Artificial Continuum

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Despite a mediocre season opener and a two week break, The Clone Wars is back with a bang and violent vengeance. The much hyped four part Umbara saga has arrived, and with it delivering one of the most shocking, violent, and downright satisfying episodes of the show we have seen in months.

The shadowy world of Umbara has left the Republic, for reasons largely unknown. (There have been some rumblings that this is related to the death of their representative in “Senate Murders”, but there has been no confirmation on this fact.) The Republic once again joins in a front to bring the planet back under its rule. With Obi-Wan and Sassee Tiin tasked with taking back a separate section of the planet, Anakin along with the 501st(including: Rex, Fives, Jesse, Hardcase, Kix, and newcomers Dogma and Tup) are tasked with retaking the city’s capital. However, after a violent first assault Anakin is called back for mysterious reasons leaving the atypical General Krell involved.

If anything has to be said about “Darkness on Umbara” is that it is brutal. For the first time, the clones find themselves faced with an enemy with a human face, and things get decidedly nasty. The battles are visceral and intense, and for the first time since season 1’s “Trespass” there is a general sense of loss. There are numerous wince inducing scenes, as the men of the 501st meet horrible ends. Including several well-known clones to the mix adds a level of suspense that is often absent from the series, and after the dust clears from every round of artillery you find yourself looking to see if one of the big players has fallen. Like such war films Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers the sound blaster fire not only echoes a coming battle but a feeling of dread and worry.

Also worthy of mention is the inclusion of General Krell. Although his initial appearance reminds one too much of the hardass military commander, the atypical Besalisk Jedi only grows more intriguing as the episode draw along. If anything, Krell is an enigma. His character stands as so fundamentally different from almost every Jedi we have seen in the series so far, and his ultimate purpose soon becomes an important point of interest.

Dee Bradley Baker once again steals with his performance of the clones. The subtle alterations of his voice for the majority of the cast here is impressive, and essential for the success of this episode.

The animation is once again beautiful. The initial shots of the Republics ships shooting through the mist covered atmosphere of Umbara are suitably mystifying, and add that in the brutal battle scenes that follow and you have a visual stunner of an episode.

Perhaps where “Darkness on Umbara” is most interesting is that there is still so much to go. This episode more than delivered, but we still have three more installments on this shadowy world, and the ultimate destination is unclear. Who makes it off Umbara alive? Who is General Krell? What made this arc so disturbing that Dee Bradley Baker didn’t want to voice it? What will next week’s superstar director Walter Murch bring to the table? It’s intriguing, and more than a bit exciting.

Score: A