Ricky Church on the best story arcs from Star Wars: The Clone Wars…
With Star Wars: The Clone Wars currently airing its long-awaited seventh and final season, it’s high time to get caught up on the adventures of Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker and Ahsoka Tano during the widespread Clone Wars. Though Disney+ recently put out a list of the essential episodes to watch in the lead up to Season 7’s premiere, one of the most intriguing aspects to the series is how many of the episodes have stories that run for several installments, making them almost a mini-Star Wars movie.
Though stories started off a little kiddish in the early seasons, the later ones delved into some fairly dark and mature subject matter that not only displayed great action, but asked some tough philosophical questions on the nature of cloned soldiers and the Force. Some of the best story arcs are quintessential Star Wars media because of how deeply it examines the franchise’s mythology or creates whole new facets to ponder over. So here are some of the best stories, listed in as much of a chronological order as possible, to watch in time for the seventh season.
The Cadets Trilogy (301 ‘Clone Cadets’, 105 ‘Rookies’, 302 ‘ARC Troopers’)
One of the best elements to The Clone Wars was how it would often shed light on the experiences of the Clone Troopers, showing the toils they went through and what they thought of the war. These looks at the lower decks of the Republic’s army really served to humanize the clones and one story arc to do that is a trilogy following a group of rookie clones as they work their way up the ranks.
The episodes primarily follow two clones named Fives and Echo, whose story begins with ‘Cadets’ as they attempt to pass the rigorous training tests on Kamino with their squad only to end up stationed at a quiet outpost where they’re bored out of their minds – that is until a surprise attack to launch a full out invasion of Kamino where the rookies have to hold off several deadly droids with only Clone Commander Cody and ARC Trooper Captain Rex as their more advanced back-up. ‘Rookies’ was the first ‘dark’ episode of the series as their squad lost numbers at an increasing rate, but showcased the brotherly bond they all felt towards one another. It would all culminate in ‘ARC Troopers’ where Fives and Echo are really put to the test during the Separatist’s invasion of Kamino, forcing them to lead a group of cadets into battle. These three episodes are a great primer for the work that would be done on the clones throughout the series and particularly Dee Bradley Baker’s voice work on the clones. He’s able to make each clone sound distinct with their own inflections, tics and character. The examination of the hierarchy within the clones, particularly those who come out of the tank with developmental issues, is both interesting to see and rather sorrowful.
The Second Battle of Geonosis (205 ‘Landing at Point Rain’, 206 ‘Weapons Factory’, 207 ‘Legacy of Terror’, 208 ‘Brain Invaders’)
One of the biggest battles in the Clones Wars (both in the war and the show itself) was when the Jedi and the Republic returned to Geonosis to capture a prominent Separatist leader and destroy the droid factories, leading to some pretty chaotic and brutal battles. This quadrilogy showcases some great character development, tense action and intriguing questions surrounding the nature of the Jedi and what will become of them after the war.
The first part of the arc, ‘Landing at Point Rain’, plays quite like Band of Brothers or Black Hawk Down, particularly the latter film as Obi-Wan’s drop ship is shot down and he and several of his men are outnumbered and surrounded on all sides as Anakin, Ahsoka and Jedi Master Ki-Adi Mundi race to him. Almost from the start of the episode to the end, it’s filled to the brim with action as each group struggles through hords of droids and Geonosian bugs. The rest of the arc focuses on the relationship between Anakin and Ahsoka, especially his problem in letting go. Ahsoka’s growth throughout these episodes helped endear her more to fans as she faced some tough decisions and questions. At one point she discusses how the war has changed the Jedi and what might happen to their beliefs once it is over. It’s some pretty interesting thoughts coming from such a young character and a punctuation mark on this arc.
Death Watch (212 ‘The Mandalore Plot’, 213 ‘Voyage of Temptation’, 214 ‘Duchess of Mandalore’)
Even without the imminent return of The Clone Wars, now is still a perfect time to go back and view the introduction of Death Watch thanks to the popularity of Disney+’s The Mandalorian. This trilogy of episodes isn’t just important to Clone Wars, but to the whole Star Wars franchise because of how much these events laid the groundwork for seismic changes to the canon.
