• Joel Ryan

Let's Talk about the "Star Wars: The Clone Wars'" Epic Finale

May the Fourth be with You! Happy Revenge of the Fifth! And welcome back, Students, Storytellers, and Seekers!

For all my Star Wars friends reading this, I hope you enjoyed the series finale of The Clone Wars as much as I did and are eating up all the new Star Wars content that just landed on Disney+. And for all of you non-Star Wars people who stopped by, thank you for taking the time to actually read this, especially since Star Wars is clearly visible in the title of this post.

Before I get to the greatness that was the Star Wars: The Clone Wars finale, I just want to say, I am beyond thrilled to be back writing about the stories we love, the worlds we create, and the joy that comes from writing.

It’s been awhile since I’ve had the time to post anything. This past month has been productive as far as the writing goes, but also challenging in other areas of life, as I’m sure many of you can understand and relate to right now.

But let’s not ignore the Bantha in the room. This has been a trying time for everyone, so please know that, wherever you are and whatever you may be going through, my heart is with you, as are my prayers and support.

We will get through this together, one day at a time. And I believe that the stories we read, watch, and create will go a long way to help inspire hope and courage in the days to come. So keep reading, keep watching, and keep writing!

That being said, there have been plenty of incredible new stories made available for your reading and viewing pleasure in the last month that are definitely worth checking out. I just ordered myself a copy of Nic Stone’s Shuri: A Black Panther Novel, which I can’t wait to get into, and I decided to go back and re-read a little Jules Verne while I wait for that to come, so no shortage of good material to read during this season.

However, the crown jewel of this week’s story conversation has to go to Star Wars and the brilliant but devastating series finale of The Clone Wars.

I have never been shy about expressing my love for Star Wars.

The Empire Strikes Back absolutely blew my mind when I was a kid, and if it weren’t for the Death Star trench run, escape from Cloud City, Duel of the Fates, Star Tours re-rides, and sheer joy of building as many Star Wars Lego sets as I could get my hands on, I might not be the storyteller I am today.

George Lucas created one of the most iconic and influential stories of all time, one that’s quickly become a part of our modern mythology. But more important for the future of Star Wars, he gave us an entire galaxy of iconic characters, conflict, and worlds to explore.

We’ll always have the nine films of the Skywalker Saga to keep us grounded and inspired, but right now, Star Wars beyond-the-silver-screen is keeping the story going and hitting the target like a proton torpedo to the exhaust port of the Death Star.

Star Wars films and merchandise may make Lucasfilm (and now Disney) the big bucks, but in terms of pure story, I’ve always felt that some of the most underrated writing in the Star Wars universe can been found in Star Wars books, video games, and especially streaming TV series like The Mandalorian and The Clone Wars.

When it first premiered in 2008, The Clones Wars set out to bridge the gap between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. And it was this conflict we’d been wanting to see since Obi-Wan first referenced the Clone Wars in A New Hope.

Attack of the Clones started the war. Revenge of the Sith ended it. But what actually happened during the three-year war that gave rise to the Empire and changed the lives of so many of our favorite characters? The Clone Wars answers those questions and more in what has become one of my favorite series in the entire Star Wars universe (or galaxy).

Now I understand that the story opportunities afforded to a television series are much different than a feature film or even a trilogy of films. You can obviously do a lot more with ten hours of story than you can with two. And with animation, you’re not limited by the same physical restraints of live action filmmaking. I get that, and this isn’t a knock on the films in any way. It’s purely an explanation of my love for The Clones Wars and why I think animated and live action TV series might be the future for the Star Wars franchise moving forward.

So without further ado, here are seven reasons why I think The Clone Wars is currently some of the best Star Wars has to offer.

1. The Anakin Skywalker of Legend

Let me be clear. I’m not criticizing Jake Lloyd and Hayden Christensen’s performance as Anakin Skywalker in the prequels here. I’m not even criticizing the character we got either.

What’s tough about Anakin Skywalker in the prequels is that he was always destined to become Darth Vader.

That's the character we know and are looking for. But in doing so, we sometimes forget that Anakin Skywalker isn't Vader, and his journey to the darkside is just that, a journey.

Darth Vader is the most feared presence in the galaxy, a warrior, a leader, and a brilliant pilot. But what about Anakin? I think it's natural to assume that Anakin would already have some of these qualities, but in the prequels, we don't always get to see them on full display. We see flashes of this character, but only flashes.

In The Phantom Menace, Anakin is just a kid. Yes, there’s the extended podracing sequence and space battle over Naboo. But in Episode I, it’s all about who Anakin could become.

Flash forward ten years. In Attack of the Clones, we see who Anakin is starting to become, but he’s still a padawan and more of an arrogant, love-sick, impulsive teenager than a competent leader.

