Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008 - 2014) TV Show – A Look Back


    I've loved "Star Wars" my whole life, and while my initial fondness began with the three original movies, my current, modern day love for the franchise ignited with the 2008 animated TV series titled “Star Wars: The Clone Wars”. To this day, it stands as personally one of my all time favorite animated programs, and in my opinion is a benchmark in the Star Wars saga.
I loved the characters, I loved the action, I loved the expanded universe, and most of all, I loved the opportunity to see unique stories told which we were never be able to see in a theatrical “Star Wars” movie. The CGI animation was also a step above most programs of it's time, and the show wasn't afraid to contain some mature content for older viewers. Actually, despite airing on Cartoon Network, I genuinely think the show was more adult in tone then it's animated design would lead you to think. Now, I understand if casual Star Wars fans would prefer to just stick with the movies, and have no interest in sitting through an animated series with 122 episodes total. Regardless, there’s still so many quality episodes and stand out characters from this series that shouldn’t be glanced over. So, for this post, I'll lightly touch on the premise, round up the main cast and narrow down my personal top 10 Episode arcs, which I highly recommend checking out.


   Set between the events of the movies "Star Wars 2: Attack of the Clones" and "Star Wars 3: Revenge of the Sith", this show highlighted the biggest events of the galactic Clone War.
In this conflict, the heroic Jedi Knights, along with an army of valiant clone troopers fought tirelessly to bring peace to a Galaxy that was suffering under the grip of a relentless droid army, and it's malevolent leaders. The bulk of the show was a series of episode arc's, usually ranging between two to four episodes. It was almost like a series of mini-movies, each telling a story unique to the "Star Wars" saga. All the principle characters from the "Star Wars" Prequel movies are present, along with new characters never seen in the live action films. Thankfully, the show never singles out it's cast as the main focus, and instead is content to just tell stories that would revolve around either individual characters, or a select group from the shows main gallery of players.


THE HEROES

Anakin Skywalker (Voiced by Matt Lanter )


Talk about an improvement over his live action counterpart, this shows portrayal of Anakin is what I always wanted to see in the movies. He's more honorable, more selfless, has a subdued sense of hummer, and is even a good role model at times. While he still has his select annoying moments, it's still a more rounded version of the man I envisioned from what the heroes of the original "Star Wars" movies described. He also has a little bit of that blandness that characterized Luke Skywalker, but in a good way, as mixed with an upbeat personality that's all his own. Even his voice is awesome, and truthfully, Matt Lanter has imprinted himself on me as the definitive actor to play Anakin Skywalker. Overall, he's not the best character from the shows roaster, but a fine lead character in his own right, and one that I see as a huge improvement over all his past variations. For a good first impression of Anakin Skywalker, check out the season 1 episode "Defenders of Peace", in which he nearly dies protecting his friends, and even when wounded, still rallies his team to defend a small village from an invading threat.


Captain Rex (Voiced by Dee Bradley Baker)

One of the shows crowning achievements was humanizing it's army of clone troopers, giving them individual personalities, layered character arc's, and really portrayed them like heroes on a battlefield. The most dignified of them all being Captain Rex, who serves as Anakin's honorable right hand, and is his closest friend among the troops. This was the shows first break out character to join the ranks of my personal favorite characters from the "Star Wars" saga as a whole. In general, it was a real treat to have a non-Jedi as a lead character, and everything he does is just so noble, heroic and 100% bad ass. This is a solder you cheer for whenever he's on screen, and over time, he's become a respected fan favorite. For a good first impression of Captain Rex, check out the season 2 episode titled "The Deserter", in which a runaway trooper puts his humanity to the test, and asks him the big questions ... dose he fight because he was grown in a lab with a program to obey orders, or is Rex choosing to fight because he knows it's the honorable thing to do?


Obi-Wan Kenobi (Voiced by James Arnold Taylor)


Of all the characters in the show, Obi-Wan Kenobi felt the closest in spirit to his live action counter part ... which means he's okay. James Arnold Taylor as the voice of Obi Wan Kenobi sounds just like Ewan McGregor from the prequel trilogy and captures his mannerism perfectly. While I admittedly found Obi-Wan mildly annoying with his goofy puns, he's still the most lighthearted character on the show, and provides the most warmth when our hero's face difficult challenges. I think he shines brightest in his stand alone episodes, as I just find him very average in the role of a a supporting player. Still, he certainly has his share of good episodes, and some really cool action scenes. For a good first impression of Obi-Wan Kenobi, check out the season 4 episode titled "Deception", in which he fakes his own death, and goes under-cover among a team of deadly bounty hunters.


