After almost exactly 12 months writing about it, I managed to finally finish watching Star Wars: The Clone Wars a few weeks back. I’d like to say I was planning on taking a little bit of a break from Star Wars now, but with The Bad Batch having just started with a whopping hour+ first episode, I don’t think I’m going to be able to pull away from Star Wars for any extended period of time for the foreseeable future.
Which isn’t a bad thing given the redemption arc the Mandalorian has put the franchise on after the blundering of the sequel trilogy.
As high as I am on Star Wars right now, I feel like I really need to just take some time to appreciate what a big impact The Clone Wars series ended up having on the new direction of the franchise and how the Mandalorian feels like as much of a sequel to this animated series as it does the original trilogy.
It really was a blending of the two worlds, and I just wanted talk about the most important things the series did for the greater franchise having now seen it in its entirety. Before I go down the rabbit hole of starting Rebels. Which I’m going top put off for as long as possible.
These points aren’t in any particular order. They’re just the first five things that popped into my head.
Redemption of Anakin Skywalker
This first point seems like a contradiction of terms considering how the series ends. But Clone Wars really made me like and root for Anakin Skywalker in a way neither Jake Lloyd nor Hayden Christensen ever came close to doing in the live action series.
The combination of Matt Lanter’s vocal performance and the team behind writing the character for the series turned Anakin from an angsty edgelord into a real heroic character that you want to root for. Albeit one with a darker edge to him.
As the series neared its end, it felt like Anakin became less of the focus and the lens started to pull more towards its original characters. For good reason too as they’re two of the points I’m going to get to later in the list. However, coming out of the other end, I really feel like this is the Anakin I imagine in my mind’s eye when I think of the character now.
A roguish, yet good hearted swashbuckler whose weaknesses of character all come from a place of love and care for his friend. The paradox of the Jedi that both gave him strength but also lead to his downfall. I only wish that as the series went on, it gave a little more context and foreshadowing to Anakin’s eventual fall to the dark side.
Sure, it showed him choking people and losing his cool on a steadily increasing number of occasions, but it never really felt like there was a true shade of the Vader he would become throughout the series. And when it does happen off screen during the final few episodes of the series it still feels like it kind of comes out of nowhere.
Letting Revenge of the Sith do the heavy lifting for his turn into Vader off screen, and we know how that went.
Captain Rex (And the Clone Army)
I use Rex the prime example for this point, but really I’m talking about all of the clones as they were portrayed throughout the series. Because yes, hur hur, they’re all the technically the same person being clones. But they’re actually not. And that’s one of the greatest things the Clone Wars did throughout its run.
Despite all being genetically identical to one another, the Clones of the grand army of the Republic were anything but carbon copies of one another; mere organic facsimiles of the droids they spent years fighting. And the series does an amazing job of creating unique characters from amongst them and allowing them to carry their own stories.
Which generally ended up being some of the best stories told throughout the entire series’ run.
Fives, Rex, Echo, Jesse, 99, Cut Lawquane, Dogma, Gregor. I can name a ton of them, all of which were created for this series, were distinct from one another and gave us all sorts of unique perspectives on not only what it’s like to be a cog in a grand army, but to be seen as lesser than because you’re a person created in a lab rather than born naturally.
So much credit to Dee Bradley Baker who did so much heavy lifting when it came to creating so many unique characters who all essentially had the same voice.
The one thing that always kind of rubbed me a little about the clone was that the Order 66 programming was attached to a microchip in their brain rather than some Winter Soldier style mental conditioning. There was always something so inherently more sinister about the idea of brainwashing than a piece of technology controlling them. But then again, it would have made breaking Rex free of the control much more difficult in those final few episodes.
I love the Clones so much and it seems like a lot of people share those feelings seeing as how the Bad Batch are getting their own series. Plus, I’ve got more to look forward to of them by the time I eventually get to see old man Rex in Rebels
The Fall of the Jedi
In terms of slow burn storytelling, I can’t think of any example of how the Clone Wars did it better than it slowly making me lose faith and admiration for then Jedi Order as it did throughout its run. Well, maybe one, but I’ll be ending on that point.
I used to love the Jedi Order of the prequel trilogy, they seemed so cool. They were a group I used to hero worship in my youth and their tragic fall and betrayal by Darth Sidious and Darth Vader seemed like some cruel twist of fate.
Now I’m older and having seen this series throughout, I see the truth behind the matter. There is nobody to blame for the fall of the Jedi Order in 19BBY other than the Jedi Order themselves. Specifically the Jedi Council.
