Ahsoka Tano reaches out to Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi seeking assistance to secure the capture of longtime adversary and former Sith Lord Maul, but the news of Grievous’ attack on Coruscant and Palpatine’s capture forces a difficult decision for the Jedi.
Right away they want us to know this is not the usual deal, they want us to know you are about to see something special, something unique.
How do they do that exactly? For starters, there is no fortune cookie, instead we get something that’s even better, the words “A Lucasfilm Limited Production” pop up on the screen followed by a red “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” title card, and then “Part I: Old Friends Not Forgotten”
The familiar John Williams Star Wars horns kick in and we transition to Kane’s episodic V.O., which goes like this…
“Outer Rim, under siege. Separatist forces have launched a major offensive, led by the evil droid General Grievous, Republic forces are pushed to the brink.
In response to this overwhelming attack, the Jedi council has dispatched its generals, sending them far from the core worlds to bolster the beleaguered Clones. On the distant planet of Yerbana, we find Commander Cody of the 212th, in desperate need of reinforcements.”
So, from the very beginning, it feels different, it feels cinematic, it feels spectacular, and it sucks you in immediately.
The opening battle is exceptional, and we get lots of that Anakin/Obi-Wan back and forth that we love so much. Additionally, it’s great to see the 501st and 212th working alongside each other, taking out 1,000 or so “clankers”.
Anakin’s foolish heroics save the day once again and he gets in a shot or two aimed at Obi-Wan, who, as you’ll see, is a little more cautious these days.
Anakin’s gloating will have to wait as they get called away to a more pressing matter by Admiral Vularen. They received a transmission via the sub-space frequency “fulcrum”, with Anakin and Obi-Wan assuming it’s from Saw Gerrera, and that things on Onderon aren’t going well.
(I very much love this shoutout to Saw by the way.)
Instead, they arrive to find a holo-image of Ahsoka and Bo-Katan who inform them that they’ve tracked down Maul and there’s a good shot at capturing him. I doubt Anakin heard a word of it however as he’s completely dumbstruck at the sight of Ahsoka, who sort of brushes him aside, preferring to talk about the mission.
They agree to meet, and Anakin thinks Ahsoka leaving the Order was meant to be so that she could be here now, fighting Maul. Obi-Wan isn’t so sure and Anakin questions his lack of enthusiasm. This is not the first time Obi’s indifference is called into question.
The two sides meet in the hangar with Ahsoka (new outfit) and her new Mandalorian friends off board looking quite fierce. Again, Anakin is eager to re-establish a personal connection with Ahsoka, but again she brushes him off.
Bo-Katan takes charge of the meeting, laying it all out for them. She’s asking the Republic to provide the additional forces she needs to take back Mandalore, in return, they get Maul. Neither Anakin nor Obi-Wan are thrilled with the idea although the later has the biggest problem with it.
He’s hesitant to get the Republic involved in yet another war and break a treaty that’s been in place for many, many years. He will let the council decide but it’s clear he’s against the idea. Bo loses her cool, lecturing them about the Republic and how important it is that Mandalore remain free of tyranny, free of Maul’s influence.
She even brings up her sister Satine saying, “I thought she meant something to you?” Ouch! Obi responds diplomatically but it’s clear that remark cut deep. Even Anakin seems shocked at not only Bo’s verbal dagger, but also at Obi-Wan’s thwarted reaction to it.
Anyways, while they wait for the Jedi Council’s decision, Anakin arranges two big surprises for Ahsoka. The first, he’s lending her Rex and the 501st for this mission, freshly painted helmets, and all. It’s a beautiful moment/reunion that is interrupted by alarms. It seems Coruscant is under attack by the CIS and Anakin, Obi, and the 501st must leave immediately.
All they say about Chancellor Palpatine is that he’s being watched by Shaak Ti but Mace Windu has lost contact with them. We of course know that he’s been fake kidnapped by Count Dooku and General Grievous, the opening bits that kick-off “Revenge of the Sith”.
