Star Wars Rebels: Season 2 Trailer Analysis

SPOILERS for Star Wars Rebels Season 2 as shown in the trailer!

I was not super impressed with the first season of Star Wars Rebels. The animation was a dip in quality from the far superior (and more expensive) Clone Wars series. The characters were much more cartoony than their more serious Clone, Jedi, and Sith counterparts. But I stuck with it believing that they had formed a solid creative team in Dave Filoni (Avatar: The Last Airbender, Clone Wars), Simon Kinberg (the X-Men films), and Greg Weissman (Gargoyles, Young Justice).

It is, after all, more Star Wars. Who could complain about that? Most television shows need a season or two before they really kick into gear and find their sweet spot. And as it turns out, it seems like Rebels was trying super hard to hold back and establish its main cast before letting loose with a ton of new characters and cameos for Season 2. Hopefully this will be a good new direction for the show. Personally I am sick of Lothal and will be glad if we can get out of there and start exploring new corners of the galaxy much like Clone Wars was prone to do.

I want to go through the trailer chronologically and point out some of the major new developments and speculate on what season 2 (and beyond) might hold for us.

The Voice of Emperor Palpatine

The new trailer opens with what appears to be Darth Vader receiving instructions from Palpatine. I’m excited to hear the always excellent Sam Witwer as the voice of the Sith Master. After the sad death of Ian Abercrombie toward the end of Clone Wars’ run, the character was jarringly replaced by Tim Curry. I’m very glad the Rebels team recruited Sam Witwer (voice of Darth Maul and Starkiller) because it seems like his Darth Sideous voice is a huge step up from Tim Curry.

I doubt we’ll see much of Palpatine on the show because again these rebels are still fairly minor in the overall scheme of things. The fact that they have a Jedi (make that two with the addition of Ahsoka) does elevate their threat level a bit but it still seems like they are not yet a major military concern to the emperor, more a nuisance than anything else. I wouldn’t expect this series to showcase Palpatine like they did every other week on Clone Wars.

Much More Darth Vader

rebelsDarth Vader made a little cameo or two in Season One but now it seems like he is going to be a much bigger player. The fact that they were able to get James Earl Jones, the original voice from the films, is pretty wonderful and unexpected. I would temper your expectations though. From a storytelling point-of-view, you really can’t use Vader very much.

We know Vader could pretty much kill any character on the show without breaking a sweat and if the rebels kept escaping him it would diminish the threat he poses. I predict he will pop up briefly in a few episodes but he will continue to be more of a behind-the-scenes character. If they do give him much to do, I doubt he will interact much with the main rebels. The show needs to maintain Vader’s status as an unstoppable and deadly villain, the top force-user in the galaxy. Expect him primarily in a cameo role.

Multiple Inquistors!

I don’t know why I never thought of it before but of course the Sith would have more than one inquisitor roaming the galaxy carrying out their bidding. I guess the whole idea of the Rule of Two made me think that other lightsaber-wielding subordinates would be too much of a threat to their masters. They could too easily become usurpers.

But we have seen Dooku training up Asajj Ventress and a tolerance with the wannabe General Grievous. Sideous himself decided to keep the reborn Darth Maul for his own insidious purposes. The fact that there are more Inquistors out there is a really good sign that Kanan and Ezra will have some mid-level threats to go up against that will allow for some balanced lightsaber battles.

Force Sensitive Children

I keep forgetting that Luke and Leia are not the only force-sensitive kids in the galaxy. In fact, children would naturally be great candidates for future inquisitors. It seems like we already went over this plotline in Clone Wars but we’ll just have to wait and see if they actually want to go there or if this line from the trailer is misleading us. Remember, last time we saw Vader with a bunch of force-sensitive children, it didn’t turn out so good.

Return of the Clones

Now they’re just messing with our emotions. They cancel Clone Wars. They make us believe we will never see our beloved Ahsoka and Rex again. They create a show with entirely new characters and then they pull this on us!

