Updated: Jan 5, 2021
SPOILERS AHEAD FOR STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS
When Disney purchased Lucasfilm in 2012, the entire structure and canon of the Star Wars universe was drastically altered. Not only did Disney take over production of all Star Wars content, but also decided to de-canonize much of the Expanded Universe that further characterized the beloved franchise beyond the six Star Wars films. Though this move allowed Lucasfilm, now controlled by Disney, to expand their horizons into new areas with more creative freedom, many fans were disheartened that some of the books, comics, and video-games that they grew up with suddenly became less “Star Wars” under Disney’s control.
One of the few pieces of Star Wars media that was allowed to keep its canon status was Star Wars: The Clone Wars. This beloved animated show was overseen by George Lucas himself, and added depth to the events of the films while also creating interesting new characters & stories. Though this was certainly a wise decision by Disney, and left some shards of the Expanded Universe within the new canon, one decision that did not sit well with fans was placing the final season of the show on the chopping block. Story-lines were left unfinished from previous seasons, and the final episodes of the show were clearly not the ending George Lucas, Dave Filoni and the other creators had envisioned.
Due to this abrupt cancellation, Lucasfilm decided to adapt some of the events of the final season into new mediums (such as the Son of Dathomir comic outlining the conflict between Maul/Mother Talzin & Palpatine/Dooku, the Dark Discipline novel focusing on closing Asajj Ventresses’ story, and the release of a few unfinished episodes). In addition, some events from the canceled season were recanted by an older Ahsoka in the Ahsoka novelization, and fans got to revisit some of their beloved Clone Wars characters during the new Disney animated show Star Wars: Rebels. Though Rebels had a mixed reception among fans, nobody could argue that Dave Filoni did justice to the characters who were surviving during the early-empire era.
This exploration of the events that would have transpired during the 7th season of The Clone Wars, which seemed to be a blessing at initial release, ended up coming back to bite when it was announced in 2018 that The Clone Wars would be continued six-years after its initial cancellation. This announcement no doubt excited all The Clone Wars fans, as the final season would revisit a beloved era and explore how storylines of the first six seasons play out, while also connecting the events of the show to Revenge of the Sith. Fans who already knew what to expect from other media were excited to see how the events would be adapted to the big screen, and fans who weren’t were ready to be surprised.
However, because Star Wars’ canon is kept so air-tight, the creators of the show were not able to revisit some of the storylines that were rightfully part of The Clone Wars’ final season but were already explored by other media. Therefore, when the final season was released, there seemed to be some missing pieces to the continuity that makes it feel a bit rushed and short (especially in comparison with the other seasons). For example, a fan who just watches The Clone Wars straight-through from its initial 2007 film until its final episode released on May 4th 2020 will have questions like “What did Palpatine mean when he said he had other uses for Maul?” and “What happens to Ventress?” In essence, if fans want the full story of The Clone Wars they should probably watch the first six seasons, then read Son of Dathomir & Dark Discipline (and perhaps watch the unfinished episodes), then watch season seven. This would still leave out some stories originally planned to be in the final season (such as a bounty hunter arc with Boba Fett & Cad Bane). In addition, fans may still have gripes going forward when the events of The Siege of Mandalore do not match up perfectly with Ahsoka’s memories during the Ahsoka novel.
The seventh season, of course, has some great moments and is a welcome addition to the Star Wars lore that is able to nicely connect to some of Disney’s other Star Wars content due to the six-year lag period prior to the final season. Though there is certainly a sense that the season is shortened and is missing moments that were originally planned to be a part of the animated series, it is also important to note some of the arcs & moments we actually got to see upon its release in 2020.
The “Bad Batch” arc is a great way to begin the season, and gives us some time with Anakin while also further developing Rex and introducing us to a handful of new Clones. It is also interesting to see more diversity within the Clone army, as the Bad Batch is composed of Clones with “defects” that are actually beneficial (named after defective Clone 99 who sacrificed himself on Kamino in season 3). It is easy to quickly fall in love with the Bad Batch and their unusual tactics, and it certainly feels earned when Rex and the other “Regs” begin to gain their respect, and vice-versa. Fans also sympathize with Rex as he looks for his seemingly “dead” friend Echo while those around him think his feelings are clouding his judgment (and we too are left wondering whether or not Echo is alive and whether to trust Rex’s instincts).
The arc seems to capture the spirit of The Clone Wars early on while also advancing the look to more closely mirror Revenge of the Sith. We also receive a welcome & touching moment between Anakin and a pregnant Padme, and hints that Obi-Wan & Rex knew of the relationship to some extent. The action is solid in the first two episodes, and improves as it gets to the third episode when the gang must escape with Echo on winged creatures and team up with the locals to defeat an onslaught of droids. Though it is nice to get at least a bit of action with Obi-Wan & Mace Windu during the fourth episode of the season as well as a “Vader” moment when Anakin confronts Admiral Trench, the mission certainly feels dragged out once you get to that point. The Bad Batch storyline, though it is certainly a compelling story that recaptures the spirit of the show and delivers a proper ending for Echo as well as some welcome Rex development, feels like it could have been told in 2-3 episodes especially when you consider that the entire season is only 12 episodes.
The next storyline of season seven revisits Ahsoka Tano for the first time since the season five finale, and explores her adventures after she leaves the Jedi order. Where this storyline excels is bringing Ahsoka to a new low while she finds her place in the galaxy and learns about the effects the Jedi and the Clone Wars have had on the outside world. It also does a great job of delivering us an Ahsoka who has grown from all the events of the previous seasons, but is still not the wise Ahsoka we see in Rebels.
