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Star Wars: The Clone Wars Episode 7.09: “Old Friends Not Forgotten” Review

Star Wars: The Clone Wars series finale is upon us and what a beginning of the end it is. The team knows what they have here, what they need to do, and that recognition of that is thoroughly apparent.

The opening title card is quite different and an homage to classic Lucasfilms. The logo text is back to red, and the opening music harkens back to the classic opening that first blared out of cinema speakers way back in 1977. As an added bonus, the episode applies John William’s famed musical motifs at just the right moments. And for those paying attention, references from Star Wars’ official canon are weaved in throughout the episode without feeling forced.

The opening sequence is classic Star Wars, even as the action mechanics are a little implausible. Anakin (Matt Lanter) is his usual, cocky self. Obi-Wan (James Arnold Taylor) perfectly balances the behaviour out with caution and dry sarcasm. The chemistry on display is some of the very best of what we have seen from these two. The looming tragedy of this opening hits you hard when you realize halfway through the episode that we are now, timeline-wise, at the beginning of Revenge of the Sith. As they laugh at their blasting past the Separatist forces on this bridge on Yerbana, they receive a quick call from Admiral Yularen (Tom Kane). Someone named Fulcrum is sending them a message, and they need to hear it.

The moment when Anakin sees Ahsoka’s (Ashley Eckstein) hologram is genuinely emotional. His cockiness immediately washes away into a stutter, surprise, and an emotional response at seeing his Padawan back in the flesh. He’s so happy to see her that he can barely contain it, but as they interact, it slowly dawns on him that Ahsoka has grown without him. It’s the small moment people feel when their children or students start coming into their own. Ashoka is more assertive, confidant, and unabashed than she was when Anakin knew her, and it takes him a minute to adjust.

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The Jedi Order threw Ahsoka her under the bus. And her time away from the Jedi Order along with her experience with the Martez sisters has altered her view of the Order and how it makes decisions. When Obi-Wan announces that they have to protect the Chancellor from General Grievous’s (Matthew Wood) surprise attack on Coruscant, it raises Ahsoka’s eyebrows. Her point of view isn’t entirely right – there are civilians like the Martez sisters on Coruscant who will be impacted by Grievous’s invasion – but she does have a point when she questions if the Jedi Order is driven by the political desire to protect the Chancellor. It’s an imperfect point but, it raises the question of what the Jedi Order is committed to. How has being drawn deep into this war altered their commitments?

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The compromise is that Ahsoka and now Commander Rex (Dee Bradley Baker) will lead their own contingent to Mandalore while everyone else goes to Coruscant. Anakin’s departing gift to Ahsoka is her new and improved lightsabers, a token she is going to need if she’s going to take on Maul (Sam Witwer).

 In just a couple of scenes, the episode does a fantastic job of showing how far Ahsoka has grown from being a mentee to being Anakin’s peer – he may be her former Master, but their level of growth is closer to each other than either anticipated at the start of their relationship. “Good luck” is the last thing Ahsoka says to Anakin as the two exchange a poignant smile. The audience knows that that is the last time that Anakin and Ahsoka would see each other before his downfall.

The action set pieces on Mandalore are stunning to behold. The dynamic camera movement, fluid animation, and the crisp choreography are outstanding. Ashoka, the warrior, is in top form here. Watching her slash through jetpacks with her lightsaber and crash-land in a power pose with explosions behind her was thrilling. If you stood up from your couch and cheered at the top of your voice, I wouldn’t blame you.

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But the end of the episode sees Ahsoka walking right into a trap. Maul may have wanted to come face-to-face with Obi-Wan, but he finds Ahsoka instead. And now the audience waits for the end game with bated breath.

Notes:
+ Package these four episodes as a theatrical release, you cowards.

+ The bulk of the series’ financial resources appear to have gone into this final arc. The animation of Ahsoka, Obi-Wan, and General Grievous looks phenomenal.
+ That moment when Ahsoka sees that the clones painted their helmets as a sign of respect for her brought me to tears, and I knew it was coming.
+ We’re totally going to get a revisit of Order 66, right? Dammit.
+ The excited R2-D2 beep when he sees Ahsoka!
+ Ahsoka’s reunion mirrors her introduction.
+ Fulcrum!
+ Anakin’s shifting expressions towards Ahsoka were superb.
+ “Loyalty means everything to the clones.”
+ Name drop: Shaak Ti was sent to protect the Chancellor.
+ Visual drop: Depa Billaba and young Kanan.

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