The doubt of doing the right thing revolves in the progression of what is being fought for. Like the last episode “Deal No Deal”, Episode 7 of the Final Season of “The Clone Wars” entitled “Dangerous Debt” borrows in the movement of what Ahsoka Tano needs to prove and what her path is. While there are some interesting moments, the story drags a little. Perspective for the most part is needed. This shows at one point in understanding the inclusion of the sisters Martez that Ahsoka now finds herself with. The interesting thing that the writing does here is place a previous event which might have been fleeting to other characters before that in a split second changes the perception elsewhere. The problem is that the moment in the episode could have had much more resonance. There is less soaring cinematics here than one would think. There is definitely room for them but unlike early episodes it seems to be rushing the story back and forth quickly when it doesn’t need to.
The true story we want to watch is Ahsoka’s pull versus and against for using The Force. That is the true existential element here but 3 episodes into her arc in this season, it is not emotionally tugging enough. Ahsoka is very smart. She left the Jedi Order for a reason. But watching people fail even though the instinct is to help is an interesting quandary. We need to see more of that. It is in this case that flashbacks, even briefly would be acceptable, even for an ardent follower of the show. “Dangerous Debt” refers to a shipment of spice that Ahsoka’s new friends dumped impulsively that lands them on a prison planet under criminals. There is an interesting small story point playing with a voice that sounds all too familiar but the time frame is all wrong. There is a plan for Ahsoka but it would be interesting to see a little bit more of those quiet moments balanced with the awe sometimes Star Wars has.
Knowing what the mission is and knowing the right action to take has always been at the corner crux of what makes Ahsoka Tano tick. She knew what her Jedi Master was doing. She could see the cracks…but she likely thought that he was simply operating outside the box. However it was in the aspect that Anakin got too close to people and he couldn’t control it until it spun out of control. In the continuation of her final season story in Episode 6: “Deal Or No Deal,” Ahsoka tries to help newfound friends against her better instincts and watches as she has to adjust them and help much like she did at lesser points with Anakin. The difference is that his instinct was mostly correct and helped her and supported her in balance. The balance of her new friends and their ambitions is an aspect of operating in the dark.
Ahsoka’s instincts are still good but she doesn’t know what she wants. She had the right temperament for a Jedi, better than many, but that is why her post-Jedi path needs to make sense. We see, in a sense, down the line in “Rebels” and perhaps beyond, where she ends up but it all needs to fit together correctly. Mostly it is trying to realize and help others to the best of your ability but if they are headed down a certain path, one can only try to cushion the blow, and not stop the trajectory. There is one moment when a connection happens across space. It is a great moment though nothing is said. The intersection plays out but it is able to breathe which it seems within this new iteration/continuation works better than its predecessor. These little character beats say so much more and at times exceeds the plot that the season might ultimately be aiming for.
After the inset of The Bad Batch which., in itself, is a story about the search for identity, the next story arc in “Gone With A Trace” would seem to be one that diametrically needs to be addressed. Ahsoka Tano, as the long standing padewan to Anakin Skywalker, has the biggest perception (almost more so than Padme) to the psychological degregation that brought Anakin to the dark side. More than Luke and almost Obi Wan, she knows him best which is why her expulsion or leaving depending on how one sees it from the Jedi Order is a bit of a wormhole in the story since we have never seen her in live action. She re-emerged in essence in “Rebels” and we saw her have an interaction that is one of the more dynamic encounters in animation in Vader in that series. But in this episode, it is about reconnecting with those less fortunate which is what being a Jedi is. But as with most perceptions of government, people on the lower levels have lost faith.
This first episode shows Ahsoka finding her way. She has the street smarts and the Jedi know how where she could fumble through and scam her way into situations but those are not the values she was taught. While the story focuses back to simple, it is those baseline connections whether one is talking about the end of “The Last Jedi” or “Joker” where certain basic human interactions introduce a path, either to be led astray or to push forward. This first tome in Ahsoka’s journey shows her connection to loyalty but also a judgmental attitude in others. The one thing that seems to come through to her though is the inherent good nature of people. The charity and compassion is what comes forth as the values of this episode. Even when the survival instinct cuts in, the reasoning is sound. But Ahsoka’s path is complicated for she knows a bigger world but at least she sees the reality of those that the power plays of the Universe shows. She should meet up with Ventress to discuss the existential nature of their predicament.
The continual force of The Bad Batch is based within the idea of whether or not a certain member of the group can be trusted. The idea is sticking to orders but also thinking outside the box. In this 4th episode: “Unfinished Business”, the question becomes one of trust or betrayal, either internally or externally within certain characters. Having rescued Echo, there is a possibility for dealing a blow for The Republic because of the information within this detached trooper’s head. The idea of what dictates loyalty is one that comes to bear for more than one character. Anakin’s forward momentum, especially in how he sees his path within the Jedi, seems to waver a little in this episode. However, the tendency and what it is occurring at this specific time is another issue entirely. We are also seeing in a flip tendency much more of Mace Windu’s hubris in terms of how he is approaching his mission. Whereas in earlier seasons of Clone Wars, his actions might have been seen as tongue-in-cheek, there is almost a vindictiveness here which is interesting to behold. The resolution also speaks to a division of sorts, not necessarily in idealism but ideology which is separate. It closes the door to a point on one possibility but opens up possibilities of internal strife to another.
