Review: Star Wars: The Clone Wars – The Final Season

Producer: Dave Filoni

Directors: Nathaniel Villanueva, Steward Lee, Saul Ruiz, Kyle Dunlevy, Brian Kalin O’Connell, Bosco Ng

Writers: Dave Filoni, Matt Michnovetz, Brent Friedman, Charles Murray

Composer: Kevin Kiner

Starring: Tom Kane, Matt Lanter, James Arnold Taylor, Ashley Eckstein, Dee Bradley Baker, Matthew Wood, Samuel Witwer

Distributor: Disney Media Distribution

Genre: Science Fiction/Animation

Rating: TV-PG

The long running Cartoon Network animated series has had a rough ride since its 2008 premiere. After a premature cancellation in 2013, the series has seen numerous small revivals in the form of books, comics, and a shortened sixth season on Netflix. Now just in time for Star Wars Day, the seventh revival season for Disney+ has finished its twelve episode run and brought the series’ biggest story arcs to a conclusion. 

Content Guide

Spiritual Content: Characters channel a spiritual energy known as the force as a means of combat and personal spirituality.

Violence: TV-PG rated warfighting, dueling, and combat, scenes of explosions, shooting, and death. No excessive gore that would be inappropriate for children.

Language/Crude Humor: None

Sexual Content: None

Drug/Alcohol Use: References to a drug known as “Spice.” 

Other Negative Themes: None

Positive Themes: Themes of friendship, brotherhood, loyalty, preserving life, and overcoming temptation and evil.

Review

The prospect of one final season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars was an exciting one for many Star Wars fans. Lest we forget, Star Wars is in a precarious place. While fans are still burning the main saga films in effigy four years since the premiere of the new series, the spin-off projects like Jedi Fallen Order, Rogue One, and The Mandalorian are accruing intense praise and love. The revival of The Clone Wars feels like the ultimate extension of that. The series that launched in 2008 has since developed a reputation as the most beloved Star Wars property in the franchise since the 1990’s. While it started a bit rough, it grew and evolved into a fascinating extrapolation of one of the series’ most important historical events. 

Thus why it’s not surprising why Disney would come to the conclusion a revival would be smart. If half the fanbase is raging, give them something you know they’ll love! Thankfully, the series’ creators had plenty of additional ideas when the series was canceled in Season 5 in 2013 (largely to shift focus to their new series Star Wars: Rebels). While some of their season 6 concepts were finished and released as The Lost Missions on Netflix in 2014, the team still had previsualizations and scripts completed for multiple story arcs in addition to the ones that were released. Many of these were partially released online or on various DVD sets as special features showing stories that could’ve been developed with additional time. 

As was announced at Star Wars Celebration 2019, many of those lost ideas were now going to be integrated into a final season to be part of Disney+’s initial lineup of content. The twelve episode season completed its run this week on May 4th, 2020 (aka Star Wars Day). With it, the series has largely come to a close. While it’s possible an eighth season could be released given the popularity of this new season, it wouldn’t be the chronological conclusion to the series as a whole. Its certainly possible lost story arcs like Son of Dathimir, Dark Disciple, and Crystal Crisis on Utapau could be animated as well, but this season brought all of the long running story arcs to their logical conclusion. 

As is tradition for the series, the final season is an anthology series just as the previous five and a half seasons were. Each season is broken into several multi-episode story arcs that build upon one another and slowly weave the various stories of these characters into a massive narrative. Season 7 follows the final weeks of the Clone Wars and charts the events of the characters we don’t see in Star Wars Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith. The three story arcs of the final season are more scaled back and focused on finishing the stories of the characters whose stories originated in this series in previous seasons. 

Bad Batch

The first arc of the final season is one of the most famous unfinished story lines in The Clone Wars. Full animatics for the four-episode arc were released as far back as 2015 after the show’s initial cancellation and made the story line one of the most anticipated aspects of the revival series.

The story follows the first time we meet the titular “Bad Batch.” This group of strange clones are all mutants who gained strange enhancements during their gestation, like super strength and heightened sensory perception. This bizarre special operations team joins with Rex and Anakin for a mission behind enemy lines where they must discover the source of the Seperatist’s mysterious operation’s “algorithm” which has given them an absurd ability to predict Republic battle strategies in the midst of their most destructive sieges of the war all across the outer rim. 

Bad Batch is overall a light-hearted story compared to much of The Clone Wars as a series. The four members of the team all have boisterous personalities and an incredible ability to feel out a battlefield during a fight. Their teamwork and unusual abilities make them nearly unstoppable. The arc also throws in a couple of allusions to events happening outside of the immediate conflict. Early on, a scene between Anakin and Padme alludes subtly to Padme’s pregnancy in Revenge of the Sith. We know immediately this is happening mere weeks or months before events are going to come to a head.

With the eventuality of the Empire hanging over these characters, Bad Batch serves as a last vestige of the light-hearted adventures of the characters we love. This is one of the last times these characters will work together as friends. 

Ahsoka’s Journey

Star Wars: The Clone Wars is a series well regarded for its artistic and emotional highs, but it’s also infamous for its superfluous and lifeless filler stories. The Lost Missions filled in the brilliant Fives arc and Yoda’s final arc with a mediocre filler story about Mace Windu and Jar Jar Binks going on a Temple of Doom inspired mission to stop a space princess from being sacrificed as part of an alien ritual. One can only surmise what purpose that served in the greater scheme of things…

That said, Ahsoka’s journey does serve as a necessary transition story to fill in details between her final appearance in the Season 5 finale where she quits the Jedi Order and her appearance in the final arc for Season 7. The four episodes do serve that purpose. We get to spend some needed quality time with Ahsoka as she’s dealing with the emotional grief of the events that had just transpired in her life, and we learn how she comes in contact with the surviving members of Death Watch. 

