Television

A Guide to Star Wars: The Clone Wars for Grown-Ups

How to watch the entire series without having to sit through a single Jar Jar Binks episode.

Ahsoka Tano is seen in a still from The Clone Wars, with a fast forward symbol showing.
Animation by Slate. Image courtesy of Walt Disney Studios.

This article is the first in a series we’re calling Fast Forward: guides to how to speed-run through a show while only watching the best parts—and none of the filler.

OK, so let’s say you’re a casual Star Wars fan. You watched the first two seasons of The Mandalorian, and you’re looking forward to the new seasons and spinoffs like Ahsoka and Rangers of the New Republic. But the next one of those, The Book of Boba Fett, won’t be out until December, and you could probably use something to satisfy your Star Wars fix until then.

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Maybe you’ve heard of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, which actually features a lot of the characters and backstory mentioned in The Mandalorian. But you’re not so sure about The Clone Wars, because isn’t it a cartoon? That’s a baby show for babies, right? And you’re not a baby, you’re a sophisticated adult, and also the show is 133 episodes AND a movie?? Who has that kind of time???

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I have some great news for you: Yes, Star Wars: The Clone Wars is a cartoon, but no, it is not a baby show for babies, unless babies enjoy stories about war profiteering, moral ambiguity, the debate between freewill and destiny, and revenge. The series, which began airing in 2008 on Cartoon Network and got a surprise final season just last year on Disney+, takes place during the much-maligned prequel era of Star Wars, acting as a bridge between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. But don’t let that scare you off: Early on, The Clone Wars distinguished itself with some of the best storytelling in the franchise, patching over those movies’ plot holes, better developing their characters, and having a lot of fun with different genres in the process, from horror pastiches to Kurosawa homages.

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Unfortunately, the lengthy, uneven series remains a tough sell. Whenever I recommend it to a friend, they inevitably give up in the first season, which contains episodes where a mad scientist unleashes a space plague on Naboo and where Jar Jar Binks accidentally saves the day by falling down a lot. Those can be fun, but they aren’t why I love the show, which is why I eventually just made a shortcut guide for my Mandalorian-loving, Star Wars canon–curious friends. This is not a list composed purely of the series’ best episodes, mind you, but a condensed, self-contained viewing order that you can use to watch and still get the basic Clone Wars experience. (By all means, if you find yourself enjoying it, please watch more episodes!)

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You’ll notice some of the recommended episodes jump around between seasons. Don’t worry about it! The chronology of the show jumps around, so a Season 3 episode is sometimes a prequel to an episode from Season 1. Just watch in the episode order below, and you’ll be fine. Each episode of The Clone Wars comes with a helpful “previously on” recap at the beginning that will tell you all you need to know about the 23 minutes ahead, anyway. May the Force be with you.

1. Return to Geonosis

• “Weapons Factory” (S2, E6)
• “Legacy of Terror” (S2, E7)
• “Brain Invaders” (S2, E8)

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These episodes, which take place on the same planet where Attack of the Clones ended, conveniently introduce several key characters and establish their relationships—most importantly, the one between Anakin Skywalker and his apprentice, Ahsoka Tano (the orange lady from The Mandalorian and one of the all-time-greatest Star Wars characters). That makes these three installments an ideal starting point for newcomers. They’re also a pretty good litmus test for whether you’ll like the show as a whole, and fans of The Mandalorian will probably appreciate the references to zombie and space horror movies like Alien.

2. Meet the Clones

• “Clone Cadets” (S3, E1)
• “Rookies” (S1, E5)
• “The Deserter” (S2, E10)

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The show is called The Clone Wars, and while this guide is light on clone-centric episodes, you should at least get to know a few of the clones. Just don’t worry too hard about trying to tell them apart; the only two you really need to remember for the purposes of this guide are rookie Fives (who eventually grows a goatee and gets a little 5 tattooed on his forehead) and Anakin’s second-in-command, Rex, who has a blond buzz cut. They’ll both be significant later on.

3. Welcome to Mandalore

• “The Mandalore Plot” (S2, E12)
• “Voyage of Temptation” (S2, E13)
• “Duchess of Mandalore” (S2, E14)

Mandalore—you know, the planet they keep talking about on The Mandalorian but never actually go to—is an important setting on The Clone Wars. These episodes actually show us what the planet is like and offer more information about Mandalore’s complex history and culture that’s only hinted at on The Mandalorian. They make Obi-Wan Kenobi a smidge more complex as a character, too.

4. Boba Fett

• “Death Trap” (S2, E20)
• “R2 Come Home” (S2, E21)
• “Lethal Trackdown” (S2, E22)

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You may remember from the movies that the template for the clone army was a bounty hunter named Jango Fett, who requested a clone baby to raise as his own son. That clone baby is Boba Fett, who’s not a baby anymore, and he’s super not happy about Mace Windu killing his dad in Attack of the Clones. Lots of cool bounty hunters in these episodes, and catching up on some of this backstory might even come in handy for The Book of Boba Fett.

5. Separatists—They’re Just Like Us!

• “Heroes on Both Sides” (S3, E10)

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The opening crawl of Revenge of the Sith says there are “heroes on both sides” of the galactic civil war, which is kinda weird, considering all we ever really get to see of the Separatist side in that movie is, like, is a multiarmed murder robot. The idea at the heart of this episode is the very soul of The Clone Wars: The good guys might not be that good, and the bad guys might not be that bad.

