Star Wars: The Clone Wars is an animated television series created by George Lucas and supervised by writer Dave Filoni. It takes place in the Star Wars universe in the three years between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. The first six seasons aired on Cartoon Network and later Netflix from 2008-2014. Then after it was canceled, Lucasfilm brought it back for one final season that aired on Disney’s new streaming service, Disney+ throughout this spring.
Growing up, I was a huge fan of the Star Wars movies and Empire Strikes Back has been my favorite movie of all-time for most of my life. The movies were a big part of my life and Star Wars has always been my favorite movie franchise. I reviewed all of the Star Wars movies for The Rich Report before The Rise Skywalker came out in theaters last December. Then, I had a friend, who also loved Star Wars and knew I did as well, recommended that I watch The Clone Wars as it, “had moments of Star Wars at its best.” I binged it with my friend around the time The Mandalorian, another Star Wars show I enjoyed, and I absolutely loved it. It is one of my favorite TV shows of all-time and a must-watch for any Star Wars fan.
The Clone Wars takes place after the events of Attack of the Clones, where the Republic and the Separatists have waged war on one another. The Republic has constructed an army of clone troopers with the Jedi as their generals to fight the armies of battle droids. However, anyone who has seen the saga knows how all this will end. The clone troopers, via Order 66, will turn on the Jedi and destroy the Jedi Order along with the rest of the Seperatists. Jedi general Anakin Skywalker will turn to the dark side to become Darth Vader and help hunt down and destroy the Jedi Knights. The war ends with the Supereme Chancellor, Sheev Palpatine, aka Darth Sidious, founding the Galactic Empire with him as emperor. Even though we know how the events will unfold, the journey to get there and the characters we meet along the way make it a Star Wars masterpiece.
The whole point of the show is to bridge the gap between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, and the way it is done is satisfying from a storytelling standpoint. The show tells its events through arcs, stories that continue through multiple episodes, that have their own self-contained stories. Instead of a typical show where you go on an adventure with main characters, it is more of an anthology of events and that makes the galaxy and war more organic and grand. While the timeline of events isn’t always clear as many of the episodes were released out of chronological order, all the episodes contribute to the overall story of the war.
The show does an excellent job of lore building. We see the war affect many different planets and peoples. For example, Mandalore is a neutral system during the war and we see how it affects them. We see the story of the Duchess of Mandalore, Satine. She is a pacifist who wants to keep Mandalore out of the war. We also find out that her and Jedi general Obi-Wan Kenobi once had a romantic relationship. However, there is a terrorist group called Death Watch that wants Mandalore to become a nation of warriors like they were in the past and they wreak havoc on the planet to win back control. All of the episodes on Mandalore tell great new stories while still contributing to the overall story and the show consistently does that, especially in the later seasons.
On top of that, there are episodes that contribute to the overall Skywalker saga without contributing to the war itself. There is one arc in season 3 called, “The Mortis Gods,” and it gives us more insight into Anakin’s role as the chosen one and his future as Darth Vader. There is a scene where Anakin sees his future and combined with his reaction to it, the scene is very powerful. The final arc in season 6, “Yoda’s Adventure,” has Yoda go on an adventure to discover immortality through the force. This gives more context to the appearance of force ghosts in the original trilogy. The show builds on not just the prequel trilogy but the overall saga.
Another strength of the show is its characters. Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi are absolutely fantastic as two of the leads and the show develops their characters perfectly. In A New Hope, Obi-Wan tells Luke Skywalker that his father was a good friend, the best star pilot in the galaxy and a cunning warrior. In the prequel trilogy we saw very little of those aspects, but in the show we see all three of those attributes frequently. Obi-Wan and Anakin are great friends and their banter throughout the show provides amazing comedic content. Those moments were supplemented with many emotional moments that made their friendship real. The show builds up Anakin well, especially seeing him train an apprentice, and it makes his fall to the dark side much more tragic than the prequels did by themselves.
The show introduced many great characters and for the sake of this retrospective, I will highlight the three best. First, Ahsoka Tano was introduced as Anakin’s apprentice. She is a character that really grows throughout the show as she develops in power, maturity and knowledge. It is entertaining to see Anakin training her and their dynamic is amazing as she feeds off of his unique teaching style. By the end of the show, she is very powerful and her morality shines through in a dark time.
Next is Captain Rex. One problem with the prequels is that the clone troopers appeared to be disposable soldiers just like the battle droids and it was difficult to invest in the battles they had against the droids. However, this show gives character and humanity to the clones, especially the captain of Anakin’s personal clone squad, Rex. He is a leader who cares heavily about his men and you see his journey as the war progesses. He goes through a lot throughout the war and it makes Order 66 that much worse.
Last is the best villain in the show, Darth Maul. Maul was resurrected for the show after Obi-Wan Kenobi “killed him” in The Phantom Menace and it is works very well. Sam Witwer voices him perfectly and Maul gets many moments to shine. After he was found by his brother, Savage Opress, he vows revenge on Kenobi and that storyline provides some powerful and chilling moments.
All three characters are very prevalant in the final arc of the show and the payoffs of their characters help make it the best arc in the show.
I also have to touch on the animation and voice cast. The animation is serviceable for the first couple season, but as the show progresses, the animation becomes much better, especially in season 7. The later seasons have some of the best moments in the show and part of that is due to the upgrades in animation that brings those moments to life. The final arc had the best animation in the entire show and that is another reason why it is the best arc.
The voice cast is also amazing. Matt Lanter voices Anakin and he is terrific as he makes Anakin such a likable character and displays Anakin’s emotional turmoil throughout the show perfectly. James Arnold-Taylor makes Obi-Wan, a usually serious character, an entertaining Jedi full of cockiness and arrogance and it is a blast to watch. Dee Bradley Baker helps provide emotion and humanity to all the clones and Ashley Eckstein does a great job portraying the growth of Ahsoka through her voice. However my favorite voice is Witwer as Maul. Every line Maul delivers is chilling and through his voice alone, Witwer makes Maul a very menacing character.
Overall, Star Wars: The Clone Wars is a masterpiece in the Star Wars saga. It adds so much character and lore to the saga while being very entertaining at the same time. I really enjoyed binging the first six seasons and watching the season 7 episodes that came out weekly. It really added a lot of great content to the saga after I was let down by The Rise of Skywalker. If you are a fan of the movies but haven’t checked out the show, I highly encourage you to do so.