The final episodes of The Clone Wars seem rather like deleted scenes from Episode III. They elaborate on the plot in such a way that completes the story of Republic’s fall and fills in the gaps. “The Phantom Apprentice” could also be a part of the film for another reason: its visuals are downright cinematic, and the final duel could compete with the greatest of the film duels.
If the previous episode took place just before the start of the film events, “The Phantom Apprentice” took place during it. And that is something that would send shivers down the spine of many a fan.
We Are At The End Times
The episode had to start from the cliffhanger moment “Old Friends” ended with: Ahsoka and Maul, facing each other. As it turned out, Ahsoka would find her way out of this one – thanks to Rex – but she still had to have a proper one-on-one with Maul at the end of “The Phantom Apprentice”. But let’s not skip the equally important part of the episode: the in-between that connects the events on Mandalore to universe at large, and on the narrative level, to both Revenge of the Sith and Solo (and to a degree, Rebels).
Obi-Wan, whom Ahsoka reports to, is the one who plays the role of time indicator. We find out that during the time it took Ahsoka and her allies to invade Mandalore, the attack on Coruscant has been repelled, Anakin killed Count Dooku and Obi-Wan is just about to depart to dispatch General Grievous.
More importantly, he already gave Anakin his assignment to spy on the Chancellor – and tells about it to Ahsoka! (Who, to no one’s surprise, disapproves.) This is a rare glimpse into the backstage of the Jedi Council, and Obi-Wan reveals just how close the Jedi were to finding out Palpatine’s true scheme. Especially with the information Ahsoka got from Maul.
All The “What Ifs”
I can’t possibly list all the implications of “The Phantom Apprentice”. We realise, for example, how necessary Dooku’s death was to Palpatine, because it prevented the Jedi from learning more about the Sith plan. Or how the Jedi were still in the position to learn – perhaps a little bit too late – the truth.
There are all kinds of “what ifs” the episode provokes us into imagining – what if Ahsoka had the chance to talk to Anakin – would she have tempered his anger towards the Council, or would she have sided with him? Or what if she had sided with Maul? What if the Jedi had captured Maul (as we already know they won’t)? What if Maul – the original apprentice, now angry that he became the “third wheel” – managed to depose Sidious?
“The Phantom Apprentice” provided something special in this manner. It allows us to return to the events of RotS and look at them from a fresh perspective. Funnily enough, it does the same thing also for Solo, through the character of Maul.
Hello, Dryden Vos
Aside from the generic connection of Maul’s story to that of Solo, there is also a very specific link: the brief appearance of Dryden Vos (as one of the crime bosses Maul talks to). The real value, however, comes in explaining the background of Maul’s actions, the reason he operates undercover. Solo may be a decent film, but stand-alone, it was hardly much more than a random shot in the dark, with the attitude of “let’s slam various existing elements from the universe together and see what happens”. Filoni’s creative team was now in the position of picking up these haphazard pieces and undertake the monumentous task of making them make sense, providing them some narrative context. This is what TCW is doing right now as a “side quest” alongside narrating the finale of TCW story proper.
The last outgoing thread leads to Rebels via the character of Gar Saxon. In Rebels he’s a villain, and here as well, but we also see him for what he is: a proud warrior of Mandalore. Betrayed by Maul, he is captured – and for now, we are left to speculate how does he make it to Imperial governor.
The Duel To End All Duels
I did not speak about Ahsoka’s final encounter with Maul because I am frankly not sure what to say about it. The duel, with its beautiful choreography, speaks for itself. The amount of effort the makers have put into it is obvious on first sight. The entire fight was recorded via motion capture with the performance by Ray Park himself as Maul, accompanied by Lauren Mary Kim as Ahsoka. The makers did right – this is the series’ grand ending, and no expenses should be spared.
The only thing we can hold our breath for now is the final two episodes, with May the Fourth being, fittingly, the date for the season finale.
It will be an emotional ending, no doubt, but I am also certain that it is going to be amazing.