Star Wars The Clone Wars The Phantom Apprentice Breakdown

“The Phantom Apprentice”, the latest episode in the final season of Star Wars: The Clone Warshits the emotions like a blunt instrument. I’d be surprised if there was a dry eye anywhere it was being watched and part of that tension that causes sobbing tears is that this episode marches inexorably to the worst case scenario for the Jedi and for the clones. As we’ve gotten to know the clones over the course of the last seven seasons, as we’ve seen just how loyal they really are. The switch to Order 66 will be heartbreaking, none more so than for Captain Rex, on Mandalore with Ahsoka. But let’s not get too ahead of ourselves. Let’s dive into what makes “The Phantom Apprentice” such a fascinating addition to Star Wars lore.

The Timeline

This episode quickly eclipsed many the events of Revenge of the Sith, but Ahsoka’s conversation with Obi-Wan Kenobi pinpoints it in time, making the rest of the episode a ticking time bomb as we wait for Order 66 to be unleashed. They speak of which events have already happened: they killed Dooku and Anakin has been asked to join the Jedi council and spy on the Chancellor. Obi-Wan has also been tasked with killing General Grievous and as he speaks to Ahsoka is about to head out to Utapau to complete the task. It’s only a matter of time before Anakin turns on the Jedi and Order 66 is called for, leaving the rest of the episode to play like a lit fuse. It seems inevitable that Order 66 will happen in the next episode, there’s not much time left for it to happen, and when it does, it will cause our hearts to break.

The next episode is going to do us all in. And probably many Jedi.

I shudder to think what will happen with Rex and Ahsoka.

Sidious – in the Shadows

Maul’s scene with Ahsoka in the Mandalorian Throne room mirrors Obi-Wan’s scene with Dooku in Attack of the Clones, revealing Sidious’s control of the war. Ahsoka considers it until Maul reveals his vision of Anakin Skywalker, which Ahsoka refuses to believe. 

There’s an interesting echo of dialogue here that ties this to the greater thematic workings of the Star Wars saga. Maul says of Sidious, “He is behind everything, in the shadows, always.” This is a careful echo of a line General Leia Organa has in The Rise of Skywalker as they discuss Palpatine’s return. “Always, in the shadows from the very beginning.”

This evokes the title of the episode as well as the title of Episode I. There’s no doubt Palpatine is The Phantom Menace, but which is “The Phantom Apprentice”? Does it refer to Maul and his work in the shadows? Or Ahsoka and her rejection of the Jedi? An interesting question, though I fall on the side of it referring to Maul.

Maul and Vader

There’s an interesting parallel in this episode to The Empire Strikes Back as well, where Maul is orchestrating things on Mandalore with Ahsoka in similar ways to Vader’s orchestration of Cloud City. Our heroes open a door and find an unexpected presence on the other side, someone opens fire with a blaster that’s easily deflected and then a conversation happens, then an offer is made. This entire episode shares other similarities with The Empire Strikes Back as well. That offer made to a Jedi to become the apprentice to a dark side user is chief among them. But the more subtle nod is in the idea that it culminates in a truth the Jedi is unable to accept. Vader tells Luke that he’s his father, Maul tells Ahsoka that Anakin will be Vader. Neither are able to accept these truths and it will force them to have deep reckonings with themselves later on down the line.

The throne room scene has echoes of Revenge of the Sith and The Last Jedi as well, at least visually, with the floating embers in the throne room as the fight begins. The duel on Mustafar and the throne room fight in The Last Jedi are two of the most well-written and emotionally charged scenes in the saga, and seeing them hinted at here is just great filmmaking.

Ray Park

One of coolest things about this episode is the return of Ray Park. Ray Park was the performer behind Maul’s physicality in The Phantom Menace and Dave Filoni and the crew behind The Clone Wars wanted to do something special and brought him back to create a motion capture performance for the former Sith Lord. 

You can see it in the fights, they’re much more fluid than they’ve been before but you can see that it’s Maul. This isn’t the first time Park has come back to play the fallen Sith. He reprised his role in Solo: A Star Wars Story. With so many moments of his history still hidden, it would be great to see him come back for even more beyond this.

 Maul doesn’t fight in a vacuum, though, and a performer joined him to take on the role of Ahsoka. Stunt performer Lauren Mary Kim stepped in to be everyone’s favorite padawan. This isn’t her first Star Wars work, either. She was the stunt performer for The Armorer on The Mandalorian. Her CV is quite impressive and it’s great that Star Wars has her.

Dryden Vos

This episode also brought us a great, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo from Solo: A Star Wars Story. You’ll notice that Maul is speaking to a trio of holograms. One is a representative of Black Sun, owing to his Falleen-origin. Another is a Pyke from the Pyke syndicate. The last though, is Dryden Vos, Paul Bettany’s character from Solo. His appearance here adds a little more context to the hints we got about Maul and his subjugation of Crimson Dawn from the Martez Sisters arc. Would Dryden Vos have been the one who took over the operation from the thugs on Savareen and Maul subjugated Vos? It seems likely.

The Phantom Apprentice

This episode had me full on sobbing, playing with my emotions as I waited for Order 66 to occur. This episode adds more credence to the idea that his arc will go up alongside A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, The Last Jedi, “Twilight of the Apprentice,” and “Twin Suns” as some of the best, most well-crafted Star Wars stories ever made.

With two episodes left, it’s apparent that this is the culmination of everything the cast and crew learned over the years and this is shaping up to be one of most noteworthy finales to a series of television ever.

New episodes premiere Fridays, with the exception of the series finale, which will make its appearance on Monday, May 4.

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