The penultimate chapter of The Clone Wars again captures the series at its best, and it also delivers a moment fans have been waiting years to see.

The Clone Wars is coming off of its best episode ever. And while it was never realistic to expect “Shattered” to maintain that exact level of quality, it’s not that far off. It’s to this episode’s credit that it doesn’t attempt to give fans more of the same, but instead shifts this climactic storyline into new and even darker territory. Even though The Siege of Mandalore feels like a feature film divided into four parts, each part is different enough in tone and focus to justify those breaks.”Shattered” is certainly much smaller in scope than its predecessors, and even downright claustrophobic at times. While it’s a little disappointing the series seems to be finished exploring the state of Mandalore itself, there’s a lot to be said for the steady, brisk pace this final story arc is taking. And whether or not a return to Mandalore is in the cards for the finale, we can probably count on future seasons of The Mandalorian to fill in some of the gaps as the world shifts from one occupying force to another. This episode is all about narrowing the focus and mining the greatest possible impact out of the disaster to come.
It certainly doesn’t hurt that “Shattered” finally delivers one of the moments fans have been waiting to see since 2008 – Order 66. Sure we saw numerous Jedi meet their end in Revenge of the Sith, but that movie never made much effort to flesh out the clones themselves or explore how they actually felt about bring ordered to betray their Jedi comrades. But from the very beginning, this series has devoted itself to giving the clones names and identities of their own. This iconic and very tragic Star Wars moment takes on a whole new tone when seen from the perspective of Ahsoka and Commander Rex.The early scenes hit especially hard, with the show really playing on our knowledge of what’s coming as it steadily builds tension leading up to the commencement of Order 66. Even before the actual order comes in, Ahsoka suddenly seems alone and unwelcome among a group of soldiers who so recently pledged their lives to her cause. Through it all, we know what’s coming, and we know there’s no stopping in, so it’s just a question of how bad the fallout will be. Ahsoka sensing the climactic battle on Coruscant and hearing the familiar voices of Anakin, Palpatine and Mace Windu (the film actors, no less) further adds to the dread.
It’s also worth highlighting the score here, with composer Kevin Kiner seemingly riffing on that haunting music from Episode III where Anakin wrestles over whether to leave Palpatine to his fate or intervene. The end result is something that sounds as much like Blade Runner as it does Star Wars, but it definitely complements and enhances the unnerving tone.
The big moment doesn’t disappoint, either. It’s fitting that Rex himself becomes the focal point as Palpatine’s order ripples across the galaxy. No clone has developed into a more fully realized character over the course of seven seasons, and no one stands a better chance of fighting against the inhibitor chip controlling his actions. But as we see, even Rex’s deep love and respect for Ahsoka can’t stop him from obeying his orders. All he can do is try to drop hints and give Ahsoka a fighting chance.
With that extreme tension given release, this episode veers in a more action-packed direction as Ahsoka makes an unlikely ally out of Maul and fights to save Rex from himself. The Maul scenes in particular are a nice palate cleanser from everything that comes before. It’s actually kind of fun watching a lightsaber-less Maul go to town on the clones, especially now that they’re more the villains of this story than he. His escape is also a telling commentary on Ahsoka’s state of mind. She’s rapidly developing that survivor mentality. No longer the high-minded Jedi she worked so hard to become, she’s not above unleashing a monster like Maul if it creates the distraction she needs.
There’s plenty more tension to go around as “Shattered” draws to a close. The confined setting and the overwhelming numbers eventually take their toll, with even Ahsoka fighting a losing battle against overwhelming numbers and a ticking clock. And it all pays off nicely in the scene where a recuperated Rex chooses Ahsoka over his men. No doubt we’ll see more of the emotional fallout of that act in the finale. But even with only the three of of the four episodes released so far, this arc has fully lived up to its promise. It’s enhanced the events of the movie and paid off on characters arcs that have been more than a decade in the making. Now there’s just one final tale to be told before the war is truly over.