This review contains spoilers for season 7 of Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
The eagerly anticipated conclusion to the Clone Wars animated show, which was prematurely cancelled when Disney took over Lucasfilm in 2012, aired today on May the fourth, Star Wars day, of 2020. Largely seen as the best Star Wars content out there, the show takes place after the events of Episode II until a concurrent point in the chronology to Episode III, a little over 3 years of previously unexplored timeline. Season 7 was a shortened season, like season 6, and contained 3 larger story arcs. It saw the return of Ashoka Tano, the most beloved character not to feature in the main films (a voice-over in TROS notwithstanding), her reunion with her former Jedi Order, and the events that ran parallel to The Revenge of the Sith. Star Wars: The Clone Wars was helmed by the prolific Dave Filoni, and saw direct involvement from George Lucas.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars is the best star wars out there. I believed that before Season 7, and I’m damn sure of it now. The unfortunate reality of the prequels was not just that they weren’t very good (with some exception given to Episode III), but that they were that bad given the resources of the lore they had at their fingertips. The situation was so inherently cool: hundreds and thousands of Jedi at the height of their powers, defending the galaxy in a war. Had it been executed better, the conceptual footing would have helped the prequels well outdistance the originals, but, alas, George Lucas isn’t half as good a director as he is a creator. Luckily, Dave Filoni stepped in to tell 6 seasons worth of some of the best stories in the Star Wars universe, with some of the undisputed best characters and plotlines the universe had to offer. The day it was cancelled was a dark day in Star Wars history, and the day it was announced to be making a comeback one of the brightest.
I’ll dispense a little more quickly of the first two arcs, we all know why we’re here. I really enjoyed the first arc, the ‘Bad ‘Batch’ episodes, where Anakin and Rex teamed up with the Bad Batch to go after Echo, a Clone who died in a previous arc during season 4. It was great, it had every element the series is famous for: Anakin being awesome, the Clones being awesome, camaraderie, humor, action, and adventure. I’d say the first arc was a more or less standard Clone Wars story, and I was delighted. The second arc was a slightly different story. I understood the need for an arc of that kind, Ashoka needed to be reminded of some sense of her duty to others and the idea of the Martez sisters was a pretty conceptually strong way to do it. In its execution, however, the second arc of the season dragged hard. The quality of the Martezes began and ended with the idea of them, thanks to some poor writing and some voice acting that wasn’t per this show’s standard level of quality. The story itself wasn’t super interesting, littered with some seriously skewed decision making and poor pacing that amounted to the arc being worth Ashoka being pretty cool again from time to time and not a lot more. It served its purpose, however, and it ended with Ashoka being approached by Bo Katan and the remaining Deathwatch. It was time for the Siege of Mandalore.
The Siege of Mandalore was a 4-episode arc. If you cut those episodes into one film, which I’d imagine they’re fairly likely to do at some point, it would be the best Star Wars movie ever made. Prove me wrong.
The last four episodes of this show where the best Star Wars content of all time. It was just beautiful. Extremely cinematic, by the way, not just because of the original theme at the beginning, which is why I say they’ll probably release this theatrically at some point. The animation was beautiful, a cut above anything that’s been done to this point on this show. But stunning visuals wasn’t what we were there for. Those last four episodes told an incredible story, parallel, for the most part, to the events of Revenge of the Sith. Episode 9, the first of the arc, met every expectation and anticipation any of us had with respect to Anakin and Ashoka’s reunion, heartbreakingly short with all the feeling it could squeeze out of the few minutes it lasted. From the new lightsabres to the paintjob on the clones, it was potent in all the ways it needed to be. The easter eggs and call-forwards were much appreciated as well, the fact that Shakh Ti’s death, something that only happens in the deleted scenes of Episode III, was hinted at, as well as a quick look at Kanan Jarrus in the opening narration. More than anything else, it felt heavy. It weighed with all the memories and shared experience we’d had with these characters over the course of 7 seasons, and even more having shared some more experience after.
The second episode had Maul in all his glory. The Star Wars community owes a great deal to Sam Witwer, the voice actor whose work in bringing Maul back to life in more ways than one has been nothing short of miraculous. That’s the episode with the most stand-out writing out of all of them, with the anticipation of what was to come higher than ever. It was also the episode of the best action, and, arguably the best visuals, including arguably the best lightsabre battle in the show, a motion-capture battle that brought Ray Park, Maul’s original actor, back into the fold in a beautifully fitting way. It’s like Filoni can’t stop himself from satisfying fans. This might be a good time to bring up the music and scoring, which was other-worldly the whole way through. The second episode was also the one where they started running concurrent to Episode III, which was extremely interesting. It added a really interesting flavour to it all, as well as adding to the canon of events that happen in the film. We see Obi-Wan’s hint at disapproval about Anakin’s killing of Count Dooku, and we see his unease about Anakin’s assignment from an angle that we didn’t get to see in the film. That also starts the sense of dread. We always assumed the show would end with Coruscant under attack, not running alongside those events. We know where that thread leads, and the dramatic irony is intense. The confrontation between Ashoka and Maul is electric and intense, and it added up to arguably the best stand-alone episode of the arc.
