The Bittersweet Dramatic Irony of Cartoon Network's Clone Wars

The Bittersweet Dramatic Irony of Cartoon Network’s Clone Wars

Who’s gonna tell all the eight-year-olds how this war ends?

On the surface, Cartoon Network’s smash hit Clone Wars is a breezy little space adventure. Obi-Wan, Anakin, Padme, and the rest of the prequel pack (yes, even Jar-Jar) zip around the galaxy, taking out hordes of bumbling robots and crossing lightsabers with a series of snarling bad guys. Everyone is constantly in danger, but nobody ever gets hurt, and the good guys inevitably save the day while learning valuable life lessons. Even though there’s a massive interstellar war raging, the tone is doggedly upbeat. In other words, this is a high-tech version of G.I. Joe, Thunder Cats, Transformers, or any of those other boy shows we enjoyed with our Rice Krispies back in the 80s.

However, when you consider the series in the context of Episodes II and III, everything changes. The Clone Wars suddenly seems darker than the inside of a Sarlacc. In fact, it seems almost cruel to market it to eight-year-olds.

Here’s the key thing to remember about the galactic conflict known as the Clone Wars: they are a complete and utter farce. Palpatine is literally controlling both sides: he commands the Republic’s clone army as Supreme Chancellor, and he leads the Separatist’s droid army as Darth Sidious. The sole reason for the war is to solidify Palpatine’s political power, and to keep the Jedi bogged down in a bunch of totally meaningless battles.

Someone should really ask more questions about where this giant army came from.

(Side note: I will never understand why the Jedi are too dumb to realize they’re being set up. In Episode II, Obi-Wan investigates an attempted assassination, which leads him to a planet of “cloners.” He’s surprised to discover that these people have spent years making a clone army supposedly for the Jedi. That’s kind of suspicious, right? But at the end of the movie, the Jedi happily take command of this army even though no one has any clue where it came from. I mean honestly, how dumb are they? Over the three years of the Clone Wars, they can’t even send one measly accountant to figure out who paid these cloners 80 trillion dollars to build an entire army? Not to go off on a rant here, but the fact that the man who the clones were cloned from tried to kill Obi-Wan and had to be decapitated by Mace Windu should have been a red flag that, gee, maybe we need to figure out where all these goddamn clones came from before we just take them home. Anyway…)

The Clone Wars are not the epic struggle between good and evil the cartoon makes them out to be. They’re not even a real conflict. To the people fighting them, they’re real enough, but there aren’t even two sides; just a single commander, ordering his troops to attack each other. Imagine if Gargamel was secretly working for Papa Smurf.

Like I said, this is dark, dark stuff. But that’s not the half of it.

The Jedi lose the Clone Wars, bigtime. They not only don’t defeat the robot army, they are all killed. By their OWN TROOPS. Consider that for a moment: this is a show for children about a war which will end with the good guys getting shot in the back by their own soldiers. The fact that a lot of the young fans might not know that doesn’t make it better; arguably, it makes it worse.

Doomed!

Once you know the disastrous conclusion of the Clone Wars, it’s hard to look at the TV show the same way. For instance, consider Ahsoka Tano, Anakin’s padawan apprentice. She calls him “Sky Guy,” he calls her “Snips.” She’s 14, and her plotlines are easy for the show’s young fans to identify with (she loses her lightsaber, and scrambles to get it back before Anakin finds out). All in all, not a bad role model for Star Wars-loving little girls, who finally have a female Jedi to root for. And she makes a cool Halloween costume!

Too bad she’ll be dead before she’s 16.

And speaking of female role models, there’s Padme. On the show, she’s a wily diplomat who easily out-negociates the male politicians. When that fails, she’s not shy about pulling out a blaster and kicking some robot ass. But even during the events of Clone Wars, it’s possible that she’s already pregnant with the twins that will eventually kill her. After her husband crushes her windpipe.

And what can you say about Anakin? The hero of this show is only months away from slaughtering all those children in the Jedi temple. Children the same age as the show’s fans.

Our hero? I guess? Kind of?

Keep in mind, this show premiered well after Episode III. The creators knew the context of the Clone Wars and the fate of their characters very well. And yet they still decided to push ahead and create a series about the Jedi fighting a sham war, which will end with them being massacred by their own troops. (As I watched, I found the constant presence of the clone troopers fairly creepy. They’re supposed to be the good guys in this context. But they’re also the exact same people who will kill the Jedi and become the storm troopers.) I’m trying to think of what I can compare this TV series to that captures the dramatic irony. Imagine if there was a cartoon about Macbeth, Thane of Glamis, fighting bravely alongside his best buddy Banquo and King Duncan, in the days right before the play begins. But honestly, that only captures half the irony of Clone Wars, because in Macbeth’s case at least they were at war against a real enemy. In Clone Wars, not only is the eventual outcome horrible, but the war itself is a joke.

But then, I came up with an analogy that not only works, it actually made me reconsider whether Clone Wars is dark at all.

The Clone Wars is like The Iliad. Think about it: the Trojan War is pretty pointless too. The two armies spend ten years fighting over a woman. Plus, they’re constantly being manipulated by the gods, who have predetermined the outcome. And like the Clone Wars, almost all the heroes are heading for tragedy. Achilles dies after the poem. Ajax goes insane and kills himself when he is denied Achilles’ armor. Agamemnon is stabbed by his own wife as soon as he returns home. Odysseus has to wander around the Mediterranean for another 10 years. In The Iliad, almost nobody gets a happy ending.

But does that make The Iliad pointless? Hell no. I think one of the major points of The Iliad is that fighting in the great Trojan War is an end unto itself, the greatest glory a man could hope for. In fact, dying in a truly great battle is better than living through it. It’s our ability to die, and face that death with open eyes, that separate men from gods.

