Clone Wars Review: Victory and Death

 

We have reached the final episode of Clone Wars.

There was a time where I thought I would never write those words. Even though I have already written a long goodbye piece for the series, I do want to state again how grateful I am for this show. It’s the reason I become a Star Wars fan. Ahsoka Tano means everything to me and has been a source of strength for over a decade. It changed how I thought about animation. You might have noticed on this website that I mostly write about animation as it’s one of my favorite forms of media. I wouldn’t have my podcast without Clone Wars. I wouldn’t have launched my Patreon without it. I wouldn’t have this very website if not for this series. I love this show so much.

Thank you to Dave Filoni, George Lucas, the cast, and the crew for twelve years of amazing storytelling. Thank you for giving it a proper ending.

 

Okay, now let’s actually talk about “Victory and Death.” Out of the four Siege of Mandalore episodes, it was probably my least favorite. But that doesn’t mean it’s bad by any means. The previous three episodes had a lot of meat to them in the character development and plot. This was mostly wrapping up how Ahsoka, Rex, and Maul got away.

There is one thing that the Siege of Mandalore did so well. We knew the ending of these three characters and that they would survived to Star Wars Rebels. Clone Wars still was able to tell a compelling story despite knowing this. Every moment was so intense leaving me on the edge of my seat. It proved that how a story is told is the imperative part. It’s like the old saying that the destination isn’t as important as the journey itself. Clone Wars absolutely stuck the landing making for an emotionally tragic but fitting end the series.

 

Part of the tragedy is the story of the clones. We have spent the past seven seasons getting to know them as individuals. Some are rule breakers like Fives. Others are cautious like Kix. Rex is the embodiment of what it means to be a good solider but also a good person. This is what the Clone Wars did so well. They took these background characters from the Prequel movies and made them people. We care for these men. Part of what kept me so hooked in this episode was Jesse’s story. He overcame so much like almost being executed for doing the right thing in the Umbara Arc. He went from a snarky shiny in “The Deserter” to an ARC Trooper this final season. He’s been one of my favorite clones for most of the series. I knew he was probably going to die at one point. I also knew it would wreck me seeing him have to fight Rex and Ahsoka, two people who love him. Rex and Jesse have been a team for so long with the rest of the 501st. It’s heart wrenching seeing Jesse trying to kill his brother.

The clones don’t deserve anything that happens to them, and that’s the point. They are the lost generation. They’re the Vietnam War allegory for soldiers who fought in a conflict and were forgotten for so long, not recognized for their bravery. The clones are supposed to be the contrast of the stormtroopers and First Order soldiers. They have personality, colorful armor, tattoos, hairstyles, and individuality. Early in the show, they realize that they are not the same as droids just made to fight in some war. They are humans who deserve more. This is unlike the Empire and First Order who value conformity and blind loyalty.

 

The clones are also where we see the best of Ahsoka and Rex. Star Wars Explained summed it up well in his review for the episode. They choose not to kill the clones if they can help it. Unlike Yoda and Obi-Wan who cut down their previous friends, Ahsoka and Rex tried to spare the lives. They understand that the clones can’t help it. Jesse has no clue that an inhibitor chip has changed him. Rex tries to talk big about all of this, but we see he’s heartbroken to fight his brothers. He cries at the very idea of it. And Ahsoka, unlike the above mentioned Jedi, shows why she is the best of the Jedi teachings even though she’s not one of them anymore. They are keepers of the peace. They are not supposed to be killers. She values the lives of her men even when they try to murder her. She only fights out of self-defense to save her and Rex. It echoes Yoda’s conversation with Ezra Bridger in Star Wars Rebels: It’s how they choose to fight is what defines who they are.

Their efforts have a tragic turn with Maul in the picture. Ahsoka’s short term choice to survive has dire consequences. She released Maul last episode to give herself and Rex a chance to escape. But it’s Maul’s carnage and destruction of the hyperdrive which ultimately crash the ship and kills all of the clones. It’s a horrible reminder that even when choices are made for the right reasons, the ramifications can be disastrous. As Ahsoka stands before the graves of the clones she and Rex have dug, I wonder if that’s one of the things that’s going through her head.

 

And oh man, the Vader ending.