Flash forward three years. In Revenge of the Sith, Anakin is now a full-fledged war hero but has also begun his turn to the dark side.

My point here is that, in the prequels, we skip past a lot of Anakin’s growth and development, which happen mostly in between episodes.

The legend of Anakin Skywalker, at least the Anakin Skywalker talked about by Obi-Wan in the original trilogy, exists in the character, who’s really at his best between Episodes II and III, i.e. the Clone Wars.

In The Clone Wars TV series, we actually get to see that Anakin, the formidable hero we’ve envisioned from the beginning.

We see why Anakin is such a respected and capable leader across the galaxy. We see him showcase his immense skill as a pilot and warrior. We see his growth as a Jedi and maturity as a man. We also get to see his softer side in his friendship with Obi-Wan, his mentorship of Ahsoka Tano, and his relationship with Padme Amidala.

This is a character we can root for, admire, and respect. Knowing that this Anakin will eventually become Darth Vader makes his fall from grace that much more tragic in Revenge of the Sith.

His skill and power also show us why the Emperor was so keen on manipulating and turning him to the dark side.

In The Clone Wars, we simply have more time to get to know and care about the galaxy’s chosen tragic hero, and it pays dividends for the way we view Anakin Skywalker for the rest of the saga.

And how powerful is that final shot of The Clone Wars with Anakin, now Darth Vader, standing over the ruins of a crashed Republic star destroyer holding the discarded lightsaber of his friend and former padawan, Ahsoka Tano!

What a devastating visual of the man and hero who lost EVERYTHING and is now surrounded by the ashes of the world he once fought for but just helped burn down. It’s the perfect way to end The Clone Wars and really the entire prequel storyline.

Dave Filoni and his story team nailed Anakin’s fall from grace in the finale of The Clone Wars, and the best part is, we never needed to see it.

2. Exploring More of the Galaxy

One of my favorite things about Star Wars is the extensive world George Lucas created for his characters to inhabit. Every planet in the galaxy has its own unique ecosystem, culture, architecture, and political system. And credit to George Lucas for taking us to as many unique locations as possible in the original trilogy and prequels.

However, the Skywalker Saga only scratched the surface of what George Lucas’ galaxy has to offer. There’s more… lot’s more when it comes to planets and locations that, unfortunately, we were never going to have time to visit in just nine movies.

When it comes to The Clones Wars, however, a central conflict like a galactic war leaves no corner of the galaxy untouched. This kind of war provided the vehicle to take the story and its characters to numerous locations across the galaxy as the battle between the Republic and Separatist Alliance rages on.

Where dozens of new locations and elaborate sets may prove costly for a live action production, in animation, the artists and storytellers really got to flex their muscles and introduce us to stunning visual worlds we’ve never seen before. And with more episodes available to tell the story, the opportunity to travel beyond Tatooine and Coruscant is available, with each world as beautiful and fleshed out as the next.

You can't tell me the artists of The Clones Wars didn't have a blast creating the visual aesthetic for each new location we'd visit. Come on!

3. Shorter In-Season Story Arcs

Have you ever watched a television show that has a bunch of really good seasons but then has that one dud somewhere in the middle? It’s the one season you remember for being really weird or really slow or really boring. The plot didn’t go anywhere, it introduced too many weird subplots, or it just felt like the writers were running of ideas or steam? Thankfully, The Clone Wars doesn’t have that season, and there’s a reason for that.

I’m not saying that all seasons of The Clone Wars are equal, but the nice thing about the narrative structure of the series is that we already know where the story will end (Episode III).

We don’t know how exactly we’ll get there, but we do know that the war will eventually end, Anakin will become Darth Vader, the Jedi will be purged, and the Emperor will rise to power. Until then, we still have a war to fight, and because we’re dealing with a conflict that stretches across a galaxy, the writers choose to focus on shorter two-to-four-episode arcs that deal with one battle or planet-wide campaign at a time.

From the Liberation of Ryloth (Season 1) to the Defense of Kamino (Season 3), the Battle of Umbara (Season 4), The Bad Batch (Season 7), and the Siege of Mandalore (Season 7), these shorter arcs act like mini movies within a single season. Of course, there are plenty of really fun individual episodes and amazing adventures interspersed throughout each season, but with the smaller arcs, we get to spend a little more time on different worlds and with different heroes, even brand new heroes, before moving on to battles on the other side of the galaxy.

Shorter in-season arcs allow the writers to show us more of the galaxy, expand the scope of the clone wars, and flesh out and develop the characters, both the major heroes and the supporting players in the Star Wars conflict.