Yes, old Captain Rex is back and it looks like Gregor and Wolffe have survived as well. After the heartbreaking Order 66 arc in season 6 of Clone Wars, I’m really happy to see a few clones not only survive all the way until the events of Rebels but somehow manage to resist their programming and stand up to the Empire. Well, they are probably more in hiding than anything else but it looks like they might finally be ready to take on the Empire along with the crew of the Ghost and their favorite ex-Jedi.

Captain Rex of course is the most developed clone character from the first show. He was Anakin’s right-hand man. But look who else is with him. Wolffe is from Plo Koon’s squad, nicknamed the Wolfpack. He is the one-eyed clone who showed up in a couple different arcs. Notably he was one of the clones who tried to arrest Ahsoka when she was a fugitive.

The other clone with them is Gregor who you might remember as the commando from the Droid Arc that featured R2-D2 and the rather annoying Colonel Gascon. Gregor ended up sacrificing himself in an awesome one-man showdown that allowed the droids to complete their mission. I don’t think anyone thought Gregor was still alive so it’s pretty interesting that he avoided Order 66 and found his way to Rex.

I have a bad feeling that these clones are not going to survive their decision to help the rebels, but I’m excited that the writers have found a way to revisit some of these wonderful clone characters that often times were the best part of Clone Wars.

The Empire Strikes Back

Briefly in the trailer we see an AT-AT in action, which reminds me. The creators have said that they are going for an Empire Strikes Back tone, which is what everybody says when they want something to be awesome. In this case, they might actually be able to do it since the rebels are in a very similar place to how Luke and the gang were after they blew up the Death Star.

The Ghost crew has struck some minor but effective blows against the Empire and it makes total sense that Vader is going to respond with decisive action. I’m sure the Emperor is not going to tolerate a resurgent Jedi presence anywhere in his galaxy and I think that means people are going to die this season. Maybe even a main cast member. RIP Kanan Surely some side characters like the clones, a crewmember of the Ghost, a rebel ally, or possibly Ahsoka herself.

The thing to keep in mind is that this series is not open-ended. It’s heading toward some very dark days. All the Jedi except for Kenobi and Yoda presumably need to be extinguished by the time of A New Hope. Kanan, Ezra, and Ahsoka can’t really succeed at their mission beyond helping set up a viable rebel alliance. There is no room for non-dead Jedi in this time period unless they self-banish themselves to permanent exile on a crappy planet like Tatooine or Dagobah. This is the part of the story where the Sith are still large and in charge.

It makes sense that Kanan in this trailer still doesn’t want to fight. To join an organized rebellion as a Jedi means imminent torture and death.

Ezra’s Parents

Not sure why they felt the need to spoil this in the trailer. Ezra is one of the weak links of the series so far. His slingshot and tough street kid attitude is not as endearing as the writers hoped it would be. If anything, Ezra seems to be the entry point for younger kids to connect with the show.

Ezra’s parents are still alive. I assume he is going to want to rescue them and that other crew members are going to argue that it is too dangerous and that someone will say that they have to do it because Ezra is a good kid and he is part of their family now and that it totally makes sense to risk everyone’s life and the fate of the galaxy because they’re his parents, right? Not looking forward to this subplot, but oh well.

Ahsoka Has Questions

Questions that need answering. Yeah that feels like a direct quote from Gandalf in The Fellowship of the Ring right before he abandons Frodo to certain death by Ringwraith. The Grey Wizard discovered that Sauron was still alive and kicking. This makes me feel pretty sure that the many questions that Ahsoka has is really just one question: Where did my old master go and he didn’t turn into an evil Sith lord, did he?

There is really only one way this ends. Ahsoka figures out Darth Vader is Anakin Skywalker. Then they fight each other. After that, I actually don’t know how it ends. Everything is better with Ahsoka so I think it would be much smarter to keep her alive assuming this series is going to keep having more seasons after this. But again, it would be kind of boring if every time Darth Vader shows up, Ahsoka simply duels him to a stalemate.

At this point I just have to believe these writers know what they are doing and how to milk this story for all its worth. Dave Filoni usually knows what to do in these situations. Intriguingly they broke one of ironclad rules of the Star Wars universe (well rules that apply to everyone except Samuel L. Jackson and Jon Favreau): no new lightsaber colors.

