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Clone Wars' final season turns Order 66 into a Hitchcockian thriller

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Today, the full run of Clone Wars was released on Netflix, including the entirety of Season Six, which never aired on television. It's a beautifully executed set of episodes that, despite a few bumps, fills in a lot of details not covered by the prequel films—starting with Order 66.

The recaps are divided up into five story arcs, so if you don't want to be spoiled, don't read each section until you've watched the relevant episodes.


The Clone Who Knew Too Much

The Order 66 arc opens the sixth season, and it is easily the season's standout storyline. Order 66 has been one of the key problems in connecting Clone Wars to Revenge of the Sith—Why would the clones who respect and befriend the Jedi ultimately betray them?—but the promos for Season Six quickly resolved that as we saw one clone, apparently responding to a sort of neurological programming and killing a Jedi commander. The shocking behavior of that one clone, Tup, spurs his fellow clone Fives to investigate Tup's affliction, uncovering the terrible secret lurking inside each clone's brain.

This arc is particularly great for a number of reasons: It's an unusually science fictional story for the space opera, and it expands on the culture of the clones. It reminded us that clones are slaves and that their fates hang on whomever is deemed to be their owner. It offers a drone-biological sentient dynamic that is humorous, but not nearly as silly as the one we saw between WAC and Colonel Gascon in Season Five. But most importantly, it's a well told thriller, one that makes the Jedi's failure to further investigate the biochip conspiracy plausible—at least for a while.

For all of Palpatine's plotting and scheming, some parts of his plan to become emperor are actually quite fragile. When Tup enters a trance-like state and kills his commander, the Jedi immediately recognize that something has gone wrong with Tup's brain. The Kaminoans, the beings who created the clone army, step in, assuring the Jedi that this must be some kind of infection. After all, they don't want the Jedi poking around in the clones' brains. The Kaminoan agent Nala Se tries to claim Tup as the property of the cloners, but the Jedi Shaak Ti wants the Jedi to study Tup in case there is a flaw in the clone's basic construction. While the two debate the finer points of work-for-hire, Fives decides he's going to figure out what is wrong with Tup, even if he has to do it himself.

Fives teams up with the medical droid AZ-3, and it ends up being a satisfying onscreen relationship. Clones are trained to disdain droids, after all, but after Fives explains that clones use names, not numbers, and that Fives is his friend, AZ-3 becomes a friend to Fives within the limited scope of his droid emotions and Fives returns the favor by calling him "Az." And AZ-3 is kind of a cut-up, especially when he tells Fives, "I always wanted to have human feelings. But I do not. Goodbye!" A possible dig at Star Trek: The Next Generation's Commander Data?


AZ-3 discovers a "tumor" in Tup's brain that turns out to be a rotten biochip, and Fives eventually realizes that all clones have such biochips in their brains, allowing them to be controlled by external forces. After AZ-3 removes the chip from Fives' brain, the story turns Hitchcockian; Nala Se claims that the biochips act as inhibitors for the violent behavior clones inherited from Jango Fett and that without his, Fives' is dangerous and irrational, destroying the clone's credibility. But Fives isn't irrational, and he manages to recognize what so few during this time period do: that there is a major conspiracy afoot, one that goes all the way to Chancellor Palpatine. So he seeks out the only high-ranking people he knows he can trust: Captain Rex and General Skywalker.

Fives' encounter with his brother clone in a clone bar stands in sharp contrast to Ahsoka's experience with the Jedi last season. When Fives tells Kix about the conspiracy against the clones and the Jedi, Kix does what Fives asks and arranges a meeting with Rex and Anakin. Rex and Anakin seem open to listening, but by the time they reach him, Fives has grown desperate and agitated. He can't convincingly articulate what he needs to, and is shot in a frantic moment by Commander Fox, who has tailed him to the meeting place. Even though we know that Fives won't crack the conspiracy open, this arc has an edge-of-your-seat quality to it as we see just how close he gets to shining the light on Palpatine's game. And if we look at Fives' final moments from Anakin and Rex's point of view, it's easy to see how they saw his words as the insane ranting of a clone who foolishly messed with his own brain. Rest in peace, Fives. You were the hero the Republic needed, but not the one it deserved.

Flashes of Darth Vader

The only time Ahsoka appears during this final season is in Yoda's visions, but her absence is felt in the season's second arc, which is ostensibly about how Palpatine took control of the banks but is really about Anakin and Padmé's relationship. Padmé's old flame (and world-class creep) Clovis is back and Anakin isn't just jealous—he's enraged.

There has been a lot of discussion about what Anakin will be like without Ahsoka by his side, and this Anakin is truly frightening. After Padmé is arrested for espionage, Anakin comes to retrieve her, but he's nasty, threatening to leave her—his wife—in the Banking Clan's jail. And later, when he catches Clovis trying to force a kiss on Padmé (Mostly to get her to reveal her relationship with Anakin. Really, Senator, what did you ever see in this man?), he doesn't just punch the man; he Force-chokes him and then nearly beats him to death. (Also, Clovis hitting Anakin's robotic hand and wincing in pain? Gold.) Now this is proto-Vader, the Anakin who will someday kill his subordinates because he's annoyed with them. And his dismissal of Padmé's plea for the two men to stop fighting, "You don't have a say in this" is cold.


We're starting to see the cracks in Anakin and Padmé's relationship, and how Anakin's emotions are overwhelming him. Aside from Anakin's violent moments, there are two scenes that were key to this story. One was Anakin's talk with Obi Wan, which was not very constructive. At this point, Obi Wan is still willing to give Anakin the benefit of the doubt when Anakin says that he and the senator are just friends, but he can see that Anakin is pained by his feelings for Padmé. Anakin needs something more at this point than advice to keep his relationship with Padmé platonic, but at this point, that's all that Obi Wan has to give.

