The Star Wars prequels explored a conflict mentioned by Obi-Wan Kenobi in A New Hope: the Clone Wars. They began at the end of Episode II and continued through Order 66 in Episode III. That means we only saw a small portion of the wars in Revenge of the Sith. But Star Wars: The Clone Wars changed that. Set in the three years between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, the animated series introduced new characters, explored more of Anakin and Obi-Wan's friendship, gave Anakin more depth so you could see his heroic side, showed more details of Palpatine's manipulations, and so much more. With 121 episodes, it can be intimidating to face. If you don't have the wherewithal to take them all on, try these essential episodes:
The Clone Wars film
The animated series kicked off with a feature film, Star Wars: The Clone Wars. While it's clunky because it's a few episodes strung together in film format, it's worth watching to see the introduction of Ahsoka Tano and to familiarize yourself with the style of the series and the timeline—the movie and series are set between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith.
The Zillo Beast
For a Godzilla-esque story that takes place in the Star Wars galaxy, watch the season two episodes "The Zillo Beast" and "The Zillo Beast Strikes Back." The two-parter will simultaneously scare you and move you. Besides the cool factor of the Zillo Beast, the episode shows the extremes the Republic is going to in the war and the way in which Palpatine is pulling everyone's strings.
"Landing at Point Rain"
The clone troopers bred to fight in the Republic's army are a key part of The Clone Wars. I know, you'd never guess that from the name of the show. The series excels at showing their individuality, their struggles, and how they're viewed by Jedi, Separatists, and other key players. Season two's "Landing at Point Rain" accompanies the clones plus Jedi in an assault on a Geonosis droid factory and it is all about fast-paced, nonstop action.
Season three's "ARC Troopers" puts the clones on home turf. They're tasked with defending Kamino, and they're determined to protect where they were created. This installment conveys the sense of brotherhood and family between the clones.
The Nightsisters Trilogy
Jumping to the middle of season three is one of the best arcs of the series: the Nightsisters trilogy. Comprised of "Nightsisters," "Monster," and "Witches of the Mist," the story goes into the backstory of Asajj Ventress. It marks a turning point for the character, brings in layers of magic and mysticism in relation to the Force, and introduces Savage Opress, the brother of one Darth Maul. It's a trippy, haunting, and smart arc.
The Mortis Trilogy
Following that entry, dive into the Mortis trilogy. The season three arc includes "Overlords," "Altar of Mortis," and "Ghosts of Mortis." No other Star Wars story in any format has delved into the mysteries of the Force as much as this group of episodes. Anakin, Obi-Wan, and Ahsoka are stranded on Mortis, which is essentially a location that is a vergence in the Force. The plot ties into the Chosen One prophecy, whether Anakin is the Chosen One, and the idea of balance in the Force and will keep you thinking for days.
The Umbara Arc
Let's get back to some clones. Season four takes us to the planet Umbara in a four-part arc with "Darkness on Umbara," "The General," "Plan of Dissent," and "Carnage of Krell." For the first time in The Clone Wars, we meet a Jedi who doesn't care about clones and sees them as canon fodder. General/Jedi Pong Krell treats the troopers as though they're battle droids as they fight an intense battle to take Umbara, and the plot gets intriguing and dark.
The Return of Darth Maul
I mentioned Darth Maul's brother earlier. He leads the story to Darth Maul. The Sith threat from The Phantom Menace comes back in the season four episodes "Brothers" and "Revenge." Maul can think of nothing except exacting revenge upon Obi-Wan. Insert threatening music here.
Darth Maul's Revenge
Maul holds onto those vengeful feelings and plots against Obi-Wan. He makes a strong move in a season five three parter. The trilogy includes "Eminence," "Shades of Reason," and "The Lawless." I don't want to give too much away, but Maul gets grand ideas and allies himself with a Mandalorian terrorist group. It gets ugly and oh so emotional.
Keep riding the emotion train because season five wraps with a four-part story that leads to Ahsoka leaving the Jedi Order. I don't consider this a spoiler anymore because of her recent appearances in Star Wars Rebels. "Sabotage," "The Jedi Who Knew Too Much," "To Catch a Jedi," and "The Wrong Jedi" detail what happens to Ahsoka to push her to make the decision to say goodbye to the Jedi life. The arc raises some interesting questions about whether the Jedi are really doing the right thing by participating in The Clone Wars.
Order 66 Secrets
The Clone Wars was cancelled after season five, but a shorter sixth season came to Netflix (The Lost Missions), and a twisting, gut-wrenching story kicked things off. "The Unknown," "Conspiracy," "Fugitive," and "Orders" show just how Palpatine made Order 66 work and how close his evil plan came to being busted. It's heartbreaking to see what the clones learn and what they go through, especially knowing Order 66 happens anyway. I'd call this arc, "Everything You Wanted to Know About Order 66 But Were Afraid to Ask."
We know Qui-Gon Jinn was the first Jedi to learn how to become one with the Force after death. But how did he come upon that knowledge? How did Yoda learn it from him? Go to the sixth season and watch "Voices," "Destiny," and "Sacrifice" to find out. It's fascinating to watch Yoda bend the rules to travel to the heart of the galaxy and learn more about the living Force. It's a close second to the Mortis trilogy for leveling up your Force knowledge.
Narrowing down the choices wasn't easy. Which episodes would you add to the list? Tell me your picks in the comments or come chat with me on Twitter. Then run to Netflix and do some quality bingeing before March 7.
Images: Lucasfilm, Tumblr/We Know Memes