Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Suggested Viewing

Hi, everyone! So, as some of you may know, the new and final season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars started airing a few weeks ago. I definitely recommend watching it if you haven’t, it’s a great series and really provides a special experience if you’re a Star Wars fan (especially if you were interested in this era and liked a lot of the ideas they came up with, but were disappointed with the execution in the Prequels). For anyone who hasn’t seen the series before, or hasn’t seen it in awhile, I highly recommend reading Zkywalker’s wonderful article about it as a primer. In fact it’s what got me to watch it in the first place!

So I saw the previous seasons a few years ago, but I still wanted to rewatch them before jumping into the new season. I didn’t really feel like rewatching all of the series, both because it would take quite a lot of time, and because I remembered that some of the episodes were a lot weaker than others. So I decided to just go over the episode summaries, and rewatch the ones that I remembered fondly or that sounded more interesting.

By the time I was done, I started to realize that I could put together a pretty solid abridged cut of the series, and that started to become a goal in itself. And when I was done I felt like sharing it with all of you! And like I said, I recommend the series in general, so I’d be glad if you watch it, in its entirety or in any other version you choose. But if you haven’t seen it before, or if you have, for that matter, consider using this as a viewing guide.

What I’ve done here is basically two things. First, I only included the episodes or story arcs that I thought were better and more essential (or ones that were necessary to set up or follow up other episodes). My priorities, roughly speaking, were:

  1. Ahsoka’s story
  2. The clones’ stories (main Fives and Rex, but not just them)
  3. Stories that explored the complexity of war and the nuances of political conflicts
  4. Anakin’s story, Padme’s story and Obi-Wan’s story (with roughly equal weight)

Fair warning, this all makes for a pretty serious and heavy version of the series; if you’d like to see an abridged version that still includes more lighthearted and silly stuff, see my honorable mentions below.

Second, I reordered some of the episodes to put them in chronological order (the original series ocassionally jumped back and forth and it could get a bit confusing). So, other than one exception near the end, everything here is in the official chronological order.

I’ll list the episodes, as well as their original season and episode numbers to make it easier to find them. The explanations for my choices will take a lot of space and possibly have some light spoilers, so I’ll put them behind spoiler tags.

[Edited 5.5.2022 – I decided to bump up the Malevolence arc to series premiere.]

Alternative Season 1

Rising Malevolence + Shadow Of Malevolence + Destroy Malevolence (Season 1 Episodes 2-4)
The Hidden Enemy (Season 1 Episode 16)
Clone Cadets (Season 3 Episode 1)
Rookies (Season 1 Episode 5)
Jedi Crash + Defenders Of Peace (Season 1 Episodes 13-14)
Storm Over Ryloth + Innocents Of Ryloth + Liberty On Ryloth (Season 1 Episodes 19-21)

11 episodes

One-sentence summary – Introduces most of the major elements of the series, and brings them back with greater impact near the season’s end.

[spoiler title=Explanation]

  • The Malevolence arc was what I originally considered as an alternative series premiere (before I committed to chronological order), since it’s got a lot of great stuff, and it’s a nice explosive multi-episode story to get things going with a bang.
    After coming back here I decided to change it to series premiere anyway and compromise on chronology; Ahsoka and her relationship with Anakin need to appear at the start of the series.
  • The Hidden Enemy makes made for a good series premiere. It’s got a showcase of a lot of great stuff the series features – clones with unique personalities and outlooks, Anakin and Obi-Wan dealing with being generals, Asajj being awesome, mystery, paranoia and treason.
  • Clone Cadets, originally aired in season 3, is an introduction of several clones we’ll see throughout the series, primarily Fives.
  • The Malevolence arc was what I originally considered as an alternative series premiere (before I committed to chronological order), since it’s got a lot of great stuff, and it’s a nice explosive multi-episode story to get things going with a bang.
  • Rookies is the follow-up to Clone Cadets, and is effectively where the show’s focus on the clones’ struggles really starts.
  • Jedi Crash is a strong episode focusing on the conflict of pacifism versus self-defense, and was also where the show first started to examine how some people might have legitimate reasons for not liking or supporting the Republic. I initially wanted to leave it as a standalone and not recommend Defenders Of Peace, since I felt like it cheapened the moral ambiguity. But on second thought I’m not sure it’s quite as bad as that, and at any rate I prefer to have the story’s conclusion.
  • The Ryloth arc makes for a great season finale, both because of its scale and emotional impact, and because, as I’m now noticing, it nicely reintegrates and expands everything that the season introduced – clone struggles and dilemmas and identities, Jedi generals, longer stories about the grueling, no-end-in-sight nature of military campaigns, and civilians in war.[/spoiler]

Alternative Season 2

Bounty Hunters (Season 2 Episode 17)
Senate Spy + Landing At Point Rain + Weapons Factory + Legacy Of Terror + Brain Invaders (Season 2 Episodes 4-8)
Grievous Intrigue + The Deserter (Season 2 Episodes 9-10)
The Mandalore Plot + Voyage Of Temptation + Duchess Of Mandalore (Season 2 Episodes 12-14)

11 episodes

One-sentence summary – Our heroes don’t have easy answers anymore.

