It’s no secret that Star Wars has fallen, and fallen hard. The sequel trilogy was the final straw for many who were looking forward to the future of the franchise, only to be confronted by, well, that. The sequel trilogy was messy, filled with plot holes, and boring to watch. I found myself missing the good old movies – heck, I even found myself missing the prequel trilogy, despite all the flaws that series had. Magically, I discovered a Star Wars show that I hadn’t seen yet – Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
It’s an animated show that ran from 2008 to 2014, with the final season airing in 2020, coming from a six-year hiatus to wrap the entire show together. The events of the series take place between Episode II: Attack of the Clones, and Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. The 2008 version is inspired by Star Wars: Clone Wars, a series of 20 animated shorts that ran from 2003 to 2005, exploring the 3-year long war known as the Clone Wars, featuring Jedi knights and the clone troopers against the Confederacy of Independent Systems and the Sith. The success of this animated short series resulted in The Clone Wars, a CGI-animated show that captured my heart the moment I saw it.
The first few seasons are more general, with episodic plots that focus on various aspects of the Clone Wars, from the clashes with the Separatists, to how the Republic works with planets that take a more neutral stance. The show gets more political as it continues, with longer, multiple-episode arcs that focus on how the war affects all the planets in the galaxy, and on Anakin Skywalker’s own power and potential.
The later seasons slowly converge to the events that take place in Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, with the final arc of season 7 lining up with the movie.
The character development is incredible – we see Anakin and Padmé’s relationship when they’re two adults in love navigating a complex space, and when Padmé’s job as a senator clashes with Anakin’s job as a Jedi Knight. How each one defines peace is different, and it’s lovely to see the show discuss these topics in a nuanced manner, one that explores all options.
Anakin’s padawan, Ahsoka Tano, goes from a young, overachieving woman to an experienced warrior, adept in handling crises and living with the complications of war. We see Palpatine (spoilers: he’s not the good guy) expertly manage both sides of the war, constantly juggling being a Chancellor and being Darth Sidious, manipulating both sides of the war.
What I found most fascinating about the show was Anakin’s slow corruption to the dark side – how Palpatine sensed Anakin’s raw power and tried to use that to his advantage, and make Anakin his right-hand man. Surprisingly, The Clone Wars also portrays Anakin as a fundamentally good person – one who truly cares, and loves, those around him. I’m not just talking about his wife, Padmé, but Ahsoka Tano and his droids, too.
In fact, it’s one of his behaviors that other Jedi frown upon – he’s made a deep connection with his droid R2-D2, a physical thing, which is a big no-no in the Jedi order. Heck, even his relationship with Ahsoka has often clouded his judgment, and he makes calls that are influenced by his emotions – something the viewer sympathizes with, but the Jedi do not.
The show’s portrayal of planets who want to join the Confederacy of Independent Systems is so well done, too. They’re not just the ‘bad guys’, but a set of planets that wish for independent rule – for self-governance, for their planet to be their own. As the show progresses, it builds on its nuances and results in meaningful characters and stories from both sides, incredible character development, and some harsh truths that we learn along the way.
One of my favorite parts of this series is the way they depict the droids. In the sequel trilogy, R2-D2 is a mere plot filler, a device used to provide exposition. In the show, the droid comes to life and is a creative, ingenious, feisty, sarcastic droid that saves his master, Anakin Skywalker, on numerous occasions, and looks good doing it.
The battle droids, too, are sassy and absolutely hilarious, and there are many droid-centric episodes that point to how vital the droids are to the war – to both sides. What’s even better is that Anakin’s relationship with R2-D2 is beautifully fleshed out – we see why he loves that droid, how imperative that droid is to the Jedi Knights, and how different Anakin is for treating his droid that way.
It’s easy to sympathize with characters when you know who they are, and where they come from. Case in point? Asajj Ventress, a Dothomirian assassin who worked for Count Dooku. Her combat skills were legendary, and her character arc was incredible – from being a slave to a Jedi padawan to being an assassin, and finally, a bounty hunter. She was one of my favorite characters from the other side – every time I see the word assassin, her face pops into my mind, and nobody can change that.
The cherry on top of this delicious Star Wars pie? The fact that each episode has a little life lesson at the beginning, a moral that relates to each episode. Some of them are more generic, like the quote Season 2, Episode 1: “A lesson learned is a lesson earned”. Others are far more specific to the show – to a time when war ravages the galaxy, like the one at the beginning of Season 5, Episode 12: “A soldier’s most powerful weapon is courage”. It’s the only show where I don’t skip the intro theme – I gotta get my little life lesson for the day (make that multiple – I like to binge).
Looking to celebrate this Star Wars Day? If you haven’t seen The Clone Wars before – what are you waiting for? Don’t forget to consult this watching guide, released by Lucasfilms – it’s not recommended to watch it chronologically, but to follow this order. If you have, then it’s time to check out The Bad Batch – the new show on Disney+, focusing on the motley crew of clone troopers that debuted in season 7 of The Clone Wars.
Let’s be honest – there’s not a lot that Star Wars has done right. This is one where they nailed it.
Keep up with pop culture trends and follow our brand-new Instagram account.
Get The Tempest in your inbox. Read more exclusives like this in our weekly newsletter!