The Clone Wars cast: Ahsoka, Yoda, Obi-Wan, Anakin and clone troopers (copyright LucasFilm)

In case you’re not aware, Star Wars: The Clone Wars is a TV series, which launched with a theatrically released film. It is CGI and tells of the events of the Clone Wars mostly through the adventures of Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin’s apprentice, the young Ahsoka Tano. Featured throughout are the titular clones, an army grown for the Republic, under the leadership of Skywalker, Kenobi and the other Jedi Generals. They are battling the Confederation of Separatist Systems, who send waves of droids into combat against the clones and our Jedi heroes. The story is set between the mainstream theatrical films Star Wars – Episode II: “Attack Of The Clones” and Star Wars – Episode III: “Revenge Of The Sith.” It also takes place during the abbreviated events of the earlier micro-series Star Wars: Clone Wars (note the lack of The in the title), which was traditionally animated and was done as a sort of warm up to the larger-scale TV series.

 

I’ve come to love this series.

 

I remember when I saw the first trailer for The Clone Wars Movie I was intrigued. My only concern was how it fit in with the earlier animated Clone Wars micro-series.

 

When the negative reviews started pouring condemning the “Saturday morning cartoon” feel, not so epic plot and Jabba’s “Truman Capote” uncle, I decided, “Well, I guess I’ll by-pass this detour in the Star Wars Universe.” I’ve never been one to pronounce the Star Wars universe destroyed just because an installment was either poorly executed or badly received. Keep in mind, I like the Prequels. Yes, they’re flawed in places, but not nearly as badly as a lot of people gripe about.

 

I really wasn’t thinking about The Clone Wars after it left the theatres quickly, until Teletoon (Canada’s answer to The Cartoon Network) aired a marathon of Season 1 episodes of The Clone Wars. I decided to take a chance and see for myself if the series was as bad as people said the movie was.

 

I watched “Innocents Of Ryloth” and “Liberty Of Ryloth,” and was really impressed. Waxer and Boil’s encounter with Numa hooked me and after those two episodes I decided I wanted to see the Movie and the rest of Season 1. I went out and bought the DVD of the Movie and when the Season 1 DVD set came out, I got it for Christmas.

 

I could see where the complaints came from in the Movie, but I think the biggest problem it suffers from is not having been intended to be a movie. It’s basically 4 episodes edited together. If they’d aired as normal episodes, or even as a TV movie, no one would have complained. Putting them on the big screen forced the world to think “George has really lost it now! This isn’t even a movie!” Now that we’re into the 4th Season, I think the fairest way to view it is as part of the TV series, not meant to be on par with the actual theatrical Trilogies.

 

The three and a half seasons we’ve seen so far are great. You mileage may vary, but overall, the series has given us some great episodes. Sure, there may be a few less interesting ones, and perhaps one or two stinkers, but that’s true of any series. To expect everything related to a franchise to be pure gold all the time is to always set yourself up for disappointment. I can’t think of any TV show I’ve ever watched that didn’t have at least a few iffy episodes throughout. If I’m watching one that I think is just not working, I try to at least see what the producers and writers were trying to do. No one goes into it thinking, “Yeah, I’m going to make the worst episode ever!” Did a character not work? Did the idea get muddied or was it not thought out fully? Maybe the writer didn’t do research. In any event, the series is not dead because the episode is bad. Just move on to the next one.

 

There was a lull in the action during Season 3 and I think a lot of people pronounced the series had lost its way and just become boring. This was the point in the series where the producers had to accomplish two things: a) tie up loose threads still floating around and b) set up upcoming story arcs for the next few seasons. The Anthology nature of the series allows the producers to jump around in the series’ timeline and this was no more evident than during Season 3. The first half was all over the timeline, with episodes being prequels to earlier episodes, sequels to earlier episode and all up to this point taking place before a specific Season 2 episode “Senate Murders” (making them all technically prequels in one form or another). If that wasn’t enough to confuse the viewers, the sudden lack of front-line action being replaced with politics-heavy stories threw a lot of people for a loop. Maybe the powers-that-be could have handled that stretch of episodes better. Maybe not. We’re getting the pay off from those stories now and in the future, so a few slower moving episodes at the time seems a fair price to me.

