Friday, June 26, 2020

So Much Time, So Much Star Wars: A Finished Clone Wars Post

As I can't play ultimate and as I have plenty of time on my hands, I have spent the quarantine watching Clone Wars while treadmilling.  I was reluctant to watch it when it came out because
a)  I didn't want to root for Anakin Skywalker, given what he became;
b)  Jar Jar Binks.

But with Mandalorian and Rebels both building on Clone Wars stuff (the Black Saber, among other things), it made sense to go back and watch.  Plus the seventh season, which looked cool was just coming out (spoiler: it was mostly very cool).  So, yes, I have many thoughts.

First, yes, all the character development that was missing in the prequels is here.  Clone Wars is really about the development of Ashoka Tano, who started out a bit whiny and became the heart of the show and a powerful knight (Jedi or not).  The stakes of the entire conflict were played out through her for much of the run of CW.  The only other top episodes of the seven seasons were the Obi-Wan/Satine episodes.

CW didn't just develop Ashoka's character, it also gave much depth to Obi-Wan and, yes, Anakin (more on that below), other Jedi we had seen but not really got to know, Padmé (sort of), and even, yes, Darth Maul.  I hate when characters that are dead, dead, dead come back to life.  But I will cut them a break on Maul, as he was fun and interesting and useful in Clone Wars (and his appearances in Rebels were pretty good, too). 

Obi-Wan got to be a delight--a polished smartass with a tragic backstory.  Anakin?  Ug.  He got far more development in the Clone Wars than in the movies, but that ain't saying much.  The show did show that he was vulnerable to seduction because he was brash, impatient, jealous, and, yes, abusive.  His relationship with Padmé included jealousy and anger.  She should have left him long before she got pregnant.  If the show was just about him, I would have given up, I think. 

The strange and amazing thing is that the show gave the Clones much depth.  Via tattoes, haircuts, beards, etc, we could tell them apart.  They had different personalities, and one could develop much sympathy for how their lives were wasted by the Republic.  Jedi make for lousy generals  And, well, the Clones like to run into the fire much of the time, rather than use cover.  By the time we get to the end, we are ambivalent about their deaths, given Order 66 and all that. 

Second, the series does a great job of showing how broken the Jedi Order was.  Not only did they kick out Ashoka for a crime she didn't commit, but they so often made bad decisions.  Yoda was most unimpressive in his inability to see what was going on.  They got handed most of the clues--hey, the Clones were arranged by the adversary--yet didn't piece it together at all.  Clone Wars nicely showed how the public saw them as warriors and not peacekeepers since, well, they were warriors.  And deeply sucked into the politics of the Republic.  They were secretive, not trusting the Senate to do the right thing.  And, sure that might have made some sense from a tactical point of view, but from a civil-military relations standpoint (as Jim Golby pointed out in Strategy Strikes Back), it is awful.  The whole fear of attachment thing is one of the things that is so broken about the Order.  It should be ok to love and be loved--it is the hiding it that corrupts.  If hate is so powerful for the dark side, wouldn't love be key to the light side of the force?  Not just compassion but love?  And there is a hell of a lot of love among the Jedi--brotherly, sisterly, fatherly, etc.  So, I think this is a flaw in George Lucas's set up in the prequels (the old expanded universe allowed Jedi to love), but it works here in the sense that the current Jedi Order was set up on some bad principles that led to its own destruction.  It is not that Anakin loved Padmé, but (a) he had to lie about it and (b) he was an insecure weenie that was too jealous, too scared to love the right way.

Third, I found it strange how much Count Dooku was trying to win the war since he knew the plot (more or less) and that it was all a diversion and a Jedi-killing exercise.  There was some illogic/plot-holes along the way that I am forgetting now, but didn't make sense if one knows that the head of the Separatists is insincere.  The show did have provide the Separatists with some depth by depicting more reasonable, not so evil folks who wanted to leave a broken Republic. 

Fourth, it had some of the SW racism baked in, as the Banking Clan was way too Jewish looking.  And, the political economy was kind of messed up as well--that the banks were too big to fail. 

The series was uneven, but when it was good, it was very good.  The last few episodes with Ashoka are among the best stuff in Star Wars even if she made a very questionable decision to release Maul in order to create a distraction. 

Where does it rank?  Well, because I need something to watch while I exercise, I am re-watching Rebels.  I think I tend to agree with the Binge Mode folks that Rebels has a higher average but CW's peaks are better.  Clone Wars is better, even including the Jar Jar crap, than the prequels, better than Rise of Skywalker and Solo.  So, what is my latest ranking of SW stuff (with much revision of Rise of Skywalker after seeing a couple more times)?

My previous ranking was:
Tier 1: The best of the SW universe
Empire > A New Hope > Rogue 1 > Rise of Skywalker/Return of the Jedi 

Tier 2: Ambivalence 
Last Jedi > Force Awakens > Revenge of the Sith/Solo

Tier 3: Oy
Phantom Menace > Attack of the Clones

Tier 1: The best of the SW universe
Empire > A New Hope > Mandalorian > Rogue 1 > Return of the Jedi > Rebels

Tier 2: Ambivalence 
Clone Wars > Last Jedi > Force Awakens > Solo (better on a second watching) > Revenge of the Sith > Rise of Skywaker

Tier 3: Oy
Resistance (the latest animated show, will watch more of it to make sure) > Phantom Menace > Attack of the Clones

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