Now this is the episode I’ve been waiting for. That we’ve all been waiting for.
Kid-friendly hijinks with R2-D2 and C-3PO are all well and good, but there comes a time when you’ve just got to stop looking at the cute side of war. The Clone Wars are a galaxy-spanning conflict trumped-up needlessly by two craven Sith Lords to bring about their ultimate vision of a galaxy under dictatorial rule. Supreme Chancellor Palpatine has sacrificed trillions of lives to facilitate his own power grab. It’s about time we put aside the Gungans and the Aleena and any other cuddly critters. And “Darkness on Umbara” did just that. If the original Star Wars trilogy has been read as a metaphor for Vietnam, “Darkness on Umbara” followed suit and, to use the parlance of ‘Nam, brought us into the s—. These are the front lines, baby.
Anakin, Obi-Wan, Saesee Tiin, and General Krell brought their forces into the Ghost Nebula in the Expansion Region to take back the shadowy world of Umbara. The purple-tinged planet is the nexus for a critical supply route, even though it’s covered in perpetual darkness save for the natural photoluminescent glow of its flora. I know what you’re thinking. This sounds like Nam Chorios, the titular world in that all-time worst Expanded Universe novel, Barbara Hambly’s Planet of Twilight (a.k.a. the one where Princess Leia fights an exiled Hutt Jedi. Yes, you read that right…A Hutt Jedi.). No such obese Force-user was present on this dimly-lit world, though legendary Apocalypse Now film-editor Walter Murch is directing next week’s episode, so maybe Ziro the Hutt will show up to fulfill the Kurtz role.
One of my all-time favorite comments on this recap came last year when somebody wrote, “Where are the clone troopers? I watch Clone Wars for the clones!” That person should have been thrilled about “Darkness on Umbara.” Captain Rex and the ARC Trooper Fives reunited, for one. And most of the episode was then seen from their rank-and-file perspective. Their initial flight through Umbara’s violet sky, dodging Separatist flak, felt like a grim helicopter ride into the middle of hell until they could finally land and establish a beachhead—only to encounter the Umbaran militia striking from the shadows.
NEXT: A tribute to George Lucas’s knowledge of cinema history.