star wars the clone wars guide

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The shorthand guide to ‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars’

Catching up for the show's final season.


Michelle Jaworski

Internet Culture

Published Feb 21, 2020   Updated Jan 27, 2021, 4:38 pm CST

This article discusses several arcs from Star Wars: The Clone Wars’ first six seasons and Star Wars Rebels.

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Star Wars: The Clone Wars, the animated Star Wars series created by George Lucas that chronicled the galaxy-wide war that took place between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, was originally canceled shortly after Disney purchased Lucasfilm. Several years and—according to Lucasfilm—tens of thousands of emails and letters later, fans are getting their wish: A 12-episode final season is streaming on Disney+ with the first episode premiering on Feb. 21.

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Yes, more than a decade after it began, draw to a close, The Clone Wars will.

The shock at the announcement of a new 12-episode season of Clone Wars in 2018 by supervising director Dave Filoni was palpable. The footage released then (and in the months since) teased plenty of possibilities, but when Clone Wars returns on Disney+ on Feb. 21, it’s arriving for a much different audience. Along with those who watched the show at its peak, you have an audience that caught up retroactively as well as fans who are curious because of connecting threads through something like The Mandalorian, which revealed a weapon first introduced in The Clone Wars in its season 1 finale.

If you were to catch up on all of The Clone Wars, you would be sitting in front of your screen for quite some time. You’d have to watch the original Clone Wars film that was released theatrically in 2008, plus 121 episodes to sit through before you can even start season 7. (Both the Clone Wars film and TV show is available to stream on Disney+.)

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That’s the completist route, one you can tackle by either release order or chronological order. (If you choose the latter, the official Star Wars website has a handy guide.) And while the series is worth watching in its entirety, you don’t necessarily need to see every single episode to be prepared for the final season and join in on the conversation. You’ll just need the proper foundation for it.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars: A Debriefing

Simply put, Star Wars: The Clone Wars is the throughline between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith that encompasses the war between the Republic and the Separatists—and their clone and droid forces, respectively. The beginning and end of the Clone Wars are covered in those two films, but just about everything else that happened during the Clone Wars was a blank slate ripe to expand the story. It took us to the front lines on the battlefield and in the political ring, and in several instances, it answered questions fans have had for years—both on a big picture scale and a silly “This is how Han Solo got his surname” level.

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But beneath the surface, it accomplished much more. For some viewers, it put the prequels in a different light and possibly redeemed them; in an episodic format, The Clone Wars was able to explore themes and characters that the films couldn’t because of the limited run time. It gives us more insight into Padmé Amidala (Catherine Taber) as a senator and how she wielded her power. Anakin Skywalker’s (Matt Lanter) downfall to the dark side of the Force, as seen in Revenge of the Sith, is a more gradual and nuanced process (even if the Darth Vader musical cues are laid on a little thick at times): It’s a journey marked with rage, frustration, disillusion, and some subtle manipulation from Supreme Chancellor Sheev Palpatine, a.k.a. Darth Sidious and the future Emperor.

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With several seasons of groundwork, The Clone Wars sets up and pays off character growth, expands on threads that might otherwise be throwaway lines, and explores more Jedi mythology. The Clone Wars can give resonating character arcs for Anakin and Obi-Wan Kenobi (James Arnold Taylor), heroic moments for Jar Jar Binks, and get into the granular of a padawan’s path to become a Jedi; Yoda even learns a new thing or two. The titular clones of The Clone Wars—who were all created from the DNA of Jango Fett—have their own names, ranks, personalities, and complex thoughts about their own humanity and their role in the conflict. We can learn more about their origins, which are more nefarious than we originally thought.

And perhaps most importantly, The Clone Wars gave us Ahsoka Tano (Ashley Eckstein).

First introduced in The Clone Wars film as Anakin Skywalker’s newly appointed padawan, Ahsoka Tano was often the audience entryway into the Star Wars universe. But for many fans, she meant much more, and she quickly became a fan favorite. Ahsoka was the first female Jedi protagonist in a Star Wars film and TV show, predating both Rey and the sequel trilogy’s exploration of Leia Organa’s Force abilities by several years. But as to what happened to her? We’ll get to that in a bit.

Catching up on Star Wars: The Clone Wars

The Clone Wars is full of multi-episode arcs, two-parters, and plots that carry over from season to season, but as a whole, you could pick up a handful of episodes without getting too lost. (Rebels, in comparison, featured much more serialized storytelling throughout its four-season its run.) Disney+ even has a curated playlist of 20 essential episodes to give new viewers a crash course.

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But if you’re pressed for time or you want something specific about what you want from a Star Wars story, a shorthand guide geared more toward what we know (and what we expect) season 7 to tackle, should get you acclimated with the show. All you gotta do is press play.

The clones of The Clone Wars

Episodes to check out: 3×01, 1×05, and 3×02; 3×18-3×20;  6×01-6×04

Throughout The Clone Wars, the Republic’s supplies of Clone troopers are seemingly endless. To the untrained eye, they might be identical, but within their ranks, the clones have managed to forge their own identities. They have their own nicknames, some styled their hair differently while others had unique tattoos, and although they were all voiced by Dee Bradley Baker, they never sounded like carbon copies of one another. The de facto face of the clone army came in the form of Captain Rex and Commander Cody, who often coordinated attacks with Anakin, Obi-Wan, and Ahsoka.

