How are the Clones living on Kamino shown to be stripped of identity?
In recent years, children’s television has become increasingly progressive as a medium, transforming into a major source of representation for those minorities who need it and today it provides a far more truthful depiction of contemporary life than it has done in the past. Despite such advancements in media, however, it is still the case in life that those with disabilities can often be made to feel as though they hold no value or purpose and are often just disregarded or outcast without any attention being paid to what those people contribute to society. Clone Cadets acknowledges this troubling sentiment and affords its disabled character with his own agency which is utilised along with his status as an outsider to become the true hero of the episode.
99 is a clone who was malformed at some stage in the developmental process, leading to genetic abnormalities that rendered him unfit to serve in the army. As such, he is assigned to live his life on Kamino carrying out janitorial and maintenance work. Because of his seemingly unimportant role to the army, he is treated largely with derision or indifference by members of staff and his fellow clones. This is glaringly obvious during a scene in which Bric and El-res are walking through the barracks discussing Domino Squad being allowed a second trial. Throughout their lengthy conversation, neither care to realise that 99 is plainly following them and listening to every word they are saying. While this is quite a difficult hand in life 99 has been dealt with, he is never bitter or defeatist about his lot. On the contrary, he is seen to grow attached to his fellow clones, thinking of them as his brothers and always referring to them by name regardless of how they may act towards him.
When 99 witnesses a disgruntled Hevvy attempting to leave the facility in the dead of night, only he knows what Bric wants to do – so only he can persuade him to return to his team by convincing him of the importance of brotherhood and teamwork. Hevvy listens to 99 and takes leadership of Domino Squad through their retrial, this time passing. 99’s actions here episode have a long lasting impact on The Clone Wars. Not only are some of the most prominent clone characters of the series are members of the squad he unites, but without his assistance, the Domino Squad would not have been there to work together during the Battle of the Rishi Moon, which could have seen a devastating assault launched on Kamino by the Separatists which could, in turn, have had a huge impact on the war’s outcome (or at least, the public face of it).
However, 99 is not the only character who is shown to live in poor conditions in Clone Cadets. This is almost immediately established, aesthetically speaking at least, as we return to a location last seen in Attack of the Clones. A stark contrast to the violent storm of deep blues outside of Tipoca City, the interior of the facility is coloured almost entirely with hues of white, silver and chrome and is instantly reminiscent of a laboratory. The living quarters of each squad are also shown to be cramped and run down as each soldier’s bed is, in an environment that is otherwise very spacious. To see a show known for its lavish cinematography creating such a plain and sterile environment is a reflection of the characters who inhabit it is a first hint of how the Kaminoans truly feel about the clones they are producing.
Following these early visual cues, it comes as no surprise to the viewer that clones are not treated particularly well within the facility, despite Jedi Master Shaak-Ti’s presence. Though she herself seems a generous and caring woman, her affiliation with the contracted bounty hunter, Bric, seems to undo all good work she may contribute and the very fact that the Jedi are working with bounty hunters to train clone troopers raises more questions regarding their shortsightedness in this war. In terms of breeding soldiers, it does make sense to hire individuals who would be better versed in warfare than-than the traditionally peacekeeping Jedi Order and the choice is perhaps further supported by the idea that the genetic template for the clones was himself a mercenary. However, Bounty Hunters do not follow the same code of honour as soldiers do and- as is shown in this episode- are often shown to be thoroughly unpleasant and duplicitous.
Bric mocks the idea of clones giving each other nicknames in an attempt to establish an individual identity for each other, an incredibly demoralising act makes it abundantly clear that he and the Jedi hold very different points of view on that matter. His bad-cop style treatment of clones is shown to be much more than just an act too, as he assaults Cuttup off duty and suggests that failing clones are only good for maintenance work. Furthermore, his comment to Hevvy, “Jedi don’t have the time to train grunts like you, that’s why they hired me!” could even go some way to suggest how a discord between the clones and Jedi (as was presented in the earlier episode The Hidden Enemy) could be established from an early stage in the clones’ lives.
But Bric is not the only member of faculty on Kamino who is dismissive of the notion of clones being people. Indeed even those who are creating the army, the Kaminoans, see their army as little more than experiments, which is evident by the way Prime Minister Lama Su refers to the failing Domino Squad as “deficient”. In that same scene, it is shown just how little regard he has for those who are not strong, smart or important enough as he suggests disposing of them. The prequel era has a track record of appearing to be politically prescient, a reputation it lives up to here in regards to the treatment of disabled people by certain current establishments. Of course, these are just parallels that are obvious to draw in hindsight and there should most likely be no deeper meaning to this scene than to highlight the timeless message that those in charge of a war don’t value those they enlist to fight it.