Ahsoka gets angry at them for abandoning the Mandalorians in favor of their precious Chancellor. She lectures them about the fall of Jedi, something she’s still clearly not over…
“I understand that as usual your playing politics. This is why the people have lost faith in the Jedi…”
Her and Obi-Wan’s contentious parlaying is interrupted by Anakin who has an idea on how to solve both problems. He wants to divide the 501st, half with him, half with Ahsoka, which will be led by a promoted Commander Rex. Since Ahsoka isn’t part of the Republic anymore, she’s there simply as oversight.
Both sides agree and Obi leaves them, wishing Ahsoka well and leaving her with a small bit of advice about how dangerous Maul can be. Now it’s time for surprise number two, Anakin gives Ahsoka her lightsabers, new and improved! It’s a great moment as she fires them up and twirls them around a bit. They wish each other good luck and part as friends, and as we know, won’t see each other for years, until Star Wars Rebels, where things are quite different.
The tension in this scene between Ahsoka and Obi-Wan is troubling, as both were good friends. It’s an important scene as it really establishes their frame of mind going into some major Star Wars events. Still, as a huge fan of both characters, selfishly it would have been nice to see them part on better terms.
Anyways, now accompanied by Republic forces and the 501st, Ahsoka, Bo-Katan, and the rest head to Mandalore. They get a call from Prime Minister Almec demanding to know why he’s being invaded. Bo-Katan tells him they want Maul and that his time as ruler is done, calling him a puppet. They end the transmission and Ahsoka tells Bo she’s nothing like her sister. On the surface, Almec tells Gar Saxon (!!!) to prepare for battle and orders Rook Kast (!!!) to contact the Collective (Shadow).
As their wave of Republic gunships and Kom'rk-class fighters engage the marauders, we get an amazing sequence involving Ahsoka. Now, if you’ve seen the trailer, then you are familiar with it, but watching the entire sequence play out is spectacular. Basically, Ahsoka doesn’t have (or need) a jetpack to get to the surface so she does it the Jedi way, jumping, cutting, hitching rides, etc.
After taking out a handful of Marauders along the way and rescuing a Clone or two, she lands on a platform with an explosion behind her. That image is incredible on its own, but when you see the whole thing unfolding in front of you, well, you’ll be blown away. It is perhaps the best action sequence I can personally recall, certainly in the realm of Star Wars animation anyways.
They make their way through the defenses and are making progress, but Maul eludes them. Bo-Katan realizes they can’t keep this up, so she decides to go to the throne room and confront Almec while Ahsoka continues the search for Maul. They are drawn to the lower levels, to some access tunnels, which as it turns out, is exactly where Maul wants them to go.
Meanwhile, in the throne room, Bo gets the upper hand on Almec and it’s here we find out a trap has been set. And while Maul did in fact want to lure a Jedi, it wasn’t Ahsoka. No, he wanted Kenobi.
Bo-Katan tries to warn Ahsoka but can’t reach her because of the interference from the tunnels which are too deep. As Ahsoka and a handful of clones make their way through the tunnels, eventually she is surrounded.
This is where she comes face to face with Maul…
“I was hoping for Kenobi. Why…are…you…here.”
Wow! That ending will give you shivers, I guarantee it!
So, pardon the hyperbole but that was one of the best episodes of The Clone Wars to date, no question. Every aspect of the show, the animation, the acting, the pacing, the storytelling, works for me and I can’t help but wonder what heights this arc will reach?
The pacing has been superb through the first eight but is really on display now as the episode, with too many transitions to count, is very fluid. Like a lot of Clone Wars episodes, it takes you all over the place in a short period of time, often omitting many details which they deem unimportant, but not this one.
It does benefit from a slightly longer running time (26:10) but it’s what you do with those added minutes that counts, and they make it count here. The pace is relentless, stopping to breath only once or twice, and that’s just to dump exposition on you, then you’re off again.
And like I mentioned at the top, the cinematic quality is off the charts and it’s very clear to me that Dave Filoni envisioned this as a film. If only.
Anyways, as for the characters, when you include the opening VO, you’re going to see plenty of familiar Clone Wars faces, but of course, this arc zeroes in on a select few.
