The final arc of The Clone Wars is Star Wars at its best

Photo: Star Wars: The Clone Wars Episode 709 “Old Friends Not Forgotten” - Image Courtesy Disney+
Photo: Star Wars: The Clone Wars Episode 709 “Old Friends Not Forgotten” - Image Courtesy Disney+ /

The Clone Wars is as good as the best Star Wars movies and it is time we all admit it. THIS is the future of Star Wars (if Disney is smart).

First off, you should know I have been writing about Star Wars for years and am about as big a fan of Star Wars: The Clone Wars as you’ll find anywhere.

I love how the show weaves together not just the classic Star Wars action and characters, but also, yes, the much-much maligned Prequel-era politics, including Senate debates.  I think Padmé speech to stop the bill to deregulate the banks is one of the moral highlights of the show.  I love the discussions about neutrality and Mandalore in Season Two, especially the debates between Obi-Wan and Duchess Satine about the nature of peacekeeping and pacifism.

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I even mostly even like the way Jar-Jar is used, and felt his buddy-cop shtick with Mace Windu in Season Six was absolutely hilarious, thought the same about “Bombad Jedi” in Season 1, even if it felt a little kiddie, and even appreciated the attempts to give him more depth in “The Gungan General” in the same season; and, if you’ve seen the show, who can forget his interactions with Gen. Grievous?

I also love how the show dealt with terrorism, counterinsurgency, piracy, corruption, and bioethics (I’ve studied politics, policy, terrorism, and international relations, so maybe I like these more than most).

I love the obvious homages to classic films, from Hitchcock to Kurosawa to Godzilla.  I loved the way it humanized the clones.  And most of all, I love the wonderfully evolved characters we saw grow over many years, the compelling stories, the excellent writing, overall pacing, attention to detail and to fitting within a universe cherished by so many, all of which I felt was sorely lacking in the Disney sequel trilogy.

Dave Filoni and George Lucas simply sought to tell more great Star Wars with the same overall vision of Lucas, while Disney sought, in The Force Awakens and The Rise of Skywalker to check as many boxes to appeal to as many demographics as possible in as unoriginal ways as were possible. The Last Jedi sought to be bold and different, but with an arrogance that sought to violently and irreverently redefine the universe so many have loved for so long.

And they did all this without any clear plan or vision, switching creative direction and the director from film-to-film.

Love or hate the Prequel Trilogy, each film stayed true to the mythos of Star Wars while still boldly paving the way with new ideas and directions. None of the Disney Sequel Trilogy films combined these two elements.

It started terribly in The Force Awakens because Anakin Skywalker’s fall and redemption and Luke Skywalker’s redemption of his father were next to meaningless as all that sacrifice and redemption was for naught: things were right back to where they were around Return of the Jedi, with an evil empire threatening to blow planets up, the galaxy still divided by civil war, and Han and Leia in the same roles.

The sacrifices of the Skywalker family in Episodes I-VI were rendered meaningless, teed up so Disney could do a soft reboot and rake in money without even caring about how its new films impacted the meaning of the old.

But guess what? There are hours of content that doesn’t undermine the six core Star Wars films and still give us new and bold things: Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

If you wanted female empowerment in your Star Wars (although let’s give credit to the characters of Leia and Padmé that they deserve!), look no further than Clone WarsAhsoka Tano, whose growth and empowerment is as epic and well-developed as any female or male character I’ve ever experienced (and whose eventual strength is so much more authentic, deep, and earned than that of Rey), and whose fans are certainly more passionate and deeper with that passion than those of Rey.  Let’s look at others in the series, with Assajj Ventress being a solid runner up, and other characters like Padmé, Satine, Bo-Katan, Luminara, Barriss, Steela Gerrera, Aayla Secura, even Sy Snootles (of all characters) having moments of strong female-and-self-driven empowerment that are authentic and earned.

