Among the diverse feelings of Star Wars fans, I am someone who is a fan of the overall saga, including all 6 films. I like the Original Trilogy better than the prequels and recognize much that is wrong with the newer films, but overall I enjoy watching them and think they are a positive edition to the overall saga. The prequels deliver a great story that is integral to the Galaxy Far, Far Away and that really makes the Original Trilogy movies more enjoyable by filling in the back story leading up to the second half of the saga.
That being said, among all six movies, Episode II was my least favorite. I still watch it when I (often) decide to go back through and watch the movies… it’s not like I have written it off completely, but it IS my least favorite. I think that in the end, while Episode II has some GREAT moments, it also has just as many HORRIBLE moments. For every adrenaline-pumping second of Yoda fighting, there’s a cringe-inducing second of Anakin and Padme’s awkward courtship. I used to say that Episode II was worth it for the exciting parts and for the actual plot progression it had, but lately I am beginning to think that The Clone Wars might be even MORE important to the saga than Episode II.
The Clone Wars is a fantastic series that feels very much like a true part of the Star Wars universe. I have met very few people who actually watched the show who didn’t fall in love with it. Even among fans, though, I have noticed that most people consider the show to be a parallel to the saga, but not an actual part of it. I think that there is an important reason to change this opinion and I think that in the future, I will be adding in at least a few episodes/arcs to my normal saga-viewing routine. Once The Clone Wars becomes part of my saga, I think I might even take Episode II out completely!
The real motivation for this change in my thinking is that I think that the most important job of the prequels was to let us know who Anakin was before the mask. I think that the prequels didn’t do a good job with this and that it was really Episode II’s fault. In getting to know Anakin through the prequel movies, we really ONLY saw him at his moments of weakness. At first, it was exciting and cool to see how he had the makings of a Sith Lord all along, but that excitement didn’t really stand the test of time. In the context of the entire Saga, it really ended up making things boring and predictable (Of course he would slaughter younglings, he already did that at the Tusken Raider camp!). More importantly, the Anakin that we see in the prequel movies DO NOT mesh with the Anakin “lore” we get from the Original Trilogy. In Episode IV, we see that Luke knew of his father as a great pilot and a great hero… We also see that Obi-Wan once thought of Anakin as a brother and a friend. In the Prequel movies, we never see any of this! We only see a whiney, troubled Anakin who had a combative relationship with the Jedi Order and Council and who never really made a name for himself (well, aside from saving an entire planet by age 9, but that wasn’t really what we had in mind before 1999).
Seeing Anakin Skywalker as “the hero who would fall” is the hole that the prequels should have filled and it was Episode II that should have done it. Episode 1 introduces him and Episode III has to show his fall. Episode II should have shown us Anakin at his BEST, when instead, we get him losing his temper with Tusken Raiders, failing horribly against Count Dooku and being completely resentful toward Obi Wan and the Jedi Order.
Enter The Clone Wars. The Clone wars gets it right. We see Anakin as an absolute Hero saving his fellow Jedi, saving several planets and systems and really just kicking butt left and right. We see Anakin and Obi Wan as partners who trust and rely on one another equally, even though Obi Wan still mentors and teaches him. We see Anakin and Padme having a good, positive relationship where they love one another and seem like a couple who would actually be happy to raise a child together. Most importantly, the hints we get that he could eventually fall to the dark side are much more subtle and much more nuanced… his willingness to bend rules in The Clone Wars are a lot more within the character of a hero than the wholesale slaughter women and children.
The Anakin we see throughout the 5 seasons of The Clone Wars is an Anakin who really WOULD be regarded as a hero by everyone throughout the Republic. Not only because he IS heroic, but it was also his time in the spotlight! Through a few lines of dialogue in Episode III we could infer this already, but why should we have to imagine it when we get the chance to see it through this brilliant series?
Here’s where I have a confession to make: even before Episode I was ever made, I always thought the end of Return of the Jedi felt a little empty. It just seemed to coincidental that Darth Vader would care enough about a son he’s never known to give up everything he has achieved for him. Sorry. I know it’s not cool to dislike anything about the OT (other than Ewoks), but it really is how I always felt. But after seeing the prequels – whether your love them or hate them – we all watch the Original Trilogy a little differently now. We all take a few moments during each movie and remember who the man in the black suit really is. Darth Vader (only considering Episodes IV – VI) choosing Luke over the Emperor is a little forced… but Anakin Skywalker (all six movies considered) choosing him is heroic and wonderful!
As Star Wars fans, we always like to fill in the blanks with outside information (for example, the word Sith is never used in the Original movies, but we all knew what it was!) and that is why the end of Episode VI worked for us. Because we knew that Anakin had a hero’s heart even though we never saw it in Darth Vader. The prequels should have shown it on screen, but really didn’t. The Anakin from The Clone Wars, though, would absolutely come around in the end and save his son… freeing the galaxy from Sith rule along the way.
So in the end, as I watch the saga from now on, I think I will skip Episode II (I will treat it as a “take it or leave it” movie) and in its place, I will be watching some of The Clone Wars. I think the Clone Wars Arcs I would consider adding are:
•The Malevolence Arc
•Holocron Heist Arc
•The Citadel Arc
•The “Kidnapped/Slavery” Arc
•The final Ahsoka Arc
I’m interested to hear what you all think! Are you ready to replace Episode II in your own personal Canon? What episodes of The Clone Wars would you use? Let me know in the comments!