After being unceremoniously cancelled in 2013 in the middle of season six after the Disney acquisition of Lucasfilm, The Clone Wars has finally received the conclusion it initially intended. Airing on Disney+, the final season gave fans four new arcs, each four episodes long to help bring us to the end. How did this better-late-than-never final season fair? Let’s dive into the four arcs!
The Bad Batch
The first four episodes of season seven are all about the clones, specifically the Bad Batch. These Clones have some sort of mutation that makes them different from their brothers and thus, ideal candidates as an elite special forces squad. As soon as the episode starts, you can see just how far animation technology has come since season 6. This season feels cinematic. Great depth of field, sharper animation textures, widescreen and improved camera techniques make this season pop. I can’t wait to see what’s next for Filoni in the animation department. The plot follows a military operation turned rescue op, as the clones learn one of their own thought KIA many seasons ago, Echo, might just be alive.
The season allows Dee Bradley Baker, who voices the clones, to have a lot of fun working off himself, as each clone is unique in terms of voice and personality. At the same time, we have Anakin and Kenobi’s interactions with each other, with the show strongly implying that, yes, Kenobi knows about his apprentice and Padme. Seeing the augmented clones, who considering the rest of the army to be “normal” and thus, inferior, work together to rescue one such normie, shows the bonds that lie within these clones. They may be the same, but they’re also different but that’s ok. Echo’s decision to ultimately stay with the Bad Batch and not with Rex and the 501st is a great touch, even as Order 66 looms large. Thankfully for me, I never really watched the unfinished animation segments that were officially released a few years ago, but the story here didn’t differ greatly from that original thread. Was it perhaps a little too long? I think three episodes could have worked just as well, but Bad Batch was still fun and satisfying.
I couldn’t find the official name of this particular arc, so Ahsoka’s Journey it is. This arc was…ok. It wasn’t bad, but considering this was the final season and there were only twelve episodes, I feel like this could have been trimmed down to two episodes and we could have had a similar impact. Likewise, with two free slots, we could have had two one-shot episodes, such as the Boba Fett and Cad Bane face-off and Anakin and Obi-Wan discovering the Kyber Crystal shipments.
The episodes follow the once Jedi Padawan Ahsoka Tano as she simply tries to make a living and stay alive. She comes across two sisters, Trace and Rafa. After a mishap with some droids and learning that the morally dubious Rafa owes money to some questionable characters, Ahsoka finds herself on Kessel, smuggling spice off-planet in order to deliver to the Pyke Syndicate. This arc leads directly into the final arc by introducing Maul and Bo Katan but I can’t help but think four episodes was much too long for this arc. One episode, which saw Ahsoka, Trace and Rafa break out of their prison, ended with them back in prison. Information was gathered and there was some character development, but the plot did not move forward in any real way, making me think other parts could have been trimmed to keep things at a better pace. I think if Ahsoka was spying on the Pykes and met Trace and Rafa in the middle of their operation, as opposed to a whole episode on Coruscant where they had the droid incident, things would have moved along much nicer. As such, this arc does bring the overall season down considering the length of the season and the imminent conclusion. However, the next episodes more than makeup for it.
The Siege of Mandalore
Where the last four episodes felt a bit, lacking, the final arc is simply amazing. This is the reason why the season even exists, as it was the intended finale of the entire show. Interestingly, the beginning of this arc mirrors the very beginning of The Clone Wars narratively, with Anakin and Kenobi facing an army of droids and Ahsoka emerging from a ship to eventually greet them. Times have changed though, and Ahsoka doesn’t have time for Anakin-she’s here on a mission. The cold distance between former Master and Apprentice clearly stings Anakin and it’s great to see him struggling still with the events of season five, where Ahsoka left the Order after being hunted by the Jedi. The two eventually do find time to catch up, but it’s brief and bittersweet, knowing this is their final encounter together.
