The Clone Wars kicks off its final storyline with a terrific episode that brings Ahsoka Tano and Anakin Skywalker full circle.

Now this is Clone Warring. Season 7 hasn’t exactly been a flawless experience over the past two months. Both previous story arcs were a bit long in the tooth and weirdly paced, raising the question of why the series couldn’t have cast a wider net in its final 12 episodes. But ultimately, we’re all here for one main reason – the Siege of Mandalore. This is what The Clone Wars has been building to since 2008, and so far it doesn’t disappoint one bit.It’s clear from the very beginning of “Old Friends, Not Forgotten” that this final arc is a little bit different and a little more special than your average Clone Wars saga. The intro hearkens back to the movies with its use of John Williams’ “Main Title” theme. That’s the first of many cases where this episode draws heavily on those iconic Williams motifs. It’s also quite a welcome surprise to see the early scenes directly call back to the original Clone Wars movie. The series has truly come full circle, rehashing that bit where Anakin and Obi-Wan are pinned down by battle droids, victory is snatched out of the jaws of defeat and Ahsoka unexpectedly wanders into Anakin’s life. How utterly appropriate.
Just as the original movie was basically four episodes stitched together, it wouldn’t be at all surprising to learn this final arc was either originally conceived as a film or has an alternate, feature-length cut in the works. It certainly seems fitting to bookend the series in that way. And though it’s not exactly ideal to jump into the Clone wars saga at the very end, this episode does a very thorough job of laying out the stakes and the character relationships on its own. Who knows? If movie theaters actually reopen at some point in 2020, maybe we will see The Clone Wars: The Siege of Mandalore on the big screen.The opening battle scene is entertaining, particularly in how it makes use of the playful dynamic between Anakin and Obi-Wan. Their banter is amusing (particularly with how Matt Lanter and James Arnold Taylor deliver their lines), but there’s also a twinge of sadness knowing the end of their friendship is so close at hand. In fact, it’s not long before we realize just how close the events of Revenge of the Sith truly are. That connection only adds to the urgency of this conflict. Even as Ahsoka carries out her mission on Mandalore, there’s a hidden, ticking clock counting down to the moment Palpatine unleashes Order 66 on the galaxy and the whole house of cards comes tumbling down. Setting this story concurrently with Episode III rather than before is an inspired choice.
In a perfect world, The Clone Wars would have been able to finish its natural run before Disney pivoted to Star Wars Rebels, and we wouldn’t be coming into this arc already knowing what lies ahead for Ahsoka,
Commander Rex, Maul and the rest of the major players. But that’s always been the thing about The Clone Wars. We’ve known the general end point for this story since Day 1. They made a movie about it and everything. The purpose was always in fleshing out the journey to that point and finding the emotional core of this enormous conflict that’s been alluded to since 1977.This episode clearly has that in mind as it reunites Ahsoka with Anakin, Obi-Wan and Rex. Those scenes make the years-long wait for a proper finale all worth it. The Ahsoka/Anakin dynamic is handled perfectly here, with Ahsoka caught up in a mixture of disgust for all things Jedi, reluctance to open old wounds and a need to reconnect with a man who meant so much to her for three years. Anakin, meanwhile, shows a mixture of excitement and an almost petulant quality where he seems to resent the realization that Ahsoka has moved on and grown up without him. Ahsoka has drifted beyond his control, and that has to play some part in his downfall to come. Even more so than with the Anakin/Obi-Wan material, the final farewell between Ahsoka and Anakin really tugs at the heartstrings. In a way, it actually helps having already watched through Rebels, as we have the knowledge of what happens when Anakin and Ahsoka do finally reunite weighing on an already bittersweet scene.
Ahsoka’s reunion with Rex and his clones is equally affecting. Nothing quite sums up the wild journey of this series than seeing the clones deck themselves out in blue and orange tribute, a testament to the respect and devotion one humble little Padawan has earned over the course of many a battle. It also highlights the conflict to come for many of these clone characters. They’re essentially choosing Ahsoka over the Republic, but how will they feel when Order 66 comes along? I’m very much looking forward to seeing that moment play out.
This episode finds plenty of time for action after getting all the necessary hellos and goodbyes out of the way, launching right into the deadly infiltration of Mandalore. The brisk pacing is a welcome change from previous episodes, with even Maul himself putting in a quick appearance before the end. And it’s in this final act where the episode really takes advantage of the boosted animation quality of Season 7. It looks like a lot of money was spent on this episode, which may just be further evidence a theatrical run is in the works. And why not? If this opening chapter is any indication, the whole team has a lot to be proud of.