Actually Ahsoka sort of broke this rule with her barely green-yellowish lightsaber at the end of Clone Wars. Anyway she wields the color white now because she is neither Jedi or Sith. Get it? More impressively she has two of these weapons, which is pretty incredible especially considering how hard it is to find lightsabers these days. We’ll see how this rivalry/reunion/confrontation/fan-favorite-character-death between Ahsoka and Vader goes. It would also be nice to see how Vader feels about his old apprentice stirring up trouble from him after all these years, most notable because they actually ended on a really good note when she quit the Jedi. Is Darth Vader really so evil that he would hurt his little Snips?

Other Random Mentions

Hondo is also back, creating the perfect triumvirate of Clone Wars heroes along with Ahsoka and Rex. It’ll be interesting to go back and see exactly how their past together affects where they are now in Rebels.

Sabine evidently is being hunted by an old friend. Her sister? Her best friend? Anywho there is an imperial bounty on her head and that means she will have to resort to that age old Mandalorian custom, the one-on-one duel. Also I forget. Is she related to Pre Vizsla? Is she his daughter or niece or something?

Vader mentions that Ahsoka can lead them to other lost Jedi. I am going to speculate here and say that these lost Jedi have to be some of the Younglings from Clone Wars. Star Wars can be super dark sometimes but I can’t see them not bringing back at least two of the Younglings to make up for that horrific temple scene in Revenge of the Sith. They already had a relationship with Ahsoka so it is only natural that when Order 66 went down that she would go back and try to save her relatively helpless padawan friends.

This year is the year of Star Wars. I think Rebels is going to do all it can to up the ante and reclaim some of the glory that got lost during the unfortunate cancellation of Clone Wars. If Season One was putting the pieces in place and proving that it didn’t need the Clone Wars cast to survive, here’s hoping that Season Two grows up a bit and earns its own deserved spot in the Star Wars pantheon.

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Top 15 Arcs of Star Wars: The Clone Wars

CLONESIn celebration of Star Wars: The Clone Wars coming to Netflix and its long awaited sixth season, it’s time to revisit the best arcs from this amazingly ambitious show.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars debuted in 2008 with an uneven and little seen movie. Set firmly between Episode 2 and 3, the ensuing series promised to show us Anakin and Obi-Wan’s adventures in the Clone Wars leading up to Anakin’s turn to the dark side.

Perhaps the greatest creative risk The Clone Wars took was the introduction of Anakin’s padawan. Over the course of five seasons, Asohka Tano’s gradual maturation from impatient sidekick to wisened warrior became the shows crowning achievement and most important legacy.

Peculiarly, episodes of The Clone Wars were loosely organized into largely standalone arcs. Often arranged in groups of two to four, episodes generally continue the story of either certain characters or battles interrupted by an occasional one-off episode not belonging to any wider arc. These plot lines are sometimes presented out of chronological order, creating an interesting puzzle for the viewer to sift through (I still can’t place the Senate episodes with Onocanda’s murder).

Out of these somewhat self-contained story arcs emerge some of the better Star Wars tales in the entire franchise. A potent mixture of inventive characters, detailed worlds, and an ever deepening mythology all work together to flesh out a vivid picture of the last years of the Jedi Order. For those disappointed by the prequel trilogy, this show breathes new life into the series and offers a surprisingly authentic Star Wars experience.

Here are my picks for the top 15 story arcs of The Clone Wars. Spoilers for the first five seasons abound!
 
Malevolence Trilogy

15) The Malevolence Trilogy

1.02 – Rising Malevolence
1.03 – Shadow of Malevolence
1.04 – Destroy Malevolence

Ah, the arc that proved that The Clone Wars had a right to exist. I would rank this arc higher but it feels like the best place to start in discussing this show’s unique approach to storytelling. Although Obi-Wan, Anakin, and Ahsoka (and perhaps Captain Rex) are the apparent main characters of this series, the show doesn’t mind ignoring them for large stretches or pushing them to the background of individual episodes. As war rages across the galaxy, The Clone Wars makes an effort to zoom in and highlight different little pockets of action and continually introduce new and unexpected characters.

