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TFN TCW Review: "Orders"

Posted by Eric on March 17, 2014 at 01:00 PM CST

The Clone Wars Season 6 Episode 4: "Orders"

The action-packed, heartbreaking, and grimly ironic conclusion to the Order 66 story arc was easily one of the five best episodes of The Clone Wars ever produced. Everything about it was perfectly crafted to evoke dark tidings about the future. The dramatic end to Fives' search for answers shed new light on the brilliance of Palpatine's machinations, the precarious position of Anakin Skywalker as part army general and part Jedi Knight, and the complicated relationships between clone troopers that made these genetic brothers just as vulnerable to Sith manipulation as Obi-Wan and Anakin.

First, a few notes about the richness of this episode. I really enjoyed seeing the nightlife on Coruscant again. It seemed like the planet was even more populated and complicated than in previous episodes, a fact that reflected the animators' increasing sophistication with exotic crowd scenes and urban environments. The taxi driver who picked up Fives fit right in with his surroundings: nosy, gruff, and unimpressed. When they reached the clone bar and Fives wouldn't pay him, and the nearby clone officers started mocking him, he answered with the classic insult that I use all the time: "Your mother's a droid." It was a nice distillation of the edgy atmosphere in the less cosmopolitan areas of Coruscant.

I really, really enjoyed the chance to visit 79's, the clone bar, because I always like seeing how clones relax during their off-hours. The sight of them congregating, watching podraces, and drinking added a new dimension to their culture. We mostly see them "at work," but seeing them carousing, drinking, and having fun reminds us that they have personalities and need to blow off steam just like any other workers. Soldiers, in particular, need to de-stress, and I appreciated the moment when a clone officer raised a glass to "the 212th," Obi-Wan Kenobi's clone force.

When Fives arrived and joined up with several officers, who helped him shoo away the taxi driver, it was as if he had found temporary safety. True, he was still on the run, but at least here he could blend in with people who looked -- and, for the most part, thought -- like him. Sadly, it was not to be. When the red-armored Coruscant security forces showed, it was a reminder of the increasingly militarized nature of the capital planet. In fact, the clone security forces who went around checking IDs at the bar reminded me of the stormtroopers who searched Chalmun's Cantina for Luke and his droids in Episode IV. Seeing the security troopers walking among their brothers, similar to but momentarily above them, I had visions of the police state to come. (One of the security clones even told another clone to "move along" after checking his ID.)

Anakin's role leading the manhunt for Fives was ironic, given that he would eventually aid the clone army in executing Order 66. His concern for the wellbeing of his troops, which led him to want to help Fives despite his suspicions, was part of the reason why the 501st Legion respected him so much. By the time of Episode III, he had clearly grown more attached to his elite clone troopers than to the Jedi Order that had raised and trained him. Anakin's growing allegiance to the Republic military and to the Supreme Chancellor manifested itself when he dismissed out of hand Fives' claim that Palpatine had orchestrated a plot to kill the Jedi. "The Chancellor isn't capable of what you claim," Anakin said to Fives. Rarely has The Clone Wars mixed tragedy and irony as powerfully as it did in that moment. Anakin respected the Chancellor tremendously, viewing him as a paragon of wisdom and virtue. Because he was still a Jedi, he viewed the act of wiping out the Jedi as repugnant -- and thus, completely unlike the Chancellor he knew. Of course, once he became estranged from the Jedi Order -- and once he thought they had tried to kill his mentor, Palpatine -- he felt less repulsed by the idea of eliminating them all. In the end, he would not only endorse the idea, but embrace its execution.

Pretty much any episode in which Palpatine plays a key role is going to be full of drama and foreshadowing, and "Orders" did not disappoint on that score. From the moment the Republic shuttle landed at the Grand Republic Medical Facility -- the same one where he would later oversee the birth of Darth Vader out of the fires of Mustafar -- I could sense that Fives was in serious trouble. Tense music accompanied Fives into the medical center, where we found Palpatine surrounded by his iconic Red Guards. While these silent guardians were obvious in place by the time of Episode III, I had never figured out when exactly the Chancellor had implemented that security precaution. Nevertheless, their presence in this episode was a reminder of how close at hand the fateful galactic transition really was. Having replaced the blue Senate Guards with more imposing Red Guards, Palpatine was continuing his inexorable and unassuming transformation of the Republic into the Empire.

We are not used to seeing wrenches thrown in Palpatine's plans, so it was morbidly exciting to see how the Supreme Chancellor handled this unexpected turn of events. As he grimaced at the sight of the inhibitor chips, he seemed incensed that a clone trooper had taken matters into his own hands and disrupted his carefully established plot. When Shaak Ti and Nala Se left the room and he approached Fives with a wicked grin, it was clear that he was about to relish this moment of corrective action.

At first, I thought that Palpatine would stage an assassination attempt so that one of his guards could kill Fives and end the threat right there. But then I realized that Palpatine's goal was not just to end the threat but to discredit and destroy it. His decision to tell Fives everything about Order 66 was deliciously, heartbreakingly evil, because he knew that no one would ever believe Fives if he relayed the true story. Staging Fives' escape was the perfect next move. It allowed Fives to spread his insane-sounding story far and wide, which would only undermine his position and make everyone else feel comfortable writing him off. "Orders" reminded us that Palpatine was the ultimate galactic political chess-masters. After so many decades of careful planning, he was not about to let a vat-grown human blaster rifle stand in his way. Instead, he ruthlessly and utterly destroyed Fives, ruining his reputation and discrediting every inch of his theory before he allowed him to die.