Padme Amidala (Voiced by Catherine Taber)

Anakin's wife Padme in many respects is an improvement in this show over her live action counter part, but still not one of my favorite characters. She's certainly more mature in this show, and is all around a dignified portrayal of a strong woman who doesn't use weapons. The down side is that she's just not that much fun to watch, and her solo episodes don't really rank among the shows finest. Still, she has her stand outs, and for a good first impression of Padme Amidala, watch the season 3 episode titled "Hero's on Both Sides". This episodes revolves around her crossing enemy lines to meet with an old friend, who's a diplomat, and one who could possibly bring the war closer to an end from the inside. This episode also highlights that both sides of the war aren't just Black and White, good versus evil.


Yoda (Voiced by Tom Kane)

Yoda is interesting as he's basically the guy who bookends the series. It all starts with a Yoda centered episode, and it ends the same way. While Frank Oz regrettably didn't reprise the role, Tom Kane did a fine job, and captured his personality to a tea. This show also highlighted a different side of Yoda that we barley saw in any of the films, namely ... his emotional side. We see his concern, his confusion, his internal debates, along with all the Yoda quirks we know and love. For a good first impression of Yoda, watch the season one episode titled "Ambush", in which we see him guide a team of troops who are facing their doubts.


R2-D2 (Voiced by ... )

Naturally, R2-D2 needs no introduction, as he's been around sense the very first movie, and he's consistently present in this series as Anakin's loyal companion. It's also a tradition that every season has an R2-D2 centered episode, which is more then what some of the other characters get. For a good first impression of R2-D2, watch the season five episode titled "Missing in Action", in which a marooned R2-D2 and a team of droids discover a lost clone trooper, who has no memory of his past life.


Ahsoka Tano (Voiced by Ashley Eckstein)


The last and best of the main characters is Anakin’s young female apprentice named Ahsoka Tano, who is easily my favorite character in the show, and is personal one of my top 3 favorite's in all of "Star Wars". Admittedly, I didn’t get a good first impression of her at all when she debuted in “The Clone Wars” movie, yet over the course of the show I really grew to like her a lot, and now I look back on her as the big break out character of the series. With her big blue eyes, unique alien design, enthusiasm and personal struggles, she’s every bit as cute, as she is enduring. She's also a little bad ass with her light-sabers. Of all the characters from this series, I felt that I went on a journey with Ahsoka, and watched her grow through various peaks and valise. It’s honestly been a real joy watching this once shallow character grow and mature over the cores of the shows six seasons. Not only did Ahsoka mature, but she was also layered, and her individual arc's stood out as some of the most character driven. 

She’s a skilled fighter, strong, brash and has a really fun, spunky personality. She can also be wise and patient at times too, which helps give her the right amount of depth. In a nut shell, Ahsoka may have started a little rough around the edges, but she grew a respectable place among all the different characters, and is personally my favorite of all the "Star Wars" girls. For a great first impression of Ahsoka Tano, watch the season 4 episode titled "A Friend in Need", in which her secret lover joins a terrorist group to enact vengeance against his late mother. Being the selfless heroine she is, Ahsoka aims to free her love from his vengeful path, even if that means battling waves of armed troops to reach him. If you had any doubts of Ahsoka's status as a complete bad ass ... just watch this episode.