Bear with me for a sec.

Pre-Clone Wars, the Jedi are truly godlike. They live in a high tower in a shining city. When they venture out, they often disguise their true identities. They can effortlessly take on scores of ordinary men, perform superhuman feats of agility, and even control people’s minds. More importantly, they are basically unkillable. Oh, sure, I bet the occasional Jedi gets taken out by a lucky shot or crazy monster. But there hasn’t been a Sith in over a thousand years, and it’s a good bet most non-Sith don’t want to tangle with them. I’m guessing that pre-Clone Wars, being a Jedi was a very safe job. For the most part, you were just a diplomat and a priest.

Boldly they rode and well, Into the jaws of Death, Into the mouth of Hell

But at the end of Episode II, the first shots of the Clone Wars ring out, and something shocking happens: Jedi die. A lot of Jedi die. And by the time the Clone Wars end, they’ll basically all be dead. In one respect, this is a tragedy. But if you look at it from an Iliad perspective, these deaths are necessary. It turns the Jedi from gods to men, and only after they are mortal can they be heroes.

There is a big difference between Qui-Gon and Luke. In Qui-Gon’s time, the Jedi were untouchable and all-powerful. Qui-Gon is killed in the line of duty, but that was totally unexpected. In Luke’s time, the Jedi are on the verge of extinction, so when Luke decides to become one he’s choosing danger, sacrifice, and possible death. The key moment in his arc is when he tosses away his lightsaber and tells the emperor “I am a Jedi, like my father before me,” knowing full well the emperor is probably going to kill him right there. Like the Greeks in the Iliad, it’s the fact that he accepts this risk that makes him greater than a god.

So maybe the fact that the Jedi will all die at the end of the Clone Wars doesn’t make the TV show dark. It’s because the stakes are life and death that the fighting is meaningful. Yes, the conflict is completely manufactured by the Sith. But that big-picture stuff doesn’t matter–even within the show, nobody really explains or cares about what either side is fighting for. What matters is the courage and skill that these characters display in the face of death. (Even though no one actually dies, people almost die in every episode.) The ultimate victory (or lack thereof) is beside the point. The show is called Clone WARS. It’s a celebration of the fight, not the outcome.

When I watched another episode of Clone Wars with The Iliad in mind, it was a new experience. Knowing that all these Jedi were on the verge of annihilation was sad, but it also made their ephemeral triumphs that much sweeter. This show is about one final Indian summer during which the Jedi sat astride the galaxy in all their glory, before they were swept away in a single afternoon. And like The Iliad, the show seems to say that these characters only attain true greatness in the context of their violent ends. After all, death comes to everyone… but not everyone gets to die in the great Clone Wars.

57 Comments on “The Bittersweet Dramatic Irony of Cartoon Network’s Clone Wars”

  1. cornflakes #

    “I will never understand why the Jedi are too dumb to realize they’re being set up. […] I mean honestly, how dumb are they? Over the three years of the Clone Wars, they can’t even send one measly accountant to figure out who paid these cloners 80 trillion dollars to build an entire army?”

    It’s something of a handwave, but I think the in-universe explanation is that Sidious is so cunning and his control of the situation so total that the Jedi have no idea. Also remember that Palpatine is the head of state – it would be easy to deflect those accountants from discovering the truth.

    Still, I will never watch the Clone Wars film the same way. Assuming I ever actually watch it again.

    Reply

  2. Matthew Belinkie OTI Staff #

    @Cornflakes – Don’t the Jedi all SEE Jango Fett, the guy who provided the genetic material for the clone army, hanging out with the leader of the Separatists at the end of Episode II? Shouldn’t that be a “jig is up” moment?

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  3. Sajanas #

    I think my personal favorite was in Ep II, when Obi Wan was so incompetent that Yoda had a 5 year old point out what he was doing wrong (not realizing a planet was deleted from the library). I think that was my biggest problem with the prequels, the Jedi were supposed to be very prescient and wise, but they couldn’t see an obvious problem till it shot them in the face. Perhaps it was a side effect of being raised as a Jedi from birth and having little contact with the outside… I’d imagine a person raised in a monastery today would have a tough time in a third world slum.

    A curious thing, which I wished the prequels had discussed more, was the Jedi’s overall place in government. They were unelected magical warlords that were nominally there to defend the Republic, but the key is “unelected”. The Brits have some problems with Anglican Priests in the House of Lords now, even though Anglicans are making a smaller and smaller portion of the religious community and no other religions have representation. Imagine if they could use mind controlling magic and laser swords. Would you have confidence in your government, if they had their offices right next to some psychics? I think Palpatine could have won even more easily if he found a way to spin the Jedi such that they seemed to be dangerous to the whole system. They touched on it a little, but I think it was much more compelling a reason than the “I’m worried about Padme” argument that somehow turned Vader into a child murderer in two seconds.

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  4. RiderIon #

    @belinkie If memory serves, Obi-wan inquires who asked that the army be cloned and they mention another Jedi Master (whose name escapes me) commissioned the project and Obi-wan laments that said Master is dead. I may have hallucinated that scene in attempt to make sense of it all but it’s been years since I marathoned all six films.

    As for Jango Fett siding with the Separtists, they’d have no real reason to question it. Jango Fett is a mercenary (and a damn good one except in the face of Samuel L. Jackson). His loyalty is bought by the highest bidder. One day, he’s paid to be the genetic template for a Clone Army, the next he’s being paid to assassinate some Jedi. It’s a business transaction.

