After nearly twelve years of bringing us some of the greatest stories set in the Star Wars galaxy, the groundbreaking animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars recently came to its much-anticipated conclusion. Dave Filoni and company throughout seven seasons managed to greatly enhance the lore, characters and story of the Prequel Trilogy era, at a time at which fan reception of that trilogy was mixed to put it lightly, and transform this era into one of the most beloved of the franchise. Originally more of an episodic series, once the series went through some early growing pains and found its footing, each season began to consist of several multi-episode story arcs that took us on a particular journey, focusing on how the titular war is affecting several areas of the Galaxy. This allowed the show to bring development to characters, such as those who may have lacked such spotlight in the films, as well as enhance the greater lore of the Clone Wars era. Once the series established this shift in storytelling, we were gifted with some of the finest stories Star Wars has ever brought us, so in celebration of the series reaching its conclusion, let’s look back at some of the best stories Clone Wars brought us over the years.
*WARNING: This article contains heavy spoilers for The Clone Wars series, including the most recent season*
#5. THE UMBARA ARC
(Season 4: Episodes 7-10-”Darkness on Umbara”, “The General”, “Plan of Dissent”, Carnage of Krell”)
“We’re shooting at our own men!”
Very few scenes have impacted me emotionally like the shocking revelation that Captain Rex and the 501st Legion had been ordered into shooting down their fellow Clone Troopers, tricked into believing they were enemy soldiers wearing stolen Clone armor by the corrupt Jedi General Pong Krell. I knew when crafting the idea of this list that a Clone-centric story arc needed to be on the list, and despite some strong competition from other stellar Clone Trooper stories, the Umbara arc slightly edges them out as the best example of how The Clone Wars turned the Clones from faceless soldiers in the films, to well-developed, complex, individual characters in the series. Early into an invasion of the Separatist-controlled system of Umbara, Anakin Skywalker is reassigned back to Coruscant, with his troops put in command of war hero General Krell. Despite his reputation, Krell precedes to continually clash with Captain Rex and his Clone units, as it is clear that Krell may represent our prior view of the Clones before the series, that they are just numbers on a battlefield, not men worth fighting for. The conflict between Clones and a disillusioned and corrupt Jedi General are gripping on their own, but the arc is also enhanced by some incredible visuals. The atmosphere of the planet Umbara, as well as the unique creatures and technology showcased during the episodes lead to some of the most impressive animation of the show’s original run. Dee Bradley Baker shows why he may be the most versatile voice actor in the game, with the majority of these episodes consisting of Baker talking to himself, as he brings each individual Clone to life as he’s remarkably done over the course of the series. Krell’s deception and true intentions lead to him becoming one of the most sinister villains of the series that audiences love to hate, and by the end of the arc, audiences have many more Clones to add to their list of favorites. If you’re getting into the series and are looking for great Clone-focused episodes, these should be first you check out.
#4 THE MORTIS ARC
(Season 3: Episodes 15-17-”Overlords”, “Altar of Mortis”, “Ghosts of Mortis”)
The Mortis episodes showcased just how deep Clone Wars was willing to go to add to the greater Star Wars lore. For many fans, this was the first series of episodes that truly showed the excellence in storytelling that Clone Wars was able to provide, with many still considering it to be the show’s magnum opus to this day, and it is hard to argue with those claims. Things take a turn for the weird as Anakin, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Ahsoka Tano are stranded on a mysterious planet strong with the Force, with three figures representing the Light, Dark and Balance of the Force guiding them in their own journeys. Throughout these three episodes we are given a deeper dive into many aspects of the lore that had barely been touched in the show before this - including Anakin’s destiny as the Chosen one, living representations of the balance of the Force and glimpses into the future of Anakin’s fall to the Dark Side - among many others. Sam Witwer, who would later bring iconic performance after iconic performance as the voice of Maul, graced us with a wonderful vocal performance as the Son, the living embodiment of the Dark Side, who looks to bring Anakin over to his side, and the Daughter, the embodiment of the Light, acting as the sacrifice needed to truly bring the Son fully into madness that made him such a compelling and tragic antagonist. We see many things throughout this episode some may have never expected from such a show - Qui-Gon Jinn and Shmi Skywalker reappearing as Force visions, Ahsoka briefly succumbing to the Dark Side and dueling with her master (long before the iconic duel in Star Wars Rebels), Anakin looking into the future and seeing what he would become, which leads to an eerily similar scene between Anakin and Obi-Wan to their final words in Revenge of the Sith, the list goes on. The events of these episodes did the great task of changing my perception of Star Wars in a way, with the deeper references to the cosmic and spiritual aspects of the series having the spotlight shined on them to great effect. In preparation of the show’s return earlier this year, this was the arc I watched to get myself hyped. For some, these episodes may be a little too weird or confusing if you’re not into the Cosmic Force aspects of Star Wars, but I do believe regardless of that, they are worth checking out and experiencing for the first time.