Fives was doomed from the moment he escaped the Chancellor's medical center. I don't know what Nala Se injected him with in her desperate (but unnecessary) attempt to discredit him before he could convince the Chancellor of his story, but whatever it was, she needn't have bothered. His future, his livelihood, collapsed the moment that Palpatine started talking. It was tragic enough to watch Palpatine stare at Fives with a blank face as the clone told him that the Kaminoans were covering up something evil. In that moment, Fives must have seen how the cards were stacked against him. Palpatine's reaction could not have seemed reassuring. Even so, this was his commander-in-chief, the man for whom he stood at attention even when strapped to a medical gurney. Surely Palpatine would hear him out. Unfortunately for Fives, the Chancellor did more talking than listening.

Fives' lurching reaction as he fled the medical center was the perfect way to show his confusion and anger at learning Palpatine's full plan. It is hard to imagine how someone could even function well enough to evade pursuit after having their world turned upside-down so thoroughly and brutally. The Supreme Chancellor of the Republic, plotting to annihilate the Jedi Order and establish a dictatorship? For a soldier bred to fight alongside the Jedi and protect the government of the Chancellor, this news must have been as shocking as learning that up was down and left was right.

Things just got worse for Fives as he made his way around Coruscant. There was a certain brutal irony in his telling the cab driver about Order 66 as they sped along toward the clone bar. Here he was, the only person besides Palpatine and his handful of accomplices to fully understand the despicable betrayal that was about to occur, and his audience was a bored, distracted taxi pilot who didn't even believe him. I have never felt sorrier for a character on this show than I did when I watched Fives shake his head sadly in that cab. As he zoomed through the mundane world of everyday Coruscant, contemplating the impossibly massive plot he had uncovered, he realized that he would never be able to prevent it.

When he reached the clone bar, Fives' mental state began to visibly deteriorate. He started to panic as he realized the scope of Order 66. He initially trusted and respected Rex enough to arrange a meeting even as the entire army was mobilizing to capture him, but by the time Rex and Anakin arrived, he had become decidedly more paranoid. His demand that they put down their weapons may have seemed oddly counterproductive to the audience, but it's important to remember that he was in full-blown panic mode. Having realized how high the stakes were, he had begun to worry that his saviors might be there to capture him after all.

In another stroke of tragic irony, Fives' fear of being taken in led him to trap Anakin and Rex in the factory's containment field, but this only made him look worse to the two people who were his best hope of survival. After that, his declaration that he had proof of the Chancellor's plot represented his biggest mistake, because he couldn't easily provide that proof. This led Anakin to suspect that Fives was either lying or psychologically unstable, and Anakin's evident suspicion only gave Fives more of a reason to worry that Anakin was trying to capture him. His fate was sealed from the moment he stepped into the medical center to meet with Palpatine, but at every stage thereafter, his shock and paranoia led him closer and closer to ruin.

The angelic music that accompanied Fives' death was the perfect coda to his journey. He had died trying to do right by the Republic and the Jedi. He had been betrayed by his commander-in-chief, doubted by his Jedi general, and killed by one of his brothers. In the face of such tragedy, even clone commander Fox, who had shot Fives, took off his helmet out of respect. You could see the shock and dismay on Fox's face. He hadn't wanted to kill Fives, but he thought he had no choice. Without realizing it, he and his men had played right into the hands of a dark, powerful influence.

Fives was half right when he whispered to Rex, "The mission...the nightmares...finally...over." The failure of his mission meant that his nightmares were over, but for the rest of the galaxy, the nightmare that was the Republic army's final mission was on the verge of beginning. "We must direct our attention back to the war at hand," Palpatine told the Jedi who had assembled in his office after Fives' death. "Each day, we grow closer and closer to victory." The look on Yoda's face conveyed his frustration -- he could sense that something was amiss, but not what it was -- but as before, the Jedi were helpless to perceive Palpatine's plot. By insisting that the Republic refocus on the war and promising that victory was close at hand, Palpatine was dangling the truth right in front of Yoda's eyes but putting a deliciously misleading spin on it. He was using galactic events to misdirect the Jedi's attention, while simultaneously remarking to himself that it was almost time to execute Order 66.

"Orders" was a fantastic episode that was chock-full of emotionally compelling moments and packed to the brim with symbolism and foreshadowing. Fives' tragic death marked the end of Domino Squad, who had represented an optimistic face for the clone army as the series (and the war) began to pick up steam. Since we were first introduced to Hevy, Droidbait, Echo, Cutup, and Fives, The Clone Wars has progressed so far, and events have darkened so significantly, that it was no longer the same galaxy that had once seemed so promising for Domino Squad. Furthermore, after Fives uncovered Order 66, the audience (at least, those watching Star Wars chronologically) gained a new perspective on the clone army. No longer are they simply the friendly faces who fought in the Rishi Maze and on Kamino. Now, they are Jedi-killers-in-waiting.


You can find all of my TCW episode reviews on TFN's review index page.

Related Stories:

TFN TCW Review: "Crisis at the Heart"
TFN TCW Review: "The Rise Of Clovis"
TFN TCW Review: "An Old Friend"
TFN TCW Review: "Fugitive"
TFN TCW Review: "Conspiracy"
TFN TCW Review: "The Unknown"

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