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Things Only Adults Notice In Star Wars: The Clone Wars

There are a lot of things "Star Wars" fans argue over, but one opinion that's almost universally agreed on is that "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" is a fantastic show. Launched pre-Disney acquisition in 2008 and ultimately finished on Disney+ in 2020, the animated series has been held up as one of the best things to ever come out of the franchise. 

The series introduced beloved new characters like Ahsoka Tano and Captain Rex, resurrected fan favorites like Darth Maul, and mended many perceived issues with the prequel trilogy by quietly retconning a number of plotlines and character arcs. There's a lot to love about "The Clone Wars," and it has become a foundation for many of the most popular "Star Wars" projects of the Disney era.

Part of the appeal of "The Clone Wars" is its ability to function on multiple narrative levels, being at the same time a fun adventure cartoon for kids and a more complex story about war in a divided galaxy. While the earlier seasons of "The Clone Wars" fall more on the lighter side, the latter half of the show is much more mature in its thematic content. Heavier storylines are still usually balanced with more lighthearted fare, but the main characters -– on both sides of the conflict –- all deal with real struggles and losses.

In a show with such distinct layers in its narrative, some things are bound to go over the heads of younger viewers. There's plenty of nuance to be found beneath the surface of the animated series, as well as a few implied plotlines and hidden Easter eggs kids are likely to miss. Here are some of the big things only adults notice in "Star Wars: The Clone Wars."

The Jedi were never Palpatine's greatest threat

By the time the Clone Wars began on Geonosis, Darth Sidious had already beaten the Jedi. He'd successfully accumulated enough power to fuel a war from both sides, and had lured the Order into sacrificing the last of their purity by serving as military commanders. With Order 66 firmly programmed into the heads of the clones, Palpatine merely had to wait long enough to accrue supreme power from the Senate, and for public sentiment to inevitably turn against the Jedi. Though they were his enemy, Palpatine never truly feared the Jedi at any point during the war.

However, "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" does reveal some other threats to Palpatine's plan. Curiously, the encroaching threat he shows the most concern over throughout the series are other dark side practitioners. Mother Talzin, the leader of the Nightsisters of Dathomir, is an excellent example. Palpatine treats her as a serious threat throughout "The Clone Wars" and the "Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir" comics, and he views Maul and Asajj Ventress similarly after they each go rogue. Given that Palpatine's primary goal is to defeat the Jedi, it's interesting to realize that they're actually the enemy he fears the least in the grand scheme of things.

Ahsoka helped Anakin turn to the dark side in multiple ways

"Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith" depicts Anakin's fall to the dark side as being mostly due to his love for Padmé. Fearing that his visions of her death will come true, he seeks help in the only place he believes he can get it: the dark side. His love of Padmé is a compelling motivation, but it doesn't quite account for his instant willingness to betray everyone else he knows and cares about. Fortunately, "The Clone Wars" adds more nuance to his dark turn by introducing Ahsoka.

Anakin's relationship with Ahsoka ultimately pushes him towards the dark side in two main ways. First and more obviously, the Jedi Council's unwillingness to believe her story when she's framed for bombing the temple in Season 5 shakes his faith in their judgement. He's frustrated that they seem to value their rigid dogma more than the actual people within the Order. This primes him to betray the council when given a good enough reason.

Ahsoka also aids his fall to the dark side in a second, more subtle way by showing him what a former Jedi freed from the restrictions of the Order can accomplish. In Season 7, Anakin sees how she's managed to thrive since her exile, and he shows great faith in her ability to take down Darth Maul on Mandalore. It's likely that seeing her leave so successfully encourages him to do so himself, or at least gives him the idea that he could possibly be of more good to the universe without the Council always on his back.

Qui-Gon let Obi-Wan break his Jedi vows

Midway through "The Clone Wars" Season 2, Duchess Satine Kryze of Mandalore is introduced, kicking off one of the biggest storylines of the whole show. It's quickly revealed that she and Obi-Wan Kenobi share a complicated history, as he and Qui-Gon Jinn were assigned to protect her from terrorists while Obi-Wan was still just a padawan. The nature of their relationship is never made completely explicit in the show (largely because of the younger viewership), but it's safe to assume from the way they interact that the two were lovers, and that their relationship was quite serious. At one point late in the show, Obi-Wan even tells Satine that he would have left the Jedi Order if she'd asked him to. Suffice it to say, the young Jedi clearly broke the rule forbidding what George Lucas once called "possessive relationships."

