Thoughts on STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS – The Lost Missions (SPOILERS)
By Amy Ratcliffe on March 9, 2014
Friday, March 7th, was bittersweet. Star Wars: The Clone Wars hit Netflix not only with all its existing five seasons, but also 13 new episodes, dubbed “The Lost Missions.” Fans of the animated series have been eagerly awaiting the release of this “bonus content” after the show was canceled in March of last year. Clips and hints as to what the remaining episodes contained were dropped here and there at panels and Disney’s Star Wars Weekends. Anticipation has been building, and “The Lost Missions” had a lot to live up to. I’m happy to say they delivered on all fronts.
The final 13 episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars have an impact on the rest of the saga; In less than five hours, they masterfully answer some of the biggest questions in the Star Wars universe. Rather than do an episode-by-episode review, I wanted to look at the story arcs, discuss those big revelations, and measure “The Lost Missions” in terms of how they ended a beloved series. FULL SPOILERS FOLLOW.
The Lost Missions were broken into four arcs. Multi-episode plots aren’t new for The Clone Wars, and I love seeing an animated series tackle stories in this format. I like that although each arc focused on different characters, many of them showcased how Palpatine slowly but surely pulled the galaxy under his thumb. The Sith has skills.
Episodes one through four focused on the clones and how order 66 came to be. Dee Bradley Baker, the voice of all the clones, gave an amazing performance across the board. We’ve gotten an in-depth look at the soldiers over the series, and Baker helped turn them into individuals for whom we care. This arc was nothing short of gut-wrenching, as we watched Fives see his best friend Tups die and then step up to unravel the mystery of the organic chips implanted in the clones’ brains.
These four episodes are at the heart of one of the most tragic occurrences of Star Wars history. Knowing that one of the clones was on the trail and had the knowledge to prevent Order 66 and the massacre of the Jedi was nothing short of mind-blowing. Add in a host of small touches like Fives’ amusing and poignant interactions with a medical droid, the coldness of the Kaminoan liaison, and Palpatine playing the Jedi like a piano, and you’ve got a can’t-miss arc that ranks among the best episodes of the series.
Next up, episodes five through seven brought one of Padmé’s old flames into the picture. Rush Clovis betrayed the Republic at one point, so when he shows back up, everyone is understandably twitchy. While I admit I cringed when I heard the phrase “Banking Clan,” the arc showed a pivotal moment for the war, as Palpatine maneuvered the situation to put himself in charge of the banking organization.
A couple of points in this arc really struck me. First of all, Padmé is a badass. The Clone Wars developed her character wonderfully, and her strengths in diplomacy and fighting are on full display here. We also saw some chinks in her relationship with Anakin, as well as a hint that Obi-Wan knows some of what is happening between them.
Secondly, we again see Palpatine manipulating those around ever so subtly. In this case, he was the one who assigned Padmé to work with her former boyfriend to solve the case. Palpatine isn’t dumb, he knew what it would do to Anakin and he wanted to push those buttons. Because Anakin can’t control his jealousy and rage, it was an effective trick. Score one for the Sith Lord.
Episodes eight and nine brought in the unlikely and comedic pairing of Jar Jar Binks and Mace Windu. It was funnier than I imagined it would be, and offered some necessary levity for binge-watchers like myself. Seeing Jar Jar making out with a Queen? I mean, come on. It wasn’t all amusing, though, as the Frangawl Cult crept in and brought back Mother Talzin. Mace Windu got to show off impressive moves, the Force and magic were discussed, and though these were my least favorite of “The Lost Missions,” they were still solid.
The next installment, episode ten explored the mysterious death of Sifo-Dyas; it feels like a standalone but leads into the final arc. This was the Jedi who supposedly ordered the creation of the clone army. While the Jedi dive into the past to try to uncover the truth, there’s a quick line from Yoda that shows his frustration with Palpatine. Maybe it was just a throwaway, but I appreciate seeing that someone is at least a little tuned in to Palpatine’s constant smooth-talking. At the same time, the arrogance of the Jedi is on display, because they learn that the Separatists created the army and do nothing about it. I’m sure the Dark Side clouding the Force is also contributing to their inaction.
Finally, episodes 11 through 13 turned to some serious business, as Yoda spoke with Qui-Gon Jinn and learned how to transcend death. It’s brave of The Clone Wars team to take on such a large part of Star Wars mythos, but Dave Filoni and his crew have done it before. And just like previous times, man, did they deliver. They showed just enough of Yoda’s journey to make your brain reel, and even though you see the beginning of the training, there’s still mystery. They achieved a good balance between the two, and we even got a bonus Ahsoka cameo. Plus, I loved seeing Yoda turn to Anakin when he needed help with disobeying the Council.
