I want you to seriously consider what you’re about to read. Even with the first season of The Mandalorian available for streaming, the Clone Wars is still the definitive Star Wars experience on the small screen.
“What? No!” I hear you say. “The Mandalorian was so good! How can a 3D animated series that ran from 2008 to 2014 beat a live-action show from 2019?”
The answer, reader, hides within the nature of The Clone Wars, a series which spans the adventures not only of the main characters of the Star Wars saga but of countless players, big and small, in the war itself. What The Clone Wars manages to do, especially once it moves past its weak opening season is the investigation of dozens of different theatres of operations in a galaxy at war. The show does so with admirable skill, empathy and intelligent storytelling.
This is Star Wars at its best, refusing to shy away from the complexities of adult life, offering children (it’s a kid’s show! It ran on Cartoon Network) a plentitude of moral questions and ethical dilemmas.
The Clone Wars looks at so many serious issues, not only specific to Star Wars but questions that offer serious food for thought on a moral level. Further, the show does a wonderful job at offering a multifaceted look at a conflict that, if you’ve only seen the prequel movies, comes across as very black-and-white. In the Season 03 episode, Heroes on Both Sides, the viewers are introduced to the separatist senator Mina Bonteri, a personal friend of Padme Amidala.
What better way to present entirely different stakes in a war that previously seemed clear-cut than to put a human face on it? Bonteri, whose attempt to pave a way to peace talks between the Republic and the Separatist Confederacy eventually costs her her life.
I would be remiss not to mention Ahsoka Tano once more in this column, as she is the character offering the viewers a way out; like us, she’s only ever experienced the Separatists as a hostile force, has never been in contact with members of the Coalition outside of Dooku’s agents, has never even considered whether the hundreds of worlds that broke off the Republic did so for good reason. And can we blame her? It’s the easiest thing in the world to see the enemy as less than you, some evil force possessed by malicious intent.
In Star Wars, of course, we know that malicious intent is real; and we know also that our heroes are, for all their nobility, tools in a war orchestrated by the Sith Lord Darth Sidious, in a chess game that is best encapsulated by the following image:
The story of is just one arc, a few short episodes. Other arcs examine questions of loyalty (to a commander whose orders are actively harmful to his platoon of Clones), guerrilla warfare as a force for good and ill, corruption and the role of banking in society (IN A KIDS’ SHOW!!!). And I’ve not touched on Jedi, the Force and lightsaber combat once!
I have yet to see the new season – I’ve been playing catch-up with the last two seasons, which I realised recently, I’d never finished watching. My excitement to see its seventh and final season, however, grows by the week – and I am overjoyed to know that The Clone Wars is back on the air.