By Josh Reilly B. and George Bate
Star Wars: The Clone Wars recently wrapped up with its seventh and highly acclaimed final season. An impressive catalogue of 133 episodes makes it difficult to narrow down the show’s greatest accomplishments, but pooling together the thoughts of all four of us at Star Wars Holocron helped land on the series’ 10 episodes.
Warning: spoilers for seasons 1-7 of The Clone Wars follow
10. Eminence – Season 5, Episode 14
Every Clone Wars episode with Maul is a real highlight, but Eminence stands out among many of them. Eminence is unique in that the regular cast of heroic characters like Ahsoka, Rex, Anakin, and Obi-Wan are absent, with the episode instead focusing entirely on Maul and Savage’s alliance with Death Watch and the formation of the Shadow Collective in order to retake Mandalore. This episode delves heavily into the inner workings of the underworld and crime syndicates, something The Clone Wars always excels at. While the perspective of the Republic and the Jedi is obviously interesting, there’s always been something about the seedy underworld of Star Wars that is enticing to fans and Eminence is one of The Clone Wars’ best forays into this topic. The bulk of the episode centers around Maul and Pre Vizsla traverse the galaxy to assemble their syndicate, with Black Sun, the Pykes, and the Hutt Cartel all featuring in this episode. Maul and Vizsla’s back-and-forth throughout the episode and the tension that surrounds their alliance is so entertaining to see and nicely sets the stage for events to come. Alliances between unstable, treacherous characters forged around similarly insidious goals is never a good idea, so the audience is left in place of eager anticipation for events to come following reveals that Maul and Vizsla plan to betray one another once they takeover Mandalore. The action sequences in the episode are top notch, in particular the beheading of Black Sun leadership on Mustafar. And, overall, the episode packs in a ton of story and world building in regards to Mandalore that make it stand out amongst the entire series.
9. Clone Cadets – Season 3, Episode 1
Season 3 started off with a prequel episode, an origins tale featuring many of the clones that quickly became fan favorites. Set on the clone homeworld of Kamino, it was great to see the rain and thunder pour down as Fives, Echo, and more worked their way up to become full fledged soldiers. This episode features an underdog spin to it, as the Republic overlords that be become doubtful of the squad’s ability to work together as a team and, overall, become sufficient soldiers for the Clone army. However, over the course of the episode, and through inspiration from beloved character 99, a defective clone who works as a janitor, Hevy, Cutup, Droidbait, Fives, and Echo prove everyone wrong and become soldiers. This episode shows off the beautiful aesthetics of Kamino, as well as having a truly heartfelt message under it all, making it one of the best of the show.
8. Orders – Season 6, Episode 4
Another Clone focused episode, “Orders” follows Fives as he tries to unravel the mystery of the chip in every Clone’s head. Fives pushes and eventually secures a meeting with Chancellor Palpatine, then flees after being accused of attacking the hidden Sith Lord. Fives hides deep in the Coruscant city center as Rex and other Clones reluctantly hunt their brother. This episode ends with the tragic, albeit inevitable death of Fives, a character that fans have come to know and love for seasons. This is perhaps one of, if not the most suspenseful episode in the whole show, as a fan favorite character tries to escape the destiny that the audience knows is inevitable given the events of Revenge of the Sith. Kevin Kiner’s score is once again excellent, with the voice acting of Dee Bradley Baker arguably carrying the whole episode. The emotion Baker puts into Fives’ final scene and his conversation with Rex is truly special, and one demonstrating his immense talent.
7. The Lost One – Season 6, Episode 10
Season 6 of The Clone Wars was, in many ways, focused on wrapping up as much as they could before the Disney takeover. One of these previously unresolved plot threads was the disappearance of Jedi Master Sifo-Dyas, who played a key part in the creation of the Clone army. Anakin, Obi-Wan, and Yoda go looking for answers regarding Dyas’ disappearance, prompting Palpatine to order Dooku to clean up any potential warning signs of the impeding Sith takeover. This episode answers a key question fans have had since 2002’s Attack of the Clones, and further adds to Palpatine’s unique, multi-layered plan, making it an extremely important entry to canon. Moreover, this episode is also incredibly tense at times, which is down to the excellent writing and directing.
