But first, Ahsoka and a freshly de-chipped Rex need to find way off their ship.
Operatic music swells as troopers from the 332 Company slice through the the medical bay door. Ahsoka tells Rex to set his blasters to stun, her heart still not ready to accept killing her own soldiers. Just as the final cut on the door is made, she uses the force to push it out, flinging a group of troopers down the hallway. Rex immediately begins firing, stunning his brothers while Ahsoka deflects a barrage of blaster bolts. After sealing off the rest of their attackers, R-7 informs them that all the escape pods have been destroyed. Thankfully, there’s still one shuttle available in the main hangar.
Meanwhile, Maul heads to the ship’s engine room and begins wreaking absolute havoc, killing a ton of clone troopers and disabling the Republic attack cruiser’s hyperdrive. The ship begins to come apart as it’s forced out of hyperspace near an unidentified moon.
After exiting the demolished engine room, Maul utilizes a dead clone’s wrist com to learn that things are about to get very interesting in the ship’s hangar.
Ahsoka, Rex, and the three droids that have been helping them reach the hangar bay control room. After subduing the clones inside, Rex mentions how proud he’d be of his soldiers for locking down their escape routes if they weren’t trying to kill him.
Ahsoka has the droids get to work figuring out what their options are. They soon learn that in addition to the the ship’s hyperdrive being destroyed, it’s also caught the moon’s gravitational pull, ensuring an imminent crash landing upon the moon’s surface. Just as R-7 is able to get the shuttle bay doors open, ARC trooper Jesse and a battalion of clones swarm into the hangar, blocking their escape.
Rex suggests fighting their way to the shuttle, but Ahsoka still refuse to kill her own troops. Rex angrily responds that those troops–his own brothers–have absolutely no qualms about killing them, even if it means sacrificing themselves in the process.
At this point, Ahsoka gently removes Rex’s helmet so she can look him in the eye and says one of the greatest lines in the entire Clone Wars series:
“You’re a good soldier, Rex. So is everyone of those men down there. They may be willing to die, but I am not the one who is going to kill them.”
Thankfully, Ahsoka has another idea how they might be able to escape the attack cruiser in one piece.
Turmoil and Technicalities
Just as Jesse is receiving a transmission about Maul’s whereabouts, Rex walks in with a blaster pointed to Ahsoka’s back. He commands his troops to hold their fire and walks her directly toward them.
When Jesse demands that he kill her, Rex refuses, explaining that Order 66 was not valid in this situation due to the fact that Ahsoka had officially left the Jedi Order. Jesse reminds Rex that it was him who said they were given special orders by Darth Sidious to execute Ahsoka Tano along with any clone troopers who refused to obey Order 66.
Rex continues to try and convince Jesse that Ahsoka is not a valid target, but to no avail. Thankfully, he’s able to keep the conversation going long enough for the droids to get to the hangar floor controls. On Ahsoka’s signal, they activate the maintenance docks, dropping most of the clones down into the repair bay.
While Ahsoka and Rex begin fighting their way past the remaining clones to the shuttle, Maul arrives and cuts them off. After angrily reminding Ahsoka that she’d wanted him to create chaos, he uses the force to throw her over the edge of one of the descended docking bays, where she’s barely rescued by a grappling line from one of the droids. Jesse and the rest of the clones begin blasting up at Ahsoka. Rex provides cover as she deflects their fire while climbing back to safety.
Upon reaching the hangar floor, she sees Maul taking off in the shuttle and begins pulling it back with the force. Her task is made infinitely more difficult when a new group of clones bursts into the hangar and begins firing, taking out R-7 (NOOOOO!). With Rex getting overwhelmed, Ahsoka finally lets go, allowing Maul to escape and joining Rex to counter the fresh wave of troops. Just when it looks like they’re about to be overrun, Ahsoka pulls off a truly badass move to drop them into the repair bay.
Unfortunately, the repair bay is also where Jesse and a bunch of clones still are. Luckily, the two surviving droids are able to reactivate the maintenance docks, shooting them back up into the hangar. The clones destroy them both before resuming the hunt for their former commanders, who are desperately searching the maintenance bay for a working ship.
Ahsoka spots a functional Y-wing starfighter just as Jesse and his troops begin closing in on them. She uses to the force to throw Rex toward the ship, then begins providing cover as he preps the craft for take off. Just as she’s about to be overwhelmed, the cruiser enters the moon’s atmosphere and breaks apart, sending Ahsoka and her attackers sliding out of control.
As ships and clone troopers go tumbling everywhere, Ahsoka uses her lightsabers to stop her momentum. Rex gets the Y-wing in position to launch and yells for her to jump toward him. She does, but not in time, missing the craft just as an explosion knocks it from the hangar and into the air. This is followed by a thrilling mid-air sequence of Rex getting the Y-wing turned on and going after Ahsoka, who runs and jumps on pieces of the disintegrating attack cruiser before finally making it inside the Y-wing.
Honor and Love Among Enemies
Rex lands the Y-Wing at the cruiser’s crash site, which we quickly learn had no survivors. Despite being hunted and nearly killed by the clones onboard, both Rex and Ahsoka dig and mark graves for every one of them they can find, including Jesse.
Before departing the moon, Ahsoka takes a moment on her own to grieve her fallen troopers and the shattered bond she held with so many of them. She removes one of her lightsabers and drops it to the ground, her final tie to the Jedi Order lying in the same gravesite as her men.
Some time later, Darth Vader (!) and a battalion of Imperial storm troopers arrive on the moon looking for Jedi. Despite the moon’s surface now being covered in snow, Vader is still able to sense and find Ahsoka’s light saber. He ignites it and looks ups to see a convor (which was likely Morai) circling overhead.
After taking a moment to ponder his former padawan’s fate, Vader turns and heads back to the ship. The last image we see, both of him and the entire series, is his departing reflection in the visor of a battered clone trooper helmet.
The Clone Wars may be over, but the scars it created will never completely heal.
Okay, I know three straight perfect ratings is more than a little ridiculous, but I’ve got to call it like I see it. Maybe it might be better to score this entire ‘Siege of Mandalore’ arc as one incredible entity instead of four separate ones.
Whatever the case, this was about the most perfect ending that Star Wars: The Clone Wars could have had.
Just looking at it as a single episode, ‘Victory or Death’ was all types of great. In addition to the thrilling fight/escape sequences, we also had some incredible character moments for both Rex and Ahsoka, two characters who have evolved into some of the best figures in Star Wars lore.
As an ending to the Star Wars: The Clone Wars as a whole, however, the episode works even better. I love Revenge of the Sith, but the fallout from Order 66 and Palpatine’s rise to power felt so much more effective here. A large part of that is obviously due to all the time we spent with the clones as individuals, but Bradley Dee Baker (Rex) and Ashley Eckstein (Ahsoka) beautifully sold just how awful and tragic it was.
And then there was that final moment with Darth Vader. I was worried this would be treated as a cheap-yet-fun fan service moment. Instead, it completely broke my heart.
Also, I have to once again praise not only the gorgeous animation, but Kevin Kiner’s musical score. The last few minutes of the episode may have been devoid of dialogue, but they said more than any narration or character speech ever could.
Thank you Dave Filoni and the rest of the Clone Wars team. You gave this incredible series the best ending we could have ever hoped for.