Ah, the holidays. The season when we never have enough time to, well, take time off from everything else. If you’re looking for a series to binge-watch, then now is the time to give Star Wars: The Clone Wars a chance. If you haven’t already, that is!
After its 2008 debut, The Clone Wars took several seasons to find its footing. Early on, the series’ story arcs consisted of episodes that were compelling on their own but lacked a cogent throughline. Yet, as the series progressed, the writers began to structure the story arcs as TV movies. Every three to four episodes focused on a more central theme, allowing stories to delve deep into their subject matter.
The more fascinating stories of The Clone Wars concentrate on setting up plot lines for later films. The Clone Wars leads into Revenge of the Sith, which sees Darth Sidious turn the Jedi Order and its loyal army of clone troopers against each other. A drastic endgame like that requires substantial plotting, and The Clone Wars plants those seeds. Here are the most captivating stories of The Clone Wars.
Mild spoiler warning for all of the following story arcs.
The Battle of Umbara
Matt Michnovetz, who became the head writer for The Clone Wars from season six onward, wrote the series’ first four-part story arc. The season four episodes “Darkness on Umbara,” “The General,” “Plan of Dissent,” and “Carnage of Krell” focus on Captain Rex and his soldiers in the 501st Legion. When Anakin Skywalker is reassigned during a battle, Rex and his men receive a replacement Jedi General, Pong Krell. However, Krell proves to be a callous commander, ignoring how many soldiers’ lives he sacrifices.
The Battle of Umbara story arc is a nuanced exploration of what it means to be loyal. Rex and his comrades struggle to work with Krell, but their tensions don’t bubble to the surface all at once. Rather, they develop doubts about Krell’s leadership over time. Rex’s comrades have a range of perspectives: Dogma remains devoted to Krell, whereas Fives, Jesse, and other soldiers gradually lose their respect for Krell.
Michnovetz’s four-episode arc is TV storytelling at its finest. The story arc has an explosive and shocking ending. But thanks to the episodes’ strong progression, that ending doesn’t come out of left field. “The General” also has an impressive guest credit, since film editor Walter Murch directed the episode after an invitation from executive producer George Lucas. If you’re wondering what it means for clone troopers — and Jedi — to be loyal, then the Battle of Umbara is worth watching.
The Death of Obi-Wan Kenobi
This was the first — and thankfully, not the last — story arc that screenwriter Brent Friedman wrote for The Clone Wars. Friedman joined the series’ writing team for season four, and his debut story arc killed off Obi-Wan Kenobi. The episodes “Deception,” “Friends and Enemies,” “The Box,” and “Crisis on Naboo” focus on a plot to kidnap Supreme Chancellor Palpatine. Obi-Wan infiltrates the plot by going undercover for the Jedi Council, faking his death and posing as his “killer”, Rako Hardeen.
One of the central themes of Friedman’s story arc is trust. Obi-Wan intentionally leaves Anakin Skywalker in the dark, causing Anakin to believe that his former Master is dead. As a result, the story arc examines what Anakin would do if Obi-Wan died. The answer is far from pretty, especially since Anakin turns to the other father figure in his life: Palpatine.
The story arc includes a lot of foreshadowing for Revenge of the Sith. The episodes drive a wedge between Anakin and the Jedi Council. Between that and the fact that Obi-Wan must fraternize with the likes of Count Dooku and bounty hunter Cad Bane, the story arc has many highlights. Perhaps the best moment is when Palpatine remarks, “You cannot deny your feelings, Anakin. They are what make you special.”
Ahsoka Tano on Trial
Even more than the previous arc, this story arc sends Anakin further toward the dark side. George Lucas and supervising director Dave Filoni brought in crime procedural screenwriter Charles Murray to write a detective-style story arc featuring Ahsoka Tano. The episodes “Sabotage,” “The Jedi Who Knew Too Much,” “To Catch a Jedi,” and “The Wrong Jedi” serve as season five’s finale. Their titles also pay tribute to the cinematic works of Alfred Hitchcock, the Master of Suspense.