[spoiler title=Explanation]

  • Bounty Hunters is an episode that I initially wasn’t interested in rewatching, since I remembered it being okay but nothing more than that. But I rewatched it while working on this article (looking for something to replace Lightsaber Lost), and I discovered that it’s quite good. It’s a good season opener, being both fun and heartwarming, plus we rarely get to see Obi-Wan, Anakin, and Ahsoka work as a team like this. As an added bonus, there’s not much Hondo on my list, so adding this episode gives a bit more of him to those who might enjoy him more than I do.
  • The Geonosis arc isn’t all that great as a whole, to be honest, but it’s solid. At any rate, I mainly included it for its introduction of Barriss and her friendship with Ahsoka (fittingly, the episodes focusing on them are the strongest).
  • The Deserter is a great episode which explores the life of a clone who abandoned the soldier’s life. Grievous Intrigue isn’t quite as great, but it’s pretty good, and I wanted to include the set-up for The Deserter.
  • The first Mandalore arc, a fan favorite and a personal favorite, makes for a great season finale with its combination of political intrigue, moral nuance, and Obi-Wan getting heart-eyes.
    Seriously, even if you’re not interested in the show, watch this arc as a standalone.[/spoiler]

Alternative Season 3

Corruption + The Academy (Season 3 Episodes 5-6)
ARC Troopers (Season 3 Episode 2)
Heroes On Both Sides + Pursuit Of Peace + Senate Murders (Season 3 Episodes 10-11, Season 2 Episode 15)
Nightsisters + Monster + Witches Of The Mist (Season 3 Episodes 12-14)
The Citadel + Counterattack + Citadel Rescue (Season 3 Episodes 18-20)

12 episodes

One-sentence summary – Nothing is what it appears, and everyone’s motivations are different than you might think.

[spoiler title=Explanation]

  • Corruption and The Academy make for a solid season opener. To be honest I was a bit worried about both the season 2 ender and the season 3 opener being Mandalore stories, but that’s just how it turned out, and I don’t think it’s really a problem.
  • ARC troopers is the follow-up to Clone Cadets and Rookies; I wanted to include it in season 1, but chronological order got the better of me. In some ways it does work better in season 3; just make sure you pay attention to the clone characters so you remember who’s who when you get here!
  • The… I don’t know, let’s call it the Peace arc? The Peace arc mainly focuses on Padme, her work as a senator, and her attempts to bring peace and end the war. Heroes On Both Sides is one of the best episodes on the show, focusing on people on opposite sides of a war learning to see each other’s viewpoints and indentities. Pursuit Of Peace sees Padme continue to fight for a chance at peace, even at a risk to her own life. Senate Murders, a solid murder mystery, gets moved up from season 2 to season 3 (this was one of the most egregious timeline confusions in the original series run – basically, we saw a character get murdered in season 2, and then all of a sudden they’re alive in season 3).
  • The Nightsisters arc is some wonderfully creepy mysticism, combined with the strongest focus yet on Asajj and her journey.
  • The Citadel arc is a good season ender – high stakes action and tension, more focus on the Jedi generals’ hard choices, and the first appearance of a major and unexpected character.[/spoiler]

Alternative Season 4

Darkness On Umbara + The General + Plan Of Dissent + Carnage Of Krell (Season 4 Episodes 7-10)
Kidnapped + Slaves Of The Republic + Escape From Kadavo (Season 4 Episodes 11-13)
A Friend In Need (Season 4 Episode 14)
Deception + Friends And Enemies + The Box + Crisis On Naboo (Season 4 Episodes 15-18)
Massacre + Bounty + Brothers + Revenge (Season 4 Episodes 19-22)

16 episodes

One-sentence summary – Dark and heavy; the horrors of war leave no one untouched.

