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Clone Wars
Credit: Lucasfilm/Disney

Star Wars: The Clone Wars is rising from the dead like a Force ghost.

After an untimely cancellation, Star Wars’ inventive animated series is getting its seventh and final season, wrapping up with a long-awaited swan song premiering Feb. 21 on Disney+. The sprawling saga has had a long, circuitous journey, originating as a 2008 theatrical film and running for five seasons on Cartoon Network — until Lucasfilm issued an Order 66 of its own and canceled the series in 2013. Netflix resurrected Clone Wars for a brief sixth season in 2014, but fans still clamored for closure, especially for favorites like former Jedi Padawan Ahsoka Tano (voiced by Ashley Eckstein) and veteran clone trooper Captain Rex (Dee Bradley Baker).

Now, Clone Wars is closing out its story with 12 new episodes, rolling out over the coming weeks. For executive producer and supervising director Dave Filoni, who’s been with the show since the beginning, this final season offered a chance to wrap up stories he helped launch more than a decade ago.

“I tried to do things that honored what we had been doing on this series when I was working with George [Lucas],” Filoni tells EW. “At the same time, I knew this had to have a sense of completion.”

Long before Disney introduced its standalone spin-off films or The Mandalorian gave the world Baby Yoda fever, Clone Wars was one of the earliest onscreen Star Wars projects to venture outside the main films. Created by Lucas himself, the series was billed as an attempt to tackle one unanswered question: What happened in the time between 2002’s Attack of the Clones and 2005’s Revenge of the Sith? Not only did Clone Wars give new depth to familiar figures like Anakin Skywalker (voiced by Matt Lanter) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (James Arnold Taylor), but it explored never-before-seen corners of a galaxy far, far away. There were constraints, of course — the series always had to end with the tragic events of Revenge of the Sith — but throughout its first six seasons, Clone Wars helped reshape what a Star Wars story could be, adding new protagonists, planets, and creatures. Ideas first introduced in Clone Wars have since reverberated through other Star Wars stories, from the resistance fighter Saw Gerrera (played by Forest Whitaker in Rogue One) to the mysterious Darksaber (which popped up at the end of the Mandalorian season 1 finale).

Even Filoni is surprised by the series’ influence and longevity: When Lucas first asked the young animator to help him develop the show about 15 years ago, Filoni expected a temporary gig. “I thought Clone Wars, like most animated series, was going to be a two-year [or] three-year job maybe, where I would learn a lot, have a great experience, and then be back in Los Angeles,” he confesses. Instead, the series ran for more than 100 episodes, and now he’s charged with concluding the story he and Lucas first dreamt up all those years ago.

Clone Wars
Credit: Lucasfilm/Disney

Much of this final season, he says, has been years in the making: The first few episodes will find Rex teaming up with the Bad Batch, a group of experimental clones with special abilities. The story line was already in development when the show was canceled back in 2013, and Filoni — who’s since worked on series like Star Wars Rebels, Star Wars Resistance, and The Mandalorian — says he’s thrilled to see these long-planned plots finally come to life. “We have tools and capabilities that we did not have in the beginning of Clone Wars, just because animation’s come so far,” he says. “There are many things that we can render with nuance and detail that we just couldn’t before.”

Other final-season story lines include the long-teased Siege of Mandalore and the return of Anakin’s former Padawan Ahsoka, whom fans last saw walking away from the Jedi Order. In crafting Ahsoka’s story, Filoni says he kept going back to what Lucas told him about the pillars of Star Wars storytelling: the struggle between selflessness and the darker path of selfishness, greed, and fear.

“It’s really the backbone [of the Star Wars saga],” Filoni says. “It’s that personal journey. [We saw that] with Luke Skywalker, and we’ve seen Rey going on this journey. But for me now with Ahsoka, she’s been the student Jedi the whole time, and she’s finally being challenged by what she will do with her knowledge and her training and her abilities when faced with the ultimate test — which is what you’ll see at the end of Clone Wars here.”

Perhaps Clone Wars’ biggest hurdle is the same one it faced when it debuted back in 2008: How do you tell a compelling story when audiences already know how it’s going to end? “We always knew that it ends with the third film,” Filoni says. “There’s no escaping that. It’s this inevitability.” The key, he says, is in the choices these characters make to get there.

“We know what happens,” he teases, “[but] you don’t know precisely how it happens.”

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