An Episode Guide Offers a Chance to Reassess The Clone Wars

The cover of the book Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Episode Guide features Captain Rex, Yoda, Anakin, Maul, Cad Bane, and General Grievous.

During its five seasons, The Clone Wars jumped around both the regions of the galaxy and the timeline of the galactic conflict it chronicled, taking us from Anakin and Obi-Wan’s adventures on the front lines to Padmé Amidala’s efforts to find a peaceful solution to the war in the Senate. We saw clone troopers and battle droids in combat, but we also learned about the ambitions of Mandalorians and Sith and were brought into the plots and schemes of pirates and bounty hunters.

For DK’s Star Wars: The Clone Wars Episode Guide, released earlier this month, Lucasfilm wanted to present the episodes in chronological order for the first time, starting with “Cat and Mouse,” Anakin’s duel with Admiral Trench, and ending with “The Wrong Jedi,” in which Ahsoka Tano leaves the Jedi Order, seeking her own path. In all, we chronicled 108 episodes and the 2008 theatrical release, which was originally four standalone episodes.

Chronological order made some episodes richer by placing them in proper sequence, turning stories that originally felt like departures from the main narrative into chapters in a larger tale. For instance, Season Three’s “Evil Plans” and “Hunt for Ziro” work better when separated by Season One’s finale, “Hostage Crisis,” showing us the machinations of the bounty hunter Cad Bane and Ziro the Hutt.  Season Two’s “Senate Murders” felt like a vaguely comic police procedural when originally seen, but in its proper place after Season Three’s “Heroes on Both Sides” and “Pursuit of Peace,” it shows us that Padmé’s quest for peace is opposed not just by the Separatists, but also by factions within the Republic and individuals with scores to settle.

Of course there was more to the Episode Guide than just reordering shows. Like all DK titles, the Episode Guide is full of big, beautiful art presented in a clean, crisp design. I went into the project thinking of iconic images from the show — to name just a few, there’s General Grievous grabbing Ahsoka by the throat (“Duel of the Droids”), Mace Windu eye-to-eye with a luckless battle droid (“Liberty on Ryloth”), Rex donning his helmet for a showdown with Pong Krell (“Carnage of Krell”), and Darth Maul wreathed in flames (“Revenge”). It was very satisfying to watch such shots go from moments in memory to requests for DK designers to elements of a finished book.

Along with all this great art, the Episode Guide delivers accounts of the episodes, key quotes, behind-the-scenes tidbits and in-universe facts. Reviewing five years’ worth of the show, I realized The Clone Wars’ use of concept art from the prequel and “classic” trilogy integrated it more tightly with the films, as did its parallels to famous Star Wars shots and borrowing of familiar quotes.

The Clone Wars was also full of homages to movie history, from overt tips of the cap (Season Two’s “Senate Spy” is a clever reimagining of Hitchcock’s Notorious) to subtler influences, such as the film noir feel of “Duchess of Mandalore” or the nods to Godzilla in “The Zillo Beast.” The behind-the-scenes factoids were the perfect place to spotlight such influences, hopefully sending Star Wars fans deeper into the cinema history that inspired George Lucas and supervising director Dave Filoni.

The Clone Wars was always more than just eye-popping visuals and movie references, of course. At its best, the show was a collaboration between Lucas, Filoni, the individual episode writers and the artists, animators, and actors who turned scripts and sketches into a finished product. That collaboration yielded big-hearted storytelling based around characters who changed and grew over the series. Most obviously there was Ahsoka, who began as Anakin’s talented but bratty apprentice but matured into a capable, reflective Jedi. But as viewers we were also intrigued by Asajj Ventress, the dark Jedi who forced to reassess her loyalties to Count Dooku, the Separatists and the Nightsisters, and we awaited new adventures from the likes of Captain Rex, Cad Bane, and the Weequay pirate Hondo Ohnaka.

Originally, the Episode Guide was slated to include the first 100 episodes of the show. But as the book neared completion, all involved agreed it would be more satisfying to cover Season Five in its entirety — which was fortunate, given that after the book went to print we learned that season would be the show’s last. I was particularly grateful that DK’s designers had pushed for the book’s final piece of art to be Ahsoka walking into the Coruscant sunset. None of us knew it at the time, but that decision gave the book a perfect ending, summing up both the show and an era of Star Wars storytelling.

Jason Fry is the author of The Clone Wars Episode Guide and more than twenty other Star Wars books and short stories. He is also the author of The Jupiter Pirates young-adult series, which begins in December.

TAGS: , ,