Star Wars: The Clone Wars is probably one of the most important shows in my life. It started me on my current career path. Because of Clone Wars, I became a podcaster. In 2009, I went to a panel for the show at Dragon Con. Two of the panelist were impressed when I asked a question if the Jedi were truly good for supporting the clones only to have them die in a war. Was it in a way borderline slavery? They approached me afterward and asked me to be on their podcast Two True Freaks. A year later, they gave me my own show Hope of All Trades. I’ve been a podcaster ever since.
When the show was running, I was in college. I saw the first two seasons. But as school weighed down on me, I had to give up the show. I never went back to it.
…Until some recent news broke.
Three things made me go back and watch Clone Wars. One is the new Star Wars movie out in December. I wanted to generate some excitement in myself. Next was the revelation in the Star Wars: Rebels season two trailer Ahsoka and Captain Rex, my two favorite characters from Clone Wars, would be returning. I read about Ahsoka’s fate on wikipedia, but no one ever knew what happened to Captain Rex. Needless to say, I was ecstatic. The final reason was the release of “The Bad Batch” episodes at Celebration this year. These episodes are the unreleased seventh season of The Clone Wars.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars is held up high among fans. The production quality is astounding. What’s even more awesome is that it’s all canon and gets the George Lucas seal of approval. Let’s chat about that a second before I jump into season one’s best episodes.
Reasons why you should watch The Clone Wars
1. It really adds to the prequels. Most fans agree that the prequels suck. Thank goodness for Clone Wars. Anakin is actually fleshed out as a character. It’s a real clear progression why he goes to the Dark Side. The usually steadfast Obi-Wan even has a love interest he chose to leave to stay in the Jedi Order. Then we have the coming of age story with Ahsoka. She’s young and wild in the earlier seasons, but she matures beautifully. Last but certainly not least because they’re so freaking awesome, the clones. Embodied in the journey of Captain Rex, they are probably some of the most developed characters of the show. Here you have a group of men that are born only to fight and die in a war they have no say in. They’re programmed to fight and be the same. But as many of them have emerging personalities, they start to question if there’s more to their existence. Where the movies failed, Clone Wars gave the clones a voice. Many times it can be argued they are the audience’s point of view going, “What are we even fighting for anymore?”
2. THE WOMEN! I remembering reading somewhere on tumblr the original trilogy and the prequels only had something like seven females in them. Three of the rebel fighters were women and got cut from the original movie. Princess Leia and Padme are really the only ones with big speaking roles. It’s super sad. The Clone Wars kicks that out the freaking window! So many woman kick ass in multiple different ways. You have the Jedi ladies fighting for peace. You have Padme and Satine using their brains and words to diffuse most conflicts. They easily stand in a room full of men and get peace bills passed. You have Ahsoka finding her place in the world. Then you even have villains like Asajj Ventress who teeters the line between the Dark Side and possibly turning good. If you want to see amazing women in the Star Wars universe, The Clones Wars is the place to be.
3. The quality of the show and the writing are second to none. The first couple seasons are relatively lighthearted. They’re very much the adventure of the week sort of deal. As you get into later seasons, it reaches well beyond the demographic especially season four. There’s a clear progression from lighthearted adventures to soul sucking punch you in the face feelings. This is a war. There’s political fighting of wits and words in the Senate. There’s troops fighting on the fronts. There are innocent people being dragged into the battle against their will. To be perfectly honest if this wasn’t a kid show, this could be as intense as Saving Private Ryan if the gore and violence was left in. Clone Wars is one of the best representations of war on all fronts from the politics to the innocent to the actual fighting.
4. The voice acting is stellar, particularly voices by Dee Bradley Baker. He voices every clone in the show. While they might same the same DNA, he makes a huge effort to where they all sound different. For example, Captain Rex has a low gruffer voice opposed to Tup in season four. Tup is new and has a higher pitch voice. It’s so subtle, but over time it’s clear they’re all very different characters. Then you have the work of Ashley Eckstein who slowly ages Ahsoka’s voice over the course of the series. Finally, Matt Lanter and James Arnold Taylor perfectly mimic both Hayden Christensen and Ewan McGregor as Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi. Overall, the vocal work on Clone Wars is second to none.
With the entire series minus “The Bad Batch” episodes being on Netflix, now is a great time to watch the show. I will say that Rex and Ahsoka are my favorite characters. I tend to be biased towards clone centric episodes or ones with Ahsoka. Asajj is my favorite villain of the show. I love her episodes as well.
Here are my top episodes of season one.
Innocents of Ryloth
Waxer and Boil are two clones fighting with Obi-Wan to free the Twi’lek planet of Ryloth from a Separatist invasion. They scout ahead but stumble across a little girl named Numa. Her family is missing. Her home is destroyed. These two strangers who don’t even speak the same language are now all she has. Waxer and Boil don’t know shit about kids either. But they step up. They step up big time and take care of Numa. She becomes their mission. It’s an incredibly heroic moment in the series.
