If the first of the four-part series finale of Star Wars: The Clone Wars is any indication, the Siege of Mandalore is shaping up to be the best Star Wars movie since 2017’s The Last Jedi. It’s immediately clear that the slower pace and relatively low stakes of the first eight episodes of this final season were a means of setting the table for this finale that unites our beloved heroes and villains on their destined collision course.
Everything from the episode’s stellar animation and exhilarating presentation to how it sets up the start of Revenge of the Sith works so effectively both for hardcore fans of the series and just on a dramatic level. The Clone Wars has always been about knowing the exact destination but discovering out how we get there, and that mantra is paying off in spades with the Siege of Mandalore.
Right from the get-go, there’s something that feels special about the way the opening of the four-episode arc is presented. We’re first greeted with the words “A Lucasfilm Limited Production,” which is a departure from the openings of the 100+ episodes that came before it. And instead of the brief Clone Wars anthem, we get hit with the full impact of the classic Star Wars opening, complete with John Williams’ iconic score. But instead of the regal yellow that we’ve come to know and recognize since 1977, it’s a stark red, both representative of Darth Maul as well as the impending bloodshed that we all know is coming. We then see the words “Part I — Old Friends Not Forgotten.”
The Clone Wars has always been told in these kinds of multi-episode arcs, but the way this one is being framed truly does seem like the four episodes, each one slightly longer than a traditional series episode, are meant to gel together as one single film. It’s a fitting way for the series to conclude, considering how 2008’s Star Wars: The Clone Wars theatrical film was both conceived and constructed.
The montage during the opening narration effectively places several recognizable Jedi at the locations where the tragedy of Order 66 will inevitably take their lives. We see Plo Koon flying over Cato Neimoidia and Aayla Secura on the ground of Felucia, both flanked by their trusty clone trooper companions who will soon turn on them.
I’d been curious to see just how close these final episodes would get to the events of Revenge of the Sith. Now it’s becoming clear that not only have we reached the opening of the film, but Ahsoka’s journey is going to run parallel with the events of Episode III. This opening montage also gives us an incredibly brief shot of a young Jedi Padawan standing next to his master, Depa Billaba. Fans of Star Wars Rebels will recognize this as a young Kanan Jarrus, who manages to survive the mass executions of Order 66. All of this gels together to give an air of importance to this final arc.
It’s remarkable that the wealth of Easter eggs and relevant nods for long-time Star Wars fans all occur in the opening minute of the episode. It’s as if the creative team wanted to make up for the sometimes-meandering pace of the previous two arcs by immediately tossing us into the deep end of this final push.
This forward momentum continues in the episode’s first full scene, which features an incredible mix of character moments and action that intertwine to show just how tight-knit Anakin, Obi-Wan, Commander Cody, Captain Rex, and the rest of the clone troopers have become. Obi-Wan’s heroism in saving Cody from a fatal blast, Anakin’s audacious plan to strut right up to the droid army that’s reminiscent of what his son Luke would later do on Crait at the end of The Last Jedi, and Captain Rex and his troopers acting on the plan and turning the tide of the battle all show that if it weren’t for the tragedy of Order 66, they could’ve actually won this war together.
It’s also fitting that this opening scene takes place on a bridge. Not only does it resemble the Golden Gate Bridge, which connects San Francisco to Marin County, home of Skywalker Ranch, but it also solidifies this final arc as the last piece of the bridge between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. No other period of Star Wars has been chronicled as widely and throughout as many mediums as The Clone Wars, and we’re now witnessing this expansive connection between the two films finally come to fruition.
As for Ahsoka’s story, watching her reunite with Anakin is one of the most bittersweet moments we’ve ever seen in The Clone Wars. The two of them have so much to say to one another but are saving it for when they reunite. But we know from Star Wars Rebels this isn’t going to happen for quite some time, and when it does, it will be Darth Vader that Ahsoka speaks to. It’s also great to see her character’s growth in action. When Anakin and Obi-Wan are torn away from the mission to liberate Mandalore from Darth Maul to instead return to Coruscant to rescue Chancellor Palpatine from General Grievous, Ahsoka admonishes them for making the political choice as opposed to the morally right one, something she reinforced from her time with the Martez sisters earlier on this season.
Once the episode makes its way to Mandalore itself, we’re treated to not only some of the best action set pieces ever seen on The Clone Wars, but genuinely some of the most exciting in the entire Star Wars saga. Reunited with her pair of lightsabers, Ahsoka deftly leaps from ship to ship, eventually pulling off a superhero landing on the planet while the flames of a crashed cruiser rise behind her. This feels like one of those iconic Jedi moments that stands alongside some of the best that the films have given us. The timing of this final arc is also strengthened by the newfound knowledge we have of how the proud race of warriors fights thanks to The Mandalorian.
It’s interesting to compare the success of this opening episode to the stumbling first act of 2019’s The Rise of Skywalker. That film dragged us back and forth across the galaxy without any clear sense of grounding or stakes, introducing brand new elements without explanation and failing to clearly define the motivation or goals of the characters we’d come to love. Thankfully none of these problems exist within this episode: It’s made clear exactly where we are and why we’re there at all times, each character has a clear reason to be on their given path, and the tension comes from everyone’s personal sense of duty pulling them in different directions, not some strange MacGuffin and the sudden reveal that a villain from 30 years ago is back. With this opening of the Siege of Mandalore arc, The Clone Wars has kicked off the beginning of the end in remarkable fashion. If the high bar set by “Old Friends Not Forgotten” is any indication, these four episodes are going to become required viewing in any rewatch of the Star Wars saga.