There’s a moment in the third season of “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” where it feels like the writers have run out of war stories. A side conflict about a scarcity investigation is revealed to all be a ruse, a cunning ploy by a minor political figure to undermine a slightly less minor political figure. The Galactic Republic is a vast place, and the Clone Wars span the entirety of it. Following the sideshow to the sideshow, our protagonists are whisked away onto an even more remote setting: a Jedi temple that exists in space but out of time, where an ancient monk keeps balance between his lightside daughter and his darksided son.
In this temple, in the middle of space, is where Anakin Skywalker fails to end the Clone War. The old monk needs a replacement, and the Chosen One will do just fine. Anakin refuses, out of fear for his secret wife, responsibility to his young padawan, and loyalty to his former master. Anakin is a skilled force user, pilot, and general, but he is a terrible Jedi. Faced with an opportunity to sacrifice himself and end the war, Anakin instead opts to leave. It goes poorly for the monk and for the daughter, and the sith-powered son is freed from balance, if not his temporal prison. Skywalker, Obi-Wan, and padawan Ashoka all escape, to return to their endless war.
I am halfway through livetweeting a #CloneWarsRewatch. I never saw “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” when it aired from 2008 to 2014, so my use of “rewatch” here is a bit of a misnomer, but I figured it was a good way to capture that I’m watching the show as a whole after it aired. All six seasons are on Netflix. I just finished season 3, so expect a second post when I finish the show.
I started watching because I wanted to understand how the war worked. I wanted battles, campaigns, daring stratagems and bungled schemes. I got those, and more, but the underlying logic of the universe is almost crippled by George Lucas’ overwhelmingly simple view of good and evil.
Palpatine, like he does in the movies, plays both sides of a great galactic war, urging the Republic to raise a clone army and marshaling separatist forces in secret. It’s a pat summary of evil, but it’s an entirely unnecessary one. We could get a rise to power story for Palpatine without him as the sole origin of everything bad, and it’d probably be more compelling.
This matters for BlogTarkin because I wanted to understand how the war of Star Wars worked. What follows is a brief summation, but it comes from the premise that nothing matters because Palpatine is a heavy-handed cliche.
How The Clone Wars Were Fought
The (likely) strategic objective of the Separatists is to fight the Republic to a stalemate. We get one episode with a Separatist governing body, but Count Dooku and his droid army are the real story, and their objective is terrifying galactic war, so no matter what Separatist-aligned planets hope for, they’re getting war.
The Republic’s objective is peace through victory, though a strong current is debate over peace proposals. These are shot down, literally and figuratively, by the same forces that want Palpatine in power and the war to continue. Throughout the series, we get to meet individuals, sometimes representing small planets or communities, who have strong feelings about the Republic or the Separatists, but all the personal reasons get lost in a giant grinder for Palpatine’s Imperial power.
Here are some strategic objectives fought over in the first half of the clone wars:
- Listening posts guarding a nursery world
- A fuel depot
- A nursery world
- A magical hole in time that balances the force
And that’s it, really. There are lots of other important places, but nothing with war-ending impact.
In a universe so reliant on machines, its weird that EMPs are a rare experimental weapon and hacking is barely a thing. Also weird: a lot of combat, even space combat, takes place within line of sight. Jon Jeckell has more to say on that, but here are some other observations about the wars as fought:
- Hyperspace travel means battles always happen near planets, or significant destinations in space itself. So far, no attacks against ships in hyperspace.
- Many ships can go to hyperspace, but smaller fighters often need a boost to get there
- Getting to hyperspace takes a few minutes, and must be done outside a planet’s atmosphere, so blockading gunships have a window of opportunity to shoot fleeing vessels
- That said, the first ship we ever see in Star Wars is a blockade runner
- Blockades are really common, and must in some form be effective
But space combat isn’t all combat. There’s a lot of battles on the ground, too.
- Armor that isn’t made of light is mostly meaningless
- Grenades are very powerful
- Armored vehicles are useful, and often come as troop transports too
- Militias with sticks and spears can still defeat blaster-armed attackers
- Almost all battles have clones versus droids
- Of those that don’t, clones or droids support one side, so they’re always present. We don’t call it “The Droid War,” though, so I guess winners write the history books
Season 3 ends with the introduction of Captain Tarkin, a decidedly force-ambivalent character with other ideas about ending the war. I hope we see more of him over the next three seasons.
My storified tweets about #CloneWarsRewatch can be found at the links below: