Well, I made it! It’s been a long slog over the past few years, as I’ve made my way through all of the Clone Wars animated TV series, but I’ve finally made it through all five-and-a-half series!
The Lost Missions is a thirteen-episode miniseries that brings us four story arcs, the final remaining episodes that were finished when the decision had been made to cancel the show in 2013. The episodes were polished off for airing on German network Super RTL the following year, and made their way to Netflix soon after. Writers had made significant inroads into a seventh season before the show was cancelled, and while these episodes are the last that were properly finished, there is the Legacy project that comprises some animated storyboards, comics and novels that I’ll cover as part of a separate blog. Of course, there has also been the announcement that the show is coming back to Disney+ early next year – but I’ll get to that in another blog!
We begin with a clone storyline, which involves an exploration of the Order 66 command. One of the clones shoots his Jedi general, saying that he is “following orders”, and so is taken back to Kamino for investigation. It is suggested that the Separatists have finally been able to create a virus that affects the clones, but upon examination a “chip” is found in the brain. Shaak Ti, who is the Jedi permanently stationed on Kamino to guard against Separatist attack (nice callback to some Legends stories, there) doesn’t believe the “chip” is anything other than a behavioural inhibitor, but travels back to Coruscant for the Jedi to examine it further. The Chancellor steps in, and Palpatine manages to dispose of the evidence by feigning an assassination attempt by the clone trooper in question.
Urgh. First of all, I hated the way they kept referring to it as a chip. I mean, I get why they did, but still – the idea of Order 66 was always supposed to have been part of the flash-learning process that all clones are subjected to, and not a “chip” that can be implanted or extracted at will. It does allow for the writers to “save” certain clone characters for later, of course, but it’s just so irritating to see concepts reduced like this.
Furthermore, I get that there is the idea of the Dark Side clouding the Jedi’s judgement, as Mace Windu himself expresses the notion in Revenge of the Sith, but characters in this episode arc seemed to just willfully ignore the fact that some serious allegations are being leveled by the clone troopers. Wouldn’t you at least be curious to see what was going on? Hm.
The next arc sees the return of Clovis, in episodes originally intended for season five (as seen by the fact Ian Abercrombie is still the voice of Chancellor Palpatine). Clovis is put forward to lead the Banking Clan out of its current crisis, in a three-part arc that makes little sense and just gets worse. I think it mainly suffers from the Padme-problem, whereby virtually nobody has any idea of what to do with the character outside of the films (and even then, it’s debatable). Padme supports Clovis, causing Anakin to bridle with jealousy, and the whole thing turns into a Separatist plot, with Count Dooku manipulating Clovis into his eventual death. There’s talk of interest rates going up for the Republic, and the arc ends with the Senators all chanting “long live the banks!” while Palpatine takes personal control of the InterGalactic Banking Clan, in a move that surprised me, as I thought they were firmly in the Separatist camp.
However, if you thought that three episodes about banks was drivel, just wait for the Jar Jar two-parter, which sees our intrepid Gungan on a diplomatic mission to Bardotta, at the express request of the world’s Queen. Who apparently wants to get him into bed. Erm… Basically, there is a nefarious plot to capture the people of the planet, who are all Force sensitive to some degree, to drain their Force essence. Turns out Mother Talzin is behind it, and she’s attempting to become more powerful than anybody by using these Force batteries.
The whole idea is just awful, reducing the Force to something that you can “get more of”. I don’t know if this idea dates back to Mara Jade gaining strength under Luke’s guidance during the Bantam era, as she goes from being not very good while operating with Talon Karrde, to becoming a Jedi Master using the Force with ease by the time of the Legacy of the Force novel series. But anyway, it annoys me, and the inclusion of Jar Jar is just the icing on the turd, really.
Finally, we have a four-part Yoda arc that serves almost as the season highlight, and in some ways does form a fitting conclusion to the cartoon series. Plo Koon discovers Master Sifo-Dyas’ lightsaber, prompting an investigation into the Jedi Master’s death some ten years ago. The mission that led to his death was classified by order of the Supreme Chancellor, which allows for the return of Finis Valorum to the story!
The Yoda arc is a bit troubling for me, because I so wanted to like it, but in the end it just fell so flat. We have something of an exploration of Sifo-Dyas, the Living Force, and all that business with coming back as a Force ghost. It should have been terrific, but it just felt like run-of-the-mill stuff. There is an attempt to make the Force mystical once again, and to try and retcon the midi-chlorian stuff with the spirituality stuff, but it didn’t really come over well. The series has tried to do the spiritual stuff before, most noticeably with the Mortis trilogy, but even then, what sounds decent enough on paper end up being just weird and silly, and quite frustrating for fans of Star Wars in general.
Good retcons will take account of everything, and work it into a fairly neat parcel. Here, we have several instances where important stuff is just ignored or omitted, most annoyingly calling the Sith homeworld Moraband, as opposed to the traditional Korriban. Apparently, this change was done at the behest of George Lucas, who preferred the name. Hm. There isn’t a great deal of lore on Sifo-Dyas, considering the importance of that plot element during Attack of the Clones, but I suppose that is a subject for another blog. However, it had been established that Dooku was a close friend, and was tasked with his murder by Sidious in order to cement his commitment to the Sith cause. That is now thrown out of the window, as we instead get this jumble of hearsay about the Jedi Master’s eventual fate.