The Malevolence Trilogy reveals the Separatist’s incredibly massive and destructive new battleship. Although not quite on par with the Death Star, the Malevolence is so huge it takes a whole episode just to finish blowing it up. Beginning with Plo Koon and his stranded clone soldiers, the storyline moves on to display Anakin’s tactical ingenuity and his un-Jedi-like attachment to Padmé.

If you were unsure of this show before, the Malevolence trilogy proved that this show could handle a multi-part storyline, balancing multiple main characters and villains, all while giving a strong emotional punchline to each episode. This arc holds up among the one of the best even after five full seasons of fine storytelling.

Obi-Wan Undercover

14) Obi-Wan Undercover

4.15 – Deception
4.16 – Friends and Enemies
4.17 – The Box
4.18 – Crisis on Naboo

Obi-Wan fakes his own death and disguises himself as the notorious bounty hunter Rako Hardeen. Initially I wasn’t excited about this premise and only upon repeat viewings was I able to appreciate the creativity the Clone Wars team put into this arc. The first episode shows us Anakin and Ahsoka’s reaction to their beloved master’s death. Anakin’s grief immediately dissolves into anger and his inability to control himself almost compromises Obi-Wan’s cover. It’s an apt reminder of his imminent descent toward the Dark Side. In one of my favorite moments, Ahsoka guards Anakin’s unconscious body with twin lightsabers drawn. The bounty hunters wisely back down. Here Ahsoka proves she is clearly powerful in her own right.

Another gem in this arc is the return of everybody’s favorite wide-brimmed bounty hunter, Cad Bane. He puts ROTJ Boba Fett to shame. The stand out episode of this arc has to be The Box, a devious test designed for the sole purpose of outing Jedi spies. Count Dooku’s brilliant introduction of each bounty hunter is superb. Unfortunately Moralo Eval, architect and mastermind of the whole assassination plot, is more grating than scary.

The final episode has a great twist that sheds an important light on Darth Sidious’ wooing of Anakin to the Dark Side. By subtly arranging for Anakin to face off against Count Dooku, Sidious is both testing his current apprentice Dooku and holding tryouts in case a new one should prove worthy. While Anakin fails to finish off the current Sith Lord, how fascinating to see his future master at work pulling the strings.

13) Domino Squad

3.01 – Clone Cadets
1.05 – Rookies
3.02 – ARC Troopers

For a show about warring clones, there are relatively few clone-centric episodes. The Domino Squad trilogy gives us a break from the heavily Jedi dominated episodes and shows us the life of the everyday clone soldier. In any other cartoon these clones would be undifferentiated masses but in this arc we really see the the distinct personalities of Fives, Hevy, Echo, Droidbait, and Cutup. In retrospect, it makes their deaths in Rookies all the more tragic knowing their history together.

Rookies is often mentioned as the definitive clone episode, but personally I fancy ARC Troopers in which the clones battle for the closest thing they have to a home. Although the Jedi and Sith steal some of the clones’ thunder, it’s satisfying to see Echo and Fives promoted to the prestigious rank of ARC trooper. The fact that this later leads to them join the rescue attempt of master Even Piell from the Citadel is a nice touch.

However the breakout character of this arc is the crippled clone with a heart of gold, 99. Acting as an unofficial mentor to the squad, his death is one of the saddest on the entire show. There’s probably no other clone who so perfectly epitomizes the selfless valor of the clone army.

12) The Younglings

5.6 – The Gathering
5.7 – A Test of Strength
5.8 – Bound for Rescue
5.9 – A Necessary Bond

In contrast to some of the darker arcs of season 5, the Younglings arc took a playful turn. Exploring the adventures of a group of Jedi initiates hoping to become padawans, one of the  highlights of this arc is its explanation of how Jedi are able to create their lightsabers. However what really makes this arc work is the characters.

Each youngling has their own strengths and weaknesses and thankfully none of them are annoying. Gungi the kid Wookie, in particular, is just delightful. Throughout these episodes Ahsoka takes on a mentoring role, expanding her character even further and demonstrating just how much she has matured over these short few years. David Tennant’s excellent turn as the sagely droid Huyang is another standout role. As always, the endearing Hondo proves to be a worthy adversary as well as a useful ally. A surprise cameo from Slave I is also well received.

It may not be the most probing story in the show’s history, but Younglings is a nice side adventure that takes us to some unexpected places and features the same quality of characters that makes the rest of the Star Wars universe so entertaining. While there’s plenty of fun to be had, it’s also a sobering reality that these younglings face uncertain days ahead as the Sith draw closer to victory.

11) Young Boba Fett

2.20 “Death Trap”
2.21 “R2 Come Home”
2.22 “Lethal Trackdown”

Boba Fett is a character who has never really got his due. Unceremonious killed off in the Original Trilogy and reduced to whiny brat in the Prequels, he finally gets a chance to shine in this fun little arc. Hunting down Mace Windu, Boba really shines as an aspiring bounty hunter with a lot to learn placed under the harsh tutelage of Aurra Sing.

However lest we forget, Boba and his bounty hunter allies are really just the background threat. The true focus of this arc are the Republic personnel hunting them down after the initial bombing. In the second episode, R2D2 craftily outmaneuvers the bounty hunters coming to the aide of the wounded Anakin and Mace Windu. The third episode delves deeper into the relationship between Ahsoka and her paternal guide, Plo Koon.

Without revealing too much about how Boba Fett became the feared bounty hunter, this arc manages to both develop him as an unexpected foe as well as build in some nice character moments among the main cast. It sure doesn’t hurt that animation is starting to hit its stride as evidenced by the massive explosions and ship wreckage.

10) The Nightsisters Trilogy

3.12 – Nightsisters
3.13 – Monster
3.14 – Witches of the Mist

The Nightsisters trilogy is the storyline that divides the entire show into two halves: before and after. Before Nightsisters, the show played it relatively safe with self-contained arcs and standard good vs. evil story plots. Afterwards, everything changes. The events on Dathomir really mess with the status quo, setting things into motion that will pay off much later in the series.

Perhaps nowhere is this better demonstrated than in the transformation of Ventress from a one-note villain to a nuanced anti-hero with an unlucky backstory. Count Dooku’s betrayal of his apprentice triggers a wave of tremors that will affect millions across the galaxy, beginning with two unsuspecting brothers: Savage and Feral Oppress.

This trilogy isn’t afraid to introduce unfamiliar elements to Star Wars, including the strange witchcraft of Mother Talzin. It’s all very weird but it leads to greater things like the Nightsisters’ covert assault on Dooku and a fascinating look at how the Sith train their apprentices. This was the arc that really proved that the Clone Wars was willing to take big risks, and as evidenced by the latter two seasons, I think we can agree it was the right decision.

9) Holocron Heist

2.01 – Holocron Heist
2.02 – Cargo of Doom
2.03 – Children of the Force

We all expect the powerful Sith to thwart Jedi, but what we don’t expect is for mere mortals to pose a threat. The Holocron arc demonstrated who exactly might beat a Jedi: bounty hunter Cad Bane. We see over these episodes his ruthless infiltration of the temple, his vicious manipulation of Anakin, and his subsequent kidnapping of force sensitive children. It’s a brutal reminder that the Jedi aren’t the only skilled warriors in the galaxy.

Of course, behind it all is the puppet master Darth Sidious, again advancing his plot to exterminate the Jedi, this time by targeting their future younglings. It’s a chilling reminder that this “kid show” is absolutely willing to grapple with mature themes when needed. Knowing the future of the Jedi Order, by the end you almost wish that nobody ends up with the Holocron.

This arc keeps up a brisk pace and features a diverse slice of planets as well as battle environments ranging from zero gravity to a collapsing station on Mustafar. It’s pure fun watching the Jedi traverse the galaxy in pursuit of an enemy equal to them in every way. You can definitely feel the Clone Wars team going all out to create a genuine Star Wars experience here.

8) Slaves of Kadavo

4.11 – Kidnapped
4.12 – Slaves of the Republic
4.13 – Escape from Kadavo-

Adapted from the comic book, the Kadavo slave arc is a brutal look at the evil Anakin suffered in childhood. The Zygerrians are a fresh new enemy and provide an interesting counterpoint to all those episodes that argue that the Separatists aren’t so bad after all. The first episode is a tense race against the clock despite the fact that town is empty. It’s worth it to see the solid droid battles and Obi-Wan stalling for time.