Ahsoka’s story arc is a prime example of political thriller in Star Wars. As one of the original characters of The Clone Wars, Ahsoka receives much development throughout the series, but never so much as she does in this story arc. When Ahsoka gets framed for murder, Anakin is the only person who believes in her innocence. Meanwhile, the Jedi Council concludes she is guilty. The Council’s actions show how the Jedi Order has become politically compromised thanks to the Clone Wars.
This story arc is memorable for many reasons. These four episodes were the final ones to air on Cartoon Network since Lucasfilm later ended the series on Netflix. Series composer Kevin Kiner recorded the story arc’s musical score with a full orchestra, providing the episodes with a rich and moving tone. Moreover, the arc features Admiral Wilhuff Tarkin, who reveals that the death penalty exists in Star Wars.
Yet, the most compelling part of the story arc is its heartbreaking ending. It sends Ahsoka on a path that continues in the YA novel Ahsoka and concludes on Star Wars Rebels. The story also gives Anakin a clear-cut reason to mistrust the Jedi Council, even more so than Obi-Wan’s faked death. Without a doubt, Charles Murray’s arc is one of the best stories of The Clone Wars.
Master Yoda’s Journey
Christian Taylor, who was the series’ head writer for seasons four and five, gained a reputation for focusing on the mystical side of the Star Wars Saga. His sixth season story arc — comprised of “The Lost One,” “Voices,” “Destiny,” and “Sacrifice” — occur in the same vein as his third season story arc, which featured the mystical world of Mortis. The season six episodes finally reveal the fate of Jedi Master Sifo-Dyas. But they also send Master Yoda on an epic journey that only he can complete.
Besides its inclusion of Dagobah and Moraband, perhaps the most memorable part of the story arc was its guest role for Darth Bane. According to Dave Filoni, Mark Hamill expressed interest in voicing a character for The Clone Wars early on. Due to Darth Bane’s role in the legacy of the Sith, Filoni determined that the character was the perfect fit for Hamill. Especially since one of Hamill’s best-known roles — aside from a certain farm boy — is the Joker in the DC animated universe.
Ultimately, the story arc bridges the gap from the General Yoda of the Clone Wars, to the Master Yoda of The Empire Strikes Back. Yoda realizes it’s impossible to truly win a war, for victories require bloodshed and sacrifice. Yet, Yoda tells Obi-Wan and Mace Windu, “Open to us, a path remains that unknown to the Sith is. Through this path, victory we may yet find. Not victory in the Clone Wars, but victory for all time.” Taylor’s story shows that Yoda’s wisdom is truly remarkable.
All of these story arcs have challenged the Jedi as the heroes of Star Wars. Yet, that is especially true of Dark Disciple. Author Christie Golden adapted this novel from eight episodes scripted by Dave Filoni, Matt Michnovetz, and Katie Lucas. Dark Disciple leads the Jedi Council to do the unthinkable: target Count Dooku for assassination to end the Clone Wars. Consequently, Jedi Master Quinlan Vos and Dooku’s former apprentice Asajj Ventress accept the mission to murder Dooku.
I’ve never liked romance, so I didn’t enjoy the Ventress/Vos romance of Dark Disciple. Yet, the novel examines the compelling question of how far the Jedi are willing to go to achieve victory. Back in an early episode, Master Yoda solemnly remarks, “In this war, a danger there is of losing who we are.” Since assassinating Dooku does exactly that to the Jedi’s identity, does the end actually justify the means?
Dark Disciple proves there’s a continual demand for Star Wars literature. After its release, Dark Disciple debuted at #17 on the New York Times Best Sellers list. And including Dark Disciple, 8 out of the 9 Star Wars adult novels that Del Rey has published since 2015 have ranked as New York Times Best Sellers. The most recent one is Catalyst, which plants the seeds for this Friday’s Rogue One.
Hopefully, Dark Disciple‘s success is a source of hope for The Clone Wars fans. Maybe one day, there will be future installments in The Clone Wars Legacy, a project that brings the series’ untold stories to new formats. In any case, The Clone Wars has added many captivating stories to the Star Wars Saga. Here’s your chance to see why it won a Daytime Emmy Award before it ended.