6. Hostage Crisis – Season 1, Episode 22
Unfortunately, the earlier episodes of The Clone Wars don’t get a lot of love, but Seasons 1 and 2 are full of interesting arcs, one of the best being Hostage Crisis. Up until this point, the show had used characters like Dooku, Grievous, and Ventress as villains, but none of them particularly stood out yet. It wasn’t until the introduction of Cad Bane in this episode that The Clone Wars found its first truly great villain. While other villains like Ventress improved in later seasons, Bane was the first antagonist in the show that really resonated. His introductory episode is wildly entertaining from start to finish as we see Bane and his group of bounty hunters hold members of the Senate hostage in exchange for the release of Ziro the Hutt. The more contained nature of the episode helps establish a lot of suspense and tension to every scene. And to see a collective of cool looking, highly skilled bounty hunters in action on Coruscant is great. Coruscant has always been an interesting planet that fans want more of, so to see be the sole setting of an entertaining Clone Wars episode was amazing. This episode also provides some insightful moments into Padmé and Anakin’s relationship and conveys how close their bond was before it all fell apart in Revenge of the Sith. The Clone Wars has always excelled in making Padmé a well fleshed out, thoughtful character and episodes like this affirm that level of character development. All in all, Hostage Crisis is a great installment of The Clones Wars, providing an enthralling adventure of Anakin trying to stop Bane and his bounty hunters in an episode full of action, suspense, and a hallmark villain.
5. The Wrong Jedi – Season 5, Episode 20
The Wrong Jedi is the final episode of The Clone Wars’ fifth season and marks the conclusion of Ahsoka’s role in the Jedi Order. One of the many great things the prequel era content has done is portray individual Jedi in unique ways, given them personalities, values and interesting arcs. For instance, we’ve seen Pong Krell, a Jedi who became disillusioned with the values of the Order and tried to undermine the Republic’s efforts from the inside out. A similarly unique character arc, yet substantially more developed, is Ahsoka’s, as seen in The Wrong Jedi. We’ve seen Jedi, like Anakin and Dooku, leave the Order for purposes aligned with the dark side, but we’ve never truly seen a Jedi voluntarily leave the Order for a just cause. The excellent, novel character development that this episode provides for Ahsoka makes this necessary viewing for any Star Wars fan. Moreover, as many of the best Clone Wars episodes do, The Wrong Jedi also explores the hypocrisy in the Jedi Order. This is evidenced by the Council’s debate at the beginning of the episode in which Mace, Ki-Adi Mundi, and Saesee Tiin are so willing to condemn Ahsoka despite questionable evidence. The Wrong Jedi provides further insight into values when Anakin and Ventress discuss Ahsoka, with Ventress pinpointing how similar her and Ahsoka are. This parallels the similarities drawn between Ahsoka and Maul in the seventh season of The Clone Wars as well. The true reveal in The Wrong Jedi that Barriss Offee was the one who killed Letta Turmond is done excellently and exemplifies how tense this entire episode is, all the way to the trial and the final moments in which Ahsoka leaves Anakin and the Order behind. The Clone Wars often excels when it trades action for a more methodical, emotional narrative and The Wrong Jedi is a perfect example of this.
4. The Phantom Apprentice – Season 7, Episode 10
The Clone Wars came to an end with the Siege of Mandalore arc, one that is already deep in the Star Wars history books. In this episode, the battle on Mandalore goes full steam ahead, which puts the newly updated animation on full display. Moreover, the fight between Ahsoka and Maul has quickly become a fan favorite lightsaber duel in all of Star Wars, particularly thanks to the motion capture work of Ray Park and Lauren Mary Kim. This episode is fantastically written by Dave Filoni, showing just how far he and the show in general have come since it began in 2008. The scene in which Obi-Wan tells Ahsoka about Anakin’s special assignment also further cements the amazing overlap and connection between the final Clone Wars arc and Revenge of the Sith. In many ways, the Siege of Mandalore is Revenge of the Sith but from the perspective of Ahsoka and Rex, and it’s certainly worthy of this title.
3. Overlords – Season 3, Episode 15
The first in the Mortis arc, “Overlords” sees Anakin, Obi-Wan, and Ahsoka be pulled into a planet strong with the Force, eventually meeting the Mortis Gods, aka the father, daughter, and son. This episode, and this arc in general, has a real mystical aspect to it akin to something like Bendu in Rebels, albeit the latter not quite on the same level as the Force. It’s clear when watching Clone Wars and Rebels that Dave Filoni has a real interest in mystifying the Force and making it extremely strange and unique in the best way possible, and Overlords demonstrates this greatly. Despite having very little action, the interest and suspense in this episode is extremely high, which is a testament to the magnificent script by Christian Taylor. Moreover, the return of Qui-Gon Jinn was truly an amazing moment, and one that added so much to the episode overall. Given the quality of Overlords, it’s clear to see why the Mortis arc is considered one of, if not the best in the show.
