Here’s the secret about Star Wars: The Clone Wars, the CGI-animated television series that fits in between movies of George Lucas’ grand generational saga that takes place a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, etc. etc.: It may be the most truly cruel, bordering on outright evil, show on television.
Oh, sure; you can’t really tell that from the show itself. Individually, each episode is alternately thrilling, funny or – if it’s an episode that includes Jar-Jar Binks – really difficult to get through without throwing something at the television, and even devoted followers of the series who aren’t familiar with the movies – Although, admittedly, I’m not entirely sure how that could happen, but still – might be missing the sheer heartbreaking nature of the show. But to everyone else, Clone Wars should be regarded as little more than a cruel, cruel trick on fans and members of the 501st worldwide. Because The Clone Wars is, ultimately, all about the pointlessness and futility of… well, everything.
The key to just how insanely depressing The Clone Wars is, is the final movie, Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith. You all remembered that one, right? It’s the one where Anakin – who, to put things in the proper perspective, is the hero of The Clone Wars – succumbs to the dark side of the Force, turns on his teachings, and kills lots of Jedi, including all the kids who’re in training. So, yeah; the hero of the series turns his back on everything he’s been fighting for, and kills his former comrades. And some kids, just to ram home how evil he’s become.
(The ultimate fate of the series’ cast is, by accident or design, ridiculously bleak: The majority – if not all – of the core Jedi seen in the show end up dead by the end of Revenge of The Sith, either on-screen or by inference from that whole “All the Jedi are dead apart from the ones we show later” thing. The clone troopers and Republic officers go on to serve the intergalactic Nazi-esque Empire, and even the Sith separatists will be mostly dead by the time the dust settles. Only Obi-Wan, Yoda, R2-D2 and C3-PO really survive unscathed, with Anakin’s sidekick Ahsoka Tano’s fate entirely unknown, but most likely tragic. They should do an episode where they freeze-frame on various characters and go on to reveal what they ended up doing, like at the end of Animal House, but just keep flashing up the word “DEAD” over and over again.)
But that’s not all! Revenge Of The Sith also makes explicit that the war wasn’t really about anything more than a veiled grab for power on behalf of Senator Palpatine, AKA The Emperor, so it’s not even as if the good guys lose – The good guys from The Clone Wars will, one day, find themselves realizing that their very cause was corrupt and that they were merely pawns in a power struggle that, if you really stop and think about it, doesn’t even make that much sense (No, really; don’t bother. It’s not like it all falls into place the more time you spend on it).
I know what you’re thinking, though; you’re thinking “So? So? I am totally down with depressing shows about the bleakness of life amongst the stars! I watched Battlestar Galactica for years and not just because I had a crush on Grace Park!” And here’s where Clone Wars‘ true evil shines through: When you watched BSG, you knew exactly what you were getting. They were completely upfront with the tragedy and the depression and the melodrama all the “frakking” time. There was no way to watch BSG and not realize that everything was very, very grim indeed. Not so with Clone Wars. As I said before, Clone Wars is an essentially upbeat action-adventure show. Sure, there may be thrills and some spills, but nothing too horrible happens within the show; war looks less like hell than a pretty exciting if occasionally uncomfortable heck, and there’s this feeling throughout the entire thing that, maybe, just maybe, everything will turn out okay after all.
There’s going to be an entire generation of kids growing up whose first exposure to Star Wars is the Clone Wars cartoon, and they’re going to get hooked on the lightsabers and the droids and everything else that’s awesome about the whole Star Wars universe, and they’re going to watch the series and then graduate onto the movies and reach Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith and then just fall to pieces. Nothing in Clone Wars prepares you for the smackdown of Episode III – Anakin embraces the dark side! Obi-Wan cuts Anakin’s legs off! – and I can’t even imagine what it’ll feel like for all the little wannabe-padawans who’ll discover that, hey, their hero kills lots of kids and then goes on to become a cyborg tyrant crushing all the good out of the universe.
So, yeah: Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Whereas, for my generation, Star Wars was an exciting reinvention of science fiction that revolutionized mainstream cinema and created the blockbuster as we know it today, for today’s kids…? It’s going to be the thing that’ll break their spirits and make them into bitter, terrified people who can’t bring themselves to invest in stories anymore. Thanks for that, George Lucas.
More On Techland: