This Star Wars: The Clone Wars article contains spoilers.
The finale of The Clone Wars ties into Revenge of the Sith in a few very tragic ways. Not only do we see the horrifying events of Order 66 from Ahsoka Tano’s perspective, the Republic turning on the Jedi Order and assuring a victory for the Sith, but we witness in a stunning cameo in the series finale how Anakin Skywalker has changed.
From Republic hero to Dark Lord of the Sith, much of Anakin’s Jedi journey in the Star Wars saga takes place during the Clone Wars, the galactic conflict that saw the young hero go from padawan to full-fledged Jedi Knight and military commander, leading his own army of clone troopers. Master Yoda even pairs him with his first padawan, Ahsoka, a young Jedi who will become one of the greatest heroes in the galaxy.
Throughout The Clone Wars, which follows young Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Ahsoka, and other heroes and villains during the war, we see many of Anakin’s most heroic exploits as well as his dark side tendencies. Yet, we don’t see his true fall to the dark side in the series — that heartbreaking storyline is reserved for Revenge of the Sith. The final four episodes of The Clone Wars allude to scenes from the movie, but we never see Anakin slaughter younglings in the Jedi Temple or the Separatist leaders on Mustafar.
Instead, Anakin’s cameo in the final scene of the series serves as the true footnote to his story. Transformed into Darth Vader and with no one left to turn to — not even his old friend Ahsoka — he’s left only as a Sith monstrosity meant to serve his Emperor forever. Gone is any remnant of the Republic hero.
Anakin’s story in The Clone Wars ultimately turns out to be about how war can change heroes into villains. Three years of fighting and witnessing the atrocities of warfare, as well as the death of his own mother, creates anger and fear that festers inside of Anakin. When there’s a chance that he might lose Padme too in Revenge of the Sith, the temptation to take a darker path in order to save her is too great for the young Jedi.
Born in 41 BBY (Before the Battle of Yavin), Anakin is only 22 when he becomes Darth Vader in 19 BBY and dooms himself to a life of pain and suffering. (He was 19 at the start of the Clone Wars, which kicked off in 22 BBY.) Thanks to Darth Sidious’ manipulations, the rest of Anakin’s life is basically stolen from him.
We see in The Clone Wars finale that Ahsoka’s life is irrevocably changed, too. No longer a Jedi but a powerful Force user who is persecuted by her former comrades just the same, she decides to throw down her lightsaber and leave the Jedi way behind for good. The fact that she doesn’t know what’s become of her master makes her ending in The Clone Wars all the more tragic. But as we already know from watching Rebels, she’ll learn the truth about Anakin’s fall soon enough.