TV Discussion

Star Wars: The Clone Wars #46 – ‘How Do You Solve A Problem Like Ahsoka?’ – TV Discussion

And here we are on the final leg of The Clone Wars (again… okay, again-again). But the sense of finality is palpable this time, as the events of the Siege Of Mandalore arc sprint toward and into Revenge Of The Sith itself. While the actual action of the movie takes place off-screen here, there are snippets of conversations seen from a different point of view which tweak what we thought we knew.

It’s an especially tricky narrative cul-de-sac for writer and showrunner Dave Filoni, as the final four episodes of the series centre on ex-Jedi Ahsoka Tano and ex-Sith Maul. Both characters were believed ‘written off’ before the end of the war, yet both have returned. And since Star Wars Rebels already revealed that Tano and Maul are still alive over fifteen years later, what kind of showdown could be unveiled now, at the end of The Clone Wars..?

Old Friends Not Forgotten (2020)

Season 7, Episode 9.
Written by Dave Filoni, directed by Saul Ruiz.

The show foregoes it regular title arrangement for this arc, as the music of John Williams and the green Helvetica of Lucasfilm’s early days bids us welcome. This segues into a scarlet Clone Wars logo receding into the distance, and Tom Kane’s narration taking over with Kevin Kiner’s regular orchestral backing. It’s the eve of the Battle of Coruscant, and the Republic is stretched to breaking point. Clone Commander Cody leads a squadron to assist the 212th legion against the CIS forces on Yerbana, while Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi lend ground support as only they can…

Within a minute of opening, the audience is transported right back to where it all began. Purposely reminiscent of the fray at Christophsis, one faceless army squares off against another across a gigantic bridge; except this time it’s the Clonetroopers who are on the offensive. And it’s a sign of how far we’ve come as the animation (at least when no stylised human faces are on-screen) is now borderline photorealistic. The absolute carnage of full frontal warfare is brought to an end by the bravado of Anakin Skywalker, and then it’s off for a poignant surprise-meeting with the padawan who walked away from the order, Ahsoka Tano.

Following on from her own earlier arc, Tano has teamed up with Mandalorian rebel Bo Katan to track down budding criminal overlord, Maul. Having noted that he’s set up shop in the city of Sundari on Mandalore, the pair ask the Republic for assistance in apprehending their quarry, needing troops to facilitate a siege to draw him out.

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Alas this is the very moment that General Grievous has initiated his assault on Coruscant and kidnapped Chancellor Palpatine, so resources are tight. Anakin assigns Commander Rex and a division of the 501st to help, and it’s off to war-torn Mandalore, now under the grip of the Death Watch and Maul’s Shadow Collective.

Jet-packs and Jedi combine for a battle which manages to be both aerial and melee, then we finally catch up with Maul at his behind-the-scenes seat in Almec’s corrupt government. The Zabrak is in full paranoid megalomaniac mode, safe in the dark of the literal underworld once again, confident he can see off any threat on a 1-to-1 level, but happy enough to let underlings take the brunt of grander attempts.

All said, there’s a lot of admin in this episode, yet it never lags. ‘Old Friends Not Forgotten’ does what it says on the tin, it’s a tribute to The Clone Wars as a series and the characters we’ve met along the way. It’s also a fantastic beginning to the finale…

The Phantom Apprentice (2020)

Season 7, Episode 10.
Written by Dave Filoni, directed by Nathaniel Villanueva.

A logo, a fade-in title and we’re straight into Part 2 with Ahsoka facing Maul in the tunnels under Mandalore. The latter is somewhat disappointed as this was a trap to lure Kenobi to a final confrontation. After a brief bout of ‘explaining the plan’ Maul escapes, content to watch the chaos unfold above and seize what power is available for plundering.

Political intrigue and plasma-heavy action mix seamlessly here and it’s odd to watch the culmination of seven seasons of groundbreaking television play out on Mandalore, the planet which has been home to some of the strongest yet also the very weakest episodes of The Clone Wars.

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The Chancellor has been rescued by this point and Dave Filoni’s script makes mention of Dooku having been killed. ‘The Phantom Apprentice’ runs in direct parallel with Episode III, its title an oblique reference to Ahsoka and Maul both, even Anakin as he continues his descent into the Dark Side back on Coruscant.

