Star Wars: The Clone Wars "Victory And Death" Review
Well, it’s officially official, the Clone Wars, and The Clone Wars, is over.
As Luke Skywalker once said, no one is ever really gone, and I think the biggest feeling you’ll be left with after you watch the finale, after you’ve collected your thoughts, is, okay, what’s next?
Not because you’re underwhelmed or unfulfilled with “Victory and Death”, no, you’ll be mesmerized for sure. But let’s not pretend there isn’t plenty left on the floor after the finale of this wonderful, often ground-breaking series.
There’s no reason to fret because we live in a heavy content era, I have no doubt we’ll be getting another series, novel, book, or comic book to fill in the blanks and answer some of those questions you’re most certainly going to be left with. But that’s for another day, for now, let’s look at this mostly great finale.
Last week, after having removed his inhibitor chip, Rex and Ahsoka are stuck in the med lab with Clones preparing to kick the door in. Pretty much all of this episode is spent following Ahsoka and Rex as they do their darndest to get off the ship, which by the way, is hurdling towards a Hoth like moon, but we’ll get to that in a moment.
If you had of asked me last week if I would have bet the farm that Maul was on the other side of that med lab door, I would have taken that bet and even raised you. Good thing I’m not a gambler because it was at it seems, with Clones trying to get in, not Maul.
So, with nowhere else to go, Ahsoka and Rex must fight there way out, but Ahsoka is adamant that they don’t kill any clones, set your phasers to stun. As the door opens, Ahsoka plays blocker as Rex shoots their way out of the med lab and down the halls, seeing the carnage left by Maul last week.
With their trio of droids in tow and the escape pods disabled, they head for the hangar bay looking to “borrow” a shuttle and get off the ship, hopefully unnoticed.
We find Maul, still lurking the hallways, and after having taken a Clone’s wrist comm, he’s able to listen in on the chatter. He picks up that the hangar is being reinforced and figures he’d better get there fast, but first, a quick stop is in order.
He heads to the hyperdrive chamber and uses the Force to destroy the generators in an incredible display of power. It’s very Walls of Jericho, Tower of Babel, Tale of Samson, you name it as everything around him comes crashing down. Amazing.
It has the desired effect as the ship comes out of hyperspace and to a sudden stop, much to the shock of everyone on board. The problem is, it’s left them awfully close to a nearby moon and is now trapped in its gravity well. The gravitational pull is too strong for this now lame duck ship and is being pulled towards the surface.
Ahsoka, Rex, Cheap, Beezee, and Arseven make it to the hangar control room, take a few guards and survey the scene. They find out all the hangar bay doors have been sealed and taken out of service, which impresses Rex saying, “If they weren’t trying to kill us, I’d be proud.”
So, Ahsoka puts the droids to work, Arseven on the door problem, Cheap gets to prep the shuttle, and Beezee investigates why the ship was pulled out of hyperspace. They manage to get the larger topside hangar doors open and they, for the first time, get a look at the moon they’re headed for. By the way, we don’t ever hear the name of the moon, but it’s a snowy/icy planet…very Hoth-y. Anyways, Arseven does eventually get all the bay doors open revealing not only the Nu-class shuttle they need, but 84 (I counted) Clones lead by Jesse!
Pretty tough situation they are in and this is perhaps the most important moment in their relationship and this journey they’re on. Like before, Ahsoka does not want to hurt them, but Rex, he’s not so sure and is starting to show the strain of the moment a little bit…
“I hate to tell you this, but they don’t care. This ship is going down, and those soldiers, my brothers, are willing to die and take you and me along with them.”
It’s clear, this whole thing, almost killing Ahsoka, having to fight his brothers, is all too much for him. She gently removes his helmet, he’s crying, and she says…
“You’re a good soldier Rex, so is everyone of those men down there. They may be willing to die, but I’m NOT the one who is going to kill them.”
Not willing to just die either, Ahsoka has a plan, distract Jesse and the Clones while the droids sneak by and prep the shuttle. They come out with their hands up. Rex says, they don’t have to kill Ahsoka since she’s not a Jedi, hasn’t been for some time.
