The Rise of Skywalker is almost here, and it’s supposedly the conclusion to the Skywalker Saga. So, I’ve decided to attempt a full canon rewatch before it releases, reviewing each chapter as I go. That’s all the movies, as well as the Clone Wars, Rebels, and Resistance TV series. We continue today with a complete series review of Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
So, it seems I haven’t left myself enough time to review all of The Clone Wars season by season in time for Rise of Skywalker. There’s just too much of it to go over and not enough hours in the day. I should have started earlier. So instead, I’m going to review the series as a whole today. There’s a LOT to dig into, so let’s get to work.
By now you probably know my thoughts on the beginnings of this series. It’s a little rocky, but it shows some real promise, and features some stellar moments. It’s unfortunate that so much burden was placed on Clone Wars to clean up the steaming mess Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith created, but by and large it does so very gracefully while paying off much of the promise set in place by The Phantom Menace, which I still hold to as being the best of the prequels. It just takes some weird rides to get there.
I commented on the episode order being all out of whack, and Season 3 is the worst mess because of it. Chronological order to watch this season and actually have it make sense is:
306 The Academy
302 ARC Troopers
304 Sphere of Influence
308 Evil Plans
122 Hostage Crisis
309 Hunt for Ziro
310 Heroes on Both Side
311 Pursuit of Peace
215 Senate Murders
Not only does this season include an episode from season 1 and another from season 2, even the ones that were actually aired as part of season 3 are out of order. Seriously baffling stuff because a lot of these aren’t just technicalities, they’re directly related episodes. Watching them in order helps a lot, but there’s a real weird flavor to the whole season with it being so out of whack. Anyway, the most important thing that happens in this season is the story of bringing Darth Maul back. Or to put it more correctly, showing that he didn’t actually die.
Count Dooku gets a call from Palpatine saying his apprentice Ventress is getting too powerful, and since there can only be 2 Sith at a time, he feels like Dooku is probably grooming Ventress to help him kill Palpatine and become the Sith two lords themselves, which is, of course, true. However, with Dooku knowing he isn’t quite ready to execute that plan, he does as his master commands, which is to kill Ventress.
So he does. Or, at least, he thinks he does. Ventress goes on a mission, Dooku orders his battle droids to turn on her, and she’s shot down and left for dead. Ventress proves to be much more resilient than Dooku thought, and manages to head back to her homeworld after being betrayed. Her homeworld is a planet called Dathomir, which just so happens to be the same planet Darth Maul was from. The plot thickens!
When she gets there, we are introduced to her family, a group of witches known as The Night Sisters. The head witch in charge is Ventress’s mom (I think) and they hatch a scheme to get revenge on Dooku. With Ventress presumed dead, Dooku is in the market for a new assassin, so the Night Sisters call him up, pretend they “heard about” Ventress’s demise, and offer him one.
They wind up coming up with a beefier version of Maul named Savage Opress (pronounced sa-VAAJ Oh-press). And no, that name never stops being completely absurd. Savage is placed as Dooku’s new apprentice, but has a secret spell on him that makes him obey Ventress as his true master. Savage learns a lot about using the Force from Dooku, and we get a cool look at Sith training (which is awful and brutal, as you might expect), but it’s not long before things go south and Ventress is forced to play her hand early. Ventress makes Savage attack Dooku, eventually turns on him too, then there’s a super cool saber battle between the three of them, with everyone eventually going their own way when no one actually wins the bout.
Ventress escapes and takes the long way home to the night sisters. Savage actually gets there first, and the head witch tasks him with finding his brother, Darth Maul, who is still alive… somewhere.
What’s fun about this is that it isn’t resolved in season 3. Maul isn’t even resolved in season 4. Heck, he isn’t even resolved in The Clone Wars. He’s allowed to be a long term villain, and a very interesting one at that. When we finally catch up with him, we see that he’s gone completely nuts. Apparently he’s been living in a hole for years, with a giant mechanical spider as the lower half of his body. His only sane thought is revenge on Obi-Wan for cutting him in half. Other than that, he’s a complete lunatic. Savage brings him back to the Night Sisters who heal his mind, and give him some cool new robot legs to boot. With his mind intact, Maul’s plans begin to be put into motion.
I’ll stop recapping here and just say that everything else in this series involving Maul is fantastic. Finding his way in the universe without Palpatine to call master is really cool. He tries his hand at being a pirate and a crime lord, and he even manages to get some very meaningful revenge on Obi-Wan. He eventually falls in with the Mandalorian terrorist group Death Watch (and subsequently falls out with because they’re all jerks), and winds up murdering Satine (Obi-Wan’s old love interest from Season 2) right in front of him, which is an incredibly painful scene to watch. It’s absolutely brutal.
In the end, Palpatine hears Maul is alive and is out there calling himself and his brother the true Sith lords, so he comes out personally to teach Maul exactly why he is the one and only lord of the Sith. He effortlessly murders Savage in a way that draws some striking similarities to the way Maul killed Qui Gon in front of Obi-Wan back in Phantom Menace, which Maul obviously doesn’t take very well. But instead of killing Maul, Palpatine tells him that he has other plans in store for him. This is, unfortunately, the last we see of Maul in Clone Wars. His story does eventually wrap up in Rebels, but we never really get to see what Palpatine has planned for Maul, which is kind of a bummer. The only other time we see him is at the end of Solo, which will probably never be paid off because that movie tanked. Regardless, bringing Maul back was a brilliant move, and The Clone Wars pulled it off with gusto.