#3 THE TRIAL OF AHSOKA ARC
(Season 5: Episodes 17-20-”Sabotage”, “The Jedi Who Knew Too Much”, “To Catch A Jedi”, “The Wrong Jedi”)
For close to seven years, this was the end of Ahsoka’s journey as a Jedi. While we did see her reappear as Fulcrum in Rebels during the gap between Clone Wars’ first and second runs, the final moments of her stepping away from the Jedi Order, and her Master, was the end of this part of her journey, and man was it a heartbreaker. Framed in the act of bombing the Jedi Temple and the murder of a prior suspect, Ahsoka Tano is put on trial by the Republic and expelled from the Jedi Order, while Anakin looks to unveil the truth surrounding these crimes. Recurring characters from the series, including Asajj Ventress and Padawan Barriss Offee are reintroduced into the narrative, with the twist of Barriss’ turn and her duel with Anakin in the temple grounds being one of the best moments of the entire series. At the conclusion of the arc, after the traitor is revealed, an ordinary show would revert things back to the status quo, and Ahsoka would rejoin the Order, but Filoni makes the decision to not do that, instead sending Ahsoka on her own journey to find herself and give up her ways as a Jedi. I certainly wasn’t expecting it, and I came into the show fairly late, so I can’t imagine what the initial reaction was when this episode first aired. The final moments of Ahsoka and Anakin acted as a giant punch to the heart. Ahsoka was introduced in the less-than-stellar pilot film as Anakin’s young apprentice, and while she was originally disliked by many, myself included, she went on to become one of the greatest Star Wars characters, period. The bond between Anakin and Ahsoka was arguably the show’s greatest strength, and it greatly hurt to see them separate. Thankfully we were gifted with one last moment several years later. I tried my hardest to not just fill this list with arcs from Season 5, which all around I think may be the show’s strongest season, but I needed to include this on the list. The arc’s final episode: “The Wrong Jedi” is a strong contender for the show’s best episode, I know for sure it’s close to the top of my list. These episodes are as close to perfect as they come, and showcase the journey of Ahsoka perfectly from when we were first introduced to her to where she stands at this arc’s conclusion.
#2 MAUL’S SHADOW COLLECTIVE ARC
(Season 5: Episodes 1, 14-16-”Revival”, “Eminence”, “Shades of Reason”, “The Lawless”)
I don’t think it would be a controversial statement to say that the decision to resurrect Darth Maul for The Clone Wars may be the best decision Lucasfilm Animation ever made. Every, and I mean every Maul focused episode in both Clone Wars and Rebels is outstanding, but this series of episodes is just ungodly fantastic. On top of this, Obi-Wan Kenobi has been my favorite Star Wars character since the minute I was introduced to the franchise, and this arc combines my two favorite stories of his throughout the series - his wars with the returning Maul, and his past connections with Duchess Satine Kryze of Mandalore - to create something truly special. I’ve always had a special affinity for anything Mandalorian related. I wasn’t an Expanded Universe kid, but Mandalorians have always been fascinating to me, a lot of which had to do with the Death Watch storylines in Clone Wars. Maul’s master plan to gain his revenge on Kenobi, who years prior seemingly killed the disgraced Sith Lord, includes bringing various crime syndicates across the Galaxy together to form his Shadow Collective, bringing Death Watch into the picture to take the pacifist Duchess out of power and lure Kenobi to Mandalore so his plan can come to fruition. The set-up episodes are all fantastic in their own right (especially as you witness the redemption of Satine’s sister Bo-Katan after Maul’s beheading of Death Watch leader Pre-Viszla), but the true crown jewel is the arc’s final episode “The Lawless”, which is quite possibly my favorite episode of the entire series. Obi-Wan witnessing the murder of his one true love right in front of him is one of the most emotional scenes in all of Star Wars, and the episode concludes with an outrageously epic duel between former Master and Apprentice - Maul and Sidious, showing that no matter how powerful Maul gets, he is destined to lose, and Sidious will always be one step ahead of him. The rippling effects of this arc spread into the greater canon such as Rebels and a certain arc I’ll discuss in a second. For years I considered this the best all of Lucasfilm Animation had to offer, but there is a new ruler on the throne now...