Though it is enjoyable to see her develop complex relationships with the Martez sisters, the sisters themselves seem to get a bit annoying as we spend more time with them, and the fights between the three get a bit repetitive. These relationships are certainly important to Ahsoka’s development, but get more and more frustrating to watch as time goes on. Once Ahsoka finds herself dealing with the Pike Syndicate, the mission itself seems to also become repetitive, as Ahsoka and the sisters go back and forth saving each other and going in and out of Pike jail-cells. This storyline is some of the most necessary Ahsoka content there is but, though it may have fit well in the typical twenty-two episode season, also feels a bit dragged out when the episode count is cut.
The final arc of the season does not have that same fault, however, as it contains some of the most compelling Star Wars content to date delivered at a relatively fast pace within the four-episode finale. The reunion of Ahsoka & Anakin is both conflicting & touching, as we can see that both characters have deep affection and respect for one another, but neither is over Ahsoka’s decision to leave the Order. In addition, the opening of the arc reminds you of Ahsoka’s heroics throughout the previous seasons, as all of the Clones still refer to her as “Commander” and paint their helmets out of respect for her as they follow her onto yet another battlefield.
The Siege of Mandalore (the storyline most anticipated by fans) starts ridiculously strong, as we are reminded of just how powerful Ahsoka Tano has become when we watch her landing on Mandalore using her newly-blued lightsabers for the very first time. The beginning of the Siege also keeps viewers on their toes, as we await for Maul to spring his elaborate trap. Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of the arc is the way it is able to establish a connection/rivalry between Ahsoka & Maul (characters who haven’t met up to this point in the timeline) in such a short period of time. Maul’s fear of his former master and predictions of his ultimate plan nicely tie in with Ahsoka’s uncertainty of the future, and their relationship ultimately conjoins at one person: Anakin. Not only does this make the ultimate duel between them even more amazing than fans could have hoped, but also connects the Siege of Mandalore & both character’s arcs to the events of Revenge of the Sith (and enhances Ahsoka’s confusion throughout Rebels).
These connections to Revenge of the Sith make an amazing arc even better, as the storyline enters the events of the film, and we are given updates throughout the arc that allow the two timelines to eloquently sync-up. This makes the suspense even greater as Order 66 approaches and Maul’s predictions begin to come true. The scenes further establishing Rex & Ahsoka's friendship early in this storyline only make it more conflicting when he obeys Palpatine and turns on her, a progression that even fans who had prior knowledge of the storyline weren’t expecting. Ahsoka’s actions to remove Rex’s inhibitor chip and spare the lives of the Clones as they attack her does justice to the bond she has built with them throughout the entire show, while also delivering on the horror that is Order 66. Though it is natural for fans to want another showdown between Ahsoka & Maul as the characters part ways, the finale chooses to rightfully focus more on Ahsoka & Rex and carries some of the show’s most emotional moments as the pair escapes Order 66 while struggling with whether or not to kill the other Clones.
The final moments of the show need no words to speak volumes. Ahsoka once again shows more respect for the Clones than any other Jedi as she prepares a memorial for all of them and mourns their demise despite their betrayal. The final scene of the series is a bone-chilling yet beautiful moment, as Vader holds his former apprentice’s lightsaber as Morai (a bird with connections to both Ahsoka & The Daughter of Mortis) flies overhead. The last shot – Vader’s reflection in the Ahsoka-painted Clone mask – underscores three of the show’s main points: the fall of Anakin Skywalker, the effect Ahsoka had on her master & fellow soldiers, and the individuality of the Clones.
Ultimately, the final season of The Clone Wars is able to recapture the magic of the show, while providing some necessary development for characters like Ahsoka & Rex before bridging their stories with the events of the Star Wars films. The animation is spectacular and the action (especially in the Siege of Mandalore) is some of the best the show has to offer, but also holds weight because of the deep connections between characters and the gravity of the incoming threat from Darth Sidious. Perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of this season is being able to see Ahsoka finish her arc from snippy padawan to powerful & compassionate leader, and further justifies her place in the future Star Wars timeline.
The season, however, is a bit tainted by the fact that it crutches so heavily on the final arc, and the earlier storylines (though necessary) feel a bit dragged out while there is a sense that other arcs are missing. This is certainly a product of the initial cancellation of the final season, in that the storylines adapted into other media were forced to be left out of the season to avoid contradiction. Though fans are able to visit these stories if they so choose, we will unfortunately never be able to watch the events unfold on screen. It is no secret that The Clone Wars has always been plagued by certain storylines being far less engaging than others, but this is even more evident when the season is shortened and many of the most engaging storylines are forced to be left out (perhaps causing the lesser ones to be stretched for more episodes).
This is not to say that the six-year break didn’t have some positives on the final season, as there are many nods to Solo, Rebels, and Rogue One (such as Dryden Vos, Ursa Wren, Morai, young Kaanan, Gar Saxon, and Chirrut Îmwe) that are undoubtedly satisfying and well-placed. Though fans who were already aware of Ahsoka, Maul, & Rex’s fate can only imagine what it would have been like to watch the final few episodes of season seven without that knowledge, it is also riveting to be able to retroactively explore how the characters have gotten to the places they are in during Rebels and other media. In fact, it is almost the nature of Star Wars to retroactively explore backstories and past events with knowledge of future eras. Ultimately, though this season is a welcome addition to Star Wars canon that connects The Clone Wars gracefully to the Era of the Empire and finally delivers a proper ending to the show’s story, the exclusion of certain arcs due to initial cancellation leaves the season feeling a bit curtailed & empty.
Written by Nick Mandala
Edited by Jake Zall