Warning: The following contains spoilers from the recent and final season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
Twelve years following its premiere to initially hesitant audiences, the now beloved Star Wars animated series, The Clone Wars, has at last received the proper ending it deserved. Set after Attack of the Clones and concluding sometime after Revenge of the Sith, the brainchild of Star Wars creator George Lucas and supervising director Dave Filoni explored stories of a wide variety of characters — both familiar and new faces — during the war that was previously more of a backdrop to the fall of Anakin Skywalker.
When the feature film of the same name came out back in 2008, it’s fair to say that audiences, at first, had a bad feeling about this. The animation was awkward, the mission of rescuing and returning the infant son of Jabba the Hutt was weird, and Anakin gains a Padawan in Ahsoka Tano, a teenage Togruta girl with an ego as big as her master’s.
Little did anyone expect then for how beloved the series would come to be once it premiered later that year. The Clone Wars did a great deal for the Star Wars canon. It didn’t just add to the universe; it deepened it. It explored the politics on both sides of the war, it enhanced the mysteries surrounding the Force, it showed the flaws of the Jedi Order, and more. Little known Jedi that were seen briefly in the films are also given the spotlight as fellow knights to Anakin and Obi-Wan and as mentor figures to Ahsoka. Maul, who was taken out so quickly in The Phantom Menace, is given an arc of his own; one so deliciously crafted that it continued on into Star Wars Rebels.
Above all else, the most notable qualities from The Clone Wars are both the humanization of the clone troopers and the creation of Ahsoka Tano. While the loyalty of the clones are evident in the prequel films pre-Order 66, it’s really in the series where we the audience get to know them on a personal level. We learn their names, we see their personalities, and the undying brotherhood among them all.
As for Ahsoka, while initially a snippy character that quickly earned her the nickname “Snips” from Anakin, it’s clear to see that she was young and arrogant and had yet to get her hands dirty. Cut to a few seasons later and she is older, more mature, a badass at wielding two lightsabers, and always strives to do the right thing; making her a more noble Jedi than some of the ones on the Jedi Council. That’s why when she left the Jedi Order at the end of the fifth season, after being unfairly accused of a crime she did not commit, it’s heartbreaking.
In the seventh and final season of The Clone Wars, all 12 episodes really honed in on these two qualities in the three story arcs presented. While the first two aren’t exactly the strongest, they still get the messages across on the clones being a brotherhood — regardless of the different characteristics they may have — and Ahsoka continuing to strive to do the right thing, even if she no longer considers herself a Jedi.
But it’s the final arc, the Siege of Mandalore, that really nails it. Set during the events of Revenge of the Sith, Ahsoka and the 332nd Company assist Mandalore warrior, Bo-Katan Kryze, in taking back her planet from Maul’s rule. It’s a point in Star Wars history that has been referenced and talked about in other stories, but has never been seen on screen until now. It’s epic, it’s intense, it’s action-oriented, and when the reason is revealed as to why Maul is even there in the first place, it’s mind-blowing.
The fact that it’s set during the final days of the war also means reliving a moment that is now just plain painful compared to 15 years ago: Order 66. It makes Ahsoka’s final farewell to Anakin sad to watch, already knowing what will happen when they next meet in Star Wars Rebels. It makes her tense meeting with the Jedi Council unnerving, knowing that it’s the last time she’s interacting with many of them before they are killed. It makes the clone troopers’ betrayal to Ahsoka tragic, after seeing them fight alongside one another for so many years.
While we know Ahsoka and the clone trooper, Commander Rex, survive, it’s how they survive that made the story compelling. It’s emotionally impactful and devastating to the core, and at times, you can’t help but doubt they’re going to make it. Yet while Obi-Wan and Yoda are off elsewhere taking out troopers as if they never had a bond with them, Ahsoka still strives to do the right thing as she and Rex work to make their escape without hurting the others.
There’s clearly no happy ending in this story, but that doesn’t make the last moments of The Clone Wars any less beautiful. Borrowing a page from Lucas, you might say “it’s like poetry.” It rhymes with the silent moments at the end of each film. It rhymes with moments from the not too distant past, all the while igniting echoes of what has yet to come. It’s a complete 180 from how the series originally began, and that further indicates the growth of both the characters and the overall story itself.
How fitting it was for the finale to be released yesterday, on Star Wars Day. For a conclusion that, until two years ago, many fans thought they’d never see fully realized, it was all worth it.