I’m starting to feel a little repetitive with these write-ups. I mean, what can you ultimately say in 3,000 words or less about an arc you consider to be the greatest Star Wars effort of all time? I can definitely go on about the lighting, the photography, the performances, those tangible elements that make a machine run, they are important but also obvious aspects that can be used to either prop up an episode, or dismiss it all together in 280 characters.
But what about pacing? Or blocking? Or leitmotifs? Or composition? When you start to break down something and examine it shot for shot, you really start seeing the quality of filmmaking we’re talking about here. I don’t like something just because it makes me feel good, which is important to be sure, no, I like it because the creators have produced something that speaks to us, speaks to our senses, in a profound AND primitive way.
And they do that using both art and science, with concepts like story manipulation, the rule of thirds, infrasound, color psychology, and so on. That’s the territory The Clone Wars is in these days and these are the waters Dave Filoni and the rest are swimming in with this most current, and final arc.
After successfully capturing Maul on Mandalore, Ahsoka plans to deliver him to the Jedi Council on Coruscant. When Order 66 is declared in the midst of her journey, her world is turned upside down. Friends become foes, and enemies become allies in “Shattered”
Last week we watched what many of us considered to be the greatest piece of Star Wars to date, certainly the greatest Clone Wars episode anyways. I was firmly in that camp and spent a considerable amount of time wondering where the heck they go from there. After reaching such heights, surely it can only go down, right? I’m happy to report that not only did they reach the same height, they surpassed it.
But how do you match that energy and still find a way to carry the story forward in a meaningful way? First off, I think comparing “Shattered” to the “The Phantom Apprentice” is a bit of a trap. They are entirely different animals and I suspect personal preference (action/exposition vs exposition/action) will determine where people fall when comparing the two. I loved “The Phantom Apprentice” , it changed Star Wars, but I REALLY loved “Shattered”, it suits my sensibilities, fires all my chakras, basically, it’s my kind of storytelling. Let’s take a look.
So, we pick up on the ground in Mandalore, the war is over, for now, and Gar Saxon and the remaining Marauders are being taken away, presumably to prison. Bo-Katan and Saxon share a look before he’s taken away, we of course know this isn’t the last time Saxon will get his way. Ahsoka has Maul captured and she’s basically in the process of turning over things to Bo-Katan. They mention Satine, and how the planet might need a ruler like her now, Bo isn’t sure she’s up to it.
Ahsoka gets called to a meeting with the Jedi Council where they are discussing something familiar to you if you’ve seen “Revenge of the Sith” Mace Windu, Yoda, Ki-Adi-Mundi Adi, and Aayla Secura are trying to figure out what to do with the Chancellor, who has stayed in the position longer than he should have according to the rules.
She was hoping to talk with Anakin who was sent away to report Grievous updates to the Chancellor before she could get there. This is a case of sliding doors and something I raised, as have others, that if only Ahsoka was able to reach Anakin in time, provide that closeness that he sorely needed, perhaps things could have gone differently. Probably not, but you never know.
They congratulate Ahsoka on a job well done, even flirt with the idea of her coming back to the Jedi. Surprisingly, she says, “No, not yet.” Which means she’s even thought about it! Ahsoka tries to understand the situation with Palpatine but Mace Windu shuts her down…
“I’m sorry citizen, these matters are for the council to discuss.”
After thanking her for doing something THEY couldn’t, Mace treats her horribly, and he’s foolish to do so. When it comes to Anakin and Sidious, she knows more than they do but because of this rebuke, chooses not to say anything.
Yoda bids her farewell, “May the Force be with you, young Padawan.” indicating Yoda is holding out hope that she will return one day to the Jedi. To bad Yode’s, you had your chance.
Back outside, Bo-Katan and Ursa Wren (sans helmet) are loading Maul onto a Republic ship for transport to Coruscant. Now awake, they have him confined in a custom-made Force faraday box, which is adorned with what looks like ancient Mandalorian legends, including the dark saber and Tarre Vizsla. Think Hannibal Lector and you’ll start to get the idea.
It’s a nice overhead shot reminiscent of “Revenge of the Sith” when Anakin is leading a squad of Troopers into the Jedi Temple and when they go in close, you only hear Maul breathing, it’s absolutely frightening. This shot is of course is a trigger, meant to remind us that Order 66 is close.
