Star Wars: The Clone Wars 07×10 “Phantom Apprentice” (Review)

Apr 26, 2020

Spoilers Ahead

Another Strong Episode For The Clone Wars That Centres Around Maul

The Final Arc

The Clone Wars has gone headstrong into its final four-episode arc which aims to wrap up the show. The episodes aired so far have contained references to events in the films and Order 66 as the show is now crossing over with Revenge of The Sith. Telling the stories not shown on the big screen has always been the aim of The Clone Wars. Events like Palpatine’s kidnapping were mentioned in last week’s episode, and it is great to see such events from a different perspective, Ahsoka’s. What happened to these other characters during this time is the main question that these remaining episodes will tackle.

Speaking of last week’s episode, it was a triumphant return to form for the series that saw Ahsoka and Bo-Katan try to hunt down Maul on Mandalore. Just as Ahsoka seemed to have located Maul, it was revealed that this was a trap. The twist should surprise no Star Wars fan since the once Sith lord is a force to be reckoned with. This latest episode picks up right where we left off. 

Maul’s History and His Presence in Mandalore

Since his appearance in The Phantom Menace, Maul has become a fan favourite and has found new life on The Clone Wars. Some would say that the show undermined the film by revealing that Maul was not actually dead; however, the character has never been treated better before as Maul received proper characterisation and great storylines on the show as opposed to his largely non-speaking role in the film. Instead of merely being treated as a puppet of Darth Sidious, the show established Maul as a threat and an interesting character in his own right in his interactions with the Nightsisters and his brother, Savage Opress. Leading on from The Phantom Menace, The Clone Wars showed Maul’s anger towards his former master and more importantly Obi-Wan. Maul famously killed Duchess Satine Kryze, the love of Kenobi’s life, and his exploits have been very closely linked with Mandalore.

On Mandalore, the once Sith lord set up a puppet government and installed Almec as a puppet leader. Almec, once an ally of the Republic, effectively became Maul’s slave and abandoned his pacifist ways. Before the show’s renewal, Maul was last seen on The Clone Wars having been captured by Darth Sidious after Savage was killed. The original plan was to show Maul’s escape helped by the Mandalorians and orchestrated by Almec. This would have taken place in the original Season 6 of The Clone Wars and would have been The Son of Dathomir arc. Fortunately, for fans of the show, the arc was adapted in comic book form, yet it is nevertheless disappointing that this arc was not included in the new season. 

Maul’s New Storyline

In these new episodes, Maul now rules Mandalore and his criminal enterprise from the underground. This new episode, in particular, is a voice acting masterclass for Sam Witwer, who voices Maul on the show. Witwer brings anger and a deep resentment to Maul with his voice yet he also lends pathos to the character in line with Maul’s tragic history. Even Ray Park is on hand to capture Maul’s movements after playing the character in The Phantom Menace.

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Filoni’s show has gone all out in this episode to please its fanbase. Maul has his own Mandalorian super commandos, called Mauldalorians, who wear special red armour. Fan favourite characters have returned for this arc notably Ahsoka and Bo-Katan but also Almec in a small role. Almec’s presence in this arc shows how dedicated Filoni is to the canon established in previous seasons and really how the show is pulling out all the stops to continue its Mandalore storyline in a satisfactory way. The connections to the rest of the Star Wars canon are immense, and this episode even features a character from Star Wars Rebels, Gar Saxon.

However, this is not just another exploration of Mandalore but an arc that has to end the show. The stakes are higher than ever. The show is certainly not averse to taking bold risks such as killing off Almec. Just because we know how things will ultimately end does not mean The Clone Wars cannot surprise us. That has always been the strength of the show as it aimed to tell the stories between the films. The Clone Wars provided more context to events and even introduced completely original characters like Ahsoka. Over the course of its seasons, the show stopped being just the connective tissue and started being something truly special in its own right. This latest episode should please fans of the earlier seasons with its focus on Mandalore and its use of original characters from the show.

Maul’s Knowledge

When we meet Maul in the latest episode, he is haunted by his past and the future that will be. Maul knows about Darth Sidious’s plans including Order 66. A mind-blowing reveal is that Maul had intended to trap Anakin in order to kill him. Sidious is grooming Anakin to be his new apprentice and Maul wants to prevent that. There is dramatic irony in all of this. What Maul is telling Ahsoka is true, yet she refuses to help him. Ahsoka still believes in Anakin and thinks that he could never become a villain like Vader. With Order 66 set to arrive and the Jedi set to fall, to think things could have turned out differently is an exciting proposition. What would have happened if Ahsoka had joined Maul? The show teases this but can never cross the line. If Ahsoka had believed Maul, that would create a plot hole with Star Wars Rebels.

All the teasing is quite fun but, that said, sometimes it can be just too much. There should be an immediate focus on the present not the future. Teasing events in Revenge of The Sith and potentially future episodes takes away from the current episode. The Clone Wars, at its best, featured links to the films yet established itself on its own. There is enough in this episode to do just that but at times the consistent teasing can be undermining.

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With Order 66 not far away, this episode should do more to make us care for the clones. The show has previously had some excellent storylines involving the clones. The biochip conspiracy which involved Fives is especially memorable. One helpless clone at the hands of Maul just is not enough in this episode. Hopefully, the remaining two episodes can do more to humanise the clones to make their betrayal even more impactful.

A Beautifully Constructed Episode

Like last week’s episode, “Phantom Apprentice” finds The Clone Wars at its most cinematic. This is a beautifully constructed episode from the lightsaber battles to the setting to the music. Ray Park, as mentioned before, provides the movements for Maul, and the lightsaber battles between Ahsoka and Maul feel ripped out of a Star Wars film. The cinematography is amazing covering many different locations in Mandalore including the underground and the interior of the citadel. The music is quintessentially Star Wars. It adds drama to key moments and truly captures the feel of a space epic.

The only cinematic let down from the episode is the fight between Maul’s troops and the clones. Instead of being an epic battle, the fight is easily resolved, and the clones quickly have the upper hand. The point is that Maul has abandoned his troops yet nevertheless this feels like a waste of an opportunity for a grand conflict on Mandalore involving Maul. This arc needs to go out with a bang, not a whimper. Therefore, the next episodes have a key opportunity to show an all-out conflict perhaps after Order 66 to live up to the arc’s name.

Conclusion

Overall, “Phantom Apprentice” is another strong episode in this arc. While it may fail to reach the heights of last week’s episode, this latest episode is a great offering that capitalises on Maul. The show has gone all out on its fan service and teasing. This is mostly a good thing yet sometimes the teasing can be excessive and distract from the episode’s narrative. This episode once again feels cinematic in the best way possible. It truly captures the feel of a Star Wars film.

While each episode stands on its own, The Clone Wars has never forgotten the point of this arc. These are the final episodes and the arc needs to bring the show to an end. By bringing together its longstanding characters and revisiting storylines, this episode does just that. Time is running out with only two episodes left. Order 66 is near, and the show is set to cross over with Revenge of The Sith. There is still a lot to want from this final arc. Hopefully, The Clone Wars can continue this good form and cement its legacy by going out with a bang.

Pros:

+ Maul’s character

+ Maul’s Mandalorians

+ Familiar Faces

+ Maul’s Knowledge

+ Lightsaber Duels

+ Setting on Mandalore

+ Music

Cons:

– Too much future teasing

– Not enough done with the clones

– Battle between Maul’s troops and the clones

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