2. Old Friends Not Forgotten – Season 7, Episode 9
“Old Friends Not Forgotten” marked the first of the acclaimed Siege of Mandalore arc. The episode and the entire arc are the most refined and cinematic The Clone Wars has ever been and it was difficult to pick what episodes from this arc should be on this list. “Old Friends Not Forgotten” was chosen as it stands out as a single episode in isolation probably better than any of the Siege of Mandalore arc, perhaps with the exception of “The Phantom Apprentice” according to some of us here at Star Wars Holocron. This episode perfectly executed the lead up to the Battle of Coruscant and the final events of The Clone Wars. The opening sequence on the bridge was a great callback to The Clone Wars film and demonstrated how far the show has come from that initial movie, delivering an impactful, methodically paced, enthralling battle (with a great Anakin moment akin to Luke on Crait in The Last Jedi to top it all off). To see Obi-Wan and Anakin struggle with Ahsoka regarding the intentions of their mission was great to see and highlighted just how corrupted the Jedi’s values had become due to the war. They chose to go and rescue Palpatine, a single man, rather than liberating an entire planet from its tyrannical ruler. The Clone Wars has always played around with the idea of the war being discrepant from traditional Jedi values, exposing the hypocrisy in the Order as peacekeepers turned soldiers, and this episode really hammers this point home. The excellent build-up to upcoming events continued in this episode with Ahsoka seeing the Clones donned with their altered helmets to honor her and Ahsoka’s heartfelt goodbye to Anakin marking the last time they see each other until their meeting on Malachor. And it wouldn’t be The Clone Wars without action, but this episode delivered what may be the best action sequence of any episode of the entire series. The actual siege of Mandalore was incredible to see, with Mandalorians fighting Clones and Ahsoka and Rex racing to the bottom. Visually, this episode excelled beyond belief and matched much of the action we see in live-action Star Wars films. And, finally, like all great TV episodes, this episode leaves you wanting more. The final moments of the episode with Maul capturing Ahsoka and revealing that he expected Kenobi was great in not only reintroducing Maul into the fold, but also getting the audience thinking about Maul’s true intentions, which were revealed in the next episode. In sum, “Old Friends Not Forgotten” adopted a more methodical pace and provided audiences with some heartfelt moments like Ahsoka and Anakin reuniting, while also delivering incredible action and offering more insights into the values of the Jedi Order, collectively making it one of the best of the series.
1. The Lawless – Season 5, Episode 16
It wasn’t easy picking the best Clone Wars episode out of the 133 installments of the series, but The Lawless ended up topping them all. The Lawless in many ways feels like the culmination of a number of arcs in The Clone Wars. This is the last we see of Satine and Savage, and Maul or Mandalore until their return in the seventh season. And each plot, at least for the time being, is wrapped up perfectly. Although Maul and Obi-Wan have obviously met before, this episode really capitalizes on the rage and relentless pursuit of Maul that drives his motivations throughout the entire Skywalker saga. Maul’s true cruelty and menace is on full display in this episode, perhaps more than ever, and really elevates him to another level regarding his status as a villain. The death of Satine in the episode at the hands of Maul was both unexpected and tragic. Kevin Kiner’s score, the manner of death, the voice acting, and of course the imagery all culminate to produce an incredibly emotional scene that adds so much depth to the broader political machinations and Obi-Wan’s character overall. The reveal, although predicted by some, that Bo-Katan was Satine’s sister was also interesting to see and added complexity to the Kryze family regarding their conflicting philosophies about the future of Mandalore. The moment Bo-Katan and Obi-Wan share when he finds out about her relation to Satine was touching and added another layer to her tragic death. Just when this episode seemed like it couldn’t be any more enthralling, we then see Sidious sense a disturbance in the Force and arrive on Mandalore to confront Maul and Savage. The ensuing lightsaber duel is by far the best one The Clone Wars has ever seen and even among the best duels we’ve seen in the entire Star Wars saga. Akin to his fight with Yoda in Revenge of the Sith, Sidious’ incomparable skills are on full display here. The fight sequence is expertly choreographed and features some great moments of dialogue, like Sidious talking about the Rule of Two. Savage’s death is surprisingly tragic as well, which was an unexpected emotional beat in the episode. Also, this episode gives us Obi-Wan in red Mandalorian armor, so that’s a huge thing going in its favor as well. The Lawless, overall, is the best The Clone Wars has to offer from top to bottom – enthralling narrative, well-developed character arcs and choices, incredible visuals, and some truly iconic Star Wars moments.
It was difficult to select such a limited pool of episodes for this list, so below are some honorable mentions that barely missed the cut:
Lair of Grievous – Season 1, Episode 10
The Mandalore Plot – Season 2, Episode 12
Shattered – Season 7, Episode 11
Victory and Death – Season 7, Episode 12
Monster – Season 3, Episode 13
Images courtesy of Lucasfilm and Disney+