By Chris Seekell
After this episode, it's pretty clear now that the Umbara arc is about the clones and nobody else. Even with the great potential for developments with the Umbaran culture and General Krell, Plan of Dissent extended the story line from the first two episodes, one that revolved around the tension between Krell and his troopers. Although I find this focus on the troops refreshing, I'm a little disappointed that nearly this whole arc has gone by and we don't know much more about Krell and the Umbarans than we did going in.
This episode was very dialog heavy, especially for one that was all about Clones. We only saw a little bit of action at the end in the space battle. I would have rather seen fewer repetitive scenes with the clones and a longer action sequence at the end. For instance, the whole scene with Dogma and Tup in the barracks ended up being pointless to the overall story. It could have easily been replaced with more scenes from the space battle or one of the insurgents' attacks.
Aside from its brevity, the space battle sequences themselves were excellently animated, building off of what we saw in Season 3's Nightsisters and Citadel Rescue and moving ever closer to the detail and scale of the theatrical films. It was also interesting to see the battle from the perspective of a covert mission by jumping in the middle and then leaving, rather than seeing the whole thing from beginning to end. This whole arc has had a similar feeling of grand scale, due to us never seeing the big picture. While I was fine in the first couple of episodes with this, I'm starting to feel a little cramped, and find myself wishing everything would tie together by the end. But based on how this episode ended, the final episode probably will again focus on the clones and Krell.
Regardless of these issues, Plan of Dissent was still a solid and enjoyable episode. There were many references that jumped out to me. The scene with Fives on the comm with Krell was a straight up homage to a similar scene with Han Solo in A New Hope, right down to several identical lines of dialog. There was also a reference to The Phantom Menace when it was mentioned that Anakin had told some of the troops about the space battle over Naboo. And finally Hardcase's sacrifice at the end reminded me of Hevy's in Season 1's Rookies. This surprised me, since Hardcase was becoming a fan favorite character. But I now see how the writers built Hardcase up into a likable character to give that scene more weight.
As far as the actual plot is concerned, I was disappointed with the story line. Instead of answering questions about why the battle on Umbara was taking place or why Krell was being such an abusive leader, we just got more exposition about the same clone characters we saw in the previous two episodes. We already knew that Hardcase was awesome, that Dogma was very traditionally minded, that Fives and Jesse distrusted Krell, and that Rex was willing to bend orders. These things were already well established. We also didn't need to see two clones disobey orders to know that Krell was a harsh General, he had already nearly sent the clones to their deaths before and had threatened Fives with his lightsaber. There is an excuse for an episode with a pointless plot as long as there are great action sequences, but Plan of Dissent's short battle wasn't the meat of this episode. The rehashed development of the clones was.
Musically, the episode was decent. The filler tracks were a little bit techno and edgy and reminded me of the Clone Wars movie, there was also the common clone theme at the end and a nice use of the Force theme when the troopers were discussing events of The Phantom Menace. Yet it still didn't surpass Darkness on Umbara in my opinion in this area. I hope the final episode of this arc puts together the best motifs from the first few episodes and provides us with a great musical finale.
In conclusion, this episode was still better than most of the other ones in Season 4, but failed to build off of the previous two in this arc. There were some great moments, but most of it was pointless filler. Moving forward, it seems we will hopefully finally find out what's behind Krell's attitude, and see how Rex handles Krell's choice to make an example of Fives and Jesse. I really hope Carnage of Krell will tie this whole arc together and have an impact on the overall story line of the series. But if not, this arc will still stand as one of my favorites, due to its development of the clones and fantastic action sequences.