This coming Saturday, The Clone Wars kicks off what promises to be a faster and more intense path to the Season Five finale. After the season premiere episode, “Revival,” tied up the loose ends of the Maul plotline from Season Four’s finale arc, we haven’t seen the galaxy’s newest “lightsaber-wielding maniacs” again – until now.
To date in Season Five three episode arcs have aired, with two arcs apparently remaining. The first storylines of the season – Onderon’s freedom fighters, the Young Jedi’s tests, and D-Squad’s mission – garnered mixed reviews overall. Each arc had high points, effective moments, and emotionally powerful scenes. But each one also had noticeable weaknesses, including several odd choices of allocating minutes and some subplots that seemed too tangential.
Onderon gave Ahsoka a mission essentially on her own and tested her ability to follow her Jedi duty, and enabled her to reconnect with Lux Bonteri, but ended without showing any meaningful closure on either aspect. We don’t really know anything more about Ahsoka’s path as a Jedi, or her feelings for Lux, than we did before the arc aired. The Young Jedi story introduced some fun new characters in the younglings, and featured the consistently hilarious presence of old favorite Hondo Ohnaka, but it’s hard to see anything consequential in the plot they moved through. Featuring Ahsoka in a more nurturing heroic role was a welcome inclusion, but again the arc ended without much suggestion that this mission has changed Ahsoka going forward. The D-Squad mission to steal a Separatist encryption module, at least, had the pretext of mattering to the overall course of the war, but its exclusive focus on minor characters left its attempt to address deep themes of existence and sentience completely unmoored from the main characters, whose development defines the series. The only principal hero in D-Squad is Artoo, a robot with a static personality and consistent portrayal throughout all six films – in other words, a protagonist who doesn’t have a character development arc. At the big-picture storytelling level, the problem created by the pacing of the first half of the season is that any potential character development in the first two arcs was disconnected by a D-Squad arc that overstayed its welcome. After thirteen episodes, Ahsoka, Anakin, and Obi-Wan are essentially in the same place they were when the season began.
But that’s finally going to change as Season Five comes to a close. The teaser trailers have given some hints of these arcs, but only in the broadest brushstrokes.
Certainly, now The Clone Wars returns to the core characters, and the stakes appear to be high enough that lasting impacts are inevitable. “Revival” ended with Palpatine and Yoda both admonishing Obi-Wan that his obsession with taking down Maul once and for all had become too personal, distracting him from his true duty and impairing his judgment. Adding Satine and Mandalore into the mix will only increase the emotional challenge for the Jedi Master even further. Given the turmoil he suffered in last season’s Rako Hardeen arc, it’s hard to imagine this season’s Obi-Wan storyline being any kinder to him.
Season Five originally included an arc for Anakin as well, built around his attachment to Padmé that forms the heart of his ill-fated choices in Revenge of the Sith. Based on clips shown at Star Wars Weekends, Celebration VI, and in the Season Five trailer, the arc apparently tests Padmé’s physical safety and her bond with a former paramour in a manner that pushes Anakin to near, or past, a breaking point. As revealed in Star Wars Insider #134, these three episodes, bookended around one titled “The Rise of Clovis,” were initially scheduled as the second arc of Season Five. Although official confirmation is pending, current indications suggest this arc has been shifted into Season Six. Hopefully we’ll get some insight from Dave Filoni in his traditional mid-season interview with Jason Swank and Jimmy “Mac” McInerney on their new home – RebelForce Radio – airing January 19th.
The four-episode season-ending arc is Ahsoka’s. Little has been revealed about these episodes to date. At Celebration, Dave Filoni hinted about powerful emotional intensity for both Ahsoka and Anakin. The trailers reveal the return of Asajj Ventress, another of The Clone Wars’ strong female characters, in a significant role. If the information spotted by Shea’s Clone Wars Source on the previously reliable Zap2It is accurate, then each of these four episodes carries a title based on a famous Alfred Hitchcock movie. It also means the recent speculation by Pete Morrison at Lightsaber Rattling is likely pretty close to the mark – and the season will come to its stunning conclusion only six weeks from now.
Saturday, though, it’s Maul who leads the charge into the ending arcs of Season Five. For those who love spoilers in advance – or Expanded Universe versions that further elaborate the stories seen onscreen after the fact – be sure not to miss the Darth Maul: Shadow Conspiracy young-reader book from Scholastic by EU guru Jason Fry. Beyond some cool nods to EU lore, the book adds great depth to the characters through the use of internal monologues that, by their nature, can’t be present in the television series. Starting with “Revival,” Shadow Conspiracy encompasses all four of the Maul episodes from Season Five.
If you’ve fallen behind in watching The Clone Wars or have hesitated about starting to watch, these next eight episodes should be perfect time to jump in. Without saying more, the Maul arc really will deliver on the promise that things will never be the same again…
The episode “Eminence” begins the Maul storyline this Saturday at 9:30 a.m. on Cartoon Network, followed by “Shades of Reason” and “The Lawless” on subsequent weekends.