The 12 Year Wait to End “The Clone Wars”
On Friday, Feb. 21 at 12 a.m. PST, Disney+ dropped the season seven premiere of Dave Filoni’s epic animated series “Star Wars: The Clone Wars,” which premiered over a decade ago in 2008. The season is Disney’s latest success with the rights of “Star Wars,” after season one of its series “The Mandalorian” became the most-streamed show in the world. However, where “The Mandalorian” thrives due to creating new, original characters, “The Clone Wars” must rely on the main characters of the prequel trilogy to tell its story. The critical reception to the episode and rallying of fan support proves that Filoni mastered the art of building on existing characterization.
During its original run from 2008 to 2014 on Cartoon Network, “The Clone Wars” was one of the most highly-rated shows ever on the network, received widespread acclaim for improving the characters of the franchise, and won multiple Daytime Emmy awards. While originally marketed as a children’s series, the seasons became darker as the audience aged, delving into the repercussions of war and the balance of good and evil in the Force. However, in 2013 the show was effectively canceled, and the remaining episodes that would tie up the war were scrapped. It was not until the acquisition of the series by Disney, with the creation of its streaming service, that a final season of 12 episodes to officially end the series was announced.
“Star Wars: The Clone Wars” takes place inside the “Star Wars” prequel trilogy, which tells the story of Anakin Skywalker’s downfall from a Jedi Knight to Darth Vader after serving in a three-year war known as the Clone Wars. The Clone Wars take place before “Episode III: Revenge of the Sith,” during a period when both Skywalker and his master Obi-Wan Kenobi are generals in the war, and Skywalker is secretly married to Luke and Leia’s future-mother Padmé Amidala. When the series premiered in 2008 after a theatrical film release served as its pilot, supervising director Filoni juggled the narrative themes of Skywalker’s future fall and the villainy of Palpatine while also taking on the challenge of doing the impossible: making the Clone Wars interesting.
The war is fought between a robot droid army called Separatists and an army of cloned men created by the Republic to be expendable soldiers with an enhanced aging process to ensure the maximum number of bodies. In every battle fought in this literal ‘star war’ droids and clones become blaster-fodder on alien planets while the Jedi are essentially a metaphor for the United Nations: attempting to create peace but with no ability to enforce it. The prequels were heavily criticized for the soulless nature of the war and the lack of stakes involved, as well as the ineffective portrayal of Anakin Skywalker and Padmé Amidala.
By contrast, in each 22-minute animated episode of “The Clone Wars,” Filoni took the time to flesh out these characters and explore the depth of the narrative themes at stake. In order to effectively portray Anakin’s growth into a Jedi master that takes place off-screen in “Revenge of the Sith,” Filoni created the character of Ahsoka Tano, a young female Jedi who becomes Anakin’s apprentice. Although initially seen as bratty, Ahsoka’s bravery, skill, and determination to do the right thing in wartime ultimately made her one of the most popular characters in “Star Wars” and a feminist figure.
Ahsoka Tano also serves as an excellent sounding board for Anakin and the viewer as she questioned her master about the nature of the Jedi Council that requires them to be both soldiers and peace-keepers. In several episodes, Ahsoka questions these contradictions while Anakin is struggling to reconcile his marriage with his duty. By its very nature, the series has to balance foreshadowing what’s to come, but by choosing to focus on this reality Filoni ultimately paved the way for Luke Skywalker’s arc in “The Last Jedi,” where he states: “At the height of [the Jedi’s] powers, they allowed Darth Sidious to rise, create the empire, and wipe them out.”
All main characters in the original series get arcs to develop their characters, but further fleshed out than any other characters, however, are the clones.
The clone characters name-dropped in the saga (Cody, Rex, Fives, and Echo to name a few) are soldiers desperate to do their duty with a sense of individuality, formulating a culture of brotherhood among one another and using what little tools they have– hairstyles, tattoos, and body armor– to distinguish themselves from the masses. At first, the clones are passionate about the war they were created for. However, the longer all the dying stretches out the more disillusioned everyone becomes.
The season seven premiere, 12 years after the first season began, returns to this formula by focusing on the clones and Anakin Skywalker. The episode, titled “The Bad Batch,” features the clones on a mission with several noticeably mutated clones whose glaring uniqueness serves as their strength, and Anakin watches as Rex lets his emotions fuel his mission– the same thing Anakin is constantly criticized for by his superiors throughout the series. By jumping back into the thematic plots that are its greatest strength, the premiere received widespread acclaim and the series was called “better than ever” by USA Today.
The series does not pause to remind viewers of the events and characters they watched during the six-year break, instead of trusting (rightfully) that its fanbase will remember. Where so many other entries in the “Star Wars” franchise lead to frustration and discourse (i.e. the sequel trilogy), “The Clone Wars” has found a method that appeases “Star Wars” fans and actually builds on what people love about this fictional story. The series also proves that fans are willing to wait indefinitely to have closure.
Season seven of “Star Wars:The Clone Wars” is released weekly on Disney+. Episode 2 will air on Friday, Feb. 28 at 12am PST.
Sources: Observer, USA Today