Our two leads begin the ongoing verbal negotiations for a bizarre truce, each with something to gain from a partnership, both entirely untrusting of the other’s commitment to it. Ultimately, Maul’s Force-visions give him enough insight to unsettle Ahsoka’s calm, beginning a duel in the Sundari throneroom which has already seen so much action. Expertly choreographed and intercut with the ground-battle outside, this is pure Star Wars, ending as the former Sith is captured by the former Jedi and placed into Republic custody. And we all know how this will turn out

Extra bonus points for the inclusion of Wilhelm Screams woven deftly into the sound mix.

Shattered (2020)

Season 7, Episode 11.
Written by Dave Filoni, directed by Saul Ruiz.

With Maul being taken for presentation to the Jedi Council on Coruscant, Ahsoka bids farewell to Bo Katan and the smoking ruins of Sundari. But foreboding also hangs in the air, as she’s told Anakin has been sent to inform Chancellor Palpatine of the discovery of Grievous’ whereabouts. Commander Rex stands wordlessly at the back of the shot like a gathering stormcloud…

The audience holds its collective breath as the Zabrak is transported in what appears to be a cross between Hannibal Lecter’s bite-proof rig and Kenner’s vintage AST-5 transport. The Star Destroyer Venator used to ferry him across the galaxy is now staffed by the red-armoured shock troops we see at the end of Revenge Of The Sith, while Kevin Kiner’s score is a masterclass in pin-drop dread. More scenes from that film are rendered in animated form, never ret-conned but expanded certainly.

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Just to make matters more complicated, Anakin’s fatal intervention at Palpatine’s office causes a psychic disturbance which ripples across the galaxy.

And then Order 66 is issued.

Ah yes, the other question that’s been asked since 2008. What happens to nailed-on good guy Rex when the switch in his brain is flipped? This is a kids’ show, after all. We’ve already had the why, now we get the how. Credit goes to Dave Filoni at the writers’ desk as he keeps the integrity of his characters intact (remembering that Rebels has already shown us the long-term outcome) without taking the easiest route.

What follows is an intricate game of cat-and-mouse where the mouse’s objective is to remind the cat that they’re actually friends (also confirming once and for all that the heroic clone we’ve followed since 2008 was not with Anakin/Vader when he stormed the Jedi Temple and dissolved the crèche). A trio of astromech droids lightens the mood without diffusing the consequences of Ahsoka’s potential failure.

There’s just time for one final cliff-hanger ending as we prepare for, well…

Victory and Death (2020)

Season 7, Episode 12.
Written by Dave Filoni, directed by Nathaniel Villanueva.

The inhibitor-chip in Rex’s head has been decommissioned, but he and Ahsoka are now up against a Star Destroyer full of clones still running on The Emperor’s autopilot. What’s more, an ever-furious Maul is loose and also looking for a way offboard, happy to tear the hyperdrive apart in order to bring the ship forcefully out of lightspeed.

Much has changed, this is a new galaxy and our protagonists are utterly lost; previous certainties have been wiped away and all they can do in the meanwhile is survive. Maul makes good his moustache-twirling escape, leaving the cruiser plummeting toward an unnamed planet. An abandoned Y-Wing fighter proves to be the solution for Ahsoka and Rex, but the action isn’t over yet, as a skydiving sequence evokes ‘Jedi Crash‘ from the series’ first season.

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What remains is, well… remains. There isn’t enough time in the episode to fully explore Ahsoka’s emotional reaction to Order 66, but her refusal to write off the turned clones as collateral damage and the burials organised by her and Rex certainly suggest there’s more ground to be covered at a later date.

The ending of the episode, of the season, of the series, is sombre, ponderous, almost downbeat. Yet it’s entirely in keeping with the galaxy at that time. We skip forward an untold number of years as an Imperial squadron visits to the crash-site, with Stormtroopers, Snowtroopers, probe-droids and an all-too familiar figure in black.

What has drawn him here is uncertain, but the message he takes away is clear: Ahsoka lives…

All of which brings us to the end. No time to reflect any more than we have already, Star Wars moves onward as much in its animated form as it does in cinematic, graphic and literary ones. And with Ahsoka Tano all but confirmed for season two of The Mandalorian, we haven’t yet seen the last of the characters we’ve come to love over the last dozen years.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this extended look-back at Star Wars: The Clone Wars, we’ve certainly enjoyed bringing it to you. Coverage of all the Galaxy Far, Far Away has to offer will continue here at Set The Tape of course, and until next time… may The Force be with you.

What have been your favourite moments from Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and would you like to see the era expanded further in other media? Let us know in the comments below!

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