Star Wars: The Clone Wars: The Siege of Mandalore: “Victory and Death” review!

Today, The Clone Wars came to an end.

In celebration of Star Wars Day (May the 4th), the final episode of the acclaimed series debuted on Disney+, and it wrapped up not just the Siege of Mandalore arc but the entire show.

It’s as perfect of an ending as we could have imagined, and it wraps up the four-episode Siege of Mandalore arc in an incredible way. This arc is, in my opinion, some of the very finest Star Wars, period.

Let’s dive into the review of “Victory and Death”, the final episode of The Clone Wars.


SUMMARY:

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Picking up where last week’s episode left off, Ahsoka and Rex (along with the three droids) are trapped in the medical bay, with the clone troopers trying to get in. Ahsoka tells Rex to set his weapon to stun, and between Ahsoka’s use of the Force and her lightsabers and Rex’s blasters, they make their way out of the room. Maul, meanwhile, continues to make his way through the ship and comes to the hyperdrive. Using the Force, he causes the ship’s entire hyperdrive to collapse, killing clones in the process and pulling the badly damaged ship out of hyperspace. Once that happens, the ship gets caught in the gravitational pull of a nearby moon and is being sucked in.

Ahsoka and Rex make their way to a control room overlooking the hangar, intent on stealing a ship. They open the hangar doors to reveal the looming moon, causing them to realize the urgency needed in escaping. But Jesse and the 332nd Company flood the hangar, waiting for them. Together in the control room, Ahsoka and Rex share a touching moment. Ahsoka gently removes Rex’s helmet to reveal a tear streaking down the Commander’s face, as he is dealing with the emotions of his brothers now opposing him and Ahsoka. Even though the ship is crashing, Ahsoka says she won’t be the ones to kill the clones. Instead, she comes up with a plan.

Rex pretends to have captured Ahsoka, walking her out to meet Jesse and the other clones. Rex insists that since Ahsoka is no longer a Jedi, he’s not sure whether to execute her. This trips Jesse up for a moment, but he returns by eventually saying that Rex will be demoted and that both Rex and Ahsoka are traitors. This stalling bought enough time for the droids to control the platform, however, using it to drop many of the clones to a lower level. Ahsoka and Rex spring into action, fighting back against the clones (though without killing them). Maul arrives at the hangar and uses this as an opportunity to make for the shuttle. Ahsoka pursues but is stopped, and Maul takes off in the ship. Ahsoka springs into action, using the Force to stop the ship in mid-air in the hangar. Rex and R7 give her cover, but Rex is shot and the droid is killed. Ahsoka then makes the decision to let Maul go and save her friend, blocking the blaster fire with her lightsaber once more. Eventually they notice a Y-Wing, and Rex boards it while Ahsoka provides cover. But just before she can board the ship too, the Venator suffers more damage, throwing the Y-Wing and Ahsoka out into the atmosphere. Rex manages to fly the ship to find Ahsoka falling through the sky, and she boards the ship as they flee the crashing Venator.

They don’t leave, however. Once the wreckage has settled, Rex seemingly made graves for the clones, and Ahsoka stands staring out over the helmets of the clones she once knew and led. She drops her remaining lightsaber by the graves and leaves it behind. An undisclosed period of time later, the planet has been overrun by a snowstorm and Imperial troopers and probe droids are excavating the Venator. An Imperial shuttle lands. Darth Vader approaches the graves alone, bends down, and picks up the lightsaber. Igniting it, he then sees a convor flying above. He turns and leaves, and we see just his reflection in the cracked helmet of a clone trooper as Vader walks away.


REVIEW:

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This episode provided the perfect ending to the show in so many ways. Of course, the final sequence was incredible, as the final several minutes played out with no dialogue – but the visuals and music told the story better than words ever could. We see Rex returning from (presumably) burying his brothers. We see Ahsoka standing somberly, looking a lot like her appearance from the Rebels finale (and a bit reminiscent of Gandalf the Gray here…). We see her leaving her lightsaber behind. And then we see the Empire. The Imperial troopers look incredible, and so does Darth Vader. It was the perfect way to end the series, by having Vader find Ahsoka’s lightsaber. And then he sees a convor, which has followed Ahsoka around in Rebels and might have a deeper connection… And the shot of Vader walking away, seen only through the reflection in the damaged and weather-worn clone helmet? I can’t imagine a better final shot for the series. It’s beautiful, tragic, and so fitting.

