Great plans take time and preparation. And love it or hate it, Sheev Palpatine's plan to overthrow the Jedi and the republic was great in its scope and execution. Looking back, it's pretty wild that Palp's scheme went as well as it did considering the scale of the coup and the sheer amount of casualties, but one new theory could explain how Order 66 went off without a hitch: Just like any great show, it required a dress rehearsal.
This theory puts a new spin on Palpatine's master plan, and with Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season 7 right around the corner, it might not be long before we know whether it's just a theory or canonical fact.
Reddit user GabeMercury theorizes Palpatine used the defection of Besalisk General Pong Krell to provide a test for the infamous Order 66. Pong Krell was a Jedi master who hated clones and secretly sympathized with the Sith after having visions of a new power rising from the ashes of the Republic. Looking to catch the attention of the Sith — and Count Dooku specifically — he began sabotaging the Jedi's efforts unnoticed.
When Anakin Skywalker was (conveniently) called back to Coruscant by Palpatine, General Krell took the helm of the prestigious 501st Legion in his stead. During the Battle of Umbara — shown in the fourth season of The Clone Wars — Krell ordered clone troopers to shoot at each other, prompting the troopers to lose faith in their leader.
The 501st were known for being especially loyal. So when faced with a traitorous commander who hates clones to boot, they mutinied, capturing and executing Krell.
This theory argues the entire event was more or less engineered by Palpatine: He called Anakin back, prompting Krell to take the lead of the 501st, knowing full well the sympathies of the general and the boldness of the elite 501st Legion. (It's possible Palps even put those visions o the Dark side in Krell's head in the first place.)
Why would he go to all that trouble? Pitting a bunch of clones against General Krell served as a perfect test case for Order 66. When the clones killed Krell, it proved the same thing could be replicated dozens of times across the galaxy.
So is the theory true? We could find out very shortly.
With Clone Wars Season 7 dropping soon, the events of Revenge of the Sith will be shown from new angles, possibly giving us even more context into how Palpatine planned and executed Order 66.
Dry runs like this the one this theory proposes were surely needed, as The Clone Wars depicts other hitches in Palpatine's plan. For example, in the Season 6 premiere, a clone trooper known as Tup somehow has Order 66 activated prematurely and kills a Jedi master, prompting an investigation. Another clone trooper discovers the protocol and races to tell Anakin about the possible insurrection but is killed before he can spill the beans.
With close calls like that already part of the Clone Wars canon, we're sure to see Palpatine cover his bases before issuing the order that will restructure the Star Wars universe as we know it. Plus, any chance to revisit General Krell and his badass dual lightsabers will be an added bonus on what's already looking like a very exciting seventh and final season of the animated show.
The Clone Wars Season 7 premieres February 21, 2020 on Disney+.