Season four of The Clone Wars leaned into many darker story arcs and “Carnage of Krell” was no different. The final episode of a four-episode arc, this conclusion brought a cynical resolution to a story of deception, manipulation and ultimately betrayal.
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In this story, Jedi Pong Krell takes control of the 501st in a campaign on Umbara after Anakin is called back to Coruscant. What follows is, well, carnage. Krell’s questionable tactics lead to a tremendous loss of clones before they ultimately undermine his orders for the greater good of the campaign. After being manipulated into attacking another company of clones, Rex, Fives and the rest of the 501st learn they have been deceived by the Jedi general in an effort to destroy them.
The setting for this arc is dark and cloudy, fitting the ominous and sinister tone of the episode. This arc does a great job examining the relationship between positions of power and those who are expected to follow their orders. This dichotomy is shown through Rex, who struggles with his loyalty to his men, who he must protect, and Krell, who is his commander.
The Clone Wars capably develops clones as characters and individuals rather than just the cannon fodder they were bred to be. Pong Krell is the direct foil to this notion, referring to the clones by their numbers rather than their names and treating them as completely disposable. The contrast questions to the individualism of these clones and whether they truly have the free will they believe they have. This is a theme tackled frequently in Clone Wars. If these men were ultimately created to serve the republic, be loyal to their commanders, how can they rationalize the betrayal of their General and a Jedi? This internal conflict is effectively depicted through the distraught clone trooper Dogma, who eventually executes Krell, as the men deem the dark Jedi too dangerous to be left alive.
The Umbara arc, and “Carnage of Krell” specifically, is certainly one of the most violent in Clone Wars and brings about plenty of existential questions for all parties involved. Do the clones have true free will? If you can’t trust those who lead you into battle, can you trust anyone? If they are bred to fight and die, do their lives truly matter? All of these questions are brought to the forefront in an extremely bleak episode of Clone Wars.