Star Wars: Is The Clone Wars Canon?

The Clone Wars debuted in 2008, four years before Disney took over Star Wars. What does this mean for the show's canonicity? Is it considered canon or Legends?

Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Photo: Lucasfilm

This Star Wars: The Clone Wars article contains spoilers.

The Clone Wars covers one of the most important moments in Star Wars history. It not only follows the exploits of Jedi heroes like Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Master Yoda, and Ahsoka Tano but bridges the gap between the Age of the Republic and the Rise of the Empire. By the end of the series, the Separatists and the Jedi have been destroyed and the Republic has become the first Galactic Empire. Emperor Palpatine and the Sith now rule the galaxy.

For an animated series conceived with younger viewers in mind, The Clone Wars features one of the darkest endings in the saga. Ahsoka’s former clone comrades have turned on her during Order 66 and only she and Rex escape the deadly crash landing that makes up the show’s climax. After being captured during the Siege of Mandalore, Maul escapes to parts unknown, while Anakin is irrevocably changed into Darth Vader. While we never see Palpatine in the finale, we know he now sits on his throne as the absolute ruler of the Empire. The bad guys have won and the good guys have fallen.

Fans who’ve already watched Revenge of the Sith, which chronicles Anakin’s fall to the dark side and the destruction of the Jedi Order, always knew where things were headed. But when The Clone Wars first ended in 2013 and then again in 2014, it seemed that the show would never reach the events of Order 66. Yet, in 2020, the show’s new lease on life allowed season 7 to explore Order 66 and Revenge of the Sith from a different perspective — and in some ways, Ahsoka’s version of the story is even more heartbreaking than what we saw in the 2005 movie.

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Unlike the protagonists of Revenge of the Sith, Anakin’s former Jedi apprentice spends season 7 watching the decay of the Republic and the Jedi Order from the ground level. She not only meets those abandoned and victimized by the Jedi during the war but also watches clones die for nothing during Order 66. While Anakin and Obi-Wan are shouting about the morality of the Jedi on Mustafar, Ahsoka is actually in the thick of it, seeing firsthand the devastation caused by the Republic at the end of the war.

It’s not surprising that, by the final scene of the series, Ahsoka has decided to throw down her lightsaber and renounce the Jedi for good. While we know that she’ll eventually join the fight against the Empire in Rebels, at this moment, she’s done having faith in the perceived force for good. In the end, the Jedi and the Republic hurt the galaxy just as much as the Separatists did. It’s why so many people cheer as Palpatine establishes himself as Emperor of the galaxy in Revenge of the Sith. A tired and wartorn galaxy is ready to accept “peace” any way it can get it.

With The Clone Wars finale so closely connected to Revenge of the Sith, it should be pretty clear how the animated series fits into Star Wars canon, right? While Disney has indeed deemed The Clone Wars an official part of the saga’s canon that bridges the gap between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, this can be a little confusing for those who started watching the animated series before Disney bought Lucasfilm and the rights to Star Wars in 2012.

You see The Clone Wars first debuted in 2008 and was created by George Lucas himself, with Dave Filoni taking on showrunner duties. Premiering four years before Disney took over and rebooted much of the Expanded Universe, The Clone Wars technically began existence as part of the original canon of Clone Wars stories before being grandfathered into the current Disney canon.

While the pre-Disney The Clone Wars didn’t really go out of its way to make direct connections with Clone Wars books like The Cestus Deception by Steven Barnes, Jedi Trial by David Sherman and Dan Cragg, and Shatterpoint by Matthew Stover; or comics like Dark Horse’s excellent Republic series; it did feature at least one element of the 2003 Clone Wars micro-series in dark side assassin Asajj Ventress. Even if we didn’t really see the events of fan-favorite stories like the MedStar books starring Jedi healer Barriss Offee unfold on the show, it was understood that The Clone Wars was still a part of this larger storyline.

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But when the canon was rebooted to make way for a new era of Star Wars movies, it left the show’s place in the official continuity in question. Disney later declared that all of the movies and The Clone Wars would remain canon. But the rest of the Clone Wars stories released up to that point weren’t so lucky. The Clone Wars micro-series, the novels, and the Dark Horse comics were erased from the timeline (with the exception of Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir), leaving the animated series as the only true chronicle of this era.

As we examined in an earlier article, The Clone Wars season 7 even eliminates the possibility that the 2003 micro-series could remain in continuity through a bit of headcanon. With the episode “Old Friends Not Forgotten” showing the canon version of what Anakin and Obi-Wan were up to right before the start of Revenge of the Sith, there’s basically no way that the micro-series fits into the official continuity anymore. Poor Durge never got a second lease on life, either.

If you’ve kept up with The Clone Wars since 2008 or tuned in for the first time with season 7, you can rest easy: the animated series is indeed considered canon — and it’s a vital part of the saga, too. But don’t let that stop you from loving the non-canon Clone Wars stories that are now considered part of the “Legends” timeline. The great thing about a good story is that you can enjoy it no matter what’s canon and what isn’t.

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