It's clone vs. Krell as the ARC trooper Fives defies the General to lead an aerial assault inspired by a ten-year-old Anakin. Yippee!
“Plan of Dissent” began with one of the more hilarious non sequitur morals we’ve seen on Star Wars: The Clone Wars in a while: “The wise man leads, the strong man follows.” I don’t have a problem with the first half of that, but that isn’t enough to satisfy me. I see this moral as half empty rather than half full. How is it a sign of strength to follow? And, for that matter, isn’t the wise man strong because of, you know, his wisdom? Maybe it’s a commentary on brawn vs. brains, that those valued for their muscle are usually ordered into battle by those who won’t risk their own hides. Like General Krell. He leads from the rear. But then that would assume he’s wise. Damn your incongruities, Star Wars philosophy!
I begin with this nitpicking of The Clone Wars’ ouroboros logic because little else disappointed me about “Plan of Dissent,” the third installment of this instant-series-classic Umbaran arc. Okay, so maybe the visuals weren’t as stunning as “Darkness on Umbara” or “The General,” and maybe the plot served mostly to set up the clone vs. Krell showdown of next week’s fourth and final installment, but by any standard it was still a winner.
One of the most exciting things about this arc has been discovering the totally alien technology of the Umbarans. “Plan of Dissent” opened with another such demonstration, with the image of Obi-Wan Kenobi appearing in some kind of liquid hologram that seemed like a morphing effect out of The Abyss. Definitely not something we’re accustomed to seeing in Star Wars. This being me, I had to play this back to get what Obi-Wan was saying because I’m hypnotized by blue, glowy things. Yes, I’m an adult.
When you stop and think about it, isn’t it amazing that Obi-Wan hasn’t caught on to the malevolence of General Krell? Are the Jedi such a cloistered fraternity that Obi-Wan is unable to see that this colleague has completely abandoned the trappings of Jedihood, especially the respect for all living things? But then again, Obi-Wan was clueless that his brother-in-arms Anakin was a budding Sith Lord, so maybe we shouldn’t put much stock in his character assessment ability. Anyway, he commed Krell to let him know that taking the Umbaran capital would be difficult because a Separatist supply ship positioned itself right over the city to restock the insurgents. So much for taking that airbase last week.
NEXT: Send in the Clones…to destroy the supply ship.
Captain Rex immediately devised a plan. They had just captured three Umbaran fighters and acquired the access codes to fly them. Three of his men could receive a crash course in piloting, then fly them up to the supply ship and attack it as high-tech Trojan horses—after all, the Seppies won’t fire on their own. The fact that the Republic forces currently dogfighting with the Seps might attack them apparently never crossed Rex’s mind.
Krell wasn’t having it. Despite their successes, he can never see the clones as anything more than genetically engineered blaster fodder. Once again he ordered a frontal assault to take the city, because, well, the blunt force strategy seems to be his only strategy for any battle. And he’s so rigid he didn’t even want to spare three clones to pilot those starfighters.
Thus began a feverish debate among a group of the 501st’s clones, all distinguished by their idiosyncratic facial tattoos and hairstyles. My favorite is Jesse, the heroic warrior who flaunts his patriotism with a tattoo of the Republic insignia on this noggin. I also love that one clone with the samurai topknot who also has a single teardrop tattoo under his right eye. He’s like Kyuzo from Seven Samurai, if Kyuzo wore the ink of a Mexican cartel hitman. As always, Dee Bradley Baker tried his utmost to distinguish between the lot. I recently interviewed Ashley Eckstein (Ahsoka Tano) and she told me that, unlike a lot of animated productions, The Clone Wars’ cast records all of their dialogue together just like an old-time radio play. That means that Baker had to voice all half-dozen or so clone voices in real time!
So of course Fives, being an ARC Trooper and bred for independent thought and all, decided to carry out the plan to attack the supply ship anyway. It didn’t matter that he, and his volunteers Jesse and Hard Case, weren’t pilots. I mean, they really weren’t pilots. When they blew up the defenses surrounding the airbase using the starfighters, they weren’t flying, just avoiding crashing. You can’t even say that like Buzz Lightyear they were falling with style. So when Hard Case tried to give his starfighter an in-hanger test flight, he practically destroyed the whole facility, prompting an angry call from Krell. (Also whenever anyone says, “This can’t get much worse,” you know it’s going to get worse almost immediately.)
Fives motormouthed his way out of that mess, leading Krell to believe they had merely run a diagnostic on the fighter and triggered a booby trap. His not-entirely-convincing shtick wasn’t far afield from Han Solo’s Death Star detention block antics, and I half expected Fives to just blast the comm array rather than bother with Krell any further. Boring conversation anyway.
The General ordered that the fighters be locked down. Thanks a lot for nothing, Hard Case. If you had to report to Emperor Palpatine (as envisioned by Seth Green), he’d let you know that there is no try. There’s do and there’s f—ing up royal. Well, you are f—ing up royal, Hard Case.
NEXT: Not quite like shooting womprats in Beggar’s Canyon.
Fives was undeterred. He remembered how General Skywalker had told him that as a ten-year-old he’d blown up a droid control ship by flying a Naboo starfighter he’d commandeered into its reactor bay and detonating proton torpedoes. Fives thought this plan was wizard and, assuming that the Seps hadn’t guarded against such a possibility, decided to carry it out, Krell be damned.
Fives, Jesse, and Hard Case committed Grand Theft Starfighter and headed up to the supply ship. I love the different motivations that compelled the three clones to defy Krell. Like a Howard Hawks character, Fives primarily considers himself a professional doing a job that has to be done. Like a John Ford character, Hard Case concerns himself with the why of the mission rather than the how, deciding to pilot the fighter just to spite General Krell. And like a Raoul Walsh character, Jesse signs up for the sheer adventure of it. (Thank you, Andrew Sarris.) They flew their fighters into the supply ship’s oblong hold until they reached the reactor. But despite an incredulous tactical droid’s delay–after all, the odds of three clones entering the ship were 10,003 to 1–the command crew quickly raised a ray shield around the reactor. Finally, someone realizes this is a vulnerable part of the ship! If Grand Moff Tarkin had thought of the same thing for the Death Star, the Rebel Alliance might have been wiped out at Yavin in one swift stroke. Hard Case realized that the only way to achieve victory would be to disembark from the fighter and manually hoist one of the missiles (on a repulsor field) into the reactor himself. Invoking the 501st and cheesily repeating, “Live to fight another day, boys…live to fight another day,” he sacrificed his life to destroy the ship. Fives and Jesse had mere moments to escape and discover that this beats podracing. Yippee!
No heroes’ welcome awaited them from Krell. Though he called their mission a “brave act,” he also said they had committed a serious crime in disobeying orders. He intended that Fives and Jesse be court martialed, convicted, and executed, proving once and for all that Krell doesn’t possess the respect for life that is the hallmark of a Jedi. Also, if we didn’t know that the Republic has capital punishment, now we do.
This means that one of two things can happen in next week’s arc-capper, “Carnage of Krell.” Fives and Jesse will somehow heroically redeem themselves in the eyes of Krell, or Krell will meet his doom before he can even refer their insubordination for court martial. Considering the episode title—“Carnage of Krell” sounds like an ‘80s sword-and-sorcery epic replete with greased musclemen—I’m banking on the latter. What would be your guess? And where does this four-parter rank among the all time best Clone Wars story arcs?