4. All Paths Lead to Order 66

One of the big questions at the start of The Clone Wars was, how are they going to end it? Would they bring us right to the start of Episode III? Would the story bleed into Revenge of the Sith? With the last few episodes of The Clone Wars, we got our answer.

As Ahsoka Tano and Captain Rex continue the Siege of Mandalore in an attempt to capture Maul, we learn that the events of Revenge of the Sith are already in motion, culminating in the final two episodes and the execution of Order 66.

For those of you who don’t remember, Order 66 was the command programmed into the Clone Troopers that would force them turn on the Jedi when the time came. Little did the Jedi know, this command was implanted in the clones from their conception and could only be activated by Palpatine himself.

We saw the events of Order 66 in Revenge of the Sith and a little more in the game Jedi: Fallen Order. In the final two episodes of The Clones Wars, however, we get to see the events of Order 66 from Ahsoka and Captain Rex’s perspective, two characters we know survive the fall of the Republic because of their presence in Star Wars: Rebels. Here, we finally learn how they made it out alive and how Rex was able to remove his inhibitor chip.

Throughout the series, the looming threat of Order 66 lurks like a phantom menace in the background. See what I did there?

It’s a haunting undercurrent that foreshadows doom for every battle and event in the series. In fact, there are even a few episodes where Order 66 and the plot to destroy the Jedi are almost discovered, first by the Clone Trooper Fives and then by Yoda himself. But every step of the way, Palpatine is pulling the strings, masking his true intentions, and seeing his plan play out to perfection is even more creepy than before.

In true Hitchcockian fashion, we know what’s coming for the heroic yet flawed Jedi. We know what they don’t. And as we become more attached to these characters and the relationship they form with their trusted Clone Troopers, Order 66 and the Jedi purge become even more emotionally heartfelt when they eventually happen.

In hindsight, The Clone Wars integrates the big moments of Revenge of the Sith so well that it makes Revenge of the Sith a more complete movie and more rewarding experience all around.

5. The Discarded Disciple: The Return of Maul

Let’s be honest. Darth Maul was the real scene stealer of The Phantom Menace and maybe even of the entire prequel trilogy, which is no small feat given how little screen time and dialogue he actually got. But just when we were starting to believe that Maul might become the new Darth Vader of the prequels, one of the coolest bad guys in all of Star Wars was killed off. Talk about a major “cut” in screen time. Game over.

And then, once The Clone Wars was up and running, it was announced that the Zabrak Sith lord had not only survived his fall but would be making his return in The Clone Wars. I, like most fans, was excited but also skeptical of this twist.

I mean, the guy had been sliced in half and was last seen tumbling (in two) to his death. How would he even survive something like that, and better yet, how would they bring such a beloved character back in convincing and compelling way? Was this just fan service? Or did Maul have an actual role to play in The Clone Wars and the future of Star Wars?

Well, David Filoni and the story team at Lucasfilm found a way to bring him back, and Star Wars fans were rewarded with the return of one of their favorite characters who quickly proved to be as formidable a force as when we last saw him.

Darth Maul’s return also managed to be a major difference maker in the events of The Clone Wars and later Rebels. A discarded disciple of Darth Sidious and a defeated, humiliated foe, Maul survived for over a decade on his sheer hatred of Obi-Wan Kenobi and resentment of his former master, who ruthlessly cast him aside. A broken man hell bent on revenge, Maul became the galaxy’s most unpredictable and dangerous loose cannon, driven to destroy Kenobi, Sidious, and anyone who stood in his way.

Maul fleshes out just how merciless and manipulative Darth Sidious really is, that he's willing to use and discard anyone to ensure his rise to power, including his former apprentice. It's all part of his master plan, and Maul, somewhat tragically, was just a pawn in his game.

Oh, and his duel with Ahsoka in Season 7 is arguably one of the best lightsaber fights in ALL of Star Wars.

Speaking of which…

6. Ahsoka Tano: The Star Wars Hero we Deserve

When Ahsoka Tano was first introduced as a padawan for Anakin Skywalker, I wasn’t really sure where they were going with this character. Since there was no mention of Ahsoka anywhere in the prequels or original trilogy, I wondered what she was really going to add, given that her presence didn’t seem to have much impact on events from the Skywalker saga.

As of this moment, however, Ahsoka is still alive in Star Wars canon, and she did play a pretty significant role in the formation of the Rebellion (as seen in Star Wars: Rebels). Lucasfilm also recently announced that Rosario Dawson has been cast as the live action version of Ahsoka Tano, who’ll be making an appearance in Season 2 of The Mandalorian.

For The Clone Wars, however, Ahsoka is one of the few characters we actually get to see grow and grow up over the course of the series. Similar to Ayra Stark from Game of Thrones, Ahsoka starts off as a child and develops into an intelligent, capable young adult, who, let’s be honest, kicks some major butt by the end of the series.

