Star Wars: The Clone Wars finale: The end of an era

Photo: Star Wars: The Clone Wars: The Final Season - Key Art.. Image Courtesy Disney+
Photo: Star Wars: The Clone Wars: The Final Season - Key Art.. Image Courtesy Disney+ /

The Clone Wars has finally delivered its long-awaited finale, and it makes for some of the most affecting moments in all of Star Wars.

Now, that’s an ending! As Ahsoka and Rex desperately try to escape Order 66, the entire Republic—along with their ship—comes crashing down around them. The Clone Wars have come to an end, and these wayward heroes are now in uncharted territory.

From that description, you might be expecting a grand battle or a fierce lightsaber duel to end things on a high note. Perhaps we’d get another tie-in to Revenge of the Sith to further validate the conflict’s place within the larger saga. Nope. For this outing, the focus is solely on Ahsoka and Rex, and that could not be more appropriate.

The actual events of the episode are fairly standard: fight through an army of clones and escape from a crashing ship. You could certainly enjoy it on that surface level and be satisfied by how well it’s presented. The animation remains reliably superb, the fluidity and detail making the whole pursuit a feast for the eyes.

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Nowhere is this more prevalent than the thrilling crash sequence. As Ahsoka and Rex soar toward the ground alongside the doomed cruiser, you get a palpable sense of speed and scale to remind you just how insignificant these characters are next to a massive starship or a space body.

While the episode impresses from a popcorn action standpoint, it’s what goes on beneath the surface that makes it so poignant. Maul sabotaging the ship and subsequently saving himself effectively encapsulates his tribal mindset and the selfish Sith ideology as a whole. Conversely, Ahsoka letting him go in order to help Rex demonstrates her own strength of character.

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This is also powerfully shown in her and Rex’s refusal to kill the clones, even to escape. You can tell that the decision tears at them, particularly Rex. Following one’s instincts instead of blindly obeying orders has always been a major theme of this show, and that’s a fitting focal point here. You can see the heartbreak on Rex’s face and hear the desperation in his voice as he comes to terms with fighting his fellow clones. His brothers in arms are unable to disobey Order 66. In essence, his sense of duty has become entirely separate from theirs, and this makes him feel truly alone.

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

You can tell that Ahsoka feels the same way due to the Jedi being wiped out; the regret and defeat on her face betrays so much despite her attempts to remain calm and collected in her voice. This is why it’s so natural for these outcasts to stick together, as they are largely cut off from everything they’ve ever known.

Impressively, that atmosphere of isolation is mostly presented without dialogue. As affecting as Ashley Eckstein and Dee Bradley Baker’s performances are, the most meaningful drama is conveyed through the exemplary visuals, music, and direction. The desolate landscape and vast views of space give the shots an overwhelming scope, emphasizing the inherent emptiness of the characters’ solitude.

In addition, the music is once again on point, continuing the trend from last week in delivering a sublime eeriness. These elements all echo the loneliness of space and/or uninhabited worlds in a similar vein as Interstellar or Snowpiercer, and they all combine beautifully in the final sequence.

First, you have Ahsoka and Rex burying the clones, digging individual graves for each one, placing the helmets overtop of them, and forming a makeshift memorial in front of the wrecked ship. They say nothing because nothing needs to be said. It’s clear that, despite what they just went through, they still see their fallen allies as more than just faceless tools or automatons. Ahsoka leaving her lightsaber is a great way of showing not only that she stands in solidarity with them, but also that she is finally closing the door on her life as a Jedi.

To cap it off, we have a surprise cameo from Darth Vader as he visits the crash site. It’s since become partially covered in snow, with the clones’ helmets deteriorated or blown away entirely. Everyone’s favorite villain pauses, picks up Ahsoka’s lightsaber, looks up at the owl that we see her bond with in Star Wars Rebels, and departs. The last thing we see is his reflection on one of the faded helmets as he walks away.

This sequence is The Clone Wars at its best, showcasing everything the creators have learned since the lackluster movie back in 2008. The organic nuance and detail available through computer animation are used to full effect, lending a tangibility to the Star Wars universe that rivals the films. Moreover, the cinematic direction infuses these visuals with an emotion and personality that they would have otherwise lacked.

Most importantly, the scene respectfully expands on preexisting material, adds new aspects which are compelling in their own right, and shows the galaxy far, far away from a fresh new perspective.

All the sacrifice, all the comradery of the Clone Wars is buried. All that’s left are ghosts and remnants. Sure, this may not be a happy ending, but it’s nevertheless a potent and satisfying one.

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What did you think of the Clone Wars finale? Did it end the way you expected? What are some of your favorite moments from this show?

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