The Clone Wars, 3.1 - “Clone Cadets,” 3.2 - “ARC Troopers”
Clones. Brothers, teamwork, unity; they are the lifeblood of the Republic Army. The two part premiere of season 3 of Star Wars: The Clone Wars tells some of their stories. We learn about their struggles, flaws, and defects. Then we get to see how the clones overcome setbacks to unite and become a single fighting force.
The first episode, Clone Cadets, may not have been the intense, action-packed return fans were hoping for. However, it sets the scene for a stronger finish in episode two. The episode begins with a training simulation for the somewhat pathetic Domino Squad. You'll recognize a few of the clones; we first met Echo, Fives, and Hevy in the first season episode Rookies. Clone Cadets is a prequel showing their training. The squad is clearly a mess. Though they are biologically the same, each trooper has one or more traits that keep the squad from becoming a true unit. They consistently fail to work together. Watching them stumble, you realize how much work and training it takes to make the clones a strong fighting force.
Jedi Master Shaak Ti oversees the training on Kamino, and she is assisted by contracted bounty hunters Bric and El-Les. Bric is especially disappointed in the squad, and after they fail their graduation test, he wants to permanently assign them to maintenance. El-Les has faith in the clones though and shows that he is on Kamino for more than just collecting a paycheck. In fact, he is unexpectedly compassionate. He requests that Shaak Ti allow the squad to retake the final test. After she agrees, the troops are informed they have one more chance. When Echo and Fives come to her and ask for reassignment to a different squad, she tells them: “I am a Jedi, where the individual and the group are one and the same, much like you clones.” She encourages them to solve their problems as a whole rather than as individuals.
Throughout the episode, we encounter the clone 99. Something went wrong with his cloning. He is a bit deformed and has always worked in maintenance for the facility. He is continually around the barracks offering encouragement to the Domino Squad. He never had a chance to even try to become a trooper; instead of being bitter, he wants to help his brothers. He is mostly brushed aside; it doesn't seem that the clones like to be reminded of the possibility of bad batches. But when Hevy thinks about going AWOL the night before the second graduation test, 99 is there to talk him out of it. He reminds Hevy that he needs his brothers, and they need him. He gets Hevy to embrace his personality and recognize that the clones are more than just numbers.
The next day, the Domino Squad takes a different approach to the final test simulation. They fight as a single unit. Because they worked together, they were able to succeed despite minor sabotage by Bric. They graduate, and they are sent into the fight. Before they go, Hevy gives his graduation medal to 99.
Part two of the premiere, ARC Troopers, brings the viewer right into edge-of-the-seat action. It is a dramatic change of pace from Clone Cadets. The Separatists have focused an attack on Kamino. As you can imagine, the clones are incensed. Kamino is their birthplace and home, and even the young cadets are ready to fight for it. The Separatists are throwing a heavy assault against the planet though. General Grievous and Asajj Ventress both come for the battle, and they bring new droids with them in impressive numbers.
Jedis Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker, and Shaak Ti are present to defend Tipoca City. Anakin takes off into space to fight off the enemy ships. He quickly turns ships into debris, and the wreckage falls from space into the oceans of Kamino. Once underwater, aqua droids assemble the pieces into large attack droids that look like octopi. Though Obi-Wan recognizes that the attack in space was going too well and heads beneath the surface to investigate, it is too late. The octopus droids begin a full scale attack on Tipoca City; they land on the structures and stab through them with their arms. These arms, of course, hold many droids. Grievous and Ventress land and jump into the battle, meeting face to face for the first time. Ventress clearly does not think much of Grievous, but he reminds of her mission: to go to the DNA room and obtain a sample.
The fighting in this episode is fast paced, and we see clones defending the city with everything they've got. Droids and clones seem to fall in equal numbers. We run into 99 again as he assists the troopers by replenishing ammunition and helping them navigate the city that he is very familiar with. The young cadets even join the battle. Here, more than anywhere, it is their war to fight. While they are defending the barracks, Anakin has returned to the planet and heads to defend the DNA room. He is able to catch up with Ventress, but only after she has taken a DNA sample. Meanwhile, Obi-Wan has engaged his familiar nemesis Grievous.
The following action sequence cuts between three scenes. We catch pieces of the troopers fighting against the droids, Grievous spinning his duel lightsabers and battling Obi-Wan, and a fierce showdown between Ventress and Anakin. During these battles, troopers are busy destroying the octopus droids. Obi-Wan falls during his fight with Grievous. Though Obi-Wan is rescued by a sea creature of Kamino, Grievous gets away. Just as Ventress is cornered by Anakin and the clones, she escapes in a ship with Grievous. The getaway is fortunate because Anakin states that he was going to let the clones execute her. The troopers destroy the droids near the barracks. In an emotionally charged scene, 99 runs for more grenades. He was doing his part to defend his home. However, he took hits in the back from droid fire and perished. The troops, especially Echo and Fives, mourned the loss of their brother.
The episode ends with Echo and Fives being promoted to ARC (Advanced Recon Commandos) Troopers. They are amazed and grateful. They have been through much since their training time on Kamino, and this really brings their (ahem) arc full circle. If Clone Cadets was the prequel to Rookies, this was the next, but hopefully not the final, chapter for these two troopers.
Trivia & Notes
We meet Shaak Ti for the first time on the series. She is voiced by Tasia Valenza. If she sounds familiar it is because she voiced Aurra Sing in the video games Star Wars: Demolition and Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds. She also worked on the video game Batman: Arkham Asylum alongside Mark Hamill. She voiced Poison Ivy.
Shaak Ti was heretofore missing from the series because George Lucas wanted to fully establish Padawan Ahsoka Tano, and not confuse children with a similar-looking member of her race.
A few references were thrown in that will make fans happy.