What I like about this episode is that it shows children are the real victims in war. Numa is scared and confused at why her life is suddenly destroyed. There’s a powerful moment of her silently standing in her blown up home staring at a hole in the ceiling. She starts crying, and the clones comfort her. It also portrays the clones in a new light. They aren’t just soldiers. They’re also thrust into a conflict they have no control over. In a way, they may be the most humane part of the world.
Cloak of Darkness
In the previous episode, the Jedi capture baddie Nute Gunray. Now they’re transporting him to prison to stand trial. Jedi Master Luminara is in charge with Padawan Ahsoka going to help. Side note: If you don’t know, a padawan is a Jedi in training. They serve under Jedi Knights and Masters until they’re ready to move onto being a Knight themselves. Sith assassin Asajj Ventress as been dispatched to rescue Gunray and mess up the mission. There’s also a traitor on board for the good guys.
Let’s look at the three women in this episode. Luminara is a well respected Jedi Master. She has experience and patience in dealing with situations. Ahsoka, on the other hand, is young and reckless. Like her master Anakin, Ahsoka jumps into situations without thinking. Her temper gets the best of her at times as she almost kills Gunray while interrogating him. Luminara is a great balance to Ahsoka and vice versa. The best trait that the padawan has is strong gut instincts. Ahsoka chooses to disobey orders to leave her post and help Luminara fight. While it was disobeying orders, she ends up saving Luminara’s life. It’s shows there’s no real right choice in complex matters. Then we have Asajj as the main antagonist of the episode. She’s a great villain. She’s smart and keeps three steps ahead of the good guys. She’s very strong in both the Force and her fighting skills. She holds off two Jedi easily in hand to hand combat. She’s nasty wicked in a great way. She has no shits to give when it comes to people. If people are in her way, then she kills them. When Asajj is on screen, she’s always a wild card. You never know which way she’ll go.
Finally a small note to point out, there’s a traitor on board with the good guys who is Captain Argyus. It’s important to note his conversation with Clone Commander Gree. He says that a clone who is only bred to fight will never realize that they’re in servitude to the Republic. This is the beginning foundations of many story lines with the clones throughout the entire show. It’s the groundwork for a major arc in season four called Umbara. It doesn’t seem like much at the time. After seeing Umbara and looking back on this scene, it’s a huge piece of foreshadowing.
Now that’s out of the way…
I’m so glad this episode is so early in the series. Up to this point, Clone Wars had a bit of a kid feel to it. You could tell this is for a young demographic. Then we get “Rookies” and serious stakes are thrown into the show.
A group of rookie clone troopers are charged with defending a base on the Outer Rim. Captain Rex and Commander Cody arrive for a routine inspection to find it’s overrun with battle droids. They must inspire the rookies to take back the base.
As I mentioned above, the movies never show the different personalities of the clones. Here we get to see while they share the same genetic DNA, they’re all very different people with their own personalities. You have free thinking Rex and Cody bringing out the individual traits of this ragtag band. It also introduces Fives, Echo, and Hevy. Fives and Echo play pivotal roles later in the series. It’s a Jedi light episode making the clones work on their own. When they see an army of droids, they even joke saying, “I wish we had a Jedi here.” These clones are smart. Rex figures out right away something is not right at this base. Watching them band together is one of the best moments of season one. It’s also more foundation for Umbara. Watching Rex in that arc then going back to this, it’s a drastic change in our Captain. There’s a reason he became a fan favorite.
I’m going to talk a lot about Umbara until we get there, guys. Just giving you that heads up now.
I need to make a side note too. It’s hard watching Cody throughout Clone Wars knowing he takes place in Order 66. If you don’t know, Order 66 is the climax of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. There’s a program in the clones when initiated states the Jedi are enemies of the Republic and to kill them all. Cody participates in it and murders some of the Jedi. The Order nearly wipes them all out. It’s sad to me that Cody goes through many of the same trials Rex does, but he doesn’t make the same progress. We get to know Cody as a character as we do with Rex. It breaks my heart that he meets that end.
When they lose communication with a clone base on a distant snowy planet, Obi-Wan and Anakin go to investigate along with Chairman Chi Cho and Senator Chuchi from Pantora. There they find a race of people called the Talz who were previously undiscovered. Since they can’t speak the common language, Chi Cho thinks they’re savages and declares war on the people.
This shows the problem that Jedi constantly face. They are defenders of the peace. If a war is declared, all they’re allowed to do is try and save lives. They are not allowed to stop Chi Cho from declaring war. They can only advise him against it. Even the clones like Rex are like, “Um why are we fighting again?”
Enter in Senator Chuchi. She is YOUNG. Like super young. Like this might be her first peace mission young. She goes to the Jedi and ask for their help, but it’s all on her. She takes it upon herself to speak for her people and find peace with the Talz. She discovers that the right path isn’t always the easiest. Chuchi is awesome in this episode using her words to diffuse the situation. Smart, smart women in this show.