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  5. Matthew Belinkie OTI Staff #

    @Riderlon – The cloners tell Obi-Wan some very strange stuff about Master Sifo-Dyas, the Jedi who ordered the giant clone army and personally selected Jango Fett. Sifo-Dyas placed the order “ten years ago.” Obi-Wan says that Sifo-Dyas died “almost ten years ago.” Hmm. And combine that with the fact that Yoda and Mace Windu have no idea this army existed, and this is definitely fishy. The Jedi have no excuse for not questioning it.

    Meanwhile, the audience is left to read between the lines and make some guesses. I checked Wookiepedia, and it says that in Episode II’s early draft Sifo-Dyas was just an alias for SIDIOUS, and Mace Windu confirms there’s no real Jedi with that name.
    http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Sifo-Dyas

    But of course, this revelation would make it really difficult for the Jedi not to realize this army is bad news. So now, according to canon, Sifo-Dyas is a a real Jedi master who orders the army in secret. Then Dooku kills him and takes over the project. Meh. I don’t like it. There’s no way a massive army like this could be ordered by a single Jedi, without anyone knowing about it. I still say the Jedi deserve what they get for taking control of this trojan horse.

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  6. Matthew Belinkie OTI Staff #

    By the way, the story I cited in the previous comment is a great example of what can happen when writer/directors get all-powerful and lazy:
    http://www.overthinkingit.com/2009/12/09/james-cameron-absolute-power/
    Lucas at first wrote that Sidious ordered the clones himself. Then he decides that this is too obvious. But instead of doing a big rewrite that makes sense, he does the laziest rewrite possible – now a JEDI orders this army, in secret, no details ever provided. It seems real half-baked to me.

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  7. Valatan #

    Another case where this sort of dramatic irony in the ending gets me (and is surely very intentional in this case): Pan’s Labrynth. (spoiler ahead, I guess):

    In the end of the movie, where you have this semi-uplifting peasant revolt against the pro-Franco troops, and the Republicans come into town, we’re supposed to be all happy for them. But we know that they all die, the Repubicans lose the war, and that Spain is ruled by Franco for forty years. But if you read it as a cruel man getting his comeuppance and not submitting to brutality in your government, it makes more sense than if you read the commonsense ending to the story.

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  8. Matthew Belinkie OTI Staff #

    @Valatan – Sadly, I must point out that most Americans (even the kind of Americans who sought out Pan’s Labyrinth) are woefully ignorant about the Spanish Civil War. I’ll admit that I kind of assumed those peasants rising up and killing the soldiers was sort of a microcosm of something that really happened in the 1940s. I Wikipediaed it afterwards, and was surprised. So yes, there’s some strange dramatic irony there, but it’s only evident to those who know Spanish history (a minority of the audience).

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  9. Valatan #

    @Belinke:

    that move was made in Spain for a Spanish audience, though, right?

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  10. RiderIon #

    @Belinkie The whole Sifo-Dyas is lazy story telling on Lucas part. However, it redemonstrates a flaw that the Jedi Council has in that it never questions its Masters, especially dead ones. Take a look at Episode 1: Quigon demands to train Anakin as a Jedi and the Council refuses. At the end of the film, Obi-wan asks Yoda again stating that Quigon wanted him to do so. Yoda caves in (and the Council as a result) to respect the dead Jedi Master’s final wishes.It doesn’t surprise me in the least that the Council doesn’t question the motives of Sifo-Dyas as he’s a respected and (most importantly) dead Jedi. He must have had some reason for doing this so there’s no reason to investigate. It’s incredibly stupid but the Jedi have a history of being stupid. I believe Lord Helmet from Spaceballs said it best: “Evil will always triumph over Good because Good is dumb.”

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  11. Matthew Belinkie OTI Staff #

    @Valatan – Not sure. So I’ll just say that a minority of the AMERICAN audience got the dramatic irony.

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  12. Bob #

    I’m pretty much a Star Wars geek – Other then a few sports Podcasts and Overthinking it, I listen to about a half dozen Star Wars Podcasts weekly and these items are nit picked to death in the SW community. LOVE this post Belinki!! Some points

    About the Jedi being too dumb, a. la. an incompetent Obi-Wan Kenobi = There are several factors going on here, I’ll highlight two.
    I. Mace Windu mentions that the Jedi’s force abilities are dwindling in Episode I. What is happening is that the Sith have lived in secret for years and Palpatine/Maul start ‘gathering powers’ for an overthrow of the Jedi. The best allegory for this would be ‘The One Ring’ sitting lying in wait for generations then all of a sudden a surge in power, creating waves throughout Middle Earth. Also, Jedi Seers couldn’t see as much into the future like they could before, which worried them (Reminds me of Dr. Manhattan not seeing what was coming up in Watchman). With the Sith not only gathering powers but doing it in the presence of the Jedi, said Jedi are not as powerful and this scares them – but they won’t tell anyone because
    II. The Jedi are just cocky. From the moment Yoda told off Luke in Empire, I’ve always found him condescending. When the prequels came out, I found that other than Qui-Gon, all the Jedi think that because they are right about everything. To borrow another allegory, they are the ‘Supermen’ of the Galaxy but instead of being humbled by their upbringing in Smallville, they were told their entire life they were better then everyone and believed their own hype. That is why Jocast Nu (The Jedi Liberian) tells Obi-Wan “If its not in our archive, it doesn’t exist” it shows just how infallible the Jedi think they are, with a near millenium of being told they are always right behind them. Plus, every time you hear about how wise the Jedi are – it is from a Jedi.

    @ Master Sifo-Dias – Although never truly answered, much speculation in the SW Community was that he, like Dooku, was one of the Lost Twenty Jedi – Masters who had a problem with the council and left the order. Sifo-Dias had precognitive abilities and saw the Jedi getting slaughtered, but since he was in the minority he left the order to protect the galaxy. That is why the Jedi so easily took the Clones, because they new Sifo ordered them and they assumed he did it to fight what was coming. (Producer McCallum mentioned this in several interviews after Episode II, but Lucas has never made this cannon)

    @Belinkie – Again, this post is awesome and shows why I like this show (Both Overthinking it and Clone Wars). The irony of rooting for the eventual bad guys are gray (Which the prime time time slot helps support) is what I love about the show when it is doing it well – far from a great show but some Fridays I really look forward to coming home and watching it.

