Warning: This review contains major spoilers for Star Wars: The Clone Wars season 7 episode 10
To quote another blockbuster franchise: "We're in the endgame now." While the first two arcs of The Clone Wars' final season were, at times, laborious, the last remaining episodes won't stop to take a breath – and I'm happy to be panting along as we zoom forward at breakneck speed.
"The Phantom Apprentice" refers to Ahsoka Tano and Darth Maul, two essential characters to The Clone Wars story, both former apprentices who grew disillusioned with their mentors. These apprentices, though, have somehow never met – until now. Last week, there were hints that the Siege of Mandalore is meant to be viewed as a feature-length movie, and this episode confirms exactly that. The action picks up where "Old Friends, Not Forgotten" leaves off, with Ahsoka and Maul face-to-face in the sewers of Mandalore (Maul loves those sewers).
Maul – ever the shifty devil – gets away, but not without first offering a poetic monologue describing a vision: one where the Jedi and the Republic are no longer in control of the galaxy and Darth Sidious’ reigns. Voice actor Sam Wittwer imbues the moment with pathos, despite Maul's mental state being long past the point of rescue. That Darth Sidious name drop also piques Ahsoka's interest, and it isn't until she asks Obi-Wan about it over holo chat that we truly learn how little time we have left before Order 66 comes into play.
The events of Revenge of the Sith are already taking place, with Anakin having just killed Count Dooku, the Jedi Council just instructing him to spy on Chancellor Palpatine, and Obi-Wan heading to Utapau to snag General Grievous. For reference, Obi-Wan's final goodbye with Anakin takes place 50 minutes into Revenge of the Sith. Does all of this give you as much anxiety as it gives me?
What happens next is some of the best choreographed action in a piece of Star Wars media, set against The Clone Wars’ most awe-inspiring backdrop yet. Ahsoka confronts Maul in the throne room on Mandalore – he sits impishly in the leader's seat (once occupied by Satine Kryze, sister to Bo-Katan) as explosions fire off outside the floor-to-ceiling windows. He and Ahsoka briefly find common ground, and we get yet another iconic "join me" moment as Maul’s red-and-black hand stretches out. It’s truly breathtaking – especially as you realise how close the galaxy was to an entirely different fate.
Ahsoka considers Maul’s offer as he claims that he can't stop Sidious without her, but she can't commit - Maul knows Anakin has been groomed by Sidious and Ahsoka won't believe a word of it. Cue a lightsaber battle unlike anything The Clone Wars has done before – thanks to the sequence being completely mo-capped. Live-action Maul actor Ray Park and The Mandalorian stuntwoman Lauren Mary Kim performed both lightsaber duels in this episode and they are grand. The characters move with a weightiness previously absent in the series and the highly cinematic camera angles make this feel like a feature film – because it should be.
this shot alone deserves all the Emmys #CloneWars pic.twitter.com/I5yXQK2XvQApril 24, 2020
In the first battle, Maul barely bests Ahsoka. She even trash talks him mid-fight: "You're lucky Anakin didn't show up. The way you're fighting, you wouldn't have lasted long." As Maul tries to skitter away like the former sewer spider he is, we can finally see Ahsoka’s powers on full display. Later, when she bests Maul without either of her sabers, Ahsoka holds him in a Force grip high over the city before her troopers can reel him in. "You're all going to burn! We're all going to die!" he shouts, putting words to the dread we're all feeling.
The end is nigh, my friends, and The Clone Wars is teetering on the precipice of the most drastic power shift in Star Wars history. Even though the end will break our hearts, at least we can go into these final few episodes knowing that it will look beautiful, sound incredible, and feel more satisfying than the prequels. There, I said it.