Star Wars Top 8: Clone Wars Stories

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Posted February 2, 2016 by Jean-Luc Botbyl in Nerdy Bits

I need a better name for this feature.

I’m on my second week of writing it and the best I can come up with is “Star Wars Top 8.” Could there be a more boring name? I guess “Star Wars Top 10” would be bit a less interesting, if only because 10 is the default number for ordered lists. I would be doing Top 10’s, if, you know, I hadn’t been so stubborn about what my first installment was going to be.

Anyways, this is basically just me trying to be slightly entertaining to make up for the boring name, but if the article’s title doesn’t grab you, well, I guess this is all very pointless then, isn’t it? I’m only satisfying my selfish desires to ramble at the beginning of every post because I actually have nothing better to do.

Ok, now that that’s through, some guidelines:

  • By “stories,” I don’t just mean story arcs. Single episodes do count as well, and there may very well be at least one on this list. Who knows? Read on and find out! Oh, you’re just going to scroll through and check now? That… that’s fine too, I guess.
  • “Stories” can span multiple seasons. This likely won’t apply in most cases, since most arcs are, at most three or four episodes. However, I do want to clarify because some (Darth Maul) do have episodes across more than a single season.

Alright, let’s get into the nitty gritty.

Honorable Mention: Bounty Hunters

Bounty Hunters

I’m not usually going to do an honorable mention, but it felt necessary for this post. I finished writing it, and then realized I had forgotten about Bounty Hunters – episodes 15-18 of season four. It doesn’t quite beat out any of the other stories on this list, but I did want to mention Deception, Friends and Enemiesthe Box, and Crisis on Naboo. Anyways, I’m not really going to write much about it, since I already know that this post is long, but check it out anyways.

8. Invasion of Geonosis 

Landing at Point Rain

As it turns out, people hated Attack of the Clones so much that Dave Filoni and co felt it was necessary to take the one good part of that movie and turn it into an arc of Clone Wars. Now, you can just watch this instead of sitting through an hour and a half of mediocre writing and acting before getting to cool action scenes. Anyways, this arc consists of four episodes, if you include Brain Invaders, which I’m choosing to do. The other three episodes are Landing at Point RainWeapons Factory, and Legacy of Terror (Season 2, episodes 5-8, for those interested). What struck me about this particular arc, at least initially, is that it’s really the first (and actually, one of the only) times that we see the real scale of the war. Landing at Point Rain especially showcases the might of both the GAR and the CIS, and all of the action is absolutely stunning to watch unfold.

Of course, there’s more to this arc than watching all of the badass action. If I’m remembering correctly, it’s the first time that Ahsoka and Barriss meet, and it’s the start of their friendship. This is especially important in Weapons Factory and Brain Invaders, both of which center around the two characters. In addition, we get to spend some time with Ki-Adi Mundi, giving him his only real source of characterization in the current canon. Along with Obi-Wan, Anakin, and Luminara, there’s really no shortage of really cool Jedi hanging out in this arc, and they all play well off of one another. Not quite as much times is devoted to the Clone Troopers, though the little that we do get with them is solid as well. Had this arc come in the fourth or fifth season (where, honestly, it would have felt more at home) I have no doubt we would have gotten more of the Clone Troopers.

7. Lair of Grievous

Lair of Grievous

Lair of Grievous is a one and done episode in the first season of the show, and is really the standout of that season. I will often be found defending the bulk of season one, but even I do admit it has rough patches – but this, the tenth episode of the season, is certainly not one of them. In a lot of ways, it plays out like a horror movie – Kit Fisto, Nahdar Vebb (his former Padawan) and a squad of Clone Troopers show up on Grievous’ front door and spend the episode being hunted. Of course, it’s never scary, after all, this show is designed for kids. However, there’s a sense of maturity and a darker tone here that makes Lair of Grievous, like the Geonosis arc, feel as if it would have been more at home in later seasons of the show. This may very well be the most suspenseful episode of the show – even now, it has my on the edge of my seat watching it.

However, well the concept may be this episode’s draw, it earns a spot on this list because of Kit Fisto. For the longest time, Kit Fisto was my favorite Star Wars character (he probably still makes the Top 8… spoilers, I guess?), and this episode cemented that for me. In terms of actual canon, it’s also the only real time we’ve spent with the Nautolan Jedi. He does show up later in the show, but never again does he get fleshed out like he does in this episode. His dynamic with Vebb is especially important – the two are clearly friends, but also perfect foils for one another. Plus, we really do just get to see Kit being an absolute beast. Not quite on the levels of the 2003 Genndy Tartokovsky animated series, but probably the closest we’re going to get in actual canon, at least for the time being.

