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Domino Squad

The fourth episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars in canonical order is “Clone Cadets” from Season 3, Episode 1 (3:1). It is considered the prequel to “Rookies” (1:5) from Season 1, and introduces audiences to the Domino Squad. “Clone Cadets” also explains how each clone received his nickname, as the audience is transported to Kamino and is privy to witness a crucial aspect of clone training. If a clone graduates, they go from being a cadet to a trooper. It is made clear that while most clones pass their final test, there are no guarantees, and that some do fail. Failure, in relation to Domino Squad, means being transferred to maintenance duty, a seemingly inferior place in the clone army.

This clone-centric episode features the debut of the full cast of Domino Squad (mentioned above). The members are: Fives, Cutup, Droidbait, Echo, and Hevy. Four of the five clones are practically allegorical, as each one derives their alias from a particular character trait, leaving them fairly one-dimensional, but still unique and interesting. Fives, however (CT-27-5555) is not an allegory. While he does make up the fifth member of Domino Squad, he is more well-rounded than the rest of the crew, hence the lack of an allegorical nickname. His name should resonate to fans of The Clone Wars, as he will play a significant role throughout he series, particularly in regards to the initial discovery of the origin of Order 66.

We also meet clone 99, who is listed as a malformed maintenance duty clone in the Star Wars databank. This is due to his hunchback appearance, and the fact that he has clearly aged beyond anything we have seen from a clone trooper. However, he proves to be a positive influence on the clones, and offers sage advice and guidance. There is nothing malformed about his outlook or maturity, as he proves to be the wisest member of the clones in this episode.

In addition, two bounty hunters make their debut here: Bric and El-Les (pronounced Ellis). They are very much presented as the yin and yang instructors of the clone cadets. Bric is more of a drill sergeant and El-Les is much more compassionate. They compliment one another very well as foils, as both wish for success for the cadets, but both have seemingly different motivations.

Summary of the Episode

Commander Colt, El-Les, and Bric

In the early stages of this epic series, we have the second clone-centric episode. It’s a fascinating insight into the psychology of what it means to be a soldier, as well as a member of a brotherhood. “Clone Cadets” truly feels like Band of Brothers on a galactic scale. When the episode opens, we learn that Shaak Ti is overseeing the training of clone cadets with the help of Bric and El-Les. Domino Squad is shown failing multiple training sessions, which reveals how disorganzied they all are: Echo repeats orders, Cutup appears not to take anything seriously, Droidbait is just that, Hevy has a huge blaster and attitude to match, and Fives gets continually frustrated.

Ultimately, the Domino Squad must learn to work together, and to figure out how to establish both leadership, trust in one another, and discipline in the face of adversity. Bric has some unorthodox ideas on how to motivate Cutup, and Hevy has a poignant conversation with clone 99 that inspires him to lead. This moment also serves to humanize clone 99, who explains that he has never failed, because he has never been given an opportunity to try. The Domino Squad ultimately does not fall down (despite the pun provided by Bravo Squad), and learns what it means to be part of a team.

Bric’s questionable decision to remove Domino Squad’s ascension cables is met with bemusement by Shaak Ti, and concern from El-Les. It does force the cadets to improvise and make a critical decision on the fly, and it works well. At first, it may seem that Bric wants them to fail, but his pride after Domino Squad’s success shows their is more to him then money. He is not conventional, but neither is Domino Squad, which is why they are a perfect team.

What this Episode means for Star Wars

Clone 99

As with “The Hidden Enemy”, “Clone Cadets” further humanizes the clones, and attempts to give each highlighted trooper something that makes them unique. We learn that the number one rule of the clones is they must fight together. The brotherhood must remain intact, in order for the mission to succeed. The clones are not allowed or able to disassociate from their mission, and will ultimately prove to be not only united, but more than a match for their eventual confrontation with the Jedi during Order 66.

Naturally, the dramatic irony present here is rich: you must be part of a team and fight together. Palpatine must have a subservient army that bands together without question, and the chips (or dominos, as it were) fall neatly into place. However, that does not mean that all is bleak. Clone 99 proves to be the perfect balm for the open wound that is discontent, and ultimately, testosterone. His touching conversation with Hevy towards the end impacts both of them. They both end up being affirmed, and truly show the importance of brotherhood.

“Brothers In Arms Are Brothers For Life”

A brotherhood is forged in battle for the Domino Squad. The battle isn’t always in the battlefield though; it’s also an internal struggle. They all serve their own agenda, but it may be more accurate to say that they all need to mature and get out of their own way. Once this happens, Hevy emerges as the leader, but not because he is assertive. He has already clearly demonstrated that trait. It is more important that they stop doubting one another, and start using positive reinforcement, instead of negativity and discord.

Metaphorically speaking, when the cadets have to scale the citadel wall by climbing over the disabled turrets, they truly have to overcome violence to achieve their goals. They are told to use one another as a ladder; both literally and figuratively they must rely on one another to rise to the challenge, and achieve their goals. Much like the disabled turrets, once they disarm their own pettiness, they achieve greater heights as individuals, and as a team.

Clone 99 also becomes one of them in more than just DNA, as he shows his value to the cadets through encouragement and wisdom. He has apparently been mistreated and taken for granted for a very long time, but that has not squelched his belief in his brothers. He has always accepted each of them, regardless of their previously callous attitudes. When Hevy gives clone 99 his graduation medal at the end of the episode, clone 99 becomes more than a maintenance duty clone. Everyone becomes part of the team, and as a result, become a brotherhood that is stronger because of the relationship and belief in one another.

Three down, one hundred and eighteen to go! Up next is is “Supply Lines”, episode 303 (3:03). See you in two weeks!

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