Review- The Clone Wars, The Phantom Apprentice
The epic finale to the final season of The Clone Wars continues, but can it top its impressive (and explosive) first part?
It's certainly an interesting question, especially considering The Phantom Apprentice literally picks up where the last episode left off, even skipping the usual opening newsreel.
The suspense of its opening only helps to embed the cinematic tone the first episode set, but also makes it even more clear this is arc is to be enjoyed as one long story. Many fans and experts (including those involved in the show) have referred to this set of episodes as the second Clone Wars movie, closing out the series just as the original movie opened it.
It's a nice concept, with this episode only helping to bolster that big-screen feel. Many high budget television shows have felt like movies in the past, but have often succumbed to disappointing final stories.
Thankfully this feels like quite the opposite, with the series pulling out all the stops to build on what they have done before, working brilliantly with the building blocks the team had set themselves.
Two episodes in we are also able to understand more about why the Bad Batch and Ashoka arc felt a bit more lackluster. Lucas Film clearly put its best resources and creatives into making this finale the best it could be, with the excellent combat scenes being proof of that.
Ahsoka, Bo Katan, and Rex are all given their moments to shine, displaying a great dedication to cool action, but also complex sequences. Ahsoka and Maul's fight is likely the greatest lightsaber duel the show has ever pulled off and even rivals many seen on the big screen.
Many fans have shown disappointment over the years for the lack of lightsaber action, and this more than makes up for it.
Original Maul performer Ray Park, along with stunt artist Lauren Mary Kim both provided choreography for the episodes, and it clearly shows. The fluid and seamless nature of Maul and Ahsoka's fight is nothing more than captivating, with amazing visual effects helping to back it all up.
The animation department as previously mentioned in other reviews really is on top form. We see lighting and effects we've never got to see on The Clone Wars before, with impressive glass explosions, cinder, and atmospheric dark lighting, used especially well in the upper structure of the Mandalorian city.
Lastly and most importantly, I want to credit the writing of this episode. Whether it was written as a feature-length movie, and split, or written as four separate episodes, either way, so far it has worked excellently. The Phantom Apprentice has a perfect balance of drama, suspense, and action. The dialogue keeps you on the edge of your seat, as you are eager to learn what each character knows.
It's one of the most fascinating uses of a prequel story where the drama and suspense of the impending chaos is literally used to excite and add drama for its viewers.
Surprising story elements are introduced such as Obi Wan's continued involvement in the mission. While this does provide some familiar dialogue, it ultimately adds to the ever-interesting parallel story, that makes this finale so unique. We see new perspectives and revelations that add to the turmoil of our characters.
But the standouts are of course Maul and Ahsoka. Going into this finale I never expected so much symmetry to be made between them. While this troupe of a villain leaning on the similarities of his foes is nothing new, the script and voice work both do a fantastic job of showing the characters' struggles and complexities, while also mirroring Star Wars scenes of the past.
Star Wars has always been about mirroring, George Lucas described it as poetry and rhyme. But the unique character of Maul gives us a fantastic dive into his mind, and how he wants to thrive in the chaos that is about to ensue. A great example of resurrecting a character effectively, rather than for cheap thrills.
The Phantom Apprentice is thrilling, cinematic, and filled with fantastic drama, becoming easily one of the series greatest episodes. It'll certainly be hard to top, but with a lot of emotion surely ahead, we shall see how these mystery final two episodes unfold...