The third episode was called Shattered, which was apt. We can call this the ‘Order 66’ episode. Not a ton to say about this one other than the music in the first half was unbelievable, and goddamned effective. Remember the sense of dread I mentioned? It was pouring out of your ears at that point, building up until the moment it happened. It was heartbreaking. It was shattering. The music, pulled straight out of Episode III, was pure perfection for the anticipated moment, and the visual of Ashoka spinning and deflecting the clone’s blasts after Rex, fighting the command, ordered her dead, was enough to have my heart out of my throat and on the couch next to me. It was as close to perfect as it’s possible to be. I should add that another really interesting parallel to Episode III was a scene which was actually in Episode III, and continued after the film’s scene cut away, in which Mace Windu said the reasonably recognizable line: “I sense a plot to destroy the Jedi.” Seeing Ashoka come in to the immediate aftermath of that conversation, to be shooed by the ever-arrogant Mace, and to have been so unbelievably close to telling them about Maul’s prediction, was just indescribable. It was genius storytelling, weaving what we knew and what we didn’t know together to add intrigue and heartache for how differently it could’ve turned out. Maul’s Silence-of-the-Lambs-eque restraints was an interesting piece of Mandalorian tech which I feel like we might see more of when they novelize the Old Republic through Project Luminous. Maul’s release by Ashoka, and his terrorizing of the Clones was another really cool and dark sequence from another contender for best episode in this whole damn show. Rex’s removed inhibitor chip was a relief, even though anyone whose seen Rebels knew that was going to happen. Speaking of which, I’m curious as to how Wolff and the others who were with Rex in Rebels got their chips removed. A story for another time, I suppose.
The final episode was probably the most action packed of all of them. It had some of the most consistently heart-pounding sequences, as Ashoka and Rex did their best to fight their way off of the ship without killing anyone. Maul didn’t have any such grievances, pulling the whole hyper-drive down using the force (a really cool image). The rest of this episode was essentially an action sequence, a good one, where Ashoka and Rex were helped by R7 and Cheep-Cheep to escape a crashing ship. It was high-intensity, clever stuff, but some part of me wished they’d get that part over with so we could see more of the aftermath of it all. After a point, the action felt a bit overdone, especially the few times Ashoka couldn’t reach Rex’s fighter. It was still blood-pumping, stuff, with Ashoka and Rex alone fighting off like a hundred clones without killing anyone. Moments of it were incredible (particularly when Ashoka used the force to move her lightsabres to cut a hole in the ground. These are techniques in the force that I’ve always wanted to see used by never really witnessed before), but my only criticism of the whole arc is that they could’ve saved 3 or 4 more minutes to show us something of Obi-Wan and Obi-Wan and Yoda, maybe, after settling into their respective exiles on Tatooine and Dagobah. It might’ve been nice to see, maybe, where exactly Maul ran off too and went into his own hiding. The ending we got was great, there was a wonderful poetry in the Clone’s graves, Jessie’s right at the front, and Ashoka dropping her lightsabre in that moment. The cut to however much time later, where Vader picked up that same lightsabre, the one he’d given Ashoka the last time he’d seen her, and assuming she was dead, was exactly as cold and sad as it needed to be. It was a fitting end; an end to a story that was fundamentally about Anakin Skywalker and his padawan.
The Clone Wars is the best Star Wars, there’s just no question about that now in my opinion, and Ashoka Tano one of the best characters. Thank God for Dave Filoni, seemingly the one man who can bring one of the most divisive fan-bases in the history of the world together with the ideas in his head. I used to say this before, and it’s never been more true now: you don’t really know Star Wars until you’ve seen the Clone Wars. There is depth and nuance to so much that goes on in this universe, so much more than is observable in a film franchise that, frankly, has gotten it wrong more than it’s got right. I’d implore any and all Star Wars fans who haven’t seen this show to watch it as soon as humanly possible. We know we haven’t seen the last of Ashoka Tano, she’s reportedly going to be seen in the live-action-flesh in the second season of The Mandalorian, played by Rosario Dawson (again, not actually confirmed but heavily rumoured), at a time in the chronology when she should be with Sabine Wren, looking for Ezra (characters from Rebels, the show that followed the Clone Wars and the show I’m gonna go start rewatching the second I’m done writing this). Ashoka aside, Dave Filoni is guaranteed to continue his occupation of making quality Star Wars content. We can only wait and see what he does next. I’d like to take a second to thank the cast and crew of The Clone Wars, who, for almost 15 years now, have endeavoured and succeeded in telling the best Star Wars stories to be told this far. As far as voice acting goes, Ashley Eckstein, Tom Kane, Matt Lanter, James Arnold Taylor (a serious contender for the Best Obi-Wan, which is, like, crazy), and Dee Bradley Baker among others. Please take a bow. Dave Filoni, please take a bow. Oh, and George Lucas? This had made things right. Take a bow sir.
And so ends the best Star Wars out there, right up until Filoni does his next between-films animated show. We have only to wait.
– Aman Datta
- Overall Series Score – 84/100
- Season 7 Score – 85/100
- The Siege of Mandalore (last four episodes) Score – 95/100