Jesse reminds Rex that they are under special order from Darth Sidious to kill Ahsoka Tano and any other Clone who disobeys Order 66, in fact it was Rex who relayed that order to them. Rex pleads with Jesse, but the inhibitor chip has done its job and he accuses Rex of treason, punishable by death.
Ahsoka asks Rex if he’s ready, and realizing they are out of options, he turns to her and says…
“I didn’t much like being a Commander anyways.”
Then, Ahsoka puts into action her plan. The droids drop out elevator sections of the loading/hangar bay floor to the storage areas below, eliminating good chunks of the Clones leaving only a few for Rex and Ahsoka to handle. They then continue their strategy of Ahsoka blocking bolts while Rex stuns them.
Maul shows up around this time and makes a run for the shuttle with Ahsoka in pursuit. She nearly reaches him, but he Force pushes her down one of those hangar holes. The quick acting Beezee shoots a cable for her to grab on to, and she’s able to climb up.
Maul gets the shuttle in the air and Ahsoka uses the Force to stop it. It’s nearly too much for her as it’s pulling her along with it. She must let go as the Clones make their way back up top and start firing on them, killing Arseven! Maul gets away and takes off into hyperspace, we don’t see him again.
This is all going on as the ship is being pulled closer and closer to the moon, being torn apart in the process.
They are surrounded by Clones again, so Ahsoka cuts a hole in the floor in the coolest way I’ve ever seen, remote controlling her lightsabers in a circular fashion on the floor. But they end up down below where most of the clones still are. Cheap and Beezee activate the lift again, sending them back up top and away from Rex and Ahsoka, but by doing so, sealed their own fate. That’s right, our three beautiful droids are all executed this episode, so much for droid rights!
Rex and Ahsoka, under heavy fire, manage to find a working BTL-B Y-Wing and make it off the ship as it’s being torn apart. It wasn’t a smooth escape however as the ship being torn apart forces Ahsoka to miss the Y-Wing and is falling through the atmosphere.
It’s a long sequence of Ahsoka falling, dodging debris, and using the Force to keep up with Rex. He eventually managers to swoop in and pick her up, mid-air, as the Star Destroyer is being torn apart round them and crashes to the surface.
An incredible sequence to be sure, one that is ultimately sullied by the thought of all those Clones meeting their demise, a sorrow that is clearly on the faces of Rex and Ahsoka as they watch the ship take it’s final plunge to the surface.
On the surface, Rex, who’s returning their ship with a shovel, have dug dozens of graves for their Clone friends. He looks back at Ahsoka who is wearing her familiar hooded robe, she’s looking at the graves which are all marked by helmets propped up on sticks, including one belonging to Jesse. As she’s looking across them all, it’s clear the loss has been too much for her, she pulls out her lightsaber and drops it into the dirt, she’s done fighting.
Flash forward to some time later.
An Imperial Lambda-class shuttle lands at the crash site as Imperial Probe Droids and Snow troopers/Stormtroopers are surveying area. We hear him before we see him.
Darth Vader is there, and he finds Ahsoka’s lightsaber in the snow and fires it up. He looks up to the sky and who should he see? Why Morai of course! You can see Anakin’s eyes through the lenses.
He walks away with her lightsaber and we see his reflection in a Clone helmet in the snow, painted with Ahsoka’s colors.
The Clone Wars are over.
This wasn’t the best episode of the arc, that was last week, and I’m not entirely comfortable saying I understand the goal of this ending. But I’m forced to remind myself, this isn’t the end of Star Wars, merely a chapter in it. And so, in many ways, this episode felt like the beginning of something, not the end.
It’s likely an impossible task, ending something in the middle of something else much bigger. And that’s the crux of storytelling in current Star Wars, there’s always something that came before, and there’s always something that comes after. Us fans certainly don’t do ourselves any favors by projecting, expecting, assuming, or conjuring up what type of ending we want. And no matter how philosophical, allegorical, or metaphorical you might wax poetic about, the creators are and always will be more conscious of continuity than anything else.
That’s probably why we didn’t get a sweet epilogue like the one at the end of Star Wars Rebels, because there are likely planned projects that will show us what life was like for these characters post-19 BBY, and rather than have to contradict down the road, it’s easier to avoid. Just look at E.K. Johnston’s “Ahsoka” novel for a good example of that.
