A long time ago, a girl’s parents took her to see a science fiction film called Star Wars. On that day, she fell in love with all things Star Wars, even the extended universe that began with Timothy Zahn’s 1991 book, Heir to the Empire. But in 2012, Disney purchased Star Wars and proceeded to erase the majority of the extended universe she had come to know. With much of her Star Wars knowledge no longer applicable, she begins a journey through the new canon. Her goal – to travel the path of the new canon, experiencing as much of the new material in story order as best as she possibly can.
Over the course of six seasons (2008 – 2014) and a movie (2008), Star Wars: The Clone Wars explores the devastation of war and explains the machinations behind the war between the Separatists and the Republic. Spanning the time between the films Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, TCW helps fill in blanks and develops characters.
The Clone War rages across the galaxy. Although the war is being orchestrated by Count Dooku/Darth Tyranus (Christopher Lee and Corey Burton) and Chancellor Palpatine/Darth Sidious (Ian Abercrombie and Tim Curry), their actions widened a crack present before the events of The Phantom Menace. Many are frustrated by the obvious corruption festering in the Republic Senate and are tired of the Republic imposing its will on them. Emboldened by how Count Dooku is willing to stand up to the Republic and form the Separatists army, many worlds decide to leave the Republic. The Separatists, also known as the Confederacy of Independent Systems, see themselves rebelling against The Establishment and only want to be able to govern themselves. They create their own Senate with Dooku as their leader. They see the war as more proof that the Republic is only out for power; after all, if Palpatine would recognize their government and negotiate a peace treaty, the war would end. However, Palpatine, the man who promised to restore peace and order, refuses, claiming that the Separatist undermine order by rebelling against him and the Republic.
What the leaders of the Separatists worlds don’t see is how Dooku and Sidious manufacture conflict to gain power and fuel their needs as Sith, users of the Dark Side of the Force. By season three, Dooku’s method becomes clear. The Trade Federation is supposed to be neutral, but we’ve seen in The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones that they are not. Although evidence has been presented of their duplicitous actions, the Senate is slow to act, so the Trade Federation can continue to collude with Count Dooku. This is the pattern: The Trade Federation places a blockade around a world. The world pleads with the Republic to help them, but the Trade Federation claims they are in the right because the world needs to pay a tax or a fee or a whatever. The Republic needs time to investigate the world’s claim, but the blockade cuts off supplies, and the world begins to need food, medicine, etc. Dooku and his Separatist resources come in and help, as long as the world joins the Separatist movement. Feeling abandoned by the Republic, the world agrees. After recruiting many worlds, Dooku becomes bold and begins to openly court worlds to join him and to actively coerce others.
We see the Jedi as heroes, but The Clone Wars has the time to show us how others see them. The peacekeepers of the galaxy are now generals, leading troops of clones in the war against the Separatist droid army. The Jedi must do the bidding of the Republic Senate, so they are the ones people see leading waves of death. Often, they are called slaves to the corrupt Senate, dogs, and warmongers. They are hypocrites. These guardians of peace turn their lightsabers on and cut down droid after droid after droid. The Council never considers defying the Senate and putting down their weapons of war. In fact, the corruption of the Senate has infected the Jedi. They decide not to tell the Senate or the Chancellor that the Dark Side is clouding and interfering with their command of the Force, and they hide that one of their own, Sifo-Dyas, worked with Dooku when ordering the creation of the clone army. Releasing this information would cause chaos and bring disorder and distrust. The way of the Jedi is to not cling to power, but the Council seems to have forgotten this.
A prime example of the Jedi’s determination in war and how some Jedi are not loyal to the cause are episodes 7 – 10 of season 4, the Umbara arc. The militia of the planet Umbara have sided with the Separatists, but the Republic needs the trade routes and supply lines connected to the world. General Obi-Wan Kenobi (James Arnold Taylor) needs to conquer a city to get them to surrender. There are air strikes and trench warfare. Obi-Wan’s forces are up against a skilled enemy feeling they have the right to defend their home and rid their world of Jedi and Republic scum. Helping Obi-Wan is the squad led by General Anakin Skywalker (Matt Lanter). Anakin is called back to Coruscant, and General Pong Krell (Dave Fennoy) assumes command. Krell doesn’t care how many clones he loses; winning battles is all that matters. The clones have named themselves, but Krell calls them by their numbers. Krell ignores the advice from Captain Rex, claiming clones are dumb and flawed. A few of the clones realize they are being used as cannon fodder and that Krell’s tactics are not as helpful as he claims. Those clones are right. Krell, a Jedi, reveals that he senses a rise in a New Order, and he wants to be on the winning side. Eventually, the actions of Captain Rex and his men help Obi-Wan win back Umbara for the Republic.
The clone war is brutal, especially to clones. Although they look the same and speak with the same voice (Dee Bradley Baker), the clones have a sense of individuality. In addition to naming themselves (Rex, Fives, Echo, Tup, Hevy, etc.), they express themselves by tattoos, haircuts, and hair color. They are loyal to each other, they see themselves as brothers, and to the Republic. Clones know their purpose; they know they have been grown and trained to be soldiers who live to die in war. Anakin and Obi-Wan have encouraged their troops to think and to be creative. This is the advantage to having a clone army. Droids are cheaper; machines need battery power while clones require food, water, armor, and sleep. But droids lack an inner strength to do acts for others in risk of self. Clones work together to save each other, to not leave a man behind, and to fight a battle that seems impossible to win. Episode after episode, numerous clones die in horrible ways, and they do so fighting their hardest for a cause they are obligated to believe. It’s heartbreaking.
