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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Illustration for article titled iStar Wars: The Clone Wars/i asserts itself as a necessary element in the iStar Wars/i universe
Image: Disney (Disney Plus Press Site)
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Ahsoka Tano is a Jedi.

Sure, she quit the Jedi Order after a harrowing, awful ordeal in which the Council accused her of sabotage and terrorism. Sure, she’s been deeply reluctant to use the Force and admit to others she was a Jedi, even as the situations she found herself in kind of needed her at her Jedi-best. And sure, at the very end of this episode, Ahsoka abandons her lightsaber, a gesture made more significant if you’re aware of the various rituals and tasks that lie behind acquiring the kyber crystal that powers said lightsaber. But make no mistake: Ahsoka has earned the namesake, even if that namesake is tarnished in her mind, and even as the very concept of “Jedi” will be all but wiped from the memory and legacy of the universe–until a young boy on a planet with two suns seeks out a certain someone.

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Ahsoka may not be a Jedi in name or title, but she is one in spirit. And that’s not just referring to her skills–although, she definitely earned it there. In these last four episodes, Ahsoka’s fighting abilities have been absolutely exemplary, probably only below that of Anakin/Vader himself. Her incredible skills on display this episode include: withstanding hundreds, maybe thousands, of trooper fire, leaping all over the place, and even, almost, Force-pulling a rocketing ship back into the hanger bay. She had it in her grasp, but watching Rex behind her almost fall to that trooper onslaught made her let it go to help here friend. Yet that moment, among so many, is why she is a Jedi.

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“Victory And Death” has a slightly lower grade than “Shattered” only because this episode may be an insane visual spectacle but functions more like the final-battle denouement from the previous episode. Ahsoka embracing the Force at the metaphysical level to find Rex’s chip– “I am one with the Force and the Force is with me”–felt like the true climax to Ahsoka’s character after everything she been through. She re-embraced the Force outside of the context of the Jedi’s bureaucratic, morally-questionable mire, and became her own person. (It has been shown many times on this show that many people and creatures and species have used the Force in their own, individual and/or cultural ways.) This is probably best represented not by the fighting, but the conversation she and Rex have as they stare among the legions of organized troopers standing between them and the ship they need to escape the crashing dreadnought they’re on. Rex recognizes the reality of now, as a soldier. The central mission at hand–escaping–against the enemy–his fellow, turned soldiers. Rex is clearly hurt by this, but he also is committed to the mission, whatever it may be, and has no time to reflect or let it weight on him. It’s them, or us.

Ahsoka is different. In a moment (really, in a lot of moments but in particular, here), Ahsoka takes in the full weight of what’s happening, and what will happen. She’s probably thinking about that time with Obi-Wan, when she tried to guilt him to join her Mandalorian cause instead of saving the Chancellor. She’s thinking of all the Jedi she knew, all the soldiers she fought with, all the people she met and helped. She knows so many will die. There’s no way that the clones on this ship will survive, no guarantee they themselves will. And yet, she still tells Rex to set her blaster to stun. She still tries to not directly kill those clones (as opposed to Maul, who not only wipes through the clones like cannon fodder, but actively destroys the ship’s entire hyperdrive, dooming them all–the irony of Ahsoka’s act to utilize Maul as a chaotic distraction, compounded by the fact that he escapes in the very ship she and Rex were going for). Why? Because Ahsoka is a good person. She tells Rex he’s a good soldier–not just in battle, but in his heart. Her moral compass always focused north. It held steady among the quandary of a mess with the Martez sisters, and it holds steady in the face of certain death. Everyone will perish, and yet Ahsoka knows to keep on doing the morally right thing till the end. “They may be willing to die, but I am not the one who is going to kill them.”

And that’s what happens. Every animator, artist, director, composer, actor and writer better be putting the work they did on this episode on their respective reels because “Victory And Death” is tense, epic, and incredible from beginning to end. Maul’s destruction of the hyperdrive; Ahsoka and Rex’s battle among the clones across the hanger and elevator shafts; the heart-stopping, Eraser-esque moment of Ahsoka darting among falling debris as she catches up to Rex’s ship as the entire dreadnought crashes among them–it’s an absolute feat of a spectacle. And, when it’s all over, we’re back to silence. Silent, dark, reflective scenes that strike much stronger than any dialogue could. Rex prepares the ship; as a soldier, as tragic as everything is, he still continues forward. But Ahsoka gazes over the soldiers helmets, all set as tombstones to the clones lost in that crash. All that death and destruction. Whether one believes the Jedi perpetuated the war or not, it’s moot: war happened, and these are the consequences. Ahsoka can’t be a part of this. And so she drops her lightsaber among the graves, leaving it there, moving on. In the future, she will continue to help the rebels against the Empire. She is a good person. But not in the name of the Jedi, an idea that will soon be but faint whispers in galactic history.

And that, in and of itself, is what makes Ahsoka a Jedi.

Some several years into a future, Anakin, now the dark scourge known as Darth Vader, will trek to this area, covered in snow. He will find that lightsaber and understand what it means and who it once belonged to. He even gets a moment of reflection–metaphorically reinforced somewhat awkwardly when his silhouette reflects off the clone trooper mask as he walks away. There’s a sense of stories and feelings that still need to be told, and of course there are, what with a whole series of movies, shows, and comics that continue these characters’ respective stories. It would have been a bit more fulfilling to have some more time with Ahsoka and Rex before they parted ways and ventured off into the universe as the Empire began to form. But “Victory And Death” stands out as the perfect end to this story–to this show–that belongs in the grander conversations of what makes Star Wars a powerful, still-meaningful element in the pop culture universe.

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Stray observations

  • Rest in peace to those three droids that helped Ahsoka and Rex. Even though their appearances were brief, seeing them destroyed so directly was visceral.
  • Apologies for this review dropping a bit later today, screeners and artwork was trickier than usual to acquire.
  • That all being said, thank you all so much for joining me and on this final animated journey through the Star Wars Universe. I have had my concerns with this show in the overall sense, but I would be remiss if it didn’t nail these final four episodes with aplomb. It possessed an intensity than I think would even attract those folks out there who avoided animated Star Wars content! That’s a tall order. I’ll see you all at some point in the future!
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Contributor, The A.V. Club, with a clear preference for all things cartoons; check out his main blog at http://www.totalmediabridge.com.

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