And even though the final scene with Darth Vader is stunning and an incredible piece of Star Wars, and the visual of the helmet in the snow signifying the end of the Clone Wars is indeed powerful, was it necessary? Does it connect to a larger narrative that Anakin was still thinking about Ahsoka after his face-turn, and spent time looking for her? Or is he just on the hunt for any, and all Jedi, as he was ordered to do along with the Inquisitors. Questions, not answers.
But perhaps the most glaring oddity is Maul. He literally disappears from this episode and from this arc, one in which he played an especially important role and had some of his finest moments ever. And just like Mandalore, seems to have been pushed aside to make room for Anakin and Ahsoka’s relationship status. Yes, he brought the ship out of hyperspace by destroying the generators in spectacular fashion, but he also could have just sabotaged them I’m sure, maybe not his style.
Same with Rex, we still have no idea about the circumstances surrounding him and Ahsoka’s separation and weren’t given the goodbye we’ve all been waiting for. It just sorts of ends. The moment gets usurped by the appearance of Vader in an episode that was likely too short to begin with.
Look, there were some things that we just were never going to get, like the “Night of a Thousand Tears” that Moff Gideon so eloquently told us about and the accompanying official Imperial takeover of Mandalore. But to not give us Ahsoka and Rex’s final goodbye, seems peculiar, so much that there HAS to be something announced soon. In the meantime, it just means more of something that we Clone Wars fans have gotten used to, waiting.
Want the good news? This was another incredible episode filled with high emotion, blockbuster action sequences, huge payoffs for Clone Wars fans, and incredible visuals. From the Star Destroyer hurdling toward the planets surface, to Ahsoka’s countless impressive feats, it’s a visual marvel that doesn’t compare to anything else except the previous three episodes.
It's honest look at the ambivalent nature of this war, or any war I suppose, and who ultimately pays the price, is on display in full photographic glory. The characters don’t spend too much time pondering such things, the creators leave that to striking imagery and visuals which put on display the destruction of both the men and the machine. But that’s something this series has never shied away from, showing the ugliness of the business they’re in, and the sheer cost of life associated with it.
The emotional scenes, while a little rushed, hit the mark mostly and will have Star Wars twitter gushing I’m sure. For me, the death of the droids felt more impactful than the Rex/Ashoka bits, but like I said, part of that is because we never got to see that likely very tearful goodbye between them.
Seeing Rex have a mental and emotional breakdown at the thought of fighting Clones was welcome and Ahsoka’s steadfast “no kill” policy was both honorable and heartfelt. And as a warrior who fought for honour and against the forces of evil, she completes the third stage in the relationship between a warrior and their sword, which is to lay it down. It’s both a beautiful and tragic moment.
And as impressive as she has been these past four episodes, and she has been impressive, it’s her inner strength that is most astonishing. She has such command of the Force and uses it masterfully both as an inward and outward ability.
Ahsoka, like most of us, doesn’t blame the Clones for their actions, we know they can’t help it, so it’s very bittersweet, and incredibly sad at the end when she and Rex honor them with a proper burial. Jesse and the others have been like family to us, to see them get used like this is deeply hurtful, and only bolsters Sidious’s lack of humanity, but also reinforces his path to victory.
If there is an MVP for these past four episodes, it must be Kevin Kiner. The score last week was on another level, and this one comes awfully close in my books. It’s been great all season, but he saved his best motifs for the last and found a zone few do, here’ shopping he’s back for more down the road.
Anyways, that’s my initial thoughts and I’m in a good place as the series ends, even if I have more questions than answers. But I know at some point we’ll learn where Maul goes right after, we’ll get the details of when Rex and Ahsoka part ways, and we’ll see “The Night of a Thousand Tears” and the Empire’s reclamation of Mandalore. It’s only a matter of time.
This team put forth such a monumental effort and can now bathe in the highest praise possible that Star Wars fandom can afford, a place at or near the top of many of our "best of" lists.
This is a film to me, the final four episodes, so I’ll be finding a place for it atop my rankings list, it’s that good. What about you?
Until next time…Happy Star Wars Day and MTFBWY.
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