Subtitle: Cute but doomed is my aesthetic.
Episode 1.1 establishes the scope of the series and introduces the concept of individualized clones. These three episodes tell the first new story of our heroes.
There is a period of adjustment in most television series as they try to determine what kind of show they want to be and who their audience is. Clone Wars expands on an established universe, full of established stories, in a very specific time period. It has to walk a tightrope between telling interesting new stories and remaining true to continuity (at least as much as the prequels do to the original trilogy).
It also wants to reach both kids who may have never visited the galaxy far, far away before and long time fans. Personally I am hugely invested in Anakin Skywalker and his relationships to Obi-Wan, Padmé, and Ahsoka through whom we see Anakin as a parental figure (FEELS). I also have a list of people I want to see more of – Bail Organa, bb Boba Fett, Mace Windu, Aayla Secura, Aurra Sing. But when the series started my younger daughter was 3 and just wanted to see Artooey (R2D2 remains her favourite character to this day).
No series can satisfy all the thousands of individual desires out there, but every series starts out trying until it eventually finds its balance. I’m willing to ignore some of the clunkiness evident in these early episodes because I know it’s growing pains. And the finale of this early arc, 1.4 “Destroy Malevolence”, is full of beats that seem to be created specifically for me.
My favorite thing about The Clone Wars is that everyone in it is both adorable and doomed. Adorable because it is a cartoon aimed at the 9-14 set, doomed because by the end of Revenge of the Sith every single character is either evil, dead, or in hiding. Tragedy hangs over everything that happens, a looming Dark malevolence set to destroy them all. I have a heightened awareness of their future that never really goes away (I’ve mentioned before I watched Episode III through tears the first time). Here’s Anakin (in the middle episode 1.3 “Shadow of Malevolence”) giving a tactical briefing to his fighter pilots, exactly as his daughter will do twenty-some years on, and then again another thirty-something years after that. It’s beautiful and it’s heartbreaking.
Here are some episode specific observations.
Episode 1.2 Rising Malevolence
Ahsoka is a lot more like Anakin than Anakin is like Obi-Wan. Anakin pulls out his best Obi-Wan impression when she interrupts the strategy meeting to argue for going after potential survivors, and it continues when he tells her “the way you break rules matters” – so reminiscent of Obi-Wan’s “certain point of view” shenanigans. But it comes off as Anakin play-acting Obi-Wan, or just Generic Jedi Master, more than Anakin speaking from the heart.
Friendly reminder that Palpatine forced (Forced?) himself into Anakin’s life as a mentor/father figure. These two scenes play out so similarly, I’d be surprised it was not intentional.
Also, just by the by, I expect to mention that the Jedi are so stupid about Palapatine at least 400 times by the end of this (there are 121 episodes).
I love that Ahsoka opens up about Plo Koon to Anakin, and that he sensed enough to ask her about it. Plo Koon is kind of Ahsoka’s Qui-Gon and it’s cool that Anakin gets to help save him (unlike what happened with Qui-Gon).
And I love that Ahsoka uses the Force to find Plo Koon. As awesome as Plo Koon is to be fighting off the bad guys in space, it’s in these quiet moments of communication and connection through the Force that I really appreciate the mythology.
Episode 1.3 Shadow of Malevolence
Again, it’s just so wonderful to see General Skywalker in action, in a leadership role. After giving a Leia-like briefing Anakin jumps into his fighter like Luke. Throughout the struggle he’s shown to be brilliant, daring, cocky, arrogant, ultimately victorious – the hero of the Clone Wars the audience was promised in the very first film.
This episode gives an indication of just how well matched Anakin and Ahsoka actually are. Anakin spends a lot of his time trying to prove his greatness. To the Jedi, to the people he leads and the people he loves, to himself. He cares about the clones who die in their run, he feels responsible, but their loss makes him push himself harder and he forgets he’s not leading a squadron of Anakins. Ahsoka is able to get through to him because she understands that side of him. She pushes him to be a good leader, not just the best pilot.
When I start caring about the bad guys I will talk about them. But this is a great screencap.
Episode 1.4 Destroy Malevolence
AKA my OT3 is better than yours.
Of course Padmé’s first appearance on the show is as damsel-bait manipulated into distress by Palpatine. Of course it is.
Anakin has Zero Chill when it comes to Padmé. To her credit, despite flying head first into a trap and still not wondering how it is that the Chancellor gave her bad intel (everyone is so stupid about Palaptine), Padmé immediately tells Anakin et al. to continue their mission and whatever they do don’t come to rescue her. And then she signs off and preemptively rescues herself by blowing up her cruiser and escaping into the ship with her droid. But of course Anakin completely ignores her request and immediately halts the attack and then runs off to his ship to mount a rescue.
And Obi-Wan runs off after him, not to stop him but to join him. When it becomes clear that Anakin’s plan amounts to “go get Padmé” he just drops into the copilot seat. Because that’s what they do. When one of the three is in danger the other two go flying into the storm and worry about plans later. Anakin and Obi-Wan banter right up to the point where they find Padmé and then Anakin and Padmé start bantering. This is all hilarious and adorable and the rest of my notes are basically heart eyes at my OT3.
I’m not crying about Anakin reaching out his hand to use the Force to catch Padmé instead of choke her you are.
Thank the Maker for literal tunnels of love.
My one main sad about this episode is that Ahsoka gets sidelined back at base (the way Obi-Wan was in the first two). I want all my faves to rescue and banter together please.
Obi-Wan v Grievous is an homage to the battle they will have in Revenge of the Sith from the first “Hello there” on. Which is cool but also weird. I wonder how this show is going to pull off Anakin and Grievous never coming face to face? Honestly I’m surprised GG is such a big part of it already, especially as they did introduce Ventress and I feel like they fill the same role as saber-wielding apprentices of Dooku.
Everybody ends up back on the Jedi ship and commences three way banter. And Padmé gets to use the gun, just like Luke in A New Hope which is way cooler than cleaning up droids like she did in the scene before, though that was necessary (and also something Luke does). Anakin rewired the ship’s hyperdrive to explode because the series remembers that he is a mechanical genius.
If Ahsoka was in this picture/ship everything would be perfect.