Sticking with paying off Phantom Menace, we also get to hear the voice of Liam Neeson once again. Yes, Qui Gon Jinn made a couple of “appearances” before the show ended, and they’re some of the very best moments in all of Clone Wars. The short version is that Qui Gon has figured out how to maintain his individual self after becoming one with the force in death. He first appears to both Anakin and Obi-Wan when they’re on this weird Force planet, but things get really interesting when he starts reaching out to Yoda on Coruscant. So yeah, Qui Gon is basically the origin point for Force ghosts. Why? Because Qui Gon is the best Jedi. In the very last episodes of the show, he leads Yoda on a journey to learn this skill, and it’s one of the series absolute high points. Really great stuff.
Probably the best things Clone Wars has to offer though, is Anakin’s padawan, and looming potential plothole, Ashoka Tano. If Anakin had an apprentice, why wouldn’t we have ever seen or heard of her in the movies? Thankfully, Clone Wars tackles that, and does a far better job of making it fit in with the existing material than just about anything Revenge of the Sith did. (Sorry, I’m not going to stop ragging on those movies). There’s a story arc in season 5 that revolves around Ashoka being framed for murder. It turns out there was a rogue Jedi padawan behind the plot all along, but in the process of her escaping from jail and proving her innocence, we see a fairly ugly side of the Jedi order. They kind of turn on Ashoka pretty quickly, and kick her out of the order before putting her on trial, presumably where she will be sentenced to life in prison or death. Once she reveals the truth and the council apologizes, they offer her place back in the order, but she refuses. Her trust in the Jedi isn’t there anymore, but not just because of this incident. These seeds have been slowly planted for years.
This show does a great job of putting Anakin, and by extension Ashoka, at odds with the rules of the Jedi council multiple times. It always comes off as a small thing at the time, but when you look at them as a whole, they add up, making Anakin’s last moments with Ashoka carry a remarkable amount of weight. After 5 seasons of watching Ashoka idolize the Jedi, grow into one of their best members, but also learn through her that the Jedi aren’t as infallible as they like to present themselves, Ashoka’s refusal to stay is an excellent and well-defined character moment. When she was introduced back in The Clone Wars movie, she was this plucky, tiny little girl. By the time season 5 wraps up, Ashoka is an adult. She’s drawn that way, too, which isn’t something we see very often in cartoons.
Unfortunately, like Maul, we don’t get to see where Ashoka goes from there because the show was cancelled after season 5. Season 6 was a sort of “lost missions” season that includes some truly great stuff, but it’s short, and definitely incomplete. But the basic truth is that Ashoka can exist without breaking any continuity because she was long gone by the time Revenge of the Sith happened. I don’t know where she was, but it wasn’t anywhere near Anakin until after he becomes Vader, so it works. In fact, it makes Anakin’s turn to the dark side all the more believable. It was the Jedi Order’s crappy policies and decisions that caused Ashoka to leave him. One more reason for Anakin not to trust them in the end.
She works well on her own, and she enhances the characters around her. And she manages to do it in a way that doesn’t break Star Wars. Go figure.
Honestly, that’s where this show sits highest for me. It’s some incredibly effective damage control for the unmitigated disasters that were the prequel trilogy (particularly 2 and 3). It not only spent time setting up great stories like the clones not being aware of Order 66, the Mandalorian pacifist society, or even smaller arcs like the ones where we get to see a group of younglings build their lightsabers for the first time, but it paid off on the squandered potential of characters like Darth Maul and Qui Gon Jinn. It introduced a believable past for Obi-Wan Kenobi, and made Anakin Skywalker the sympathetic and cool character he needed to be. It can’t actually fix the problems the prequels set up, which I’ll get to for real in my Episode III review, but it eases the pain of some of it. A herculean task to be sure, but one The Clone Wars handles with a surprising amount of grace, and I can’t commend it enough for that.
It isn’t all good times though. Terrible characters like Ziro the Hutt, Jar Jar Binks, and my least favorite of all, Hondo, all drag this show down every time they’re on screen. There are some really boring threads like an entire 4 episode arc following a bunch of droids doing nothing of consequence or value, but like all the good Star Wars properties, the good stuff outweighs the bad. It does, however, spoil Anakin’s future at one point, all but flat-out telling us he becomes Vader, which is the one thing, THE ONE SINGULAR THING, the prequel content should never do, but at least it was part of a really cool story arc. Clone Wars could also be viewed as something you should watch after having seen the rest of the movies like Rogue One, so I’ll give it a pass on that one.
I also have to mention that the way this show recaps past events at the top of every episode is… I just hate it. They’re all presented like some sort of World War II-style newsreel, except they aren’t. They’re episode recaps that involve specific character motivations and stuff. They’re also in glorious HD, so you wind up with just regular recaps told via an announcer doing a silly 1940s news man voice. It’s ridiculous, and considering there’s a commander in the early seasons who has almost the exact same voice, it’s even worse. I hate it from beginning to end. Rant over.
So the bottom line is, The Clone Wars is really good. Not perfect, but well worth making your way through if you have the time. Make sure you watch it in order, though. If you watch it in numerical episode order you’re going to be confused. If you use the official watch order listed on starwars.com, you will find that this series has a ton to offer, and makes the stink of the prequels far easier to stomach. And hey, there’s a season 7 coming in the not too distant future. Here’s hoping it’s as good as the rest of it.
And now back to the movies. Revenge of the Sith is up next. Wish me luck.