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Illustration for article titled iStar Wars: The Clone Wars /ipenultimate episodei /iunleashes a new, self-reliant Ahsoka
Image: Disney (Disney Plus Press Site)
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There is a tremendous amount of silence in “Shattered.” Sure, there’s Kiner’s pulsating, ominous score that surges throughout the episode. And sure, there’s plenty of dialogue–mostly about clarity (on what to do and where to go next), regret (Bo-Katan’s weariness of the causalities and commodities of war, including the device that holds Maul), or relationships (her friendship with Rex, her distrust of the Jedi Council, her dislike for Maul). Between those brief moments, though, are silence-filled seriousness. Characters watch men and women pick each other up from the rubble. Soldiers stand guard as Maul’s entrapment is loaded onto the ship. Glances and looks and stares fill this episode, allowing characters to fully take in everything that has occurred. There is a sense that things are almost over, that things will settle, and that things will change. We know all too well they will; the wonder in how Ahsoka will react and respond.

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I was actually surprised that Order 66 occurs here; of course, there’s only two more episodes to go, so The Clone Wars has to really work to get right up to the end of Revenge of the Sith and position itself for Star Wars Rebels. Prior to that moment, a sense of dread fills the episode, partly because of that incredible score, but partly because the specific rhythms of the first half “Shattered” resembles that of the opening minutes of a horror film. A certain nervous calm float around our protagonists against the atmosphere of sadness and death around them. There’s a relief that Maul has been caught but an eerie mood hangs over every passing moment. Maul himself, trapped in that strange, cold containment device, stares outward: his blank, darting eyes just seem to be waiting. Long before those voices fill Ahsoka’s head, the audience can surmise those same voices echoing in his. We’re trained to expect Maul to escape (especially the shot from his perspective, watching Ahsoka and Rex talk). Something is going to happen. It comes from an unexpected, yet totally expected, place.

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Ahsoka has a single moment re-affirming her companionship with Rex before all hell breaks loose. In a snap, Rex has been put under the thrall of Order 66. He drops his helmet. With all the remaining will he can muster, he demands Ahsoka find out about Fives before succumbing. Ahsoka has no idea what’s happening, but if she can take down Maul, she can hold her own against a batch of clone soldiers. This episode calls back to one of the show’s strongest outing–“Brain Invaders”–and that horror-themed episode also had Ahsoka trapped on a ship avoiding mind controlled clone troopers. Then she was a bit more naive. She saved the day, but she spent a lot time running, hiding, scared. Here, she’s extremely confused, but absolutely resolute and in control. She incredibly withstands an onslaught of clone fire, then frees Maul–literally only so he can be a distraction. She even tells him she doesn’t care if he lives or dies. She makes choices–direct, singular ones–and executes them with stealth, smarts, and skills.

Illustration for article titled iStar Wars: The Clone Wars /ipenultimate episodei /iunleashes a new, self-reliant Ahsoka
Image: Disney (Disney Plus Press Site)

Ahsoka commandeers a few droids for assistance. As she uses them to open doors and access information, Maul rips through the clone soldiers on his own. One horror against another. It provides Ahsoka the time she needs to find info on Fives, and Rex’s grievance about the whole incident involving CT-5555. (Starting with “The Unknown” in season six, there’s a fairly dark story arc in which a defective clone attacks a Jedi. Fives inspects said clone’s mind and finds the chip that responds to Order 66, then grows crazy trying to convince everyone something bad will happen, becomes a fugitive, and is killed before convincing anyone. It’s truly tragic–a proto-Maul if you will–but within a more grounded, loyal character within a 70s-era, paranoid-thriller template.) More quick thinking and quick reactions allows her to stun Rex and inspect his brain as clone soldiers close in on them. Nothing exemplifies Ahsoka’s newfound self-discovery than using on the Force to find that chip in Rex’s brain (Ahsoka has been reluctant to use the Force ever since she was hanging out with the Martez sisters). “I am one with the Force and the Force is with me” is so meaningful now. The soldiers blast their way through the door. Ahsoka fights as long as she can, but before she’s overwhelmed–Rex awakens and lends a hand. His chip removed, he and Ahsoka can’t even exchange pleasantries. Rex can only tell her the true horror: every clone soldier will be ordered to hunt Jedi–right before those blast doors surge with the torches of another batch of incoming troopers. Rex and Ahsoka are trapped–not just here, but in the entire universe that’s falling apart beyond their recognition and understanding.

There’s one more episode left. Truly judging this entire arc ultimately comes down to if they can stick the landing, but so far The Clone Wars final episodes have been escalating levels of excellence in all aspects: score, animation, writing, blocking, voice acting, directing and visuals. I have no idea if, come this Monday, May the Fourth, what will happen. I’m looking forward to it.

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Stray observations

  • In the last review, a number of commenters disagreed with the issues I had with The Clone Wars’ tendency to re-iterate the saga of Star Wars–that I seemed bored or frustrated with the episode attempting to re-contextualize the parts of Star Wars we already know will happen as ominous, foreboding tension. I read through your comments, and many very valid points were made, but I still stand by how I feel. I think my issue primarily stems from the fact that it all comes from, and weighs on, Maul, who–as I mention in that review–I still feel is ultimately a weak character who just too just outside the Star Wars narrative to count. He’s a villain too, and Sam Witwer is fantastic, but I can’t muster up any real engagement into him and his “tragic” downfall. Someone compared all this to Better Call Saul. I love Better Call Saul. But that show is at its shakiest when it winks heavily to its Breaking Bad future, and its at its best when it focuses on the tension and chaos of its “now” (ie, what happens to Kim, Lalo, and Nacho). If that all worked for you, excellent! We probably will have to agree to disagree there. I gave the episode an A- so whatever issues I had there did little to disrupt how great the episode was overall.
  • On that note, Ahsoka is the Kim of The Clone Wars.
Illustration for article titled iStar Wars: The Clone Wars /ipenultimate episodei /iunleashes a new, self-reliant Ahsoka
Image: Disney (Disney Plus Press Site)
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  • We see Ursa Wren standing next to Bo-Katan for a brief shot. If I remember/summarize the details, Bo-Katan becomes regent as the Republic maintains the peace on Mandalore–but Order 66 occurs and the Republic becomes the Empire. Refusing to bow down the that regime, Bo-Katan was forced to abdicate and Gar Saxon became regent. This will be the point that Star Wars Rebels jumps in, with Sabine reaching out to Ursa, her mother, for assistance in the rebellion, only to find out Ursa kowtows to Saxon and the Empire. There’s more to that story–watch Rebels to find out the rest! (Or read my past reviews *wink*.)
  • I think the droids that helped Ahsoka out were from “The Void” story arc, Starting with “Secret Weapons.” There’s nothing redeeming about that arc, so their assistance here must be their redemption.
  • I would love to see a mini-web series of how various Jedi across the universe dealt with the immediate execution of Order 66. We broadly know about Kanan’s mentor, and we see the various glimpses of them in Revenge of the Sith, but more detailed, specific stories of the event would be kind of cool to witness.
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Contributor, The A.V. Club, with a clear preference for all things cartoons; check out his main blog at http://www.totalmediabridge.com.

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