This week’s dramatic Clone Wars episode sees Ahsoka inch closer to victory over Maul, but the looming shadow of the Empire threatens to engulf them both.
If there was a sense of inevitability last week, that feeling was amplified during this episode. Picking up right where its predecessor left off, this adventure focuses on Ahsoka, Rex, and Bo-Katan’s efforts to capture Maul and liberate Mandalore. Unfortunately, the former Sith Lord bears grim tidings of the future, working desperately to secure himself before the curtain falls on the Clone Wars.
From that description, it’s no secret why this episode works as well as it does. I was fairly cynical regarding Darth Maul this season. We’d already seen plenty of him in The Clone Wars, and I thought his inclusion would be every bit as contrived as it was in Solo: A Star Wars Story.
Plus, we’d witnessed a nearly perfect ending for him in Star Wars Rebels, so bringing him back for this revival seemed like excessive fan service for sake of fan service. However, his presence here is surprisingly effective, as it lends an extra layer to both his journey and those of our heroes.
It would have been so easy to present Maul as the unstoppable and uncompromising force that he once was, but that may have diminished the complexity of the conflict. Rather, his menace came from the fact that he’s cursed with knowledge of impending events and must decide what to do with that knowledge as he’s backed into a corner.
As he pieces together Darth Sidious’s scheme, he begins to see everyone and everything in front of him as pointless. The status quo is about to come crashing down, so he fearfully starts laying the foundation for what he’ll do after the Republic becomes the Empire. This makes Maul more unpredictable. If it’s all meaningless to him, you never quite know what he’s willing to do to the heroes or what he’s willing to sacrifice, and that does wonders to heighten the tension whenever he’s onscreen.
Making things more intriguing is his dynamic with Ahsoka. Her faith in the Jedi and the Republic was already shaky. When she hears the news from Obi-Wan about the situation back on Coruscant, it only furthers her doubt, especially when it measures up to Maul’s seemingly omnipotent predictions.
As such, it makes poetic sense that the horned villain would ask her to join him. They’re the wild cards, a couple of misfits who were seemingly cast out of Sidious’s grand plans. What’s also eerily understandable is the fact that Ahsoka’s doesn’t dismiss this offer outright. After all, she cannot honestly refute anything that he’s saying, and seeing her struggle with that doubt and the unsettling ramifications makes her journey all the more engaging.
To top it all off, we have Maul revealing Anakin Skywalker will be Sidious’s new apprentice. Throughout her trials and tribulations, Anakin has essentially been Ahsoka’s rock. He’s always supported her and been a source of heroic inspiration, even as her world became more complicated and less black-and-white. It’s fittingly poignant that this is used as the impetus for her stalwart refusal of Maul’s offer, and the pathos is strengthened when you consider the tragic irony behind her belief.
With that, we have one of the most gorgeous lightsaber duels in the entire series. You may have heard that the creators brought back Maul’s live-action actor, Ray Park, for motion capture work, and it shows. The Sith Lord actually moves like he did in The Phantom Menace, which is probably why they gave him back his double-bladed saber. As he and Ahsoka fought through the ominous throne room and onto a precarious series of beams, their strikes had noticeably more fluidity and weight than we’d ever seen before on the show.
The battle that rages outside, as spectacular as it is with the particle effects, lighting, and ferocity, mainly serves to strengthen the atmosphere of this decisive clash. Rather than a grand orchestra, the music that accompanies these large-scale skirmishes is ominously muted, emphasizing the idea that these soldiers are just pawns in a greater game. These elements all add up to a fantastic sequence that ends the Siege of Mandalore on a high note.
As accomplished as this scene is, though, it highlights an issue that may leave some fans wanting. If you’re expecting much from the Mandalorians themselves, then you’ll likely be disappointed. Bo-Katan and her quest to liberate her people from tyranny mostly gets pushed to the background.
We get a hints of conflict when she regretfully witnesses the clones ushering citizens to shelters, which appropriately echoes the Stormtroopers of the original trilogy, but that’s about it. However, the events of Revenge of the Sith are unfolding as this story progresses. As such, the following episodes might expand on the Mandalore drama with a potential Imperial occupation.
Despite this minor quibble, The Clone Wars has delivered another strong episode that leaves you simultaneously satisfied and excited for more. As we move toward the endgame, it’s clear that the creators aim to take full advantage of its narrative, delivering a finale that’s both visually stunning and intimately compelling.
What did you think of this episode? Did you enjoy the climactic battle? Where do you think the story will go during the impending Jedi Purge?
Star Wars: The Clone Wars is available for streaming on Disney Plus.