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  13. Caroline #

    Great article! There are several examples of lazy writing and idiot Jedi throughout the prequels. Personally, I always found it odd that the Jedi Council thought Anakin bring balance to the force would be a good thing. If there hasn’t been a Sith in a thousand years things are definitely unbalanced, but in a way you might want to maintain. Yoda, who is supposed to be insightful, should have taken one look at that sandy kid and said, “Balance he brings? But winning we are.”

    On an unrelated note, the subtitle for this article on the homepage is “Whose gonna tell all the eight-year-olds how this war ends?” It should be “Who’s.”

    Reply

  14. Valatan #

    @Caroline:

    I always thought the ‘anikin bringing balance to the force” thing was more that he was the one who eventually killed palpatine, albiet after all of the horrible intervening stuff.

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  15. Bob #

    @Valatan/Caroline:

    Bringing Balance to the Force is one of the most wide open discussion in nerd world where I live. It could be (A) a Sith prophecy. (B) a misinterpreted Jedi prophecy. (C) the Sith were still around and hiding waiting to Spring out. When Anakin overcame being Darth Vader and killed the Emperor, he in essence destroyed the two remaining Sith, thus fulfilling the prophecy. (D) By bringing the number of Jedi down to two – the same number of Sith – Anakin brought true balance to the force. (E) By restarting the Jedi Order from a person who isn’t an elitist like the Jedi had become, Luke Skywalker took the mantel and brought balance to the Force.

    There are many other opinions, but these are the prevailing theories.

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  16. stabbim #

    RE: Sifo/Sido-Dyas…

    I liked the original treatment better, and would like to have seen it onscreen. Rather than the explicit connection between Sidious and the clones being off-putting, I think it creates more understandable motivation for the Republic taking control of the army: they believe that they are appropriating the next generation of Separatist weapons for their own use. There’s no blind acceptance of mysterious circumstances, no need for hand-waving and lame off-screen retconning of the Sifo-Dyas character.

    Sure, you’d still get a faint whiff of “how could they not have seen it coming?” when the clones turn on the Jedi, but they could have simply have had a line or two about somone airing suspicions over the clones, and someone else responding that the situation has been vetted to the best of the Republic’s ability, no overt danger has been found, and anyway there’s a war on and we need soldiers, etc.

    (Come to think of it, that conversation would also have helped the version of the story which made it to the screen, but the original idea still makes more sense to me. Either way, I agree that it not being addressed at all is a major irritant.)

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  17. Ed #

    The prequels plot is so mangled that even complaining about it takes it too seriously, but the big problem is that the Republic doesn’t have any army at all! Given the Republic’s obvious inability to defend its own institutions, its a mystery both why it lasted so long and why the Sith need an insanely complex plan to overthrow it.

    And creating a clone army is bad science, though of course I worried about this sort of thing when I was a teenager. Creating a droid army is very possible and in fact the Pentagon is researching it.

    Reply

  18. Matthew Belinkie OTI Staff #

    You know what’s interesting? The idea of creating an army of clones, biologically engineered to take orders, their growth artificially accelerated, is HORRIBLY UNETHICAL. I mean, it’s pretty much slavery, mixed with eugenics. Tactically, an army of human clones is a lot better than an army of droids. But morally, it’s just monstrous.

    And yet the Jedi LOVE this. A Jedi ordered all these clones in the first place, and the rest of them have no problem bossing the clones around like they ARE droids. I wonder if the immorality of using this army of clones (as opposed to, let’s say, a rebel army of multicultural freedom fighters) is just another brick in the Jedi-are-corrupt-and-deserve-what-they-get wall.

    @Bob – Thanks for commenting! It’s always nice to have a hardcore fan weigh in.

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  19. RiderIon #

    @Belinkie That’s not how the Jedi or the Cloners from Kamino see it. The Clones are a product. They are not people. Yes, they’re made up of genetic material and grow like a person would (even at an accelerated rate), but they’re a piece of military equipment in their eyes. You can even argue if they’re really people as it gets into the whole argument of the human soul and what not but it’s a slippery slope that Lucas chose to avoid by simply ignoring the implication. It also draws a nice parallel between the Republic and the Separatists as they both employ faceless, near identical troops in massive battles with the idea that the troops are ultimately disposable.

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  20. stabbim #

    I haven’t seen much of the animated series, but it is my understanding that the idea of clones as slaves &/or lower-class citizens in the Republic is at least touched upon occasionally.

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  21. Valatan #

    @Riderlon:

    If you believe that, then there is only one soul between a pair of identical twins. It’s not a slippery slope at all. Clones are individual people, unless you do some bizarre retconning of the meaning of the words ‘clone’ and ‘cloning’ in the star wars universe. Mindlessly using clones as cannon fodder is really damn monstrous.

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  22. Miss Nomer #

    Slightly off topic, but have any of you seen the web comic Darths and Droids? It’s written in a universe where Star Wars doesn’t exist, and a group is playing the movies as a RPG. They use screenshots from the movies, but their own dialogue. I’ll never watch the prequels the same way again. It totally explains some of the things that just don’t make sense, usually because RPGers will take any advantage they can. It’s also the only place you will ever have the phrase “Jar-Jar, you’re a genius!”

    http://www.darthsanddroids.net/

    Reply

  23. Bob #

    Why cloning? The two most basic reasons (G level cannon – meaning straight from George Lucas) is because 1) the powers that be didn’t want to waste their own people and 2) Droids are unrealiable – see Episode I where they needed to be controlled from space like futuristic RC cars.

