Twelve years after it began, first with a theatrical animated movie and then a series that was prematurely concluded and then revived twice, “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” has come to an end on Disney+. And while this final season is uneven in the full aggregate of things, the show, led by showrunner, producer, director, and overall Lucasfilm animation supervisor Dave Filoni, George Lucas’ heir apparent, the actual final story arc is not only moving and quietly heartbreaking, but a fitting and proper conclusion to a story told within a greater tragedy.
‘Clone Wars’ Season 7 could have been largely perfect, but it’s marred by the way it’s divided into three parts, some of which more focused on tying up loose ends. Part 2 is the reintroduction of Anakin’s former padawan Ahsoka Tano (voiced by Ashley Eckstein), last seen rejecting the Jedi Order after she was framed for a terrorist plot against the Jedi she didn’t commit (she was acquitted, but the Jedi’s accusations and temporary expulsion from the Jedi Order made her lose faith in their organization). It’s the run-up to Part 3, “The Siege of Mandalore,” essentially treated as its own mini-movie—a four-episode arc replete with its individual title treatments, different tone, mood, and use of the original Lucasfilm Limited Production logo to honor the origins of the company and its history.
The dragging section of ‘Clone Wars’ Season 7, perfectly fine on its own, but ultimately unconnected to the larger story is the Part 1 “The Bad Batch” opening — an updated version of nearly completed episodes finished more than five years ago. As polished and thrilling as the “Bad Batch” stories are, they’re ultimately leftovers finally brought to life. The final season doesn’t really start until Part 2. When these events are finally pushed into motion, they not only make up for the patchy, disconnected opening but help wrap up the entire “Star Wars” prequel trilogy on a solemn, sobering emotional note that doesn’t feel the need to put a positive spin on the tragic ending of “Star Wars: Revenge of The Sith.”
Even, the season’s aforementioned Ahsoka-focused middle chapter, helping two orphan girls in Coruscant’s underworld, isn’t quite as strong as the rest. Still, it does some strong character building, furthering the seeded-through-the-series notion that the Jedi had lost their way, consumed by war—one of Ahsoka’s greatest internal conflicts that led her to leave the Order—and helping her realize that she made the right choice to chart her own path forward. ‘Clone Wars’ has always done a commendable job to add organic context to “Star War” decisions that seemed dubious at the time. Through the two orphans that Ahsoka befriends in this middle chapter, the series further demonstrates the human cost of war resulting from the Jedi playing soldiers, explaining why the people of the galaxy were so quick to turn against the Jedi in “Revenge of the Sith” and embrace the Galactic Empire instead.
Where things genuinely becoming compelling and emotional is the cinematic “The Siege of Mandalore”— the final story set in the prequel era, and the last “Star Wars” project supervised by George Lucas himself in tandem with Filoni.
Visually and cinematically, it’s gorgeous and as grand as any “Star Wars” film thus far—the duel between Ahsoka and Darth Maul (Sam Witwer), one of the most thrilling lightsaber battles ever witnessed (original Maul actor Ray Park returned to provide motion-capture for the fight, adding a new level of realism and fluidity to the action). Even outside the beautiful choreography, the animated body language of both Maul and Ahsoka communicates so much without saying a word, adding an emotional dimension to the fight that is reminiscent of Vader and Luke’s duel in “The Empire Strikes Back.”
This final arc is the culmination of everything great and learned over the years in “Star Wars” with references—but never lousy fan service-y ones—to “Rogue One,” “Star Wars: Rebels,” and even thematic and visual nods to “The Last Jedi” and “Return of the Jedi.” Perhaps the most heartening thing about the final ‘Clone Wars,’ season is its commitment to honoring characters Ahsoka Tano and Clone Trooper Commander Rex (Dee Bradley Baker) and “concluding” their storylines (“resting” them might be more of a fitting term as they turn up years later in “Star Wars: Rebels”). If you’ve come for yet another story with Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’ve definitely come to the wrong place. Filoni wisely understands he’s filled out their stories enough, and they get their full due in the prequels.
Perhaps the most moving decision of the series is to finally cross over into the events of “Revenge Of The Sith,” even leading up to and slightly past the events of Order 66. ‘Clone Wars,’ previously, had always played within the sandbox of events taking place between ‘Attack Of The Clones,’ and ‘Sith.’ When ‘Clone Wars’ finally ventures into the tragedy and legendary fall from grace of Anakin Skywalker, it watches the heartbreaking catastrophe of Order 66 from a different perspective—Ahsoka and Rex—without having to cut to, or show devastating events we’ve already seen on screen.
What “The Siege of Mandalore” manages to do best is affectingly meld the tragic themes of the prequels while revealing the grace note premise of ‘The Clone Wars’ as a whole: the futility of war and all its various costs. In rejecting the Jedi Order, but in a critical moment, refusing to kill the Clone Troopers trying to execute her in Order 66, Ahsoka’s arc solidifies as the embodiment of the Jedi: good people that fight to protect the innocent. She may no longer be a Jedi, but Ahsoka is one with the Force and her soul has remained intact despite all the scars.
When Ahsoka faces down her Clone comrades, knowing all is lost, and the galactic war is truly over, it’s one of the most heartbreaking moments in the entire franchise without ever leaning into melodrama or sentiment. The audiences know what these bonded characters went through together over the years, so every action carries an enormous amount of emotional weight. Likewise, using Maul to communicate to the audience both the genius but also the cruelty of Darth Sidious’ long-game plan turns Maul into one of the most tragic characters in the “Star Wars” saga, an exploited pawn led blindly into a larger plot he was manipulated into.
In its final moments, teasing what’s to come in the dictatorship of the Galactic Empire, giving a glimpse of Darth Vader in his iconic armor, walking away from the wreckage of the Clone Wars, the series delivers a subtle, moving and bittersweet grace note. As the Vader helmet meets the broken Clone helmet, Filoni and Lucas say goodbye to a series not that not only redeemed the reputation of the prequels but carved out its own identity— a moving statement about the senselessness of conflict and the perversion of war as a means to power. [B+]