Here we are. The final episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. For the last 12 years, we’ve been offered small windows into the three year gap of time the Clone Wars occupied. The other episodes took place firmly between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, but for the last few episodes, the timeline has crossed over into the events of Episode III with heartbreaking consequences as we watch Ahsoka Tano (and Rex) navigate the perils of the Sith Grand Plan as it culminates in Order 66. “Victory and Death,” like all of the episodes in this arc, was written by Dave Filoni and he has given us one of the best installments of Star Wars ever made. Let’s dive in deeper, one last time.
This episode sees a contingent of the 501st legion doing everything they can to prevent Ahsoka and Rex from leaving the ship and surviving into the Dark Times. Since Rex had his inhibitor chip removed in the last episode, the remaining clones, many still bearing the helmet markings of Ahsoka Tano, are led by Jesse.
This is a particularly heartbreaking choice, especially as Jesse was one of the clones who fought at the Battle of Umbara and was, himself, scheduled to be executed for treason. When the Besalisk Jedi Pong Krell succumbed to the dark side he continued to command clones, refusing to believe in their inherent worth as individuals. He sent them to the slaughterhouse of battle with reckless abandon. When some clones, including Jesse, decided they could come up with a better plan to turn the tide of the battle and went on a renegade mission, Krell had them scheduled for execution. The episodes ought to be checked out, the first was directed by the legendary Walter Murch, and they take on a tone of Stanley Kubrick’s Paths of Glory.
Jesse knows what injustice looks like and he knows what betrayal of a Jedi looks like. Nothing he’s seen in this arc is that, which makes his militant hewing to Order 66 all the more heartbreaking. The Jedi gave the clones their humanity and individualism and helped them learn right from wrong and Sidious took that all away from them all over again.
Sure, the rest of the episode is a tragedy as it unfolds, but the subtle inclusion of Jesse highlights an even larger tragedy. The clones were victims and couldn’t help it.
Star Wars Rebels tied up a lot of loose ends from the era of The Clone Wars and, in many ways, one of Kanan Jarrus’s key growth arcs was healing from the trauma of Order 66 and the Clone Wars. But this episode has much more direct ties to that series.
The first you may notice is one of the droids: CH-33P (or Cheep as they’re called.) This is a similar model of astromech to Chopper (C1-10P), replete with sensor dish on the top of its head. Like Chopper, Cheep is also voiced by Dave Filoni.
The second you’ll notice is that Ahsoka ends her time on this series much the same way as she did on Star Wars Rebels. At the end of Rebels, Ahsoka is shrouded in a white cloak, ready to head on to the next phase of her journey, whatever that may be. Here, she ends shrouded in a gray cloak, leaving behind her lightsabers and looking toward that next phase of her life. Unfortunately, we don’t know what happened to Ahsoka after Rebels, but we do know what happens to her after The Clone Wars thanks to E.K. Johnston’s wonderful book Ahsoka. The color of her cloak is also meaningful coming from a Lord of the Rings nerd like Dave Filoni. He’s often tied Ahsoka to Gandalf in his own fan art and it’s no mistake that here at the end of her adolescense and the end of The Clone Wars, with so much to learn, she’s more akin to Gandalf the Grey and at the end of Rebels, her cloak is white, signifying an elevation of her station, just as Gandalf did after he passed through the shadow.
The last, most subtle reference to Rebels is incredibly esoteric and it’s blink if you miss it, but on that show, every time the Force is at work and the presence of Ahsoka is felt, there’s a convor. A convor is just a bird, but as his work has developed in animation, Dave Filoni has used them almost like Marvel’s The Watcher. “In some ways, I could say that it’s a messenger, it’s an observer,” he once told Eric Goldman when he was at IGN.
And what better moment would there be to observe than the moment that Darth Vader, neé Anakin Skywalker, learns of the apparent death of his padawan?
There are debates about who or what the convor represents, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was representative of Qui-Gon Jinn and the Jedi of time’s past. It would have been nice to see one on Malachor at the end to further tie the saga together.
Naturally, the most shocking moment of the finale is the appearance of Darth Vader. This version of Vader is notable because it maintains the red lenses in his helmet from A New Hope and you can practically see the Anakin Skywalker model behind the lenses. There’s definitely an eye.
As far as when this moment happens on the timeline, it’s not quite clear, but we have a lot of clues. I wouldn’t be surprised if this slots into the timeline after Vader sensed Ahsoka’s presence in Rebels, or even after his confrontation with her. We know that it’s at least some time after Revenge of the Sith and the second volume of Darth Vader comics from Marvel as he has on his belt his classic red light saber.
The final shot, with Vader reflected in the helmet of the Ahsoka-painted clone helmet, is battered with wear from a long time in the weather as well. The monuments to the clones that Rex and Ahsoka erected, quiet penance for their murder, have all fallen over with time.
Wherever this moment with Vader fits on the timeline, it’s a haunting moment that will live forever in the minds of Star Wars fans as one of the most indelible images from the mythology.
Victory and Death
Perhaps the most striking thing about this episode is that it gave Ahsoka many choices to make and she made the right choice every time. One could practically hear Palpatine scream “You must choose” as Ahsoka had to make the decision between saving Rex or recapturing Maul. She also tried to immobilize the clones that bore her markings as non-lethally as possible, though that became moot as the ship crashed and only she and Rex made it out. Her discarding her lightsaber at the end is similar to Luke’s decision to cast his away in Return of the Jedi, and this moments builds all the way to The Last Jedi.
Every decison she made was a testament to the person she became because of the training of her master and the other masters around her. Anakin had all of that innate good in him. His fall wasn’t inevitable, he had a choice to make. As Palpatine chided him to choose, he did. But he chose poorly.
He didn’t have to, though. And his padawan, with many of his same faults, was able to navigate waters just as murky and come out on the side of right and light.
A bright spot at the end of a dark time.
Just like this entire series documenting the conflict that brought an end to the Jedi Knights and freedom in the galaxy.
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