Here's the thing, though: Qui-Gon was there the entire time. He absolutely would have known the nature of Obi-Wan and Satine's relationship, and he clearly did nothing to obstruct it or even to sway his apprentice back into obedience to the Jedi code. "The Phantom Menace" clearly shows that Qui-Gon cares little for the rules of the Order, so it's possible that he personally had no issue with Obi-Wan's intimacy with the Duchess. Or, maybe he simply thought it best to let his padawan figure out his own path without feeling undo pressure in either direction. Either way, it's an interesting complication of Qui-Gon's character.

Obi-Wan truly did fail Anakin

Speaking of Jedi Masters staying silent in regards to their padawans' love lives, "The Clone Wars" reveals that Obi-Wan was well aware of Anakin's true relationship with Padmé, yet said nothing. Through the first six seasons of the show, Obi-Wan occasionally drops hints that he knows Anakin has deep feelings for her, but he never seems to quite put all the pieces together. That is, until Season 7, when Obi-Wan makes it very clear that he knows what Anakin and Padmé have been doing in secret.

At the end of "Revenge of the Sith," during their duel on Mustafar, Obi-Wan confesses to Anakin that he failed him. At the time of the film's release, that line read more as a broad lament that he couldn't stop his friend from turning to the dark side. That reading is complicated by "Clone Wars" Season 7, however, as it makes Obi-Wan's failure far more specific. He knew his best friend, his brother, was in a dangerous and vulnerable position, and he said nothing. He didn't offer his help or support, even though Anakin's betrayal of the code clearly didn't make Obi-Wan trust him any less. When Anakin falls victim to Palpatine's seduction, it's because he believes the Sith Lord is the only person willing to help him. If Obi-Wan had talked to Anakin about his situation at all, perhaps he would have gone to his friend first instead of turning to Darth Sidious.

The Clone Wars has a bunch of pop culture references

Some of the lighter details in "The Clone Wars" likely to go over the heads of younger viewers include a myriad of references to other pop culture properties littered across the series. These range from nods to the stars of the live-action films to seemingly random Easter eggs for other movies. For instance, in the Season 4 episode "The Box," there's a bounty hunter character named Kiera Swan — a nod to Hollywood star Kiera Knightley, who appears in the "Star Wars" prequels and plays Elizabeth Swan in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise.

In the Season 3 episode "Padawan Lost," there's a Trandoshan character named Sochek who's dressed remarkably similarly to Walter Sobchak, John Goodman's character from "The Big Lebowski." There are a number of these sorts of hidden references peppered throughout "The Clone Wars," leading to some fun moments of discovery for those viewers in the know.

Ahsoka has two perfect foils

Though "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" features many different characters, Ahsoka is the closest thing the series has to a lead protagonist. She grows and changes the most over the course of the show, and much of the war is shown through her eyes as she matures and uncovers the grim realities of the galaxy. Ahsoka also has not just one, but two foil characters who bring the themes of her journey to light in interesting ways.

Ahsoka's first foil is the Sith assassin Asajj Ventress, who acts as a relatively straightforward antagonist through the first few seasons of the show. Ventress and Ahsoka are initially mirrored in their external qualities — fighting with two lightsabers, both being apprenticed to lead characters on opposite sides, etc. — but their stories become even more interwoven later on. Ventress leaves the Sith, and Ahsoka leaves the Jedi, making them both expatriates from the orders that once gave them meaning.

Towards the end of "The Clone Wars," Darth Maul also becomes a foil to Ahsoka. Their duel on Mandalore represents the battle between light and dark, but it's divorced from the factions of the Jedi and the Sith. Because both Ahsoka and Maul are independent at this point, their battle can almost be seen as a pure clash between god and evil, as opposed to the murky, corrupt nature of both the Republic and the Separatists.

Count Dooku was a fool

It's not exactly a hot take to say that Count Dooku was a figurehead for the Separatists during the Clone Wars. Palpatine always hoped to replace the old man with Anakin Skywalker, making him more of an interim Sith than the one truly next in line to be the master. However, the true depths of Dooku's foolishness are revealed time and time again in small ways throughout "The Clone Wars." 

The series reveals a lot more of the galactic politics fueling the war, and as the various disagreements different systems have with the Republic become clear, so too does Palpatine's decision to make Dooku his apprentice. Dooku was born into a royal family and, after leaving the Jedi Order, became a powerful figure in galactic politics. His distaste for the corruption of the Republic, his in-depth knowledge of the Jedi, and the power and respect he wielded in many corners of the galaxy all made him an ideal pawn for Darth Sidious.

