As we get closer to The Force Awakens, I wanted to take a closer look at Star Wars: The Clone Wars, the animated television show that I think is underseen by many fans of the Star Wars films. The film opening, as well as the entire series, is available on Netflix. The show’s biggest quirk is that some of the episodes are not in chronological order. Luckily the Star Wars website provides the list in chronological order for those so dedicated. My first watch of the show was in the order the episodes appear on Netflix, which didn’t hinder my enjoyment, and the overall quality is one of the factors that has me excited for the new film. Anyway, here are 5 reasons every Star Wars fan should give the show a chance (this list won’t spoil anything from the show, either!):
While I will gladly defend the prequels, there are two main disappointments for me in the trilogy. First, they did not do a good job of giving Anakin and Padmé a satisfying character arc. Attack of the Clones does not nail the love story plotline between these two, which underserves both characters and makes Anakin’s turn to the dark side (we are told because he wants to save her) feel hollow, something that needs to happen more than a character choice. George Lucas excels at mythic storytelling, but characters are not his strong suit. Second, from the moment Princess Leia mentions them in her message to Ben Kenobi, fans have been enthralled by the idea of the Clone Wars. And of course we see the first and last battle of them, but if you’ve only seen the movies, it is impossible to get an understanding of the scale or impact of this conflict, and that’s before factoring in that one man is manipulating/controlling both sides.
Luckily, there is a remedy for both of these. Star Wars: The Clone Wars does a superb job filling in these gaps and expanding the story of the prequels. Seeing Anakin, and his padawan, Ahsoka Tano, have to navigate the war itself, Jedi policy, and Republic politics is an interesting journey, maturing the characters over the course of six seasons and a movie. Anakin’s arc is improved the most, and by the time we see the end of the series, it makes sense that he is already teetering on the brink of betraying the Jedi.
We see Anakin Skywalker as the person Ben Kenobi described in the first Star Wars film. He is a cunning warrior, a great pilot, and a good friend. His character is likable, even relatable. His secret marriage ways on him, and over the course of the series, we see where Obi-Wan, Anakin, and Ahsoka must play fast and loose with the Jedi Code in order to do the right thing. Was Anakin a failed Jedi because he loved his wife as much as he did serving the Republic? Or did the Jedi Order fail him?
One thing Star Wars has lacked up to this point is female characters, and perhaps more importantly, a female point of view. Padmé gets plenty of time to shine as a senator dealing with the war on a political front. We also see her develop the ideas she expresses in Revenge of the Sith questioning whether or not she is fighting on the right side.
The most important character in the show, however, is Ahsoka Tano. While fans were not impressed in the film that served as the series’ pilot, her arc is unquestionably the heart and soul of the show. While Anakin’s love for Padmé may have been the proximate cause for Anakin becoming a Sith, his relationship with Ahsoka throughout this series clearly impacts his choices later. And in her own right, Ahsoka is a brave, thoughtful, and smart Jedi. We meet her when she is very young, and her coming of age story receives the time and consistency that is lacking in Anakin’s journey between the first two prequels.
Asajj Ventress, a dark disciple of Count Dooku, is not only a worthy adversary for the Jedi, but also plays a key role in the question of identity across the series. Ventress sometimes works with Dooku and General Grievous, and sometimes works alone. More assassin than general, she poses both a powerful threat, but also a surprising source of pathos.
And while these three characters are the most prominent women in the show, there are plenty more that have an active role, characters with their own motivations and arcs.
In the original trilogy, the Force was a mystic art form, extremely mysterious, and more of a religion than anything based in science. One of the biggest fan outcries from The Phantom Menace was around midi-chlorains. There is a three-episode arc of Clone Wars that deals with that head on in a way to restore mystic characteristics to the Force. In addition, other episodes deal with Anakin’s status as the “Chosen One,” why Qui-Gon Jinn was mentioned in Revenge of the Sith, and the ancient evil of the Sith is confronted. Now that may not seem all that interesting, but it is a huge signpost that those at Lucasfilm are eager to course-correct things that did not work.
The Clones in the films are just as faceless as the Stormtroopers of the original films, but some of the best episodes of Clone Wars focus entirely on the clones. We see their training, their camaraderie as brothers, and how carelessly they are tossed aside by almost everyone except a few of the Jedi. The Clones are humanized, and the arc dealing with the looming specter of Order 66 is heartbreaking.
Shades of Grey
The Star Wars films, especially the prequels, never have enough time to explore how these major galactic wars effect the populations of citizens inhabiting the worlds these sides are trying to protect or control. Clone Wars uses its space on television to explore this. One of the best episodes of the series, “Heroes on Both Sides,” shows Padmé trying to broker a deal of peace between the Republic and the Separatists. This isn’t the first or last time that the heroes of the show question their role in the galactic turmoil. Clone Wars continues this theme, but instead of the macroscale of the films, the series demonstrates how these failures impact individual characters. While the show is exciting and fun, overall, it still functions as a part of the downward arc of the films.
There are far more than five reasons to watch Star Wars: The Clone Wars, but you’ll have to watch the series to discover all of the action and storytelling that awaits.
Author: Ryan Silberstein
Ryan spends his days at a company named one of the best to work for in the Philadelphia area, and his nights
as a mysterious caped vigilante saving his city from the disease that is crime watching movies. He lives on a diet consisting of film, comic books, experimental beer, black coffee, and those big metal historical markers around town. Follow him on Twitter and Letterboxd.