I maintain that the best thing to come out of the “Star Wars” prequel trilogy was the television series, “Star Wars: The Clone Wars.” This is a show that almost succeeds in spite of itself, but even today, I’m surprised at just how much entertaining, unique content is present here.
The series is based on the feature film of the same name, but I would strongly recommend against watching the film. It feels like a single half hour episode stretched into two hours. The format of the television show, however, works very well as it tells small vignettes from the “Star Wars” universe. Old favorites like Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi dominate most of the episodes, but lots of interesting new characters are created and introduced in the process, including Ashoka Tano, who is an apprentice to Anakin Skywalker.
“The Clone Wars” also accomplishes something that I thought impossible by retroactively making the prequels slightly better, especially the third episode. As the television series is set in between the second and third prequel movie, the audience actually gets to see real characterization and sympathize with characters like Anakin. I never bought for a second that Obi-Wan and Anakin were close friends in the prequels, but the show fleshes that relationship out, making the foreshadowing of Anakin’s fall all the more compelling.
The writing of “The Clone Wars” is also a standout, as some of the stories and dialogue are fantastic. Characters like Ahsoka are constantly questioning the ways of the Jedi, fleshing out the mysterious order for the audience. Commander Cody, who is only on-screen for a few seconds in the prequels, is made into a strong leader and fighter, fiercely loyal to his soldiers to the point of disobeying orders that would send his men to the slaughter.
It’s not all flawless, however, as attempts to bring back characters like Jar Jar Binks end in predictably mediocre to bad episodes. At times, Ahsoka feels whiny or incompetent, occasionally leading entire squads of soldiers to their deaths so that she can learn some valuable lesson, leaving the audience questioning how she holds the rank of commander in the army.
Really, though, the best thing that “The Clone Wars” does is get away from the stuff that the audience is familiar with in the “Star Wars” universe. The story arcs and episodes with new worlds and characters, where the writers are given more creative freedom, are the best. My favorite episode from the series, “The Box,” pits a group of bounty hunters against each other in a lethal, changing obstacle course where the winner will be awarded the most lucrative contract in history. It’s something that we’ve never seen in “Star Wars,” and these opportunities are seized to great effect by the writers.
Nostalgia always plays a factor when you look back on your favorite shows from when you were a child, but “The Clone Wars” holds up as a great example of what great writers can do with a rich universe and creative freedom. As fans grow anxious with excitement and fear about what the new “Star Wars” movies hold, it’s worth looking back at what is arguably the best “Star Wars” related media in over a decade.
Edward Pankowski is the life editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.