Sunday, November 6, 2011

Battle Meditation Review: Star Wars: The Clone Wars: The General (4.08)

The eye of Sauron, err General Krell.  

What do you get when you combine a strategically inept and tactically allergic Jedi General and a battalion of battle hardened Clone Troopers?  You get the powder keg that is Umbara, and tensions continue to build in the second of four Umbara episodes.  

"The path of ignorance is guided by fear."
General Krell orders Captain Rex and the clone troopers of the 501st Legion to conquer a heavily fortified Umbaran airbase, and will not accept anything less than victory. It is an almost certain suicide mission, unless the clones can use their ingenuity to defeat their new enemy.
In the history of warfare it is common for planners to prepare to fight the next war like they fought the last war.  Planning for weapons and tactics that they have encountered before.  When met with innovative new weapons or tactics, this can lead to large scale slaughter on the side that is unprepared for the paradigm shift in warfare.  It is pretty clear from the Umbara arc, that the Republic was ill prepared to face the technology that the Umbarans possessed on the battlefield and that General Krell is either unable or unwilling to recognize this reality and adapt to the changed conditions on the battlefield.

Krell's inept leadership leads to a full scale meeting amongst the troopers where they debate whether or not to even follow Krell's orders of a full forward assault on the Umbaran airbase.  Fives is one of the most vocal of the clones during this debate, only very reluctantly agrees to follow orders in this case.  I have a feeling that Fives decision is entirely based on his relationship and history with Captain Rex and if not for Rex, Fives would have done something about General Krell at this point.

The debate over Krell's orders leads to a very interesting and heated debate between Rex and Fives:
Rex: That's the price of war Fives, we're soldiers we have the duty to follow orders and if necessary lay down our lives for victory.
Fives: Do you believe that? Or is that what you where engineered to think?
Rex: I honor my code, that's what I believe.
This episode to me was central to the character progression of Rex.  The Captain is trying as hard as he possibly can to follow orders, follow his training, and to uphold his personal code of honor.  In a way Rex is exemplifying the Japanese idea of Bushido, the "way of the warrior-knight."  What we see in the end of the episode is that Rex reached his breaking point, where he could no longer follow Krell's orders to march straight ahead into the teeth of the Umbaran MHC's and the almost certain slaughter of all his troops.

Rex presented a two man infiltration plan to Krell, which Krell explicitly rejected, he then ordered Rex to follow the General's original plan.  Rex at this point disobeys a direct order from Krell and continues with his own plan.  This is a remarkable turn for a character who is basically the ideal Clone Trooper in every respect.  The ability to think critically and be adaptable on the battlefield is the greatest strength that the Clones have over battle droids, in many ways, Krell is more similar to the Droids on the battlefield then the Clones are.

It seems pretty clear that Rex will have a very difficult decision to make in the conclusion of this story arc, and that when push comes to shove, he will always pick those under his command over his commander.

In this episode we also see some very interesting behavior from the Clones.  On their march to the airbase, we see the Clones brutally executing injured Umbarans instead of taking them prisoner.  Once the airbase is captured we see Umbarans taken as prisoners.  It has me wondering what the Clones orders are regarding fighting organics versus droids.

The Umbaran technology was particularly impressive, stunning visuals combined with some really cool sound effects.  We had three main vehicles in this episode the Umbaran Fighter, the Crawler Tank, and the Mobile Heavy Cannon (MHC).  Each of these Umbaran vehicles featured the illuminated and ray shielded cockpit design and the funky holographic control interface.  The Fighters that were co-opted by Fives and Hardcase feature a great deal of maneuverability.   The Crawler Tank is bristling with gun turrets and the MHC was just enormous.  I really enjoyed the animation on the MHC, particularly the recoil effect when the main cannon fired.

We got the introduction of a Prequel film character in this epsiode with the debut in TCW of Sergeant Appo.  If you recall Revenge of the Sith, Commander Appo by this point has replaced Captain Rex as the Commander of the 501st Legion.  Appo is subsequently killed in the Expanded Universe novel, Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader.

