This arc seems like a direct response to some dickhead who would say something like “Clone Wars? Not enough clones, not enough war.” Let’s dig in.
1. In the shit
These episodes, more than any other of the show, are truly ‘war’-ish. This feels like a Vietnam film at times, with the relentless and, at times, confusing violence erupting on all sides. It is not a pleasant viewing experience to see blue and green lasers blasting from all sides, trying to keep track of who is firing what or who was just shot. It is, of course, nothing like actual war, but it gives the viewer a few seconds of real confusion.
These episodes also show the heartlessness that came from the construction of the Clone army as well. Sure, these clones wouldn’t have life without that program, but the very ideal of being raised to be blindly following space monks is a tough pill to swallow on either end of the interaction.
General Krell starts off the arc as a respected but gruff and hardheaded Jedi. The questions surrounding him begin with something like “Why is he so hostile?” That moves into “can a Jedi be this much a jerk?” to “what does he have against the Clones?” to “is he really a Sith?” The answer to all of that is, sort of?
Krell isn’t exactly a Sith, but he desires to be an apprentice of Count Dooku’s, to gain more power. Some Star Wars text talks about the Jedi being selfless and the Sith selfish, and if that is the case, then Krell is a perfect Sith candidate, as he admits to only caring about himself.
Aside from using the clones as cannon fodder, he purposely pits them against each other in ways small and large, even telling two different battalions that the enemy is dressing as Clone Troopers, so fire at them. It’s a cruel trick, and one that turns even the staunchest Krell supporters against him.
3. Loss of life
The heading ‘loss of life’ means two things in this arc. First, we see a staggering number of clones die, and die at the hands of other clones, as well as Krell. While we may not know all their names or spent time with them, this is one of the darker arcs so far, and a big part of that is the pall of death that hangs over it. The clone deaths here represent so much more than just soldiers giving their lives to the cause. Each death, especially in the last two episodes, represents betrayal, cruelty, and bigotry. It’s powerful stuff, and probably a bit too dark for a show, at least initially, meant for kids.
4. One episode too many
This arc is four episodes long, but by the end of the second episode, you know that Krell is not just prickly, but a prick. The third episode, “Plan of Dissent,” has probably the most important action, but feels like stalling, because we all know what is happening. If the first episodes were condensed into one, this would have felt much tighter. 22 episode seasons often do this, sadly.
The biggest development in these episodes is the lingering sense of doubt that is seeps into the Clone Troopers. This is the first time we’ve seen wide-scale rejection of orders, and the breaking down of hierarchy begins almost instantly. Trooper Dogma, who up until this point was, not coincidentally, based on his name, a strict follower of the codes and norms, winds up killing Krell because of his betrayal. When the troops on the ground start to ask questions, it seems like the war could slip away pretty easily. It will be interesting to see how the rest of the series plays off these developments, if it does at all.