The other day on Star Wars with Aron and Paulie (listen now!), Aron lamented not being able to get through the first couple of seasons of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, due to the uneven nature of the series and, quite frankly, some of those rough first seasons that led up to the excellent goodies in the later seasons.

So we decided to put together a listing of what we feel are the essential (read: best) Clone Wars storylines/episodes. They may not give you the most cohesive story thread to follow through, but they certainly do provide the best of what the Clone Wars had to offer, and the nature of the series, with its storytelling that didn’t quite continue from episode to episode, does help with skipping some of the lesser episodes.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars (the original movie): Originally released in movie theaters (though, sadly, it didn’t find much of an audience), the movie that begins the series has some of the same faults as those first seasons in trying to find its footing, but is actually pretty darn good, and has the introduction of Ahsoka Tano and many of the characters who were highlights of the series as a whole.

Season 1

The first five episodes: The series begins with “Ambush,” an episode featuring Asajj Ventress, who became a fan favorite as the series went on, followed by the three parter dealing with the “Malevolence,” a separatist starship. “Rookies” delves into the clones Rex and Cody, pivotal to the series (and to an upcoming arc in Star Wars Rebels)

Season 2

Holocron Heist,” “Cargo of Doom,” “Children of the Force”: This three-parter introduces Cad Bane, and sets the tone for the season’s theme, Rise of the Bounty Hunters.

“The Mandalore Plot,” “Voyage of Temptation,” “Duchess of Mandalore”: These episodes introduce the Duchess Satine, and a truly excellent character arc for Obi-Wan throughout the course of the series, as well as getting us familiar with Mandalore.

“The Zillo Beast,” “The Zillo Beast Strikes Back”: A fun two-parter that’s kind of the Clone Wars tribute to kaiju.

Season 3

This is the season that begins the Clone Wars turning to darker, more adult storylines.

“Nightsisters,” “Monster”, “Witches of the Mist”: The arc that introduces Savage Oppress, Darth Maul’s brother, as well as exploring the Nightsisters of Dathomir, witches with strong ties to the Sith.

“Overlords,” “Altar of Mortis,” “Ghosts of Mortis”: An interesting exploration of the force itself, as well as a sign of what’s to come for Anakin.

Season 4

“Darkness on Umbara,” “The General,” “Plan of Dissent,” “Carnage of Krell”: An arc that explores the idea that not all Jedi are decent people, and one of the best clone-centric storylines of the series, as we show how human the clones really are.

“Deception,” “Friends and Enemies,” “The Box,” “Crisis on Naboo”: Obi-Wan goes undercover, and Anakin starts doing darker things than a jedi should do. We also get a return from Cad Bane in this bounty hunter-centric storyline.

“Massacre,” “Bounty,” “Brothers,” “Revenge”: Darth Maul returns, and we get more Asajj Ventress. Whenever Darth Maul appears in the Clone Wars, you’re likely to get an excellent, dark tale.

Season 5

The entire season: Seriously, there’s not a bad episode in the bunch. Even the droid centric storyline, which may feel a little silly at first, is a winner. This season is the strongest of the bunch, and some of the best Star Wars storytelling ever.

The Lost Missions

“The Unknown,” “Conspiracy,” “Fugitive,” “Orders”: The arc that explains why the clones execute Order 66, and sets up for why some clones are still around in Star Wars Rebels, season two.

“The Lost One”: Ever wonder what the hell was up with Sifo-Diyas? This season answers a lot of unanswered questions from the prequel trilogy, including…

“Voices,” “Destiny,” “Sacrifice”: Ever wonder why some Jedi become force ghosts and others don’t? This arc which ends the officially released completed episodes, answers that.

Additional Thoughts from Keeper Dan:

That’s not a bad list. Some of the episodes on there can go either way. I really enjoy the Zillo Beast eps, but some people hate them.

The early seasons were a learning curve for the animation team. The characters looked more akin to Supermarionation puppets than animated characters. The strength of the show from beginning to end is the voice cast and the writing. The cast takes characters that were not the fully realized people we wanted in the Prequels, and truly brings them to life. Anakin is likeable! Anakin and Obi-Wan actually act like best friends!

And the new characters introduced bring a richness to the era that I think a lot of us were hoping for.

If you haven’t seen Clone Wars yet, expect Asokha to annoy you, at least while she’s still getting used to being a Padawan. I promise she becomes one of the strongest characters in Star Wars history. Then there are supporting characters like Rex, the Clone Commander assigned to Anakin. He makes an appearance in Rebels, which fans like myself are thrilled about.

Then there are new villains that we can only hope appear in Rebels as well. One we know is showing up is Hondo Ohnaka, a pirate we meet when he manages to hold Dooku, Obi-Wan & Anakin for ransom. Think about that a minute.

Then there’s Cad Bane, a bounty hunter that not only breaks into the Jedi temple on Coruscant, but steals a holocron from the vaults. That’s moxy! And he has a great hat. Even Ziro ends up being pretty fun to watch toward the end of his arc.

Clone Wars answers questions that the Prequels left dangling before us like a cat stalking a laser pointer.

  • What was up with the clones when Order 66 was called?
  • Who was this Sifo-Dyas guy who orders the clones in the first place?
  • Was Maul more than the attack dog he appeared to be in TPM?
  • Is Anakin really the Chosen One? What does that even mean?
  • What was Qui-Gon’s legacy in the Force?
  • How did we get from Yoda in RotS to Yoda in ESB?
  • Would it be possible that Obi-Wan might have understood Anakin and Padme’s relationship?
  • Were the clones more than Jangos wearing white?
  • What was Boba doing at this time? The last we see him is holding his fathers helmet.
  • How did Anakin and Tarkin first meet?

These questions and more are answered, and answered by people who are as big a fans as any of us. The minor quibbles are fleeting things compared to the fantastic Star Wars we were given.

As far as the episodes to watch, I think the whole season 5 is worth watching. Then there are the Lost Missions, which is what would have been season 6 if Disney didn’t axe it. Even the episodes in animatic format available on are awesome and offer great story.

The Utapau Arc-
The Bad Batch Arc-

Your Thoughts?

Agree? Disagree? What did we miss? Let us know in the comments below!