Sadly this ended up being the more bumbling and irritating story arc of the season. Ahsoka finds herself in service to the Martez sisters. This pair of poor criminals living on level 1313 of the Coruscant underworld are trying to make a living through petty crime so they can pay off their debts and eventually leave their home for greener pastures. There is some really good stuff in these episodes. We get to learn a bit about the opinions of the lower class of this universe as they deal with their own resentment towards the Jedi and the Republic who don’t care about their day-to-day problems. We even briefly get to revisit the spice mines of Kessel as seen in Solo: A Star Wars Story

The problem with this story arc ends up being Trace and Rafa Martez themselves. Conceptually, they’re decent and sympathetic characters in their own right, but they’re also deeply reactionary and impulsive characters who create enormous problems for themselves and Ahsoka. The four episodes we spend with these characters sees them squabble and bicker to the point where you just want them to figure out a solution to their problems already. Watching this conflict play out over the course of a month was ultimately excruciatingly dull. 

The Siege of Mandalore

The highlight of the new season ultimately came down to the final four episodes. This was the point at which every story in the series had been building up to. Everything from Ahsoka leaving the Jedi Order to Maul’s resurrection was building to this story. The story also serves as an important reference to The Mandalorian as the Siege of Mandalore and subsequent Purge of Mandalore are important events in Din Djarin’s backstory.  

The story begins with the final time Anakin and Ahsoka meet during the Clone Wars. Following Maul forming a criminal empire and conquering Mandalore, survivors of the Mandalorian terrorist group Death Watch have approached Ahsoka asking for aid in laying siege to Maul’s forces. If the Republic can dedicate forces to a siege, there’s a chance the planet could be taken back from Maul’s syndicate. This is, of course, a violation of the planet’s neutrality agreement with the Republic and the Separatists. While Anakin and Obi-Wan are drawn away to deal with the Battle of Coruscant, Ahsoka and Rex take a force to Mandalore to free the planet and finally capture the rogue Sith Lord. 

The four episode story is packed to the gills with amazing moments and fight scenes. Moments that should feel like meaningless fan service like Ahsoka and Maul’s duel are given added weight by Maul’s philosophizing that the two of them have more in common than one would think. They’re both fallen members of their respective orders and could potentially accomplish defeating Death Sidious and his new apprentice if they worked together. As the events play out, we hear word in the background of the events of Revenge of the Sith transpiring. We find out about Count Dooku’s death and the death of Grievous as the Siege intensifies. It all builds to the inevitable moment fans knew was coming as Ahsoka is forced to deal with Order 66 alone. 

These four final episodes build to the culminating moments of the series and represent some of the strongest moments of storytelling in the entirety of the series. In some ways, I could’ve used more time for the events in these episodes to be extrapolated further (the “Siege” itself only lasts an episode and a half). That said, most of the work that went into resurrecting the series clearly went into how it crosses the finish line. The small allusions and character beats in the first two arcs are just meant to clean up established story lines and seed quieter moments into the narrative to remind viewers about where these characters are in the final months of the war. 

Conclusion

When examined more finely, the series finale of Clone Wars manages to focus its story on a much radically smaller scale than most of the series before it. The writers must’ve come to the conclusion that any conclusion to this series had to be a conclusion to the four characters who have defined this series: Anakin, Ahsoka, Maul, and Rex. These are the characters we’ve followed most closely since the beginning with the release of The Clone Wars movie which introduced them all. Even more than Yoda, Obi-Wan, and the rest of the prequel characters, this story was fundamentally about Anakin’s relationship to his apprentice and the Jedi’s relationships to the clones. 

Many of the story arcs in The Clone Wars were ultimately followed up in the sequel series Star Wars: Rebels. Ahsoka, Maul, and Rex all return as main characters in that series as well, and give it the best moments. Vital scenes like Ahsoka’s final confrontation with Darth Vader, Rex joining the rebellion, and Maul’s final confrontation with Obi-Wan were delivered upon after the events of Clone Wars. That these characters survived was never in question. What’s heart wrenching is watching these characters have to go through the wringer one more time and realizing these last moments with the characters are the last times we’ll see them interact as friends.  

The final epilogue scene, which I won’t spoil here, reflects this reality. The Clone Wars is fundamentally a tragedy of brothers. It’s about people being controlled by outside forces to build to a point of collapse. As the final seasons make desperately clear, the events of the Star Wars Saga could’ve been stopped. The formation of the Empire could’ve been stopped multiple times either by Fives or the Jedi. Someone could’ve revealed the truth and stopped Darth Sidious before Order 66. Unfortunately, they didn’t, and Darth Vader is born. All that remains in the end is the bitter memory of people who cared for one another as brothers and couldn’t stop the inevitable. These characters were doomed to begin with. The Clone Wars is a story created to remind you about the good people who were lost in the background. 

The Bottom Line

The Final Season of The Clone Wars was a long ride and an overdue resolution for long term fans of the show. That said, it’s a brilliant conclusion to one of the best Star Wars properties of all time!

 

8.3

Tyler Hummel

Born into the unexplored residential backwater of Chicago, Tyler Hummel is a graduate of Tribeca Flashpoint College where he studied Sound Design for Film and Interactive Media. When he isn't hosting his public access talk show The Fox Valley Film Critics or collecting DragonBall Z figurines, he enjoys writing and directing short films. As with Rick from Casablanca, "he's a man like any other man, just more so!"

Leave a Reply