This week’s penultimate episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars finally delivered the dreadful moment we’ve all been waiting for. It both completely nailed the landing as well as subverted expectations and pivoted in a completely surprising but ultimately satisfying direction. Aptly titled “Shattered,” this episode brought Ahsoka Tano, Commander Rex, and the rest of the clones on their collision course with Revenge of the Sith and the fallout from Order 66.
A sense of dread permeated the entire first half of the episode and was as tense as the Star Wars saga’s most dire moments thanks in part to some exquisite sound design. In particular, there’s a three-minute segment after Ahsoka and clones have loaded Maul onto their transport ship that plays out without any dialogue. The only sound is the crescendoing music that feels less like John Williams’ classic Star Wars themes and more like some of the moodier sci-fi synth scores of the ‘80s. It does a great job of mirroring the sounds in ROTS as Anakin becomes more desperate to save Padme and edges closer to the darkness.
We then move to Ahsoka and Rex as they join in on a hologram chat immediately following the scene from ROTS when Mace Windu, Yoda, and company decide to act and apprehend Palpatine. This pivotal moment is given new life as Ahsoka comes bearing the good news that she’s apprehended Darth Maul. Between this and Obi-Wan’s impending encounter with General Grievous, it’s heartbreaking to see how hopeful our heroes are that this could be the moment that ends the war.
“The war could be over soon,” is a line delivered with hope, but clouded by such despair. We then see Ahsoka’s hesitance towards sharing what she’s learned about Anakin with Mace and Yoda, which simultaneously acts as a sign of the ongoing love she has for her teacher, her optimism that she’ll be able to talk to him in person again, and the complete failure to communicate with one another. This last bit is the tragic flaw of so much of this story — the pieces of the full puzzle are all there, scattered about among our heroes. Their hesitance to share what they know with one another is ultimately what leads to tragedy.
After spending so much time thinking about how the series might portray Order 66 from Ahsoka’s point of view, the actual result was better than I could’ve imagined. There wasn’t an artificially extended sequence filled with slow-motion reaction shots spread across every major Jedi in the galaxy. Instead, we heard the Emperor give the order, and that was that. For the clones, the decision to turn on the Jedi isn’t a monumental one. It’s in their programming — just a part of their job. They do it with the same emotion that a bartender has when making a drink, a clinical simplicity.
But despite this, Ahsoka isn’t caught completely off guard like her fellow Jedi. Her deep connection with Anakin allows her devastating insight into that crucial moment when he betrays Mace Windu, shuns his old life, and embraces the title of Lord Vader, which plays out wonderfully using the sound of the performances from the actual film. Being privy to this moment allows her to confront the clones head-on, which combined with Rex’s deep-rooted hesitance gives Ahsoka the chance to survive. Deep inside of her, a switch flicks. The way she immediately springs into action, defending against a flurry of blaster fire and cutting a path through the ceiling shows how much of a survivor she’s become.
This survivor’s instinct continues as she makes her way to where Maul is being kept. I really loved how, without any hesitation, she frees the man she had just so recently captured. There’s a great character moment where he talks about how they’re going to be teaming up, and she is quick to correct him that this isn’t a partnership, but rather she needs him as a diversion. Seeing Maul completely unleashed and doing what he does best provides such a satisfying scene. His ability to utterly decimate the clone troopers without even having a lightsaber mirrors that terrifying Darth Vader moment in the final minutes of Rogue One.
The final standout moment in “Shattered” that really helps tie everything together is when the medical droids are having a tough time isolating Rex’s inhibitor chip. This plays out with a ticking clock, as the turned clones come closer and closer to breaching the room. But then, Ahsoka taps into the Force and cements her bond with Rex by saying those familiar words from Rogue One, “I am one with the Force, and the Force is with me.”
Despite so much of Star Wars being about destiny and prophecy and lineage, ultimately The Clone Wars shuns this idea of determinism in favor of having characters like Ahsoka and Rex be capable of forging their own paths through their own actions. And despite how heartbreaking it is to witness Order 66 from this new perspective, seeing these two survive amidst such terrifying times is a beautiful moment. From a certain point of view, one could even say it’s hopeful.