Carrie Finally Watches The Clone Wars – Part 1

January 13, 2021

Guess what Star Wars fan decided to finally binge-watch The Clone Wars the same month there’s an actual armed insurrection and ongoing coup against her country’s government, incited by the lame-duck president? If you guessed “This one!” you’re right!

I’ve been going through a lot of boxed wine, y’all.

Anyway, here we are. Long post ahead.

Why I Didn’t Watch The Clone Wars Before This

  • I tried, when it first aired. Made it I think two or three episodes? But it was all droids and clones blowing each other up, and it was really boring. Basically, the worst bits of the prequel trilogy on repeat. (I have since learned that the first couple of seasons’ episodes are not in chronological order. This was likely a contributing factor.)
  • I really dislike that animation style. It lacks nuance and expression. It’s kind of ugly. (Now that I’m halfway through, I don’t hate it. I don’t know if the animation has smoothed out over the seasons or if I’m just getting used to it.)
  • Even fans of the show are qualified in their praise. I’ve been told to skip the first season. Or the first and second season. Or, like, everything until season four, which puts us 2/3 of the way through the series and… no one has ever told me I must watch The Clone Wars. Not like they told me I must watch Rebels.
  • I remember and loved the Genndy Tartakovsky Clone Wars series. It was beautiful and intense and why does no one talk about this anymore? Anyway, part of not watching the new series is pure petulance that the previous one seems to have been largely forgotten.

How I’m Watching 

I’m giving myself permission to skip as much as I want. I’m not using any of the online lists of best episodes or most necessary episodes. I just…skip. If there’s a bunch of people standing around talking about trade blockades, I skip. If there’s a big droid battle, I skip. Basically, if it resembles the most boring bits of the prequel trilogy, I skip. If Anakin and Padme are being particularly toxic, I skip. (After the mutual respect and support and pure joy that is Kanan and Hera’s relationship, Anakin and Padme are tough to watch.) Jar Jar Binks appears? Oh yes, I skip.

It’s nice. If you judge me on this or tell me I’m missing some kind of nuance by not watching every single minute, I will ignore you.

My Thoughts So Far

The last years of the Old Republic are a nihilistic and dystopian hellscape, the Jedi Order is moribund and useless, and deep down the show knows this but doesn’t quite know what to do with that knowledge and so trundles on as if the Jedi are heroes who can actually make a difference when we all know they can’t and that most of these characters are destined to die horribly, and soon. Darth Sidious/Palpatine is manipulating everything. We know this. Which means that nothing anyone does is ultimately going to make any difference. It’s an existential nightmare.

But it thinks it’s a Star Wars heroic adventure and that’s… odd.  There’s a point where Obi Wan and the rest just can’t seem to figure anything out. Like, they’re just dumb. They simply aren’t allowed to solve what’s really happening. It’s so frustrating.

This is Greek tragedy. I felt this during the prequel trilogy – it’s Greek tragedy full of hubris and blindness. But it keeps acting like a Star Wars heroic adventure story. I think this cognitive dissonance does find its way into the show in various ways, but that only serves to highlight that this cognitive dissonance exists.

And this is why Ahsoka and Rex and the Clones are the best characters, and so very necessary. I’m happily following them to the point of skipping everything else, because they’re the only characters who are questioning anything. They’re the only characters whose arcs aren’t pre-ordained by what happens in the movies. The clones, who are giving themselves names and differentiating tattoos, and experimenting with independence and questioning their own motivation and existence. Ahsoka, who loves the Jedi, loves Anakin, loves fighting for justice, and you can just see how that’s all going to come crashing down around her, even as early as season 3. (Meeting Ahsoka in The Mandalorian, after she has matured and survived and learned a ton and has scars, was inspired. That episode is the main reason I finally decided to give The Clone Wars a shot. I want to see where she came from.)

