To generations of people in Fresno and all over the world, the name Star Wars means something. Whether you were there when the original trilogy came out in the 70s and 80s or, like this examiner, were there for the the special edition re-releases during the 90s and then was there for all three of the prequels, Star Wars is a pop culture phenomenon that that been there for over 35 years and will probably be there long after many of us a re gone. Sure, a lot of the more recent installments in the franchise have not been up-to-par with the more classic material, but in the end all of it will be seen as mere extension of George Lucas's epic vision of that galaxy far, far away.
Many fans, particularly older fans, absolutely detest the prequels as if absolutely nothing goo ever came of them; as someone who was only 12 years old when The Phantom Menace came out, I fully and completely agree that the quality of the prequel films (specifically in regards to acting and dialogue) pales in comparison to the original trilogy. However, because of my age group and how I was raised on those old movies I simply cannot bring myself to hate the prequel trilogy the same way so many other do, so to say that nothing good ever came out of those films simply isn't true. For every Jar Jar Binks moment those movies plagued us with, they also blessed us with the awesomeness that is Darth Maul. this is not true. For every horrible romantic scene we were forced to sit through with Anakin and Padmé, at the very least we were blessed with the image of Master Yoda showing his true badassness in a lightsaber duel with Christopher Lee. Okay, these may seem like petty excuses...and they are, but my point is that even for all the garbage that the prequel had, there were still some bright spots to admire in them, as is the case with most, if not all films on some level or another.
However, perhaps the biggest positive that the prequels left behind is the epic animated series that is The Clone Wars. Chronicling the galaxy-wide conflict that place in between the films Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, this animated series aired on Cartoon Network between 2008 and 2013 to terrific rating and positive reviews. To give credit where it's due, this was not the first Clones Wars cartoon to air on Cartoon Network, the first being an excellent series of three-to-twelve minute long animated shorts created by Genndy Tartakovski in between the two films. The second series, supervised by Dave Filoni, is a full half-hour long series of episodes that were computer generates. Despite poor reception of the series's 2008 theatrical film counterpart, the show still performed well and continued to get better each season, both visually and in terms of storytelling.
The series ended it's fifth season in 2013 and was already in production of a season six, until Lucasfilm was officially sold to the Walt Disney Company and it was eventually decided that The Clone Wars would cease production to focus on the upcoming Episodes VII, VIII and IX, as well a brand new animated series Star Wars: Rebels, which will take place in between the prequels and he classic trilogy. However, Dave Filoni promised fans after the series's cancellation was announced that despite this a number of the season six episodes had been completed and that would get to see these final episodes in some way. It was eventually revealed that this "bonus content" would finally be released exclusively on Netflix and now, as of March 7, 2014. the final thirteen episodes, or "the lost missions" of Star Wars: The Clone Wars have now been released for fans to see.
For the sake of those who have not yet seen these episodes (which I have to imagine is quite a number of people), I am going to keep spoilers to a minimum and, similar to IGN's own review of the season, not recount the episodes individually, but rather by each of the season's four major story arcs because, as was the case with the series as a whole, this final season is very hit-or-miss.
The first story arc, consisting of four episodes, focuses on one of the clone troopers suddenly going rogue and murdering one of his own Jedi general during the heat of battle. One of the most prominent clone troopers in the show, Arc Trooper "Fives", investigates the incident and slowly uncovers a conspiracy that links the cloners on Kamino, the Separatists, and even the Supreme Chancellor Palpatine himself. This arc was meant to finally provide the series set-up for the Order 66 sequence seen in Revenge of the Sith, and it does the job very well. The story line get very dark and involved and we feel Fives's dilemma as he continues to go to so many extremes just to learn the truth, all the while those around him start to question his sanity. The arc contains exciting sequences, a healthy dose of conspiracy and even a funny duo with Fives and his medical droid assistant AZI-3. During the show's run this examiner found the plots that focused specifically on the clones to be among some of his favorites, giving far more individuality and humanity to these characters than any of us ever thought they were capable of while the prequel films were coming out, and it was great to see at least one more really good one get made before the end.
