Star Wars has seen its fair share of attention in the last couple of years. Between the sequel trilogy, The Mandalorian, and the EA Star Wars games, I, as a Star Wars fan, have had no shortage of things to be excited about. The one thing, however, that instilled the most excitement in me was the announcement of the new Clone Wars season.
I loved watching Clone Wars as a kid, and that extended even into my high school years. The show contained some of the best stories in Star Wars, and it did not fall into the trap of talking down to the kid audience it is made for. The show deals with war, violence, and death in a very mature way for a kid-targeted show.
With the last season, I wanted to see the best of the Clone Wars show—displaying the end of the war and Order 66, the order for the clones to kill all Jedi—causing the downfall of the Republic. In the end, the final season provided a perfect representation of Star Wars, and not only the best of Clone Wars, but one of the best Star Wars stories ever told.
The season is structured into three miniseries, each taking up four episodes. Each of these loosely fit together in the end but are otherwise starkly different. The first focuses on the “Bad Batch,” a group of clone troopers each with special mutations that give them exceptional abilities. One is strong, one is smart, one is a marksman, and one is the leader. These troopers are entertaining and provide interesting action scenes that display each of their abilities in creative ways. Behind the action, however, is a compelling narrative, and the episodes do not fall into heartless action at any point.
Captain Rex and Anakin also form an essential part of this miniseries, although Rex is focused on far more than Anakin. Rex has a well-done emotional arc in this series while Anakin is mostly put on the backburner, and the episodes choose to focus mostly on the clones.
These episodes were good but not great. The emotional bits were not as effective as they were supposed to be and some of the Bad Batch felt like one-note characters, specifically Wrecker, the strong one. He got on my nerves a couple of times, yelling about blowing things up over and over. Overall, the series provided some fun Clone Wars action but contained nothing notable and nothing seemingly justifying a revival of the show.
The second miniseries focuses on Ashoka, a character that over the seasons became a fan-favorite in the show. After leaving the Jedi Order, she gets tangled up with two sisters in the Coruscant underworld, helping them pay off their debts. This leads them across the galaxy and later becoming imprisoned and forced to escape from the Pikes, a criminal organization that is revealed to be part of Darth Maul’s criminal empire established in earlier seasons.
While this premise sounds interesting, the abrasive and annoying personalities of the Martez sisters make these episodes some of my least favorite in the Clone Wars show. Ashoka feels more one-sided than earlier, and they do not use anyone to their full potential. In earlier seasons, Ashoka as a character developed a multilayered personality, truly turning into a three-dimensional character. All that was supposed to be on display in these episodes but was unfortunately hindered by their decision to make her always sure of herself and objectively perfect, sucking the tension or thoughtfulness from her character.
These episodes feel like filler, trying to bridge the gap between the Bad Batch and the siege of Mandalore. One episode starts with them imprisoned and ends with the group in the exact same prison, right where they started. The Martez sisters quarrel and make dumber decisions than teens in a horror movie. The audience members are left just wanting these episodes to be over.
After those episodes, the final miniseries begins. This one focuses on Ashoka hunting down Darth Maul to his puppet government on Mandalore and attempting to capture him as Order 66 looms large on the horizon.
This was what the entire season builds towards. This is why the show was revived. I had very high hopes for this arc, hoping it would redeem all the other episodes and feature the best of the Clone Wars. The series did not meet my expectations; instead, it exceeded them. The deep power of Maul comes to a head as he sees what is about to happen and dreads Order 66, disrupting the plan of Sidious and attempting to stop it. Ashoka, likewise, is an incredible character, rising far above her previous writing in the second miniseries.
The action in these episodes exceeds the epic scope and excitement of even some of the best moments of the movies. The duel between Ashoka and Maul is riveting, bringing the original Darth Maul actor back to do the motion capture for the lightsaber fight, and Sam Witwer brings some of the best voice work I have ever heard in an animated tv show. Furthermore, the inclusion of Mandalorians provides ample material for large-scale warfare between the armies of the Republic and the two factions of Mandalorians.
The music by Kevin Kiner is masterfully done, providing heroic backdrops for the war scenes and brooding darkness during the Order 66 scenes, lending to the feelings of fear and despair. Specifically, in the last two episodes, I felt the music really shined, outdoing even the work done by John Williams in some cases.
There is a great balance of action and emotional moments that actually hit hard in some cases. This results in some of the best of not just The Clone Wars but of Star Wars as a whole. I cannot think of a single thing done poorly in these last four episodes. They are riveting from beginning to end, never letting up in their roughly two-hour run time. The final scene of this season left me with a sense of wonder and finality, perfectly capping off one of the best Star Wars stories ever told.
In the end, this season felt like a representation of Star Wars as a whole. There is good, there is bad, but there is heart in all of it. If you are willing to push through some of the bad parts, there will always be the moments that transport you to a galaxy you could never have dreamed of.