Ahsoka thought Satine had outlawed such devices to which Bo says, “We Mandalorians had a reason to imprison you Force-wielding maniacs” , a little tongue-in-cheek there before these two warriors say their goodbyes.
Now, with Maul loaded, they fly the shuttle to an awaiting Venator-class Star Destroyer where they load him into a cell down in the detention block, then Ahsoka joins Rex on the bridge as they take off into hyperspace, bound for Coruscant.
This is one of my favorite sequences as we go nearly two and a half minutes without any dialogue, rare for Star Wars, and Kevin Kiner’s ominous score builds the tension to almost unbearable levels. It reminds me of the type of score Vangelis did for Blade Runner, this mood-setting motif that just gets under your skin, warnings of impending doom. It’s incredible and you won’t soon forget it.
To reinforce this idea, Ahsoka and Rex have a heart to heart on the bridge about the Jedi, the war, and the clones, saying they wouldn’t exist if not for the conflict. Ahsoka tells Rex without it, they would have never met and become good and trusted friends. The friendly but somber tone of the conversation is such that you’re not sure what to expect, that is until the moment is interrupted by Rex getting called away for the latest briefing, which is, you guessed it, Sidious enacting Order 66.
Then, at that moment, both Maul and Ahsoka sense a massive disruption, a disturbance in the Force unlike any other, they hear the events from the Chancellor’s quarters where Anakin officially makes his face turn and kills Mace Windu. It is so, so great to hear Hayden Christensen’s voice in The Clone Wars!
She goes to see Rex and tell him about her foreboding, but its too late, Order 66 and the inhibitor chip has done its job. As she approaches, we see his hands shaking and he drops his helmet, his body trying desperately to reject the order, every instinct he has is being ripped apart, he’s fighting, but he’s losing.
Even with his sidearms pointed at her, his hands are shaking as he’s fighting it with everything he’s got. And with one final heroic effort, one final message to his friend, he begins saying “Find him, find him, Fives, find him.” , referring to CT-555 of course. But Rex and the others DO turn on her, and she gets away in one of the most incredible scenes I’ve ever seen in “Star Wars” With Ahsoka gone for now, Rex orders the others to execute Maul.
We enter the hunt phase of the episode as the Clones search high and low for Ahsoka and we also learn an element of Order 66 is that any Clone who doesn’t comply, is to be executed. Obviously, something that will apply to Rex later and it’s ironic since he’s the one relaying the order to his squad.
Down in the detention level, two troopers are preparing to execute Maul as ordered, Ahsoka shows up just in time and stops them. He’s surprised to see that she survived, and she accuses him of being part of what’s gone down, all the Clones turning against them and what not.
“But surely you have felt it. The voices crying out, the death.”
It doesn’t take long for Maul to piece together what has happened, that Sidious’s brilliant plan all along was to use the Jedi’s own army against them. And it’s slightly amusing when Maul actually thinks they’re a team, and even offers to lead but Ahsoka only wants a diversion from him saying, “go cause some chaos, it’s what you’re good at.” Is there somewhat agreeable banter a sign of things to come?
Either way, add it to the list of great scenes between these two. And I’ve seen the theories that they end up being living embodiments of the Mortis siblings, which makes some sense for sure, and there’s plenty of evidence to support it, but I’m not totally convinced, yet. It’s worth pointing out this theory has been in the ether for quite some time, mostly because of Dave Filoni and his shenanigans over the years. And if they do indeed end up being the Mortis “Brother” and “Sister”, then they’re terrible at it!
With Clones everywhere, combing the halls, Ahsoka goes to the droid hangar to get some friends which includes CH-33P aka “Cheap”, M5-BZ aka “Beezee”, and R7-A7 aka “Arseven”, who is of course, her astromech. Remember when Rex was rambling earlier about finding Fives? Well, she remembered that and gets Arseven to plug into the mainframe, break into CT-5555’s secure file, and find out what’s going on with all the Clones.
While scanning through the files we see an image of Jedi Master Tiplar! If you’re not sure who that is, she was executed by clone trooper CT-5385 aka “Tup” when his inhibitor chip malfunctioned in the Season Six episode “The Unknown”. This early indication of Order 66, would motivate Fives to investigate the incident, remove his own chip, and kick off the “Clone Conspiracy” arc, but more on that in a minute.