6. Asajj Ventress

• “ARC Troopers” (S3, E2)
• “Nightsisters” (S3, E12)
• “Monster” (S3, E13)
• “Witches of the Mist” (S3, E14)
• “Massacre” (S4, E19)
• “Bounty” (S4, E20)

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The Sith Rule of Two means that officially, at any given time, there can only be two Sith, a master and an apprentice—which makes sense, since their desire for power means Sith really don’t play well with others. Asajj Ventress, a major and unmissable Clone Wars character, skirts the Rule of Two by calling herself Count Dooku’s “personal assassin.” These episodes introduce her and her home planet of Dathomir, which will become even more significant in future episodes.

7. Bo-Katan

• “A Friend in Need” (S4, E14)

It’s the red-haired lady from The Mandalorian!

8. Darth Maul

• “Brothers” (S4, E21)
• “Revenge” (S4, E22)
• “Revival” (S5, E1)
• “Eminence” (S5, E14)
• “Shades of Reason” (S5, E15)
• “The Lawless” (S5, E16)

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Darth Maul? Didn’t he die at the end of The Phantom Menace? Like, was-cut-in-half died? Guess you’ll have to watch to find out.

A little bit of background on these episodes: We skipped the Season 3 episode where Mandalore Prime Minister Almec is arrested for black market dealing, because it is sorta silly and involves Ahsoka and a gaggle of teenagers saving Duchess Satine from her corrupt government. One of those teenagers is Satine’s “nephew” Korkie. Is he actually Satine’s secret love child with Obi-Wan Kenobi, as fans have speculated? You decide. Anyway, that’s who Korkie is, and that’s also why Almec is in prison in these episodes.

10. Ahsoka Tano

• “Sabotage” (S5, E17)
• “The Jedi Who Knew Too Much” (S5, E18)
• “To Catch a Jedi” (S5, E19)
• “The Wrong Jedi” (S5, E20)

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Ahsoka grows up in a big, shocking way (that I dare not spoil), and Anakin gets a better reason to distrust the Jedi Council than we ever see in the movies.

11. The Clones

• “The Unknown” (S6, E1)
• “Conspiracy” (S6, E2)
• “Fugitive” (S6, E3)
• “Orders” (S6, E4)

The movies kind of gloss over the weird circumstances of the clone army’s creation—Obi-Wan learns that a long-dead Jedi master commissioned the army years before the galactic civil war in Attack of the Clones, but then the Jedi just kind of shrug it off until the clones betray them in Revenge of the Sith, where it’s revealed that Chancellor-turned-Emperor Palpatine was in control of the army all along. Here we see exactly why the clones were so willing to kill the Jedi they served alongside, and it’s pretty heartbreaking.

12. The Martez Sisters

• “Deal No Deal” (S7, E6)
• “Together Again” (S7, E8)

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There is a four-episode arc in Season 7 with a great premise: Ahsoka meets two sisters on Coruscant, one streetwise and one naïve, who represent how the Jedi have lost touch with ordinary citizens while they’ve been distracted by politics and war. Unfortunately, the episodes themselves are bloated and repetitive. Fortunately, you can just watch these two and still have a pretty seamless viewing experience! All that really happens in the other two episodes is you learn that Rafa and Trace’s parents died in an accident and the Jedi left the kids to fend for themselves.

13. The End

• “Old Friends Not Forgotten” (S7, E9)
• “The Phantom Apprentice” (S7, E10)
• “Shattered” (S7, E11)
• “Victory and Death” (S7, E12)

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The Clone Wars was abruptly canceled when Disney acquired Lucasfilm in 2012. The team behind the show released an abbreviated sixth season on Netflix, but it didn’t tie up every loose end, and fans clamored for a seventh season of The Clone Wars for years before Disney agreed to bring it back. The finale, presented as a four-part movie of sorts that wraps up storylines for Ahsoka, Rex, Darth Maul, and Mandalore, doesn’t just lead into Revenge of the Sith—it actually overlaps with it, with Clone Wars characters walking into scenes from the movie. And even after all those years of hype, it was worth the wait.

Bonus

If you liked The Mandalorian and the Boba Fett episodes, you might enjoy …

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• “Deception” (S4, E15)
• “Friends and Enemies” (S4, E16)
• “The Box” (S4, E17)
• “Crisis on Naboo” (S4, E18)

If you want to get to know the clones better ahead of the upcoming, clone-centric sequel series Star Wars: The Bad Batch

• “Darkness on Umbara” (S4, E7)
• “The General” (S4, E8)
• “Plan of Dissent” (S4, E9)
• “Carnage of Krell” (S4, E10)
• “The Bad Batch” (S7, E1)
• “A Distant Echo” (S7, E2)
• “On the Wings of Keeradaks” (S7, E3)
• “Unfinished Business” (S7, E4)

If you’re interested in the origins of rebel extremist Saw Gerrera (aka that guy Forrest Whitaker plays in Rogue One)

• “A War on Two Fronts” (S5, E2)
• “Front Runners” (S5, E3)
• “The Soft War” (S5, E4)
• “Tipping Points” (S5, E5)

If you would like to actually watch an episode with your kids without fear of somebody getting decapitated …

• “The Gathering” (S5, E6)

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