I really enjoyed the addition of Appo in this episode and his apparent unquestioning loyalty to General Krell serves as an interesting counterpoint to Rex and Fives.  Did the Kaminoans change something in the Clones DNA or training by the time Appo was grown?  Or is Appo as ruthless as Krell and Darth Vader?

There is some pretty strong foreshadowing that Krell is taking a turn to the Dark Side in this episode.  Just before he receives the holocom message from Obi-Wan, Krell is standing next to either a wounded or dead Clone Trooper and he callously kicks the Trooper out of his way so that he can stand more comfortably.  This is an incredibly dismissive move, contrasted throughout the episode with the Clones care fore their fellow brothers removing them from the battlefield when they fall.  The biggest moment however was towards the end of the episode when the Clones take the airbase, Krell is standing at his ledge-top command post and looking down at the destruction below seemingly pleased as flames dance in his yellow eyes.  This is purely my own conjecture, but I believe Krell is being either used directly (as Dark Side follower, but not true Sith Apprentice) by Sidious, or he is being used indirectly in that Sidious senses that Krell has fallen and is putting him in position on Umbara for a certain goal.  What is that goal? What was Sidious hoping to accomplish? Let me explain.

It has been speculated by other commentaries, most eloquently by Eric Geller at TFN in his review of Darkness on Umbara a parallel to Timothy Zahn's novel Outbound Flight, with Palpatine removing Anakin and Obi-Wan from that mission to protect them.  While I think this is certainly a valid theory, I have a slightly different one in terms of what is going on.

In Attack of the Clones we see Palpatine maneuvering Padme and Anakin together, we also see the slaughter of the Sandpeople by Anakin after the death of his mother.  In Revenge of the Sith we learn that Anakin has been confiding his deepest darkest secrets to Palpatine.  Palpatine in effect has been Anakin's closest friend and surrogate Father, though most of this relationship occurs off screen.

It is undoubtedly true that Palpatine knows that Anakin blames himself for his mother's death, because he wasn't there to free her and subsequently protect her.  It is also undoubtedly true that Anakin has talked to Palpatine about the troops under his command and about his indispensible Commander, Captain Rex.  Palpatine the Sith Lord that he is would be able to sense Anakin's affection for Rex and his emotional attachment to his troopers.  By pulling Anakin off of Umbara, Palpatine is setting up the 501st Legion to be slaughtered and Captain Rex to die.  This ideal outcome, would further emotionally scar Anakin, and the added element that Anakin once again was not their to prevent this tragic outcome, would further reinforce Anakin's desire to have control, order, and more power.  Palpatine in effect is not recalling Anakin to protect him, but to hurt him.

Rating:  Episode 4.08, The General gets 9.0 rockets right to the face of an Umbaran Centipede.  This episode improved upon the already amazing visuals from the previous one, and added even greater story and character development.

Direct Link to Watch Star Wars: The Clone Wars: The General (4.08)

Next Time on Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Plan of Dissent (4.09)
"The ignorant man follows, the wise man leads."
After the Republic conquers an Umbaran airbase, General Krell orders Rex and his men on towards the heavily fortified capital. Realizing there's a better plan, several clone troopers disobey orders to carry out a rogue, covert operation.
It looks like we have a good idea about who these Clones are and what their covert op is, also from entries on the characters on the Explore: Plan of Dissent page.

General Krell continues to devise costly tactics that risk the lives of the clones, despite being presented with seemingly safer alternatives. He refuses to listen to an idea proposed by Rex and Fives to destroy an orbital Separatist supply ship, instead sticking to his original plan of an overland assault. 
Clone Captain Rex is torn between his duty to follow orders, and his commitment to keeping his troops safe. General Krell's commands seem to needlessly risk the lives of the 501st, and some of the troops are willing to defy orders to keep their brothers safe. 
The pragmatic Jesse has been studying the captured Umbaran starfighters at the airbase, for potential use in a covert, rogue operation. 
Hardcase got a taste of the Umbaran starfighters when he stole one to provide much needed air support for the 501st troopers. Now, he's getting the hang of the tricky fighters. 
Fives has had it with Krell's misguided command. He knows of a better alternative to capture the Umbaran capital, and will go to any length to carry out his forbidden plan.
SOURCES: and Wookieepedia 

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