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 with Season I of Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
Begun this animated series has…
So, here we are for the first proper season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen these episodes, and I have to say with the exception of a handful of boring stuff and some rather questionable decisions toward the end, this was a really good time. Let’s dive in, because I have thoughts.
So, if you read my last review about the Clone Wars movie and the two random episodes that precede it for some darn reason, you already know this show ran out of order, and as such, if you were to jump on Disney+ and try to watch it from the beginning, you’d likely hit a few pieces of weirdness. There’s an official watch order listed on starwars.com, and that’s how I’ve been going about this. Let me tell you, certain things take on a very different feeling when viewed in chronological order.
Getting it right, sort of
What The Clone Wars does is effectively fill in what happened to our favorite galaxy far, far away after Attack of the Clones and before Revenge of the Sith. The show debuted after Revenge of the Sith was in theaters, though. Couple that timing with the whole theatrical movie thing, and it’s no wonder I remember having something of a hard time getting into the show when it originally aired. Everything feels kind of disjointed, but that’s not actually entirely thanks to the episodes being all wacky. It seems to have been baked into the show’s design.
They weren’t screwing around when they called this show The Clone Wars. In this first season at least, there isn’t any sort of overarching season-long plot. This is just a bunch of war stories from around the galaxy, primarily focusing on Anakin and his padawan Ashoka, and occasionally bringing in folks like Obi-Wan, Yoda, Count Dooku, etc., to fill it all out. What I find truly surprising is just how important the episodes that aired out of order are, and as I’m watching them now, remembering this vague sense that I was missing something when I watched them for the first time. I was. This show makes a ton more sense when viewed in order, which also greatly improves its emotional resonance.
This season actually starts out with a pair of episodes from Season 3. S03E01: Clone Cadets, and S03E03: Supply Lines. Clone Cadets introduces us to Domino Squad, a set of Clone Troopers who are training to become a field strike team of some sort. The episode is pretty by the numbers, but I really couldn’t help but root for these guys to succeed. What’s bonkers though is how much more effective a later episode in the season, Rookies, works after having watched Clone Cadets. Rookies is a story about Domino Squad out on a mission with Captain Rex where one of the Domino Squad members is killed off. I actually remember this episode from when it first aired. It’s a good episode, but killing off one of those clones originally left me with a “huh, sucks to be him” the first time around, but now gave me more of a “Don’t kill him! I liked him!”
As for Supply Lines, the first thing that blew my mind was that Hera’s Dad first appears here. (Hera is a main character in Star Wars: Rebels. In case you didn’t know). I remember the Twi’lek being a part of Clone Wars, but I didn’t actually remember any of their names, and I certainly didn’t remember this particular character. Really cool stuff!
Getting it wrong
But then we get Jar Jar. Oh yeah, they brought him back. Ahmed Best voices him again and everything. It’s horrible. He fits in with this animated universe a little better, but uuuuuuggggghhhhh….
Things don’t get any better on that front, either. Jar Jar isn’t just in that one episode, he’s in a bunch. Later in the season he comes back and they don’t have Ahmed Best doing the voice, so we get imitation Jar Jar, which is somehow way worse.
But honestly, there’s a character introduced in this season who I hate almost as much as Jar Jar, and that character is Hondo.
I despise this character. He’s a piece of crap space pirate with an awful generic voice, an obnoxious personality, and the animated Star Wars universe just keeps shoving him down my throat. I don’t remember exactly how often it is, but I remember audibly groaning and changing the channel every time I’d see an episode with Hondo in it back in the day, and they even bring this jackass back for Star Wars Rebels. He’s the worst, and I hate him.
The only other negative I’m going to harp on is General Grievous. I mentioned the original Clone Wars cartoon in my last review, which set up the characters Ventress and General Grievous (in addition to be genuinely awesome), but while Ventress came through in this new show relatively unchanged, Grievous comes off here as a shadow of what he was created as.
Genndy Tartakovsky was allowed to create a brand new Star Wars villain who would eventually be used in the then upcoming Revenge of the Sith. He created General Grievous, and he did a stellar job. If you’ve never seen this, take a look. It’s pretty short.