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He and several of the clones in the 501st Legion became our eyes and ears of what the Clone Wars looked like from the frontlines. And while we know that Rex makes it all the way to the end of Rebels (he even participates in the Battle of Endor) many of the other clones aren’t so lucky well before the execution of Order 66.

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Early in season 6, Fives discovered the inhibitor chip placed in every clone that forced them to assassinate every living Jedi in Revenge of the Sith. His attempt to expose it—and assassinate Palpatine for his part in the conspiracy—failed, resulting in his own death. But because of Fives’ discovery, Rex and at least two other clones removed their chips so that they weren’t among the clones who killed their Jedi commanders.

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The death of Echo in season 3 weighed heavily on Rex, but as the first arc of The Clone Wars’ seventh season (itself based on unfinished episodes first released in 2015) revealed, his death might not be as certain as we once thought.

The TL;DR on Ahsoka Tano

Episodes to check out: The Clone Wars film; 2×05-2×08; 5×06-5×07; 5×17-5×20

If your only exposure to Star Wars is the movies and The Mandalorian, you might not be familiar with Ahsoka Tano. She’s not mentioned (and doesn’t appear in) Revenge of the Sith, which takes place after The Clone Wars, and there’s no mention or brief citing of a female Togruta youngling who could’ve been Ahsoka in earlier films.

Ahsoka’s introduction as Anakin Skywalker’s padawan came in 2008 in the Clone Wars film, three years after Revenge of the Sith’s release, so logistically, she wasn’t mentioned in that film because she didn’t exist yet. From a canonical perspective, it meant that The Clone Wars TV show ultimately had to relay a story about Ahsoka and end it in such a way that Anakin and Obi-Wan wouldn’t even mention Anakin’s apprentice by name by the time we get to Revenge of the Sith. Given the nature of prequels, Ahsoka was one of the few characters who could die in The Clone Wars.

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Spoiler alert: she doesn’t. Toward the end of season 5, Ahsoka is framed for a deadly bombing at the Jedi Temple on Coruscant, and during her trial, she was expelled from the Jedi Order. While the real culprit was discovered and Ahsoka was welcomed back into the Order, the experience left her disillusioned about the Jedi, so instead, she walked away.

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That’s the last we see of Ahsoka in The Clone Wars until her ultimate return at some point in season 7, where she participates in the Siege of Mandalore and faces off against Maul, but that’s not the end of Ahsoka’s story. An official tie-in novel reveals what happened to Ahsoka after Order 66 and her early ties to the Rebellion, and she’s a recurring character in Rebels, where she discovers what has become of her master.

She’s one of the characters to make it to the very end of Rebels, and while she’s one of the many voices Rey hears as she connects with the Jedi at the end of The Rise of Skywalker, Filoni has pushed back at the assumption that her inclusion among those voices means that Ahsoka is now dead.

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Maul is back?!

Episodes to check out: 4×19-4×22; 5×01; 5×14-5×16

Were you one of the people who watched Solo and were confused by the very notion of a walking, breathing Maul after literally being cut in half and falling down a bottomless shaft in The Phantom Menace? To be fair, his reason for surviving that fall—he was fueled by his hatred for Obi-Wan, who he’s hellbent on murdering—is kind of silly; the fact that Maul is connected to cyborg spider legs at one point drives that home even further. But upon his return at the end of season 4, Maul (no longer considered to be a Sith) eventually becomes a formidable opponent.

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Maul forms his own criminal empire by uniting several crime syndicates under his rule. While his plans to kill Obi-Wan are unsuccessful, he overthrows the new Mandalorian government (more on that below), becoming enough of a nuisance that Maul’s former master comes to deal with Maul himself. At the start of season 7, Maul is still in charge of Mandalore and he has the Darksaber in hand, which he won after taking it from the Mandalorian Pre Vizsla. (More on that below.)

We know Maul survives for several years as the head of Crimson Dawn and mentors Ezra Bridger before his final showdown against Obi-Wan on Tatooine in Rebels season 3. But how he’s driven away from Mandalore is still a bit of a mystery.

The Mandalorian crash course

Episodes to check out: 2×13-2×15; 4×14; 5×14-5×16

The history of Mandalore is long and storied, but we’re given our first real taste of it in The Clone Wars. The planet, which is run by the pacifist Duchess Satine Kryze, is officially neutral during the Clone Wars; they even disavowed Jango Fett, who claimed to be Mandalorian. But it doesn’t stay that way. Early on, Mandalore is threatened by a terrorist group known as Death Watch, which led to Anakin and Obi-Wan (who used to have a thing with Satine) getting involved.

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Death Watch wants to return to the old (and often violent) ways of Mandalore, but what also unites them is the Darksaber, a thousand-year-old lightsaber created by the first-ever Mandalorian Jedi that has more or less become a Mandalorian symbol of unity. It’s wielded by Pre Vizsla, a Mandalorian who teams up with the Separatists and eventually Maul and his criminal empire to get Mandalore out of the hands of the pacifists.

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It works, but it doesn’t come without its losses. Maul kills Satine, who was being held hostage at the time, and Maul later kills Pre Vizsla when the latter tries to assert his position. Bo-Katan Kryze, who was part of Death Watch early on, rebels against the new rule after the death of her sister and Maul’s takeover of the planet. In The Clone Wars’ final season, she’s likely to become a much bigger player in the Siege of Mandalore.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars will premiere new episodes every Friday on Disney+.

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*First Published: Feb 21, 2020, 1:07 pm CST