6. Darkness on Umbara

Darkness on Umbara

Consisting of episodes seven through ten (Darkness on UmbaraThe GeneralPlan of Dissent, and Carnage of Krell) of Clone Wars’ fourth season, the Darkness on Umbara arc is a brutal look into the reality of the Clone Wars. It’s also an excuse to spend more times with some of the series’ best characters – the members if the 501st Legion. The Clones that comprise this particular unit are recurring characters throughout the series, and it’s a treat whenever they show up. They’re exceptionally well realized characters. Many of them probably have more depth than most of their Jedi counterparts, to be entirely honest. Anyways, this arc sees them under the command of General Krell, a ruthless leader who cares little about the Clones. The entire arc centers around the tension between the Clones and the Besalisk general, which is the perfect contrast to their relationship with Obi-Wan and Anakin.

Anyways, as with the Geonosis arc (I’ve managed to compare everything on this list to that arc so far – can I keep it up? Keep reading to find out!), Darkness on Umbara showcases the might of the GAR, which again, is awesome to see. Despite the invasion of Umbara having a fairly massive scale, the writers find a way to keep it grounded. They zero in on specific characters, and follow them through the trying campaign. Even though I’m not the biggest fan of the plot “twist,” it doesn’t actually ruin the rest of the arc, and it does make sense. Also, I put the word “twist” in quotation marks because you should probably see it coming a mile away. Regardless, Darkness on Umbara is a super impressive use of characters, both new and old, and in its own way, contributes to making Revenge of the Sith a better movie.

5. Yoda’s Journey

Yoda

The Lost Missions (basically the series’ sixth season) was home to a lot of great episodes, but the standout are the final three – which follow Yoda on an esoteric journey of understanding. Look, maybe it’s only on this list because it confirms Darth Bane as being canon AND we get Mark Hamill as Darth Bane, but you know what? Those are two perfectly acceptable reasons to love something. Anyways, there is more to my love of this particular story than just hints at the old EU. Yoda is a character that has really been short changed throughout the course of the EU. The old EU had a couple of cool Yoda stories, but for someone who had been around for 900 years by the time Return of the Jedi rolled around, you would think there would be a lot of awesome stories to tell. This is undoubtedly one of them, seeing him grapple with the Force in ways we don’t really see anywhere else.

In addition to being a great Yoda story, the three episodes that make up this arc focus heavily on broadening our understanding of the Force. In a lot of ways, they feel like the spiritual successor to the Mortis arc (more on that later). Rather than going down the scientific route that George Lucas put into motion in The Phantom Menace (which I don’t really have a problem with), the writers here deal with the mystical side of the Force instead. It’s infinitely more interesting, for sure, and offers a lens into the inner workings of the Star Wars universe. It’s probably the most high concept Clone Wars ever gets (barring Mortis, which I’m making multiple references to here), and as a result it feels fairly experimental. It’s almost as if they knew that this wouldn’t air on Cartoon Network when they made the episodes.

4. The Citadel

The Citadel

The CitadelCounter Attack, and Citadel Rescue have the two characteristics that seem to make for a great Clone Wars story: an obscure Jedi Master (Even Piell) and a strong focus on Clone Troopers. Of course, Anakin and Ahsoka are also present – where would the show be without its two leads? They’re joined by members of the 501st – the surviving members of Domino are present here, along with Rex. Oh, and we get to meet a young Wilhuff Tarkin. Actually, this arc lays the groundwork for Tarkin, the novel that topped last week’s list. anyways, throwing all these characters together for three episodes allows for a lot of great character dynamics to unfold. It’s certainly an odd cast of characters, but it really showcases the knack that the writers have for giving everyone an interesting dynamic with everyone surrounding them.

This particular arc also has a brutal ending, emotionally. I won’t spoil it, since some people still haven’t watch Clone Wars (seriously, you need to get on that), but man, it certainly delivers a gut punch. It’s a testament to how well the show built plot lines and characters across multiple seasons, despite no single character playing a major role in every single episode of the show. Anyways, leading up to this moment, a lot happens in this arc. There are some great action scenes, starting with the stealthy storming of the Citadel, and ending with an all out firefight on the landing platform. The action set pieces are big and fun, but all of this comes with the caveat that they aren’t the sole reason these episodes are awesome – hell, they aren’t even the main reason they’re great. This is true of most of Clone Wars, though, and at this point kind of goes without saying for those who have watched the show in its entirety.