But of course, Dooku was never meant to take the reins of power from his new master. He was old, his powers were commendable but limited, and "The Clone Wars" clearly shows how much stronger both Darth Maul and Anakin — Palpatine's apprentices before and after Dooku — were than the Count. Why did he let himself be so clearly used and manipulated? Maybe he underestimated Palpatine's cunning, or maybe he only cared about seeing the Republic fall. Either way, "The Clone Wars" severely downgrades Dooku from an imposing villain to a gullible fool.

Darth Maul could have been redeemed

At the end of "The Clone Wars" Season 7, Darth Maul and Ahsoka Tano have an epic duel on Mandalore. Maul heavily hints that he is aware of the Order 66 plot, but he refuses Ahsoka's plea for help. After all, by that point, he likely sees himself as too far gone. He hates the Jedi, hates the Sith, hates the Republic, hates the Separatists, hates Palpatine, hates Obi-Wan, and he's killed hundreds of people in a selfish bid for power. And yet, looking at the show closely, it's clear that Maul could have redeemed himself if only he'd just made a few different choices.

When Savage Opress found Maul on Lotho Minor, the former Sith Lord had almost completely lost his mind. After being restored to his former self, he had only one desire: exacting revenge on Obi-Wan Kenobi, who he blamed for ruining his life. 

Perhaps Maul was too filled with hate and pride to have gone in any other direction, but his knowledge of Sidious' plan creates a curious "what-if" scenario. Maul also grew to hate his former master, and instead of going after Obi-Wan, he could have taken vengeance on Palpatine. Because the Jedi aren't allowed to kill unarmed opponents, Maul could have surrendered himself and helped the Order take Sidious down. It wouldn't have undone what he did to Qui-Gon Jinn, but it could have been a penance on the road to redemption. Sadly, Maul decided to go further down the path of darkness.

The clones were fed constant propaganda

It isn't ever shown explicitly onscreen, but "The Clone Wars" heavily implies that the Republic's clone troopers received extensive propaganda in addition to their programming to obey orders. Season 4's Umbara arc, which features a Jedi who's secretly turned to the dark side, shows that there are limits to the clones' obedience. They have a surprisingly high level of autonomy given what's shown in the movies, and they're able to second guess plans when they seem to go against the best interests of the overall mission at hand. A fighting force with that much independence would surely demand a steady stream of external propaganda, especially from a power structure as corrupt as the Republic.

This propaganda is glimpsed in some subtle ways throughout the series. For instance, a couple episodes have scenes set in and around the Republic Center for Military Operations on Coruscant, where a giant monument can be seen in honor of the fallen soldiers of the first Battle of Geonosis. At first glance, that may just seem like a nice gesture, but given that the Republic views the clones as weapons they own, its purpose becomes a bit more nefarious: convincing soldiers who pass by it that they have a personal stake in a war they were bred to fight anyway. There's a lot that's morally questionable about the clone army; "The Clone Wars" adds a lot of subtle layers to that complicated narrative.

Order 66 had a built-in failsafe

In the "Clone Wars" Season 6 episode "The Lost Ones," the members of the Jedi council make a groundbreaking discovery: Tyrannus, the man Jango Fett claimed had hired him to be the genetic blueprint for the clone army, was actually the same man as Count Dooku, meaning that the whole cloning operation was likely part of Darth Sidious' plan. Of course, the audience had known this all along, but the Jedi figuring it out felt like a major revelation. With that information, they could potentially try to deescalate the use of clones or look closer into their programming. They don't, however. They continue to use the clone army just as they had before, and most of them end up paying the ultimate price.

On paper, that might seem stupid. Why would the Jedi keep blindly using the clones after discovering their true origin? Because by that point, they were too far gone. 

At the end of the episode, Yoda says that they must keep the clones' origin a secret, or else all public faith in the war effort will be lost, and chaos will spread. But there's more to it than that. Ahsoka's adventures in "The Clone Wars" Season 7 depict the unfavorable way many of the Republic's citizens already think of the Jedi and the war, meaning that even if there was an effort to supplement clone soldiers with conscripts, the public backlash would be severe. The series shows how most ordinary citizens of the galaxy care little for who wins the war, and they'd certainly go against any side asking them to fight. The Jedi are therefore locked into using the clones, ensuring that Order 66 ultimately succeeds.

