by @holocronJosh and @holocronGeorge for @sw_holoron
The penultimate episode of The Clone Wars traded much of the series’ hallmark action for one of the most emotionally impactful installments of the show yet. “Shattered” picks up where “The Phantom Apprentice” left off, with Ahsoka, having captured Maul, transporting the former Sith apprentice and leader of Mandalore back to Coruscant. However, things don’t pan out the way Ahsoka intends as Darth Sidious’ grand scheme for galactic domination is finally actualized.
Whereas last week’s predominant theme was tension and suspense, this week definitely prioritizes a sense of dread and impending doom, akin to Revenge of the Sith. There’s a disturbing ‘calm before the storm’ sort of feeling that permeates every scene of this episode before the execution of Order 66. Tense moments of silence and the removal of any background score in several key scenes throughout this episode, in addition to what the audience already knows regarding the unfolding of Palpatine’s plan, fosters this palpable sense of dread that shows The Clone Wars excel when it takes a step back from action set-pieces and funny one-liners.
This sense of dread is infused into the first moments of the episode, with Ahsoka transporting Maul and preparing his delivery to Coruscant. Although they have succeeded and Mandalore has been liberated, Ahsoka senses something is wrong, especially in light of the ominous conversation she had with Maul in the previous episode. Something doesn’t feel right about all of this and the episode does a great job carrying an ominous, suspenseful tone throughout. It is during the aftermath of Maul’s capture that we see Ahsoka say goodbye to Bo-Katan. The transformation from enemies to friends is a theme common throughout Star Wars and how this theme was applied to Ahsoka and Bo-Katan’s relationship was particularly interesting over the course of The Clone Wars. With Bo-Katan’s Clone Wars arc presumably concluding here, it sets the stage nicely for her introduction in Star Wars Rebels. More broadly, this episode subtly set up Mandalore’s role in the Imperial era very well. As the planet has been devastated by coup d’états and internal conflict throughout the Clone Wars, the people of Mandalore look devastated and fatigued by the end of this latest siege. With Republic presence on the planet at this time and the fact that the Republic transitions into the Empire shortly after the Siege of Mandalore, the Empire’s control of Mandalore seems to logically follow.
Upon saying goodbye to Bo-Katan, Ahsoka participates in what may be one of the most interesting parts of the entire episode. The audience is given a retelling of the scene from Revenge of the Sith in which Mace, Yoda, Ki-Adi Mundi, and Aayla Secura discuss their suspicions of the Chancellor. While this scene concludes in Revenge of the Sith after discussing this, the scene in The Clone Wars continues as Ahsoka walks in the room and recounts the proceedings on Mandalore. With the exception of novelizations and adaptations, this is one of the few times throughout Star Wars canon that we see the same moment told in different mediums. It was really cool to see the conversation between the Jedi Council members unfold and then have Ahsoka introduced into the mix, which will surely add to subsequent viewings of Revenge of the Sith. This moment was great in highlighting some of the flaws of the Jedi. In particular, Mace’s demeaning attitude toward Ahsoka and unwillingness to listen to her or apologize for their previous actions demonstrates some of the hypocrisy and distorted selflessness that drove Anakin to the dark side. Scenes like this add so much complexity to the Jedi Order in showing that the war is not black-and-white and that the Jedi’s blindness, hubris and arrogance (things Luke spoke of in The Last Jedi) were partially to blame for the destruction of the Order and rise of the Empire. This scene also offered more insight into the Council’s suspicions of Palpatine. The extent to which the Jedi are aware of Darth Sidious’ plan to play both the Republic and Separtists off against each other and, ultimately, their knowledge of Sidious’ real identity is left ambiguous in the prequels. This episode and other moments throughout the series really cement the fact that the Jedi Council genuinely held well-founded suspicions regarding Palpatine being Sidious. And, if it wasn’t for Mace’s arrogance in this scene, it is possible Ahsoka could have provided them with valuable insights regarding her discoveries about Sidious. This scene concluded with a more solemn moment between Ahsoka and Yoda regarding Anakin. It’s a heartbreaking point at which Yoda clearly feels deeply sorry for Ahsoka’s departure from the Order, but is still willing to support her and be a fatherly presence to her when speaking of Anakin.
It is when Ahsoka begins transporting Maul back to Coruscant that the episode really pulls some of its strongest emotional punches. The moments leading up to the execution of Order 66 are beyond ominous – they are haunting. The silence aboard the ship, the lack of conversation, and absence of music all add to this feeling. The conversation Rex and Ahsoka have regarding the validity of the war soon after is one of the best sequences in the episode. Rex’s discussion on the Clones’ conflicting feelings regarding the war is so powerful and shows the audience just how well the show has developed the Clones from beyond the mindless, identical soldiers we initially saw in Attack of the Clones. Rex continues to play a major part with the proceeding events as Order 66 is executed, kicked off by an amazing subtle shaking and drop of Rex’s helmet. It was great to see Rex try to fight his programming at first and give Ahsoka the slimmest of clues necessary for her to begin uncovering what’s really going on. With John Williams’ score from Revenge of the Sith playing in the background, the aftermath of Order 66 was emotional to watch as Ahsoka had to fight the very people she once saw as friends.
Following this, Ahsoka’s brief collaboration with Maul as a way to save Rex and escape this situation was so entertaining to see. The Maul sequence that followed obviously evokes the iconic hallway sequence at the end of Rogue One with Darth Vader similarly slaughtering soldiers with ease. This was some of the best action we’ve seen in The Clone Wars bar none, with Maul’s strength in the Force and brutality on full display as he breezed past the group of Clones.
The episode concluded with Ahsoka using her newfound information regarding the inhibitor chips to try and rescue Rex. This was an incredibly tense scene, directed, acted and visualized to perfection. The simultaneous saying of “I am one with the Force and the Force is with me” was mind blowing to hear and is another great point of connectivity to other pieces of canon in this season of The Clone Wars. And, as the episode ended with Rex’s recovery and a cliffhanger regarding how Ahsoka and Rex will escape, it was clear this was one of the strongest episodes The Clone Wars has ever delivered.
All in all, this episode was a true achievement from the creators of the show. Linked so well to the events of Revenge of the Sith, this episode provided real insight into concurrent events with Ahsoka, Rex and Maul that not only add to an understanding of Episode III, but are emotionally powerful unto themselves. The episode could have done with being a little longer, with some of the events in Revenge of the Sith seeming to pass very quickly in the episode. While Revenge of the Sith takes place over approximately 10 days, this stretch of episodes seems to occur during a much briefer time and that discrepancy can be a little troubling. Otherwise, this episode was thrilling from top to bottom and will easily go down as one of the best installments of the entire series. It’s safe to assume everyone in the Star Wars fandom is eagerly anticipating what is shaping up to be the best May the 4th of all time, with the complete Skywalker Saga on Disney+, the new Mandalorian behind the scenes series, and, of course, the highly anticipated series finale of The Clone Wars.
Images courtesy of Lucasfilm and Disney+