“Fighting a war tests a soldier’s skills, defending his home tests a soldier’s heart.”
“ARC Troopers” has the distinction of continuing a story line first introduced in Season One’s “Rookies” and further explored in the Season Three’s premiere, “Clone Cadets.” This continuity is the best story element of the episode — an installment which features near-relentless action. Indeed, this is a more entertaining episode than its predecessor, but it doesn’t break any new ground and, in fact, goes a bit too far in terms of visual excess.
The episode is, ostensibly, an immediate sequel to Season One’s “Rookies.” It features the Separatist assault on the cloning facilities on Kamino and the battle sequences end up being exceedingly frenetic. The space battle was nicely done, the attack on the city will remind some viewers of the machine assault on Zion in Matrix Revolutions. The clones have moments of bravery and heroism and sacrifice. And we get lightsaber battles between Obi-Wan and Grievous and between Anakin and Asajj Ventress.
With a recipe like that, what could possibly go wrong?
Well, for starters, this is yet another massive Separatist plot that results in absolutely nothing. Their idea was to steal the clone DNA and wipe out the clone barracks. But their assault, while innovative in design, has no chance of succeeding … because the script says so. Honestly, for such a brazen and seemingly vital strategy, I don’t know why they’d use an inferior force. The lack of overwhelming numbers not only makes the task more difficult, it makes the Jedi suspicious of Grievous’ real motives — suspicious enough to allow Anakin to foil Ventress from stealing the DNA at the last possible moment.
Of course, this gives us our lightsaber battles … but they hardly seemed suspenseful. It’s a case of trying to do too much. Perhaps it’s just me, but it seemed that the speed with which the duels were performed was much faster than we’ve seen before. The result was a blur of color and a buzz of sound, but the motions of the combatants was so indistinguishable that the duels were rendered meaningless.
The episode is saved, however, by the clones — by their characters and their stories. The janitor is back and performing bravely in battle. Our heroes from “Rookies” distinguish themselves and help lead some young cadets in a successful last-ditch defense of the barracks. In fact, the interactions of these characters was especially meaningful, building up to the janitor’s final moments in battle — a surprisingly moving scene.
Also worthy of note is how the clones jump to Anakin’s aid when they see him dueling with Ventress. It’s yet another act of solidarity from the clones and underscores the thematic touches from the janitor’s story. This scene is also noteworthy because Anakin brazenly tells Ventress that he’s going to have the clones execute her — he doesn’t even try detaining her. Only a cliché last-second escape saves Ventress (and, perhaps Anakin) from such a fate.
Overall Grade: B-
“ARC Troopers” tries to balance a frenzied battle with a more personal story of the soldiers within the conflict. Despite its obvious missteps, the result is both entertaining and meaningful. This isn’t the best of The Clone Wars but it’s well-worth watching.