One of the great things about Star Wars is that it inspires endless debates and opinions on a wide array of topics. Best bounty hunter? Most powerful Jedi? Does Salacious B. Crumb have the best haircut in the saga? In that spirit, StarWars.com presents From a Certain Point of View: a series of point-counterpoints on some of the biggest — and most fun — Star Wars issues. In this installment, two StarWars.com writers make a case for the most underrated clone in Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
It’s 99, says Amy.
Heart. Courage. Loyalty. The Republic Army’s clone troopers value these traits, maybe as much as fighting abilities. And one clone in particular has an abundance of all three of those qualities: 99. The cloning process malformed 99, leaving him with mutations that kept him from the battlefield. Instead he worked in maintenance in the Kaminoan cloning facilities. While he cleaned lockers, he fulfilled another set of duties by encouraging clone cadets and offering his guidance. Soft-spoken and gentle, 99 pushed young clones to be their best.
His kindness to Domino Squad gets me every time I rewatch those episodes. I respect that 99 doesn’t hit clones over the head with his recommendations. Instead, he observes and listens and just puts his thoughts out there. While we only saw him work with a single clone squad, it was clear that 99 had mentored other clones before them. I admire him for the patience he has with his brothers and for his keen insight that improves the clones’ fighting techniques and attitudes. And when 99 jumped right in to help defend Kamino from the Separatist invasion? My heart. He put himself in the middle of the action when he likely had the option of more hands-off (and safer) duties. He stood alongside his brothers, including his friends from the Domino Squad.
The clone wielded his knowledge of the facilities like a kind of weapon, guiding his brothers to an ideal place for an ambush against Separatist forces. He gave his life being the soldier he wanted to be. There’s a reason the Bad Batch named their squad Clone Force 99. The squad’s namesake was a model clone. Sure, 99 wasn’t at a Jedi general’s side in any battle. He didn’t take down battle droid after battle droid. And no, 99 never even left Kamino. He couldn’t be a soldier in the traditional manner, but he was the best of them—and the most underrated of them—all the same.
Jesse is the most underrated clone, says James.
The clone 99 may represent the ideals of clone brotherhood, but who was there, on the frontlines, for much of the action seen in The Clone Wars, and doesn’t get enough love? CT-5597, or Jesse to his brothers in the 501st Legion. Rex is a hero for the whole series, Fives and Echo get a lot of focus and character growth and their own story arcs, but Jesse is always there, in the background, doing his job. No story arc focused on his journey specifically, but time and again Jesse plays a valuable role in the stories of his fellow soldiers.
Yet somehow Jesse is not valued enough as a character, as a clone brother, and as a Republic trooper. Let’s review his service record: As a member of the 501st, Jesse was at the Battle of Saleucami under Rex, searching for the grounded General Grievous in a speeder patrol. When Rex got shot by a sniper droid, Jesse stepped up and took over the squad, ordering Kix to treat Rex while he and Hardcase tracked down and destroyed the commando droid pair. Jesse then decided to bring Rex to a farm, and successfully de-escalated a tense standoff with Suu Lawquane and negotiated permission to leave Rex at the Lawquane farm to be tended by their medic. When duty called, he stepped up and into a leadership position without hesitation, showing off his knack for diplomacy in the process. On Umbara, Jesse was there again as General Pong Krell took over command of the 501st from General Skywalker. This time he was an advocate for his fellow soldiers, asking Rex to give them a rest break after a battle and long march, which Krell denied. When Krell ordered a direct assault on an Umbaran base through a dangerous narrow gorge, Jesse and the other clones expressed their disagreement with the plan, which was tactically unsound and could end with alarmingly high casualties. Despite his concerns, Jesse followed Rex’s orders, and led the defense against enemy cannons. Later, after Fives and Hardcase stole several Umbaran starfighters, Jesse worked behind Krell’s back to use the commandeered ships to attack a supply shuttle. After Hardcase’s sacrifice ensured a successful mission, Jesse and Fives were sent to the firing squad by Krell. The two were saved by their fellow clones who refused to execute them and eventually returned to the fight to help arrest Krell. With the guidance of Jesse’s own moral compass, he put his loyalty to his brothers over suicidal orders, risking a death sentence in the process. That’s a leader that you’d want watching your back!
At Anaxes, Jesse, now an ARC trooper, was picked by Rex and Cody to join a squad to raid a Separatist cyber center alongside the Bad Batch. When Crosshair derided Rex’s plan, Jesse stood up for his commander, drawing the wrath of Wrecker. Loyal and willing to go toe to toe with the super troopers of Clone Force 99? That’s Jesse. And Jesse was at the siege of Mandalore, among the clones searching for Maul in the undercity. Eventually he was captured by the enemy, but Jesse refused to break under interrogation even as Maul invaded his mind through the Force. Eventually, Jesse was returned to his comrades, and despite his ordeal, he continued to serve. As they took the captured Maul back to Coruscant, Order 66 was issued and Jesse, with his implanted chip, obeyed, firing on Ahsoka Tano, and taking command of the clones after Rex defected. Jesse led the clones in setting a trap for Ahsoka and Rex, but still tried to negotiate for Rex’s surrender, his loyalty to his commander overriding the chip-issued directive at least in part. Ultimately, Jesse ordered their execution, but as chaos ensued he re-directed the attack, a move that was both tactically sound and somehow spared his former comrades-in-arms. Curious.
Jesse appears in many clone-centric storylines in The Clone Wars, yet is never really the story’s focus. Like 99, he’s got heart, courage, and loyalty in spades — so loyal to the Republic that he proudly wears the Republic’s emblem as a face tattoo, and on his helmet. The clone 99 may have set the bar for ideals, but he got his own story arc and credit for his actions, with the Bad Batch being named in honor of him. Jesse cleared that bar, and then some by being a soldier who survived through the war, becoming an ARC trooper and a leader — yet he remains an unsung hero, making him the most underrated of all the clones.
What do you think? Do you agree with Amy or James? Or is there another clone trooper who gets your vote? Let us know on social using #FromACertainPOV!
Amy Ratcliffe is passionate about Star Wars and coffee. She’s the author of Star Wars: Women of the Galaxy and a co-host of the podcast Lattes with Leia. She always has her nose stuck in a book. Nerd out with her on Twitter at @amy_geek.
James Floyd is a writer, photographer, and organizer of puzzle adventures. He’s a bit tall for a Jawa. You can follow him on Twitter at @jamesjawa or check out his articles on Club Jade and Big Shiny Robot.
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