'Star Wars: The Clone Wars' Season 7, Episode 11 Review: A haunting, surreal build-up to a chilling betrayal
The episode finally sees Order 66 come into play, and the final moments before everything changes are heartbreaking
Prequel stories face some difficult challenges, especially in a story as deeply mined as the 'Star Wars' franchise. It can be hard to establish series-ending stakes when audiences already know the outcome of what's happened. Telling new stories that are consistent with established canon is its own snowballing risk, with every new detail threatening to invalidate something from the original stories. With these challenges, however, also come certain opportunities - and this episode of 'The Clone Wars' takes full advantage of them.
The most haunting scenes from last week's episode were Darth Maul's (Sam Witwer) warnings of the danger that was to come. Most of the 'Star Wars' fandom know what's coming - they've been waiting for the other shoe to drop. They've been waiting for almost twelve years. The first half of this episode is spent doing nothing but building up that dread. The music comes into play in a big way for the first half of this episode. It is haunting, and slow, building up the tension perfectly. The characters on screen have no idea what's coming, making the inevitable Order 66 that much more surreal.
Ahsoka Tano's (Ashley Eckstein) last scene with Rex (Dee Bradley Baker) before the Force Vision of Cameos hits and the order drops is especially heartbreaking. The movies saw the clones as little more than tools, but 'The Clone Wars' has put a lot of work into humanizing the clone troopers in a way that makes their switch all the more tragic. Rex and Ahsoka aren't just fellow soldiers—they're friends. Minutes after they salute each other out of fondness, respect, and the first hope that the war may be ending, a brainwashed Rex tries to shoot Ahsoka dead.
Aside from Rex himself, there is zero resistance shown in the clones to Order 66. It's as if they've known all along that they were to slaughter the Jedi Council on charges of treason, and that every loyal action they'd ever performed is a lie. It's disorienting, how completely and unquestioningly they accept their new orders. The contingent of clones under Ahsoka's command hunt her down even as they wear her markings on their helmets, which only last episode was used to show their loyalty to her. It's a cruel and twisted mockery that happens alarmingly fast, despite how much the show has built up this switch.
The second half of the episode isn't quite as gripping as its first, as some time is devoted to explaining to people who have only seen 'Clone Wars' exactly what's happening. The strength of these final episodes lies in treating the show as if the audience knows what is happening, and why, and the explanation slows the episode down and undercuts its own tension. What's more, it's evident that this episode was meant to be watched along with this season's 12th and final episode, as the ending feels a little abrupt.
Fortunately, the wait won't be long, as the final episode releases on 'Star Wars' Day, on Monday instead of the show's regular Fridays. 'The Clone Wars' has done brilliant work with the constraints it was given, and episodes like this are a strong example of just how prequels should be done.
The next episode of 'Star Wars: The Clone Wars' airs May 4 on Disney+.