Yoda visits Dagobah and communes with the spirit of Qui-Gon Jinn, who instructs him to visit the Force Priestesses at the Wellspring of Life. There, he undergoes a series of challenges (including his visit to the Sith home planet) before they notify him that he will train with Qui-Gon to learn how to retain his consciousness after death.
It’s a four-episode arc that I really wanted to like, but ultimately it really didn’t shed a great deal of light on anything. Sure, there is a case that can be made where the Force should be kept as a great mystery, but if you’re going to spend this long on a story, it would be nice if it went somewhere, you know? The arc ends with the Council asking Yoda for details of his travels, but he is unwilling to share the scope of his knowledge. Hm.
One of the major issues, for me, with the Clone Wars as a series has been the over-exposure of Anakin and Obi-Wan, something that I’ve talked to death before now, but I want to touch on again now that I’m summing-up the whole thing. In more than a hundred episodes, which span maybe 60 distinct storylines, we see Anakin and Obi-Wan show up in probably 80-90 of those episodes. The problem with this, for me, is that the conflict spans around three years, in-universe, and crosses the entire galaxy in its breadth. How the hell are these two supposed to have been able to accomplish this? There are thousands of Jedi, and the TV series had a real opportunity to develop several new ones who could have become series regulars, but that was neglected in favour of episode after episode that shows the derring-do of Anakin, his erstwhile master, or his annoying padawan. Sure, that’s probably what people want – the show is aimed at the younger audience, after all, who will likely want to see their favourite on-screen Jedi. But this just leads to such ridiculous feats of continuity that irritate me far more than perhaps they should!
I’ve talked plenty about Ahsoka and how much I hate her as a character, so I’ll leave that for now.
The annoying thing in all of this is that, for me, the series does have a lot of interest, and there are moments where I feel the show could have come across so much better, had it not been pitched at the younger end of the market. A great example of this, I think, is the relationship between Obi-Wan and Asajj Ventress, which we see as something dark and twisted in the first season, but is then left unexplored – indeed, the character seems to have been forgotten about for a long time. It’s a shame, because it could have become something so much more interesting. Other storylines, such as Darth Maul’s formation of the Shadow Collective was handled fairly well, and we see some pretty decent lore being developed for it overall. The Pyke Syndicate is definitely one of the best things to come out of late seasons – in fact, in The Lost Missions, when we see the spice den during the Yoda arc, it’s surprising at how adult the material comes across. The Pykes were later used in Solo, as the cartel in charge of the spice mines of Kessel.
But for all of the points that could be enumerated for the series, there are just so many more that really pull it down. So much exists that is flashy and there for show, it just infuriates me when I think how much this show could have given us! But then I remember that it’s a cartoon show, and I control myself…!
I wish the Clone Wars had tried to tie themselves more strongly into the narrative of the movies, as opposed to trying to become its own thing. By this, I mean there rarely seems to be a clear trajectory for the series, despite Revenge of the Sith having come out years prior to the first episode being aired. This ties once again into the over-exposure of Anakin and Obi-Wan. Aside from seemingly being the only Jedi required to win the war (with a healthy dose of a precocious adolescent), using these two as much as the series does really seems to make what should be a huge galaxy so much smaller. How does Anakin have the off-time to continually save Padme if he’s literally fighting battles across the entire galaxy?
To my mind, a three year conflict will contain a finite number of battles. Of those, there will be a percentage of decisive battles, which turn the tide one way or another. We’ll see set-piece action, we’ll see numerous fronts, and then we’ll get to the capture of the Chancellor and things will dovetail nicely into the opening of Episode III. If I were in charge of this endeavour, then, I would have sat down at the beginning and come up with a timeline that shows how we get from the arena at Geonosis to the battle for Coruscant. I’d draw up the plan for exploring the battlefronts that I want, put together an idea of who will be there, and then just set about making that. It’s a simple scheme that can afford to then be peppered with off-stories that deal with bounty hunters and banking clans, without losing that sense of scale.
And that is precisely what the Clone Wars multimedia project set out to do, back in 2002. We had a handful of novels, the ongoing comic series, as well as the Clone Wars shorts cartoon series. The comic series was a real gem in this period, as it followed the adventures of Quinlan Vos as an undercover operative, with a focus on Anakin and Obi-Wan much more sparingly. Other Jedi were featured along the way (and we did get an exploration of Sifo-Dyas at one point, as well), giving a sense of scale to events. It set out the stall that this was the Clone Wars, being told in real time as Revenge of the Sith was being filmed.
As it is, we have Anakin and Obi-Wan jumping around the galaxy, winning battles in a matter of minutes, and destroying any sense of the realism that Star Wars has always tried to maintain. Sure, it’s a space fantasy, but the key tenets of the original trilogy were of the lived-in universe, keeping things real within its own internal logic and rules. For the sake of the spectacle, we now have this. And it’s canon. And in February 2020, we’re getting yet more of it.