And especially ever since I was so disappointed in The Force Awakens, I have been rewatching Clone Wars—and passionately trying with religious, missionary zeal to get others to watch it—to get my Star Wars fix.  I kept hoping that the next Disney Star Wars movie would make me forget about the last, and while Solo was fun with surprisingly decent character development (in my anger, I refused to see it in theaters) and Rogue One was cool and exciting if shallow, each main-trilogy installment proved to be worse and more disappointing than the last.

I loved The Mandalorian, and made that clear here.  While the Mandalorian showed me that Star Wars did have an immediate potentially good future, it was a different kind of Star Wars: small and intimate, not the epic stories of the movies, a bit lighter in feel.

As excited as I was when The Mandalorian was announced, though, it was the announcement they were bringing back Clone Wars that had me more excited than anything by far since I’d seen The Force Awakens.

This final Clone Wars arc has given me another new hope in Star Wars exceeding that of Mando, then.

So here it is, with one episode left now (apparently, the final episode has been released a bit early, but I have not seen it yet—I am going to watch all four of the final episodes, the first three again, followed by the last one after I file this piece—so only spoilers through season seven, episode 11 here plus Rebels below).

I really am struck by the attention to detail. There’s a tear from Rex right after he is forced to turn on Ahsoka that brought out a tear or two in me. Obi-Wan’s pained look at the mention of Satine and his restraint after being insulted. Ahsoka pats each droid that comes to help her during Order 66. The way Anakin looks like he can barely contain his emotion at hearing from Ahsoka again, the way the clones still salute Ahsoka even though she’s been out of the army, Rex looking sadly at an image of his lost brothers, the nice little end to Echo’s long, sad journey and that final salute.

There are so many beautiful details that really strike emotional chords, little moments that take their time and are allowed by Filoni to breathe—something I am not sure J.J. Abrams knows how to do as a director—and these little moments are what make Clone Wars in general, especially in this final season, so special an experience for fans in deep ways.

While much of Clone Wars focuses on Anakin and Obi-wan, much of it also centers on the new characters of Captain Rex (CT-7567) and Padawan Ashoka Tano. In a time that is the most dark and depressing of most of our lifetimes, that Star Wars could give us a cartoon that really pulls on your heart strings as powerfully as anything in the movies in a way that involves cloned human beings bred for combat, clones that are supposed to in many ways  be an afterthought, is remarkable.

For depressed, isolated, lonely people like myself in these times, to see the culmination of the clones’ story in such a powerful way is amazing. Rex and Ahsoka’s relationship is just a beautiful thing to behold in these final episodes.

There are probably about a dozen story arcs in the series that are 9-10/10 or close to that level of perfection, but this final Siege of Manadalore/Order 66 arc is either the best or tied with the best, although the advances in the animation quality even over the final of the earlier seasons probably give this an edge as far as presentation.

More importantly, though, this final arc should make us all realize that we can have and ask for new, intimate and epic storytelling.  There is no doubt in my mind if this arc was released in theaters it would have made a handsome profit, and there is nothing stopping Disney from bringing the such future content post-theatrical release to Disney+.

Right now, with some of the work already done, the Dark Disciple and Son of Dathomir stories are simply begging to be released in this way, as full-length films.  Disney has no reason not to let these stories have their day, especially considering how relatively inexpensive animation is compared to shooting a live-action movie.

These current thrilling and tragic episodes of our final Clone Wars series arc currently airing could also and should also be sewn to together in a movie-style presentation, as an immediate display of the power of theatrical Star Wars, not just streaming television Star Wars.

This Clone Wars series finale is giving us some of the best Star Wars any fan could ever hope for.  Thanks so much to Dave Filoni, Ashely Eckstein, Dee Bradley Baker, Matt Lanter, James Arnold Taylor, all the Clone Wars crew, and even Disney for allowing this to happen.  But most of all, thanks to George Lucas.

Next. Mandalorians and cultural trauma in The Mandalorian. dark

Stream Star Wars: The Clone Wars on Disney+.