Eventually she lands on a file where we get a holo-vid of Kaminoan Clone Scientist Nala Se commenting on Clone Arc Trooper CT-5555 aka “Fives” and how he had a malfunction with his inhibitor chip. This is of course from the fantastic “The Clone Wars” arc the “Clone Conspiracy” from Season Six which I had just mentioned. Seriously, watch it if you haven’t, it’s fantastic and really helps you understand Rex’s state of mind and adds more light to the inhibitor chip issue.
We also learn that Rex filed a grievance report where he states there’s more going with the “inhibitor chips” than anyone realizes. That’s a bingo for Ahsoka who finally understands what’s going on with Rex.
We cut to Maul who’s having a Terminator-type moment, stalking down the hallways, taking out Clones in a methodical manner using only the Force, and whatever he can get his hands on. Think the Vader hallway scene from Rogue One and you’re on the right track, minus the lightsaber. It’s a brutal scene as he takes out the Clones in a variety of violent ways including decapitations. That’s the last we see of Maul this episode, but I suspect we’ll start the finale with him.
Using the droids, Ahsoka manages to separate Rex from the group and isolate him behind a bunch of shield doors. She renders him unconscious and takes him to the med bay where they seal themselves in. We now enter the “we’re running out of time” phase as the Clone are desperately trying to get in with cutting torches. The score responds accordingly, and your anxiety levels will go thought the roof.
Ahsoka starts to run scans on Rex, looking for the inhibitor chip, but the scans aren’t picking anything up, so, she tries another way, she needs to go deeper. She places her hands on the sides of Rex’s head and begins repeating the mantra…
“I am one with the Force, and the Force is with me.”
“Rogue One” fans will instantly recognize this as the mantra spoken repeatedly by Force acolyte and all-around badass, Chirrut Îmwe. It’s a phrase used by those who embrace the more spiritual side of the Force, and who are NOT Jedi, further reinforcing Ahsoka’s independent state.
It’s also a Force concept that connects all living things without ego, being a vessel of the Force, not conceived as being in the illusion of individual existence, or self. It’s more in line with what a Jedi like Qui-Gon Jinn would say, or maybe even Yoda in his later years. Either way, it’s f*cking badass and on cue, Rex’s mind starts to respond, repeating the phrase along with her, and through the Force, the chip makes itself known.
She orders Arseven to hurry up and remove the chip as the Clones are breaking in, she must hold them off for as long as she can so her droid can get that damn chip out of Rex’s head. Ahsoka fends them off at first, deflecting their bolts, but she’s getting overwhelmed. Rex comes to his senses in the nick of time and takes out the last couple of Clones, and Beezee gets the door closed and sealed again.
Rex, now himself, apologies to Ahsoka for trying to kill her and they come to the grim realization what has happened, that the entire Grand Army of the Republic has been ordered to hunt down and destroy all of the Jedi.
They look to the door where sparks begin to show as the Clones are nearly through once again.
Like I said at the top, this is about as good as it gets, television or otherwise, and it’s clear to me Filoni has taken that next big step towards being a filmmaker. We knew prior to “The Mandalorian” he was spending time on live sets starting with “Rogue One”, watching, listening, absorbing, and learning. And then when it came time to direct “The Mandalorian”, he was ready to apply all that newfound knowledge, combined with his experience animating terrific stories.
So then, armed with all this experience and a brand-new set of skills, he comes back to the show that started it all for him, operating at peak performance, and putting it all into these final episodes. It’s amazing to have watched him go from George Lucas’s Padawan learner to the company’s most prized creator.
One thing Filoni does is reward hard work, and if you’re a student of “The Clone Wars”, specifically the clones, then this episode has some great payoffs. I mentioned most of them up above but just understand that all these years spent getting to know the Clones, not as disposable war machines, but as people, has led to this moment.
If you viewed them sympathetically but with a fondness reserved for those who are a tragic product through no fault of their own, then you must reserve any judgment or stay any ill will towards these chaps. They have no control over what they are doing, period. Rex is fortunate enough to have had friends like Fives and Ahsoka, so that he’s able to make it though this without any Jedi blood on his hands, but he’s one of only a lucky few.