    Clone Tool’s – Kaminoan Lama Su states that the clones were engineered to have an accelerted growth, which does not end at maturation. Clones have a finite lifespan because of their rapid aging, which is why many of the Jedi just consider them tools to get a job done because they are literally bred for a short term goal. Another reason they are considered a tool – in the real world when a cloned ear is made on a rat, scientist don’t think of it as an rat, but as an ear. The Clones are not thought of ‘people’ but as soldiers.

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  24. RiderIon #

    @Valatan I don’t personally believe that but there’s a religious argument there for natural birth vs. cloning. I’m talking outside Star Wars universe but that’s an entirely different topic all together that I don’t want to touch with a 30 foot pole.

    It is monstrous to use clones as cannon fodder…if you think they’re people. The Jedi Council sees them as equipment and they’re the Good Guys. Why should we the viewer, disagree?

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  25. Caroline #

    @Valatan/Bob, I understand the various ways that Anakin bringing balance to the force can be interpreted, and he does do it. What I don’t understand is why the Jedi Council considers his potential balance-bringing to be a good thing, since any the status quo was out of balance in their favor. All of those interpretation involve pretty much all of them being dead. Even option C: then the force is balanced in a sort of Etch-A-Sketch ending way.

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  26. Caroline #

    @Valatan/Bob, I understand the various ways that Anakin bringing balance to the force can be interpreted, and he does do it. What I don’t understand is why the Jedi Council considers his potential balance-bringing to be a good thing, since the status quo was out of balance in their favor. All of those interpretation involve pretty much all of them being dead. Even option C: then the force is balanced in a sort of Etch-A-Sketch ending way.

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  27. Jon Eric #

    Good article, Belinkie.

    Perhaps it bears mentioning that I had no idea that this series existed. I got all the way through this article thinking you were talking about this series, and then set out to write a nitpicky post about how Clone Wars actually came out well before Episode III… then checked IMDB and found out about this one.

    WHAT WERE THEY THINKING???

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  28. Matthew Belinkie OTI Staff #

    @Bob and Riderlon – I understand how the characters of Star Wars see the clone army. However, we on earth currently have different values re: genetic engineering and cloning. And I think the clone army is supposed to be somewhat unsettling and creepy to the audience. The creepiness comes MAINLY from the fact that we know this army will eventually become the storm troopers. But the weird quasi-human, faceless, no-free-will nature of the clones definitely contributes. The clones strike us as “wrong” in the same way the Borg strike up as wrong.

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  29. Leon P #

    What is even more disturbing is that kids, after seeing Clone Wars, will want to see what happens next. Episode after episode of their hero Anakin triumphing against the “bad guys” is a lot different to how he handles things in Star Wars III. Kids that follow Clone Wars with Revenge of The Sith are gonna be screwed up for life!

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  30. RiderIon #

    @Belinkie The Clones becoming Stormtroopers is the greatest dramatic irony in Star Wars IMO. The force that was supposed to save the Republic ultimately dooms it and becomes the iron fist of the Empire. It also worthy to note that by the time Episode 4 rolls around, the Stormtroopers are no longer entirely made up of Fett clones as the Empire is using multiple sources for clones and conscripts to fill its ranks.

    @Leon P That’s one of the problems I have with The Clone Wars. Anakin Skywalker’s growth between Episodes 2 and 3 is quite limited. He’s mastered his lightsaber and Force skill sets across many battle fields but he’s still a cocky, brash Jedi who doesn’t have true control of his emotions. The few episodes I’ve seen (including the CG film) show Anakin tempering not only his combat skills but his Jedi wisdom. This makes for great character growth as Anakin is forced to go through what Obi-wan had to endure with Skywalker as a Padawan. It makes for nice character development but it creates a different Anakin than the one we see at the beginning of Episode 3.

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  31. SoonerScotty #

    Your critique is good.

    What I’ve always wondered about the rise of Darth Sidious, and Darth Vader is the idea that the Jedi are searching for the “one” (which Obi-wan thinks is Anakin) who will bring balance to the force.

    Well, they’ve been out of balance, into the GOOD, for 1000 years…so, to get into balance means there will need to be EVIL…why would you want to bring that back. And if Anakin is going to bring balance, I’d of killed that kid because in this equation balance=evil.

    Just never understood that part.

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  32. Simon Perrins #

    I’m always surprised that people assume that the balance of the force means there need to be equal numbers of jedi and sith. Surely the force is out of balance as long as the sith exist, as they’re a preversion of the natural order. Or something. That way it makes perfect sense that Vader (eventually) brings balance by destroying the sith (himself and Sidious)

    I always think prophecies are a pretty lazy storytelling device though. I guess that subplot was introduced to reinforce Anakin’s importance and give the jedi no choice but to train him, even though he was “too old” at age 9 (insert your own Michael Jackson gag here).

    Ultimately though I think the writers of The Clone Wars are well aware of the ironies built into the show. In one episode Aayla Secura saved the life of her troop commander, who obsessive nerds know will eventually personally gun her down in Episode III. “Snips” is increasingly questioning her Anakin’s approach to pretty much everything. And the morally dubious use of clones has been addressed a couple of times. It’s a surprisingly good show that’s constantly improving.

