones need to mess with them to figure out how they work.
And we get a pretty funny scene that plays homage to the scene from A New Hope where Han Solo is trying to lie over radio while in the detention centre of the Death Star. It works about as well as it did that time as well when Hardcase accidentally blows a hole in the hanger door with the fighter’s weapons. While they manage to convince Krell that it was a booby trap, he makes their lives all the more difficult by locking down the fighters completely.
In the end, the clones go through with the mission anyway. Rex not stopping them, but telling them he can’t vouch for them when they get caught. So Fives, Hardcase and Jesse fly up to the supply ship and manage to destroy it in dramatic fashion, with Hardcase sacrificing himself in the process.
Despite everything going incredibly well, Krell is obviously upset that he was undermined. Because he’s a terrible leader. And despite what he said earlier, Rex does try to take the brunt of the blame for the mission. Because he’s a good leader, unlike this Jedi. Which further infuriates Krell, who announces that both Fives and Jesse that they will be found guilty in court marshal, and they will be executed, adding “they’ll pay the price for crossing me”.
Season 4, Episode 10: Carnage of Krell
This is where things go off the rails and the invasion of Umbara becomes little more than a fleeting memory. Which is great, the clone’s moral dilemma over following orders vs. doing the right thing has been a fascinating look at them as individuals and how they actually fit into the Republic army as men, not just organic droids.
The episode begins with Krell going on a tireade about clones being defective and that he’s “seen it before”. Through his ranting, he convinces himself that he needs to send a message and that he should execute both Fives and Jesse right away without a trial.
The scene of the two clones being walked out to firing squad is really effecting. The constant twilight of Umbara only adding to the mood of the scene. Before they’re due to be shot dead by their own brothers, Fives ends up giving a speech about them being men, not droids and that they shouldn’t be punished for questioning orders that are wrong. Fives has been the most outspoken critic of Krell throughout these episodes, but it turns out that almost all of the other clones have been thinking the same thing.
As Dogma orders the execution, the firing squad all intentionally miss and drop their blasters. Rex, having had enough of Krell’s BS marches up to the observation tower and confronts him. Before things can descend to violence, they’re interrupted by the news of an impending attack from Umbarans who have stolen Republic supplies and are disguising themselves as clone troopers.
The following battle scene is as ironic as it is tragic. The clones had just refused a direct order to kill their own men, now they find themselves in a battle that turns out to a giant case of mistaken identity. Eventually, Rex manages to realise that the two sides of the battle are both made up of clones. That they’ve been killing one another under false pretences, when Rex questions a dying clone from the opposite battalion, he learns that both sides had been ordered against one another by Krell.
And here’s where the penny drops. From here, the visuals and the tone of the show darken even more. We get some cool shots, that are very reminiscent of scenes from Revenge of the Sith as the clones march toward Krell to arrest him. This is a pretty heinous act from Krell, not the actions of a stern leader, but a straight up evil one.
When surrounded by the clones, the whole demeanour and attitude of Krell totally changes. At which point we realise that everything he’d been doing had been intentional from the start, he even goes as far as to echo Sidious’s line from Revenge of the Sith when he announces “It’s treason then”.
Like I mentioned in the last part, Krell is a formidable opponent and he carved his way out of the control room with ease and escapes into the jungle. Their pursuit is blocked off my Dogma, true to his name, dogmatically follows the orders of his superior without question. Although it doesn’t take too much convincing for him to power his weapon and be taken into custody by the other clones.
It’s while in the jungle that Krell’s true colours start to show. Mocking and laughing at the clones while he cuts them all down with his oversized lightsabers. In the end, it’s the plant in the first episode showing the mini-Sarlacc creature that helps the clones subdue the General. Luring the overconfident Jedi into a trap and having the monster weaken him before they can stun him and take him into custody as well.
Which they do after a dramatic battle scene and some quick thinking to eventually capture the master using the local fauna.
Here’s the point where I feel like this entire storyline lets itself down just a little. When confronted Krell makes a full heel turn and starts mocking all of the clones while in his ray shielded prison orb. He proudly announces he’s been trying to kill them all from the start, that he’s foreseen the end of the Republic and wanted to switch sides, using the bundled Umbaran invasion as a gift to ingratiate himself to Dooku and become his new apprentice.
I know Star Wars doesn’t make a habit of using a light touch, but the fact that Krell was evil all long feels like a little bit of a cop-out to me. It takes a lot of the moral grey area off of the table in regards to the clone’s actions in these episodes leading up to this point. Making it so they were justified in what they did all long in hindsight.
I think the story would have been much better if Krell has just been toeing the line with the dark side and then the insubordination of Jesse and Fives was the thing that caused him to snap and send the clones to kill one another. Learning that Obi-Wan managed to take the capital without their help, it seems like the remaining Umbaran forces are on their way to the airbase, meaning he clones need to bug out.
Which leaves them with a problem; what to do with Krell. In a surprising move, they decide he needs to be executed. Something Krell mocks them about while in his cell. In the end, Rex shows that he is an honourable man in that he can’t do it in the end, failing to execute the Jedi. Which is obvious foreshadowing as to what’s eventually going to happen between the clones and the Jedi later on.
Shockingly, it’s Dogma who ends up killing Krell, taking everyone aback. He was the most torn up of the clones, after hearing Krell’s evil pronouncement directly while also having been his biggest supported leading up until now.
This was a great set of episodes, focusing on the clones and their status as both people, but kind of not people too. Like I said in the review, the reveal that Krell was evil all along actually lessens the impact of the story as a whole. It ends up keeping the clone’s hands a little too clean by the time the story was over, taking an uncomfortable middle ground off of the table. This is supposed to be war, and a story leaning into the increasing corruption of the Republic and the honourable men’s part in it would have been a better angle to me.
Compounded by the fact that we don’t really see any fallout from these events, the credits rolling before we can get the reactions of Anakin or the Jedi Council. It being a slow build to a Jedi crossing a line and embracing the dark side would have made for a much more compelling ending that would have left the clones feeling much more conflicted by the end rather than the obvious moral high ground they do finish this episode on.
Either way, these are a “must watch” set of episodes in my book. Anything that focuses on the clones is. Definitely one to watch.
This is an edit, but I decided to change my plans and go ahead and just review this whole three-episode block for the next part:
- Season 4, Episode 11: Kidnapped
- Season 4, Episode 12: Slaves of the Republic
- Season 4, Episode 13: Escape from Kadavo