The Way Forward is Through the Star Wars Animated Series

With the release of J.J. Abrams’ The Rise of Skywalker and the conclusion of the beloved saga spanning over 40 years, fans and creators alike should look to the Star Wars animated series to show the way forward. Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Rebels, and Resistance each uniquely and artfully weave together the heartwarming, humorful, tragic, and mythological. These series so fully embody exactly what it means to be a part of the Star Wars universe.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars is a 2008 television series created by George Lucas and developed by Dave Filoni and Henry Gilroy. The show is set between the prequel films Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith in a galaxy far, far away during the so called clone wars in the era of the Republic. Following the adventures, trials, and tribulations of Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Padme Amidala, Yoda, a cast of clone soldiers, fan favorite Ahsoka Tano, and a host of other characters, The Clone Wars has received critical acclaim and has been praised for its writing, characters, voice acting, music, visuals, action, scale, and tone. The show has explored, amongst a number of things, the ethics of using an army of clones, the corruption of the Jedi Order, and the existence of various embodied force wielders. Star Wars: The Clone Wars returns for its long awaited seventh season, February 21st on Disney+. 

Created by Dave Filoni, Simon Kinberg, and Carrie Beck, Star Wars Rebels is an animated television series from 2014 set five years before A New Hope when the rebellion against the empire was only starting to get on its feet. The show follows a group of rebels aboard the Ghost including Ezra Bridger (Taylor Gray), Kanan Jarrus (Freddie Prinze Jr.), Hera Syndulla (Vanessa Marshall), Sabine Wren (Tiya Sircar), and Zeb Orrelios (Steven Blum). Star Wars Rebels has received critical acclaim and explores further the mythology of the force as well as concepts such as redemption and atonement.

Star Wars Resistance is a two season animated television show created by Dave Filoni, Kiri Hart, and Carrie Beck set shortly before and during the events of the sequel trilogy. It is centered around Kazuda Xiono (Christopher Sean) as he is recruited to be a spy for the Resistance. The show was nominated for an Emmy Award for being an outstanding children’s program and has received praise for its exciting adventures and relatable characters. Star Wars Resistance has most notably explored in part why someone might join the First Order.

Exploring key episodes and arcs throughout the saga, which delve into important moral questions and the mythology central to the Star Wars galaxy, will help illuminate the way forward in this saga.

The Deserter (Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Season Two)

In the tenth episode of the second season, Captain Rex (Dee Bradley Baker) is injured by a commando droid while searching the planet of Saleucami for General Grievous (Matthew Wood). He recovers at the farm of the clone deserter, Cut Lawquane (Dee Bradley Baker), and his family. In one of the first episodes to discuss in-depth the use of clones as soldiers, the two talk about choice, duty, family, and individuality. In doing so, this episode pushes us to start confronting how we view both the clone soldiers of the Republic era and the inevitable stormtroopers of the Empire and First Order. It expands our perspectives on the Star Wars universe and blurs the boundary between what is right and wrong.

“I was just another expendable clone waiting for my turn to be slaughtered in a war that made no sense to me.”

-Cut Lawquane
Clone trooper Rex is standing in front of a small family, preparing to say goodbye.
Image Courtesy of Lucasfilm

Ahsoka Leaves the Jedi Order (Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Season Five)

In the final four episodes of the fifth season, an increasing number of people in the Republic have grown disillusioned with the war and the Jedi Order as its perpetrators. A young padawan of the Order, Barriss Offee (Meredith Salenger), orchestrates a bombing of the Jedi temple and frames her friend and fellow padawan, Ahsoka Tano (Ashley Eckstein). This arc marks in a notable way the beginning of the end and while Ahsoka is eventually cleared of all charges, she chooses to leave the Jedi Order and her master, Anakin Skywalker (Matt Lanter), having lost her faith in the Order and all that it was meant to stand for. The season five finale masterfully weaves together the idea of great personal tragedy and long term warfare – everyone suffers to some account in an unending war. People lose their way, friends betray each other, family leaves, orders of peace turn against their values, societies become corrupted. These ideas make room for a more nuanced understanding of the Star Wars universe and provides greater meaning to the happiness, love, light, and peace that eventually endures.