 

This brings me to my next point: the chronological order. The first two and a half seasons were, indeed, all over the timeline. I put together a Chronology to help fellow viewers put the pieces in place. I recently took some time watch the series in that order and it works extremely well. Flipping back and forth between discs can get annoying, but story-wise the whole series fits together beautifully. Small arcs connect with each other and form large macro-arcs. Characters and plots weave in and out. Themes and character development is soundly constructed. Ahsoka Tano, in particular, matures as the series progresses. Actions have consequences for the overall story. There is no Reset button here, forcing nothing to change and grow.

 

The second half of Season 3 and the first half of Season 4 present us with a much more linear story. For the time being, this appears to be the direction of the series, no longer bouncing between the past and present. I’m a little disappointed by that, mostly because I’d accepted the challenge of deciphering where the episodes fit together. And it was fun doing so. In no longer presenting the stories out of chronological sequence, maintaining the Chronology is less urgent. Still, I will update it from time to time.

 

Outside the series proper, I greatly enjoyed the Web Comics which were available in the official Star Wars site for the first three seasons. Sadly, Season 4 brought a revamp to the site and all the Web Comics are gone. A lot were integral to determining the order of events in the series and as supplements to the episodes, they were great. If LucasArts decides to publish the Web Comics in print, it would be a much appreciated move. Gone, too, are the Season 1 to 3 behind-the-scenes documentaries and they’ve discontinued the practice in Season 4. Also, they aren’t publishing their trivia and notes for each new episode, which is a loss to those of us fascinated by the little details and what goes on in the writing and designing stages.

 

Season 4 is perhaps the best looking of the seasons. The updated character models (introduced mid-way through Season 3) and animation are superb. The stories are following the logical progression from what came before and I’m eager to find out what happens next.

The cast's new look beginning in the second half of Season 3. (copyright LucasFilm)

 

There will always be the argument that since we’ve seen the events of “Revenge Of The Sith,” there’s no tension involved in having characters we know survive running around getting into adventures. To that I will always say, “You’re really missing the point!” The Expanded Universe in Star Wars is just that, an expansion on what we already know, or think we know. It’s the most superficial approach to only be concerned with the outcome. In The Clone Wars series we learn a lot more about Anakin and Obi-Wan, and of the Republic’s fragile state. Not every conflict is life and death. If that’s the only conflict you find gratifying, then yes, you may be watching the wrong series. Take Obi-Wan’s “relationship” with Duchess Satine Kryze. It has shaped him as a character and since there’s a promise of more Mandalorian episodes, it likely will continue to mold both him and our perception of him.

 

And there are plenty of characters whose fates are not yet known, not the least of which is Ahsoka Tano and Captain Rex. We get to know many other individual clones and as the series progresses, the death toll mounts. We see clones bravely sacrifice themselves. We also see clones we know meet fates they don’t deserve, but such is the horror of war.

Politicians Padme Amidala and Duchess Satine Kryze (copyright LucasFilm)

 

The Clone Wars successfully shows all sides of the conflict, including the front-line clones and Jedi, the Senate and politicians, and even, admirably, the “villians” get featured. We see the Separatist government and begin to understand that there’s a lot more to this story than clones shooting droids. Maybe the politics don’t interest everyone and all some fans want are lightsaber duels and things blowing up real good. We’re into the 4th Season, so everyone watching should be aware of what the series is and isn’t. You’ll look like a fool at this stage expressing “surprise” at the intention of the producers here. There were will be lightly toned episodes and there will be dark, violent episodes. Since 1977, this has been the spectrum of Star Wars. The Prequels maintained that balance and so does The Clone Wars.

 

Achieving balance is, in a way, the entire point of the Star Wars story.

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