The animation and lighting were spectacular in all the episodes, but a few moments in particular reached through the television and took my breath away. The ice and snow of Muunilinst in the Padmé and Clovis arc was nothing short of gorgeous; The translucence and texture were spot on. In the Jar Jar episodes, the night sky and colors of the desert as Mace Windu and the Gungan raced to find Queen Julia were stunning. Finally, the time-lapse view of Coruscant as the Jedi Council meditated in the temple in episode 11 was incredible. It may be my favorite shot of the series.
And holy Ewoks, the voice acting. The Clone Wars is packed with talent, and everyone shone in The Lost Missions. Matt Lanter, as ever, delivered Anakin’s over-the-top emotions and commanding presence with seeming ease. Tom Kane covered a lot of ground, as Yoda had moments ranging from feeble to strong. As mentioned, Dee Bradley Baker brought humanity and individual touches to the clones. James Arnold Taylor was wonderful as Obi-Wan and continues to be the iteration of the character I think of first. Cat Taber voiced Padmé’s arguments, sadness, and poise in a way that makes me like the Senator even more. And I can’t forget Tim Curry. He nailed both the evil Sidious and Palpatine’s pleasant, if oily, facade.
What We Learned
I wasn’t expecting to come away from “The Lost Missions” learning secrets – plural – about the Star Wars universe. The in-depth exploration of Order 66 was hinted at, but it was bold that they pushed into more. Some may argue they went too far, but the revelations felt natural in the arcs in which they appeared.
Order 66 was the first big secret that was unraveled. We suspected the Separatists had somehow programmed the clone troopers to turn on their Jedi masters, but I never would have guessed the Kaminoans were in on it. They worked with Tyranus to implant organic chips while the clones were in a very early stage of development. The cover-up, and knowing at least the upper levels of the Kaminoans were accomplices, broke my heart.
Tied into the clone mysteries, we learned a touch more about Sifo-Dyas. He ordered the creation of the clone army, and we got a little background in episode ten, “The Lost One.” Sifo-Dyas sat on the council and foresaw the need for the Republic to have a standing army. The Jedi didn’t listen, so it seems he took matters into his own hands. Investigating his death leads the Jedi down a path to learn that Dooku was responsible for ordering the clones. In their arrogance, though, they think they can finish the war before the clones do whatever the Separatists created them for. Oops.
One quick note about an impressive occurrence in the same episode: Darth Sidious Force-choked Dooku through a holographic transmission. Guys! Look, we know he’s powerful, but that small action says so much.
We’ve seen magic in the Star Wars universe, and there’s always been a question about whether it is a form of the Force or its own energy. In episode nine, “The Disappeared Part II,” Mother Talzin comes back into the picture. She clearly explains she is not a natural Force wielder like the Jedi or Sith but instead uses dark magic. Given that she’s ripping the spirit from the Bardotta Queen, it seems like she uses the Force to fuel that magic, but it still appears to be a separate energy. This may not be a definitive answer on magic and the Force for the whole galaxy, but it says much about Talzin’s particular brand of power.
As if all that wasn’t enough, the last three episodes of “The Lost Missions” focus on Yoda communing with Qui-Gon Jinn and learning how to defeat death and ultimately become the Force ghost we see in the original trilogy. Qui-Gon sends Yoda to Dagobah to the Dark Side Cave to begin his journey. That’s where my mind started spinning. The training eventually leads him to the ancient Sith home world of Moraband (and a Mark Hamill cameo – he’s Darth Bane!). When he passes the tests, the Sages casually throw out, “There is another… Skywalker.”
Again, a small note about the final episode. Sidious defers to Yoda’s power. It’s a tiny moment that speaks volumes.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars set out to tell stories in between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. It showed us the war from all sides – the battles, the politics, the deaths, and the innocents. Over the years, the series has excelled at taking the stories and characters we saw in the prequels and developing them into a richer fabric. At the same time, the series also introduced plenty of fresh characters, plots, and locations. It answered mysteries, such as what how lightsabers are built, and left still more, like Ahsoka’s final fate. Speaking of Ahsoka, The Clone Wars was the first on-screen Star Wars story to give a female a truly starring role.
Then on the technical side, The Clone Wars was visually stunning, packed with great sound effects, performed by talented voice actors, and beautifully scored. The depth and texture of the animation and lighting progressed as the series went on, and it really was like watching a short film each weekend.
“The Lost Missions” brought all of that home and turned the volume up to 11. Since Ahsoka had her good-bye at the end of season five, the final 13 episodes focused on the clones, Yoda, Anakin, and Palpatine’s deft manipulations. If you’re in the camp that doesn’t believe in Palpatine’s unlimited power, I think these episodes do a convincing job at showing just how heavy his hand is. It’s downright chilling.
Though I’m still sad the series is over, I feel fortunate that we got these final episodes to bring some closure. They were hard-hitting, packed with character development and emotional moments, and really provided a look at how things went downhill for the Jedi order. Even though there was heartbreak and despair, The Clone Wars ended on a note of hope. And hope is what Star Wars is all about.