Whereas Mandalorians were feared warriors and mortal enemies to the Jedi in the previous Legends canon, Clone Wars reimagined them as a pacifist society after several tribal wars. However, a group of Mandalorians calling themselves the Death Watch want to bring back their old traditions and try to overthrow Mandalore’s ruling leader, Duchess Satine, who had something of a romantic connection to Obi-Wan in their youth. These episodes not only introduced some intriguing mythology with the Mandalorians, but were a great highlight into Obi-Wan’s character and the parallels between he and Anakin as Obi-Wan chose the Jedi Order over any romantic feelings for Satine. It also brought forth some interesting questions as Obi-Wan and Satine debated in how best to be peacekeepers in a time of war.
Heroes on Both Sides (310 ‘Heroes on Both Sides’, 311 ‘Pursuit of Peace’)
Star Wars has never exactly been one for nuanced sides in a galactic war (in all three trilogies it’s been purely good army vs. bad army) which makes this short arc in The Clone Wars all the more notable. As the Republic tries to gain more money to purchase more Clone Troopers, Padmé Amidala tries the ‘unconventional’ method of meeting with an old friend in the Separatist government to propose peace talks, a venture that comes perilously close to succeeding.
This was the first look at how the actual Separatist government functioned and that not all Separatists were evil. In fact, though its leadership was obviously corrupt, many actual Separatists seemed to have a justifiable rationale for wanting to leave the Republic. It challenged characters and viewers on their assumptions, but made it quite clear just how much both sides were being played for fools by Palpatine as he took small steps to gain more power. While some fans find the politics in the prequels to be dull, the political intrigue presented here is rather interesting and makes for a great Padmé story, something she didn’t always get in The Clone Wars. Here her insight, intelligence and determination are shown off as she tries in vain to end the war peacefully and diplomatically. Her refusal to give in speaks to one of the core themes of the franchise as she sues for peace and adds another dimension to why Palpatine would want her out of the way post-Revenge of the Sith. This arc also makes it even more clear where Princess Leia would get her natural stubborn nature from.
Gods of Mortis (315 ‘Overlords’, 316 ‘Altar of Mortis’, 317 ‘Ghosts of Mortis’)
Every now and then The Clone Wars would veer into some fairly strange territory that was unlike Star Wars and perhaps the most notable occasion of the series doing so was in the third season trilogy featuring the Mortis Gods, a family of Force wielders who were seemingly the physical personifications of the Force. After bringing Anakin, Obi-Wan and Ahsoka to their planet, they attempt to persuade Anakin to stay in Mortis and maintain the balance in the Force, but Anakin’s refusal sets off a chain of events that puts all their lives in danger.
The Mortis trilogy really takes the series into some place fresh as it examines the Force, and Anakin’s status as The Chosen One, from whole new perspective. Each member of the Mortis family is unique, particularly the Son who seems to not only be an embodiment of the Dark Side, but also of nearly every major Sith Lord as his voice echoes the mannerisms of Sidious, Maul, Dooku and others at any given point (a fact which makes Sam Witwer’s first foray into Star Wars a treat). It also dives into some of the more mysterious elements of the Force, such as the various prophecies the Jedi have had and the nature of the Force Ghosts with Liam Neeson returning as Qui-Gon Jinn for the first time since The Phantom Menace. It also boasts some of the most vibrant imagery in the series with the unique look of the Mortis world, making this quite a cool story to watch.