When they introduce him here, he’s terrifying. They establish early on in this show and the previous movies just how powerful Jedi are, and then they have this crazy droid fighting with his feet, collecting lightsabers from the Jedi he’s killed. He’s awesome, he’s original, and I could not WAIT to see him in live-action. But then Revenge of the Sith happened, and they took all sense of terror away from him. I don’t buy that the new version of Grievous could have defeated a single Jedi for an instant, and it’s such a shame because again, HOW AWESOME WOULD IT HAVE BEEN TO SEE THIS CHARACTER IN LIVE ACTION? The original Clone Wars even gave a reason for his constant coughing when Mace Windu crushes his chest with the Force, but with that no longer canon, he’s just this cowardly robot who walks around coughing, and gets totally decimated by Obi-Wan.
And again, just like Ventress, Grievous completely lacks a proper introduction in this show, and by extension Star Wars canon in general. He’s just there and everyone knows what he’s about. After basically doing nothing in his first episode, when he first comes face to face with Obi Wan and Anakin, they already know one another, and he busts out his lightsabers and starts fighting. Again, this show’s segmented nature is partially to blame for this, but it sure would have been nice to have some sort of lead up to this guy. It doesn’t have to be anything huge, just something to explain who he is and why he’s a threat.
But he’s kind of not. He does a few things in this season that are pretty vicious, like straight up murdering this guy who was helping him out, but he can’t even take Ashoka one on one. Nothing against Ashoka. Adult Ashoka in Rebels is a force to be reckoned with, but this early on, she’s still just a padawan. What the heck?
There really is a very uneven tone throughout the whole season, and I mean that in terms of quality as much as, well, tone. One episode ends with Anakin and Obi Wan outsmarting their would be assassins by switching cups and not drinking some poison drinks, but then the next episode starts with them having been drugged anyway and waking up next to Dooku in jail. No explanation either. It’s basically like they forgot how they ended the previous episode. It’s super weird, and then there’s MORE HONDO. Ugh!
That said, the bulk of that episode where they’re forced to team up with Dooku to escape is an absolute delight. I can’t say enough good things about the majority of the voice cast in this show. They really brought their A game… mostly. Imitation Jar Jar and Hondo can go jump in a lake.
It’s not all bad
So there’s a couple of negatives, but overall I really had fun with this season. Anakin and Obi-Wan’s relationship continues to be so much more interesting and believable here than it ever was in Attack of the Clones or Revenge of the Sith. Anakin’s secret marriage to Padme is also played pretty well here. They never really harp on it much, but they do a good job of conveying that these two characters actually do love one another, and the few scenes we get to see them alone together show off some actual chemistry between the two of them, Who knew?
Also, a handful of episodes in, I started to understand why they gave the battle droids more personality in the way they speak in this series. There is some merit to their comedy in this show, and their stupidity kinda works. I ultimately still dislike it, but I get it.
I also can’t believe I’m saying this, but I really like the Clones. This show’s art direction doesn’t do them any favors, and the voice actor’s impression of Jango Fett’s accent is pretty annoying at best, but the way their relationships are written, how they all react to life as clones of one another, and the actor’s performance accent be damned, really make them effective and sympathetic characters. There’s a bit toward the end of the season where a couple of clones save a little Twi’lek girl, and I found myself genuinely moved by it. It wasn’t any sort of new story or anything, it was actually kinda cliche, but damn if it didn’t warm my heart when she gave them hugs for saving her.
The season ends with a 3 episode arc involving the Twi’lek people and the liberation of their planet. The second one is the one with the clones and the little girl, and I think that one was the strongest. The third one (which also works as this season’s finale in the proper watch order) actually focused quite a bit on Mace Windu, voiced in this series by Terrence ‘T.C.’ Carson, (Kratos from God of War, tons of other games and cartoons). It’s fun to hear that twinge of Kratos in his voice when he gets mad, and it’s really cool how they modeled his fighting style after how Sam Jackson acted in Attack of the Clones. This show may not be flawless, but it sure knows how to pay attention to detail.
To sum up, I didn’t see anything in this season that I would consider required watching. That said, watching it after Attack of the Clones shows just how much better a good actor and scriptwriter could have done in portraying relationships between these characters. The stakes in this show are super low because we already know for the most part what’s going to happen to everybody, but the journey to get there is well worth your time, if you have it.
When it originally aired, this season’s finale (S01E22: Hostage Crisis) introduced us to the bounty hunter Cad Bane, a super cool character who is really fun to watch, but as it turns out that particular episode doesn’t actually take place until early on in season freaking three, nor is it Bane’s actual introduction. So the season actually ends a little anticlimactically with the Twi’lek conclusion, but not necessarily badly. I have my fingers crossed that season 2 brings along with it a more coherent narrative. I guess we’ll see.