The TDF Top 10: Star Wars - The Clone Wars
We continue our regular TDF Top 10, with a look at the best episodes of animated Star Wars TV series The Clone Wars.
One of the biggest surprises of the recent Star Wars revival under the Disney banner was the announcement that animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars was getting a surprise seventh season to the story up. Set between prequel movies Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, The Clone Wars massively expanded the conflict and the wider Star Wars universe. With epic battles and the introduction of iconic characters like Ashoka, The Clone Wars has some of the best content in the entire Star Wars universe.
It needs to be said that choosing ten of the “best” episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars is not an easy task, given that so many of them are really good. As I sifted through 133 episodes, I did my best to think about the ones that stood out from the crowd and resonated the most with their message and visuals. The resulting list, culled from all seven seasons, contains what I believe to be the ten best episodes the series has to offer.
Allow us to present The TDF Top 10: Star Wars - The Clone Wars...
10. Lair of Grievous (1.10)
Coming in at number ten on this list is Lair of Grievous, an underrated episode from the first season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars that deserves to be remembered because it gives a rare look at what General Grievous looked like before he became a cyborg. Were it not for this episode, you might be inclined to believe that Grievous was always a cybernetic organism, but here we see otherwise.
As the Jedi unwittingly explore the lair of General Grievous, they see a series of statues showing how Grievous evolved from a cunning alien warrior to the formidable cyborg we first met in Revenge of the Sith in 2005. For giving a glimpse of the evolution of General Grievous, this episode just made it into the top 10.
9. Hunt for Ziro (3.09)
Hunt for Ziro is another underrated episode, this time from season three. It is most notable because it features the onscreen debut of Jedi Master Quinlan Vos, one of the most popular characters to ever appear in the old Expanded Universe, the larger Star Wars universe that existed before Disney bought Star Wars and renamed it to Legends.
The debut of Vox comes as Obi-wan is working to track down bounty hunter Cad Bane and Ziro the Hutt, Jabba’s uncle. Vos’ unorthodox style steals about every scene he’s in, and it really makes you wish Vos had appeared in more episodes throughout the series’ run. To be fair, Quinlan Vos was going to get his own story arc, but the series was cancelled before it was finished.
8. Sacrifice (6.13)
Sacrifice is notable, not just for being an ending to the series (years before season seven was announced), but for what it contains as well. This episode contains the first canon screen appearance of the Sith homeworld, which was originally introduced as Korriban in the 1994 comic book Tales of the Jedi: Dark Lords of the Sith 2: The Quest for the Sith. Also, and perhaps more importantly, the episode also contains the first ever screen appearance of Darth Bane in canon. Bane was a legendary Sith Lord who initially established the Rule of Two over a thousand years before the time of the prequel trilogy. Not only is Darth Bane present, he's also voiced by Mark Hamill (aka Luke Skywalker himself).
Another notable thing about Sacrifice is that it resolves an issue that has run throughout the arc; the problem of Yoda learning all about the danger the Jedi are in before the events of Revenge of the Sith. The episode resolves this by having Yoda openly speculate (correctly) that the Clone Wars have in all likelihood already doomed the Jedi. However, even knowing that, Yoda retains hope because he will now be trained to be a Force ghost, leaving a shred of hope that the Jedi will ultimately survive in the end.
7. Carnage of Krell (4.10)
It was never a question of if Carnage of Krell would sit on this list, but where it would fall. Carnage of Krell is the concluding episode in the Umbara arc and is well-known for providing a nasty shock for anyone who may have thought the Jedi were all good and noble beings (with the exceptions of Dooku and Vader). In Carnage of Krell, the tensions between the clone troopers and Jedi Master Pong Krell come to a head when it's revealed that Krell has been actively sabotaging the campaign on Umbara in the hopes of attracting the attention of the mysterious Dark Lord of the Sith so he can become his apprentice.
It's a shocking revelation, that a Jedi could fall so low (and quite some time before Anakin suffers his own fall), and it reveals that the Jedi Order isn't as healthy as they would like people to believe. Krell, already revealed to be an imposing warrior, becomes downright terrifying once his true colors are revealed.
6. The Citadel (3.18)
Another season three episode, The Citadel introduces an original trilogy character that might surprise you: the future-Grand Moff Tarkin, introduced here as a captain in the Grand Army of the Republic. Tarkin's introduction is only a small part of this story, which sees the Jedi and clone troopers infiltrating a near-impenetrable fortress to rescue a captured Jedi Master.