Other Note Worthy Hero's


Throughout the shows run, we got to meet a wide variety of various Jedi masters, each with their own unique designs and personalities. One of my favorites is Jedi Master Plo Koon, who’s like the calm, yet stern moral compass of the group, kind of like what Gandalf was in “The Lord of the Rings” series. Terrence C. Carson takes on the role of Jedi master Mace Windu, and dose a respectable job, although the character is still kind of one-note. Anthony Daniels reprises his signature role as C-3PO, and while he makes several appearances, he's just not consistently present like his partner R2-D2. 
One of my favorite new additions is a pirate named Hondo, who's voiced by the distinguished Jim Cummings. He's not a hero, nor is he a villain, he's just a wild card who may either aid our hero's or try and steal from them depending on his mood. Needless to say, he's one of the shows best original characters. Obi-Wan Kenobi even had a forbidden love interest named Duchess Satine, who escaped her lovers shadow, and stood out as a strong female lead in her own right. Liam Neeson would also occasionally drop in to reprise his signature role as Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn. Even Pernilla August returned to do the voice of Anakin's mother Shmi Skywalker. The show also featured a number of celebrity guest roles which included Ron Perlman, Seth Green, George Takei, Simon Pegg, Jon Favreau, and even Mark Hamill, the guy who played Luke Skywalker himself, makes an appearance in the final episode as the voice of a villain named Darth Bane. On That note, lets talk about ...


THE VILLAINS  

Count Dooku (Voiced by Corey Burton)

Count Dooku naturally is the shows main antagonist, makes more appearances then any other foe, and he has a genuinely commanding evil presence in the series. He’s also brought to life very well by talented voice actor Cory Burton, who surprisingly does a better job bringing this character to life then Christopher Lee did in the theatrical movies. The one down side to Count Dooku is that, while he functions as an intimidating presence, he's also very one-note, and doesn't go through many changes. Most of the villains in this show go through varying peaks and vales, and makes Count Dooku feel a touch boring by comparison. Still, his ruthlessness is what makes him a worthy foe, and for a good first impression of him, watch the season 4 episode titled "Massacre". Following after the betrayal of his personal Jedi assassin Asajj Ventress, he orders her entire home world population wiped out ... which he succeeds in. It's a chilling episode, with an inter colony making a last stand before being trampled under Dooku's iron boot.


Asajj Ventress (Voiced by Nika Futterman) 


In contrast to Count Dooku, no other villain was more layered then his fallen student Asajj Ventress. She's a dark Jedi assassin, a really cool main stay antagonist, and has earned the right to be called a classic villain in the Star Wars universe. She conveys a very shadowy menace, and is extremely imposing. What really makes her character so special is how she changes and grows over the course of the series. Her back story is as tragic as they get, her journey is lased with remorse, and in the end, she becomes one of the most well rounded characters in the shows run. For a great first impression of Asajj Ventress, watch the season 4 episode titled "Bounty", which follows after the events of "Massacre". After loosing her whole family during the lethal attack of her former master Count Dooku, she escapes into the galaxy to find a new direction and purpose in life. Fate leads her to a band of bounty hunters lead by the young Boba Fett, and after a deeply thrilling battle on a train, we see a change in Ventress that really highlights what a winning character she was to have in this series.    


General Grievous (Voiced by Matthew Wood) 


The cybernetic General Grievous is also a main stay villain. Even though I never really liked him from the movie “Star Wars 3: Revenge of the Sith”, he was actually a really fun villain in this show and had some genuinely intimidating moments. Admittedly, his army of battle droids can be really stupid at times, but they make for terrific comedic foils when paired with the General's ruthlessness. much like Count Dooku, General Grievours was very one-note, but he also had a charm and appeal that made him a fun reoccurring antagonist. The show also gives little clues about his past life without exploring his full origins. For a good first impression of General Grievous, watch the season 2 episode titled "Grievous Intrigue", as it highlights his nefarious goals to rid the galaxy of all Jedi.      


Cad Bane (Voiced by Corey Burton)

My absolute favorite main stay villain of the show by far is the new bounty hunter named Cad Bane. This was the breakout character that initially hooked my interest in the show. In general, I've always loved the Bounty Hunters of the "Star Wars" universe, and truthfully, even though I'll always love the Fett's ... it's Cad Bane who takes the cake. He has such an awesome design, with those blood red eyes, the cowboy attire, and that big black hat. It’s all very reminiscent of Lee Van Cleef, A.K.A “Angel Eye’s” from “The Good the Bad and the Ugly”. His voice is also really chilling, and he has such a cool - laid back, yet still sinister personality, that he completely steels every episode he’s in. He’s also really smart, calculating, ruthless, and proves time and time again to be more than a match for our hero’s. Whenever the show advertised a new episode featuring this guy, I got excited just knowing that I was would be viewing more Cad Bane awesomeness. For a great first impression of Cad Bane, watch the season 1 episode titled "Hostage Crises". This episode plays out like "Die Hard" meets "Star Wars", and just plain highlights what a capable, and imposing bad ass Cad Bane really is.  