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  33. dock #

    Ive always thought Yoda was almost entirely to blame for all the events of the Star Wars movies. First, he fails to see the rising power of the Dark Side, then he fails to see the danger in Annakin. Later we learn that he mentored Count Dooku, who has since become a Dark Lord. Then, when he fights Dooku, he fails to stop him! He does little more than give him a good cardio workout. Even later, he sends Obi-Wan to kill Annakin (a fight Obi-Wan wins, despite his failuer to “fully” kill Annakin) and he goes to stop Palpatine, except he fails at that too! What kind of leader is this? Later, when Luke gets dropped at his front door, he trains him just enough to give him some confidence, but fails to stop him from running off to save his friends (who he says Luke should abandon) and Luke gets his hand cut off and is nearly killed. Even Luke, who he mentors personally is mere seconds away from murdering his father and becomming the new dark lord. And it isnt even Yoda who is to credit for Lukes resistance. Its VADER!

    Im sorry but to me, Yoda is a compulsive screw-up. And he doesnt get credit for Vader killing Palpatine to save his son.

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  34. dock #

    sorry i really should have proof read

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  35. Matt #

    I’ve only caught a few episodes of the show, Riderlon, but it seems to me that the Jedi treat the clones as people. However, they’re in a war. And every Jedi is apparently assigned the rank of General in the Republic Army automatically. And even though the Jedi go and fight in the field all the time, they still spend a lot of time planning and strategizing, much like a real-world General. The top dogs in the Army just don’t have the time to think of all the little people. But they do occasionally. There was an episode where Yoda gets stranded on a planet with three heretofore-unnamed clones. He reads their minds, tells them they have souls linked to the Force, and is a generally cool guy. The show regularly features Commander(?) Rex, a higher ranking clone on Anakin and Ahsoka’s battlecruiser. So maybe the Kaminoans don’t care about the clones, but the Jedi do. They just don’t have the time to care about ALL the clones.

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  36. spitre #

    Thinking about what I’ve seen in the series so far (up to about season 2 ep 4 or 5) I find the stories much more compelling then either 2 or 3. The lead up to each episode is a nice recap, lets you know whats happened before, and lets you pretty much watch any one in sequence.

    I do like that its not completely the Anakin show, featuring the Jedi. I admit he is in a good portion of the series so far, and rightfully so, he was one of the prime characters of the series (maybe not the 1st movie, as revealed by the 70 min review from redlettermedia on Youtube, nsfw for swearing). We do get to see the Star Wars universe much more, which grabs me that much more. I also like that they’re not afraid to kill people on the show. We’ve lost a number of Jedi, and a countless number of clones and robots, who are there for fodder.

    All in all, I think it’s a well put together show, and am pleased thus far with the direction it is taking.

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  37. James #

    Brilliant analysis. Thank you!

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  38. Publius Cato #

    I have to disagree with your analysis for the simple fact that the show is too clean to be analogous to the Iliad. Because the show is so scrubbed the fact the Jedi are risking there lives is played down. The only episode that really seemed to be a heroic tale was clones who fought the commando bots on the warning outpost (ep. 5), where common men rise above themselves to overcome incredible odds. Most of the other episodes are the jedi doing what is expected to prove their enemy’s efforts are futile. This is not “legend”, mortal men doing incredible things, this is “myth”, the actions of the gods. A better analogy for the Clone Wars and the whole Star Wars prequel is Norse mythology. The original three movies are about heroes, very common people (a farm boy, a smuggler, a noble-woman, and a hairy alien) doing courageous things. One could even say its an enlightenment story, the tale of an ordinary person traveling the path to become a god.

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  39. Gab #

    The whole you-know-how-it-ends aspect was one of the major reasons I was against the concept of movies and series centered around the Clone Wars on principle. Along the same lines, I thought it was totally f***ed up to market something like that to kids. But a comparison to Homer makes it quite tantalizing… Ahem.

    Whether or not we’re supposed to perceive it as such, the use of the clone army by the Jedi is demonstrative of their inherent hypocrisy. They do this all the time, one of my favorite examples to cite being the line from Ep. III where Obi-Wan says, “Only Siths deal in absolutes.” Ahem. Anyhoo, the Jedi try to pass themselves as the pivotal examples of morality and ethics, and then BAM, they go and use a bunch clones as (to continue the metaphor) fodder for cannon fire.

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  40. Adam (The Jack Sack) #

    Re: Luke’s “sacrifice” before The Emperor- while this was not the main thesis of the discussion, I have to add some commentary to this specific subject. In my opinion, Luke finally understands that The Emperor wants to own Luke like how he owned his father, and that in order to beat him, Luke has to deny The Emperor that which he covets. With Luke presenting himself as the last Jedi, he is Palpatine’s best shot at an apprentice (screw the Expanded Universe and all of its back-bencher Force-prone characters for the sake of this discussion).

    By denying Palpatine an apprentice, Luke renders him vulnerable. He brings imbalance to the Dark Side of the Force. That’s something no one has accomplished in any of their dealings with Palpatine. Luke understands this is the best shot at defeating the Sith. It’s a selfless act, but it’s more shrewd and mature in my opinion. And I could see Luke being completely comfortable with that choice.

    But then he had to scream “Father, help!” and that kind of fucks my whole theory up. Thanks Larry Kasdan and Lucas. Bastards.

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  41. Matthew Belinkie OTI Staff #

    @Riderlon – Yeah, I really like the clones starting out as the “good” guys, then becoming the storm troopers. One day I’m going to write a post about the things the prequels do really well, and that will be on there.

    @Adam – Here’s something I never really got: the Emperor implies, heavily, that Luke killing Vader and Luke becoming a Sith apprentice are the same thing. And yes, I understand how Luke killing Vader would be very un-Jedi. But I don’t see how he then turns around and starts working for the Emperor. I think it’s totally possible to want to kill Vader AND kill the Emperor. So let me ask you: how does the EMPEROR think Luke’s conversion is going to play out? What chain of events could lead to Luke bowing before him, totally broken?

