This weekend, Star Wars Rebels offered another strong installment to its third season. “The Last Battle” featured Captain Rex, Kanan Jarrus, and Ezra Bridger and paid homage to Star Wars: The Clone Wars. In doing so, Rebels accomplished something that The Clone Wars was never able to do thanks to its premature cancellation: It resolved the Clone Wars.
The Clone Wars Weren’t Winnable
Admittedly, I thought “The Last Battle” got off to an odd start. Rex, Kanan, and Ezra must fight General Kalani and his battle droids, over 17 years after the Clone Wars ended. Kalani’s entire scenario felt like a pointless reenactment of the conflict — a “stupid war game,” as Zeb Orellios put it. Yet, that was the whole point of the episode (its thesis, if you will): The Clone Wars weren’t winnable.
Since the Clone Wars were a sham conflict, the only true victor was the Empire. For 3 years, the Sith distracted the Jedi and their clone troopers by pitting them against the Separatists. Then, the Sith exploited the chaos to establish the Empire. Moreover, the clone troopers lost their free will when Order 66 forced them to execute the Jedi.
“The Last Battle” perfectly illustrates the reality of the Clone Wars, offering meaningful commentary on both Revenge of the Sith and The Clone Wars TV series. Rex and Kalani represent the Republic and the Separatists, respectively, and they easily revive their governments’ natural rivalry. Yet, Ezra convinces Rex and Kalani that the war was, in fact, rigged — and not in their favor.
Ezra was born on the final day of the Clone Wars, so he lacks firsthand knowledgeable of the conflict. Yet, that same naïveté enables him to reach a conclusion that Rex and Kalani do not see. Ezra points out, “Clones? Battle droids? You destroyed each other, and when you were both weak enough, the Empire took over.”
Neither the Republic nor the Separatists could have won the Clone Wars. But now, with the Empire as their mutual enemy, Rex and Kalani work together to escape from Imperial forces on Agamar. Master Yoda once told Clone Sergeant Thire, “Long is the war. Only by surviving it will you prevail.” And that’s exactly what Rex, Kalani, and their comrades do.
Rex’s Missing Story
“The Last Battle” is screenwriter Brent Friedman‘s first contribution to Star Wars Rebels. Friedman is one of several talented writers — including Henry Gilroy, Steven Melching, and Matt Michnovetz — who migrated from The Clone Wars to Rebels. I’m excited to see more of Friedman’s work on Rebels, especially since he truly understands Captain Rex as a character.
Several of Friedman’s story arcs for The Clone Wars featured Rex as a protagonist. One was the “Bad Batch” story arc, which was released in unfinished story reels. Another of Friedman’s story arcs, which is still unreleased, sent Rex on a rollicking adventure with R2-D2. And speaking of R2-D2, Friedman also wrote the “D-Squad” story arc for season five of The Clone Wars. That’s why in “The Last Battle,” Kanan offhandedly refers to one of Kalani’s battle droid teams as D-Squad.
Ultimately, “The Last Battle” triggers a substantial amount of nostalgia for longtime fans of The Clone Wars. The series never got to explore the impact of Order 66 on its major characters, including Rex. Still, one of the awesome moments of E. K. Johnston’s recent novel Ahsoka was when the book alluded to Rex’s reaction to Order 66. Hopefully we’ll get to see more of Rex’s missing story some day.
Is Kalani Relatable?
My main quibble with “The Last Battle” was that I found it hard to connect with General Kalani as a character. However, my problem wasn’t with Freidman’s scripting of the episode; I thought Friedman did a fantastic job. Rather, my concern with Kalani goes back to his origins on Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
Back in The Clone Wars episode “Tipping Points,” Count Dooku orders Kalani to withdraw their forces from the Battle of Onderon to Agamar. “The Last Battle” utilized that unresolved story thread by having Kalani and his leftover droids remain on Agamar. Yet, throughout The Clone Wars, Kalani came off as a cold, killing machine. That’s how Kalani was meant to appear, but it also made it difficult to relate to him in “The Last Battle.”
Of all the Separatist characters from The Clone Wars, Asajj Ventress and Lux Bonteri were the most relatable to fans. Kalani, on the other hand, didn’t give viewers much reason to empathize with him. Keep in mind, this is the same Kalani who executed King Sanjay Rash in cold blood back in “Tipping Points.” I know Kalani is a super tactical droid, which means he’s programmed for warfare — much like Rex and his fellow clone troopers. Still, that made it hard to trust Kalani as “The Last Battle” unfolded.
As always, Fan Contributor Robert Mitchell is here to co-write our list of stray observations:
- “The Last Battle” contains many homages to The Clone Wars. The episode’s closing title card evokes the logo of The Clone Wars. For the episode’s end credits, Rebels music composer Kevin Kiner utilizes the end credits motif that he created for The Clone Wars.
- “The Last Battle” also uses Kiner’s “Battle of Christophsis” musical theme from The Clone Wars film.
- Gregg Berger and Matthew Wood reprise their voice roles as Kalani and the battle droids, respectively, from The Clone Wars.
- Brent Friedman’s humor game is on point. When Zeb tells Kalani, “You might as well surrender now,” Kalani says, “I am not programmed to comprehend your humor.” Zeb scoffs, “I’m not joking.” Kalani dryly replies, “Ha. Ha. Ha.”
- Once again, Governor Arihnda Pryce remains absent from Lothal. She oversees the Imperial Navy’s pursuit of Hera Syndulla and Sabine Wren in the Ghost. As I’ve written previously, Rebels needs to reconcile Pryce’s battlefield career with her governing responsibilities on Lothal. Or she could even become more of an analogue for Admiral Gilad Pellaeon‘s partnered role with Thrawn.
- It was nice to see Ezra talk his way out of a fight for once, as he did by convincing Rex and Kalani to resolve their differences. That moment embodied the lyrics of an old Bob Dylan song, “My Back Pages.” The lyrics go, “But I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.”
- Two starship models from The Clone Wars debut in “The Last Battle”: the Separatist transport and the Sheathipede-class shuttle. One of those shuttles will replace the rebels’ Phantom, which perished in Steps Into Shadow.