The Emperor (Voiced by Ian Abercrombie and Tim Curry)

Just like in the Movies, the evil Emperor was the lead villain pulling the strings, but he was only seen in small doses, and thus didn't have quiet the same presence. Still, the Emperor had his shining moments, and when he came on screen with his two red light-sabers in hand ... it was an event. The late Ian Abercrombie was the main voice of the evil Emperor Palpatine, and was just spot on matching Ian Mcdiarmid's portrayal from the movies. Unfortunately, voice actor Ian Abercrombie sadly passed away during season five of the series. However, he was replaced by good old Tim Curry, who brought his deliciously evil charm to the role. It’s still very sad that the original talent died, but it’s undeniably awesome to have Emperor Palpatine voiced by Tim Curry, one of the greatest villain actors of all time. For a good first impression of The Emperor, watch the season 3 episode titled "Nightsisters", in which we see him stirring conflict among his own ranks to insure the loyalty of his most personal followers. 
                                       

Darth Maul (Voiced by Sam Witwer) 


Rounding up the cast of main villains is arguably the biggest surprise of them all ... Darth Maul back from the dead. That's right, Darth Maul is back with a vengeance. We all remember him from “The Phantom Menace” as that one really cool looking villain who got killed before he could do anything impact-full. Well, one of the best ideas from this series was to bring Darth Maul back from the dead in the season 4 finale, and make him the main threat from then on. It was a real treat to finally see Darth Maul as this menacing and larger than life villain, which he never achieved on film.
His new design was stellar, and in my view, he's honestly one of the most Bad Ass TV villains of all time. Those of you who thought he was dead and gone have no idea how awesome he is in this show. When Darth Maul returned, it was an event, but what really surprised me was just how compelling he was as a character. Maul in this show is voiced by Sam Witwer, and in my opinion, he delivers the absolute greatest vocal performance of anyone in the whole show. He gives Darth Maul an absolutely chilling and sinister nature, but he also infuses the character with a lot of pathos and regret. He even has a sense of charm and hummer about him, which makes the character feel all the more alive whenever he's on screen. For a great first impression of Darth Maul, watch the season 4 episode titled "Revenge", in which his path once again crosses with his arch foe Obi-Wan Kenobi.   


Other Note Worthy Villains 



Throughout the shows run was a whole gallery of memorable villains, some of which were classics taken right from the films. Daniel Logan for example returns to voice the young Boba Fett, who's out for revenge against the Jedi who killed his father ... the armed Bounty Hunter Jango Fett. While Jango himself is never seen, he is visually represented through his armor. Speaking of Fett's armor, there's a group of terrorists called the Death Watch who all adorn his look, and are a consistently thrilling group of foes. Some of the more classic villains to make appearances are Jabba the Hutt, Viceroy Gunray, the bounty hunter Greedo, and Grand Moff Tarkin, who's voice is spot on with Peter Cushing from the first movie. At last, there's Darth Mauls brother Savage Opress, who's voiced by the chillingly talented Clancy Brown. While he was always serving at Mauls whim, Savage has still gained fan recognition as one of the coolest villains to never appear in a movie.


