Warning: This review contains major spoilers for season 7 episode 3 of Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
The infamous clone war is nearing its climax, and "On the Wings of Keeradaks" is keenly aware of that. Not only do we see more clones and more war, but the episode features many echoes of the past and glimpses of the future: Anakin and Rex must convince yet another unwilling species that there's no neutrality in a star war (a common theme throughout this series), and the fate of the clones we've grown to love seems shaky, at best.
"On the Wings of Keeradaks" is the third episode in what will be a four-episode arc centered around Echo's rescue, and here's where the storyline is starting to strain. While the action is beautiful and the Bad Batch's fight scenes are a choreographed dance I could only dream of mimicking, there's not enough time spent fleshing out the implications of the major plot points. Perhaps that's because this episode is shorter than the rest, clocking in at just under 19 minutes – an odd choice considering we've been waiting for the culmination of the series for what feels like an eternity.
The episode picks up right where "A Distant Echo" left off: Rex, the Bad Batch, and Anakin have successfully freed Echo from the confines of a horrific experiment the Techno Union have subjected him to. I spoke of glimpses into the future earlier, and it's damn near impossible not to see what lies ahead for Anakin in Echo's robotic form. His skin is pale and icy blue; his human legs and one arm are gone, replaced by mechanical parts, and he's perpetually kept in some type of cryogenic chamber. That Anakin barely flinches at the state of Echo is a missed opportunity. Overall, Echo's return is handled far too lightly – he seamlessly transitions back into a natural rapport with both Rex and Anakin, hesitating only to say "I got a big headache."
The Clone Wars could have seized the opportunity to linger on Echo's state of mind, and the ramifications of a cloned man becoming part machine in the war against total machines. But the show doesn't, choosing instead to give us a lengthy (but beautiful) action sequence.
The episode also runs rather roughshod over the native alien race on Skako Minor, who are dragged into the war because Anakin and the clones brought it there. The Poletecs, who spent the better part of their brief time on The Clone Wars insisting that they don't want war, are quickly convinced that they need to join it and are just as quickly disposed of. If you were worried that Disney Plus was going to overly sanitize The Clone Wars, this episode should allay those fears: the Techno Union's droids methodically and ruthlessly dispense of a large chunk of the Poletecs, one is even shot point-blank in the face by a droid in a brutal scene. It's abundantly clear that peaceful planets have been – and will be – completely decimated by the warring factions. A post-battle conversation with the Poletecs, Rex, and Anakin asserting that this war will reach any shore would have been more interesting than the empty (and frankly, tired) "the Jedi will always have an ally here" mini-speech we get.
Despite these missed opportunities, "On the Wings of Keeradaks" is still a better episode than many that have come before it. Season 7's updated animation is still flexing its Wrecker-sized muscles, giving us gorgeous, painterly backgrounds and beautifully rendered figures set against it. The camera feels like it's being moved by an expert live-action director, and the extensive fight scenes are choreographed to punchy perfection and set to an absolutely beautiful score. The scene when our crew is stuck on a sky-high beam between clone forces is sheer perfection (and don't think the Temple of Doom nod went unnoticed).
I'd argue that The Clone Wars' biggest strength is its characters, and "On the Wings of Keeradaks" supports that argument. The Bad Batch has been fully integrated in the core group in just three episodes, which has me sincerely worried for their future. Anakin's closest clone buddies clearly know him better than most of the Jedi, as made apparent in his exchange with Echo: "Still showing off, General?" Echo asks Anakin as he handily lays waste to a massive droid walker. "You know me, Echo," Anakin responds. He does know you Anakin, and that's what makes the future so much more upsetting.
Ultimately, "On the Wings of Keeradaks" is the weakest episode in a series of incredibly strong episodes. If the season never dips any lower than this, we're in for a proper treat. Stay tuned. Star Wars: The Clone Wars season 7 episode 4 debuts March 13 on Disney Plus.
Check out the latest Disney Plus bundles if you want to start watching too!