'The Clone Wars' Explained: Maul's Mandalorians Best Watch Themselves in 'Old Friends Not Forgotten'

Cue up your favorite 'Bad Boys' gif because shit just got real in the first part of the epic 'Siege of Mandalore.'

Clone Wars Ahsoka Tano Badass
Lucasfilm

To hell with Jedi strategy and concern. There is right, and there is wrong. When an oppressed people cry out, the Jedi must answer. This is the way. Except, it’s not, and it hasn’t been for a very long time.

Ahsoka Tano is done kowtowing to her former order of political soldiers. She split from them after they exposed their fallibility in season five when they accused her of bombing the Jedi Temple, and throughout season seven, the ex-Padawan has come face-to-face with the frequently ignored citizens of the galaxy struggling to put food in their mouths while wars erupt on battlefields far removed from their suffering.

Tano is here to help, which is easier said than done. Last week, the Mandalorian rebel Bo-Katan Kryze sought her aid in dethroning Maul from her homeworld. Tano took little time in answering her need, but one former Jedi against an army of violent radicals is not enough. She has to face her greatest fear, returning to masters Skywalker and Kenobi, and begging them for their assistance. There is no place for pride.

The latest episode of The Clone Wars begins unlike any other. Showrunner Dave Filoni announces his series’ worth by ditching the usual television credits and embracing a proper theatrical introduction. We get no words of wisdom to lead us into the narrative; instead, we are treated to the classic green Lucasfilm logo before John Williams‘ marvelous fanfare explodes through the speakers, and The Clone Wars title card comes into the frame in bold, challenging red font. As it fades, another batch of red words appears, “Part I – Old Friends Not Forgotten.’

Oh yeah, the final four episodes of The Clone Wars are in full swing, building from everything we’ve previously seen during its seven seasons. While you may be able to jump right in and enjoy the action and the easter eggs scattered across its tight twenty-two minutes, a new viewer simply cannot appreciate the tensions between these characters without the hundreds of hours of backstory. Filoni didn’t think he was going to get his shot at a send-off for this story, but now that he’s here, he’s packing every second of the show with meaning.

General Grievous prepares his final assault on Coruscant. He’s on a mission to kidnap the Chancellor (see Revenge of the Sith if you must). The attack on the core world requires all Outer Rim soldiers to return to base, including Kenobi and Skywalker. They refuse to assist Tano in her siege of Mandalore (Kenobi is also still sulking over his last defeat against Maul when his girlfriend-not-to-be and Bo-Katan’s sister Duchess Satine was murdered).

Anakin Skywalker is a good little puppet, still following orders, if not so happily. He convinces Kenobi to split up the 501st clones so that they can give Tano and Bo-Katan a little backup when they storm Mandalore. Kenobi grumbles a bit, a whole bunch of treaties will be violated by such an action, but dammit, who cares when Grievous is on the march?

Captain Rex joins Tano, and Skywalker and Kenobi race to meet their fate with the Emperor. Ah, but not before Skywalker gives Tano a little going-away gift: her forgotten pair of lightsabers, modified from green blades to blue. The gesture is about as big a hug as they can share, and it’s their last meeting before Tano crosses swords with Darth Vader in Star Wars: Rebels (season two, “Twilight of the Apprentice”).

The 501st hold no grievances with Tano. To show her their deep respect, they paint their helmets to match her colors. This is not a new detail in The Clone Wars — Maul’s Mandalorians honor him in the same fashion — but you have to wonder if they would grant a similar honor to Mace Windu? Tano, at least, seems flattered.

With a solid Republic strikeforce at their side, Tano, Bo-Katan, and her gang of fighters descend on Mandalore. As their dropships enter the atmosphere, they are met with a barrage of missiles as well as jet-packed Mandalorians. Ships explode left and right. Rex regrets not bringing Tano a pack, but she scoffs with a smile, “Don’t need one.”

Witnessing Tano’s Force-controlled flight from one enemy to the next, high above a petrified insurgent army, is about as glorious an action scene as Star Wars can muster. Here is a warrior in her element, hopping from one treacherous killer to the next, saving Clones when and where she can. The moment she hits the surface, jabbing her duel blades into the Mandalorian platform, halting her propulsion, and nailing her superhero landing, is as perfect a shot as this franchise has ever delivered.

Maul, ya don’t stand a chance.

Only one problem, he’s already expecting company, and this assault was baked into his plan. Maul is merely disappointed that it is Tano to the rescue and not Kenobi. Their little grudge match awaits in Rebels (season three, “Twin Suns). For now, Maul will have to settle for the youngling.

Part I of the “Siege of Mandalore” concludes with Maul eradicating Tano’s clones in the city sewers; Captain Rex manages to be off fighting elsewhere, missing his fate at the end of a blaster. The Sith lackey spits his disgust at Tano, making his disappointment regarding a lack of Kenobi quite clear. Does the next episode begin with a lightsaber battle or Tano back in chains? We’ve seen enough of that this season already.

Maul will probably rely on the old tactic of attempting to turn a Jedi to the Dark Side of the Force. Lol. Nice try. For the first time in her life, Ahsoka Tano is clear of who she is and what her mission in this universe must be. She’s Tron; she fights for the users. She fights for those that cannot. Tano is right where she needs to be, waiting not for a committee to give her permission to do what she knows is right.

Concluding the final season of The Clone Wars with Captain Rex and Ahsoka Tano against the metal-legged Maul reveals where Filoni’s heart rests. His series doesn’t need to worry about the plot driving the greater Star Wars universe. He’s free from surprise, or at least how it pertains to the characters who control the cinematic installments. We all know the Emperor’s deal, we all know Darth Vader will fall, kill billions, and be redeemed by his son at the last minute. Only for that kid to screw it all up again.

The Clone Wars allows Filoni to focus on his children. Rex and Tano see the strings controlling the misery of the galaxy. They are free from the prison of George Lucas’ narrative. Maul has shed his Sith constraints, Tano can do the same with the Jedi. She is the balance of the Force we fans have been waiting for all this time. Labels are not what counts; action is what matters. Do good where you can.

Trekkie, Not Trekker. Weekly Columnist for Film School Rejects, co-host of the In The Mouth of Dorkness Podcast.