“The Jedi have become warmongers. They’ve become military weapons and they’re killing when they should be keeping the peace.”

-Letta Turmond
Anakin is reaching out to Ahsoka as she leaves the Jedi temple.
Image Courtesy of Lucasfilm

Mortis Arc (Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Season Three)

The Mortis arc takes place across the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth episodes in season three and introduces the audience to the mystical force wielders called the Ones, consisting of the Father (Lloyd Sherr), the light affiliated Daughter (Adrienne Wilkinson), and the dark affiliated Son (Sam Witwer). This arc examines in large part the role of Anakin as the chosen one but also explores the living force, the balance between two seemingly opposed affiliations within the force, as well as the concepts of destiny and if someone is able to change the future. Ultimately the Mortis arc opens the door for further explorations of the mythology central to the Star Wars universe and is a fascinating portrayal of the force seldom seen in the live action films.

“We are the ones who guard the power. We are the beginning, the middle and the end.”

-The Daughter
Anakin is lifting both the Daughter and the Son with the force while the Father watches on.
Image Courtesy of Lucasfilm

Trials of the Darksaber (Star Wars Rebels, Season Three)

In one of the most emotionally powerful episodes of the show, Sabine must learn to wield the Mandalorian darksaber confronting rising expectations, family history, and her own hand in designing the weapon brutally used to decimate the planet of Mandalore. This episode, like many throughout the series, reckons with the ideas of inner conflict, grief, and loss and starts Sabine down the path of finally healing from these wounds, reconciliation with herself and her family, and atonement for her hand in creating the weapons used on Mandalore.

“The truth is that I left to save everyone. My mother! My father! My brother! Everything I did was for family, for Mandalore! I built weapons, terrible weapons, but the Empire used them on Mandalore; on friends; on family; people that I knew. […]. I helped enslave my people!”

-Sabine Wren
Sabine Wren is holding the darksaber.
Image Courtesy of Lucasfilm

The World Between Worlds (Star Wars Rebels, Season Four)

In this two episode arc from the fourth season, Ezra discovers the World Between Worlds, a pathway through all of time and space. These episodes further explore the mythology behind the force and its connection to everything that ever was and ever will be, reintroducing the iconography of the Father, the Daughter, and the Son. In the World Between Worlds, Ezra is able to save Ahsoka from being killed by pulling her out through one of the portals, though he must also learn that sometimes you need to let go of the people you have lost. With the end of this arc, the crew of the Ghost have said their final goodbyes to Kanan and his presence in the force, having learned many valuable lessons that will see them through to the end of the Imperial presence on Lothal.

“I’m sorry Ezra, but you must see. Kanan found the moment when he was needed most, and he did what he had to do, for everyone.”

-Ahsoka Tano
Ezra is walking in the world between worlds.
Image Courtesy of Lucasfilm

No Escape (Star Wars Resistance, Season One)

In the two part season one finale, Tam Ryvora (Suzie McGrath) joins the First Order. It takes a combination of feeling increasingly isolated and lied to by those she trusted most, manipulation by a seemingly kind and well wishing officer of the First Order, and an offer to help her fulfill her dream of becoming a pilot. The finale spends ample time reckoning with these circumstances, clearly showcasing her deep feelings of hurt and betrayal, as well as Tam’s inner conflict over this decision, having to choose between those that she knew and once trusted and the potential of a new life where those people can’t betray or hurt her again.

“After all the work I did for you, trusting you, expecting a better life – all for nothing. You were like a father to me, but all that was a lie.”

-Tam Ryvora
Tam Ryvora is standing next to two soldiers in the First Order.
Image Courtesy of Lucasfilm

The Star Wars animated series have been pushing the boundaries on storytelling, animation, character, mythological lore, music, and more since the start of The Clone Wars in 2008. These series have received nominations for numerous awards, critical acclaim, and audience praise. The inspiration they have spurred across people interacting with Star Wars media should be a welcome sign of what exactly this galaxy far, far away should look like moving forward.