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Star Wars: The Clone Wars episode 9 recap: Siege of Mandalore gets off to incredible start

A dose of glorious Star Wars adrenaline.

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Cool ex-Padawans don't look at explosions.

Lucasfilm

We're in the endgame now, with the final arc of the last season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Old Friends Not Forgotten, the season's ninth episode, hit Disney Plus on Friday, kicking off the long-awaited Siege of Mandalore.

We pick up with ex-Padawan Ahsoka Tano (Ashley Eckstein) after her slightly listless solo arc, when she opted to join one-time enemy Bo-Katan Kryze (Katee Sackhoff) and her Mandalorian buddies in kicking former Sith apprentice Maul (Sam Witwer) off the planet for good.

This is an absolutely spectacular episode, like Star Wars rock 'n' roll from beginning to end. At the risk of sounding gatekeepery, it exemplifies why this show is essential viewing for every fan. If you're reading this and haven't done so, it's all on Disney Plus.

Anyhoo, on with dem SPOILERS.

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Fortune cookie

There isn't one. But if there was, it'd read "Oh, it's ON now!" Which would be less a pearl of wisdom than it would be pure hype for this glorious beast of an episode.

Instead, we get the old Lucasfilm logo and a hint of Ahsoka's theme before a blast of John Williams' Main Title over a blood-red version of the show's logo, which fades into the starscape like one of the movies. This is essentially executive producer Dave Filoni promising us something truly epic and a reminder that we've hit the final stretch of the last Star Wars project that creator George Lucas had a direct hand in.

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Clone go to work in the episode's fist-pumpingly cool opening

Lucasfilm

One last look at my friends

We meet Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker (Matt Lanter) as he rescues former master Obi-Wan Kenobi (James Arnold Taylor) from a huge droid army like an absolute hero, When Anakin steps out and all the droids take aim, it visually echoes a moment that'll happen decades later, when his son Luke's Force projection steps out to meet the First Order on Crait in The Last Jedi

After Anakin fakes his surrender, composer Kevin Kiner's score mirrors the moment on Jabba's Sail Barge in Return of the Jedi -- suggesting a sneaky-sneaky plan. Anakin just wanted to draw out the tactical droid, which he takes out with one shift stroke, and leave the army vulnerable to the clones (or an Attack of the Clones, if you will).

With the battle won, they reunite with Ahsoka. Anakin is significantly less slick in her presence -- he was clearly hoping for an emotional reunion with his Padawan and she's all business. Obi-Wan is unsure about committing Republic forces to liberate Mandalore (because politics!), but it goes off the table when they get word that General Grievous has attacked Coruscant.

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Things are a little icy between Anakin and Ahsoka initially, but that soon changes.

Lucasfilm

With that, the show has reached the events of Revenge of the Sith, so Anakin and Obi-Wan have to rescue Chancellor Palpatine. He is a lovely fella, after all, and definitely won't twist Anakin into a monster.

Even though they can't help, Anakin has some surprises for Ahsoka. He presents her with a platoon of clone troopers, led by the newly promoted Commander Rex (Dee Bradley Baker) with helmets painted to match her markings. It's a pretty powerful moment, especially since it's the last time Ahsoka will see pre-Vader Anakin, and presumably Obi-Wan.

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Rex leads Ahsoka's platoon.

Lucasfilm

"I killed Maul once," the Jedi Master says. "Best to capture him, he doesn't seem to stay dead."

Don't even worry about it Obi-Wan, you'll deal with him in CGI animated followup show Rebels!

Anakin also gives Ahsoka the lightsabers she left behind at the end of Season 5. He replaced her green crystals with blue ones, so her blades match her cool new outfit. How convenient.

"Anakin, good luck," she says, in her final words of friendship to her former master.

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These guys were apparently nicknamed "Mauldalorians" by the production team.

Lucasfilm

Mandos for the dark side

As Ahsoka, Bo-Katan and the Mandalorians reach their homeworld, they hear from sleazy Prime Minister Almec (Julian Holloway)

"Your time has come Almec," says Bo-Katan. "We know you're Maul's puppet, and we're coming for him."

On the planet, we see that Almec is working with Gar Saxon and Rook Kast (Ray Stevenson and Vanessa Marshall), the pair who rescued Maul in the incredible 2014 Son of Dathomir comic series. Saxon will also go to serve as Emperor's Hand and become the Imperial Viceroy of Mandalore in Rebels.

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Bo-Katan takes on Almec and his goons.

Lucasfilm

Saxon's Maul-style Mandalorian Supercommando helmet is so awesome -- I'm not sure why fans don't make a huge fuss about these. They are the one of coolest things I've ever seen; Star Wars is one of the few franchises where I root for the bad guys just as much as the goodies. The red-armored Mandalorians who backed Maul were nicknamed "Mauldalorians" by the production team, according the episode's official trivia guide.

Even weasely Almec dons some pretty sweet ornate Mandalorian armor later in the episode, but it doesn't stop Bo-Katan from beating him down like the fool he is. This is the way.

Left without a jet pack, Ahsoka leaps out of the troop carrier like Captain America at the start of Winter Soldier. Unlike Cap, she leaps from carrier to carrier, killing bad Mandos and riding on the side of a crashing ship until she reaches the surface (where she halts her momentum by stabbing her lightsabers into the ground as the ship explodes behind her). Am-az-ing.

"Beat you," she casually tells Rex.

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Ahsoka and the clones find trouble in the sewers.

Lucasfilm

The ex-Sith emerges

In the sewers, which are very clean, Ahsoka and the clones are ambushed by Kast and a bunch of others. You know the clones are all gonna die, because Rex isn't with them and that makes them expendable. Dark and sad, but true.

Once they're dead and only a devastated Ahsoka remains, she's quickly surrounded by Mandos. We hear a sinister clankity-clank of metal feet stepping from the shadows, and who is it? It's only our old monstrous bud Maul (Sam Witwer)

"I was hoping for Kenobi," the former Sith apprentice purrs threateningly. "Why are you here?"

I fully expect him to pull the classic Sith "Join me" routine on Ahsoka in the next episode, which hits Disney Plus on April 24, as we hurtle towards the May 4 series finale. 

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Easter eggs and observations

  • We catch a glimpse of Grievous in the new animation style during the intro recap. He looks amazing; it's a pity we didn't see more of him this season.
  • Also in the intro, we see a young Caleb Dume with his master, Depa Billaba,. This lad will survive Order 66, go into hiding and change his name to Kanan Jarrus -- a part of his life seen 2015 comic series Kanan: The Last Padawan. The rest of his story will play out in CGI animated series Rebels.
  • Ahsoka uses the alias "Fulcrum" when contacting the Republic. She'll later adopt it when working against the Empire in Rebels, but we learn here that Saw Gerrera used it during the Clone Wars.
  • Until the the rest of the troops, Rex doesn't wear a helmet painted with Ahsoka's colors when they arrive at Mandalore. Maybe he decided it clashed with the rest of his armor?

Come back Friday for another recap!