Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season 6 Review (Part 1): A Band of Brothers

By Noel Kirkpatrick

Mar 08, 2014

Star Wars: The Clone Wars S06E01, S06E02, S03E06, and S0604: 

"The Unknown", "Conspiracy", "Fugitive", and "Orders"

Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay back when Star Wars: The Clones Wars was first announced, the idea that some episodes would focused on the clone troopers more than the Jedi struck me as ambitious in its bold belief that kids (and adults, let's be honest) would tolerate episodes that didn't feature lightsabers. It also brought out the cynic in me, in that it seemed like an easy way to keep costs down; the show wouldn't have to animate faces under those helmets, and could get away with using only one voice actor for every single clone that appeared. But then the series premiered and proved me wrong. Not only did audiences like and enjoy clone-centric episodes—I've met plenty of kids who love Rex and Cody more than the Jedi characters—but The Clone Wars never shied away from showing us the troopers underneath those helmets.

What's more, it gave the clones personalities and identifiers. They weren't just mindless, mass-produced biological automatons sent into battle the mindless, mass-produced mechanical automatons of the Separatists. They took initiative beyond their programming and training and, most importantly, they developed loyalties to one another, not just as members of a squad but as a sizable population in the galaxy.

We saw that dedication and sense of camaraderie on full display here in the first four episodes of Season 6 as Fives sought to the get the bottom of why a clone cadet named Tups went and killed a Jedi while fighting on the circular space station (has there been a sharper metaphor for the seemingly unending nature of war on this show than this space station?). Even if the episodes hadn't spelled it out for us, as audience members we knew it was an action linked to the dreaded Order 66, a trigger implanted in the clones to be activated by Palpatine and cause the clones to turn on the Jedi and then become the stormtroopers of the Empire.

So Fives did what he could to unearth the secrets buried by the Kaminoans and the Sith regarding the nature of Order 66. He disobeyed orders, he teamed up with a not completely annoying medical droid, and he discovered the conspiracy, only to steadily lose his mind in the process, reducing the truth to the ranting of a clone who'd gone lost his grip on things after having an "aggression inhibitor"—which actually triggered Order 66—removed. Fives, who had been with the series since Season 1, was shot down at the pits of his instability, fully unable to explain what was going on, and without any evidence.

One of the hallmarks of science-fiction, and speculative fiction in general, is extrapolation. I'm sure I've mentioned this elsewhere on, maybe even in earlier discussions of The Clone Wars. So, possibly in reiteration, extrapolation is what allows speculative fiction writers to comment on present-day society by jumping a few years or a few thousand years into the future and thinking about where things end up, or by putting the contemporary world into a different context so as to call attention to it, to make the audience see it in a new light.

The Clone Wars has done this in the past, of course, but this particular arc used Tubs and Fives' behavior to touch on a number of topics related to serving in the military. I personally read it as a commentary on how the U.S. military in particular struggles to support its soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorders. The episodes wrapped the troopers' behavior in a cloak of investigating a conspiracy, but consider the paces they were put through to get there. Nala Se provided incorrect diagnoses for an ulterior purpose; PTSD is routinely misdiagnosed, ignored, or receives inadequate treatment. Shaak Ti and Nala Se got into jurisdictional battles over who the clones belonged to—who was responsible for them—mirroring the ways in which real-life service members have to find assistance from a range of bureaucratic services that just don't communicate well with one another.

By the end of "Orders," Fives' mental state felt like a commentary on where many military personnel who've seen combat have found themselves: in need of help, and confused about what to do and where to go. Even Tubs' dying words about a never-ending mission in their dreams were not-so-subtly intercut with seemingly knowing head tilts from helmeted troopers, and thus summoning the stories of sleeping nightmares and waking flashbacks recounted by many veterans.

These sorts of stories are what speculative fiction is for. It seems like a rollicking adventure and conspiracy yarn set in the narrative universe of a famed and lucrative media franchise, but every now and then, you scratch away at the surface and find something very purposeful.


– Welcome to the coverage of Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season 6 a.k.a. The Lost Missions. These episodes are, as of right now, only available for streaming on Netflix Watch Instantly. As you may have surmised from this post, we'll be tackling the season not on an episode-by-episode basis, but as a set of arcs. My next review will cover "An Old Friend" (Episode 5), "The Rise of Clovis" (Episode 6), and "Crisis at the Heart" (Episode 7)—an arc that was supposed to appear in Season 4, but kept getting pushed around. As a result, and perhaps unfairly, my hopes for it are not high.

– Part of my thinking on the clones here was informed by Karen Traviss's excellent (and sadly unfinished) Republic Commando novel series. If you enjoyed these four episodes in particular, I'd encourage you read that series, as they're easily some of the better Star Wars novels in who knows how long.

– On an aesthetics level, I don't know that the show has ever looked this good. I'm chalking up a lot of that to finally watching the series in something better than standard definition, but it was still leaps and bounds ahead of previous season. Even if it wasn't just an issue of image quality, "The Unknown" was especially good-looking, with some nicely executed cinematography and sequences, like the zero-g battle in the medical transport or the slightly topsy-turvy climb on the space station. The other episodes don't reach the same heights, but I still felt like I was seeing the show for the first time, in a lot of ways.

What did you all think of this first arc of The Clone Wars Season 6?

Note: If you've already finished the season, please avoid spoilers for Episodes 5-13 in the comments!

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  • tyrellcorp Mar 14, 2014

    Of course , all of this show has been a thrill a minute ride of gorgeous CG eye candy.. and ive luved every one of those minutes..
    however this "lost missions" season has dissapointed me in regard to the Jedi.. according to this season they are all a bunch of incompetent,naive,manipulative,stupid,decrepid morons that the "dark side" can easily dupe and control.Whats the point of having "jedi" powers if you are so incapable of finding out the truth? The dark side have an easy time of it,winning at every manipulation.The jedi completely missing out or failing at every turn.what rot...

