There are way more than ten reasons to binge-watch Clone Wars, the computer animated Star Wars serial that fills in the gap between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, and there are way more days to watch it than just May the 4th, but what better day than the official Day of the Force, and its follow-up, Revenge of the Fifth, to get lost in easily the most expansive, exciting, and compelling Star Wars storytelling done in the prequel universe. Plus, why settle for 9 movies when you can watch 121 episodes?! And they’re all on Netflix streaming now, so you have no excuse! But if you need reasons, here we go, in no particular order…
#1 – The Animation
Would it be a cop out to start by saying the animation on an animated series is great? Not if the animation is as good as it is in Clone Wars. While very stylized and cartoony (Obi-Wan’s beard looks like it’s carved out of wood), it’s also incredibly detailed and textured. The backgrounds have depth and movement on their own, and the “cinematography” is dynamic and exciting. It’s one of the best directed pieces of animation I think I’ve ever seen. It’s gorgeous.
#2 – The Universe
Within the series, the main characters travel throughout the galaxy and fight various battles against the separatists on or around different populated worlds. We get to see the homeworld of many species we’ve seen in passing within the films and many other species we never knew existed. But, really, look how many senate platforms there are and we shouldn’t be so surprised. The series makes the Star Wars Universe bigger than it’s ever been before by letting people see all of it.
#3 – The Episodes Are Out of Order
Not all of them, mind you, but George Lucas, the executive producer and story thinker-upper, liked to put in an episode later that takes place before something we’ve already seen. The chronology is always in play, but there are only context clues as to when what you’re watching is taking place. For example, the first episode in the chronology of the Clone Wars is actually the 16th episode of the second season. Season 1, episode 1 is actually the fifth chronologically. Confusing, isn’t it? After Season 3, however, this becomes less and less prevalent. During Seasons 4-6, only one episode is out of order and it’s hardly noticeable.
For a complete list of the preferred chronology of Clone Wars, including where the animated feature film comes in, IGN was good enough to give us a handy cheat sheet.
#4 – Mini Arcs
Probably my favorite aspect of the storytelling is that there are mini arcs within the overall arc of the war. We’ll spend usually three, sometimes four, episodes at a time around one planet or battle but with each episode shown from a different character’s point of view. This happens with episodes 2, 3, and 4 of the whole series and the Jedi and clones battling against General Grievous’ ship Malevolence. In these arcs, we get to learn what our heroes are made of, and where they came from in the case of Obi-Wan who we learn had a romance with a Mandalorian politician once upon a time. It proves that even a show that’s episodic can tell deeper and more complex stories.
#5 – The Clones
This show goes out of its way to make the clones individual characters as much as possible. More than just mindless, factory-made soldiers, the clones exhibit different personalities and skills and really become important members of the cast. Chief among these clones is Captain Rex, who sported distinctive blue markings on his uniform, twin blaster pistols, and more guts than any 3 clones. He’s a badass. So confident were the creators that the clones could be interesting characters, there are whole episodes where the clones are the only heroes, defending an outpost or infiltrating an enemy stronghold. And they’re all voiced by the brilliant Dee Bradley Baker who manages to make every one of them the same but different.
#6 – Cad Bane
Bounty hunters are all over the series, but none are as awesome or as ruthless as the Duros gunslinger Cad Bane. Visually based on Lee Van Cleef from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, Bane is the galaxy’s top bounty hunter and have put Jedi like Kenobi and Skywalker on their heels more than once. Since Jango Fett was killed off in the film, and Boba Fett is just a boy, the series needed an amoral and dangerous mercenary figure to kick things up a notch.
#7 – The Stories Aren’t Just for Kids
Even though this is a series for children, ostensibly, it doesn’t shy away from tougher storylines and more grown-up content. Though it may have been a detriment to the films, the fact that there are large chunks of the series dealing with the political power struggle between the different factions of the people in power adds a layer of realism to the proceedings. Not everybody wants war, on either side. Sure Count Dooku and General Grievous are pure evil, but there are plenty of Separatists who aren’t and just have a differing ethos. The series deals with that as well as the toll the war has on the galaxy in terms of needing loans from the Banking Guild or even the Trade Federation to continue making the clones. It’ll probably go over the heads of the 12 year olds watching, but adults can recognize the allegory.
#8 – The Return of Darth Maul
Darth Maul came and went in The Phantom Menace very quickly, which is a real shame, given how iconic and frightening the character was. They found a way for him to come back in Clone Wars that isn’t dumb at all. At a certain point, Maul’s homeworld is seen with Dooku attempting to recruit another horn-headed warrior to be his apprentice, eventually settling on Savage Opress, who, it turns out, was the brother of the bisected Sith. Not quite dead, Maul is restored to a form of life using a mix of mysticism and science, and he eventually teams up with Opress to wreak utter havoc on the universe, and to give Obi-Wan a focal point for his repressed anger and desire to avenge his fallen master. It’s some heeeeeeeeeavy stuff.
#9 – Anakin and Ahsoka
The series does the genius thing of giving Anakin Skywalker a padawan for the purposes of Clone Wars in the form of plucky teenage Togruta girl Ahsoka Tano. In the films, we only see Anakin’s downfall, but in the series we get to see him as a capable leader, a valiant if reckless warrior, and even a mentor. We see that he’s not perfect by any means, but tries to impart real-world knowledge to the brave-to-a-fault Ahsoka who is maybe the most earnest Jedi in the order. Their relationship is that of a big brother and a little sister and it’s not smooth by any means, but it gives Anakin someone to look after besides himself in battle, someone to teach while getting it wrong himself, and it humanizes him a lot more. And in Ahsoka we get a really great female character who can do all the action stuff while Padme is doing all the dignitary stuff. Ahsoka is almost always the voice of justice and keeps Anakin from going too far… most of the time. They make a good team and they work well on their own. Anakin! Can you believe it?
#10 – Because It’s 44 More Hours of Star Wars, duh!
Why wouldn’t you want to binge-watch this?! Every episode is a chance to be in the universe we all love with characters and scenarios we always love to watch. You have to wait a whole 18 months for Episode VII to come out and at least a few more months until Star Wars: Rebels comes out, so you’ve got plenty of time to catch up on five-and-a-half seasons of clones and Jedi versus robots and pirates. It’s a great series with honestly only a handful of duff episodes, and even those are entertaining.
And those are just ten reasons; there are a great deal more, like how characters from the original trilogy start popping up, or how there’s three whole episodes that take place in a weird Tolkien-inspired Force Realm, or how the other Jedi masters get to shine, or or or… Everything! So, what are you doing? Go watch Clone Wars and see what you’ve been missing, or if you’ve already watched it, watch it again. It’s heavily rewarding. Try not…DO or do not. But do.