     The series as a whole contained a theatrical animated movie, and six seasons total. Season 1 "A Galaxy Divided" kicked things off with a collection of war centered stories on both small and grand scales.
It's also very admirable that the series used historical war events as inspirations for many of their arc's. The best episodes were the ones focusing on the tragedy of war, and how the troops react to seeing the suffering caused by the endless fighting. While the first season didn't quiet knock my socks off yet, it still showed great potential to tell exciting new stories in the universe of "Star Wars". Season 2 "Rise of the Bounty Hunters" took a step back from the battlefield and focused more on crime drama's and political thrillers brought on by the war. Just as the title suggests, it likewise introduced a whole gallery of exciting new villains.
This season also payed homage to classic B monster movies from the 1950's like "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" and even "Godzilla". Season 3 "Secrets Reviled" was very unique for taking an ax to the shows linear structure, and told stories the wove in and around the previous episodes. While an odd direction, it still lead to some great highlights, and marked the point in which I become a devoted fan to the show. Season 4 "Battle Lines" went back to a linear narrative, and returned to the more familiar war themed stories. This season also took a darker turn, and got very ambitious with it's storytelling. Season 5 "Army of Revenge" focused on the villains of the galactic underworld, and how the relentless battles lead for certain factions to rise in power.
Season 6 "The Lost Missions" was important for setting-up the events that will eventually culminate into "Star Wars 3: Revenge of the Sith". Unfortunately, it was also an incomplete season, as the show was effectively cancelled with Disney's purchase of the franchise, leaving several key episodes on the cutting room floor. Now, episode arcs from this series ranged between two or four episodes, so I can't round up the highlights with a traditional top 10 single episode countdown. With that said, if you’re a Star Wars fan of any sort, these are the individual episode arc's from “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” that I don’t think you should miss, because personally, I’d place these among some of the best of what the Star Wars saga has to offer.   


#10 The Rebels of Onderon Arc (Season 5)
4 Episodes – “A War on Two Fronts”, “Front Runners”, “Soft War” and “Tipping Points” 


In my opinion, Season five was hands down the best of this whole series, and as you’ll notice on my countdown, most of my favorite arcs came from this season. Things were strong right off the bat with this epic four part premier arc in which Anakin Skywalker’s apprentice Ahsoka Tano leads a band a Rebels to revolt against their corrupt and evil kingdom. While there is definitely a lot of “War” in this “Clone Wars” series, they’ve never looked or felt more different than in these episodes.
The best way to describe this arc is if the large scale battles and imaginative creatures of 2009’s “Avatar” became one with the look, feel and characters of “Game of Thrones”. That may sound like a radical combination, but that’s what you get with this arc ... and it’s outstanding for it. Aside from the unique medieval setting, I really love the characters in this arc. Of course we have Ahsoka present to represent our main cast, but I really like all these other one shot characters, some of which I feel could have had their own spin-offs. Actually, this arc introduced the character Saw Gerrera, who years later would be played by Forest Whitaker in the spin-off movie “Rouge One: A Star Wars Story”. I think this is a very underappreciated arc from the series, but definitely a favorite of mine, and one that I think could have passed as a standalone movie on its own.


#9 The Clone Cadet Arc (Season 1 & 3)
3 Episodes – “Clone Cadets”, “Rookies” & “ARC Troopers”)


One of the shows crowning achievements was humanizing the Clone Troopers and making them more than just cannon fodder during the battles. While this arc isn’t the most linear of the series, it was still a poignant example of how this show was going to expand the “Star Wars” saga in new, exciting and character driven ways.
This arc follows the journey of a group of clones called Domino Squad who start off as failed cadets in training. We then see their valor, as some give their lives to defend their base. It all comes to a close in one of the shows most epic battles, as the evil droid army launch a full scale attack on the troopers home planet. We have rookie clones facing impossible odds, and it highlights these soldiers as individuals that the audience can care for. Captain Rex has always been a personal favorite, and this arc puts him in the role of guide and mentor to the younger troops. Also, the episode “ARC Troopers” features the first paring of the shows two main villains General Grievous and Asajj Ventress, which was nothing short of epic.


#8 The Rain of Darth Maul (Season 5)
4 Episodes – “Revival”, “Eminence”, “Shades of Reason” and “The Lawless


Naturally, having Darth Maul as the primary focus of this arc, the writers were able to go all out with him, and his never dying quest for revenge against Obi-Wan Kenobi, the Jedi who attempted to kill him back in the movie. Maul and his brother soon spread across the galaxy like wild fire, concurring all in their path. They bring Jabba the Hut and the entire Hut clan down in ruins, they take control of the Death watch clan, assemble their own personal army, and even take over their own planet in which Darth Maul becomes a ruler. Seeing Maul perched on his throne room chair is a chilling image and always stuck with me.
His means of enacting vengeance on Kenobi are also really intense, and lead to one of the shows most tragic deaths. The action in this arc is also some of the shows best, and isn’t afraid to feature some really dark material. The violence on display is shocking for an animated program of this sort, and proves that Star Wars: The Clone Wars” wasn’t for little kids. Everything builds to a deeply thrilling showdown between Darth Maul and his former master The Emperor. Seeing these two titans clash is like the best of fan fiction come to life, and it is brutal, but highly entertaining to watch. On a side note, the final episode of this arc titled “The Lawless” is dedicated to the memory of the late voice actor Ian Abercrombie, who up to this point in the show had supplied the voice of The Emperor ... may he rest in peace.