Nevertheless, while his part is relatively small, the idea that Tarkin was present during the Clone Wars and knew Anakin Skywalker is a huge revelation, and it cements the idea that Tarkin and Vader have in fact known each other for many years, as is hinted in A New Hope. Canonically, this is the earliest we see Tarkin on screen, and it's interesting to see how similar the captain already is to the brutal Grand Moff he will become.
5. Ghosts of Mortis (3.17)
I would have included the entire Mortis arc in this list; but the best episode has to be Ghosts of Mortis, the concluding episode in the arc. This episode concluded a somewhat convoluted story where Anakin, Obi-wan and Ahsoka find themselves stranded on Mortis, a place that appears to exist outside of time, with the Son, Daughter, and the Father, embodying the Dark Side, Light Side, and Balance of the Force respectively.
While a number of important things happen on Mortis, the biggest is when Anakin is briefly shown his future as Darth Vader. While this revelation his wiped from his mind soon after, Anakin’s reaction to his fate speaks volumes about his true character. He is horrified at the idea that he will become this monstrous killer and proves, deep down, that Anakin was, and remained, a good person, even after everything that happened to him post-Revenge of the Sith.
4. Brothers (4.21)
Brothers is an episode that deserves to be recognized in any top 10 list for Star Wars: The Clone Wars because it achieved what many (myself included) believed to be impossible: it reintroduced Darth Maul to the Star Wars canon after his 'death' on Naboo at the end of The Phantom Menace. It seemed hard to believe that Maul could be brought back into the story in any believable way, but Dave Filoni and the rest of the crew involved pulled it off.
What makes all of this work, when Savage Opress finds Maul, is that it’s clear that the former Sith apprentice is not the same person we saw in Episode I. Maul has suffered both mentally and physically, which really makes him all the more dangerous once his sanity is restored and he receives a new pair of legs. This is the episode that introduces Maul’s obsession with killing Obi-wan for what he did to him, an obsession he’ll maintain for the rest of his life.
3. The Lawless (5.16)
Some of the best work in Star Wars: The Clone Wars was done with Darth Maul, and that is in large part why I rank The Lawless as the third best episode in the series. There is so much going on in this episode. Maul attempts to keep control of Mandalore, Obi-wan admits his feelings for Duchess Satine in a heart-breaking moment, and an epic lightsaber duel between Maul, Savage Opress, and Darth Sidious that was not surpassed until season seven.
This is also a significant episode because it's a rare example of Darth Sidious engaging in a lightsaber duel, as this is something the character prefers to avoid whenever possible. The ferocity of this fight makes it perfectly clear that Sidious is the ultimate villain of the Star Wars universe (in that no one can ever surpass his prowess in the Dark Side of the Force).
2. Shattered (7.11)
While the entire Siege of Mandalore arc deserves recognition as an amazing accomplishment, Shattered, the penultimate episode of season seven (and the series overall), stands out. This episode serves as an amazing companion piece to Revenge of the Sith, tying into the film at a pivotal moment before letting Order 66 play out from Ahsoka’s point of view.
It’s absolutely heart wrenching to watch Ahsoka try to work out what’s going on while trying to stay alive. Equally hard to watch is Captain Rex as Order 66 takes hold of his actions. This was absolutely the best way to have the events of Revenge of the Sith play out, and it ensures Shattered is one of the greatest The Clone Wars episodes ever made.
1. The Phantom Apprentice (7.10)
I spent a long time thinking about which episode deserved to be called “the best” in the entire series but in hindsight it wasn’t that hard of a decision. From the moment I saw The Phantom Apprentice, I knew that this was by far the greatest episode ever made for the series. Set entirely on Mandalore, with the execution of Order 66 imminent, the episode climaxes with a battle between Maul and Ahsoka, two former apprentices to the Sith and Jedi respectively.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars has its fair share of awesome lightsaber duels, but the one between Maul and Ahsoka is next-level, not least because they brought in Ray Park (the original Darth Maul) to perform the entire duel in motion-capture, lending a vivacity to the entire fight that just didn’t exist before. Of the entire Siege of Mandalore arc, this is the episode that feels the most "cinematic", like something that came straight out of the saga films, and for that reason, among many others, I choose The Phantom Apprentice as the best episode in Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
And that's my Top 10 for Star Wars: The Clone Wars. It was hard to choose at times, but I have no doubt that all ten of these episodes deserve to be remembered. Let us know your favourites in the comments below...