It sure is both an exciting and complicated time to be a Star Wars fan. With The Rise of Skywalker still fresh in the memories of fans, and The Mandalorian recently completing its first season, there’s been much divide in Star Wars discourse about the franchise’s quality and consistency across films and series. Whereas The Rise of Skywalker faced some troubling storytelling elements that missed the mark of the ideas presented by The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, the latest and final season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars returns to an area of Star Wars storytelling where it often succeeds best, by bringing smaller, focused, and more personal stories back to the Star Wars forefront.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars began in 2008 and ran until 2014, before being resurrected for one final season exclusively on Disney+ this year. Helmed by Dave Filoni, the series is perhaps the prequel series we never got, presenting far greater and more personable explorations of the legendary Anakin Skywalker, and the complications that led to his descent into darkness. In bringing back the series, the show succeeds at showcasing the smaller ideas that make up the larger universe inhabited by so many beloved characters. The first half of the season chronicles the missions of the clone army along with Anakin, who employ a ragtag team of clones to pursue a rescue mission of a long-lost clone, once believed to be dead. The second half of the season re-introduces us to Ashoka, who, where we last left her, had walked away from the Jedi and everything she has ever known. Following these two stories take the larger characters out of their big-screen adventures and put them on the smaller frontlines of the universe, which is perhaps where this universe should be in the future of Disney Star Wars storytelling.
What makes Star Wars distinctly unique from other franchises is its complex ideas. There are ideas of the true divide between good and evil, and hope in the face of adversity, among other ideas about society, democracy, and hate. These ideas are explored in depth through compelling characters and scenarios, like a wonderfully compelling scene from The Last Jedi in which Finn tells a codebreaker that he’s thankful “he’s stealing from the bad guys and giving to the good guys.” To this, the codebreaker replies; “Good guys, bad guys, [it’s all] made-up words….It’s all a machine, partner. Live free, don’t join.” It’s an exploration that the divide between good and evil are not quite as distinct as Finn thought; this universe is made up of people who profit off war and hate, and often its characters find itself at the forefront without realizing which side they’re on.
The Clone Wars is a great exploration of the deeper corners of the Star Wars universe; in the seasons’ second arc, Ashoka crashes onto a hangar bay in which she is invited to stay by a woman named Trace Martez. Ashoka befriends Trace and her sister Rafa who invite Ashoka aboard their crew. In Trace’s debut episode, Gone With a Trace, she shares her distaste for the Jedi, believing that they are the sole wagers of the ongoing war, and their policing has led to an uncertain and miserable life for people like Trace and her sister. The Clone Wars is not a show that has particularly tackled larger issues in the Star Wars universe beyond its compelling stories from each season, so it is both refreshing and exciting to see the show take the opportunity to return to complicated and deep storytelling that this universe is so great at.
After a mixed conclusion to ‘the Skywalker Saga’, it’s nice to see Star Wars return to great storytelling living up to the quality of Star Wars Rebels and The Mandalorian. The seventh and final season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars has made for a significant and emotional return for the series, and we ecstatically await its thrilling conclusion as we enter the three final episodes, concluding on May 4th, 2020.