These four episodes run parallel to the events of Revenge of the Sith, but give us a reason as to why Rex and Ahsoka are nowhere to be found. The answer? Maul has taken Mandalore and Bo Katan requires the Republic’s help in order to remove him. But the whole assault, however, was simply a trap. Not for Kenobi, as one might expect, but for Anakin. Maul knows about Sidious’ plan to turn Anakin and hopes to delay Palpatine’s ascension. Maul’s intentions are not noble, he wants to run the criminal syndicate and wants to do just that easier, but no Vader would definitely give the heroes a fighting chance earlier on. He asks Ahsoka for help in this endeavour, as both of them are rejected apprentices and are more similar than appearances would suggest. Ahsoka, of course, rejects this and fights Maul instead.
Ray Park returns to do the motion capture for Maul for the duel between him and Ahsoka and it shows. The fight is so smooth and refined. After the duel and Maul is in custody, we get to see an extension of a scene from Revenge, the “I sense a plot to destroy the Jedi” moment. What’s so great here is Mace straight-up refuses Ahsoka’s help due to her being “a civilian” and Ahsoka does not trust the Jedi. But both of them have a piece of the puzzle and if they worked together, they could have had a fighting chance to stop Palpatine. Trust is a two-way street as they say and hubris and pride allowed evil to prevail.
And it’s not even the end. The next episode gives us Order 66, where Rex and the other Clones all turn on Ahsoka. Rex knows about the inhibitor chips but has yet to remove his and thus, for a time, he hunts down Ahsoka. Maul, who was freed by the padawan, has an amazing and violent hallway scene akin to Vader’s in Rogue One. In fact, the whole Siege felt very cinematic, down to the original 70s Lucasfilm logo at the front, the original fanfare in Part I and what seems like added attention to camera and editing made this feel like a movie broken into four parts. I hope the inevitable blu ray release has an option to watch this arc as a movie.
The final episode is one giant escape and action sequence, which sees Ahsoka and Rex attempt to flee their crashing cruiser. The ship crashing reminded me of Grevious’ ship descending at the beginning of Revenge. This episode, while good, didn’t offer much narratively speaking as it focused largely on the action. Ahsoka refuses to kill her former friends the Clones, but they’re under orders now and continue to hunt her down as opposed to saving their own lives. Despite Rex and Ahsoka refusing to kill the clones and opting to stun them instead, they all perish in the crash. It’s dark but shows that Ahsoka isn’t going to be the cause of so much death, even in the face of it being inevitable. It was also inevitable knowing that Rex and Ahsoka survived the finale, thanks to other shows and books. It did take away from the suspense of the episode as many of us know the outcome, but it was still great to see the inner conflict. Ahsoka buries all the clones who were on the ship and mounts their helmets on their rifles, a makeshift graveyard for her fallen friends. She also leaves her sabre here as she’s now marked. So while the episode was not heavy on plot, it was a worthy coda none the less. Especially the epilogue scene which jumped ahead and saw Vader finding Ahsoka’s discarded lightsaber by the ruin of the ship. Vader looks a little smaller than he does in the original films, implying not much time has passed and he’s still more man than machine. Vader was silent, making us wonder what’s in his state of mind at that moment. It was a great way to end the franchise and the episode as it capped off so many stories while also segueing into the next chapter of the franchise. The Clone Wars, both as an in-universe event and as a piece of entertainment, is over.
In short, The Siege of Mandalore ends up being the best of The Clone Wars and one of the best stories in the entire franchise. Big claim, I know, but it’s true. This arc is worth the price of admission and encompasses the very best of animation, storytelling, music, digital camera work and more. Naturally, a lot of time and work went into these episodes and it shows and we shouldn’t expect this to be the norm going forward. But it was very much worth the wait. Mandalore carries this season, which could’ve been longer and more epic, but The Clone Wars gets the send-off it deserved. A must-see for any fan of a galaxy far, far away.