Clones are not perfect. There has been a traitor (“The Hidden Enemy”), and one left the army to live a life of his own (“The Deserter”). A possible reason for the flaws is the rushed production of clones. Without a renewed source of the original DNA, the integrity of the original’s DNA is stretched thin as thousands of clones are created. The cost of the war on the Republic is high; the Separatist’s droid army is endless, and the Republic loses as many battles as it wins, incurring a high loss of life and ships. A few Senators want to curb spending and deescalate the war by negotiating peace, including Senator Padmé Amidala (Catherine Taber). However, petitions for reducing the rate of clone production and for allocating funds away from the war and back to programs to help education and health are seen as unpatriotic, and those who are anti-war are often accused of being pro-Separatist and investigated for treason.
You are either with Chancellor Palpatine or against him. There is no other way.
A person who is with Chancellor Palpatine is Anakin Skywalker. Anakin is now a Jedi Knight – the trials happened off screen again. He quickly earned the reputation of being an impulsive and aggressive general. No one is surprised when Anakin defies the Council or ignores direct orders from Obi-Wan. In “Cat and Mouse,” the Republic built a stealth ship, and Anakin is told to use the ship to deliver supplies on a mission of mercy. Instead, he attacks the Separatist fleet. Anakin succeeds, which stokes his fire more. The Jedi Council doesn’t really discipline him. How could they? The brash leader has the respect of his men, and his tactics win multiple battles.
It’s interesting to note that the Council won’t kick Anakin out of the Jedi Order for being good at war, but they would if they knew he was in love and married to Padmé.
Of course, his actions do not set a good example for his young Padawan, Ashoka Tano (Ashley Eckstein). Anakin was reluctant to accept having the responsibility of a Padawan, but her “snippy” personality won him over by the end of the film. Over the course of the show, their bond grows as she learns the ways of the Force, how to lead a squadron, and how to bend the rules. Anakin tries to teach her the proper ways, but, as Obi-Wan pointed out, he has a “do as I say, not as I do” approach. Anakin should not be surprised when Ashoka disobeys his orders in “The Citadel.” Instead of staying behind, Ashoka thinks the time has arrived for her to decide when to put her life on the line, so she makes herself a part of the mission to save Master Even Piell. Anakin is angry and disappointed that she disobeyed him, but he admits that she becomes a vital part of the mission’s success. Their dynamic mirrors the relationship Anakin had with Obi-Wan, so we can see why Obi-Wan eventually agreed to allow Anakin to go through the trials.
However, Anakin never gets to decide if Ashoka is ready for the trials. Episodes 17 – 20 of season 5 are about Ashoka being accused of killing suspected terrorist Letta Turmond (Kari Wahlgren). Feeling no one is helping her, Ashoka flees in the style of The Fugitive so she can prove her innocence. Anakin does prove her innocence, but Ashoka feels betrayed by the Jedi Council because they banished her and sent her to be tried by the Senate. The hurt on Anakin’s face as he watches Ashoka walk into the sunset punched me in the gut.
Being a Jedi isn’t easy, even Obi-Wan struggles with his love for Satine (Anna Graves), a woman he fell in love with when he was a Padawan. Unlike Anakin, Obi-Wan would have left the Order if Satine said she wanted to be with him. Anakin told Ashoka that she needed to put purpose ahead of feelings, but Anakin fails to do so many times. Palpatine telling Anakin that his feelings make him special doesn’t help. Anakin’s relationship with Palpatine is very important; he will often follow Palpatine’s council before a Jedi’s. Anakin is made for battle, but he loses control over his emotions when it comes to Padmé. He gets jealous easy, especially when Padmé has to get information from a former flame, Rush Clovis (Robin Atkin Downes). Anakin demands she not work for Palpatine when she goes undercover, and he beats Rush when it looks like Padmé and Rush are going to kiss. Padmé stands her ground against tyranny, the Senate, and Anakin, proving she is an independent thinker and a capable leader. Anakin’s erratic nature takes a toll on Padmé, and she questions their marriage, stating the marriage isn’t working is because it is built on lies and secrecy.
Watching The Clone Wars clarifies the central conflict of Republic vs. Separatist by exploring this issue in a variety of ways. Does the Republic have the right to demand the loyalty of worlds? What happens to the attitude towards war when you manufacture the soldiers fighting it for you? What does it mean to be a Jedi? Can you be a peacekeeper and a general of an army? Is it okay to lie to maintain order? Anakin’s journey shows how these contradictory ideas can do harm. The season 4 episodes 15 – 18 are about Obi-Wan faking his own death to discover who is behind the plot to assassinate Chancellor Palpatine. This deception is crucial to save a person, but Anakin is outraged because his mentor, his friend lied to him. How many more lies have the Council told Anakin and the rest of the Republic?
Deception, cruelty, fear, and war fuel the Dark Side and have allowed Palpatine to rise in power to legitimately save the Republic and to destroy the Republic as Darth Sidious. The galaxy’s only hope is the Jedi, but Palpatine’s growing influence on Anakin and Anakin’s ability to confront the Jedi Council about their hypocrisy reveals that it is likely that the Republic will fall.
Up next: Dark Disciple (novel)