After nearly six years of waiting, Star Wars: The Clone Wars returned for one final season, airing its last episode on May 4th. Having grown up watching new episodes of The Clone Wars every Saturday morning on Cartoon Network, I was filled with sadness when the show was cancelled back in March of 2013. The finished episodes of the show’s sixth season premiered March 7th, 2014 on Netflix. I assumed that they would be the last episodes of the show I would ever see. Then everything changed when it was announced at San Diego Comic Con 2018 that the Clone Wars would return for one final season. With Disney planning to launch their own streaming service, Disney+, in 2019, it was obvious that the final season would air there. For twelve weeks, Star Wars fans were gifted with brand new episodes of the show. Now that the final episode has aired, I can now discuss the good, the bad, and the awesome of Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season 7.
The Bad Batch
Consisting of the first four episodes of season 7, “The Bad Batch” arc begins with the Republic suffering major defeats on the planet of Anaxes. Captain Rex and Commander Cody believe the Separatists are using analytics to predict Republican action, causing strategies to become less effective the more they are used. In order to discover the source of the Separatists’ analyses, Cody brings in Clone Force 99, also known as the “Bad Batch.” The Bad Batch is composed of clone troopers with “desirable” mutations. During their mission, they discover that the clone trooper Echo, who was believed to have been killed on the Citadel back in season three, is alive. The Bad Batch, along with Jedi General Anakin Skywalker, Rex, Cody, ARC Trooper Jesse, and medical officer Kix plan a mission to save Echo while also costing the Separatists one of their greatest weapons.
The Bad Batch mostly serves as a fun reintroduction for long-time viewers of the show. The members of the Bad Batch have character traits that have been done many times before in other shows and movies. However, what makes this arc special is the animation. There is a significant improvement in animation compared to previous seasons of the show, which is likely due to an increase in budget, as well as the amount of experience the team at Lucasfilm has now compared to 2014. The action is fantastic, especially in the last two episodes of the arc, “On the Wings of Keerdacks” and “Unfinished Business.”
The group dynamic is great, with Rex, Cody, Jesse, and Kix being more “by the book”, the chaotic Bad Batch, and Anakin being the balance between the two. They butt heads and do not always agree on the right strategy, yet they always find a way to work together toward their common goal. The story writing is a bit cookie cutter, with the Techno Union serving as the villain of the week. However there are many moments that stand out, such as Anakin’s conversation with Padme in the second episode, “A Distant Echo” and Rex talking to Cody about the friends they have lost during the war in the first episode, “The Bad Batch.” Writers Matt Michnovetz and Brian Friedman did a great job.
My only complaint about this arc is that I wish they went a bit further with the possibility that Echo had been brainwashed into working for the Separatists. This idea is ultimately abandoned by the end of the fourth episode. This would have brought more inner conflict within the group, especially for Rex. Otherwise, the first four episodes together formed a solid fun arc to begin season 7.
The second arc of Clone Wars season 7, “Ahsoka’s Journey,” consists of episodes 5-8 of season 7. Following Ahsoka leaving the Jedi Order at the end of season 5, the show continues her story with her crashing her speeder into the lower levels of Coruscant. There, she befriends starship mechanic Trace Martez and learns that she and her sister Rafa have made some connections with some less than desirable people.
While it is great to see Ahsoka again and learn more about her life without the Jedi Order, the story progression of the arc is a bit slow. For example, episode 7 starts and ends in the same location. The overall story is not quite as interesting or fun as The Bad Batch, but that does not mean the arc is without interesting moments and neat additions to the canon. We get a few more details about Kessel and how the planet was not completely polluted prior to the Empire’s reign like we saw in Solo. Episodes 6, 7, and 8 also add a lot of information and background to the Pyke Syndicate and their dealings on the planet of Oba Diah. The final episode of the arc, “Together Again” serves as a decent intermediary episode between this arc and the next one. Overall, while the character designs, animation, and world building are great, the story itself is quite lacking, especially compared to the final arc of the season.
The Siege of Mandalore
The final arc of season 7, and the final arc of The Clone Wars as a whole, “The Siege of Mandalore”, which makes up episodes 9-12, takes place slightly before and during the events of Revenge of the Sith. The arc begins with Anakin and Obi-Wan receiving a transmission from Ahsoka and Bo Katan, a former member of the Mandalorian terrorist group Death Watch. They then meet to discuss Darth Maul’s control over Mandalore and request the Republic’s help with his capture. Due to the Seperatist invasion of Coruscant, Obi-Wan and Anakin agree to promote Rex to commander and have Ahsoka accompany him and his troops to Mandalore. The first half of the arc follows the joint campaign between Bo Katan’s resistance and the Republic as they attempt to capture Maul and his followers.
I mentioned that the animation of the last two arcs was already a significant improvement over previous seasons. Well, the animation for “The Siege of Mandalore” blows them out of the water, particularly episode 10, “The Phantom Apprentice,” and episode 12, “Victory and Death.” The battles feel extremely cinematic as if they were from a movie instead of a show. The scene where Ahsoka is desperately trying to fall into the Y-Wing Rex is piloting in episode 12 is easily the best animated scene in the entire show. Directors Saul Ruiz and Nathaniel Villaneuva brought a unique visual style that elevates the animation of each episode.
The motion capture work for the duel between Darth Maul and Ahsoka was absolutely fantastic, and both of their physical actors, Ray Park and Lauren Mary Kim, were excellent. The movement was extremely fluid, creating a lightsaber duel that contests the best duels from the films.
Dave Filoni brought his A-Game with this arc. Every element in the story had a clear purpose and constantly subverted my expectations even though I knew certain things had to happen due to the episodes’ link to Revenge of the Sith. It is clear that he has had this story in mind for years and it was wonderful finally being able to witness it in all of its glory.
The entire voice cast, particularly Ashley Eckstein as Ahsoka, Dee Bradley Baker as Rex and Sam Witwer as Darth Maul, were incredible. Baker and Eckstein’s line delivery in the last two episodes were fantastic and Witwer continues to be the perfect voice for Maul.
All of these pieces together make “The Siege of Mandalore” the best arc in the Clone Wars. These episodes are so good that I hope they get a limited theater release when the theaters reopen. The perfect conclusion to an amazing show, these last four episodes prove that Star Wars: The Clone Wars has some of the best storytelling in the entire franchise. I am sad to see the show go, but I am glad it ended with these spectacular episodes.