“Old Friends Not Forgotten” begins with the famous Lucasfilm Limited logo and then we actually get the John Williams overture before launching headlong into battle in the Outer Rim, somewhat standard fare for this series but all the more exhilarating because this really is the last time.
This opening reinforces what I already suspected about the structure, that these final four episodes are going to be basically a serialized movie running in parallel to EPISODE III. It’s all about to be come crashing down…
Anakin & Obi-Wan’s repartee is in fine form, General Grievous is on hand, it all feels warm and fine and familiar. But before we know it, Ahsoka and Anakin are at long last reunited (which I wasn’t even sure would happen), and it’s played to perfection. Both of them exhibit a conflicting and complex muddle of emotions but their mutual affection for one another is never in doubt.
Also, a crucial piece of character work happens here when Anakin returns Ahsoka’s lightsabers to her, which is touching enough on the surface, but absolutely devastating in a way that I didn’t even realize until after the series finale, so let’s wait on that for the moment. Seeing Anakin this time is rough because — even so late in the game — he’s still so full of positivity and hope: “You get Maul, we’ll get Grievous, and we’ll just wrap up these old Clone Wars and then catch up!” Of course that’s never going to happen.
It’s a wonderful decision to cast the umpteenth example of the Kenobi/Skywalker tension as Anakin wanting to back up Ahsoka to chase down Darth Maul (Sam Witwer) while Obi-Wan of course never forgets their duty to the Republic. Their characters ringing true down to the last possible minute! Maybe Dave Filoni was the one true vergence in the Force all along. Doomed to go through the motions we already know, Anakin & Obi-Wan have to race to Coruscant and save Chancellor Palpatine from General Grievous.
Interesting intersections here that couldn’t have taken place in 2005 include Anakin receiving a call from Fulcrum, a name that was so familiar to me, but I had to look him up to remember that’s old Saw Gerrera from ROGUE ONE, memorably rasped by Forest Whitaker. We also encounter a younger Gar Saxon (Ray Stevenson) of the Crimson Dawn, who will go on to menace our heroes during Sabine Wren’s big Mandalore arc in Season 3 of REBELS.
Part II maintains the massive referential latticework with a Dryden Voss cameo (which is the first time he’s ever appeared outside SOLO? If Filoni had written him a paraphrase of some line Paul Bettany uttered as The Vision, it would have murdered us all right there in our living rooms). Then we have Obi-Wan’s hologram letting us know that Anakin has killed Count Dooku (Corey Burton) and that we’re now about forty minutes into EPISODE III before this show just unabashedly tries to top one of my very favorite and certainly the most bombastic lightsaber battles of all time.
Of course I’m talking about Ahsoka Tano vs. Darth Maul. It’s impossible not to immediately compare it to the latter’s first duel with Qui-Gon Jinn & Obi-Wan at the climax of EPISODE I, and it turns out the animators brought in Ray Park himself to record two days of motion-capture for the fight. That’s an incredible touch. Witwer has knocked his vocal work on Darth Maul out of the park whenever he’s had the chance for the past decade, but Park’s acrobatic and arrogant fighting style provided nearly all of the characterization in that first –and, for years, only– appearance.
But the resolution of this battle is even crazier than that one because, of course, nothing fatal can happen to either of these two worthy adversaries. Instead, Maul reveals Sidious’s plan to Ahsoka. He just straight-up tells her that Anakin is about to turn. The only one who might be able to stop him has advance knowledge of what is about to happen. That’s how you escalate stakes, my Padawan learners. I involuntarily hollered, “GO TO HIM NOW!” at the screen, even though it was 1:00 in the morning and of course there was no chance of that happening.
Part III. At last he reveals himself to the Jedi. Order 66 is executed, and it is as heartbreaking, tragic, and beautifully rendered as possible. But the events leading up to it are just as powerful. We’re so dialed in to the main event now, that the narrative actually jumps back in on that veeeery last Jedi Council call that happens like an hour into EPISODE III where Mace Windu says that the Dark Side surrounds the Chancellor and Yoda (Tom Kane) finishes up with, “To a dark place this line of thought can carry us.”
The first crazy thing on this version is that now it opens with Commander Cody (Dee Bradley Baker, again) dropping in to let us know that Obi-Wan has engaged Grievous on Utapau, big news because that means the war is almost over, then they launch into that aforementioned bit straight from the movie, only then what made me jump up and try to pull down my 60”-inch screen is that Ms. Tano and Rex walk in and catch the end of that, only we (and, crucially, they) don’t see Anakin. I mean, he’s still in the room with Master Windu, right?
Ahsoka has a really incredible nuanced exchange with Yoda about her potential to return as a Jedi, particularly based on what massive events it’s slotted in between, only then Master Windu is abrasive enough that she doesn’t take this one chance to warn the Council about what Maul has said. Think about that for a minute. Filoni builds a direct link between the one who knows what’s coming and can still avert disaster if she will just share her knowledge. But she doesn’t, and the Republic falls from such a small decision. The massive weight she’s carrying later on in REBELS stems directly from this.
There are still so many huge moments in this penultimate episode. Ahsoka and Maul, en route to Coruscant, feel Anakin turn. The order is finally given. Rex manages to resist, as he must, though still managing to shock us by telling Ahsoka to “find Fives,” a callback to the clone in Season 6 who figured out about the inhibitor-chips that make Order 66 involuntary. I totally forgot about Fives. And it just keeps happening. A contingent of droids gets scrambled, including good old R7-A7, Ahsoka’s familiar all this time, but then also a little guy I swear they called Chops, who I figured had to be a very young Chopper from REBELS long before he turned into such a glorious asshole.
I looked him up, and this guy is indeed also a C1 astro-mech, but he’s named CH-33P. Buuuuuut he’s voiced by Filoni, just like Chopper. This is supposed to be him, maybe? Mandalorian Bo-Katan Kryze (Katee Sackhoff) is on hand to provide a moment of mournful homage and continuity back to her sister, poor Satine, Obi-Wan’s lost love. And there’s Ursa Wren (Sharmila Devar), who’s going to give birth to a baby girl named Sabine in the not-too-distant future now. As if that REBELS nod isn’t enough, Ahsoka throws down Chirrut Imwe’s “I am one with the Force . . .” mantra, linking up with one of the best parts of ROGUE ONE. A galaxy of Easter eggs in just this one alone.
But there’s still one episode left.
Part 3 of our Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season 7 retrospective “The Last Shot” coming soon.