The Clone Wars review: ‘Darkness on Umbara’

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?

Stray Thoughts:

  • 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.

Grade: A

10 Replies to “The Clone Wars review: ‘Darkness on Umbara’”

  1. Make that three for the mancards. I enjoy action but it’s best when it has a point and is well conceived. I like the way the Umbarans had intelligent counterattacks in this episode.

  2. I enjoyed the episode, and look forward to the inevitable showdown between Rex, Fives and their new general. Umbara is just damn freaky – but how is that the clones can breathe fine on the planet, but the native Umbarans have to wear breath masks?

    And while it’s good for us as viewers to have each Umbaran’s head lit up with a green mask, it does give away their position pretty easily in the dark…

  3. Really liked this episode and I hope to see more like it! It finally feels like the Clone Wars has picked up where they left off from last season.

    The way this episode fleshed out, and based on what the future titles infer, this arc seems to follow the general story of “Heart of Darkness”. Here’s hoping they actually take this version of that story as far as they can – maybe even to “Apocalypse Now” levels (story wise, at least).

  4. James, I also noticed the lights on those Umbaran helmets… and I think I had the same quibble a few weeks ago during the Mon Cal eps. I guess it’s just one of those “whatchagonnado” stylistic choices.

    And YubNub (if that is your real name), that’s a really good point about Heart of Darkness! I didn’t think of it that way but you might be onto something, especially since some scenes in this ep had a total Apocalypse Now feel to them.

  5. yeah, the light-up helmets… great for showing character’s faces when filming in underwater and space scenes. not really practical if you want to be able to see out of the helmets. i want to say that “Sphere” was the first movie to really popularize them, which might be the only thing going for that movie.

    stooge: i’m surprised you didn’t pick up on the Apocalypse Now feel… i felt that vibe all the way back from the clips at comic-con…


  6. I kinda think these episodes have been spectrum-shifted so we humans can watch it on television. Or something like that. Also, I don’t think the Umbarans are breathing that stuff. Their tech leaks luminous gas when hit. I think it’s some weird alien mojo mist.

  7. Ahsoka’s best friend — thanks! Big smile.

    James, I actually have never read that post. Nothing personal, but I’ve sorta been avoiding spoilers for this season. Obviously the big news (Darth Maul) is unavoidable, but I almost feel like I would have enjoyed Season 3 more had I known less going in. We’ll see how it goes…

    And Pablo, so the Umbarans are like Bane? Or Jose Canseco? I’m okay with either.

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