Of course the real meat of the arc happens when the team arrive on Kadavo. The unsettling Zygerrian Queen, ridiculous cover identities, a failed escape attempt, and the brutal execution of Togrutan slaves give us plenty to chew on in this arc. Keeping noble Jedi prisoner by coercing them into protecting the innocent is something bad guys should do more often.

It’s not often that this show traps its four main characters in hostile enemy territory with no way out. The results speak for themselves. Did I mention the Zygerrians have electric whips?

7) Battle for Ryloth

3.03 – Supply Lines
1.19 – Storm Over Ryloth
1.20 – Innocents of Ryloth
1.21 – Liberty on Ryloth

The Ryloth arc answers the question of what occupation is like for the various planets caught up in the Clone Wars. This arc begins with a prequel episode Supply Lines that shows the Republic losing its grip on the planet while the remaining three episodes deal with their attempt to take it back.

Each episode in this arc has a different main character: Jar Jar Binks, Ahsoka, Obi-Wan, and Mace Windu. It’s highly creative way to showcase the different aspects of battle including from political negotiations off-planet, a blockade in orbit, an underground militia, and heavily fortified occupied cities.

Of course along the way many clones, droids, Jedi and even innocents meet their fate. Ahsoka loses her entire squadron in a fatal miscalculation. Master Ima-Gun-Di makes his last stand to save the Twi’lek rebels. An entire Twi’lek village is carpet bombed in front of our eyes. The cost of war is stunningly real.

6) Stranded on Maridun

1.13 – Jedi Crash
1.14 – Defenders of the Peace

Who said arcs have to be three or four episodes long? The Maridun episodes are one of my favorite arcs in the whole series and for good reason. The first episode opens with an immense space battle that results in Anakin being totally incapacitated. It is followed immediately by a gritty crash landing. As Aayla Secura and Ahsoka search for help, the Twi’lek master teaches the worried padawan about letting go of attachments.

Featuring some excellent adventure music, the grassy plains and giant trees of Maridun create a wonderful world shielded from the violence of the Clone Wars. Things heat up in the second episode with the arrival of the villainous General Lok Durd (played by the estimable George Takei) who plans to sacrifice the entire Lurmen village as his test subjects.

If not very likeable, the Lurmen are at least different enough from the other species to stand out a bit. Curling up into balls to roll and lassoing their enemies, the Lurmen are quite unique. It may be a simple set up, but this arc epitomizes the best of what Star Wars has to offer: action, stakes, and inspiring lessons about the Force.

5) Bounty Hunter Ventress

4.19 – Massacre
4.20 – Bounty

These two loosely connected episodes are bound together by the ever evolving character of Ventress. Seeing what happens to her after the events of the Nightsister trilogy is a real treat and not something that most shows would even offer us. Leaving the Jedi far behind, the first episode pits evil against evil. A savage assault by General Grievious turns into a frenetic battle between droids and zombies. It’s a bloody end for the Nightsister clan.

The second episode brings us to the aftermath as Ventress attempts to rebuild her life after losing her biological family. Her particular set of skills leads her to partner with a ragtag group of bounty hunters including Boba Fett clad in some unfamiliar armor. This results in an insane mission involving protecting a subterranean train under attack from ninjas.

It’s wild fun and totally tangential to the rest of the show but placing Ventress at the center of a few episodes really makes for an interesting ride. The Ventress story is the gift that keeps on giving as her character continues to pull her weight in future episodes. Dooku should have cut her out sooner.

4) Trandoshan Hunters

3.21 – Padawan Lost
3.22 – Wookiee Hunt

This short two-part arc is where I first was taken aback by sheer beauty of the Clone Wars’ animation team. The jungle planet where the padawans are held hostage is absolutely amazing in detail and lighting. Separating Ahsoka from her master and putting her in the crosshairs of the animalistic Trandoshans makes for great drama. When Kalifa dies in Ahsoka’s arms, the despair and hopelessness of the situation is suffocating.

