“Execute Order 66.“
You wouldn’t think the moment when the evil Sith enact their long-plotted revenge and seize control of the galaxy with Order 66 could hold as much weight in 2020 as it did when we first saw it play out on the big screen in 2005.
You would be very wrong.
The Clone Wars are coming to an end — again. The animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars was always supposed to climax with the return of Ahsoka Tano and the Siege of Mandalore, but the series was cut short after Disney took over Lucasfilm; a few remaining episodes were later released on Netflix, but not a full season. Not the full story. Even now, there are fabled story arcs we won’t see — at least for a while.
But the series is getting a proper farewell this time, on Disney+. With the vast array of Star Wars projects being greenlit, it’s not outside the realm of possibility The Clone Wars will return again in some form. It’s becoming a habit, after all — the show they couldn’t kill.
All the feels, all over again
With today’s new episode, “Shattered” — the penultimate, 11th episode of the seventh and final season — the stage is set for Monday’s grand finale, “Victory and Death,” moved to a more prestigious “May the Fourth” debut from its recent Friday time slot.
It was clear that the last couple episodes — “Old Friends Not Forgotten” and “The Phantom Apprentice” — have been building up to an alternate depiction of the prequel trilogy’s closing moments. The first installment of the arc reunited Ahsoka Tano with her former Jedi mentor, Anakin Skywalker, all too fleetingly as he was soon called away to rescue Chancellor Palpatine from General Grievous — the opening act of Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith — as Ahsoka and her Mandalorian insurgents invaded Mandalore and hunted down Maul.
The second part threw former Jedi and former Sith against each other in one of the finest melee sequences in all of Star Wars, animated or live action (thanks to amazing motion capture work on both parts, but notably the return of Ray Park as Maul’s crude matter and Sam Witwer as his voice — a winning combination reprised from Solo: A Star Wars Story).
In the second episode, we also learn Anakin has killed County Dooku, and Obi-Wan Kenobi has been dispatched to hunt down General Grievous — meaning the end is very near for both the Jedi and the Republic.
“Shattered,” today’s third act of the four-part finale, opens with Maul in captivity and Ahsoka pulling Republic forces out of Mandalore. The voyage back to Coruscant with their quarry will not be a peaceful one: It’s then that Darth Sidious plays his trump card, activating the clones’ secret control chips and turning the Grand Army of the Republic against the Jedi all across the galaxy.
Simultaneously, as Yoda is reeling on Kashyyyk from feeling the deaths of so many Jedi, Ahsoka senses the event as well — as does Maul, captured and tucked away in the bowels of the cruiser’s detention block. And then the clones of the 501st, including Rex, turn their blasters on her.
They really should have known better.
The learner has become the master
One of the most cunning and daring Force warriors of her time, freed from the restraints of the Jedi Order, she has Skywalker’s boldness tempered with Kenobi’s wisdom and a dash of Bo Katan’s Mandalorian tactics. This makes her a greater challenge than most of the clones’ targets of treachery. Some would say she “earned it” over the years — even those who scoffed at her wide-eyed introduction in 2008’s Clone Wars feature film — using this journey as a cudgel against Rey Skywalker of the sequel movies, but the two just don’t compare: Compressed, movie trilogy storytelling is an entirely different animal from 12 years of slow-burn character development. (Simply ignore this petty distraction, as with most of toxic fandom’s various whataboutisms. Enjoy Ahsoka Tano’s accomplishments on their own merits, and leave Rey’s fans to do the same.)
“Shattered” explores Order 66 in a lot more detail than Episode III did. The movie made it more of a montage skipping across the galaxy as clones betrayed their Jedi generals, but here,” we get a real-time portrayal of the event focusing solely on Ahsoka’s division of Anakin’s 501st Legion, including Captain Rex. It doesn’t play out exactly as you might think — but if you paid attention to clues laid out in the abbreviated “Lost Missions” sixth season, you will have some idea what to expect. Order 66 is so much more than the movie’s tragic transition and comeuppance for a jaded Jedi Order.
Executive producer and supervising director Dave Filoni has been planning this story for a long time, and his live-action experiences on The Mandalorian have only honed his already formidable storytelling abilities. This is The Clone Wars, but it’s not the story we likely would have gotten five years ago — it’s both deeper in scope and also tighter in “execution.” These episodes’ runtimes are deceptive — they say time flies when you’re having fun, but here every perfect moment stretches further as if to say, “We’re savoring these last bites as much as you are.” It’s master craftsmanship, and it shows.
Filoni, who started The Clone Wars as an apprentice to Star Wars creator George Lucas before his retirement, has become the master, so admired by fans there are regular calls to put him in charge of all things Far, Far Away — but if his latest endeavors prove anything, it’s that his place is clearly behind a camera, not a desk.
I haven’t seen Part IV of the Clone Wars finale yet (and probably only a select few larger media outlets’ reviewers will), but this entire arc already could and should be screened in cinemas when movie theaters reopen after the pandemic crisis. So, I don’t know how it ends, yet. But if the first three episodes of this last Clone Wars arc are any indication, we won’t be disappointed Monday, and we’ll come away with a new perspective on events we thought we knew inside and out. And that’s an amazing gift.