  
#7 The Lost Padawan’s Arc (Season 3)
2 Episodes – “Padawan Lost” and “Wookiee Hunt


One of the brightest moments in Ahsoka Tano's journey came in the season three finale, in which she’s kidnapped by a group of hunters that aim to use her and several other captured young Jedi for sport. Now stranded on a foreign jungle planet, she has to utilize all her strength and growth to survive, as well as inspire her captured companions to fight against their oppressors.
You could almost describe this arc as “Predator” meets “The Hunger Games”, and it’s awesome! The battles, particularly the climax are some of my favorite action highlights from this show as a whole. More than anything, this is a great turning point in Ahsoka’s journey. It’s the moment where she really matured from the annoying and overly enthusiastic young Padawan she started as at the beginning of the series. Her relationship with her master Anakin is also developed in a small but very effective way at the end of the arc. Another small highlight is that this arc features a special guest appearance from Chewbacca, who aids our hero’s during their escape. It’s a short yet memorable and highly entertaining story arc from the series that shouldn’t be missed.           


#6 The Gathering Arc (Season 5)
4 Episodes – “The Gathering”, “A Test of Strength”, “Bound for Rescue” and “A Necessary Bond


Now here’s a surprisingly fun series of episodes that are very different from what the show usually produces, but it also feels like classic “Star Wars” at heart. Ahsoka Tano leads a small group of kids aspiring to become Jedi on a sacred rite of passage, where they face their flaws, and forge their own lightsabers.
During the mission, the group is attacked by pirates lead by Hondo, who aim to steal the Jedi’s force sensitive lightsaber crystals, but end up taking Ahsoka prisoner instead. With the other adult Jedi’s out battling General Grievous, it’s up to the kids to embark on a wild adventure across the galaxy in order to save their friend, and earn the title of Jedi. Of all “The Clone Wars” arcs, this one appealed to my inner child the most. I remember being a kid and imagining myself as a Jedi going on exciting outer-space adventures of this sort. Now having a series of episodes revolving around a group of kids may seem obviously aimed to appeal to young viewers, but it’s all handled with a very mature direction.
The young Jedi cast is surprisingly likable, all with distinct personalities, each learn valuable moral lessons, and they just make for a memorable group of characters. Of course having Ahsoka Tano present in this arc as a main character is always a plus. The pirate Hondo really shines in this arc as both one of the most charismatic and funniest villains the series has ever produced. Yet another stand out character from this arc is the robot Huyang who is brought to life by “Doctor Who” himself David Tennant, who actually won an Emmy Award for his voice work on this show. On a side note, the closing episode “A Necessary Bond” marks the final appearance of General Grievous in the series, and it’s one of his best battles. It’s consistently fun, there’s great action, the cast is terrific and “The Gathering” itself works great for building on the lore and mythos of the Jedi.


#5 Yoda’s Journey Through the Force (Season 6)
4 Episodes – “The Lost One”, “Voices”, “Destiny” and “Sacrifice


This season finale arc marks the end of “Star Wars: The Clone Wars”, and it’s a suitably poignant swan song for the series as a whole to go out on. In fact, the final episode of this arc titled “Sacrifice” is widely considered by fans as probably the absolute best of what the show has to offer. After making a frightening discovery of the origins of the Jedi’s very own clone army, Yoda goes on a spiritual journey across the stars in an effort to find answers. Instead he finds himself facing various challenges and tests from several different mystical creatures. He learns more about the force, and discovers even more hidden secrets about the universe at large.
This was a surprisingly touching series of episodes, complete with terrific character moments, genuinely deep moral values, sensational animation and it builds on the lore of Star Wars like few others before ever did. One of the many highlights is that Luke Skywalker himself Mark Hamill supplies the voice of a guest villain called Darth Bane. The biggest highlight of all comes at the end when Yoda comes face to face with The Emperor, which leads into an awesome dual. Obviously The Emperor's real identity isn’t revealed to Yoda until the movie “Star Wars 3: Revenge of the Sith”, but this was a great warm up to their theatrical showdown. Also, after the tragic passing of voice actor Ian Abercrombie, this is the arc in which Tim Curry was given full rain to take a legendary "Star Wars" villain to new heights, and subsequently, it's one of his greatest villain roles. While not my absolute favorite of what “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” has to offer, it’s still a powerful series of episodes that closes this amazing TV show on a high note.