More Thoughts

  • It’s really dark. So much torture. Lots of graphic on-screen deaths. Way more than in the live-action films. Remember in Empire, the torture of Han happens off-screen, except for the screaming, which somehow made it worse, right?  Well, Clone Wars just shows it. Frequently. It’s really disturbing. See discussion of dystopian hellscape above.
  • The Republic, which is anti-slavery, also utilizes an army of manufactured sentient beings with no freedom. The Jedi Order uses child soldiers. (The Padawans, early Ahsoka and Caleb Dume let’s say, are what? 15, 16 tops?)
  • It’s so weird when these villains pop up, terrorists and agitators aligned with the Separatists, and every time they get cornered they have a rant about how the Jedi and Republic and out of touch and corrupt and unable to stop the conflict and…they’re not wrong? They’re actually kind of sort of right? But they’re the bad guys?
  • I hate Obi Wan Kenobi. I really do, and the thing that clinched it is the way he’s always grabbing Duchess Satine’s arm and pulling her back and telling her she’s wrong. No, just no, he’s a jerk, he’s terrible. Let her alone. I’m starting to think that man died still believing he was right and not realizing what an absolute hash the Jedi Order made of everything there at the end. Also, there’s an episode where he basically saddles Ahsoka with the responsibility of keeping Anakin in check, and I’m shouting at the TV, no, you don’t do that to a young person lower in the chain of command. That’s terrible leadership. Obi Wan is an abusive menace.
  • Super weird watching it after Rebels instead of before. I can see now there’s all kinds of things that would have been big reveals and shocks had I seen Clone Wars first:  the appearance of Rex, Hondo, the Syndulla family, etc. I guess I’m getting those big reveals in reverse. Speaking of which, creepy evil Hondo of Clone Wars is a little disconcerting after bumbling comic relief Hondo of Rebels.
  • The most interesting thing of all:  There are ways in which Rebels is purposefully deconstructing all the squicky disturbing stuff about Clone Wars. Like, Ezra Bridger insisting that the Geonoshan, who has a name, be treated as a person deserving of respect and not cannon fodder. The episode where the gang encounters an enclave of battle droids who don’t know the war is over, and the droids get to be actual characters coming to grips with what has happened to them. In The Clone Wars, everyone is trapped in this existential nightmare. In Rebels, the characters achieve agency on their journeys. Rebels asks you to question everything that came before and find your own path.
  • That Hutt mummy. There’s a Hutt mummy. The Hutt mummify their dead. WTF. It’s in the episode where Sly Snootles is conducting a torrid affair with a Hutt who talks like Truman Capote and WTF is even happening.

I was telling a friend about the increasing levels of WTF in this show. She said I ain’t seen nothing yet.

I’m scared, y’all.

 

4 Responses to “Carrie Finally Watches The Clone Wars – Part 1”

  1. Wynn Says:

    I have that problem with all of the SW animation. Should I try to get past it? Rebels squicks my uncanny valley the whole time, but maybe I could get used to it?

  2. carriev Says:

    Yeah, I had a rough time with Rebels, too, at the start. I really encourage you to give Rebels a try — it’s much easier to get into, with a smaller cast of characters and much more focused stories, that’s more akin to the Star Wars adventure template (small, rag-tag band against the big bad).

    I’ve been through the whole series almost 3 times now and I love it more each time.

  3. Jared Moloshok Says:

    There’s definitely a subtle stylistic shift that occurs starting in Season 3. It’s not really apparent until the Mortis arc, when Anakin and Obi-Wan’s outfits start resembling the ones they wore in Episode III.

    I kind of prefer Clone Wars Hondo to Rebels Hondo. He vacillates more easily from thug (the Seven Samurai-inspired episode) to lovable rogue and back, which keeps him much more interesting. Plus I feel like Jim Cummings hams it up a lot more. 😛

    Am really, really looking forward to your thoughts on the Umbara arc — one of Rex’s best stories, as well as one of the best arcs in the show.

  4. carriev Says:

    The Mortis arc is exactly where I noticed the shift in style. It’s also a really different tone than previous, so I wondered if that might be it. I really liked that arc.

    And I’ve now seen the Umbara arc, and yes, it’s pretty amazing, if really difficult. It’s got a Vietnam story vibe that makes it rough to watch.


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