Throughout this entire series, the Jedi became increasingly political, increasingly under the thumb of the senate and the Supreme Chancellor. As I’m very slowly making my way through the Light of the Jedi novel, taking place during the pinnacle of the Jedi Order, it’s so much easier to see the contrast.
The Jedi Order in the Clone Wars have become a group of (figurative and literal) old men, stuck in the ways of the past and plagued by indecision. They’ve forgotten to trust the will of the force and found themselves wrapped up in playing politics and acting as an army rather than a group of peacekeepers.
It really comes to a head how political they had become within the events of the conclusion of season 5, where they expel Ahsoka from the Jedi Order. We get to really see, from her perspective how they would much rather play a game than do the right thing, trust their instincts and the will of the Force.
By the time time the series was over, I really didn’t care for the Jedi Order at all. I liked individual Jedi sure, but as an entity I really felt some real world class imbalance mirrored in the Jedi sitting on their hands during a time where the galaxy really needed heroes.
The Mandalorian Roller Coaster
I would be very curious to know what the thought process behind the Clone Wars’ treatment of the Mandalorians was during the production of this series. Their first appearance in this series left me feeling very put off, so much so that the episodes following them was titled Not my Mandalore.
The books I read by Karen Traviss really fleshing out the Mandalorian people before the Disney reboot had been thrown out of the window, and replaced with just another race of space humans. The Mandalorians of Yore had been religated to series bad guys. A terrorist organisation.
However, as the series went on, I’m not sure if it was in direct response to fan feed back, the Mandalorians I disliked were all killed off and replaced with proper Mandalorians, as we expected them to be. Maybe that was always the plan, because if it was, it ended up being one of the best long running storylines to permeate the series.
Especially with the reintroduction of Maul into affairs and the conclusion in the final series where Ahsoka helps Bo-Katan retake Mandalore from him to bring the planet back to how it was always supposed to be.
And in many ways, these storylines feel like the real prequel to the Mandalorian series that would follow on Disney Plus. Esspecially the second season, which feels much more heavily tied into the events of Clone Wars than anything else.
I’m not sure if the conclusion of this Mandalorian arc was a solution to a problem the writers created for themselves, or if it was the plan from the start, but I don’t the Mandalorian series would have been as great as it was if not for the foundations laid by Clone Wars
Phew, okay. This is the big one.
Ahsoka Tano might be the most important character in the current iteration of Star Wars.
When the Clone Wars started, Ahsoka was a kind of obnoxious kid sidekick, the kind you see in too many similar series. All giving off that same wonderkid Wesley Crusher vibe. She showed up, had a smart mouth and seemed spend most of her time bantering with with Anakin.
It made for some of the more difficult to watch aspects of the early seasons. I can understand why fans would rally against her. But slowly, as the series grew. And matured, in both it’s style and it’s writing, Ahsoka became more and more beloved by fans.
Personally, I feel like Ahsoka came to embody the kind of Jedi that the order were supposed to be comprised of. She was always driven to do the “right” thing, not just what she was told, but on top of that, she wasn’t this stoic, detached mystic. For lack of a better term, she was more human. More empathetic.
Which is why I totally understand why she would walk away from the Jedi Order when she did. Throughout the course of the series, Ahsoka went through a complete character arc. We saw her grow, change and mature as a character. Starting off as some punk kid and becoming a noble and heroic person more than worthy of the title of Jedi Knight by the time the series was over.
What’s more, her story is far from over. While I haven’t watched it yet, her presence in Rebels continues her story and when we see her in the second season of the Mandalorian, which acts as a spring board for her own live action series to follow.
Ahsoka has become the face of this new era of Star Wars, while Din Djarin and Grogu are far more recognisable amongst the mainstream, Ahsoka is what bonds the animated series with the new televised live action series.
These moments of Clone Wars, I feel are incredibly important to the current state of Star Wars. Without any of them I don’t think the Mandalorian becomes as compelling as it does during its second season, and without that astounding success I don’t think we get the hot excitement for the plethora of live action series that are to spin off from it.
I loved watching Clone Wars, it was a series that only got better as it went. And like a fine wine that final season, which took all those years to mature ended the series in glorious fashion. I would act all wistful here about this year long journey I’ve been on… but I’ve still got Rebels to watch yet and the Bad Batch is out now as well.
So this Star Wars journey drives on without an end in sight. And all tis success couldn’t have happened without Clone Wars… So thanks Dave.