“Victory and Death” – TCW S7 Finale Review

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A story ends. The curtain closes over the Clone Wars. The tale of Ahsoka Tano, Commander Rex, of all the brave troopers who became pawns in the Chancellor’s terrible game, just like Sidious’s former apprentice Maul, is finished. With the fall of Anakin Skywalker and Order 66, we are at the tragic point that we knew had to come ever since the first carefree adventures of little Snips and Skyguy.

“Execute Order 66”

It makes no sense to lengthily drone about how amazing the final two episodes were, how atmospheric, how perfectly paralleled with Revenge of the Sith. “Shattered” started with the setup: the last moments of togetherness and the feeling of victory for Ahsoka and Rex (and Bo-Katan), that we knew were only fleeting moments. A last reminder of the “big picture” through the glimpse of an actual Jedi Council scene from RotS – and then, minutes later, Order 66.

There were many ways the storytellers could have gone about it. I think the decision to show Ahsoka face her own clones (just after they had painted her likeness to their helmets!) in a claustrophobic setting was a good one. It made the audience relive the moment they knew from the film, this time again from the perspective of one Jedi (or ex-Jedi) they became fond of.

Everything blew into absolutely epic proportions – Ahsoka fighting dozens of clones and later, in the very end, Ahsoka and Rex fighting whole scores of them. But this was the finale! If we ever had to see near-unrealistic fight (but it was not unrealistic, it was merely a Jedi pushed to her limit), it was now.

Same goes for Maul, who, unarmed except for the Force, managed to wreak havoc throughout the army of clones. I think nothing could show better that Maul actually was a Sith, and how powerful in the mastery of the Force he was.

Music Is Half The Atmosphere

The soundtrack of the finale deserves its own mention. Both final episodes were accompanied by chilling, atmospheric score. In “Victory and Death”, one could hear that the chief theme contained motives derived from “Ashoka’s” piece from the final episode of Rebels Season 2, at Malachor. In “Shattered”, it was impossible not to notice the piece that played throughout nearly half the episode – from Ahsoka’s departure from Mandalore, through Maul being deposited in the prison cell, up to Order 66. It was chilling and so different from traditional Star Wars pieces (yet somehow eerily similar to the music that plays in RotS as Anakin watches the sunset) that it stood out even though it was a very gentle sound in the background. A perfect ambient music, yet one that further made the viewers’ blood freeze with the notion that something was about to happen.

Ahsoka The Grey

Action made up large part of the finale, but it was not only that. The relationships between Ahsoka, Rex and the rest of the clones came into the forefront. Ahsoka’s attitude towards Maul deserves a separate mention: her action of releasing the very enemy she had come to capture in order to cause chaos to allow her to escape may be one of Ahsoka’s most objectively Dark-sided actions ever taken, but it is a page straight from Anakin’s book. The student has truly learned from the Master.

What was definitely “light-sided”, however, was Ahsoka’s clear determination not to hurt the clones that attacked her. Plus, she showed that she truly cares about Rex when she saved him – by putting him out of harm’s way, removing the chip, and later saving him alongside herself when fleeing the ship. There is no doubt she would have done the same for all the clones, if she could – the tragedy of the episode lies simply in the fact that she could not.

The burial scene underlined this with finality – Ahsoka and Rex honouring their fallen comrades if that was the least they could do. The silence throughout the scene gave more space to take in the visuals. At the end of Rebels, numerous jokes have been made by the fans about “Ahsoka the White”. Now we got an undisputable “Ahsoka the Grey” at the beginning of her long, sad exile – a parallel that was, knowing Dave Filoni, intentional. (One could spend a long time musing about the similarities between Ahsoka and Gandalf, but let’s leave it for another time.)

Anything To Criticise?

There is one criticism that could be made. The final episode was near-perfect, and I am saying “near” because of the final scene. Ahsoka’s (and Rex’s) story ends with burying the troopers and also her lightsaber, then we cut to (near) future, when Darth Vader finds this graveyard.

The scene is beautifully composed and powerful in its atmosphere. Opening with the view of Imperial stormtroopers (as opposed to Clone troopers) and probe droids, with the Star Destroyer already buried under tons of snow – and we know who is going to come to see the grave even before Vader enters the scene. It is a beautiful and heartbreaking scene to the last detail, including Vader picking up and igniting the lightsaber – the last piece of Ahsoka Tano, the last piece of Anakin Skywalker, who was the one that gave it to her.

The final scenes build up the atmosphere. There is essentially no dialogue, and adding anything else could break the spell.

Yet many a viewer would feel that the story was left unfinished. Yes, we know how this will continue, and we can fill the gaps. But there are questions. Where did Ahsoka go? And Rex? Why did they agree on splitting up? What did Anakin/Vader think about Ahsoka and Rex when he heard that the ship never reached its destination? What did he think afterwards, even? Anakin/Vader may have come to terms with slaughtering all the “evil Jedi”, but Ahsoka was not a Jedi, and she was something important to him. Did Vader just write her off as “collateral damage of Order 66”? And what did he think of the burial site then? Because somebody buried these people – who?

Given that TCW managed to fill in many of the gaps that didn’t make (enough) sense in the Anakin-Vader transition, one would have expected them to also explain what happened to the extra relationship(s) TCW created: with Ahsoka and Rex. We got nothing.

I am sure some supplementary novels or comics will provide this answer (and E.K. Johnston’s “Ahsoka” already partly did – a year ago), but that’s just not the same thing. It is, however, hard to say how this could have been done in the series without disrupting the atmosphere.

This Will Be A Tale Long Remembered

Regardless of what I just said, The Clone Wars‘ finale places itself – and indeed the entire seventh season – right up there alongside the actual prequel trilogy. Its emotional, psychological, storytelling, and action elements are in balance, accompanied by beautiful music and visuals. It may be a thing that will be watched, and re-watched, and might even remain as one of the cornerstones of “canon” for many fans.

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Rostislav Kurka
Rostislav is a Protestant theologian and a self-trained Sith, counting Jan Hus, Dorothee Sölle, Darth Revan and Darth Traya among his main influences. He hails from the hundred-towered city of Prague, where he had spent a large part of his life creating worlds and inspiring young generations to roleplay. His involvement in organising children's camps led him to accidentally writing a Lord of the Rings musical, which made him temporarily famous, and a Three Musketeer-Jedi fanfilm, which didn't. He has recently moved to the frozen waste of Finland, because that's it, the Rebels are there.