I never thought I would say this, but The Clone Wars is back, and it’s better than ever. And to celebrate the return of my beloved show, I am devoting this weekend to reviewing the 13 all-new episodes that are airing on Netflix as an official Season 6. But rather than writing a review for each individual episode, I will do a single, probably lengthy review for each of the four story arcs.
The first story arc for Season 6 is, quite possibly, one of the biggest, most ambitious the show has done so far, even rivaling the return of Darth Maul. Why? Because these four episodes, The Unknown, Conspiracy, Fugitive, and Orders, address something fans have been begging for ever since The Clone Wars began. Yes, I’m talking about Order 66.
To be honest, I never thought we’d get to see Dave Filoni tackle the mysterious Order 66 that we all know from Episode III as being the reason the clones so viciously turned on their Jedi comrades. But yet here we are. Filoni has worked his magic once again, and has delivered a story arc to us that is ambitious, mature, and shockingly tragic.
Before I get started on my many, many thoughts on these spectacular episodes, I want to warn you, I will be spoiling almost everything. So if you have not seen these episodes, then go and watch them, along with the rest of Season 6, on Netflix right now; I can guarantee that you will not regret it.
The episode begins and immediately thrust into a brutal struggle between the Republic Army, led by Anakin Skywalker and two other Jedi, and the Separatists. The animation instantly wowed me, and as hard as it is to believe, I think it might actually be better than it was last season. The lighting, sound effects, and sheer scale of the chaos on screen was unrivaled, and delivered a literally explosive introduction.
Seeing some of my favorite heroes on my TV screen once again was a special moment, and it was only magnified by the mastery of the plot progression. Within minutes of the glorious destruction that kicked the arc off, we could only sit back and watch as loyal clone trooper Tup, who you should remember from the Krell arc in Season 4, slowly loses his mind and murders a Jedi without warning.
We did actually get to see this moment play out in a brief clip that we were treated with almost exactly a year ago, but it was even more powerful, and more shocking, when seen in context. And the effect that the entire situation has on the clones, Fives in particular, was something I never expected to see.
The Clone Wars has always excelled at turning the seemingly identical clones into relatable, individual characters, and this story arc pushes that further than it ever has. All four episodes focus almost exclusively on Fives as he frantically searches for answers regarding his friend’s supposed betrayal, and watching him spiral into paranoia and obsession is both unsettling and heartbreaking.
Over the past five seasons, Fives is a character we’ve grown up with. We originally saw him in the Season 1 episode Rookies, and have since watched him advance in the ranks of the Republic Army, earn the coveted rank of Arc Trooper, and take down a corrupt Jedi Master. In some ways, we’re more connected to him than we are any other clone in the show, which made this story arc all the more personal.
Dee Bradley Baker delivers what could quite possibly his best performance with these episodes, and the subtle changes he makes in Fives’ tone and dialogue as he delves further and further into a conspiracy plot is just brilliant. He makes Fives’ rebellion and eventual downfall everything that it is, and I cannot commend him enough for his work here.
These episodes, written by Katie Lucas, who has penned some of the best stories The Clone Wars has ever told, progress in a natural way, and each episode is more tense than the last. While The Unknown is the only episode to actually feature a full-out battle, the remaining three are just as suspenseful, if not more so, and there was not a single moment where I was not fully involved in the story.
Starting with Tup and Fives’ arrival on Kamino in Conspiracy, the plot becomes something more akin to a traditional mystery, and adopts many classic movie themes that wouldn’t be out of place in any of Hollywood’s conspiracy flicks. It progresses in a natural format, and never felt milked or over-emphasized.
We were only ever given enough information to keep us guessing, and while I still predicted the outcome before the final episode concluded, it was an experience that left me nearly breathless. There were so many great moments spread throughout that I struggle to pick a favorite, but I do know that any one of these episodes could easily place in anyone’s Top 10 List.
Some of my favorite scenes, however, came from the subtle bits of humor that were used to lighten the surprisingly grim mood. Seeing Fives’ tease and argue with the little medical droid AZI-3 was hilarious, and definitely brought back memories of the Original Trilogy that alleviated some of the crushing tension created by the conspiracy plot.
While AZI could’ve easily been nothing more than a forgettable comic relief, he becomes an important player in the plot, and actually makes Fives’ journey all the better. The banter the two share had me laughing more than once, and watching them develop a friendship was very touching, especially considering how it all came to a close in the end.
We all knew that Fives’ wouldn’t be able to solve the mystery of Tup’s mental breakdown, especially since it was so tightly connected to Order 66, as the chip Fives discovered was implanted in every clone trooper’s brain is what lead them to obey the fateful Order. It was a suicide mission from the start for Fives’, and I tried not to believe it. I really did, but by the beginning of the final episode, Orders, I knew what his fate would be.
It was painful, having to watch this character I’ve grown to love slowly drive himself insane as he desperately searched for answers. He may have found the truth, but it was already too late. Chancellor Palpatine’s control over the Kaminoan’s was too strong, and Fives’ investigation was stopped and delayed at every conceivable opportunity.
He came so close to answers, too. But the damage had already been done, and as soon as he had enough evidence it was all stripped away from him, leaving him sounding like nothing more than a stammering conspiracy theorist. This was a dark, tragic turn of events for the show, leaving even me unsettled.
I thought I had prepared myself for the outcome of these stories, I really did. I knew Fives’ wouldn’t make it out alive, even if I tried to convince myself otherwise, and yet his final moments still left me teary-eyed. I wanted so bad for him to succeed, to break the canon and save his brothers from becoming mindless killing machines, but that’s not how it was meant to be.
Fives’ death was brutal. Shot down by one of his own kind. His search for the truth lead him down a path that left him framed as a madman, and I could hardly believe that that was how it all ended for him. We’ve all known that The Clone Wars outgrew its ‘kids show’ moniker long ago, but still, seeing Fives fade away in Rex’s arms was a scene so tragic that I was speechless.
These four episodes are some of the best The Clone Wars team has ever produced, and I almost struggle to believe how the rest of Season 6 could top them. In many ways, the material here was better than anything the Prequels ever accomplished, and it makes me look at the events of Revenge of the Sith in a whole new way. And if that’s not a valid representation of how great The Clone Wars really is, then I don’t know what is.