Hello there! Welcome to my first post here on The Avocado. Naturally, it’s about Star Wars, in particular, the animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
I thought I’d start this feature for anyone, not just me, to post sort of primers/guides to the various bits of the Star Wars universe that they love that aren’t in the live-action movies. I’m doing this particular post as more of an overview of why I think The Clone Wars is worth watching so there aren’t going to be any big spoilers in this but if someone wants to post an in-depth spoiler-iffic review of, say, the late 70s Marvel comics or the Ewok cartoons or a particular set of novels, go for it. (Mods, if I’ve messed something up with the categories/tags, please let me know!)
The Clone Wars ran for 5 seasons on Cartoon Network before Disney bought Lucasfilm and the half-finished season 6 was picked up Netflix. Unfortunately, this means the series doesn’t have the ending they intended it to have (more on that later), and that season 6 is much shorter than the rest of them. There is also a movie that was released in theaters that works as a long Pilot episode. The quality of that movie is questionable (how much do you want to see a baby hutt?) but it’s pretty essential to the series because it introduces your new favorite character, Ahsoka Tano.
Ahsoka is Anakin’s Jedi padawan that Obi-Wan tricked him into mentoring. While the show has multiple series-long arcs, Ahsoka’s journey from impatient apprentice to badass motherfucker is arguably the best. Her relationship with Anakin is a huge part of the show and it’s impossible not to root for her as she progresses. She is a vital character in the Star Wars universe.
And speaking of Anakin…
Even though I am a prequels defender (*ducks at thrown porgs*), even I have to admit that Anakin’s portrayal is far from perfect, by both Jake Lloyd and Hayden Christensen (I blame George Lucas for this more than the actors, though). Anakin of The Clone Wars, however, is much more in line with what the character was meant to be. He’s skilled, he has no time for rules, he loves Padme, he’s cocky, he’s funny, and he doesn’t have a weirdly affected accent that doesn’t make sense for the character. Voiced by Matt Lanter, Anakin is so much more relatable and the hints of his eventual downfall hit that much harder. His relationship with Padme gets more time, as well, and it does a lot for both their characters.
Padme herself doesn’t get as much screentime as Anakin, but she does get entire arcs that don’t revolve around him at all and focus on her skills as a politician.
The Clone Wars, in general, adds a lot of much needed female characters to the Star Wars universe. In addition to Ahsoka, there’s Asajj Ventress, who comes from a race of misandrist “Nightsisters” and begins the series as Dooku’s apprentice but she becomes so much more than that.
She and her Nightsisters are Force-users who use the Dark Side but aren’t Sith. They are such a cool and important bit of Force-related mythos.
There’s also Satine Kryze, Duchess of Mandalore, Leader of the Confederacy of Neutral Systems, and Obi-Wan’s true love. If you love Mandalore crap (and who doesn’t?), Satine’s episodes are great for backstory about the peace-loving New Mandalorians and the old school clans that aren’t down with Satine’s pacifist ways.
She is also, like I said, Obi-Wan’s great love. Their story represents an analog to Padme and Anakin, as they broke up while the latter got secret-married, but I also think Satine and this backstory adds so much to Obi-Wan’s character and informs a lot of his characterization but that’s a whole long thing I won’t get into here. (Also, I’m biased and just love them. One of their episodes, “The Voyage of Temptation”, is my favorite episode of this whole show)
Additionally, female Jedi like Aayla Securla, Luminara, Barris Offee, and Shaak Ti all get at least one spotlight arc, if not more (Barris is actually a super important and intriguing character later in the series).
I wouldn’t say the show is a homerun on female representation (for spoilery reasons I won’t get into) but it’s definitely better than what we’ve gotten from any of the movies. (some episodes even pass the Bechdel test!)
Another thing to know about TCW is that it’s an anthology series. Not like American Horror Story or Fargo, but in the spirit of old Flash Gordon serials because George Lucas really likes those. Most episodes are part of a 2-4 episode arc (although there are some standalones) and much of the first few seasons is not told in chronological order. This might be annoying or confusing but it’s not too bad and later seasons end up being more straight-forward. Here is a chronological order of episodes, if you are interested.
The first season of TCW is a little rough, admittedly, so I encourage you to power through or to jump around to the second season if you get bored (do watch the season 1 finale, though, as it introduces the actual best bounty hunter in Star Wars, Cad Bane). Also, here’s your warning: there are Jar Jar episodes because well, it is a kid’s show. In general, Jar Jar and droid-focused episodes are much less essential and they aren’t ones I typically rewatch, so if you’re inclined to skip them, you probably won’t miss much.
But don’t do the same with clone episodes. At first, you might not care about a bunch of dudes who look the same doing military stuff together, but the humanizing of the clones and their story is the next best series-long arc, next to Ahsoka’s. I did not expect to give a damn about the clones going in; now I own a Captain Rex Lego minifig that I paid 18 American dollars for.