You could also argue the the similarities between Chairman Chi Cho and the Talz mirroring the settlers of the United States verses the Native Americans. Chairman Chi Cho saw the Talz as inferior savages, because they couldn’t speak and fought with spears and clubs. They proved quite formidable against the clones with their blasters and speeders taking out most of the platoon. Chuchi recognized the Talz as an equal people leaving the planet under their watch.
There are a lot of great levels of storytelling going on in this episode.
Jedi Plo Kloon and his men are attacked by a deadly new Separatist ship. Stranded in an escape pod with no power, they fight to stay alive until Anakin and Ahsoka can find them.
This is episode two of Clone Wars. There was the Clone Wars movie which is fairly light. In episode one, Yoda runs around with some clones and fend off some funny battle droids. Laughs all around for everyone.
Then this episode comes on and it gets super dark really fast. This was the first episode that made me realize this is way more than just an average kids show. There’s a scene where Plo Kloon and his men see another escape pod. He uses the Force to spin it around. There’s a dead body hanging out the window. There’s another scene where a group of clones in a separate pod trying to reach Plo Kloon. They’re begging for help as a small droid ship found them. You watch in terror as the droids bust out the window, and the men are sucked out into space to their deaths. It’s not edited. They leave it in there. It’s a scary moment.
It’s so important to lay down this tone early on. The audience has the choice whether or not to continue. There’s no blood or guts, but you’re seeing men die. Because of that, it’s one of the most important episodes of the show. It allows the creators to delve into heavier stories and not surprise the viewer.
There’s also the moments where we first see Ahsoka follow her instincts. Anakin is ready to give up on Plo Kloon. She sense Plo is still out there. Taking control of the ship, she finds and saves the men. It’s some great writing for her.
These are a few episodes that are good, but not the best of the best. Some are my personal favorites. Some are a important key episodes for later stories that can’t be passed up.
Defenders of Peace
This almost made it to the above list, but it’s not quite up to par with other episodes. It hits a lot of the same notes as “Trespass.” It’s another example of the Jedi not being the rulers of this war. They can’t make a group of people choose to fight in the war, but they can do their best to protect them. With Anakin injured in this two-parter, Ahsoka steps up into a leadership role with the guidance of Aayla Secura. Here’s another example of women getting stuff done. Rex has more awesome moments protecting Anakin. He’s still blindly loyal to the Jedi. There’s a nice vocal cameo by George Takei playing the villain. Plus, those lurmen are pretty darn cute.
The Hidden Enemy
Of the two clone centric episodes this season, “Rookies” is better than “The Hidden Enemy.” I teetered for a long time almost putting this on the above list. I didn’t want my overbearing love of Rex and the clones to fill the top half. Because good Lord, I could talk forever about these clones.
Where “The Hidden Enemy” is different is the fact it’s the first instant of a clone deserter. A clone is selling information to the enemy. Unlike Argyus’ betrayal from earlier, the clone is doing it to save his brothers. He recognizes the clones are slaves to the Republic. He believes that they should be free to choose their own lives.
You also have a few different types of clones here showing they’re not all alike. You have Rex and Cody as the hero types who follow orders. Chopper isn’t a bad guy, but he breaks a rule taking home droid fingers. He felt like he wanted something more for the battle. That’s like a soldier going into a battlefield and cutting off an enemy human’s hand to keep. That’s very weird. Then you have the traitor clone who only wants freedom.
It’s all groundwork for many episodes throughout the show. I like the little moments where it’s sinks in a little to Rex and not to Cody directing their individual stories. I also highly suggest watching the episode featurette on the Star Wars website. It’s very telling.
Asajj also appears again to fend off Obi-Wan and Anakin.
Maybe I should have put this one higher on the list.
This is a long preview of season two. The tagline for the next season was “Rise of the Bounty Hunters.” What we get is the introduction of the second best villain of Clone Wars. See that blue guy with the hat? That’s Cad Bane. He’s freaking awesome. He can fight off two Jedi without breaking a sweat. He can stand in the middle of five mob bosses and make them do what he wants. He can break out of every prison like it’s a normal Monday morning. After Asajj, he’s my favorite villain. He’s an incredibly interesting character that seems straight forward at first. As they develop him, you see there’s an honorable man in there (sort of).
We also see Aurra Sing pictured with Bane. While she doesn’t carry the same storytelling weight as Asajj, she’s another interesting female character that plays into the mix.
The bounty hunters are an interesting third party added into the war. They don’t care which side they work for as long as the price is right. They only work for themselves. It’s a great dynamic for the rest of the series run.
That’s it for season one of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Be on the lookout for my season two recap.
You might have noticed that I didn’t mention Jar Jar Binks at all. Well, Jar Jar Binks sucks.
Thanks for reading!