Before I discuss what I believe is the show’s best story arc (and we all know what it is), here are a few great story arcs that just barely missed the cut..
THE ONDERON ARC (Season 5: Episodes 2-5)
This was originally on the list before I came to the conclusion that a Clone arc needed to be on this list, and for very good reason. Introducing us to Steela and Saw Gerrera, the latter of whom would reappear several times in the greater Star Wars canon as a Rebel extremist; Anakin, Obi-Wan, Rex and Ahsoka train a group of freedom fighters - including Ahsoka’s former love interest Lux Bonteri - how to fight back against the growing Separtist forces occupying their planet. In my mind nothing Lucasfilm has done with the Saw Gerrera character has eclipsed this arc.
THE BAD BATCH ARC (Season 7: Episodes 1-4)
The long-awaited return of the series after a 7 year absence, this was another great Clone-focused arc which introduced us to Clone Force 99 aka The Bad Batch, a group of unorthodox Clones who join Anakin and the 501st to retake the planet of Anaxes. While it isn’t a perfect arc, the moments such as Anakin’s brief conversation with Padme, the reunion of Rex and Echo, the death of Admiral Trench at the hands of a rage-induced Anakin and the all-around stellar action, make this a welcome return to the series.
THE GEONOSIS ARC (Season 2: Episodes 5-8)
One of the earliest multi-episode arcs of the series, these episodes detail the Second Battle of Geonosis and the Republic’s attempts to destroy a key Droid Factory. Returning to the setting of the climax of Attack of the Clones was welcome to see as a viewer, and giving characters like Ki-Adi Mundi, Luminara Unduli (forever underrated) and Barriss Offee, whose friendship with fellow Padawan Ahsoka is established in these episodes, was a very welcome treat. But the real reason these episodes are here is because of the plot involving a Geonosian hive mind, and the subsequent brain invasion of those aboard Ahsoka’s Republic transport. More horror influences in Star Wars, please and thank you. There are many other stellar arcs I could have included, but I wanted to give some love to an often forgotten gem of an arc.
THE JEDI YOUNGLINGS ARC (Season 5: Episodes 6-9)-
Wookiee Jedi. That’s all I need to say really.
#1 THE SIEGE OF MANDALORE ARC
(Season 7: Episodes 9-12-”Old Friends Not Forgotten”, “The Phantom Apprentice”, “Shattered”, “Victory and Death”)
I mean, it was obvious wasn’t it?
The Siege of Mandalore, simply put, is one of the greatest Star Wars materials ever produced. I would put these episodes toe to toe with some of my favorite Star Wars films, and this arc would wind up on top in quite a few of these battles. For years we had heard the Siege discussed in other materials, we knew it was the true finale Filoni envisioned for the series before the show was revived, we knew it would be epic, but I don’t think any of us prepared for how jaw-dropping these final episodes would end up being. From the change in presentation, using the classic Lucasfilm logo and an all-red opening title, to the animation looking better than ever before, to the many parallels and crossovers with the events of Revenge of the Sith, the Siege of Mandalore is a whole other ballgame compared to what we have had prior. I’ve described this arc in passing as Revenge of the Sith from a different perspective, and I think that is a great way to label this arc, as every little thing from these episodes enhances that film (Happy 15th anniversary by the way) into an entirely different viewing experience. The final emotional meeting between Anakin and Ahsoka before Anakin’s turn to the Dark Side, the epic Siege itself, the unparalleled duel between Maul and Ahsoka and of course, the execution of Order 66 from the perception of Ahsoka and Rex, leave the audience gripping onto the edge of their seats the entire time. Filoni described Rex and Ahsoka as the show’s central characters in a recent interview, so to have the show end with the end of this part of their story was very fitting, with the show’s final two minutes arguably being the best “ending shots” the franchise has ever given us. You will cheer, you will gasp, you may shed a few tears, the Siege of Mandalore, simply put, is perfect Star Wars storytelling.
Thank you all for looking back on some of the greatest stories The Clone Wars have to offer. You can follow me on Twitter @UncommonAndrew and Instagram @andrewlaspesa where I more often than not will be talking Star Wars. May the Force Be With You! Always!