#4 The Slaves of Zygerria Trilogy (Season 4)
3 Episodes – “Kidnapped”, “Slaves of the Republic” and “Escape from Kadavo


Now here’s a very different kind of story arc that took me by surprise, and features our hero’s in a unique situation. The entire civilian population of a city is taken captive by a ruthless clan of slave traders called the Zygerrians, who are also in direct service to the shows main villains. All four of our principle main hero’s Anakin Skywalker, Ahsoka Tano, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Captain Rex go under-cover on the Zygerrian home world in an effort to free all the slaves, but end-up becoming prisoners themselves. It’s an exciting premise that features some of the shows finest action, and it’s interesting to see Anakin Skywalker battle his personal demons in this situation.
This is also a rare case in which all four of our main hero’s are present for one arc. The Zygerrians also make for a memorable group of villains, as their both ruthless but also kind of interesting. Their evil queen for example takes a liking to Anakin Skywalker, and puts him to a test, she’ll set all his companions free if he willingly surrenders his life to her. I especially like all the little throwbacks to the original “Star Wars” trilogy, particularly the opening Jabba the Hutt sequence from “Return of the Jedi”. We even have Ahsoka put in an attractive slave dress that’s less skimpy then Princess Leia’s original gold bikini. Memorable battles, individual character highlights and a situation that breaks away from the familiar Clone Wars formula make this my personal favorite arc from season 4. 
  

#3 The Holocron Heist Trilogy (Season 2)
3 Episodes – “Holocron Heist”, “Cargo of Doom” & “Children of the Force”)


While this series was credible for bringing back many fan favorite villains like Darth Maul and Boba Fett, it was actually the show’s original villains that stuck with me the most. Like I said earlier, my favorite of the shows rouges gallery by far was the new bounty hunter Cade Bane, who personally is my second favorite villain in the entire “Star Wars” saga behind Darth Vader.
In the season two premier arc, we saw just how devastating he is as both a threat, and just a plain cool villain. Now we’ve seen past bounty hunters put up a good fight against Jedi, but Cade Bane was the first to inflict nuclear size damage to the Jedi order as a whole. He broke into the Jedi’s sacred temple, ruthlessly killed several members along the way, strategically outsmarted our hero’s, kidnapped several force sensitive children and aimed to brain wash them to become servants for the evil Emperor.
While our villain definitely shines, our main hero’s Anakin Skywalker and Ahsoka Tano are still very involved and have their own meaningful character arc’s incorporated into this one. The middle episode “Cargo of Doom” features some of my favorite action highlights of the show, including Walkers in space, and a massive brawl in a zero gravity room. The best moment of all is a confrontation involving all three of our principle characters Anakin Skywalker, Cade Bane and Ahsoka Tano. It’s here we see how one bounty hunter can have total dominance over two armed Jedi, and all while using nothing but his ruthless intellect as a weapon. It’s just a solid season premier that further develops our main characters, thrills us with creative action set pieces and more than anything shows off one of the franchises greatest villains in all his glory.    


