After kicking off its return last week with an exciting first episode, The Clone Wars picks up on the cliffhanger ending of “The Bad Batch” and takes us on an emotional journey full of danger and uncertainty for Rex, General Anakin Skywalker, and the Bad Batch in its second episode. In “A Distant Echo” Rex is determined to investigate a signal detected on Skako Minor that seems to be coming from Echo, a clone ARC trooper comrade who’d been assumed dead.
The Clone Wars opening, with its unique title card, music, and voiceover reminding us what’s come before in the story feels comfortingly familiar and somehow more significant now as we dive deeper into the final seventh season. The opening quote for “A Distant Echo” is “The search for the truth begins with belief” and its meaning is deepened in the first beat of the episode as we see Rex back at the Republic base. He’s eager to start the mission and find out if Echo might still be alive, while Bad Batch commander Hunter warns both Rex and Anakin that they could be walking into a trap.
Despite Rex’s eagerness to investigate the signal, Anakin reminds him they need to do something first. Inside a barracks building, Anakin initiates a clandestine holo call with Padmé while Rex guards the door. This meeting between the secretly wed general and senator offers lovely moments that add emotional depth to their partnership. Padmé gently confronts Anakin about his presumption that he can solve problems singlehandedly and addresses his concerns about Rex’s emotional motives for the upcoming mission by reminding him that he too has a tendency to rush in when personal feelings prevail. She advises him to trust Rex’s instincts as Rex trusts Anakin’s.
Before Skywalker can end the call, Obi-Wan arrives and Rex attempts to stall him. Obi-Wan is rightfully dubious, but when Anakin exits the barracks, the Jedi master reveals that he knows his former padawan well. “I hope you at least told Padmé I said hello,” Kenobi tells him in a tone tinged with more loving sympathy than chastisement.
As Anakin, Rex, and the Bad Batch arrive on Skako Minor, they’re confronted by wild winds and flying reptile creatures. One of the wide-winged beasts pounces on their ship as soon as they land. The keeradak is being ridden by one of the Poletec natives, and when the group attempts to confront them, the creature grasps Anakin and flies away with him. Crosshair attempts pursuit via a grappling hook, but is eventually dislodged. When the rest of the group seeks out Anakin’s location, Rex reminds them that Anakin ordered them not to kill the Poletecs. “Disarm only.”
They discover that Anakin has been taken to a Poletec village and Wrecker uses his physical bulk to push a boulder down into the area, scattering villagers and getting in a shot at the keeradak, forcing the creature to release Anakin. The Poletec chief speaks a language Anakin and the others don’t understand, but Tech is able to translate. The Poletec insists that he does not want war on his planet. Rex tells Tech to offer the chief an apology for their incursion. They are simply trying to rescue a comrade and they’ll depart as soon as their mission is complete. The chief lends them scouts to lead them to Purkoll, Separatist leader Wat Tambor’s city on Skako Minor.
On Purkoll, Tambor receives a transmission from Admiral Trench on Anaxes, warning him of the arrival of a clone infiltration team. Tambor insists he will be ready for their approach.
As the Bad Batch, Anakin, and Rex reach a ridge near Purkoll, Tech says he’s lost Echo’s signal. Hunter and the others restate the prediction that they’re walking into a trap and Echo is likely dead. At this point, Rex’s feelings boil over. Anakin has to break up a confrontation between Crosshair, Wrecker, and Rex.
In a scene that is the emotional heart of the episode, Anakin speaks to Rex privately, his voice kind, his hand on the captain’s shoulder. He urges Rex to face the possibility that his friend may be dead. Rex insists the voice he heard was Echo’s, but he says “he’ll deal with it” if his suspicions are wrong. The foreboding of this moment for Anakin reach beyond the episode. It’s both touching and significant to see him urging someone else to face the possibility of loss and counseling them to temper their feelings. This scene also deepens our insight into Rex, his emotional connection to his friend and his sense of responsibility for all those under his command.
Once inside the base, the team encounters waves of D-wing droids sent by Tambor to execute them. Working together, they take on the droid attackers with ease. Then Anakin orders Tech to get Rex into the room where Echo’s signal seems to be originating. Once inside, Rex and Tech find a human-size pod attached high on the wall, and Tech identifies it as a stasis chamber. Tech gets the pod open and through a haze of mist, Echo emerges, gaunt, pale, his body attached to multiple tubes and wires.
“What have they done to you?” Rex asks, in a pained tone.
Set free of the chamber, Echo mumbles phrases that make it seem as if he’s recalling the Citadel and the incursion to the Jedi prison where he was assumed lost. Then he recognizes his friend. “Rex? You came back for me?”
Rex assures him in the closing moment of the episode, “You’re safe now. Just sit tight, trooper. You’re going home.”
If the final season of The Clones Wars continues as it has begun, we’ll not only get the excitement and richer animation style revealed in the first episode but also memorable moments that add emotional depth to the relationships and characters we’ve come to know and love.
The Clone Wars is currently streaming on Disney+ with a new episode each Friday.