Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season 7, Episode 11: Execute Order 66

Photo: Star Wars: The Clone Wars Episode 711 “Shattered” - Image Courtesy Disney+
Photo: Star Wars: The Clone Wars Episode 711 “Shattered” - Image Courtesy Disney+ /

The penultimate Clone Wars episode starts with a victory, but a widespread and devastating defeat looms on the horizon.

Well, we all knew this was coming. From the outset of The Clone Wars, fans have wondered if and how apprentice Ahsoka Tano would survive the Jedi Purge. Now, we finally have an answer.

The episode starts with the former Jedi and her clone allies leaving Mandalore after capturing Maul. Unfortunately, the conflict between the Council and the Chancellor reaches a fever pitch, and Ahsoka soon finds herself on the run from her own troops.

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The first aspect that strikes you about this episode is the music, specifically how well it jells with the narrative and tone. Despite the apparent success of the Mandalore mission, the score is steady, somber, and ominous. At times, it’s more reminiscent of Mass Effect or Blade Runner than Star Wars, but it combines beautifully with the understated performances to convey a looming sense of dread. It essentially functions as the calm before the storm.

Appropriately enough, the only time it picks up is when the clones turn on Ahsoka. John Williams’s heartbreaking tunes from Revenge of the Sith start playing, and we maintain that sense of desperate energy for the rest of the episode.

Speaking of Revenge of the Sith, Ahsoka’s communication with Council takes place immediately after one of the conversations in that film, further emphasizing that this arc is unfolding at the same time. Stories that supposedly occur offscreen during other tales can easily come off as contrived and confusing. The only positive example that comes to mind is The Lion King 1½ because it deliberately uses this “concurrent narrative” premise for self-aware comedy. The Clone Wars riskily plays it straight, but it works surprisingly smoothly.

This episode, in particular, extends and fits with the themes of Revenge of the Sith and the prequel trilogy as a whole. Throughout all of this, we’ve learned that one of the key factors in the Jedi’s downfall was that they became increasingly impersonal and distant from the common folk and more embroiled in politics, and that is encapsulated effectively in the Council’s refusal to share info with Ahsoka. Her responding (or lack thereof) in return hammers home the idea that mistrust and a lack of transparency are a big part of what sunk the ship.

This message also applies to the clones. Harkening back to a past storyline with ARC Trooper Fives, Rex gives Ahsoka a vital clue that allows her to uncover the catalyst of the Empire’s victory: a chip in the clones’ brains that forces them to execute their Jedi commanders upon receiving “Order 66.” The shrouds of secrecy surround even the clones, whose purpose has always seemed so clear and simple to them.

Photo: Star Wars: The Clone Wars Episode 711 “Shattered” – Image Courtesy Disney+
Photo: Star Wars: The Clone Wars Episode 711 “Shattered” – Image Courtesy Disney+ /

It’s poetic that Rex, the lone clone here who managed to break through this failsafe and show some honesty to an outside party, is the one who’s freed from the Emperor’s scheme. However, his revelation that all of his brothers are on the same leash is a grim reminder of just how prolific and catastrophic the problem has become, and it’s largely due to the secret schemes and absence of trust.

As poignant as this episode is on a narrative level, the character drama feels somewhat peripheral this time around. We have small moments sprinkled in to keep us invested in the action, which fits the do-or-die situation where every second counts, but the only instance where the characters stop and talk occurs when Rex and Ahsoka reflect on how their lives have been defined by the Clone Wars. It’s a genuinely heartfelt exchange where they ponder where they would be without this conflict and what they’ll do once it’s over.

As affecting as this is, though, it happens before most of the pivotal events in the episode. In regards to Order 66, we never get any scenes where the heroes really digest what’s happening or what it means for them. Again, this makes sense for the breakneck story, and the drama doesn’t suffer much from this because of the quick exchanges peppered in. However, one or two quiet conversations dealing with the emotional toll would have made the whole affair even better.

We might have had time for such scenes if not for the episode’s other little issue: references to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Why you’d ever want to reference a film as forgettable as that is beyond me, but here we are. First, we have Maul being set loose as a diversion for Ahsoka. The resulting hallway massacre is a blatant nod to Darth Vader’s fan service fight in the aforementioned movie. As cool as this is, it doesn’t contribute much to the main conflict. The writers probably didn’t know what to do with the horned villain in this episode, so they went for an easy crowd-pleaser.

Ironically, the callback that sticks out more is a single line. When trying to find the chip in Rex’s brain, Ahsoka randomly utters the mantra that Donnie Yen’s blind character uses when tapping into the Force. This sequence would have worked fine if done silently, but forcing this phrase into the scenario is a bizarre and clunky decision that leaves you confused rather than compelled.

Luckily, these flaws are small potatoes in an otherwise accomplished episode. For the most part, The Clone Wars tackles one of the most iconic events in the Star Wars saga with all the skill you’ve come to expect. Equal parts suspenseful and thematically resonance, this adventure keeps you on the edge of your seat through and through. We can only hope this show will stick the landing with its finale.

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What did you think of this week’s Clone Wars? Did Order 66 play out how you expected? Can this show maintain its stride for the home stretch?

Star Wars: The Clone Wars is available for streaming on Disney Plus.