Darkness on Umbara (407 ‘Darkness on Umbara’, 408 ‘The General’, 409 ‘Plan of Dissent’, 410 ‘Carnage of Krell’)
For a character who is not a Jedi during the Clone Wars, Captain Rex was one of the best tertiary characters in the franchise. Intelligent, fierce and loyal to a fault, Rex and the troops under his command could always be counted on, especially when fostered by the equally loyal to a fault Anakin Skywalker. However, in season 4’s Umbara arc, Anakin is called away and replaced by the Jedi general Pong Krell, pretty much the opposite of everything Anakin is. He has an extremely pragmatic view on the war, seeing the clones as nothing more than cannon fodder and referring to them by their serial numbers instead of their names. His no-nonsense personality may have won him some campaigns, but it puts the lives of several clones at risk.
This story is like the Band of Brothers of Star Wars as Rex and the clones undergo some pretty brutal, and often times graphic, battles as it focuses on the turmoil the Clone Troopers go through. In one of the most outstanding scenes of the series, Rex, Fives and several clones argue over how to handle Krell’s aggressive attitude and reckless plans with Rex playing devil’s advocate as he makes some legitimate points in Krell’s favour only for Fives to make some equally legitimate points against. Credit goes to Dee Bradley Baker for making each clone sound distinct as they share their opinions. The action presented is among some of the best in the series and only gets more serious as the story goes on, even having echoes of Order 66 as Rex considers a very serious action. This arc is ultimately a character study on Rex and the clones as well as their relationships with their Jedi generals.
Jedi Younglings (506 ‘The Gathering’, 507 ‘A Test of Strength’, 508 ‘Bound for Rescue’, 509 ‘A Necessary Bond’)
An aspect of Star Wars that wasn’t explored very much, at least in film or television media, was the teachings to Jedi Younglings and the creation of their lightsabers. Season 5’s Younglings arc showed this firsthand as Ahsoka and Yoda take a group of Younglings to Ilum, a planet rich with Kyber crystals that power lightsabers (and much later the Death Star), but things later get out of control when the group is attacked by space pirate Hondo Ohnaka and then General Grevious.
This arc is a nice break from the series’ usual gloom and doom in the later seasons, but also doesn’t shy away from the dangers the Younglings are in. The first official look at how Jedis choose their crystals (or more like how their crystals choose them) and create their lightsabers is a pretty fun adventure with some interesting young Jedi characters. It is also a great spotlight for Ahsoka as she takes on a much bigger leadership role as she tries to teach the kids herself once they come under attack and even engages in a one-on-one battle with Grevious. And, of course, it is also a great vehicle for voice actor extraordinaire Jim Cummings to get a bigger role as Hondo in the arc and play around more with Hondo’s morality, first acting as the bad guy as he tries to steal their crystals and then has to help them fend off Grevious. It makes for a pretty fun reluctant partnering that gives more insight into both Ahsoka and Hondo.
The Shadow Collective (501 ‘Revival’, 514 ‘Eminence’, 515 ‘Shades of Reason’, 516 ‘The Lawless’)
What the Death Watch story set up is paid off in Season 5’s arc featuring Darth Maul’s return and his grand aspirations for getting revenge on Obi-Wan Kenobi and the Sith. In these episodes, Maul and his brother Savage form a collective of some of the galaxy’s most notorious crime organizations and use it to take control of Mandalore. It leads to an all-out civil war on Mandalore as well as Maul coming face-to-face with his former master Darth Sidious in a final battle.
This arc is a great spotlight on the various villains of The Clone Wars as it ties together quite a few threads from the series. The action is just top notch, featuring some of the most impressive duels in the franchise whether it’s Obi-Wan taking on Maul and Savage Opress, Maul vs. Pre Vizsla or Maul and Savage vs. Sidious. It is quite an exciting story that is well written and paced, but has far reaching consequences for the whole franchise. The outcome of this arc leads into Season 7’s much anticipated Siege of Mandalore, a story that has been teased endlessly by Dave Filoni since the show first ended, and has consequences that are explored in Star Wars Rebels and even The Mandalorian. This is an essential viewing for not just the new Clone Wars season, but for any Star Wars fan in general.
