“Conspiracy” brings back the tonal disconnect that was present in the Star Wars: The Clone Wars season five episode “A Sunny Day in the Void,” where references to suicide were placed right alongside jokes about a character’s height. “Conspiracy” shows Tup screaming and writhing, while Fives is attended by a humorously deadpan droid. The resourceful, emotive Fives carries the episode, though, which was also written by Katie Lucas and written by Brian Kalin O’Connell.
“I always wanted to have human feelings,” a droid says when Fives bares his heart to it. “But I do not. Good bye.” It’s funny, and it’s followed by an establishing shot of spaceships that give the viewer some breathing room and tries to reduce the tonal whiplash, but it’s also followed by grim scenes that seem a bit disjointed in comparison.
The art direction fares better throughout. Shaak Ti’s bright coloring stands out nicely against the dominantly white color scheme of Kamino. The secondary color in this episode is the red seen in Ti’s skin, the doctor’s clothes, and Tup’s jumpsuit. Tyrannus, on the other hand, is a cool blue hologram – he fits better on Kamino than Ti does. It surprised me to learn that the Kaminoans had Dooku on speed dial, but it fits into the world of Attack of the Clones.
The quick tonal shifts don’t throw the audience too far out of the story, though. The “hyper-tests” and “phase five atomic scans” are fictional science, but are treated with gravitas that helps them sound like a little more than technobabble. Dee Bradley Baker’s voice acting as Fives brings the audience into a character who can be near tears one moment and stoically picking up a gun the next. The fact that he only wants to save his friend, not save the galaxy, really humanizes him, and his dialogue to Tup is heart-wrenching and sincere.
In season four, both Tup and Fives were witness to the dark Jedi Pong Krell throwing clones into the line of fire and turning against the Jedi to take part in the coming empire he had foreseen. Then, Fives spoke out against Krell, and Tup encouraged his squad to execute the fallen Jedi. I wish they’d mentioned this in “The Unknown,” but their history adds shades of gray to the episode even without that.
Fives has been established anew in “Conspiracy”, first when he asked Rex permission to go with Fives into the medical suite and second when he asked Shaak Ti the same, as someone who will speak out for what he wants. But he’s also a military man, and doesn’t argue if the superior soldier says no. He’s living in a dark episode – I’m not sure whether a bloody chunk of brain shown in one scene would have been shown on Cartoon Network. The dissonance is gone by the end of the episode, as even the droid becomes someone to root for. Tup’s the hero – and when part of his mission fails, and he says he thought he could succeed, I was caught up in the show enough that I felt his disappointment too.