Going forward, Star Wars movies should be more like Star Wars TV. Whereas the movies have largely become overly self-conscious and uninspired, recently THE MANDALORIAN and especially THE CLONE WARS have shown us how character-driven storytelling in a galaxy far, far away is done, and more miraculously that knowing the end point of a story is no shackle to creativity. As The Clone Wars came back for one final season on Disney+, by the Maker did they give it a fitting sendoff.
As the costly Clone Wars enter their final phase, the Galactic Republic’s elite clone troopers and their Jedi commanders still have more to sacrifice. As outcast Jedi Ahsoka Tano (Ashley Eckstein) tries to move on with her life, she is called back into service one final time to help overthrow Maul (Sam Witwer) ruling from the shadows on the planet Mandalore, just as her former master Anakin Skywalker (Matt Lanter) leaves on a mission that will plunge the galaxy into darkness…
The long-teased and finally realised Seige of Mandalor was worth the wait. Previous adventures set on the home of the Coolest Armour in the Galaxy were series highlights and getting to go back for a final decisive battle is a treat to experience. While a key battle in the Clone Wars, between the Republic and Separatists for control of a key strategic location might have been expected, what we actually get is a wasteful and rather pointless civil war engineered by Maul to settle a grudge with Obi-Wan Kenobi and his treacherous master Darth Sidious. It’s personal to Maul, and he doesn’t care what his revenge will cost the innocent.
We kick off the final season with “The Bad Batch” story arc. An elite unit of clones with “useful mutations” (the agile one, the strong one, the smart one and the accurate one) are sent on a dangerous mission with Anakin and Rex. The characterisation isn’t all that deep, but the animators do get to show off by coming up with some creatively action-packed skirmishes and the 80s action movie humor keeps things entertaining.
The second group of episodes is probably the weakest of the series, with Ahsoka getting caught up with scoundrel sisters and tangling with galactic gangsters. It’s good they gave Ahsoka a storyline independent of her life as a Jedi, but you could certainly wish for a more original and progressive one, one where the girls don’t get captured again and again.
The latter episodes taking place concurrently with Episode III is a powerful device, cleverly deployed. We knew what tragedy is about to occur, but that doesn’t make it any less upsetting to see what it does to characters we’ve spent years with. Before Ahsoka departs for Mandalore, her old clone squad surprise her by repainting their armour as a tribute to her. Ahsoka gets to say goodbye to Anakin while he is still his best self, and he seems to dimly remember this moment at the show’s close from behind an iconic mask. The final four episodes feel like the show is getting a proper sendoff, larger in scale, more polished and detailed in animation and far more painful in emotion than ever before.
As good as Ashley Eckstein has been as Ahsoka throughout Clone Wars, the vocal MVP award has to go to Dee Bradley Baker. Baker took an army of identical clones and created dozens of individuals with their own nuances, characters and story arcs all with slight changes to his vocal delivery. We came to know and love Rex, Cody, Fives, Echo and half a dozen others over the show’s history.
The Clone Wars has had a great life and has only become more satisfying and beloved to fans over time. This season finale was well worth the wait and finally closing the book on this chapter of the Star Wars Saga is bittersweet to say the least. A good soldier follows orders and a good show grows but never forgets what made it so compelling in the first place. SSP