How Star Wars: The Clone Wars Can Be a Better Show
Star Wars: The Clone Wars surprised fans with a new season years after it was canceled. Here's what it needs to do to be a better show.
Dave Filoni, the man in charge of Star Wars animated series, hit the stage at SDCC to make a shocking announcement: 12 new episodes of The Clone Wars will come to the Disney streaming service at an unspecified date, marking the return of the show four years after it ended on what many felt was a cliffhanger. The timing is odd: The Clone Wars has been long-dormant; Disney is pushing a new animated show, Resistance; and the stories of The Clone Wars’ main characters have mostly been resolved in other media, such as Rebels.
The outpouring of love from fans shows that The Clone Wars doesn’t have to justify its existence nowadays. Many fans first began following Star Wars because of The Clone Wars and have been asking for the show’s return since its cancelation, celebrating any time Rebels made a callback to its predecessor. But the announcement left me cold, especially since Star Wars books in the current era are also rehashing familiar characters instead of bringing in more new ones.
One can’t deny that Lucasfilm is giving the people what they want with this revival — but should they? Ten years later, The Clone Wars needs to show some signs of growth to fix what it got wrong the first time around.
Here’s what we want to see in the new season:
1. Give female characters interiority
While The Clone Wars was arguably led by a female hero, Ahsoka Tano, her development was surface-level. Ahsoka was plucky and a strong fighter, but the lessons she learned didn’t always stick. She leveled up in terms of fighting style, but being a Jedi and liking to do Jedi things was often the extent of her characterization.
What did she want? To be a Jedi.
So the choice was presented to her at the end of season five: keep pursuing the Jedi way and give up her moral stance, or leave the Order and hold true to her own beliefs? She left, enabling her to survive Order 66 and become a mentor in Rebels, her personality now hidden behind a wizard’s robe.
The Clone Wars has had ten years to get to know her. The new season needs to be more detailed when it comes to her likes, dislikes, and goals. The novel Ahsoka did this, and, with Padmé appearing in Thrawn: Alliances, it isn’t a bad time for Star Wars women. The show needs to keep that up.
2. Cut the soldier cliché
One of the best arcs in The Clone Wars was focused on the clones themselves: the battle at Umbara showed how messy war can be and how the clones, who never asked or chose to die in battle, end up brutalized by the dark side as well as by corruption within the Republic. The trailer for the new episodes tries to go for a similar gritty vibe, with clips from clones in battle, but the dialogue is all pomp and little substance, like a parody of a shooter game. The original audience for The Clone Wars is ten years older now. Respect that they can tell when dialogue is cheesy or over-broad.
3. Build on the Star Wars content that has followed
The Star Wars universe has changed a lot since The Clone Wars started. What was once Legends continuity is now part of the same canon as the Sequel Trilogy. This is an opportunity to seed some kind of connection to the story of Rey, Finn, Poe, and Kylo Ren into The Clone Wars.
The Clone Wars should also allude to things that would happen later in Rebels since several characters — Ahsoka, Hondo, Rex — already connect both shows. For example, there’s a chance to revisit Fort Anaxes, the Clone Wars-era base that was abandoned by the time of Rebels, in its prime. Perhaps the new season will even mention Caleb Dume, Kanan’s identity before he was forced to flee Order 66.
4. Don’t reward bad fan behavior
The news is also frustrating because The Clone Wars doesn’t need to change to succeed — it will do well commercially regardless. There’s so much good will toward it, which is nice for the fans but means that Star Wars animation might continue to play it safe with established characters.
This also sets a jarring precedent that fans who clamor loud enough might get what they want through volume. Save The Clone Wars was a vocal, sometimes aggressive rallying cry on social media led by one of the hosts of a podcast that was recently removed from StarWars.com‘s list of fan podcasts after displaying persistent sexism and targeted harassment.
5. Don’t always play it safe
At the tenth anniversary panel at SDCC, the Clone Wars crew showed the concept art that started it all, back when Dave Filoni proposed the show would be about a crew of new characters rather than focusing as much on Anakin and Obi-Wan. George Lucas nixed that idea, but it has returned in several forms since. That concept art of the original Clone Wars crew would later inspire the Spectres in Rebels and the leaked promotional image for Resistance. It’s time for The Clone Wars to follow its own example.
6. Learn and grow
I keep waiting for The Clone Wars to catch up to its potential, and seeing it have the same problems over and over again is frustrating. Rebels improved on The Clone Wars in many ways: female characters were more varied, the show could include more consistent and powerful character development because it focused on the ensemble instead of splitting time between vignettes about far-flung characters, and dialogue (mostly) conveyed moral lessons and classic Star Wars Force spiritualism without didactic koans or mixed metaphors.
There is some potential for cool stories in the upcoming direct-to-streaming season, too. Bounty hunter Asajj Ventress is still roaming the galaxy, and after her alliance with Ahsoka in season five, it’s possible we might see the two of them team up again. Two morally gray warrior women trying to find a new home in a galaxy teetering toward war could be a very cool storyline.
The “Siege of Mandalore” plotline, which the new episodes will cover, also has major appeal. Dave Filoni has shown concept sketches for this arc, and it has been referenced in other Star Wars stories like the Ahsoka novel and Rebels. The arc looks like it includes big battles as well as major character drama between Anakin, Ahsoka, and Darth Maul. Even I can’t deny that that sounds like it has everything I want from Star Wars: epic-scale emotional conflict played out across a colorful, alien galaxy. But no matter how cool the action may be, The Clone Wars still needs to show that it’s learned some lessons from its first run as well as the years since.
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