New characters on The Clone Wars are a double-edged… uh, lightsaber, I suppose. On the one hand, they’re usually great additions to the cast. But on the other, more mechanical hand, they’re often gone after one episode. Several examples right off the top of my head: Mar Tuuk, Admiral Trench, and Master Sinube. They came, they ruled, then they left, never to be seen again. And each time, my fragile heart was shattered.
Okay, maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but my point stands: great characters deserve more than one go-round on the small-screen. Maybe that’s why I’m so pumped about this particular story arc, which kicked off with ‘Darkness on Umbara.’ I can’t wait to see more of Jedi Pong Krell, who’s instantly one of the most fascinating characters in a long while, and the first truly great new Jedi since… well, since Master Sinube. He’s completely different from the warm and fuzzy Jedi we’re used to, even though his unique perspective – that clones are essentially cannon fodder – is 100% true. He even barks about their “design” at one point, reminding us, after seasons of getting to know these troopers, that they were genetically modified to be obedient.
And yet, he’s still a Jedi. In one of the best scenes this show has ever done (we’ve had two of those so far this season, the death of Captain Tarpals being the other), he listens to reason over emotion – though for a moment, I wondered whether he would or not. When he ignites his lightsaber while talking to Rex, I genuinely thought he might kill him – after all, neither he nor Rex have clearly defined fates. It’s another reason I love new characters: they’re vulnerable, and that makes them exciting.
That sense of novelty also works well when it comes to the setting. I’m not crazy about episodes with clones running headfirst into action (I suppose my man card should be revoked), but it’s a lot more interesting here than it was in ‘Landing at Point Rain’ from season two. And that’s mostly because of Umbara itself. Unlike dusty, drab Geonosis, which only became cool once we started crawling through the catacombs, Umbara has a really alien feel to it, especially because it’s so foggy and dark and just damn freaky. The terrain is strange and unpredictable, specifically because we haven’t seen it before. And there are man-eating flora, which is always welcome. I much prefer these new planets to the ones we’ve already visited in the movies.
Same goes for the Umbarans themselves. We never get a good look at them, and their weird glowing helmets make it tough to discern whether they’re mechanical or sentient. I suspect this will be a bigger theme in coming episodes, which sounds very intriguing. But for now, I’m just happy to have General Krell butting heads with Captain Rex. Thank you sir, may I have another?
- Hey, Obi-Wan finally shows up this season, and he’s just as snoozetastic as ever.
- I didn’t mention it, but Krell is downright badass with his four arms multiple lightsabers. Why didn’t they just send this guy after Grievous?
- Krell is voiced by Dave Fennoy, an actor who, according to Wikipedia, does those introductory announcements at the beginning of Hulu videos. Huh.
- Gotta point out that this was a huge episode for Rex, who’s developed into perhaps the most three-dimensional of all the series regulars. I didn’t see that coming.
- I’m interested to see how they plan on fitting this episode in with the overall continuity. It certainly seemed like they were hinting at something towards the beginning.
- Hot damn, this was a good episode.