Artificial Continuum

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Picking up shortly after last week's stellar introduction in the shadowy world of Umbara, "The General" transports instantly back into the action, characters, and moral dilemma that plotline has expressed. While it may not be as strong as last week's brutal arc opener, "The General" is still a suitably strong episode of the series and of the arc itself.

After their failed attempt at taking the Umbaran capital, General Krell, Rex, Fives, and their men find themselves pinned down by advancing Umbaran troops and air support. With their current plan failing, Krell is eager to accept a dire mission proposed by Obi-wan, who needs a key air base taken out in order for the invasion to work. However, the only way to accomplish such a task is by advancing exposed through a heavily armed Umbaran controlled area.

"The General" most succeeds in its continual portrayal of its clone protagonists. Each character, both new and old to our eyes, grow significantly throughout the course of the plot, and they soon become the heroes this show has needed since it began. What makes the clone army so compelling as storytelling devices is that ,unlike the Jedi, their fates are undecided, and as horrible as it may sound Krell is right in calling them expendable. Again, the true success of this arc or not rests on Dee Bradley Baker. Luckily, his work here is even more improved than last week's outing.

Rex is a continued standout. Its obvious that out of everyone involved under Krell's command, Rex is the one that is most emotionally and morally confused. He wants to help his men, but at the same time he, by nature, must put incredible trust in his commanding officer. Fives and Hardcase also shine in a moment of bizarrely genuine humor towards the episodes end. Kix, team medic, is also an unintentional standout. Only Jesse and Tup stand as being the most bizarrely underdeveloped out of the main squad.

However, whether "The General" works or not really depends upon the portrayal of General Krell. While suitably abrasive and intriguing, Krell still in many ways, good and bad, is an enigma. We still do not know why Krell is such a starkly different Jedi than any others we have seen. Also, if Krell is such a military genius, why does he continue to make such poor tactical decisions that just lead in men getting killed? There are parts where Krell truly excels at the role the writers have given him, but overall his character is still a frustrating mystery.

While not as down to Earth and gritty as last week's violent skirmishes, the battle scenes in "The General" are suitably violent and visually stunning. This time we focus in upon hulking war mechs driven by Umbaran soldiers. Its a different type of combat, and while different from the previous week's its still effective both visually and emotionally.

The animation of this arc still outshines anything the show has done to this point. In addition to improved facial animations and a planet that quite literally drips with atmosphere, there are some beautifully rendered and shot scenes, especially involving the episodes numerous action sequences.

With guest director Walter Murch at the helm (film editor for Apocalypse Now) "The General" it was hard for the episode to fail. While it may not be as gritty as last weeks and the character of Krell still frustrates, the episode continues to take us through what could be the best arc in Clone Wars history.

Score: -A