The Clone Wars may be one of the greatest accomplishments in storytelling history. I’m sure that sounds bold to some, especially those that never watched this animated edition to the Star Wars Saga. Much of this claim is based on the character arc of Ahsoka Tano, the young Jedi who was controversially introduced as Anakin’s apprentice in The Clone Wars feature length film. She was at first universally lambasted as being an annoying stain on the Star Wars mythos, immature and unfunny, adding no benefit to further developing Anakin’s character. What followed for Ahsoka was beyond expected for many viewers. Few TV shows have done as good of a job documenting the growing maturity of a character. Through being forced into roles of leadership where literal life and death decisions need to be made, as well as making plenty of rookie mistakes, Ahsoka gradually becomes a strong and wise Jedi who’s focus is to serve others and protect those who mentored her. It is a surprisingly thoughtful journey that illustrates a complete 180 in audience perception, where Ahsoka ends up earning the respect of the viewers.
The final four episodes of The Clone Wars: Season 7 serve as a capstone to Ahsoka’s arc. Although building off of her adventures post-Jedi Order aiding the goofs Trace and Rafa Martez (who’s superbly “meh” episodes I will not cover), these episodes fully illustrate the bond that grew between her and the clones. The challenge that drives this dynamic is shown via The Siege of Mandalore, a dual-effort between the Mandalorian Bo Katan Kryze aided by Ahsoka and Commander Rex’s 501st clones to re-take the fabled warrior planet from the grips of Darth Maul and his Super Commandos (totally lost? Don’t worry about it, just watch the series). Bottom line: this is the best The Clone Wars has to offer. The animation is, simply put, gorgeous, with the characters’ movements mirroring live action and presenting extreme artistic detail like never before. The story-line is rich and well thought out, notably tying in with key scenes in Revenge of the Sith via clever intersections. The result is a four-part finale that feels tonally and functionally like a legitimate extension of Episode III, the only separating factor being the artistic medium. Each episode is distinct in their qualities, so I’ll go through and review each:
Episode IX: Old Friends Not Forgotten
This is a strong introductory episode, and quite possibly my favorite of the four. It opens with yet another adventure with Anakin and Obi-Wan engaging the Separatist Droid Army, but this sequence feels very similar to the more lighthearted moments of Revenge of the Sith that I felt it were lacking in the prequels. Having this dynamic re-introduced with some of the best Clone Wars Anakin/Obi-Wan dialogue was the perfect way to tie in this show’s story with the movie. Ahsoka’s return with proposal to hunt Maul opened up a key opportunity to address both her an Rex’s complete lack of appearances in the prequels despite their characters’ significance. We get a very fitting “goodbye” between Ahsoka and Anakin along with some poignant dialogue from Obi-Wan, prior to a breathtaking action sequence that hinted at how much of a landmark event this finale would become.
Episode X: The Phantom Apprentice
The name of this episode is so cool, but also summarizes the tone pretty well. The Phantom Apprentice serves as a door to Maul’s mindset during this high-stakes point in the War. Despite serving as the puppet-master behind Mandalore’s evil ruling, Maul is also afraid of things to come, and provides heeding warnings to Ahsoka. Sam Witwer’s voice acting for Maul exceptionally emphasizes Maul’s subtle panic, another great accomplishment for adding significance to this once two-dimensional villain. The Phantom Apprentice reveals key details about the state of The Galaxy to Ahsoka, hinting at but not fully divulging the chaos that is about to transpire, which is not only delivered by Maul, but a pretty clever message from Obi Wan. The landmark event in this episode is one of the best lightsaber fights in Star Wars history, accomplished via motion capture with choreography lead by the OG Maul himself: Ray Park. The stakes have never felt higher in this very mature and shockingly dark episode.
Episode XI: Shattered
I will keep this as spoilerless as possible despite having enormous gravity: this is the Order 66 episode. Besides getting some key badassery from Maul, the major highlight from Shattered is the emotional tragedy of the Clones turning on the Jedi. With Ahsoka earning a strong bond with her troops, especially Rex, a poignant and resonant sadness is exuded to the audience. This one episode alone carried an emotional weight nearly on par with Episode III, and combined with the final sequence, emphasized the major accomplishment of The Clone Wars’ ability to provide deeper meaning to the prequels by humanizing the clones.
Episode XII: Victory and Death
The final episode felt intrinsically tied to Shattered due to its breakneck pacing. This is an “escape” story for the most part, and continues to show the tough moral implications Ahsoka and Commander Rex must each face with their new reality. Admittedly, it was also my least favorite of these episodes, since it was almost entirely an action piece. This does not remotely mean this episode wasn’t outstanding, it just felt the most indicative that these four stories would probably best be told tied together as a single, seamless movie. What really hits hard in Victory and Death is the last few minutes, which again, I do not want to spoil. It is an epilogue sequence of sorts involving a surprise character appearance. This sequence is beautifully created and has very clever symbolic implications, with an unforgettable final shot that may rank among the best in TV history.
Overall, The Clone Wars Season 7‘s penultimate Siege of Mandalore arc is an applause-worthy end to an accomplished TV show. What was once relegated to being corny kids entertainment has clearly evolved into a greater story. These final four episodes alone carry great emotional weight, providing deeper context to the heightened tensions in Revenge of the Sith. Creator Dave Filoni should be extremely proud of what is his best work to date, and I hope to see his increased involvement across the Star Wars saga. 9.2/10