“Star Wars: The Clone Wars” bounces back with season 7

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Alyssa Beccue

The Disney Plus revival of “Clone Wars” marks the series’ first new episodes in six years.

Craig Odenwald, Staff Writer

“Star Wars” has had dizzying ups and downs across its 42-year history, but one thing it has always excelled at is its tantalizing sense of mystery. When audiences in 1977 watched “Episode IV: A New Hope” and saw Luke ignite his father’s lightsaber, they had no idea they were watching one of film’s most iconic weapons being activated for the first time. When Obi-Wan says he was good friends with Luke’s father Anakin, they unknowingly caught a glimpse of the series’ most tragic, brotherly bond. When Luke innocently asks, “You fought in the Clone Wars?” audiences had no clue that they had just stumbled upon one of the greatest stories in George Lucas’ thrilling space opera. Now the “Clone Wars” animated series has returned with one final season of menace, mysticism, and that classic sense of “Star Wars” mystery.

“Star Wars: The Clone Wars” season seven is spearheaded by Dave Filoni, Lucas’ storytelling protege (or, perhaps more fittingly, apprentice). After a string of successes with the early “Clone Wars” seasons, the more kid-friendly but still lore-filled “Star Wars: Rebels,” and the wildly popular live-action “The Mandalorian,” Filoni has chosen to abide by the words of Kylo Ren: he’s here to finish what he started.

Season seven kicks off with the Republic in peril. In the first episode, “The Bad Batch,” the Republic realizes that the Separatists are figuring out their battle strategies, with no clear explanation as to how. Captain Rex, the Republic’s chief strategist, journeys to the droid-covered Planet Anaxes for answers. Accompanying him is a squad of unstable, genetically-enhanced clone troopers known simply as “The Bad Batch.”

Rex’s team-up with the Bad Batch gives weight to the battles ahead. The Bad Batch has the usual archetypes for a gung-ho band of soldiers: the leader, the muscle, the attitude, and the awkward genius (he’s literally named Tech). But while they’re damaged physically, Rex is damaged emotionally. Viewers have followed his difficult journey all the way since “The Clone Wars” first began, and now he’s more of a standout when juxtaposed with the fun, comparatively one-dimensional Bad Batch. They bring the pyrotechnics; Rex brings purpose.

The group’s operation continues into the second episode, “A Distant Echo,” in which Anakin Skywalker joins the fun. Matt Lanter’s Anakin and James Arnold Taylor’s ObiWan are as entertaining and dynamic as ever — the voice cast hasn’t lost a step. Lanter in particular gets to show a more wise, patient side to his character that shows just how far the chosen one has come since he first became a Jedi.

“The Clone Wars” thrills with nail-biting suspense and beautifully-animated action, but isn’t afraid to take bold new steps. Its original audience from season one, which was released in 2008, has grown up, and, as these first two episodes show, so have the show’s characters. If “The Bad Batch” and “A Distant Echo” are any indication, there’s a whole new set of mysteries to explore in this war’s final days, proving Lucas’s timeless story is still worth telling. “Clone Wars” — hello there. It’s good to have you back.