TV review: Animated Clone Wars series a better Star Wars prequel than the prequel movies

star-wars-animated-series-clone-wars-rebels-best-episodesI know I’m late to the party, but over the weekend I finally finished watching the last episode of the last season of the “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” CGI animated series that originally aired on Cartoon Network and finished up with a special Netflix season in 2014. I had actually watched the first two seasons of this show years ago but for some reason never finished the others, even though I was a fan of the show.

I was inspired to actually go back and watch the rest of this series after re-watching the Star Wars prequels earlier this year. Although I used to be somewhat of a prequel defender in the past, during this re-watch I found it a little harder to overlook their flaws. 😦 I feared maybe the Clone Wars animated series wasn’t as good as I had remembered it either, so with a bit of apprehension I decided to plow through the series.

The good news is, “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” is as good as I remembered it being, and the show actually gets even better as it goes along. Here are some of my thoughts about the series overall, with a few spoilers marked for those who haven’t seen it.

I’m always hesitant to tell people Anakin Skywalker is one of my favorite Star Wars characters, because their thoughts go straight to “Attack of the Clones” and its rather cringe-y romance. However, the computer animated Clone Wars series actually does a far better job portraying and developing this character. In the prequels, particularly “Attack of the Clones,” Anakin unfortunately comes across as a whiny teenager and a stalker who can’t get over a creepy obsession with Padmé. The character is a lot different in the animated series; he’s a badass but tortured warrior, a successful general who’s respected by the clones he commands. He’s a lot cooler, and it’s easier to see how this guy becomes the villain we all love to hate (or hate to love?), Darth Vader. The animated show also does a good job portraying his friendship with Obi-Wan (there’s less nagging and more fun quipping back and forth).

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I also really, really love how this series expands on the clones and shows their individuality. In the movies, there really isn’t time to do much with the clones personality-wise, or with the ethical issues surrounding the Jedi using these clones, who were bred for the sole purpose of fighting for the Republic. The clone-centric episodes have a sort-of “Band of Brothers” feel. One of my favorite episodes, “The Deserter,” introduces us to a clone who left the Republic army to start a family and live a more peaceful life. I also really liked the story arc in season four that had Captain Rex (a part of Anakin’s 501st division) questioning whether or not to commit mutiny after a Jedi general treats clones like expendable cannon fodder. I actually had to stop watching for a bit because this storyline made me angry; I was so upset this Jedi wasn’t treating the clones like humans and didn’t care if his risky plans had high casualties.

Although some might view this as a children’s show since it aired on Cartoon Network, there are some surprisingly dark, challenging, sad, and violent storylines, such as the one referenced above. We watch Chancellor Palpatine working behind the scenes, manipulating events in his favor and preparing for his rise as emperor. We see the Jedi Order making mistakes and moral compromises, and we watch Anakin struggle to avoid a dark destiny we all know he can’t escape.

One of the most powerful storylines sends Anakin and Obi-Wan to a mysterious planet called Mortis populated by three unusual beings known simply as the Father, Daughter, and Son, all representing different aspects of the Force. ***Spoiler alert!*** While on Mortis, Anakin has a vision of the terrible things he will do in the future after he falls to the dark side. Although this vision maybe could have prevented him from committing awful crimes in “Revenge of the Sith,” the Father decides to wipe Anakin’s memory in order to prevent the future from being altered. It was one of the most gut-wrenching moments in this show and made me think about Anakin’s destiny as the “Chosen One” in a new way. In the past I always thought Anakin’s fall to the dark side was a deviation from his path as the “Chosen One,” and then he became the “Chosen One” again in “Return of the Jedi” when he killed the Emperor and saved Luke. However, I’m now wondering if Anakin’s fall from the light was just as much a part of his destiny as his eventual rejection of the darkness. Was becoming a Sith the only way to ultimately destroy the Sith and restore balance to the Force? Anyway, I could probably fill up another post with my thoughts on the “Chosen One” theory. 😉 This post is already getting long! ***End spoiler.***

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Finally, no Clone Wars post would be complete without mentioning the most significant character it introduced to the Star Wars canon: Anakin’s Padawan, Ahsoka Tano. I’ll admit at first I found Ahsoka to be a little annoying, but I think her character development really pays off in the end, and she’s an interesting foil for Anakin since she’s so much like him. ***Spoiler alert!*** When Ahsoka ends up walking away from the Jedi Order at the end of the fifth season, it’s a genuinely emotional moment and exposes some of the problems within the Jedi Order. ***End spoiler.***

Like any TV show, the Clone Wars series does have its highs and lows. I felt towards the end of the show it focused a little too much on action rather than character development, though the show ends on a strong note and the abbreviated final 13-episode Netflix season is REALLY good. There are a few droid-centric episodes that I didn’t find as interesting (sorry, R2-D2—you know I love you!), and fair warning, Jar Jar Binks does show up a few times. He’s actually not as annoying here and does have some useful things to do, though you can easily skip those episodes if you want.

