THE SIEGE OF MANDALORE IS HERE.
Today’s episode was the beginning of the end of The Clone Wars, kicking off the final four-episode arc. This is the one we’ve been waiting for, and I’ll say this: my expectations were incredibly high entering this episode, yet it still managed to blow me away.
It’s the best thing The Clone Wars has ever done – and we’ve still got the final three parts to go!
The iconic Star Wars opening theme accompanies the beginning of this episode, followed by the customary introduction explaining the setting: the Jedi have deployed their forces to aid the clones in the Outer Rim, as General Grievous has launched attacks. This includes sending Plo Koon to Cato Neimoidia, Aayla Secura to Felucia, and Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker to another planet. As the battle rages on this world, Kenobi comes to the aid of Commander Cody and the 212th just in time, but they’re pinned back by the droids. Skywalker arrives, touting his plan, and walks out alone to face the droid army, offering a surrender. Meanwhile, R2-D2 waits with Captain Rex and the 501st jet troopers. Anakin’s plan successfully draws the tactical droid out of hiding, and he springs into action, taking out the tactical droid while the 501st flies in to turn the tides of the battle, aided by the 212th.
Admiral Yularen then contacts Skywalker, instructing him and Kenobi to return to the ship to take a transmission from Fulcrum. Anakin at first thinks this means Saw Gerrera, but discovers upon returning to the ship that it’s Ahsoka. Before long, Ahsoka arrives on the Republic cruiser with Bo-Katan. She is greeted warmly by R2, but brushes off Anakin as they get to business. Bo-Katan and Ahsoka inform the Jedi about Maul’s location, asking for help. The Jedi are unsure about violating the treaty with Mandalore and getting into another war, but Obi-Wan says he will contact the Jedi Council. This frustrates Bo-Katan, who says she thought Satine meant something to him. Obi-Wan says that she did, and still does, but that he cannot allow his feelings to get in the way and will let the Council decide.
This gives Anakin time to catch up with Ahsoka, and together they meet Rex in a hangar, with part of the 501st, who have painted their helmets in tribute to their commander. The reunion is cut short by alarm klaxons going off and Kenobi sprinting into the hangar, ordering immediate preparations for a jump to hyperspace. Anakin assumes this means the attack on Mandalore was approved, but Obi-Wan explains that they’re heading for Coruscant: General Grievous has launched an attack. Anakin asks about the Chancellor, and the only update Obi-Wan has to give is that Shaak Ti was sent to protect him, but Mace Windu has lost contact with her.
Ahsoka is furious that the Jedi are again playing politics, deciding to go after the Chancellor rather than help people in need. Anakin offers a compromise: he will split the 501st in half and give Ahsoka command of the other division. Obi-Wan explains that this isn’t possible due to Ahsoka no longer being a part of the Grand Army of the Republic, so Anakin promotes Rex to commander of the division instead. As Kenobi leaves, he says, “May the Force be with you” to Ahsoka and encourages her to capture Maul, since he has a way of surviving if you kill him. Anakin gives Ahsoka her lightsabers back, and the two say goodbye.
Arriving at Mandalore, the Republic forces and Bo-Katan’s loyal Mandalorians launch a full-scale invasion that is met by heavy resistance. There is an action-packed descent, and Ahsoka and Rex race to the surface, with Ahsoka displaying all of her skills in the process. She’s the first to arrive on the surface and holds the line against Maul’s forces, but is soon joined by Bo-Katan and the rest as they press the offensive, driving the Mandalorians back. Prime Minister Almec orders Gar Saxon and his men to the lower levels. Bo-Katan heads to face Almec, Ahsoka sends Rex to help at the docks to ensure that Maul doesn’t escape the city, and she goes to investigate a discovery by the clones.
Ahsoka and some clones head into the tunnels in the lower regions. But as Bo-Katan takes the throne room and corners Almec, she realizes that Ahsoka is walking into a trap: Maul wanted the Jedi to come, but they brought the wrong one. In quick order, the clones are all picked off in the tunnels, leaving Ahsoka alone and surrounded.
A figure appears: Maul. “I was hoping for Kenobi,” he says to Ahsoka. “Why are you here?”
I don’t even know where to begin with this, because it was just so incredibly good. So I guess we’ll start at the beginning!
This episode began differently than any episode of The Clone Wars, and it was so fitting – yet right from the start, you knew that we were in for a treat. The episode began with the Lucasfilm logo, then transitioned to the logo for the show – only this time, it’s not the theme we’ve grown used to from Kevin Kiner, but the main Star Wars theme. It cuts to a title card, explaining that this is part 1, and then jumps to the customary prologue. It was such a phenomenal decision by Dave Filoni and his crew to begin this way, and it really serves to reinforce what is obvious throughout: this was made essentially like a movie. It’s basically a half-hour chapter of a film, and I’m guessing that’s both how they intended it to be and how it’ll be packed at some point in the future. And that’s pretty fitting, because the series began with a movie all those years ago, and now it’s ending with one.