[spoiler title=Explanation]

  • The Umbara arc is an almost over-the-top season opener, in a good way. It’s by far the greatest amount of tension, paranoia, and the horrors of war that we’ve seen so far (and it was much better than I remembered, I somehow remembered it being pretty shallow).
  • The slavery arc, like the Umbara arc, is pretty harrowing (really, most of the alternate season 4 is pretty harsh, now that I look at it). I love that the show brought back the focus on slavery that hasn’t really appeared much in SW in the last few decades. If there’s one thing I can commend The Phantom Menace for (well, one thing besides the soundtrack and Darth Maul), it’s engaging directly with the subject of slavery.
  • A Friend In Need is kind of a bit of relief, but only by the standards of this alternate season 4. It’s still got some brutality, but it also features Ahsoka taking a stand against that, which is always great.
  • The Deception arc, or the Obi-Wan undercover arc, is a mixture of fun hijinks and growing tension, as Obi-Wan needs to pretend to be a gangster in order to stop a criminal plot.
  • The Brothers arc features some more hardship and tragedy for Asajj, and following that, the return of Darth Maul. I’ll be honest, I’m not the biggest fan of what they did with Maul in this show (I prefer how he was in Ep. 1, myself), but he gets some good stuff in the next season.[/spoiler]

Alternative Season 5

A War On Two Fronts + Front Runners + The Soft War + Tipping Points (Season 5 Episodes 2-5)
Revival + Eminence + Shades Of Reason + The Lawless (Season 5 Episodes 1, 14-16)
The Unknown + Conspiracy + Fugitive + Orders (Season 6 Episodes 1-4)
Sabotage + The Jedi Who Knew Too Much + To Catch A Jedi + The Wrong Jedi (Season 5 Episodes 17-20)

16 episodes

One-sentence summary – Brings things to an end, connects and wraps up storylines and leaves us all heartbroken.

[spoiler title=Explanation]

  • The Onderon arc builds on a lot of what we’ve seen so far, featuring the costs, hardships, and sacrifices of war, and showing the Jedi, and Ahsoka in particular, pushing how far they can get involved. More importantly, it features Saw Gererra, a character from my favorite Star Wars movie, Rogue One, and Onderon, a location from my favorite Star Wars anything, Knights Of The Old Republic II, so obviously it’s essential.
  • The final Mandalore arc builds wonderfully off of the previous ones, leading up to some horrific moments and a truly tragic end.
  • The Conspiracy arc is my one exception to the chronological order rule [it is now one of two exceptions]. This arc, about clones starting to discover a deadly secret about their creation, was originally part of season 6; but since it’s the only thing from season 6 that I found interesting, I decided to move it to season 5. And I didn’t put it at the end of the season, because there’s only one thing that could have been there.
  • The Ahsoka arc is one of the high-points of the show, especially the final episode, The Wrong Jedi. More than anything else so far, it shows Ahsoka dealing with her place in the Jedi order. It leads up to a heartbreaking and beautiful ending, which was a wonderful end to the original season 5 (and the original run of the series), and I wouldn’t have it any other way in my lineup.[/spoiler]

And now for some honorable mentions (I’ll still put it behind spoiler tags to save space but there’s no spoilers):

[spoiler title=Explanation]

  • If you want to see more of Ahsoka having adventures you can check out Lightsaber Lost (Season 2 Episode 11), which almost made my list; The Assassin (Season 3 Episode 7), which also almost made my list (especially if you want to see more of Padme and Ahsoka together); Padawan Lost + Wookiee Hunt (Season 3 Episodes 21-22); and the kidnapped Padawans arc (Season 5 Episodes 6-9).
  • If you want to see more of young Boba Fett, you can check out the Boba Fett arc (Season 2 Episodes 20-22).
  • If you want to see more of wisecracking pirates, you can check out Dooku Captured (Season 1 Episode 11), and Lethal Trackdown (Season 2 Episode 22, part of the Boba Fett arc).
  • If you want to see more of cool bounty hunters, you can check out Hostage Crisis (Season 1 Episode 22), and the Holocron Heist arc (Season 2 Episodes 1-3).
  • If you want to see droid hijinks, you can check out the Lost R2 arc (Season 1 Episodes 6-7), the Mercy Mission arc (Season 4 Episodes 5-6), and the Secret Weapons arc (Season 5 Episodes 10-13).
  • If you want to see a Star Wars Kaiju movie, you can check out the Zillo Beast arc (Season 2 Episodes 18-19).
  • If you want to see Yoda being smarter than everyone else, you can check out the original series premiere, Ambush (Season 1 Episode 1).
  • If you want to see Force-magicky stuff, you can check out the Mortis arc (Season 3 Episodes 15-17), and the Voices arc (Season 6 Episodes 11-13).[/spoiler]

In general, if you want to see any version of the series besides the one I came up with , I recommend following the list of the episodes in chronological order found here.

Well, that’s my recommended viewing order of The Clone Wars. I’d be happy if this can be of use to any of you, and regardless I’d love to know what you think, what you agree or disagree with, and if you have any recommended versions of your own.