What was even the point? The final shot of this week’s episode of The Clone Wars sent a painful slap across my Star Wars-loving soul. A man was rescued, pulled from the brink of a catatonic death, given a good shoulder squeeze by his comrades, and an invitation to get back into the fight. Step right up, Echo. Your chariot awaits, as does the false battlefield manipulated by a demonic Sith to position the universe into an utterly terrified, absolutely controllable entity. You’re a puppet. We’re all puppets. Don’t think about it, just accept it.
“On the Wings of Keeradaks,” episode three of the final season, is another action-packed twenty minutes detailing the badassery of the Bad Batch, Captain Rex, and Jedi tagalong Anakin Skywalker. Picking up the second after the last episode ended, our heroes are in the middle of a firefight. They’ve ripped clone trooper Echo from his stasis pod, yanking various tubes from his skull, and severing his tie to the Techno Union’s database. Cornered in the control room, dozens upon dozens of D-Wing battle droids encroach upon their position. These little pests may be terrible shots, but if enough of them appear, certainly one or two will eventually hit a target.
With little time to spare, Echo directs the Bad Batch to a ventilation shaft high above their heads. Since he’s spent the last several years jacked into the computer banks of the Techno Union, he has a machine’s knowledge of the base’s ins and outs. Echo opens the hatch, and Wrecker flings one clone after the other into the ceiling. Anakin, the good little Jedi he is, Forces his way up on his own.
Upon discovering their escape, the greedy as he is villainous Wat Tambor screams his rage to the heavens. Echo was his rightful property. He owned him the way he owns the droids or his favorite bacta tank that he retires to every evening. The gall of these clones to storm his castle and take his drone! While his D-Wing battle droids chase the Bad Batch (who have all hitched a ride on the wings of Keeradaks) through the skies of Skako Minor, Wat Tambor demands his entire army to amass. Not a molecule of his enemies will leave this planet.
His indignant rage falls not only on the Bad Batch but also upon the primitive Poletec people, who want nothing to do with the war that the Jedi and Captain Rex have brought to their doorstep. They just want to worship their flying dragons and appreciate the time allotted, but here come these massive Octuptarras (a.k.a. those big octopus droids that should have seen more action in the films) to crush their homestead. The war is here; now they must dirty themselves with the conflict.
Like last week, most of “On the Wings of Keeradaks” is consumed with clone-on-droid action. Although, Anakin gets to flex his muscles a little more this time around. The Bad Batch marvel as the Jedi leaps on top of an Octuptarra, but Captain Rex recognizes Anakin’s behavior for what it is, just a little showing off for the troops.
It works. Hunter, the leader of the Bad Batch, admits that “It’s hard to compete with a Jedi.” Anakin loves being in the thick of war. Whether he deflects blaster fire with his lightsaber or not, the damn droids can never land a shot. The same cannot be said for the Poletecs. They’re the only ones meeting their maker this week.
Anakin takes down one Octuptarra, and the Bad Batch takes down the other. The war comes to a halt as a few remaining D-Wing droids run off with their tails tucked between their legs. Victory. The Poletecs give their thanks to the soldiers, and Rex gets a moment to breathe.
As Anakin and the Bad Batch board their dropship, the captain steps to Echo. He looks like a zombie, or better yet, a ghost. His complexion is paler than those around him. He stands on legs made of metal. One arm is severed and replaced with a mechanical limb. Echo is a tired, mangled clone, but he offers a sheepish smile and a sincere “Thank you.”
“That’s what brothers do,” Rex responds. “I’m just sorry it took so long. Hopefully, it’s going to be just like old times.”
Echo trembles a nod. Rex walks away. Echo mutters to himself and us, “Yeah. Just like old times.”
The camera pulls away from where Echo is standing, snap to credits. Oof.
What’s there to go back to? War? He was ripped from the battle before and slammed into a new kind of hell by the Techno Union. Freed from that prison, his only place remains in combat. He is a clone. He’s a cog in the machine of death. Where Anakin can prance about playing swashbuckler, using the Force to protect his mug from mutilation, Echo can only hope the next shot ends his life quickly.
The climax of “On the Wings of Keeradaks” is one of the most brutal moments in Star Wars canon. This little, broken clone faces no future, no hope. He was born to kill for others. He was born to die for others.
The Jedi may be having fun, but we know his future. The Emperor. Order 66. Younglings under his blade. Darth Vader.
Where will Echo go? Rex makes it to see old age in Rebels, but was he a part of Palpatine’s eradication of the Jedi? Just how damned is his soul? Is Echo his first step in finding a world outside of The Clone Wars? I hope so.
The first three episodes of The Clone Wars finds a series even more mature than I remember. The knowledge that everything we see is merely a ploy by some wrinkly jerkwad on a throne far away from the conflict adds an extra sense of dread and sorrow to every scene. It’s not just that Anakin Skywalker will one day (goose)step inside the black boots of Darth Vader, it’s that everyone is operating under a great lie. The war the clones were spawned to fight is a masquerade. Every action they take is an impotent one.