While a great show, the later seasons of Star Wars: The Clone Wars suffer from a rather peculiar problem, one related to not episode length, but arc length.
Having reached the midpoint of Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season 7, the show seems to be coming along relatively well, though not without its problems. There are dozens of ingenius action sequences and character bits unevenly tacked into awkward moments and stilted dialogue.
There is one other element of the season that’s worth mentioning though, as it feels the most in line with what the series had been driving towards in the back half of the show.
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The first season was comprised of standalone episodes, two-parters and three-episode arcs, as the story deemed fit. As a result, there’s a certain flow to them, as they feel like they’re going at their own pace. For example, Rookies, one of the more lauded episodes of the first season, was only one episode long because 22 minutes were all that were needed in order to depict a squad of clones, inexperienced and outnumbered, overcome all odds to save the day and thwart a Separatist ambush.
On the other hand, the Ryloth arc was a three-part story that featured the Republic overcoming a blockade of starships, freeing imprisoned civilians and teaming up with a freedom fighter to win control over the capital city. Each of these episodes felt distinctive and its own thing; the arc didn’t feel like it was dragging its feet, nor did it feel like a movie split into episodes in order to fit within the confines of television.
However, as the seasons went on, that distinctiveness of the individual episode would wither away. Instead, seasons were split into arcs, and those arcs felt more like movies than anything else.
This works to the show’s favor just as much it’s detriment; some of the best arcs of the show were born out of the ability to take its time. The Battle of Umbara, for instance, would not have worked as a two-parter. However, for the more filler, subpar sections of the show, viewers were forced to watch the story unfold over several weeks, rather than just seeing a single mediocre episode.
Even supervising director Dave Filoni admitted that stretching the D-Squad to four episodes was rather difficult, and perhaps too much for the pacing of the show.
And so we arrive at our current season’s predicament, where the 12 episodes are split into three four-episode story arcs.
The two we’ve seen so far, the Bad Batch arc and Ahsoka’s Walkabout (part of it, at least), are far too long. They contain moments that are enjoyable on their own, but are nowhere near as conclusive as they should be for the final season of the show.
With a conclusive final season 12 episodes long, it would be far more reasonable to condense the episode length for the story arcs and add in something else- the Utapau arc, for example, was shown as an unfinished animatic just as the Bad Batch arc was. Episodes in our current season could’ve easily been given up in favor of another story such as this.
But, alas, even in the final season of the show, the series must follow its four-episode formula to the end.