The second episode surprises with the always illustrious Chewbacca to aide Ahsoka in her escape. As she unites the leaderless padawans, it really shows how Anakin’s padawan is leaps and bounds above the average Jedi apprentice and what a huge loss the Jedi Order suffers at her ultimate departure. Thoroughly vile, the Trandoshans are quite sinister as villains. When the Wookies descend on them, they receive no mercy. It’s a powerful arc and one that I will rewatch many times before the end.

3) Second Battle of Geonosis

2.05 – Landing at Point Rain
2.06 – Weapons Factory
2.07 – Legacy of Terror
2.08 – Brain Invaders

Harkening back to Episode II and the dusty planet where the Clone Wars all began, the Geonosis arc is terrific stuff. For the first time the Republic is fighting not only droids but a sentient alien species. The winged enemies are especially vicious with their energy weapons and the way they carry off poor clone soldiers to their death. The opening episode Landing at Point Rain is surely the best battle episode in the entire 100+ episode run. The showrunners wanted to recreate a Star Wars version of D-Day and they succeeded in an incrediblely relentless powerhouse of an episode.

The latter episodes, while not as ambitious, don’t fail to disappoint introducing Barriss Offee as the diligent and dutiful counterpoint to Ahsoka’s reckless confidence. Once Geonosis is taken, the Republic must deal with the disturbing rise of the Geonosian queen whose corrupting influence follows Ahsoka and Barriss into space.

This is a varied arc with stirring action and significant character growth moments for Ahsoka in particular. Whenever I introduce people to this show, this four part Geonosis arc is always where I begin.

2) Darth Maul Returns

4.21 – Monster
4.22 – Revenge
5.1 – Revival
5.14 – Eminence
5.15 – Shades of Reason
5.16 – The Lawless

Whether or not it’s fair to lump these six episodes together into one arc, I’m doing it anyway. The unexpected return of Darth Maul puts every major character of this show into overdrive. Maul’s second coming has huge ramifications for Obi-Wan, Ventress, Savage Oppress, Dutchess Satine, Pre Viszla, Hondo, Darth Sidious, and the entire criminal underworld. With top notch animation, voice acting, and storytelling, this is the arc that people will point to as the high point of the entire series.

The reinvented Maul is no ordinary foe. As a former Sith, he is trained not just in combat but political scheming and empire building. Through a patient but deliberate acquisition of power and resources, Maul uses the distraction of the Clone Wars to extend his absolute will across the underworld. We really get a sense that this is his gamble to become the most powerful being in the entire galaxy.

Smartly tying Darth Maul into the Death Watch storyline, this arc really ends with an explosive conclusion that we never would have suspected at back in the first Mandalore arc. The fact that so many characters either meet their fate or have their world rocked on account of Maul show just how significant his ugly resurgence truly is.

1) Darkness on Umbara

4.07 – Darkness On Umbara
4.08 – The General
4.09 – Plan of Dissent
4.10 – Carnage of Krell

At last we arrive at the crowning achievement in an already impressive list of story lines. The Umbara arc features none of the Jedi we know and love and instead focuses solely on a contingent of beleaguered clones on a strange planet veiled in darkness. The battles in these episodes rival any other in the show’s history and the fact that the clones fight devoid of any Jedi support only raises the stakes.

General Krell provides a new kind of antagonist for this series: a Jedi general who sees clones as disposable ammunition. Antithetical to the nurturing mentoring of Yoda or Plo Koon, this Jedi values victory above lives lost. Trapped between the impossible choice of going to a likely death or disobeying orders, the clones’ bravery and resolve holds true despite the darkness swirling around them.

You can’t help but sympathize with the tragedy of the clones’ situation, fighting a technologically superior enemy on the battlefield while simultaneously dealing with an unfair and punishing commander back at home. It’s the worst of both worlds and the resolution magnifies the absolute horror of this cruel war that is secretly being waged by the despotic Sith. These clones are unlucky pawns but over the course of these four episodes they become the heroes they were born to be.

Although Star Wars: The Clone Wars is coming to end next month with the final 13 episodes of Season Six, you can bet that there are plenty more Star Wars tales to be told in the upcoming Star Wars Rebels.