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Star Wars: The Clone Wars has a very devoted and passionate fanbase. The animated movie came out in 2008 and wasn’t that great. But as a concept, it had potential and Dave Filoni ran with it. Six seasons later, he’d created a whole network of arcs, storylines, and characters so complex, it’s still relevant to Star Wars today. It also is necessary if you want to better understand the prequel trilogies

Now, say what you want about George Lucas’ prequels, but they were good. They did what they had to do, especially Revenge of the Sith. However, there’s something missing. It’s hard to place, but after watching The Clone Wars, it’s obvious what it was: more. Yep, the prequels needed more explanations, more character developments, and more time to build up to Episode III. While it’s hard to accomplish that in three movies, The Clone Wars were the perfect venue to expand on this part in Star Wars’ canon history.

Anakin is angered that he isn't allowed to visit Ahsoka in prison in Season 5, Episode 18 of 'The Clone Wars.'
Anakin tries to visit Ahsoka in prison in Season 5, Episode 18 of ‘The Clone Wars’ | Lucasfilm

‘The Clone Wars’ gave more meaning to the war the Jedi fought in

There is a lot you can say on this topic. But one of the biggest things The Clone Wars did to aid in understanding the prequels better was the politics of it all. If you just watch Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, you know a war is going on but aren’t sure of Anakin’s and Obi-Wan’s direct involvement. Yes, they talk about being on the front lines, but you only see them on Geonosis and on an extraction mission with Chancellor Palpatine.

A big chunk of the series shows Senate meetings and contains arcs that involve Senator Padmé Amidala going to other planets to negotiate different war plans or topics. In theory, it’s boring. But The Clone Wars does an excellent job of making it interesting and relevant. Plus, the Onderon rebels arc in Season 5 is an amazing way to showcase the growing resistance to both sides of the war. 

It further developed characters from the movies

The existence of underdeveloped characters is one of the biggest critiques when it came to the prequels. Characters were created but then weren’t used to their fullest potential or given dialogues that aided their stories. Anakin, played by Hayden Christensen, and Padmé, played by Natalie Portman, are the best examples of this. But The Clone Wars does a 180-degree flip on how the live-action characters come off. 

The show still uses the foundations for these roles, but gives them more time to express themselves, to play into their strengths, and show just how good they really are. Specifically with Padmé; she went on to become just an object of Anakin’s affection in Episode III when in actuality (and in The Clone Wars) she was an excellent senator who was one of the best at her job. Diplomacy was her calling, and she did not shy away from any conflict.

It makes the Clones’ “betrayal” hurt more than before

The execution of Order 66 — when the Clone troopers turned on the Jedi and killed almost all of them — was heartbreaking on its own. Seeing so many Jedi shot in the back and Padawans killed on-site, was rough. However, if that was a stab in the heart, The Clone Wars douses you with fire. 

It gives names to the troopers, singling out several that are important to the main story. It also gives them personalities and has them work closely with Anakin, Obi-Wan, and Ahsoka. You root for them, especially in their solo storylines like the Battle of Umbara arc. Captain Rex, Cody, and Echo become beloved characters and make it harder to watch Episode III. Knowing these guys have no control over their betrayal of Jedi they work very closely with is tough. And considering they’ll show another side of Order 66 in Season 7 come February: grab some tissues.

The lead-up to Anakin turning to the Dark Side has more weight 

With the further development of Anakin’s character in The Clone Wars, you love him even more than the movies allow. You see his cockiness and immaturity. His playfulness and how even Padmé doesn’t know how anyone allowed him to teach Ahsoka. It gives him depth as a leader, as a Jedi Knight, and as a person. 

This makes his fall from the Light Side even more evident because it happens gradually, yet obviously, throughout the seasons. The Clones Wars are able to really show how badly the Jedi Council treated Anakin and why his disillusionment with the Order was all there by the time Palpatine started seducing him with the Dark Side. Revenge of the Sith makes it a lot about saving Padmé, which is definitely one of the reasons he turns. However, the show also adds on the Council’s distrust and mistreatment towards Anakin and how they played a part in Ahsoka leaving the Order. That event alone caused Anakin to spiral more, but add that all in with his passionate emotions and attachments, and it piled up into the perfect storm that created Darth Vader. 

This isn’t saying the prequels were bad; again, they were good. But The Clone Wars is essential if you really want to experience the full weight of the story, especially Revenge of the Sith.