When Star Wars the Clone Wars debuted in theaters in 2008, the reaction was not good. Fans disliked the animation and flimsy story and sudden introduction of Anakin’s never-before mentioned Padawan Ahsoka Tano.
But as the first season of the series went on, the fandom slowly but surely came around to it. It was helped by the writers deepening the show, taking daring chances, and adding in great characters from clone troopers Cody and Rex to cunning crook Hondo.
Another attraction was how the animation allowed for action even the movies couldn’t replicate.
Fans were outraged when the show was ended after its fifth season, with the sixth being made up of “Lost Episodes.” Thankfully, Disney finally brought it to a conclusion with season seven.
With 133 episodes, it’s hard to pick which are the best of the best, but the following ones stand out. These ten stories are essential for newcomers, yet even a “lesser” Clone Wars episode is a reminder of how magical Star Wars can be.
Honorable mention arcs include Rookies (the first showcase of Cody and Rex), Dooku Captured (the introduction of popular galactic crook Hondo), Holocron Heist (a classic Cad Bane episode), Nightsisters (the origins of Asajj Ventress), and the Umbara saga.
Hostage Crisis (season 1, episode 22)
The show’s first season was mostly hit and miss, but it finally found its voice in the finale.
It’s a terrific action piece that plays like a Star Wars version of Die Hard as Anakin tries to rescue a pack of senators (including Padme) held hostage by bounty hunters.
It boasts the introduction of one of the show’s best characters, Cad Bane, who instantly asserts his cred as a dangerous fighter.
A great stand-alone ep, it also shows some of the political games amid the war, which becomes a theme of the series and kicked the show into high gear.
The Mandalore Plot (season 2, episodes 12-14)
This three-episode saga begins a recurring point of the series: how the warrior world Mandalore is key for the Republic.
It introduces leader Duchess Satine and a clear attraction between her and Obi-Wan, although his duty to the Jedi means it can never grow further. There’s also a brief touch on the inner darkness of Anakin.
While the thrills are on stopping an assassination attempt, the story also builds on the politics of Mandalore and the conflicts with the Death Watch, which play throughout the series.
This storyline sets up future characters like Bo-Katan and Obi-Wan’s warmer side to become a more important arc later in the show.
The Mortis Trilogy (season 3, episodes 15-17)
This emotional saga delves into the Force’s mystical side while giving the three main characters peeks at the future.
Crashing on a distant world, Anakin, Obi-Wan, and Ahsoka are met by three mysterious entities who tempt them with the Dark Side.
The biggest moment is Anakin shown his own dark future as Darth Vader even as Obi-Wan battles a possessed Ahsoka.
It brings up items like the Dagger of Mortis while showcasing how even the Jedi don’t fully understand what the Force is, not to mention its dangers or powers.
Maul Returns (season 4, episode 21-22/Season 5, Episode 1)
It sounded crazy at the time but bringing back Darth Maul was one of the best moves for the series.
After clashing with the Jedi a few times, Maul’s brother, Savage Opress, convinces the mystical Nightsisters to resurrect Maul, who naturally wants revenge on Obi-Wan.
The Jedi gets an unlikely aide from former Sith Asajj Ventress in a sensational duel.
The season 5 premiere sets them on the path that will lead to Maul making some brutal attacks on Obi-Wan and finally become the awesome villain fans wanted to see.
The Onderon Arc (Season 5, Episode 2-5)
Fans of Rogue One will appreciate these episodes as they debut Saw Gerrera, the resistance fighter later played by Forest Whitaker.
A younger Saw and his sister, Stella, are trying to free their homeworld of Onderon from the Separatists.
While Anakin and Ahsoka are aiding (along with rapscallion smuggler Hondo), they’re put off by how Saw’s passion to free his world turns into recklessness and obsession, hinting at his future bitter persona.
The story ends in a bittersweet way as Saw frees his world but pays a dark price which once more has the series not holding back on the consequences of war.
The Lawless (Season 5, episodes 14-16)
A massive turning point for Obi-Wan’s life comes in this gripping saga.
Darth Maul and Savage Opress team up with the Mandalorian terrorist group Death Watch to overthrow Duchess Satine and Maul becoming Mandalore’s ruler.
Obi-Wan’s attempts to rescue Satine end in tragedy, while backup comes in the form of Bo-Katan, who truly steps up as a popular character.
However, Darth Sidious interrupts Maul’s plans to face his former apprentice in a brutal battle that leaves no sides walking off unscathed. It’s a powerful epic that proved to fans no one was safe.
The Wrong Jedi (Season 5, episodes 17-20)
A key turning point in Ahsoka’s life, this adventure begins with her being framed for a bombing at the Jedi Temple.
Anakin is ready to quit the Order to defend his Padwan, but Ahsoka escapes first and goes on the run to clear her name. It’s a thrilling storyline showing the effects the war has on the Jedi and Ahsoka in the spotlight.
It culminates in what could have been the show’s final episode as Ahsoka refuses to return to the Order, a decision that has massive ramifications for Anakin’s own journey.
It also sent Ahsoka on the path that can now be seen on the Mandalorian.
Orders (season 6, episodes 1-4)
Every Star Wars fan knows of Order 66, the command Palpatine uses to force the clone army to turn on the Jedi.
Yet this chilling four-parter lays the groundwork when a clone suddenly goes rogue to take out one of his Jedi generals. Popular Clone trooper Fives investigates and soon stumbles onto the dark conspiracy of the clones’ true purpose.
But the figure behind it will go to any lengths to ensure no one believes his tale.
Even though the audience knows what’s happening, it’s harrowing to see how close Fives comes to exposing the plot only for a harsh ending that showcases Palpatine’s genius chess game.
The Bad Batch (Season 7 episodes 1-4)
Obviously, in order to understand the new spin-off, these episodes are a must-watch.
After being name-dropped for some time, audiences finally got to see Clone Force 99, made up of clones who have “mutations” that make them different than the rank and file but also perfect for a black ops force.
This story arc has the Batch joining on a rescue mission of long believed dead clone trooper Echo, which allows them to show their stuff.
It’s a great tale to boost the Batch up for their coming starring roles and why even their fellow Clones respect them.
The End (Season 7 episodes 9-12)
It all came down to this. The final four episodes of the series take place simultaneously as Revenge of the Sith and show the Republic’s final hours.
It begins with Ahsoka finally binging down Maul in a fantastic fight. But as she’s bringing him to face justice, Order 66 occurs, and the fall of the Jedi begins.
Ahsoka must fight her own troops while Maul goes on a stunning attack that literally brings down an entire ship on his own.
It’s a powerful finale ending with a final shot of Vader seeking his former padawan and closing an amazing era for Star Wars.
Star Wars the Clone Wars season 1-7 streaming on Disney+.