The end is here.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars is known for many things. The animation has grown and is breathtakingly cinematic in its final four episodes. The action sequences are fantastic and rival the animation. They sometimes exceed what the live-action installments in the franchise have given us. But the most important contribution of Clone Wars is that it finally provided all the triumph, the heartbreak, and the emotional turmoil that the prequels had promised us. We knew that the Republic would succumb to militarization and become the Empire. We knew Anakin Skywalker (Matt Lanter) would become Darth Vader. We knew that the Jedi Order would die out. The prequels shocked in several moments, but this era of Star Wars has never quite punched the gut like these past four episodes have. The tragedy is finally and truly felt. The chapter on this era of Star Wars has come to a proper close.
“Victory and Death” operates very much like a coda to “Shattered,” showcasing through some thrilling and harrowing action sequences the despairing lengths to which Ahsoka (Ashley Eckstein) and Rex (Dee Bradley Baker) have to go to in order to escape Order 66 with their lives intact. The heroism the two display in their fight to survive is nothing short of incredible and if Ahsoka somehow had not already established herself as one of the most powerful users of the Force, she does so with aplomb here. The action sequences, aside from the incredible animation and excellent scoring by Kevin Kiner, benefit heavily from the emotional underpinning of what Ahsoka and Rex are going through.
The two, as they discussed in the previous episode, were formed by war. Their understanding of the world around them was influenced by finding moments of care in the midst of violence. That suddenly now the violence was coming from the people who, before Order 66, would die for them and vice versa, is heartbreaking. Ashoka in one moment removes Rex’s helmet to see his grief and exhaustion. She knows what he is feeling – the imagery of clones wearing helmets honouring her while trying to kill her is prominent in her mind as well. But she makes a point that in the face of this horrific violence, it was their responsibility to mitigate it to the best degree they could. The Clone Wars had shaped them beyond what they could have ever imagined, but they couldn’t allow the wars to consume them.
That the clones aboard the ship all died anyway is tragic. The image of Rex and Ahsoka in robes standing in front of a graveyard of clones, all of whom they buried, is haunting. It’s a graveyard of soldiers bred, grown, and killed in the name of militarism, the sacrifice of democracy, and the unspoken rise of an Empire. Rex and Ahsoka never gave into the reasonable hatred they could have felt after nearly dying at the hands of the clones. The fact that they didn’t is a testament to the power of their characters. Their shared ability to see the larger tragedy at hand and not give into it demonstrates their compassion. Ashoka looks upon the graves once more and then at her lightsaber, a weapon she wielded to hurt, to survive, and to hold as a symbol of her relationship with Anakin. She then drops it on the ground. The move signals that she is dead in case people come hunting for her, but it also represents that Ahsoka is moving away from the war the lightsaber symbolizes. She didn’t need the Jedi Order to be at one with the Force. She doesn’t need the lightsaber, either.
The final scene is stirring, like a haunting and poignant winter painting. Darth Vader walks upon the now snowy ground, coming upon the wreckage in which Ahsoka Tano was assumed to have been killed. He bends over lightly dusts the snow off Ahsoka’s lightsaber. He ignites it briefly and looks up at the sky, where Morai is circling above the wreckage. He quietly walks away with Ahsoka’s lightsaber in hand, his shadow reflected in the snow-buried helmet of a clone trooper with Ahsoka’s face painting slowly fading away. He walks away from the clones, from Ahsoka, and from himself. The tragedy comes full circle in Vader walking away from the clones, from Ahsoka, and from himself.
+ That chorus opening.
+ The abundance of stunning shots in this episode alone is off the charts.
+ The first stormtroopers in Clone Wars animation!
+ “They may be willing to die, but I am not the one who is going to kill them.”
+ Droids getting the respect they deserve.
+ The dust and bruises on Ahsoka and Rex were great details.
+ If these four episodes are released as a feature film in a time that is not this summer or fall, I would go see them. Get that Best Animated Feature Oscar nomination, Star Wars!
+ Take a bow, cast and crew.