Because of the retroactive chronology of the Star Wars Saga, TV shows like Star Wars: The Clone Wars and its successor, the currently airing Star Wars Rebels, each have their own set of limitations. Star Wars Rebels leads into the original trilogy, whereas The Clone Wars served as a prequel to Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith, so both series have a finite set of parameters. Here’s a look at some of the major plot restraints of both The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels.
Some Characters Are Immortal
Well, not really. But during certain time periods, some characters might as well be immortal. For instance, take The Clone Wars. Because many of its major characters like Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda, Padmé Amidala, Mace Windu, Sheev Palpatine, and countless others appear in chronologically later films, seasoned viewers knew that none of them could die during the series.
Of course, the main cast of The Clone Wars was not solely comprised of film characters. The series created a number of original protagonists, from Ahsoka Tano and Captain Rex to Duchess Satine Kryze, Cad Bane, Lux Bonteri, and Pre Vizsla. Other characters, like Asajj Ventress and Aurra Sing, were pre-existing but did not have their fates set in stone. (And yes, I’m looking at you, Darth Maul). Still, it was a bit of a let-down to watch the series while knowing that the futures of characters like Anakin or Obi-Wan could never take a dramatic turn.
Star Wars Rebels does not suffer quite as much from this problem, since its five core protagonists—Kanan Jarrus, Hera Syndulla, Zeb Orrelios, Sabine Wren, and Ezra Bridger—are all original characters. None of them show up in any chronologically later works that are beyond the scope of the series, so it’s possible that any of them might meet their end at any time. Nevertheless, that’s not the case for everyone. Film characters like Yoda, Lando Calrissian, Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin, Bail and Leia Organa, and of course Darth Vader have each had stints on Rebels, and fans know that none of them will be dying anytime soon.
It’s Not Star Wars Without A Duel
Speaking of immortality, the fact that certain characters cannot die also affects the outcome of the duels in which they partake. The most glaring examples are two pairs of combatants: Obi-Wan Kenobi and General Grievous, and Anakin Skywalker and Count Dooku. All four characters must survive until Revenge of the Sith, so whenever they crossed lightsabers in The Clone Wars, there was no risk whatsoever of them dying.
Before The Clone Wars came around, when Anakin tells Dooku in Revenge of the Sith that, “My powers have doubled since the last time we met,” that “last time” was during the Battle of Geonosis from Episode II: Attack of the Clones. Yet, since then, The Clone Wars gave us five intervening duels between Anakin and Dooku (two of those with help from Obi-Wan), while Obi-Wan locked blades with Grievous a record of six times. Even though some of those duels had outstanding choreography (my favorites are the duel on Oba Diah from “The Lost One,” and Obi-Wan’s rematch with Grievous in “Bound for Rescue“), they got repetitive really easily.
Anakin and Grievous were an interesting case, since they do not meet face-to-face until the Battle of Coruscant in Revenge of the Sith. In that scene, Grievous tells Anakin, “I was expecting someone with your reputation to be a little older,” to which Anakin replies, “You’re shorter than I expected.” That dialogue destroyed any possibility of them encountering each other during The Clone Wars. They did come close during a prisoner exchange in the episode “Shadow Warrior,” but Anakin was unconscious at the time, so I guess that didn’t count.
For the most part, Star Wars Rebels has so far evaded this plot restraint. Of the many lightsaber duels that we’ve seen, most are between non-film characters like Ezra, Kanan, and the Inquisitors. As a result, each duelist usually has more at stake, since the possibility remains that any duel might be their last. That turned to be the case for the Inquisitors during the events of the season two finale, “Twilight of the Apprentice.” The exception, of course, is Darth Vader, who must survive Rebels in order to make it to the original trilogy.
Did you know that Anakin Skywalker knew way ahead of time that he was going to become Darth Vader? In “Ghosts of Mortis,” which concluded a bizarre trilogy of episodes in The Clone Wars, Anakin sees a vision of himself becoming Darth Vader, as well as his involvement in the Jedi Purge, his fateful duel with Obi-Wan, and the destruction of Alderaan. Anakin’s knowledge of these painful truths does not last long, for the Father—a Force wielder of unimaginable power—wipes Anakin’s memory, causing him to forget that he will one day become Vader.
Similarly, Star Wars Rebels must follow the same framework of containing Vader’s secret. Otherwise, if anyone in the fledgling Rebel Alliance knew about Vader’s true identity, then they would have told Luke Skywalker once he joined the Rebellion during the original trilogy. And if that had been the case, the single most important line in the history of Star Wars (Vader’s “No. I am your father!” from Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back) would completely lose its lasting impact.
Perhaps that’s why “Twilight of the Apprentice” gave Ahsoka Tano, one of the few who learned Vader’s secret, such a tear-jerking ending: surviving in some form and entering the depths of Malachor in solitude. Yet, don’t forget that Ezra heard at least part of the exchange between Ahsoka and Vader. He was there when Ahsoka told Vader, “My master could never be as vile as you,” with Vader replying, “Anakin Skywalker was weak. I destroyed him.” Though Ezra didn’t see Vader get (partially) unmasked, I imagine it wouldn’t be too hard for Ezra to deduce the truth.