#2 The Mortis Trilogy (Season 3)
3 Episodes – “Overlords”, “Alter of Mortis” and “Ghosts of Mortis


Before this arc, I had been passively enjoying the series, but it was this arc from season 3 that turned me into a devoted fan of “The Clone Wars”, and things haven’t been the same sense. In this arc, our three Jedi hero’s find themselves stranded on a mysterious planet that seems to have been created from the force itself. While on this strange world, they meet three mystical beings that put Anakin Skywalker through a series of challenges to determine if he’s “the chosen one”, and a series of internal struggles ensue along the way. Not only does this arc develop our characters further, it also enhances and explores the mythology of the Star Wars universe.
The setting of this strange planet is arguably the most imaginative and atmospheric setting of the saga as a whole. The three mystics also make for fascinating characters with unique capabilities that we’ve never seen before. Their abilities also lead to some fascinating action sequences that are both visual spectacles, but I also care about the individual characters, which makes these battles all the more engaging. The villain of this arc is only referred to as “the Son” and he’s one of the shows stand out foes. I especially love the internal journey our main characters go through, as Anakin struggles to find his path, and his relationship with his apprentice Ahsoka reaches new heights. There are also several little surprises along the way, including Liam Neeson reprising his role as Qui Gon Jinn. The best moment of all is a scene in which Anakin looks into the future and see’s all the devastation he’ll cause as Darth Vader. The animation and designs in this arc is stunning, I love how it explores the lore of the series, and it was the first time “The Clone Wars” broke away from the familiar and took full advantage of its expansive potential.           
  

Of course I had to draw the line somewhere, but before I reveal my #1 favorite, here are some arc's that diverse an Honorable Mention ...

The Siege of Umbara” (4 Episode arc)

Boba Fett's Revenge” (3 Episode arc) 

Obi-Wan Under Cover” (4 Episode arc) 

The Malevolence” (3 Episode arc) 

Cade Bane Free's Zero” (3 Episode arc)


#1 The Final Journey of Ahsoka Tano (Season 5)
4 Episodes – “Sabotage”, “The Jedi Who Knew Too Much”, “To Catch a Jedi” and “The Wrong Jedi


I've said it before, I'll say it one last time, Ahsoka is personally my favorite character from this series, and I think she’s earned the right to be called one of the great classic Star Wars characters. Her journey took many exciting twists, and the most impact-full moment of her character arc by far came in the Season 5 finale. Rather than go for a big action spectacle, or have our hero’s face a larger than life villain, this season finale chose to center its attention on the struggles of someone meaningful, and broke away from the shows more familiar formula. After a terrorist bombing, Ahsoka is framed for the crime, as well as a subsequent murder.
Thus, she’s forced to go on the run to prove her innocents, while being chased by the very troops and Jedi she fought beside. With no-one left to trust, Ahsoka is forced to make an alliance with none other than her arch enemy Asajj Ventress, which is an awesome paring. Obviously set-up’s like this have been done in other shows and movies, in fact there’s a scene in a sewer that’s lifted right out of “The Fugitive”, and three of the episode titles “The Jedi Who Knew Too Much”, “To Catch a Jedi” and “The Wrong Jedi” are all clearly named after the classic Alfred Hitchcock crime thrillers “The Man Who Knew Too Much”, “To Catch a Thief” and “The Wrong Man”. However, everything from the direction, to the atmosphere, to the visuals, to the mystery plot, to the riveting chasses, to the emotional connections with our characters are all dialed up to eleven in this arc. There’s a great sense of passion in this one, which is consistently felt through the voice acting, the writing and especially the musical score. Of course the action, particularly the light saber duals are among some of the series best, but the focus always goes to the characters first. This is when action is at its best because I feel for the characters, and wanted to see Ahsoka get through this situation. The whole arc just felt refreshingly different from past episodes, and wasn’t afraid to take risks. Even the twist reveal of the villain is very poignant, and a frightening hint of what’s to come. Admiral Tarkin also works very effectively as an internal threat for this arc. 
Finally, this arc closes on one of the best on screen character moments the series ever produced. Seriously, to call this ending my absolute favorite moment from the TV series is an understatement, because in my personal opinion, I think the closing scene from “The Wrong Jedi” is one of the five greatest, and most emotional highlights of the entire “Star Wars” saga. This concludes my countdown of my favorite episodes from one of my favorite animated TV shows. If you’ve never seen “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” and have no interest in sitting through all 122 episodes, I hope my countdown at least provided some good options to check out. It may not have been consistently perfect, but when this series was “good”, it really was some of the best of what “Star Wars” has ever offered. It was a show that rejuvenated my love for "Star Wars", and it's what's kept my fandom going for all the years sense.   


And the Adventure has only just begun ...     
  

2 comments:

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