The Departure of Ahsoka (517 ‘Sabatoge’, 518 ‘The Jedi Who Knew Too Much’, 519 ‘To Catch a Jedi’, 520 ‘The Wrong Jedi’)
In what was originally the final arc of the series, Ahsoka Tano is framed for a terrorist act and goes on the run to prove her innocence. She’s eventually put on a sham trial and expelled by the Jedi Council, leaving her to fend for herself in a real criminal trial. Anakin does find the real culprit, another Jedi apprentice who became disillusioned with the Jedi Order and how the war has changed them, and though Ahsoka is cleared and offered to come back into the Order she ultimately decides to leave and discover her own path.
It’s a pretty downer ending for the original series finale, but has some far reaching consequences of its own. It’s one of the few stories to really examine the Jedi’s war policies as well as their hypocrisy in their treatment of Ahsoka with Mace Windu having the audacity to tell her all this was her real trial to become a Jedi Knight, completely disavowing the fact they expelled her to cover their own butts. It also feeds into Anakin’s growing dislike of the Council, adding a bit more context into why he’d so quickly turn against the Jedi in Revenge of the Sith. Ahsoka gets some great development throughout the story and her decision to leave is quite a painful one, but credit is due to both Ashely Eckstein and Matt Lanter for their performances in these episodes and particularly their final scene. It makes for their eventual reunion in Season 7 all the more exciting (and their reunion in Rebels all the more terrible).
Clone Conspiracy (601 ‘The Unknown’, 602 ‘Conspiracy’, 603 ‘Fugitive’, 604 ‘Orders’)
As The Clone Wars went on, one of the most intriguing questions became why the Clone Troopers would turn so readily on the Jedi they not only served with, but in many cases such as Captain Rex or Commander Cody, became friends with. The opening arc of Season 6 – released on Netflix after the show’s initial cancellation with already completed episodes – dives into this question as Fives uncovers evidence of a conspiracy involving the clones that potentially reaches to Chancellor Palpatine himself.
Fives’ journey is a compelling one as he’s on the verge of uncovering the truth behind the true purpose of the clones. The revelation all the clones have a chip in their head made to ensure they follow Order 66 just shows how little Palpatine left to chance in his grand scheme for revenge and galactic conquest. It paints an even more tragic picture of the devastating event as the clones didn’t just blindly follow the order, but were turned into mindless executioners. The fact Fives died knowing the full truth, but completely discredited by Palpatine and his minions, is a sad fate for a character we watched from his cadet days. The only caveat is that Rex was present when Fives tried telling Anakin the truth and the fact Rex is around in Rebels and has a scar on his forehead where the chip should be will make any of his actions in Season 7 very interesting.
Mysteries of The Force (610 ‘The Lost One’, 611 ‘Voices’, 612 ‘Destiny’, 613 ‘Sacrifice)
In what became the next series finale until Season 7 hits, Yoda embarks on a personal mission after being contacted by the spirit of Qui-Gon Jinn, with Liam Neeson returning to the role once again, to uncover some of the deepest mysteries of the Force and potentially the Clone Wars. It puts him on a path to learn the secrets of life beyond death in the Force, allowing him to gain the knowledge to eventually become a Force Ghost.
Much like the Mortis trilogy, these episodes take the series into some weird places as Yoda goes on his spiritual journey. It also answers some longstanding questions regarding the origins of the Clone Wars, such as the secret creation of the Clone Army and Sidious’ involvement in it, while highlighting the flaws within the Jedi Order. Despite Yoda’s standing among them, the Council doesn’t believe him when he explains his beliefs and some even go so far to suggest he is part of a Sith trap. Yoda is forced to confront some of the failings within both himself and the Order, namely Ahsoka’s expulsion and his potential Dark Side self, while glimpsing something of the future. Though it ends with Yoda acknowledging they may ultimately lose the Clone Wars, he also states the galaxy will eventually see a new hope spring forth.
What were some of your favourite arcs in The Clone Wars? Let us know below or at @flickeringmyth on Twitter!
Ricky Church – Follow me on Twitter for more movie news and nerd talk