As for when that scene takes place? There’s nothing in this episode to tell us, except for the fact that the weather has changed (it’s now totally covered in snow) and the memorial Ahsoka and Rex set up has taken considerable wear. I think that’s meant to inform us that this takes place quite a while after the rest of the episode. That’s also reinforced by the fact that we know it’s not immediately after Revenge of the Sith, since Vader has his red lightsaber hanging from his belt. But I actually think that the most likely answer is that this happens sometime after Vader discovers Ahsoka is still alive in Rebels, and I think quite possibly after their battle too. But maybe that’s a conversation for another time, since the focus of the episode isn’t on that time period but on the one at the end of the Clone Wars.

This episode contains a bit less of the thrilling action as previous episodes, and it’s a bit shorter, but that’s not to say it doesn’t have its moments. There are some truly great fight sequences in this episode as Ahsoka and Rex fight back against the clones and try to defend themselves. Ahsoka throwing her lightsabers down and cutting a hole in the floor was awesome, as was her using the Force to stop the shuttle in mid-air (like Rey in The Rise of Skywalker). And then the sequence of Ahsoka falling through the sky as Rex had to try to fly the Y-Wing to catch her was perfectly done. There were still plenty of great moments in this episode from an action perspective, but the heart of it was the reality that they were fighting back against clones. I appreciated that we got to see a bit of Rex’s struggle with this, as you can only imagine the pain and horror of having to defend yourself from your brothers, whom you served with for years, knowing that they’re doing this because of the inhibitor chips in their heads yet without hope of saving them from it. It’s heartbreaking. And I also appreciated how Ahsoka insisted that she wouldn’t be the one to kill them. Unlike Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda in ROTS (who know nothing about the chips), Ahsoka knows that the clone troopers have been pawns all along. And she refuses to take them out – while recognizing that the crash will. It’s a cruel irony of war, that people will die even if you refuse to be the means through which it happens.

The central opposing figure in this episode, at least on the surface (since we know Sidious is behind it all), is Jesse. He’s a clone we’ve been familiar with since season two. He was present at several battles, including at Umbara – where he took matters into his own hands against General Krell and was imprisoned for it. He was an Arc Trooper and a Commando by the time of the Battle of Anaxes, and then was part of the company assigned under the command of Rex and Ahsoka during the Siege of Mandalore. He was the one captured by Maul and tortured for information. And in this episode, he is the one who assumes leadership of the hunt for Tano in the wake of Rex’s disappearance. He eventually is killed when the Venator crashes on the planet. It’s a tragic ending for the character, but it helps reinforce how devastating Order 66 was: not only did it lead to the downfall of so many Jedi, it also essentially led to the downfall of so many clones.

And that’s what The Clone Wars has always done best is bringing humanization and characterization to the clone troopers. They’re not just random, meaningless troopers in a war; they’re people. And it’s tragic that all along, they were pawns in Darth Sidious’s plan. But then again, so too were the Jedi. This arc made Order 66 hit even harder than Revenge of the Sith did, because now we know these clones who are turning. It’s heartbreaking.

But while Ahsoka refused to kill the clones, Maul didn’t have the same problem. He continued his rampage in this episode, and he took down the hyperdrive using a breathtaking display of the Force. It was pretty reminiscent of The Force Unleashed and Starkiller – who, coincidentally, was voiced by Sam Witwer! The display of Force power in older legends material like that tended to get too excessive, but Dave Filoni is trustworthy and I thought he handled things pretty well in Maul’s scene.

I also appreciate that we know what happens to Ahsoka, Rex, and Maul after this series, thanks to Star Wars Rebels. I found that it added to my enjoyment of these episodes rather than detract from it. And it just leaves me all the more eager to hear what Filoni’s next animated project will be.

Overall, this was another brilliantly good episode of The Clone Wars, and certainly in the running (with the others in this arc) for the best in the series. It was a beautiful and perfect ending to the show we have come to love so dearly. Dave Filoni and his team hit a grand slam with this arc, finishing the show the way it was supposed to end – and doing it in a way that far exceeded even the highest expectations. It truly is some of the very best Star Wars.

My grade: 10/10

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