Star Wars: The Clone Wars - 7.10 The Phantom Apprentice
When Old Friends Not Forgotten opened the Siege of Mandalore, it seemed that the bar couldn't possibly be raised any higher. But it appears that Dave Filoni and company were just getting started.
The Phantom Apprentice is part two of the Siege of Mandalore, the final arc in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. The story picks up immediately where Part one left off, with Ahsoka confronting Maul for the first time. It's fitting that this episode is titled The Phantom Apprentice; the title is reminiscent of Star Wars Episode I: the Phantom Menace, the film that introduced Darth Maul to the world. And Maul is certainly the centerpiece of a very well-done episode.
Maul has featured in a number of episodes before now, not just in The Clone Wars but in Star Wars: Rebels as well. We've seen Maul at his highest of highs and lowest of lows, but it's fair to say the former Sith apprentice has never been seen quite like this before. Maul is very much preoccupied by what's going on in the galaxy at large and is clearly aware that the culmination of his former master's plan is at hand. Indeed, the Zabrak seems almost resigned to what's going on. I used to think that one of Maul's greatest flaws was his inability to accept a new status quo (something that led to his capture by Sidious in season five). But now I see that this was wrong: Maul is not only aware that things are about to change in a massive way, he's perfectly content to stand back and watch it happen, especially since his final attempt at sabotaging Sidious' plan (luring Kenobi and Skywalker to Mandalore) has failed.
As with part one, some story clues are dropped to let us know where we are in the timeline of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. Obi-Wan, in what could be his final appearance in The Clone Wars, confirms that Dooku is dead at Anakin's hands and also mentions that he's been dispatched to Utapau to deal with Grievous. Since we know Obi-Wan is on Utapau when Order 66 happens, it's almost certain that terrible event is going to happen soon. One interesting detail: as soon as Ahsoka suggests that she talk to Anakin about his being asked to spy on Palpatine, events conspire to draw her away so she doesn't get the chance. One can't help but wonder how different things might have been if Ahsoka had gotten the chance to speak with Anakin.
It should be no surprise to anyone that the best part of this episode overall is the lightsaber duel between Maul and Ahsoka. In a clever move, the fight was teased at the start of the episode but didn't actually commence until the story's final act. What was surprising was Maul laying out some facts to Ahsoka and asking her to join him to fight Sidious. In a storyline where you think you know what's going to happen, this moment comes out of nowhere and is played out to perfection. The fight itself is everything you could want in an epic duel between Maul and Ahsoka. The former apprentices fight all over the city, with the fight culminating at the top of the city's dome when Maul tries to make his escape one last time. His reaction when Ahsoka takes him captive screams volumes about what's coming:
"Let me go! Let me die! You're all going to burn, we're ALL going to die!"
It seems fitting that the episode ends on that note, there's no better way to summarize the horror that is on its way.
The Phantom Apprentice continues the high standard set by the previous episode and brings the Siege of Mandalore to its halfway point. This episode, more than any other, highlights the impending doom that faces the Jedi Order and the Republic. This is also, without a doubt, the best Maul-centric episode in the entire The Clone Wars series. The stage is now firmly set for the heartbreaking finale to take place.