The progression of “The Clone Wars”, even in its original incarnation, was revealing deeper mythology-based arcs within the greater story. What this new iteration seems to be doing is adding in some interesting character moments in between the plot. The 2nd episode entitled “A Distinct Echo” works on a couple different levels though the progression of where these series of episodes is going seems to be moving towards a certain path…or seemingly might be trying to introduce the world to new viewers. That said, the story is still pretty densely populated to those who have seen the previous seasons of the series from a couple years back. What the beginning of this episode tends to do is speak to inherent natures, whether it be a clone or a Jedi. In a scene that might not have happened a few years ago before “Rebels”, Anakin speaks almost in secret to Padme with Rex, who undergoes a crisis of self doubt in this episode, protecting him. It speaks to a deeper friendship but also the essence of privacy, one which through one line Obi Wan says shows a breathe of knowledge. It is a small element of perspective but one that adds immense layers to later stories and also lends credence or at least weight to doing a live action Vader series showing doubt within Hayden Christensen’s portrayal of Anakin.
The story continues in this episode to follow The Bad Batch as they seek to find Echo both to protect Republic strategy but also unearthing what might be an algorithm at the center of the identity of the Clones which again speaks back to the eventual General Order. Without giving too much away, the team led by Anakin integrates with local aliens who attack because they don’t want the war brought to them. The resolution speaks more to guilt than a sense of redemption. The animation continues to add different angles including close up and fluidity of lightsaber moves. Before this might have been done extremely quickly but now the scenes seem to take their time to give a sense of pace beneath the moves. In earlier animation, it might have been done quickly to cover up frame jumps per se. It is a small technical thing but one that makes all the difference. “A Distant Echo” also speaks to the shortcomings of the past but without understanding those consequences for these characters in the future.
The re-emergence of “The Clone Wars” points of a stream of consciousness that perhaps Dave Filoni, who also helped create “The Mandalorian”, understood. The idea that he explored later with “Rebels” specifically spoke to an idea of where lawlessness gained a foothold in the galaxy. His original thoughts were fully realized (though some of the concept art that he released years ago gave a concept of might be possible). The influences and the ideas of those glitches in the Republic system come to bear with the introduction in “The Bad Batch”. It is not the most dynamic of episodes but it moves to re-establish the strain of consciousness within the Clone Wars. Warriors get tired and tend to take the law into their own hands. The fact that the team that is recruited for a special op (they have been seen before) is called 99 which is the ironic reversal of General Order 66 by which the Emperor himself ends the conflict by a hidden fail-safe.
In the years since the last episode of the original “Clone Wars” series, the animation process has gotten better so by progression, the lines of the characters look sharper but also the subtleness of the emotions. Whereas Kenobi is less readable, Anakin’s frustration seems interestingly enough to come much more through. Whether it is the conflicting emotions or the dragging on of the war (or even more specifically the darkness creeping up on him after the slaughter of the clan of Sandmen in “Attack Of The Clones”), the brimming points seems to be becoming more defined. The crux of “The Clone Wars” always rests in the reliability of the clones, say versus a droid army. The re-emergence in a way of Echo as a harbinger or betrayer much like Judas in the disciples’ midst is an interesting metaphor to bring back into the fold. It however depends how the story moves towards its conclusion in the bigger mythology that Filoni has built.
The building of “The Mandalorian,” taking into effect expectation but also traversing the character beats, is an interesting quandary. The continuation of what Jon Favreau and crew are trying to create takes into account each director and certain writers capabilities within each episode. In having Taika Waititi direct the final episode of the season, there is a different balance in comparison to earlier episodes. Episode 8 is meant to resolve a lot of the questions of the season. And while it does and gives firmer focus, it does open up the door to more ideas but it gives the coming season a very specific trajectory. What works in this specific episode is the fact that it has more stakes than perhaps was there before.
Without giving too much away, it strives for a sense of meaning within what the characters want and what drives them. Giancarlo Esposito’s character in particular does this well while speaking to a connection to Mandalore lore with the use of a single item. Strategy also plays a significant part. Whether this is in the visual texture of Waititi or just the general bent of the narrative, it closes the loop with much greater agility. The audience gets to see briefly into The Mandalorian’s psyche and a bit of where he comes from. Another interesting dichotomy is that the show continues to show the connection between the film world and the impact of the animated series (specifically “Rebels”) which is directly referenced here. There are many iconic images and perhaps some humor that was a bit too dry earlier in the season that has found its groove here, helped in part by Waititi’s sensibilities. All in all, a very fitting end to the season while both managing expectations but also not overextending its possibilities or production expenditure.