|Things take a turn for the worse for our 501st heroes in The General.|
Reaching Number Two in our top five ranked episodes of Season Four, and the series is getting ever more darker, not just with our main characters but within the environs they now fight in, as the Umbara Saga makes its mark on the Clone Troopers, and especially stoic Captain Rex, as we reach the decisive and destructive imagery and powerful storytelling of episode eight: The General.
And here's five reasons why it makes the grade.
1. Dissension amongst the ranks. Matt Michnovetz has a nice writing tap into the psyches and personalities of the Clone Troopers, playing to their character strengths and action abilities. He’s the series BAND OF BROTHERS writer for STAR WARS when it comes to crafting memorable stories and strong dialogue for the various Clone Soldiers. He also seems to delight putting them in the most horrific and challenging climes yet. The Citadel was bad enough for them in Season Three, but Umbara is the closest they get to Hell yet, as all of their training and bravery is put to the most severe of tests by the fierce and arrogant brutality of Jedi General Pong Krell!
The first signs of future faceless Order 66 brutality are shown here in one clever little sequence, as a Clone emotionlessly guns down both an injured enemy combatant and one of the planets flying beasties.
2. Apocalypse Now. Things get very down and very dirty within the misty and darkened world of Umbara, courtesy of old-time Lucas buddy and all-round talent Walter Murch, who brings all his film-making talents in editing, direction and sound design to take viewers right up close and personal into the ground battles between the Clone Troopers and the Shadowmen, who unleash against the Republic combat veterans the most intriguing and awesome bio-mechanical weapons and technology yet seen in the series, including ground breaking centipede tanks and lethal airships. This is one episode that really does needs to be seen on a big screen via digital projector.
3. Captain Rex stands firm. With Anakin not around to rally the troops and lead them from the front onwards, or push them through when things are at crisis point, it's up to bold and resilient Captain Rex to keep the line of bravery and fortitude in combat against an overwhelmingly superior enemy in very hostile terrain. He’s fighting one enemy force but finds conflict from within his own side, from the strict discipline of steadfast Jedi General Pong Krell and the dissatisfaction his leadership brings to the other clones under his comrade, not ready to die so senselessly or so quickly as cannon fodder. One of the episodes final moments, as Rex reigns in his anger holding his clenched fist ever tighter from Krell, is one of the series finest moments and means a lot to viewers, as well as being an intriguing subtle prelude to the horror to come of Order 66.
4. Umbara. One of the most intriguing new planets so far seen in the series, looking organically birthed from some armageddon prophecy of the ancient Vikings, Umbara is an exciting new addition to the STAR WARS universe that I wished had made if into one of the later heading towards oblivion Prequel movies, looking absolutely stunning on Blu-ray, what with its truly alien hills and gorges, covered in phosphorescence reds and pale blues standing out amongst the darkness, helped by some great sound design work from series regulars David Accord and Matthew Wood.
5. General Pong Krell. Recognised as a strong Jedi tactician, though all too willing to sacrifice vast amounts of Clone Soldiers (coldly referring to them as numbers than with names: fan forums thinking that the Jedi was avoiding unwelcome attachment in battle-yeah, right!), often using them as needless cannon fodder in order to get the military work done, General Pong Krell’s presence in the key battle to take control of Umbara proves unwelcome to Captain Rex, and, most importantly, to the soldiers under their command. Unlike any other Jedi we have encountered before, Krell’s oath to the Order-of swearing to uphold life wherever possible- seems to have disappeared, his duties in the Clone Wars seemingly abandoned of such obligation. The fire of conflict burns brightly in his cruel eyes, as Krell becomes an intriguing and intimidating new antagonist to the series, his ultimate destiny path given subtle hints in this story. He may be of the same Besalisk alien species as lovable Dexter Jettster, ann brilliantly realised by the series animation team, but that’s where the similarities end.
Get hold of THE CLONE WARS Season Four on DVD and Blu-ray here: