This review contains spoilers.
4.7 Darkness on Umbara
Last episode’s lightness of Droid adventures has been replaced this week by the more serious and shadowy tones of the planet Umbara, which has found itself the target of Anakin and his Clone buddies including fan fave, Rex.
A blisteringly cinematic opening, featuring some juicy Republic Gunship action alongside a multitude of Clone Trooper fun, sets the militaristic mood. The invasion is a treat for the eyes and for the first time in many episodes shows off the filmic qualities of the Star Wars animated spin-off.
The fighting between the Clones and the indigenous population (who we don’t get a good look at, just mere glimpses) gives way to more problems for Kamino’s finest. Anakin is pulled off Clone duty and returned to Coruscant for unnamed business with Palpatine. Replacing him is the Jedi Master, Pong Krell.
Krell, a Besalisk like Obi Wan’s knowledgeable chef chum Dexter Jettster from Attack Of The Clones, isn’t quite what Rex and the Clones were expecting. His reputation as a hard-ass is quickly realised and shares no friendly banter with his troops even choosing to refer to Rex as his CT number, CC-7567. Krell also seems to have interpersonal issues and demands everything is done his way; one begins to wonder whose side the Jedi is on.
But that’s not the only problem the lookalikes face. The Umbarans have technology that puts the Clones on the back foot and find themselves overpowered by their foe’s superiority. Notably, there are insect-like creatures that horrifically electrocute the soldiers whilst they also face an airborne threat that only Krell seems able to defeat.
It’s literally a very dark episode, Umbara is a very shadowy world and some viewers may well be going for the brightness button. It’s very difficult to see just what is going on; an incredibly tactile move, placing us within the role of the Clone Trooper
The darkness is also metaphorically seen in the nature of the war and just who is on the side of right. Witness the carpet-bombing of the titular planet, a little too reminiscent of similar raids on our world for comfort. Lucas has often used human wars to allegorise in the Star Wars films but it’s surprising to find it done here on the small screen, on a “children’s” show.
Darkness on Umbara is nasty episode that will suck you in with its marvelous visuals and arresting conflict whilst maintaining your attention with a drama that treads on the fine line of good and evil in the Clone Wars. It’s the first of a four-part arc and one that is shaping up to be as intriguing as it is beautiful.