For years the internet has told me that the animated Clone Wars series was not only worth my time, it was actually some of the best Star Wars content out there, full stop. Sometimes the internet is wise, indeed.
The show on a whole is a bit uneven - the disconnected, anthology feel of the early seasons, while enjoyable, makes it hard to build any kind of rhythm - but when the show hits its stride, it fires on all cylinders. The final four episodes, which serve as a sort of mini-movie, is more viscerally exciting and emotionally compelling than anything in The Rise Of Skywalker. Color me impressed.
Most of what makes Clone Wars so fascinating is the show's vast collection of original characters. Sure, you've got plenty of Obi-Wan, Anakin, and Yoda action, but they're easily the least interesting thing on the show because we already know their fate. It's the weird new corners of the Star Wars universe and the oddballs that populate it that make the show truly worth watching, and with a bunch these characters about to make their live-action debut on The Mandalorian, we're here to break down the ten best original characters on The Clone Wars in the hopes that more of them might pop up in future series and films.
Yes, that name is absurd on paper and only made more absurd when I tell you that it's pronounced suh-VAAJ oh-PRESS. Truthfully, Opress is little more than a magically roided-out knock off Darth Maul, introduced to essentially bide time and tease the return of Palpatine's erstwhile apprentice, last seen cleaved in twain and plummeting down a hole on Naboo. Still, Opress eventually served as a formidable foe and by the time he and Maul had teamed up, I was willing to overlook his silly, silly name.
This group of clone soldiers stand apart from the rest, literally. Not only do they all have mutations which give them unique physical attributes and skill sets, but they also have an abundance of personality to match. Hunter, Wrecker, Crosshair, and Tech are a lovable bunch of misfits, taking on seemingly impossible missions with gleeful abandon while trying to one-up each other's kill counts. These guys were a blast, and I only wish they had appeared prior to Season 7.
What a truly bizarre detour. Anakin, Obi-Wan, and Ahsoka are tracking down an old Jedi distress signal when they're mysteriously transported to the strange world of Mortis, which exists outside of time. There they meet Father, Daughter, and Son, three shape-shifting beings with unparalleled mastery of the Force. Daughter represents the Light Side, Son represents the Dark Side, and Father maintains the balance between the two. It's a crazy, left-field expansion of the Force mythology that really stands apart from the rest of the franchise, to the point where it briefly feels like Anakin and friends have somehow wandered into a different show entirely. Still, props to Filoni for not being afraid to get really weird.
Star Wars is rife with characters who shift allegiances and grow over time, whether for better or for worse. Bo-Katan is a classic example - first introduced as the second-in-command of the Mandalorian terrorist organization Death Watch, only to eventually lead her own rebellion, aided by the Jedi, to free Mandalore from the rule of Darth Maul. She's smart, principled, and tough as nails, as voiced by Battlestar Galactica vet Katee Sackhoff - we're looking forward to seeing Sackhoff bring the character to life on the next season of Mandalorian as well!
Bane is a blue-skinned bounty hunter who serves as one of the series various rotating villains, and he's a really good one. He's a gun for hire with a fondness for wide-brimmed hats and a dry wit and belies a ruthless mercenary instinct. He's unmistakably a bad guy, but he's the kind of bad guy that you love to hate. Having a strong villain character who's largely unconnected to the overall machinations of Palpatine and Dooku was a smart call and provides the show with a breath of fresh air. The episodes where Bane is forced to unwittingly team up with an in-disguise Obi-Wan Kenobi are particularly fun.
Coming off the The Mandalorian, which is steeped in Mandalore's culture of war-as-religion, it was more than a little jarring when Obi-Wan finally travelled to that planet only to reveal that the it was part of a neutral system in the Clone War, and ruled over by a pacifist leader in Duchess Satine. She leads her people with intelligence, grace, and a strong moral authority, so it's hard not to find her pretty endearing, especially once you factor in her (probably?) unconsummated romantic history with Obi-Wan. In these dark times, we could use more leaders like Satine.
Space pirates are the best pirates and Hondo Ohnaka is no exception. There's almost a Han Solo-ish quality to him, though with an even more relaxed sense of morality. Hondo is neither hero nor villain, just a guy who's looking out for number one and is willing to do anything for a score. One minute he's smuggling arms on behalf of the Jedi, the next he's trying to steal khyber crystals from a ship full of younglings. You can count of Hondo to have your back right up to the moment when a better offer comes along. But he's also gregarious and full of a scoundrel's wisdom, so he can't help but bring a smile to your face whenever he appears on screen.
Star Wars loves a good redemption story. Ventress is introduced as a Sith assassin and apprentice to Count Dooku, serving as a vicious thorn in the side of the Jedi. That is until Darth Sidious orders Dooku to betray her and leave her for dead. Ventress survives and returns to her homeworld of Dathomir to rejoin the mysterious Night Sisters, where we learn she was actually sold into slavery as a child and became a Jedi Padawan until her master was killed in front of her and all of a sudden I found myself emotionally invested in her and maybe even a bit sympathetic? Eventually I was practically cheering for her to get revenge on Dooku. She goes on to play a key role in one of the series' best storylines late in Season 5, though I wish she could've appeared again somewhere in the final season.
Okay, so this is a bit of a copout. Captain Rex starts out as a basic second in command for Anakin, but the show really gives him room to grow into a strong character in his own right. Rex is so beloved that he's since been retconned as a member of the strike team that Han Solo led on the moon of Endor. But probably the greatest trick the show manages to pull off is to make us care about not just Rex, but Fives, Echo, Hardcase, Jesse, and all the rest of the Clone Troopers. By all rights, they should be interchangeable cogs, glorified cannon fodder. Instead, the show goes to great lengths to assert that the clones are not just automatons - they're people, individuals with hopes, dreams, and aspirations. In fact, some of the series' best storylines revolve solely around individual squads of clone troopers with nary a lightsaber in sight.
How could it be anyone else? For years I assumed that fandom's love for Anakin's apprentice was overblown but I'm here to tell you that it is, in fact, well earned. She's easily the character who grows the most over the course of the show, starting out as a (I swear to god) tube-top wearing Padawan and growing to become the emotional center of the entire series. It's telling that in the show's final hours, they chose to largely ignore the likes of Anakin and Obi-Wan in favor of bringing closure to Ahsoka's journey instead. But there's something bigger at play, and it didn't occur to me until much later. The Jedi Order of the Clone Wars and the Prequels had grown complacent, prisoners to their own officious dogma and blind to the danger all around them. Despite their noble intentions, the Jedi lost their way, even if they could not see it. But Ahsoka understands this, which is what leads her to eventually go off on her own. She is, in fact, the ideal version of what the Jedi should be - sure, she's brave and powerful, but more importantly she eschews the Jedi's stoic emotional detachment in favor of love and compassion. It's a trait she almost certainly inherited from Anakin, though like all apprentices, she's moved beyond her master. Anakin's version of love is selfish and possesive, more infatuation than anything else. (If nothing else, the Prequels cement Darth Vader as the ultimate incel.) Ahsoka is overflowing with empathy, as evidenced in that haunting final image of her in the series' closing moments. Ahsoka Tano might be the most fundamentally decent character in all of Star Wars and I for one am PUMPED to see what she gets up to on The Mandalorian.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars is currently streaming on Disney+.
Movie Nerd/Dad from Boston, currently living the good life in New Zealand.