Yoda became incredibly desperate

By the time the Clone Wars begin in earnest, Yoda is nearly 900 years old. He's seen the Jedi Order through numerous conflicts, transitions, and tricky political situations, but none of that prepares him for Darth Sidious' ultimate plan. The "Star Wars" prequels emphasize how severely diminished Yoda's future sight is in the years leading up to Order 66, and that blindness is implied to be a direct result of both the Jedi's corruption and Palpatine's growing power. As a result, Yoda becomes increasingly desperate in his efforts to preserve the Jedi, and that desperation is made eminently clear in "Star Wars: The Clone Wars."

Multiple times throughout the series, Yoda is shown to act out of fear –— the very thing he rails against in his core philosophy. He lies to the public by hiding the origin of the clone army because he fears what will happen if his blindness is revealed. He continues to serve for years in a military capacity — something the Jedi code would seem to go against — because he fears losing the Order's authority and power within the Republic. Throughout the prequel era, it's clear that Palpatine has the upper hand, but "The Clone Wars" drives home just how fearful Yoda was, as well as how much energy he expended trying to cover it up.

Anakin and Padmé's love story could have been great

One of the great tragedies of the "Star Wars" prequel trilogy is that Anakin and Padmé's love story, the relationship at the center of the entire story, is executed so poorly. A quick look at the reviews for "Attack of the Clones" shows just how severely their love story held the film back critically, and there are numerous questionable decisions in the writing of the films when it comes to Anakin and Padmé. 

Why have him creepily obsess over her for years without seeing her since the end of "The Phantom Menace?" Why rush their actual love story so quickly once they're both adults? Why make Padmé such a passive background character as the trilogy goes on when she's shown in other instances to be anything but passive? Suffice it to say, the romance as executed in the prequels isn't great, but "The Clone Wars" shows how great it could have been with better writing choices.

In "The Clone Wars," Anakin and Padmé's relationship makes way more sense. They're both idealistic people trying to make a difference within systems that restrict their ability to do so — the Jedi for Anakin, and the Senate for Padmé. There's a clear kinship there, and it makes sense why they'd fall for each other. They fight side by side, have a fun comedic rapport, and clearly value each others' optimism and valiance. After watching "The Clone Wars," Anakin's turn to the dark side to save Padmé makes way more sense.

Mandalore is more important than it seems

Mandalore comes up constantly in "The Clone Wars." It's the site of some of the show's biggest arcs, including the rise and fall of Death Watch, Obi-Wan's relationship with Duchess Satine, and Darth Maul's underworld ascension. However, the planet also has a second, symbolic significance separate from its role in the overall narrative. The arc of Mandalore the planet throughout "The Clone Wars" mirrors the galaxy as a whole — a peaceful place descended into chaos by powerful factions bent on attaining power.

The turmoil on Mandalore is not the fault of its society, but of primarily external forces. Death Watch, Maul's crime syndicate, and the Republic all end up using the planet as a battle ground and a political tool, leading to a gradual weakening in the societal structure of the planet and a fall into chaos. It's no mistake, them, that the "Clone Wars" finale takes place on Mandalore, which shows it reduced to a smoke-filled battlefield. However, just as hope remains for the galaxy even after the rise of the Empire, so too does Mandalore end its "Clone Wars" arc with a glimmer of hope for the future.

The Mortis arc foreshadows the Skywalker Saga

No discussion of the complexity of "The Clone Wars" would be complete without a discussion of the Mortis arc of Season 3, which sees Anakin, Obi-Wan, and Ahsoka journey to a strange trans-dimensional planet where the Force manifests in powerful sentient beings. The three-parter is packed with metaphor, allusion, and gorgeous visual imagery, making it a fan favorite. The story of the Mortis arc also foreshadows the larger Skywalker saga in some interesting ways.

Most obviously, Mortis shows Anakin a vision (later wiped from his memory) of the dark Sith Lord he will become. However, the episodes also carry some subtler foreshadowing. The Father, Son, and Daughter — the three Force-wielders of Mortis — each represent different aspects of the Force. The Son manifests the dark side, the Daughter the light, and the Father the balance between them. 

It's curious, then, that things start to unravel on Mortis when the Daughter is killed, plunging the whole planet into darkness. This event mirrors the Jedi Purge and the reign of the Sith that follows. Later, both the Son and the Father die, creating a new kind of equilibrium. That conclusion parallels the end of "Return of the Jedi," where the Sith are destroyed but the old balance that existed before (represented by the Father) remains "dead," so to speak. Luke begins a new era of the Force, which leads into the sequel trilogy.