Expectations for The General could not be higher following the top notch Darkness On Umbara episode. However I felt this one went in a slightly different direction than expected. We were all pleased with all the action and character development with the clones in the last episode, but were hungry for more focus on General Krell and the enemy Umbarans. But this episode, despite its misleading title, was again a very clone-centric story, highlighted by heavy action sequences with an underpinning of clone psychology. Measuring this episode up to what it could have been rather than what it was, however, in unfair. So I will review The General for what it was, an extrapolation of the previous episode.
The standout moments of this episode were without question the action sequences, which were the best I have seen yet in the Clone Wars series. The battle against the Umbaran centipede vehicles was mind-blowing. It was a perfect symphony of seamless animation, inventive choreography, fast-paced editing, and excellent sound design. The camera shaking with the ground was a perfect touch that made the scene seem even more real, and the focus on the wounded clones added emotional weight to sensory ecstasy.
I was both surprised and pleased with this focus. We have seen clones get shot down, eaten, and even beheaded countless times, but usually the scene cuts away to something else immediately. However in this episode we saw many wounded clones attended to and dragged away in the heat of battle. There was even several sequences of dialog surrounding the injured troops. This went a long way toward intensifying the reality that this is a brutal war, and those who survive carry that weight upon them, this fact ultimately becoming one of the main plot lines in The General.
One thing that made the action sequences in this episode so great, was the extremely inventive design of the Umbaran war machines. The crablike tanks and bubble-cockpit star fighters were some of the coolest designs I have ever seen on this show. The scene were Fives and Hardcase first attempted to fly the star fighters added comedy to a very dark episode. The rapport between these two characters was much more enjoyable for me than anything we had seen between C-3PO and R2 in previous episodes.
One of the great achievements of this arc so far, has been the further individualization of the clones. To go along with their unique looks, a steady stream of dialog both in action sequences and in down times have added a lot to their respective characters. Rex is becoming a very compelling leader, being forced to balance his loyalty towards his men with his duty to serve General Krell. Fives, who has the longest spanning character arc of any of the clones dating back to the episode Clone Cadets, seems to be getting jaded and cynical. He even questioned Rex's loyalty to the war effort at one point. Yet Fives continues to show his experience and solidified Rex's trust in him by pulling off the dangerous mission of breaking into the airbase. Another interesting trooper that has come to the forefront of this arc is Hardcase; his strong personality has been evident throughout these episodes, including a great line where he mentioned to Fives that he was told something had leaked into his growth tank on Kamino.
With characters like the deserter Cut Lawquane in a previous episode and Fives in this episode questioning his willingness to serve the Republic, and General Krell pushing him to his limits, I am extremely interested to see how Rex handles himself in the remainder of this arc. One day he might have to make a permanent stand on whose side he is on, and all of these little moments are adding together to make a very compelling fate for the Captain. I also want to mention that I believe we saw Sergeant Appo in this episode who would become a commander by Revenge of the Sith and lead the 501st against the Jedi Temple. Perhaps there is an interesting story yet to be told concerning Rex and Appo.
One thing that both excited me and disappointed me in this episode was the music. After a few good Kevin Kiner motifs and some John Williams-esque music in last week's soundtrack, I expected more out of The General in this department. The themes during the first few action sequences were adequate and echoed the creepy aura of the planet and the Umbaran war machines, yet I found the music in the final action sequence to be a bit lackluster. There were a few motifs from the Clone Wars movie, but I much would have rather heard the same or similar music to that was used in Darkness on Umbara.
In conclusion this episode felt like a horizontal extension of the previous one. It was better in some ways, like the action and the comedy, but was worse in other ways, like the music and lack of new characters and development of Krell and the Umbarans. I am hoping that we get all of these things by the end of this arc, making it a thorough story. One thing that really excited me about The General was the cliffhanger ending at the end of Darkness on Umbara. So I was disappointed that there wasn't another one in this episode. But I'm still looking forward to the upcoming space battle, and further development of the plot and characters. Regardless of any shortcomings, the Clone Wars is back and better than ever!