Star Wars fans spent six years waiting for new episodes of The Clone Wars before the beloved animated series finally returned for its final season last month on Disney+. For some it was disappointing to see that the first four episodes of the show’s final season have been dedicated to a seemingly tangential clone storyline, as opposed to some of the grander events hinted at in the pre-season promotion. However, upon closer inspection, it's clear that the season’s opening arc, though small in nature, carries much more thematic weight than it may have initially seemed.
The 4-episode story follows Captain Rex as he embarks on a mission to rescue Echo, a soldier he thought had died in the show's third season, but who has actuality spent the past several years being experimented on and tortured by the Separatists. It's a simple premise, but one that allows the show to reflect on some of its past moments, while raising this season's emotional stakes. This isn't just another military operation to Rex. As he expresses in a conversation with Anakin, it's a chance to save one of his fallen comrades.
His drive to save Echo perfectly foreshadows how the Clone War ultimately ends, with Anakin making a series of desperate decisions, all in the hopes of saving the woman he loves. It's a parallel that's further illustrated in the season's second episode, when Rex guards the door while Anakin has a private conversation with Padme, just before the two men embark on a dangerous rescue mission.
Not unlike how Anakin's plan to save Padme plays out in Revenge of the Sith, Rex's rescue of Echo ends in a much different way than he expected, with Echo deciding not to rejoin his former clone squad, but instead become the newest member of The Bad Batch. It's a storyline that doesn't end with Rex and Echo's happy reunion, but with the two characters sharing a bittersweet farewell.
This echoes the final moments of the show’s fifth season, when Ahsoka Tano left the Jedi Order and said farewell to Anakin, her former master. That scene, much like the final interaction between Rex and Echo, marked the end of an era for these characters. The cycles that they’ve all been comfortable repeating for years are now being systematically broken.
In a show that places its characters in a seemingly never-ending, repetitive conflict, these moments have given this season a satisfying sense of finality. These friendships, forged in the fog of war, are coming to an end, just as the war itself is... and just as Clone Wars the show is. They are emotional conclusions to storylines the series has been following for years, and they only hint at the heartbreak still waiting for many of the show’s characters at the end of this story.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars drops new episodes every Friday on Disney+.
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Alex Welch has written about television and film for TV by the Numbers, IGN, The Berrics, Paste Magazine, Screen Rant and GeekNation. Follow him on Twitter @alexrwelch.