“Victory and Death” was the proper conclusion that The Clone Wars has always craved, and it went out in a way that was as action-packed, as cinematic, and as quintessentially Star Wars as anyone could have hoped.
This recap of Star Wars: The Clone Wars season 7, episode 12, “Victory and Death”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
The seventh season finale, the last ever episode of The Clone Wars, relies on a single dramatic question: Will Ahsoka Tano (Ashley Eckstein) and Captain Rex (Dee Bradley Baker) survive Order 66? Of course, anyone who saw Star Wars Rebels, in which the both featured, already knew the answer. That’s the popular argument against prequel stories in general, as some people posit, obviously incorrectly, that knowing the outcome ahead of time ruins the suspense of the moment. But Star Wars, much like life, isn’t about the destination so much as the journey, and The Clone Wars has always known that the best journeys feature a decimated Star Destroyer plummeting through a planet’s atmosphere.
“Victory and Death” concluded not just The Clone Wars but also its four-part Siege of Mandalore arc, which on reflection is probably the best – and certainly the most cinematic – multi-episode story that this show has ever told. Nothing about it, plot-wise, was all that surprising, but it constantly shocked in its ability to maintain tension and render an explosive climax at a wonderfully expensive-looking scale. Despite knowing that Ahsoka, Rex, and indeed Maul (Sam Witwer) would be perfectly fine, I never stopped teetering right on the edge of my seat.
And that’s all that matters, isn’t it? On some level that’s all this franchise has ever been about. It’s a big, silly space adventure with proudly uncomplicated moral idealism and laser swords and cool aliens. “Victory and Death” flaunted those things so proudly and efficiently that you can’t help but respect it. “The Phantom Apprentice” was better, sure, because it was grander and more operatic and had that amazing lightsabre duel, but Ahsoka fighting to spare the lives of the clone troopers while Maul casually tore through them with the Force was such a pure distillation of the longstanding Light/Dark dichotomy that this finale stands as one of the most quintessentially Star Wars things in absolutely ages.
And it was all for naught, of course, since the Star Destroyer plunged into the planet’s surface and there’s no indication anywhere that anyone but Ahsoka and Rex survived the crash. Ahsoka hasn’t been a Jedi for a while, but her arc from leaving the Order to now has been about disillusionment; learning that merely claiming moral superiority doesn’t necessarily give you the high ground, and that even when you have the high ground it doesn’t always constitute a victory. Trying to save the lives of the troopers who have repeatedly given their lives for her across seven seasons was Ahsoka engaging with the very fabric of Star Wars; they all dying anyway was a reminder of how that fabric is a fantasy incompatible with the real world. A harsh lesson, but one the series has given again and again.
That idea of stories told and re-told and lessons learned and re-learned underpins Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season 7, Episode 12. Anakin’s fall to the Dark Side and transition into Darth Vader was inevitable; Order 66 had to be executed; that Star Destroyer had to crash. We had to see Imperialism crush democracy so its totalitarian heel could grind the seeds of rebellion into the ground. We had to see Vader survey the wreckage and Ahsoka’s lightsabre, and see his ominous reflection gradually fade away in the visor of a clone trooper’s helmet. One era transitions to the next. The story goes on. And this one, after years of uncertainty, finally got to end.
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