Star Wars The Clone Wars Series Finale Review

There are deaths in this finale of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, both physical and spiritual. After six seasons, a six-year hiatus, and attempts to spiritually conclude the series in Star Wars Rebels and other media, The Clone Wars has finally concluded on its own terms with the Siege of Mandalore and the arrival of the dreaded Order 66. Those who watched Rebels know that Ahsoka (Ashley Eckstein) and her clone compatriot Rex (Dee Bradley Baker) will survive beyond the end of the war between the Republic and Separatists and the rise of Darth Sidious. But did they ever really live? While they may not die, “Victory and Death” wears the atmosphere of an “everyone dies” ending.

The previous episode ended on a cliffhanger with the clones breaking into the med-bay to execute Ahsoka and Rex. Due to the biochips planted in their brains, all clones are under Order 66 to execute Ahsoka, and by extension, Rex, since he is disobeying the command.

Although I contend the last episode may have better explored these dilemmas, the mounting human costs are piling on front and center. Ahsoka and Rex commit themselves to stun instead of shooting down their pursuers, perhaps to form a plan later to save them all. However, Ahsoka’s previous decision to free a murderous wild card like Maul (Sam Witwer) rains down an avalanche of consequences as the latter rampages through the troopers and sabotages the ship, sending it to be ensnared in the gravitational pull of a moon. It escalates into a situation where Rex makes the heartbreaking vow to shoot his own brothers if it means their survival, with Ahsoka noticing his tear-stricken sorrow beneath his helmet. During a confrontation where Rex attempts to reason with the clones, the subtle slumps in a helmeted Jesse suggests he may have been fighting his conditioning as well. However, the urgency of a capsizing starship prevents any time to salvage the last visages of humanity in the clones.

Under Nathaniel Villanueva’s direction, this whole escapade built upon dire emotional stakes – they can’t save everyone. Ahsoka and Rex manage to hold onto their morale in their steadfastness to not kill their clone brothers. But even though Ahsoka and Rex survive, it does not alleviate the loss.

The final section of the episode is a blizzard of visual artistry with the dialogue-free intensity of a Genndy Tartakovsky’s best works. Time fades like mist slipping through the fingers. A wide shot memorializes stolen individuality, the burial mounds pinpointed with each soldiers’ distinctive helmets, including Jesse’s Republic cog-imprinted one. In her ashen white mourning cloak, Ahsoka stares sullenly at the burial mounds and lets go of a remnant of her Jedi Master’s gift. The hush over the scene signifies that Ahsoka will move forward with resolve even as she carries guilt. The scene then fades forward to the inevitable vultures of the Empire and Darth Vader investigating the wreckage. 

There is no triumph here. The Star Wars films frequently ends on frames of hope, as do other animated Lucasfilm works like Star Wars Rebels and Star Wars Resistance, and losses come with optimism for renewal. When The Clone Wars ended abruptly after season six in 2014, Yoda and fellow Jedi walk off with the hope for a “victory for all time [not the war]” for their souls, since a war can never be won. But season seven spotlights Ahsoka and Rex, characters who survive in the margins of society and prospectively don’t have the privilege of this afterlife and spiritual memorialization. For them, “Victory and Death” doesn’t allow the relief or promise of renewal, but aching ambivalence. The flashes of hope, such as the sight of an owl-like convor (see “Morai”) circling the scene, are feeble glimmers. Our main heroes lived, but it is still a tragedy. Ahsoka and Rex will move on elsewhere, but parts of them are buried with the forgotten soldiers and emptied armor. 

The overall ending to seven seasons can feel rudely abrupt when other threads are hanging. But the solemn meditation on the casualties of war and the slow-yet-swift-feeling disintegration of a seemingly secure world is the microcosm of the entire series. It’s telling that Clone Wars chooses to end on a hollowed soldier’s shell staring back at a walking shell vanishing into dark.

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