Star Wars: The Clone Wars Revisited - 4.07-4.10 The Umbara Arc
Eleven years ago, George Lucas and Dave Filoni introduced the world to Star Wars: The Clone Wars, an animated series that filled in the gap between Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. The story takes place during the Clone Wars, with the Jedi-led clone army facing off against the droid armies of the Separatist Alliance. With the announcement of a surprise seventh season by Disney, The Digital Fix will be revisiting the animated series, looking back at the most important episodes and story arcs of the show’s five seasons, highlighting the elements that made this show so beloved by Star Wars fans.
We return with a look at the Umbara arc, which originally aired back in 2011...
Star Wars: The Clone Wars became noticeably darker in tone beginning in late season 3 three and contined that way for the rest of the series. A prime example of this is the four episode 'Umbara arc' (Darkness on Umbara, The General, Plan of Dissent, and Carnage of Krell) which follows the misadventures of the 501st Legion and Jedi General Pong Krell while fighting on the dark planet Umbara. The four-armed Jedi is put in charge of the clone troops when Anakin is abruptly called back to Coruscant by the chancellor. Anakin is therefore absent from the bulk of this arc, a rare thing for Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
A major theme of this arc involves the question of whether or not one should blindly follow orders, even if said orders get a lot of people killed. This is a major conflict for the clones, who are trained from birth to follow orders and yet at the same time have increasing trouble following Krell's commands because a lot of clones are dying under his watch. One of the key subplots of the arc involves a small group of clones plotting a mutiny to remove Krell from command, even though the punishment is death. This arc is one of several that establishes the distinct personalities of the clones.
Pong Krell is an interesting and complex character because he makes you question everything you think you know about the Jedi. From his introduction, Krell is abrasive, prideful to a fault, and downright contemptuous of the clones under his command. At first this can be chalked up to Krell simply being different from other Jedi we've already met, but the truth is actually much worse. Krell, it is revealed, has glimpsed visions of the future and has actually foreseen the destruction of the Jedi.
The real reason the Jedi has let so many die under his command is because he wants to catch the attention of the Sith Lord the vision has shown him, so that he may join him as an apprentice. In a way, this makes Krell an example of a "proto-Vader," a character who hints at what Anakin will become in the future. Like Anakin in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, Krell becomes obsessed with a vision of the future. The key difference is, while Anakin ultimately joins the Dark Side in an attempt to stop the vision from happening, Krell wants to join to help make it come true.
Another plus for this story is the environment of Umbara itself. Unlike other planets seen in the Star Wars universe, Umbara is a dark and scary place. There's a lot of bioluminescence and creatures that can kill you hidden everywhere. Even the plants are deadly.
This arc really messes with your expectations as to whether or not Krell is a villain (before the reveal that he is in the final episode). In hindsight it seems obvious that Krell is no longer a good guy and yet...his status as a Jedi places that doubt in your mind, because you think "No, a fallen Jedi couldn't be hiding in plain sight like that." The "gaslighting" that occurs throughout the arc (leaving you in doubt as to Krell's true intentions) is really what makes this story so memorable. There's also the epic lightsaber duel between Krell and the clones when it's revealed that the Jedi wields two dual-bladed lightsabers.
Another thing that makes this arc so memorable is just how shocking it feels to see a Jedi uncover hints about Order 66 and not want to stop it. The Umbara arc is by far one of the best arcs in the later seasons of Star Wars: The Clone Wars.