This episode gets under your skin in a way nothing prior has done, and the primary weapon Filoni uses here to accomplish that is Kevin Kiner. The source of your anxiety here may be elusive, but it’s real, and was carefully crafted using audible elements that play on our emotions.
We know Order 66 is coming, and we know it’s violent outcome, but for the folks trapped onboard this Venator Class Star Destroyer, we don’t know exactly when. It’s hanging in the air, travelling through the duct work, waiting to pounce like the xenomorph in Ridley Scott’s “Alien” And then, it strikes, and the music changes instantly as both Maul and Ahsoka, because of their unique gifts, sense it’s presence.
So, the score, like all good music, creates this drama that ratchets up our fear responses, putting us on the edge of our seat. I literally held my breath for a good 5 minutes or so at one point because of it. You’ll recognize key motifs like the Order 66 score but Kevin all along has had a magical way of twisting Williams’s original pieces, just enough to make them unique again. Music has a meter, and it provides the cadence for this episode, whose pulse is slow and purposeful.
Folks I’m sure will prefer “The Phantom Apprentice” because of the action and the epic lightsaber battle between Maul and Ashoka, and they’re not wrong. That episode is off-the-charts good and is now the measuring stick for Star Wars action going forward, but where that chapter excelled in awe inspiring visuals, this one hits the breaks, dims the lights, and pulsates.
I take no pleasure in saying it but Mace Windu’s treatment of Ahsoka was horrendous and makes his death all that much more satisfying. Ahsoka’s decision to leave the Jedi Order is constantly reinforced every time she’s around them, but she shouldn’t be angry with them, she should thank them. Because of their arrogance and short-sightedness, they are headed for a downfall the likes few have seen. It’s funny now seeing how much energy they wasted on Kenobi’s hunt for Grievous, thinking that was the final blow left be landed, but they were so wrong. They really didn’t ever see it coming.
And really, Ahsoka has only benefited from being on her own, her blossoming skills and incredible Force vitalities are brimming with energy. She’s truly coming into her own, and it’s an amazing thing to have a front row seat for.
Now, to the issue of who removed Rex’s chip.
I know we’ve all seen “Star Wars Rebels”, specifically the Season Two episode “The Lost Commanders” where Rex says this to Kanan and Ezra…
“I didn’t betray my Jedi. Wolfe, Gregor, and I, all removed our control chips.”
Well, half of that statement is true, the other half, not so much. Listen, it’s a small, small thing to worry about, so my suggestion is don’t. Chalk it up to semantics or just old age on Rex’s part, I mean, the guy’s been through a lot and it was years ago at that point.
And for those who were hoping to see a bunch of Jedi get murdered, not this time, but I suppose they could still show it in the finale. I feel “Revenge of the Sith” did such a good job of it that I don’t really see any added benefit at this point. I honestly think it’s just bloodlust for some, even a little gratuitous.
Say it after me...I am one with the Force, and the Force is with me.
The final episode of The Clone Wars, which airs Monday, May 4th don’t forget, is “Victory and Death” …
“Ahsoka and Rex must use their wit and skills to survive the turbulent end of the Clone Wars.”
I’m not going to speculate on what’s going to happen, I mean we know some of it. Expect an emotional goodbye as Ahsoka and Rex go their separate ways, both trying to hide from a galaxy that no longer wants them in it.
And what of Mandalore? Will we see the famous “Night of a Thousand Tears” that we’ve heard about? Will we see the Empire move in for good, handing over the planet to Gar Saxon, forcing Bo-Katan into hiding as well?
And don’t forget about Maul. We know he rejoins Crimson Dawn but what will that departure look like? It’s obvious he’ll help Ahsoka get to safety and I’m assuming the “Death” part of the title means they all fake their own to get away cleanly? And if the theory holds true and they are destined to be the Mortis siblings, what will that look like? I mean, truthfully, they do act like their related sometimes!
My personal wish would be to see the two dozen or so Jedi who survived the purge finding their corners of the galaxy, minus the ones we’ve already seen like Yoda, Obi-Wan, etc.
The big rumor is that we’ll see Morai, and maybe even Darth Vader make appearances. As great as it would be, we’ve seen that before so let’s have the last shot be of Ahsoka and Rex, hugging goodbye.
Whatever happens, it’s going to be a wild finish.
Until next time…MTFBWY.
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