The ending felt like a direct tie to Star Wars Rebels particularly the episode “Twilight of the Apprentice.” The music had many similar nods to it. We see the convor Morai above Darth Vader as a symbol that the Force is watching that moment. It’s such a powerful image. My friend Johnamarie wrote an excellent article about Morai’s appearance over on her website Radical Grid that I highly suggest you read.

But I want to discuss Vader in particular. I have had a long standing personal rule about Clone Wars: at no point should we ever see Vader in the series. To me, Clone Wars was strictly Anakin’s story. It’s one of the many reasons I dislike the Mortis Arc (I know! I know this is a controversial opinion leaving me in the minority. That’s an article for another time).

“Victory and Death” made me throw that rule completely out the window. This is the proper use of Vader in the show. It’s the right use and this is exactly how the show should end. While Ahsoka and Rex are two of the main characters, Anakin is the other one. This series shows how and why he fell to the Dark Side. We got Rex and Ahsoka’s finale. It’s only fitting to wrap up Anakin’s journey too.

I have to wonder what Vader thought as he picked up Ahsoka’s discarded lightsaber. He had only given those to her three episodes ago. He put a bit of himself in them, so Ahsoka would always have a piece of Anakin with her. Was he sad, wanting her to survive, or had he already fallen so far that he didn’t care anymore?

It made me think of my favorite Star Wars comic. Charles Soule’s run of Darth Vader is a stellar piece of work. The entire point of the series is Anakin learning how to let go of his past identity and fully accept being Vader. It’s a struggle for years before he finally owns the Vader mantle. So when I see this final scene of Vader finding Ahsoka’s lightsaber, I think it’s supposed to be us looking at Anakin, not Vader. He’s not fully that Darth character yet. He’s still Anakin in there getting used to his new role. It supposed to be heartbreaking and tragic. Only three episodes ago, Anakin had everything. They were about to win the war, he was with his wife and about to be a father, and he reunited with his padawan he loved so much. And now, he has nothing. Everything is frozen and ash. There’s nothing but tragedy behind and before him. There is nothing left but darkens.

That final shot drives all of this home. The clone troopers, the Republic, and the Jedi are gone now. It’s frozen and left behind. All that’s left is the tyranny of the Empire.

It was a perfect ending.

 

Here’s some random thoughts I had to round out the episode:

-Ahsoka’s droid R7 has been around since the early seasons. I do wish they had used R7 more over the course of the show. It’s tragic seeing the droids who help Ahsoka get gunned down by the clones. But it would have been more impactful if we got to see more of Ahsoka and R7’s bond over the series.

-Ahsoka and Rex have come so far. They started the series in the Clone Wars Movie with a power imbalance where she technically outranked him, but he had more experience. Seven seasons later, they are true equals and dear friends.

-I also love seeing how Rex and Ahsoka fight together. They move as one like a deadly dance, one they’ve honed over the last several years.

-For two episodes, Maul’s Walk of Carnage is one of the best Force sequences in all of Star Wars. It reminds me of the Genndy Tartakovsky run of Clone Wars with some of the Mace Windu sequences. Mace didn’t always use a lightsaber, sometimes choosing to fight with the Force (and his bare fists which are SAVAGE). Maul shows that the Force is just as much of a weapon as a lightsaber. It’s amazing to watch as he single-handedly destroys the hyperdrive.

-I will always cry over Jesse! In my reaction video to this episode, Jesse turning on Rex is where I lost it and just sobbed for the rest of the episode.

-This episode did something I’ve always wanted to see in Clone Wars: we got to see Rex’s reaction to something. I’ve said many times on my podcast Jaig Eyes and Jedi, most notably during the Umbara Arc, that Dee Bradley Baker constantly lets us hear Rex’s emotions through his performance. But because Rex almost always has his helmet on, we never get to see his facial expressions. I’m so glad that right after Rex says the clones don’t care and will murder them so they have no choice but to fight back, Ahsoka takes a moment to remove his helmet. We get to finally witness how much pain Rex is in having to fight his own brothers. It’s a beautiful quiet moment in an episode full of chaos.

-Kevin Kiner’s music has been so freaking good all season, but it’s especially amazing in this episode. He better get nominated for an Emmy for this.

 

The last twelve years of Clone Wars has been some of the best years of my life. This show is so incredibly important to me. It’s made me who I am today. As we close this chapter of Star Wars animation, I’m excited to see what comes next. Until then, I only have one last thing to say:

Thank you for everything, Clone Wars.

 

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