Krell's true villainy is revealed! As if those yellow Sith eyes weren't a giveaway.
Credit: Lucasfilm

If you’re gasping for air, it’s because you just got punched in the gut. Or watched last night’s episode of The Clone Wars, “Carnage of Krell,” which had pretty much the same effect. At last we have clone troopers questioning the validity of fighting this war. At last we have Jedi who are shown to be less than heroic. At last we had a Separatist leader employing the kind of Dooku-worthy mindgames fans grew to know and love in John Ostrander and Jan Duursema’s spectacular Clone Wars comics. And who’s the Seppie in question? None other than one General Pong Krell.

I know, I know. At first, I was thinking he did seem a remarkably effective leader for the Republic. Apparently, he had even won a host of victories for Palpatine & Co. So part of me wishes that when he was describing the “New Order” he could foresee for the galaxy he still was fighting for the Republic — just totally aware of Palpatine’s villainy, okay with it, and working to bring about the Empire from within. But, really, he was just hoping to meet up with Count Dooku, and to sweeten the deal of his defection to the Seppies, he’d deliver up a sensational Republic defeat on Umbara. That meant that when the clones conjured up victories out of Umbara’s thin air—stealing starfighters to destroy the air base’s defenses, flying a mission to take out the supply ship over the capital—Krell’s true agenda was pretty well thwarted.

So he decided not to remand Fives and Jesse for court martial like he’d decided last week, but rather just have them executed on the spot. As far as I know, the whole question of capital punishment in the Republic has never come up before. We know it exists in the Empire—remember what Tarkin had in mind for Princess Leia—but it seemed like the Republic had a more merciful approach to justice than, say, a battlefield commander Force-choking the life out of officers who displeased him. (I’m looking at you Vader, worst boss ever.) Maybe during the war executions have become more commonplace? Or maybe military commanders are just more eager to execute disobedient clones since they don’t regard them as individuals?

NEXT: Aren’t they a little short to be clone troopers? No, actually they’re just the right size.

Rex had to prepare the firing squad that would dispatch Fives and Jesse to the cloning vat in the sky. In a traditional firing squad, only one soldier’s gun would be loaded with real bullets, to avoid too much of a mess but also make it more than likely that you weren’t the one who killed your fellow man. With blaster rifles, it doesn’t seem like that’s possible. The clones came marching in, repeating blasters raised over their heads, with Dogma leading the detail. Fives shared a last minute plea celebrating initiative and the right to oppose faulty orders and…the squad was convinced. They fired, but every one of their shots missed. Dogma was aghast at this insubordination. I mean, his name is Dogma. But even Rex, that true-bluest of true-blue Republic soldiers, felt that disobeying Krell’s orders was the right thing to do.

Krell was going to see clone on clone violence no matter what, though. So he ordered Rex’s men to attack Umbarans who had supposedly clothed themselves in clone armor. But in the midst of battle, Rex pulled off the helmets of one of his enemies and, gasp, it was a clone! He should known something was amiss, considering that all of the “Umbarans” were exactly the same height. If Princess Leia had asked, “Aren’t you a little short to be a stormtrooper?” Rex would have realized the answer was…“No.”

They didn’t know why, but by having clone fire on clone, General Krell was clearly committing some sort of treason. There was only one choice. They would have to arrest him, which meant taking on a four-armed Jedi with two double-bladed lightsabers. Who didn’t get chills when the clones surrounded Krell in his command tower and declared him to be under arrest? It strongly echoed the 501st’s future purge of the Jedi Temple in Operation: Knightfall. The General said he wouldn’t comply. And he followed that up with, “It’s treason, then,” which we know is exactly what Chancellor Palpatine said in Revenge of the Sith when Mace Windu came to arrest him! My mind was reeling. What does this mean? We know Palpatine was aware of this mission and how it probably wouldn’t end well, hence he had Anakin recalled to Coruscant. Since Krell was parroting his future words, did Palpatine actually have the General under some form of mind control? Was Krell aware of the Supreme Chancellor’s alter ego as Darth Sidious? Was he in league with him or even a secret apprentice?

Krell quickly escaped from the command tower, slashing his way through clone after clone. When we think how reluctant the prequels and the Clone Wars series have been to show living beings—especially the clones—cut down by lightsaber slashes, this positively seemed like an orgy of slaughter, perfectly fitting that gloriously pulpy title, “Carnage of Krell.” The clones chased him into the woods, where he used the Force to call out and taunt his adversaries from afar, Voldemort-style. Finally that carnivorous plant that had ensnared Hard Case a couple eps back knocked Krell out: call it deus ex sarlacc.

NEXT: When will villains ever learn that monologuing isn’t a good idea?

Now in custody at the Republic base, Krell could finally do what all villains inexplicably do: monologue about his evil plans. He declared he had rejected his Jedi training and the democratic principals of the Republic and was planning to become Count Dooku’s apprentice after serving up the Separatists a colossal Republic defeat on Umbara. With Dooku he would help pave the way for a New Order, under which the galaxy would be governed by eminent leadership. The Jedi just weren’t willing to impose the iron-fist tactics that would bring order to the chaos of the galaxy. Of course, what he was imagining was the Empire. And yet, despite mimicking Palpatine’s “It’s treason, then” line, it seems like he’s come to this idea independently. Like he hasn’t actually been corrupted by any Sith Lord, but just turned to the Dark Side on his own—and when you turn to the Dark Side you wish for nothing more than for an Emperor to rule over the galaxy. (See, I told you those yellow eyes were indicative of villainy!) On The Clone Wars, this is the first Jedi other than Dooku who we’ve seen embrace the Dark. About time if you ask me! The Clone Wars comics and novels have shown a lot more shades of gray to the Jedi, a number of whom, like Mace Windu’s former master, Sora Bulq, turned to the Dark Side and joined the Separatists. Windu’s former Padawan Depa Billaba also fell into darkness when she led a campaign on Haruun Kal in the harrowing novel Shatterpoint, becoming something like the Star Wars galaxy’s Colonel Kurtz. (Clearly, Mace is a bad influence.) Still, I think it would have been fascinating to see Krell try to fight for the Republic as a Dark Jedi, with the goal of transforming it into the Empire from within. It would have cast the Republic in a much more severe light of moral uncertainty, showing that evil can be homegrown rather than just yet another externalized threat.

However, we did get a bit of that moral murkiness when Rex decided that Krell was too dangerous to keep alive. So, like the General was going to do for Fives and Jesse, Rex prepared their own little Order 66 for Krell. Before he even had a chance, Dogma picked up a blaster and fired one azure bolt into his snake-like skull. In the end, did the clones prove themselves to be just as ruthless as Krell himself? Well, they are one day going to serve the Empire that Krell hoped to be a part of. Fascinating stuff.

So we’ve come to it at last: the end of this epic journey into that galaxy far, far away’s heart of darkness. Where do the Umbaran episodes rank for you among the best arcs of The Clone Wars? And, after Krell, can we expect to see more Jedi turn to the Dark Side with the hope of one day serving the New Order that everybody knows is coming? Maybe Master Jerec?

Episode Recaps

Star Wars: The Clone Wars

Before the Dark Times, before the Empire, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker fight to restore peace and justice to a galaxy far, far away…

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