But especially when comparing those two, but really when comparing this episode (and presumably the whole arc) with anything else the show has done, you really come to see just how much they’ve learned. The animation is, quite simply, stunning. It’s so good. The new model for General Grievous, for instance, (seen briefly in the opening prologue), looks so good. And, to be fair, everything looks so good.
As far as the story goes, I loved seeing Anakin and Obi-Wan in battle again, and Anakin’s tactics reminded me quite a bit of Luke’s years later when facing down the First Order on Crait. Of course, the music from that scene was the same as during Luke’s heroics on the sail barge on Tatooine, so there are similarities there too. That battle was so smooth and greatly done.
I’ll be honest, I was a bit surprised by how Anakin and Ahsoka’s reunion went, but I think it makes a ton of sense. She didn’t really want to talk with him a whole lot right away, wanting instead to get down to business. Anakin is clearly hurt by this, especially after his excitement talking with Obi-Wan moments before, but the final scene of the previous episode let us know that Ahsoka is apprehensive about getting sucked back into this life. And their reunion didn’t last as long as I expected either, and so with that the two saw each other for the last time as friends (Ahsoka would say years later that the last time she saw her master he was rushing off to save the Chancellor). But there’s a tragic reality to that, as you often never know when it’s going to be the last time seeing a dear friend, and so it feels like nothing extraordinary. Only we as viewers know what’s about to happen, and it’s heartbreaking. It’s made even more heartbreaking by the prologue showing Plo Koon and Aayla Secura fighting on the planets they would soon be killed on when Order 66 happened. The audience knows that the darkness is looming, and so it’s a tragic undercurrent running throughout this whole episode. Even Anakin and Obi-Wan, with their banter and appearance perfectly fitting with Revenge of the Sith, here are the best of friends… and within days they would be fighting to the death as enemies. This arc is about giving us a deserved ending to the show… but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be a happy one.
Another thing to note was that I thought Kenobi’s moment talking about Satine was beautiful. Bo-Katan challenges him after he says he needs to consult the Council, saying that she thought her sister meant something to him. You can almost see the pain in Kenobi’s face as he says that she did and does, but then he says that he won’t let his personal feelings get in the way. In a move that basically screams at the audience, we see Anakin’s face up close as Kenobi says this. For, of course, we know what would happen upon returning to Coruscant: Anakin would let his feelings cloud his judgment, and it would lead to the downfall of the Jedi. Where Anakin failed, Obi-Wan succeeded. Yet they both still lost everything.
I also loved the moment where the Jedi are recalled to Coruscant. I had long been wondering how that would play out, and I thought it was really well done. There’s a clear sense of dire urgency from Kenobi, and I liked that the details were sparse, yet lined up with what we know (and had seen in the 2003 Clone Wars series!): Grievous had launched an attack on Coruscant, Shaak Ti had been sent to protect Palpatine, but Mace Windu had lost contact with her. Again, it’s a moment of the audience knowing more than the characters do, but it works so well here because those brief mentions are enough to thrill us and key us in as to what’s happening. Kenobi says they could be there within the hour, so they’re not far. So what presumably happened was Kenobi went to talk to the Council about a siege of Mandalore, discovered what had happened, and due to their relative proximity, they were recalled from the battle in a desperate attempt to help.
It’s also surely a painful choice for Anakin, having to choose between Palpatine and Ahsoka, and so I’m glad that they never made it that much of a decision. He knew he’d be going to rescue Palpatine, so his plan is to leave Rex and part of the 501st with Ahsoka (explaining why Rex is no longer the captain of Anakin’s forces in ROTS). It’s a good plan, and then the battle as the Republic descended to Mandalore was epic, with Ahsoka having some awesome moments (and the musical accompaniment, as always throughout this episode, was perfect).
And then Maul’s introduction was chilling and very cinematic, and it seems that Ahsoka will be captured by him. I’m very interested to see where the story goes in next week’s chapter.
Dave Filoni, the animators, the storytellers, Kevin Kiner’s score, and the voice cast all turned in some of their very finest work in this episode. Bringing all of it together, they’ve already hit it out of the park with this first one, and it’s the very best thing they’ve ever done with this show. Heck, it just might be one of the best things Star Wars has done, period. That’s high praise, and we’ll have to see the final three chapters of this arc, but the first one exceeded all expectations.
Giving it a perfect grade almost doesn’t seem to be even doing it justice.
My grade: 10/10