    @Whoever Is a Really Hardcore Nerd – Where does canon come down on the subject of Anakin’s parentage? Episode III implies that a Sith might have basically created him. But if so, doesn’t that mean a Sith must have somehow made sure that Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon stumbled upon him in Episode I?

    Stray Thought – After the big duel in Episode III, does Obi-Wan assume that he’s leaving Anakin for dead? The guy is limbless and ON FIRE on a hostile and seemingly lifeless planet. Is Obi-Wan sparing him, or giving him the most agonizing death he can think of? If the latter, I wonder what his thoughts were when he learned of Vader’s survival.

    Stray Thought 2 – In Empire Strikes Back, isn’t Yoda being completely heartless letting Luke try to kill his OWN FATHER?? When Yoda eventually admits it, Luke doesn’t have a chance to get mad because his master is clearly dying. But honestly, Yoda is completely out of line here.

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  42. Matt #

    I always assumed that Obi-Wan left Anakin for dead because not because he wanted Anakin to suffer, but because he couldn’t stand to kill Anakin himself. After all, he does scream about how Anakin “WAS HIS BROTHER!” Sure, at that point, limbless and on fire, a lot of people would say to just fire the mercy shot and put Old Yeller down, but that is just plain hard to do, and Obi-Wan just didn’t have it in him. Rather than having to kill his apprentice and brother-in-arms with his own hands (directly, I know he would have still done the limb hacking, but work with me here), he could just let the lava do its work and end Anakin’s life. He had no reason to think Anakin would actually be able to survive long enough for Palpatine to get to him, or even then, for Palpatine to be able to get him in fighting condition. I’d imagine Obi-Wan was shocked at news of Vader’s survival. It probably also depressed him greatly, because Anakin’s survival means Obi-Wan’s mission, like Yoda’s, ended in failure.

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  43. Adam (The Jack Sack) #

    Matt- I think the inference we can make from Palpatine’s logic is that if Luke kills Vader, he’s doing it with malice, not out of self-defense. And by acting out of malice, Luke is submitting himself to the Dark Side, an area in which Palpatine is all-powerful. So… when Luke dips into the Dark Side pool of energy, Palpatine can exert himself over his new apprentice.

    Now, that being said, I agree- what if Luke goes into that room with a calm, generous heart and kills Vader and Palpatine with only the best of intentions for the entire galaxy (like throwing out the trash). If he’s all positive and sunny about it, no Dark Side creeps in. AND, applying criminal law notions to the scenario, what if Luke is clinically insane? Does the Dark Side factor in? Nope, so Palpatine is assuming a lot in letting Luke whack Vader. I too am not satisfied with the conveniences assumed in that scenario by Palpa-err I mean Lucas.

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  44. Bob #

    Uber-Star Wars Geek here. Few things –
    @ Matt – It’s Captain Rex, and the clones with Yoda in the episode Ambush were Lt Thire (who was in the Senate looking for Yoda in Episode III), Jek and Rys (And my parents thought I would use my intelligence to give them grand kids! lol)

    @Belinkie/Nerd – Anakin’s mother is Shmi and for sure there was no father – a virgin birth. I, as many people, infir that Palpatine used the Midi-Chlorians to create Anakin. However, in the Expanded Universe, it is strongly suggested that Darth Plagueis (The Master of Palpatine) used Midi-chlorian to create Anakin and Sidious took over when he became the Dark Lord of the Sith.

    @Belinkie/Stray I – In the Episode III novelization (MUCH better then the movie), Obi-Wan could feel Palpatine coming and didn’t have enough time to go down, put Vader out of his misry and escape while keeping the Jedi lineage alive. The movies tried to show this, just not that well.

    @Belinkie/Stray II – I’ve always agreed with Dock – Yoda is a jerk. Plus, in Yoda’s mind, there was no longer an Anakin – just a Vader.

    Balance of the Force – As Mace mentioned, the Jedi were having trouble accessing the Force (Later revealed to be Palpatine). In walks someone who is supposed to bring ‘Balance’ to the Force, they assume it means they can use the force better and get in touch with it more – not thinking it was the Sith. I gave many opinions earlier of what the balance meant, to me this is what I thought the Jedi council was hoping. I relate the Jedi Council getting swept up in a problem they really didn’t have similar to Springfield buying a monorail.

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  45. Matthew Belinkie OTI Staff #

    @Bob – Right, I get the implication that the Sith made Anakin. But that strikes me as a weak retcon – I don’t believe Lucas had that in mind when he wrote Episode I, and it makes little to no sense. If Anakin is basically a Trojan horse built to destroy the Jedi from the inside, then why would the Sith have him born on this distant planet, where he has virtually no chance to be discovered? For the whole “Sith made Anakin” thing to make sense, you have to believe that a whole bunch of coincidences in Episode I were deliberately planned by Sidious. You have to believe, at the very least, that Qui-Gon was manipulated into finding Anakin. And I’m not buying it. (But how awesome would it be if in Episode III, there was suddenly a series of Usual Suspects flashbacks to Episode I, and it turns out that YES, those clues WERE there from the very beginning?)

    You know what I think? I think Lucas wrote the whole virgin birth thing to be a really painfully obvious Jesus reference. And then when everyone hated this, he kind of looked for a way to back away from it.

    You know another reason I don’t buy the “Sith made Anakin” idea? In the end, Darth Sidious didn’t need Anakin to take over the galaxy, one little bit. He could have done just fine with Tyrannus, or whoever was next in line. It’s not like Anakin is the lynchpin of his evil plan. Anakin’s basically a side project.

