This Star Wars: The Clone Wars review contains spoilers.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season 7 Episode 11
Trapped on a ship with one of the Jedi’s most powerful enemies and dozens of clones who want her dead, Ahsoka Tano has to outwit and outfight Order 66 in a tense, compelling episode of The Clone Wars.
“Shattered” takes place at the same time as Revenge of the Sith, just as Anakin chooses the dark side and the Jedi Purge begins. The tragedy that’s about to unfold is rich material, especially since we know already know what’s to come for many of the characters we’ve followed throughout The Clone Wars. The Siege of Mandalore arc set the groundwork when it comes to Ahsoka’s personal tragedy. Three episodes into the arc, we know Ahsoka is willing to believe the best in Anakin, even if it means keeping a secret from the Jedi Council about her former master’s potential fall to the dark side.
The word I kept coming back to when thinking about this episode was stressful, and not just because the world is in a global pandemic and anything with a bit of distress now feels different. The music and direction intentionally make the episode a held breath. The soundtrack of this episode sometimes sounds like the traditional orchestral-style Star Wars score, which is used particularly well in the Jedi Council scene to punctuate what’s happening. But “Shattered” also does something different. A large part of the music is made of synthy drones and quiet, sustained beats, a buzz of anxiety and anticipation.
Despite Ahsoka’s major military victory, the tone of the opening minutes is somber. On Mandalore, the scene of the Republic troops leaving with Maul in tow is slowed down slightly, as if the characters are walking uphill under a great weight, or as if the story itself is reluctant to turn a corner towards the tragedy that awaits. But this is the third, dark act, and Maul, the one used to living as an underdog in the dark side, may very well be the only one breathing evenly.
Ahsoka and Bo-Katan show resignation in their voices. They talk about a victory, but there’s no real sense of triumph in the music, direction, or dialogue. Instead, Bo-Katan says, “I wish I was good at something other than war.” The tone hits hard: this wasn’t a victory. I do wish we’d been able to see more evidence of this among the Mandalorian civilians, but perhaps it’s a tiny bit too early for the cruelties of the Empire. (Star Wars Rebels fans are rewarded in the beginning of this episode by the appearance of Ursa Wren, who will later fight the Empire. Hi, Sabine’s mom!) I appreciate that the show takes a moment to focus on Bo-Katan’s expressions as Ahsoka leaves, reinforcing her apprehension. It isn’t quite enough to hit home the idea that the Jedi are doing to Mandalore exactly what they did to the Martez sisters, though.
“Shattered” also twists the knife with a heartfelt (if stilted) conversation between Ahsoka and Captain Rex. Neither of them had normal childhoods, so maybe it’s fitting that they can’t really get any closer than a salute and a formal declaration of loyalty. As my friend Paul mentioned on Den of Geek’s Star Wars Blaster Canon podcast last month, they didn’t have the chance to learn to be affectionate friends in any other way.
Fortunately, both this arc and the larger saga have shown how close these people are to one another. The ferocity of the clones’ betrayal also sells what a terrible fight this is for Ahsoka. There are enough of them to fill hallways and rooms, the once heroic army now a force Ahsoka can barely stand against.
The fight choreography keeps her hunched over and close to herself, beautiful lightsaber moves unable to reach much farther than her own hands would. The action is, mostly, convincing even to Star Wars’ standards. Ahsoka has to be tough, but also clever to escape. Only one important action beat near the end felt a little too expected and was glossed over too quickly.
Juxtaposing Ahsoka’s carefully pulled punches is Maul, who resembles a horror movie villain in a particularly vicious fight sequence, as he walks sedately toward the scrabbling clones. Maul can do a ton of damage without a lightsaber, and there’s a sadistic pleasure in watching how close The Clone Wars comes to The Mandalorian-style violence when Maul is unleashed.
Maul’s earlier scenes, in which he’s trapped in the restraints created for Jedi captives of the ancient Mandalorian Wars, didn’t work quite as well as they could have. The ornate box itself isn’t particularly intimidating, although the music tries very hard to emphasize that it is. And Maul’s eventual release is strangely inconvenient. Mandalorians would have had to open the box to execute any Jedi prisoners? Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of the box? Surely some powerful Force users could attack without moving their hands. I wanted an exciting escape, not someone simply pressing a button to open a door.
It looks for a moment like the episode might turn Maul and Ahsoka into unlikely allies. I was delighted by the way “Shattered” subverted that alliance. Ahsoka has no interest in teaming up with Maul, setting him loose so that he can distract the clones while she figures out what’s going on with the clones. She shows, with both her words and her actions (her pose in this scene depicts Ahsoka as being more physically powerful than Maul), that she means it.
Ahsoka prioritizes finding and “curing” Rex. She enlists some trusty droids and uses Rex’s hint (“Find Fives”) to discover the secret Order 66 control chip implanted in her friend’s brain. I absolutely love how high the stakes are in this scene: both Rex and Ahsoka are extremely vulnerable, and Ahsoka still doesn’t want to kill troopers if she doesn’t have to.
However, this is one of two places where the driving momentum of the episode stopped abruptly. It’s too predictable for Rex to save Ahsoka last minute, and their reunion is too short to have as much of an impact as it could have. Rex has to give her as much information as he can, but it comes off as wordy exposition, ending the episode on a dry note rather than building the tension for the series finale.
The other scene is the introduction of the Jedi Council, where Mace and the others talk among themselves a little too long. It’s not that it slows the episode down: the deliberate pace of the first half is a strength, not a weakness. This dialogue was meant to show us where in Revenge of the Sith we were and how the Jedi Council felt about it, but it went on a little too long. But Ahsoka’s choice not to reveal Maul’s vision saves the scene somewhat.
Next week is the series finale of The Clone Wars (again). The Siege of Mandalore has been a blast so far and “Shattered” is no exception.