Let’s start with Obi-Wan who had a bit of a rough ride this episode. When he wasn’t getting his bravery snickered at by Anakin or his honor questioned by Bo-Katan, he was getting a political, and moral, lecture from Ahsoka. His reaction to harsh accusations by not only Bo-Katan but Ahsoka, is troubling, and it’s clear he’s not comfortable with the Mandalore/Satine topic.
I can’t help but think of a line of his from the Season Two episode, “Voyage of Temptation” where he says this in response to Yoda’s advice about not forming attachments…
“He usually leaves out the undercurrent of remorse.”
He seems a step or two behind the entire show, clearing having lost his confidence and has 100% reverted to leaving the decision making to the council. This is NOT the Obi-Wan we saw in episodes like “The Lawless” and not the Obi-Wan we see at the beginning of Episode III. Indeed, I think this is an Obi-Wan still recovering, as much as he’d likely deny it.
On the flipside, Ahsoka is in top-form here and is well on her way to becoming the confident, strong, intelligent Jedi we know her to be later in Rebels. There’s just no question she’s a top tier Star Wars character at this point and it’s clear she has the full weight of Dave Filoni and the rest of Lucasfilm behind her. And as much as I dislike the idea, her foray into live action should only reinforce that fact.
This is not a criticism yet, but they didn’t really deal with any anxiety Ahsoka may have had going into her first encounter with Anakin. It’s a huge moment for her, and besides a few awkward moments and some initial uncomfortably, I found it slightly underwhelming. It’s not for a lack of trying on Anakin’s part, who’s almost giddy at seeing her, but her guard is still up, and she’s been through a lot. And as you will see, the scars haven’t quite healed yet from her ordeal with the Jedi Order.
One thing that I believe could have helped in this area would have been some Ahsoka/Bo-Katan quality time. As I’ve mentioned, I really wanted to see them on the gauntlet discussing their individual situations, leaning on each other during an especially important time in both their lives. As it stands, their bond seems strong when we do see them, it just would have been nice to see some of that interaction between these two warriors.
As for Anakin, he’s his usual cocky awkward self, both incredible to watch in action, and cringey sometimes when dealing with others. But that’s just him and it’s a nice little reminder to all of us where his loyalty lies when his first thoughts are of the Chancellor when Coruscant is attacked. Still, he loves Ahsoka, that much is evident and seeing them together again is a huge thrill.
Bo-Katan and her Resistance show us why they are who they are. They kick a ton of ass and their willingness to charge into battle is incredible to watch. This is so personal to Bo, not only is the fate of her home world at stake, but the memory of her sister is a constant reminder that revenge is also on the table.
She’s disciplined however, and knows that if they’re going to win, they need lots of help, and lots of luck. The exchange between her and Almec is interesting from the point of view that Mandalore’s safety, is more important to her than how she’s perceived by its people. Even Ahsoka comments on how different she is from the more “needy” Satine. And as an awesome bonus, she does say Ursa Wren’s name out loud!
As for the bad guys, Almec is his usual treacherous self, the snake, and with Gar Saxon and Rook Kast commanding his Marauders, he hasn’t lost his confidence either. So, it’s a wonderful, albeit short lived, moment when Bo-Katan gets the better of him in the throne room.
Her small victory is muted as he unveils his masters true plan, and we’re speaking of course about Maul.
The former Sith Lord only makes a brief appearance, but his presence and fingerprints are all over this episode. His plan to lure Kenobi has failed so we’ll see how we responds, although I think we all know.
But, to hear those metal legs again and that distinctive Sam Witwer growl brings a smile to my face. Expect next week to pick up exactly where we left, with an angry Maul taking it out on Ahsoka.
We haven’t even mentioned the Clones! There’s so many great moments and nods to our Clone brethren, whether its Cody and the 212th or our dear Captain Rex getting a promotion. It’s a wonderful tribute to the clones and a near last tip-of-the-hat, before they do what we know they do in “Revenge of the Sith”, during Order-66.
Next week we’ve got “The Phantom Apprentice” …
“Ahsoka and Republic forces confront Maul on Mandalore.”
Not much of a description there as they intend to keep things firmly under wraps. But I think we know where this is headed with Maul and Ahsoka facing off down below, and Bo-Katan and the Mandalore Resistance taking care of things up top.
Until next time…MTFBWY.
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