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  46. Matt #

    @Belinkie- Agreed. The Anakin-as-Christ metaphor was thick as hell from the moment Shmi Skywalker said “There was no father” in Episode I. And regardless of whether the midichlorians conceived him by influence of the Sith (which really does sound like hard backpedaling from Lucas), that’s still a virgin birth. And, if you so choose, you can take all sorts of other parallels between Jesus and Anakin Skywalker, a.k.a. Force Jesus. Jesus died to take away the sins of mankind; in his death, Anakin brought balance to the force. They’re both born in the desert, Jesus was a pretty good fighter pilot, etc. The list goes on.

    But yeah, in the final climactic battle, the clones do all the Jedi-killing work. The only thing Anakin does is kill all the younglings and then fight Obi-Wan.

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  47. Adam (The Jack Sack) #

    I wonder if there’s something to Palpatine keying off of Anakin’s dark energy for his own power. Specifically, I think back to the showdown with Mace & Anakin. As soon as Anakin chops off Mace’s arm, Palpatine comes to life like a fucking monkey with cymbals. And then he starts throwing furniture at Yoda later on.

    But I agree, the “corrupt conception” suggested in “Sith” was retconned silliness. So, Luke’s paternal grandfather is The Emperor? How is it in a galaxy so large, everyone is related and/or met each other at some point over the course of several decades. Fucking Lucas…

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  48. Matthew Belinkie OTI Staff #

    @Matt – First of all, the “Jesus was a pretty good fighter pilot” line reminded me of why I love this site.

    But now that you got me thinking about it, I want to say one of my biggest disappointments with the prequels is that Vader doesn’t get to do anything awesome. After Anakin becomes evil he kills:
    1. Some kids
    2. Some offensive Asian stereotypes.
    3.

    Obi-Wan SPECIFICALLY TOLD US that Vader hunted down and killed all the Jedi, and this was probably #1 on the list of things I wanted to see from a prequel trilogy. Darth Vader just slicing Jedi like a goddamn julienne salad. (And yes fanboys, I’m aware that this happens in the extended universe. Doesn’t count.)

    Episode III is the least objectionable of this new trilogy, but they way they WASTE Vader – the greatest villain of all time – is pretty much unforgivable. There’s a word for that. Let me think about it… ah yes:
    NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!

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  49. Gab #

    @Adam, in Re: Palpatine v. Mace

    That whole thing was contrived and orchestrated by Palpatine. He knew Anakin would show up, and he let himself get almost-beat so that Anakin would off Mace FOR him- yeah, he could have done it himself, but that wouldn’t have served his purpose. Palpatine’s whole plan was to make Anakin “protect” the “Way of the Jedi” by doing something so ANTI-Jedi, it would prove the hypocrisy of the Jedi way of life, thus making Anakin lose faith in it and turn to the Dark Side. I know I sound like a broken record (going off about hypocrisy by Jedi again), but I’ve actually overthought the topic and *that very scene* elsewhere, chunk-by-chunk, because it was so stuck in my head and I needed to get it out SOMEWHERE (so yay personal blogs and YouTube clips). When Anakin says, “What have I done?” and Palpatine says, “You have fulfilled your destiny,” the dialogue should actually read something more like, “F***, I shouldn’ta done that,” and, “No, you’re doing what *I* wanted you to, tool, now go fetch me some babies and make me a sammich, I’m hungry.”

    @Belinkie in Re: Stray II: Like Dock basically said, everything that ever goes wrong in the Star Wars universe, at least in the movies, can be traced back to Yoda somehow, some way. Think of it like the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. It’s all his fault. The little green bastard.

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  50. Gab #

    Sorry for the double-post, but I forgot to mention that part of why it’s kind of obvious that Anakin was a tool in that scene was because he may cut off Windu’s hand, but Palpatine ultimately throws Windu out of the window. But Anakin is emo enough to be all “whoa is me” about it and assume total responsibility. And while yeah, it is VASTLY his fault and he had probably intended to kill Windu in defense of Palpatine, he’s too self-centered to realize he’s being manipulated and becomes a puppet.

    So another Christ-parallel, except while Anakin gets a masochistic pleasure out of PLAYING the martyr, Jesus, you know, was one. Ahem.

    Okay, going to bed now, sorry.

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  51. Matt #

    Did Palpatine realize that Windu using the badass-motherfucker-saber to block the lightning was gonna make him into a raisin? I don’t think any apprentice would be worth that.

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  52. Adam (The Jack Sack) #

    Ugh, I bet Lucas can refer to some bullshit conversation he had with Joseph Campbell about turning yourself into a raisin and how it’s a signpost on the path to enlightenment/death.

    With all the reboots and do-overs coming out of Hollywood, the three movies that so desperately need to be thrown out and redone the most occupy us here in this discussion…

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  53. Matt #

    No, I’m sure Gab’s actually right, and the raisin-ing was just an unexpected side effect. After all, how many times had Palpatine actually had his Force Lightning blocked? And unless he was just sitting around in his office firing lightning at a lightsaber, there was no real way of knowing what would go down. I was just going for the joke of “Ha ha, Palpatine is a raisin”. LOOOOOLLLLL.

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  54. Anarchangel #

    Just to flip the switch to darkness again, the only reason that heroic courage in the face of death is a good thing is because it’s making the best of a horrible situation. We can empathise with that situation by extrapolating from our own experiences and we hope that in the same situation we will act similarly. After all, hope is the only thing Pandora left in the box.

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  55. Jason Ward #

    The Jedi believe the Clones could be individualistic. A lot of time is spent in the series repeating the idea that they matter to the Jedi. Yoda wants to see their faces in the first episode. Plo-Koon tells them he values their lives. The Jedi don’t believe the Clones are some sort of Manchurian Candidate who can be switched on to turn against them. The Republic paid for the Clones, they were made for the Republic. There’s no reason to not trust it, especially after it saved their lives on Geonosis and they fought side by side for three years together. They assumed Syfo Dias, a Jedi, ordered the Clones and Count Dooku knew about it and wanted the army.

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