3. Darth Maul

Darth Maul

The Darth Maul story spans three seasons and a total of eleven episodes, more if you count the Mandalore episodes from season two and three. Regardless, there’s no doubting that it’s the longest story that the showrunners ever handled – and the titular character really only makes his present known halfway through. Initially, this is Savage Opress’ story, though as soon as Maul enters the picture, he’s definitely the one playing second fiddle. Regardless, both of the characters are excellent every time they show up, and they’re even better when they’re on screen together. This is the story that Darth Maul truly deserved. He was one of the few enjoyable parts about The Phantom Menace, but he was little more than a Zabrak with a double bladed lightsaber. In this collection of episodes, he truly feels like an actual. Plus, there’s some great Ventress stuff that goes on here, and the Nightsisters in general are pretty awesome.

The episodes in season five are the real standouts, bringing everything to a head, and ultimately forcing Darth Sidious into action. But, in all honesty, the whole affair is great to watch unfold. There are quite a few big emotional moments, and there’s pay off for multiple characters here. Obviously, Obi-Wan ends up playing a major role, and with the involvement of Death Watch and Hondo Ohnaka, the story gets big. Fortunately, the showrunners were able to handle it, and somehow give every character the time they not only deserved, but required, in this arc. Plus, despite trampling all over a lot of the Mandalorian mythology from the Republic Commando novels, it does confirm the existence of Delta Squad, who get a very brief cameo at the beginning of Witches of the Mist. If I’m being honest, that on its own may have been enough to get it on this list.

2. The Wrong Jedi

The Wrong Jedi

The final arc of Clone Wars‘ five season run (discounting The Lost Missions) is easily one of the series’ best. Coming off the back of the end of Maul’s story, it was hard to believe that an arc in season five could top that. But The Wrong Jedi did, and it did it in a big way. It’s a four episode arc in which Ahsoka is framed for bombings of the Jedi temple, forcing her to go into hiding, and Anakin to go after her. This is the big pay off story for the friendship that was nurtured between Ahsoka and Padme starting season two, and this is easily the best use of Padme’s character in the series. Her role is fairly minimal, but it’s brilliant. The same is true of Asajj Ventress, who works with Ahsoka briefly. That’s another character dynamic that I wish had more time to get explored, simply because of the quality of what we do get.

The Wrong Jedi also is the first time we really see the Republic’s transition to the Empire. There were hints at it during the Umbara story, and the show isn’t afraid to be critical of the Jedi Order, but The Jedi Who Knew Too Much really delivers on both of these fronts.  The ending of this particular arc, specifically the very last shot in the titular episode, is the most emotional moment in the show, and a moment that has stayed with me since I first watched the episode nearly three years ago now. Of course, it won’t pack quite the same punch for those who haven’t watched the series, but this arc on its own would make watching the entire show worth it, if the show were bad, which it isn’t. And, for as much as I love The Lost Missions, this feels like absolute perfect ending to the series.

1. Mortis

Mortis

OverlordsAltar of Mortis, and Ghosts of Mortis, collectively make up the one arc of Clone Wars that I think is actually perfect. Everything else on this list (and the majority of the show) is pretty brilliant, but I could critique any other Clone Wars story with ease, I just choose not to. Mortis is different – it transcends the rest of the show. It feels experimental in a similar way to the Yoda episodes at the end of The Lost Missions, but it’s also probably the darkest that the show ever gets. Funnily enough, it actually has nothing to do with the Clone Wars, and the formula of “Clone Troopers + obscure Jedi = great Clone Wars episode” certainly does not apply here. This is very much a story about the series’ three lead characters; Obi-Wan, Anakin, and Ahsoka. It also deals heavily with the mythology behind the Force, delving into the constant struggle between light and dark.

It goes pretty deep into that stuff, but at its core, it’s a character study, examining the three leads, and looking at what makes them tick. This keeps the arc grounded, but also lays the groundwork for what everyone knows eventually happens to the characters. It almost makes me wish that this had aired before Revenge of the Sith came out, because there’s so much great foreshadowing here. None of it feels like fan-service either, all of it is legitimately built into the story and used as a tool to develop the characters. Plus, it introduces the Ones (the Father, the Brother, and the Sister), all of whom had long reaching implications, at least in the old EU. Even now that none of that is canon, those three characters are profoundly interesting, despite seeming like relatively simple characters initially.


About the Author

Jean-Luc Botbyl

Jean-Luc is a grizzled veteran of We the Nerdy. Most days, he just wonders why he hasn't been formally fired. Follow him on Twitter at @J_LFett to make him feel validated.