Overall, this is a really solid show and I would highly recommend it for Star Wars fans. If you liked the prequels, this adds more backstory and fleshes out the events of the Clone Wars, which the movies don’t have a lot of time to cover. And if you can’t stand the prequels, please give this series a shot — it takes the good elements and uses them much more effectively. Also, if the Order 66 montage didn’t make you tear up in “Revenge of the Sith” before, it definitely will after watching this show, because you’ll know the individual Jedi and clones a lot better.

While I’m sad the series is over, I’m hoping to catch the animated “Star Wars: Rebels” series next. I’d love to hear your thoughts on “The Clone Wars” or if you think “Rebels” is worth a watch!

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4 thoughts on “TV review: Animated Clone Wars series a better Star Wars prequel than the prequel movies

  1. I love everything about this post.

    I have the same thoughts about the chosen one theme because his destiny is to bring balance to the force. Not destroy the dark side. (what is light without darkness?)

    You’re going to LOVE Rebels just as much if not more. It continues on the theme of balance.

    Ahsoka is my favorite character because only Anakin would think he could have a padawan of his own and she starts out as a child and eventually becomes a woman who completely realizes that she doesn’t want to be a Jedi. (*She just wants to be a bad-ass.)

    Clone Wars made me throw away the prequels because you don’t need them. Except for the occasional kiddie episode it tells the stories so much better. Rebels is that space between the two series. (Like the new movie. In fact a lot of the characters are in the new movie) Rebels includes characters from all three series. It starts off a little kiddie too but it grows up really fast.

    Great post.

    • Thanks! I really love what they were able to do with this animated series; it’s deeper and more emotionally satisfying than the prequels. You’re right, there are some kiddie episodes here and there, but in other ways it sometimes feels more adult than at least “Phantom Menace” and “Attack of the Clones.” I actually cried a couple times in this series because the stories really moved me.

      I think the Jedi really didn’t know what do to about Anakin and they misjudged the whole “bringing balance to the Force.” I don’t think they realized they were part of the problem–the Jedi Council was becoming too powerful, too wrapped up in the war, too tied up in the Republic government. Anakin’s actions are essentially a hard reset to the Star Wars universe–he resets the Jedi Order and the Sith, bringing down his master and making a way for Luke to rebuild the Jedi Order.

      I’ve been hearing some good things about Rebels, though I was sad to see it’s not on Netflix. I’m going to try to see if I can get it from my local library. 🙂

      I really loved Ahsoka’s character arc and they did a good job portraying her development throughout the series. The final episode she’s in where she walks away from the Jedi Order was really powerful. It made me wonder what would have happened if Anakin had also walked away from the order. I was a little sad they didn’t cover what happened to Captain Rex but I hear he shows up in Rebels.

      Thanks again for stopping by!

  2. I really enjoyed this show! I’m with you on Anakin. I like every version of him except for the movie version. Ahsoka is my favorite original character from this show. Many of the clones, like Rex and FIves, were great characters but Ahsoka was a great counterpoint to Anakin and that helped develop both of their characters.

    I wish Dave Filoni and the rest of the Clone Wars crew could have finished season six the way they wanted because based on interviews I have seen/read, that is when the series was going to tie into Episode III. Plus many of the scripts of the unmade episodes sound awesome.

    • Agreed! Anakin is a great character in the books and the animated series, but it’s a shame the movie version doesn’t work quite as well. I think my favorite original Clone Wars character is Captain Rex but I also really loved how Ahsoka’s character developed. While I’m glad they were able to give fans some closure with the Netflix season, I feel like they could have done at least one more abbreviated 13-episode season to wrap up some things. I would have loved it if they could have flowed the series right into “Revenge of the Sith,” ending the series with the attack on Coruscant. However, I’m glad they were able to at least tie up some loose ends. I particularly liked the episodes about the clone finding out about the control chip and Order 66. Thanks for stopping by!

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