There’s a lot of credit to go around with the clones’ story but none more than to Dee Bradley Baker, the man who voices all of them. Baker, like most of the cast, is a veteran voice actor who you may know as all your favorite Avatar/Korra animals, and he does the work of ten people voicing every single clone (besides Boba) in the series and somehow makes them sound distinct. I can’t attest to the accuracy of his Kiwi accent (based on Temuera Morrison, the actor who played Jango Fett), but the way he voices all these characters to make them sound the same but not quite and giving them little tics and variations based on their personalities is stunning.
And speaking of voice actors, like I said, most of the characters are voiced by long-time VA’s, and only a few characters are voiced by their movie counterparts. Anthony Daniels and Ahmed Best show up as C-3PO and Jar Jar, while Samuel L. Jackson voices Mace in the Clone Wars movie (but not subsequent appearances), and Liam Neeson is Qui-Gon’s ghost (because I guess Liam Neeson had time in between Taken movies). There are lots of guest voice actors, though: Jon Favreau as a recurring Mandalorian Pre Viszla, Phil Lamarr as Bail Organa, Tim Curry as Palpatine (after his original voice actor, Ian Abercrombie passed away), Jaime King as Aurra Sing, Clancy Brown as Savage Opress, Mark Hamill getting his Joker/Ozai on as an old Sith lord, Katee Sackoff as Satine’s sister Bo-Katan, and Sam Witwer as Maul.
Yes that Maul.
Another one of the many great things The Clone Wars does is that is brings Maul back and capitalizes on him in ways The Phantom Menace never did or could. He has survived since losing the lower half of his body, sustaining himself entirely on spite and hatred, with an assist from robot spider legs.
I won’t give too much away in terms of plot stuff with him, but Maul’s thirst for revenge against Obi-Wan for dismembering him, along with his desperation to regain Sidious’ approval, is great and culminates in one of the most strikingly visual episodes of the entire series (ep 5×16 The Lawless)
While the character designs may take a little getting used to, if nothing else, I recommend The Clone Wars for it’s gorgeous animation. We Star Wars fans like to give George Lucas a lot of shit sometimes, but he literally wrote the animation teams a blank check every episode that allowed them to be as detailed as possible. No one else would ever do this, not even Disney (see: Star Wars Rebels)
But really, the best thing about TCW is that it is everything the prequels wanted to be. The story George Lucas told in the prequel trilogy may be flawed in its execution, but behind the missteps is an incredibly tragic tale where no one got to be a hero and everyone but Palpatine lost. TCW expands on all of this, fleshing out Anakin and Padme’s relationship (the Bojack Horseman quote “When you look at someone through rose-colored glasses, all those red flags just look like flags.” has never applied more), pointing out the Jedi’s culpability in their own downfall, illustrating the horrors of war, especially for the clones, giving us seemingly cute stories about tween Jedi before you realize that all those kids will be dead in two years, and detailing more about Palpatine and his insanely intricate schemes (he hires bounty hunters to kidnap himself! for no reason! it’s amazing!). There are heroic Separatists, despicable Jedi (that aren’t Sith), pirates that ally themselves with whoever is paying them, clones that leave the military, undercover missions that go very wrong, super strange hutts that talk like Truman Capote, and two four-episode conspiracy thriller arcs that end tragically. While a lot of people claimed that Rogue One was the first movie to put the “war” in Star Wars front and center, The Clone Wars was already there.
You Must Complete Your Training:
Because The Clone Wars ended prematurely, many of its abandoned storylines have ended up in other media, including a Dark Horse comics miniseries about Maul, a novel about Quinlan Vos and Asajj Ventress The Dark Disciple, half-finished episodes that are up on StarWars.com (the animation is very very minimal and they’re weird to watch, so reading a recap is fine), and of course, the continuation of many Clone Wars characters in the Disney XD show, Star Wars Rebels. Rebels is much more flawed than Clone Wars but its highs meet those of its predecessor, and it usually happens when a TCW character like Ahsoka, Maul, or Rex show up. Additionally, Forest Whitaker’s character in Rogue One, Saw Gerrera, is a Clone Wars character, so the series is still making an impact on the larger Star Wars universe.
Oh and there’s also the 2003 2D animated Clone Wars series that is no longer considered canon. I have actually never seen this series and I’ve heard varying things about its quality, but if anyone knows more about it, feel free to comment about it!
Anyway, that’s my starter guide to The Clone Wars. For now, the series is still on Netflix, but that may change whenever Disney pulls all of their stuff off there to make their own streaming service. And seriously, I’d love to see others’ posts on their favorite bits of non-movie Star Wars stuff, whether it’s toys, video games, comics, books, funny Wookieepedia pages, etc., so please feel free to make posts using the Expanded Galaxy category about them if you like!