The other scene is when Padmé decides to separate from Anakin and put their relationship on hiatus. She's also feeling the strain of their illicit secret marriage, and she doesn't like the person he is becoming. It's nice to know that making marriage work with an increasingly dark Anakin isn't easy, and that Padmé is capable of some degree of emotional self-preservation, even if she is ultimately doomed by their marriage. Thanks, Clone Wars, I'm suddenly interested in Padmé and Anakin's marriage and the series is ending.


Jar Jar Binks Has a Girlfriend

Sorry, I need to type that again: Jar Jar Binks has a girlfriend. When I saw that Clone Wars was teaming Jar Jar with Mace Windu for two episodes of the final season, I suspected that the writers were trolling Jar Jar haters a bit, but they went much farther than I ever would have expected. Queen Julia of Bardotta, ruler of a race of bird people who speak with vaguely subcontinental accents and practice Tai Chi, asks Jar Jar to investigate the disappearance of her spiritual advisor and the Jedi, recognizing that Jar Jar can't be trusted to dress himself much less solve a mystery, send Mace Windu as his babysitter. What the Jedi don't know, however, is that Jar Jar and Julia are lovers, burning this vision into our brains:


This is really the filler storyline of the season, dealing with a non-Force-sensitive witch who steals the living Force from spiritual people. And really, if you're going to have Jar Jar's klutziness serve as a foil for Mace Windu's competence, you're going to be telling a more playful story. So yes, we had to see Jar Jar kiss, but if you're going to use Jar Jar as a character, this is as good a way to use him as any.

The Jedi Can't Put Two and Two Together

Argh. I could smacked every single member of the Jedi Council (and Anakin) upside the head at the end of "The Lost One." After the clone arc that kicked off the season, now is the perfect opportunity to explore the mystery of Sifo-Dyas, the Jedi who commissioned the clone army. In the course of their investigations into Sifo-Dyas' disappearance, Obi Wan and Anakin encounter Count Dooku, who reveals that he had a hand in the clone project. What does the Jedi Council do? They decide to cover up the entire thing. The clones, they reason, are good men, and all this revelation would do is make the citizens of the Republic suspicious of the infantry.

Have I said "Argh" already? You know why the citizens of the Republic would be suspicious of the clones? Because they damn well should be suspicious of an army created with the help of their enemy, and so should the Jedi. What's especially frustrating is that Anakin and Shaak Ti are both present for this decision, and it somehow occurs to neither of them that this could be related to the biochip Fives discovered sitting in each clone's brain. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Of course, it's not surprising; the Jedi have, again and again, taken too many things at face value, and trusted the people their should suspect and vice versa. The Light Side of the Force isn't necessarily the bright side of the Force.


Yoda the Heretic

In fact, they don't even trust Yoda when his experiences differ from accepted Jedi dogma. When we first met Yoda way back in Episode V, Yoda was a wise old hermit living in a swamp. In the prequels, he's a bureaucrat, one of the number of Jedi who fail to prevent the rise of Palpatine—although suddenly, in Episode III, he can commune with the dead spirit of Qui-Gonn Jinn. So what happened?


As it turns out, Qui-Gonn happened. The dead Jedi begins speaking to Yoda, and since retaining one's personality after death doesn't fit with current understandings of the Force, the Jedi fear that Yoda is being deceived by Dark agents. But Yoda has faith in his own experience and goes on a sojourn to learn the secrets of life after death. These "mysticism of the Force" episodes can be a bit hit and miss, and this one, while visually stunning, leaves us with a bit to ponder.

There are deliberate echoes of The Empire Strikes Back, notably when Yoda has to face his own Dark Side. His Dark Side taunts him, trying to overwhelm Yoda with fear and doubt—but honestly, his Dark Side makes some good points. Yoda has been caught up in the decadence of war, failing to solve the real problems that plague the Republic. Apparently, though, Yoda can't afford that sort of interior debate right now; he has to shove away fear in order to learn the skills that he will need to someday save the galaxy.

When Yoda returns to the Jedi temple, it's with a heavy sense of fatalism. He doesn't really believe that the Jedi will win the Clone Wars, but he's playing a longer game now. It's not the cleanest connection between Clone Wars and Revenge of the Sith; the timeline feels a bit off and Yoda's speech foretelling the ultimate triumph of the Light Side over the Dark is an odd note to end the season—much less the series—on. But it does nudge Yoda in the right direction, forcing the master to become a student again and get back in touch with his spiritual ties.


And So the Sun Sets on Clone Wars

Once again, Clone Wars has delivered a solid, if flawed, season, one that reminds us why we've loved this show so much and how sad we are to see it go. It's a show that has grown and built upon itself in both story and skill. The animation for Season Six is just top-notch, filled with small details like the rat creatures that scurry out of a prisoner's cell and the undulation of tentacles out of a Jedi's head. Tup and Fives went from redshirts on an earlier mission to two clones who could have caused Palpatine's defeat. And if some of the plot holes weren't completely paved over, at least they have been filled in a little more.


But what about Ahsoka? Well, in an interview with the LA Times released today, Clone Wars show runner Dave Filoni teased that we'll be seeing more of the former Padawan:

"I'm really protective of that character, having written her and worked alongside George on all of her thoughts and actions," he said. "One thing I'm really grateful for is even though there's been a lot of transition at Lucasfilm, everybody here working creatively understands I feel that way and comes to me with questions about her.

"I have a good idea of what happened to her, and I'll just leave it at that," Filoni said.


We'll be waiting.