The second story arc, consisting of three episodes, focuses on Padmé reuniting with her ex-boyfriend, Senator Rush Clovis, to discuss corruption in the Intergalactic Banking Clan, which leads to a web of deceit, bribery and betrayal as Clovis's new rise to power leaves the Republic in debt and Anakin and Padmé's marriage reaches a braking point. I have the agree with IGN that this is hands down the weakest of the four stories. The reason being...its about the characters discussing corrupt banking officials and both sides of the war gaining funding for the war effort, which really isn't any more exciting than having main threat of The Phantom Menace revolve around a blockade of goods to a planet over taxation of trade routes. There are a few okay action bits, like a fun shoot out down a ski slope, but for the most part is becomes hard to focus on. The most interesting stuff hear is the sort-of love triangle between Anakin, Padmé and Clovis, which, of, Anakin blows completely out of proportion. No, seriously, he gets so jealous when he walks in on the guy trying to kiss her that he almost murders him! Its still watchable, but again, the most boring portion of the season.
The third story arc, consisting of two episodes, focuses on Mace Windu and Jar Jar Binks (yes, Jar Jar is in these last few episodes) traveling to a planet to investigate a queen's claims that a prophecy is coming true as members of the planet's high council begin disappearing, and eventually so does the queen herself, so Mace and Jar Jar are forced to team up to save the day. Okay, lets address the elephant in the room: yes, Jar Jar is his usual clumsy, childish, irritating self in these two episodes, but despite that, no, these episodes are surprisingly entertaining. I will put what reputation I have as a critic on the line here by admitting that Jar Jar did work better in this animated show than he ever did in live action, and a lot of that comes from the fact that the creators of this show are fully aware of how older fans perceive the character and write him with that in mind. There are a number of times when Mace showcases an annoyance with Jar Jar very similar to how fans perceive him (albeit with far less venom in his words). Mace and Jar Jar's chemistry actually proves entertaining a couple of times, plus its great to see Mace get to kick butt on his own. There is a real of a surprise villain from the series as well that this examiner did not expect either! Oh yeah, and they also lighten the burden of Jar Jar's annoyance by putting him on a planet where the aliens actually understand him very well and not only does he and the queen apparently have a pre-existing relationship, but she also seems to be in love with him...Yes, you read that right, the alien queen of an entire planet is in love with Jar Jar Binks! If people choose to skip these episodes, I can't blame them, but all I'm trying to say is that they could have been a lot worse.
The final story arc, consisting of four episodes, focuses on Yoda as the Jedi investigate the murder of Sifo-Dyas, the Jedi master mentioned in Attack of the Clones who secretly placed the order for the creation of the clone army. As revelations of this long-standing mystery are finally unraveled, Yoda receives a message from what he believes to be the voice of Qui-Gon Jinn, a voice form beyond the grave, which sets Yoda out on a mission to discover the secret to maintaining one's individuality after they've passed away and joined the Force. As IGN elaborated, The Clone Wars has been very helpful to fans in terms of the prequels, expanding upon plot points and better justifying some of the story elements in those films and that’s certainly the case here, both with the unraveling of the unresolved Sifo-Dyas mystery in Attack of the Clones and also how Yoda and Obi-Wan were able to appear to Luke as Force Ghosts in the original trilogy. Having Yoda be the focus for these final episodes was a great idea, as the beloved Jedi master goes on a journey that takes him to one fantastic location after another and gives him some very important insight into the past and future of the Star Wars saga. Also, fans should pay attention to the guest voices in these episodes as you will notice a couple of very cool surprises. As IGN said, these episodes also contain some very poignant, effective scenes that underline the more tragic elements of this saga.
Of course, their are going to be fans who will regret all of the lingering plot threads that these final thirteen episodes do not resolve, but that is all because of the unorthodox nature of how this season came about. There’s no update on Ahsoka Tano's fate (although the powerful place they left her at the end of Season Five was a satisfying enough ending for me, personally) or the fate of Darth Maul (although the unfinished Season 6 story line developed for his will be adapted into the upcoming comic book, Darth Maul--Son of Dathomir), and no resolution for other popular original character like Captain Rex. Again, none of that is Filoni and crew's fault, since they didn't know that the Season Six episodes they were working on would wind up being the last.
Overall, Star Wars: The Clone Wars--The Lost Mission are a terrific final curtain call to the series. The episodes are all well animated, reflecting how far the show had comes during it's run, and while two of the four story arcs clearly have their flaws, the other two are very strong and serve to set up major plot elements both for Revenge of the Sith and the original trilogy. It is a shame to see the show end like this, but at least we have the upcoming movies and Star Wars: Rebels to look forward to. Those who have a Netflix membership should take the opportunity to check these episodes out.