There are many reasons to love Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Great characters, phenomenal worldbuilding and surprisingly deep moral questions have hooked older fans as well as younger enthusiasts. A core aspect of the show is how soldiers who are literally identical are humanized, and this humanization conveys very real themes about wars and the men and women who fight them.
The Clone Wars portrays the bonds of brotherhood soldiers form
Several of the most notable clones in the show, like Fives and Echo, are members of Domino Squad. Throughout the show, we follow these men from training, through a harrowing battle on Rishi Station, to joining the elite ARC Troopers. What sets the Domino Squad apart, however, is not their prowess in combat, but the bonds they form between one another.
When the Domino Squad are still cadets, struggling to work together, they receive advice from fan-favorite Clone 99, a deformed clone relegated to maintenance duty on Kamino. Despite initially shunning the good-natured 99, the Squad eventually passes their trials thanks to his advice, and squad member Hevy presents 99 with his medal in an emotional scene.
Later on in the show, during the Battle of Kamino, 99 is killed defending his brothers in a heart-wrenching scene. The impact his death has on his comrades perfectly shows the bonds that form between servicemen, and how those bonds can transcend superficial differences through a shared cause and shared experiences.
It’s worth noting that this realism is precisely why The Clone Wars season 7 resonated so much with longtime fans of the series. Over seven seasons, we watched as the clones built relationships with each other and their Jedi generals. We saw them prevail against impossible odds and mourn losses together. This humanization of these individuals was immediately followed by an unnatural transformation into emotionless automatons by Order 66 that pulled at our heartstrings. Even the fact that we knew it was coming didn’t make it hurt any less.
The cost paid by civilians is also touched on
Much media focusing on war overlooks the ordinary people caught in the crossfire. Not The Clone Wars. One of the earliest multi-episode arcs of the series, focusing on the Ryloth conflict, highlights the human cost of war as it takes a break from the action to follow troopers Waxer and Boil on a covert mission. While traversing an abandoned village, they encounter a young Twi’lek named Numa.
Though we would expect men created purely for combat to disregard the child and continue with the mission, they decide to reunite Numa with her family. This humanization of the clones highlights the high cost civilians pay as well as the ability of soldiers to display compassion in an uncompassionate setting.
War is far more complex than two armies fighting battles; many others are affected, and soldiers must navigate these complexities.
Cut Lawquane shows that there is a life after service for soldiers
For beings created to fight, it’s unthinkable that they could find fulfillment in anything else. Yet, The Clone Wars introduces us to several individuals who found ways (at least temporarily) to live as civilians.
Clone deserter Cut Lawquane, friend of Captain Rex and the Bad Batch, was able to eke out a living with his wife and children on Saleucami after leaving the Grand Army of the Republic. Upon seeing Cut with his family, Rex realizes that there are other purposes clones can serve, and the audience is reminded that soldiers are people too — people who are multifaceted and have desires far beyond service.
Clones display freethinking behavior on the battlefield
One of the most memorable arcs of The Clone Wars is the four-episode Umbara arc. During this grueling campaign, the men of the 501st Legion are temporarily placed under the command of General Pong Krell, who is later revealed to be a traitor, set on killing as many clones as possible. He consistently orders his men into compromising situations, even orchestrating a friendly-fire incident between the 501st and the 212th Battalion.
Throughout this arc, Captain Rex repeatedly questions Krell’s wisdom and tactics, displaying a very human concern for his brothers as well as an ability to think critically. Both of these traits are characteristic of real-world soldiers but are unexpected to be seen in cloned soldiers.
Troopers Jesse and Fives even directly disobeyed Krell’s orders, unconventionally using stolen Umbaran starfighters to destroy a Separatist starship. Upon returning, despite the success of their mission Krell ordered them to be executed. These brave men undertook this mission with full knowledge of the consequences of treason, but did it to preserve the lives of their comrades. Jesse and Fives show the wisdom soldiers possess, gained from experience beyond that of their higher-ups, as well as reemphasizing their commitment to their brothers-in-arms.
These themes continue in The Bad Batch with Howzer
The spiritual successor to The Clone Wars, The Bad Batch, continues to convey these themes through one of the most popular side characters — Captain Howzer. Fans love Howzer for his undeniably cool armor, sweet haircut and loyalty to the Syndulla family. However, Howzer is also popular because he reminds viewers of what made The Clone Wars so popular.
Howzer’s relationship with Cham Syndulla, Gobi Glie and other Twi’lek freedom fighters mirrors the comradery of the fan-favorite Domino Squad. His commitment to the Twi’lek people rather than his Imperial superiors reemphasizes the compassion soldiers feel for the civilians they protect. His moving speech calling on his fellow troops to lay down their arms and disobey the Empire displays a free will equal in caliber to Jesse, Fives and Rex’s when standing up to General Krell.
Good television mirrors real life, and the sci-fi/fantasy setting of Star Wars: The Clone Wars uses an unlikely medium to accomplish this masterfully: identical troopers bred for war. In these men are reflected the struggles soldiers across the world and through time have faced, and as fans, we can only hope to see more of the clone troopers in the future.