Ahsoka is also a character who exposes the flaws in the Jedi council, who’ve become so entrenched in the conflict of the Clone Wars and politics of the Republic, they are now blind to the greater schemes of Darth Sidious/Emperor Palpatine.

When Ahsoka is betrayed by the Jedi and walks away from the Jedi order, it’s a huge blow to Anakin Skywalker, who’s become a mentor and older brother to this character. You’re not just taking away someone he cares about, you’re taking a blaster canon to his faith in the Jedi council, which is already weakened.

It’s like a teacher feeling the weight of their student’s struggle or failure. In Anakin’s case, Ahsoka loses faith in the Jedi, the very institution he fights to protect. It rattles not only his confidence in himself but also the Jedi who aren’t doing a very good job of "keeping the peace" anymore.

In many ways, I think Ahsoka steps in as kind of the new Qui Gon Jinn, offering an outside perspective on just how far the blind the Jedi have become and how far they've fallen.

I’ve heard a lot of people say that Star Wars doesn’t appeal to little girls and that it’s primarily a guy-centric franchise. Now I’m not a girl so I can’t say whether or not girls like Star Wars, though a lot of women I know say they love it just as much as I do so…

I can say that Star Wars has introduced a cast of of truly remarkable female heroes that I’m thrilled to introduce to my daughter(s) someday. From Princess Leia to Padme Amidala, Jyn Erso, Bo Katan, Sabine Wren, Cara Dune, and, my new favorite, Ahsoka Tano, there are so many amazing women to love and admire in this franchise and hopefully many more on the way.

And with Ahsoka Tano joining The Mandalorian, we now have a hero who spans all three eras of the Star Wars saga. Ahsoka grew into the hero Star Wars needs, and I’m excited to see what Rosario Dawson does with the role.

7. The Clones, the Clones, the Clones

The real heroes of The Clone Wars, however, have to be the clones themselves.

In the original trilogy, the stormtroopers had no sense of individuality or even personality. They were faceless, helmeted blaster fodder who represented the might of the Empire and the merciless grip of galactic imperialism.

With The Clone Wars, the same thing could have happened with the Clone Troopers, and even more so given that they are genetically and physically identical to each other.

In the series, however, Filoni and his artists, along with voice actor Dee Bradley Baker, gave us more than just nameless, faceless foot soldiers. They introduced an army of sympathetic characters, who have distinct personalities, hopes, fears, and even heart. They are loyal to the Republic but also love their brothers and the Jedi they are called to serve alongside.

With their unique haircuts, facial tattoos, and earned nicknames, the Clone Troopers become unique, distinguishable and lovable heroes we can’t help but root for throughout the series.

What’s even more tragic is knowing that the Republic’s loyal soldiers were created solely to fuel Palpatine’s war. As Rex discovers much later in Star Wars: Rebels, they were used and manipulated, just like the droid army. And in the end, they were so focused, like the Jedi, on winning the Clone Wars, they failed to recognize that the only person who actually benefitted from the conflict was Palpatine himself.

In the final moments of the season finale, Captain Rex has some of the most heartbreaking moments in all of Star Wars.

After having his inhibitor chip removed by Ahsoka, Rex realizes that his brothers have been programmed to massacre the Jedi, his beloved friends. And in order to help Ahsoka escape, he’ll have to go through the men he once called brothers.

A soldier to the end, Rex is committed to the cause, but when Ahsoka removes his helmet, we see a single tear stringing down his cheek, reminding us that, clone or not, he is still human, and in war, no one really wins.

This was the moment I realized Star Wars: The Clone Wars gave us something pretty special. It didn’t take away from anything in the original trilogies, but it did make them even better by paying off what was set up and filling in some of the missing pieces along the way.

I will definitely miss The Clone Wars but am incredibly grateful for the seven seasons of exceptional storytelling that only made me fall in love with Star Wars and its characters that much more.


Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the final season of The Clone Wars. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. If you're a Star Wars fan, you won’t be disappointed.

We’ll have to wait and see what’s next for Star Wars. I’m hoping we get an announcement for a new animated series sometime soon, but who knows? For now, it’s on to Season 2 of The Mandalorian, hopefully premiered on Disney+ in the Fall. And if you haven’t read my review of Season 1 of the The Mandalorian, check it out

And lastly, if you’re looking for a fun and unique take on Star Wars, check out Zounds! Online Productions’ live reading William Shakespeare’s: Verily, a New Hope by Ian Doescher, now on YouTube.

Thank you so much for reading and for you continued support. If you liked this post don’t forget to hit the heart icon below. If you loved it and want to read more, subscribe for news, content, and updates.

Stay healthy. Stay strong. Stay creative.

May the Force be With You!