  • JT_Kirk Mar 11, 2014

    Oh yeah, I gotta also take a cheap shot at Tim Curry, I feel like he was miscast to replace Ian Abercrombie, who passed away. But Tim Curry sounds like Tim Curry so much, and like Palpatine so little. They should have got Sam Witwer, he did the voice in The Force Unleashed (as well as his own character, Starkiller, and a Clone Wars character who is hard to explain called The Son) and was really, really good at it.

  • noelrk Mar 11, 2014

    I liked Curry fine in the Season 5 finale arc. Here....GAH. His Sidious is fine, but when he's Palpatine he is, as you say, "Tim Curry so much" that it hurts and grates.

  • JT_Kirk Mar 11, 2014

    It helps that the clones are regular folks flying spaceships and shooting guns while the Jedi have the awful prequel styling of being humorless and shitty and just unpleasant. I love Obi-Wan Kenobi in the OT, not sure why George Lucas had to make the prequel Jedi nothing like him, and now the cartoon has 'em too.

    Being an audience member who knows that Order 66 is the cause of the ailments of this arc, I think that took the wind out of the episode's sails. We knew why he was doing it and who was truly behind it, the only question was why he malfunctioned (and we never got a definitive answer there), so it felt a little like the show playing catch-up to the audience.

    The "aggression inhibitor" ties into a line from Episode 2, I think, as well as surrounding media. It actually is necessary given Jango Fett's behavior, so it wasn't 100% BS, but the story seemed like it was.

    I didn't see any commentary on modern life, I think you have to project to see a PTSD connection here. Ultimately, there was only one hero - Fives - while everybody else was either incompetent - Shaak-Ti, Anakin - or evil - Palpatine, the Kaminoans (which was very disappointing, as I've always assumed they were neutral and here they were being mustache-twirling villains). For Fives to get shot down not because he can't hack the stress but because the truth is overwhelming removed any possibility of a connection to real life, aside from a mystery story.

    Oddly, Fives' aping of Tup's comments about the dreams is the one element that totally got short-shrifted, because at first the episode acts like Tup is talking about something nobody else sees, but at the end we get the idea that they all have those same Jedi-killing nightmares and just don't talk about them, yet there's no other weight given to this to support it.

    Oh, and speaking of the Jedi... fuck them! Once again we get a prequel-era Jedi council holding its limp dick in its hand, totally impotent and uninterested in following through on anything.

    I liked AZ3 or whatever the little droid helper guy's name was. That character was a good C-3PO foil for our rather tightly-focused middle arc.

    Don't mention Karen Traviss and The Clone Wars cartoon in the same breath, it's so sad how her work got upended and shoved out an airlock on both clones and Mandolorians.

    The climb up the space station was TOTAL NONSENSE! There's no up or down, they walk up the underside surface but get to another plane and treat it like it's not walkable. The physics in this episode, I tried to forgive but man were there a lot of weird choices. They owned it in the zero-G battle, but they still couldn't quite make up their mind where to go with physics, and tried to straddle the line.

    I liked but didn't love this arc, there were a lot of frustrating character decisions that simply held it back from being better, a lot of that being boneheaded stuff on the part of the Jedi.

  • noelrk Mar 11, 2014

    It's really sad about Traviss, I totally agree. But, hey, if it nudges some folks to read it...

  • JT_Kirk Mar 11, 2014

    Yeah, I used the wrong phrasing, I didn't mean you couldn't, just that it's an ugly and sad situation where an artist got steamrolled by a corporation. That's the risks with licensed material, but still, they had a good thing and it just got crushed.

  • mcepin3 Mar 10, 2014

    What a booooring season. First epsiode is great,but then rest 3 ruin that arc. Next arcs are also boring,then another great episode,followed by mediocre episodes.

  • Tompoint0 Mar 09, 2014

    Alright... I do have to say that these episodes really were amazing and they spent a significant amount of time tying the loose strings. I appreciate that the team provided information regarding Master Syfo Diaz and his relationship with Tyrannis/Dooku. I also think that it is awesome that Tyrannis was revealed as the mastermind that behind the creation of the clone army. My only gripe - I wished that a little bit of time was dedicated for explaining what happened immediately after order 66 was completed. Specifically, what happened to Asoka? Did she survive?

  • layton2012 Mar 09, 2014

    I thought this arc was incredible, probably one of my favorites across all 6 seasons, though I have yet to finish "season 6". To be honest, it was so sickening to see how both sides talked about the Clones, and how they were "property", and while we know the Chancellor's true intention to see how betrayed Fives looked when he learned that the Chancellor was in on the plot was disheartening. They are clones but throughout the series we've connected to them as people, and not just numbers. However, these four episodes were an excellent conclusion to Fives, as well as the Domino squad, and also shed a lot of light on Order 66. I am very sad to see Fives go, but I'm glad we got a conclusion, now if only we knew what happened to Rex. Until we learn otherwise I hope he shows up in Rebels as a deserter, after fighting off Order 66.

  • antdude Mar 09, 2014

    Wow, it was awesome. It seems darker too! :D

  • current Mar 09, 2014

    Just got up to Liam Neeson blowing hot air up Yoda's nethers - now there's an image. Quickly. Quickly, Yoda. There's no time!

  • prowly Mar 08, 2014

    Wait. I thought Clone Wars got canceled? Did I just imagine those news, several months ago, around the time that Young Justice also failed to get renewed?

  • noelrk Mar 08, 2014

    It was, but these 13 episodes has been completed before the cancellation occurred. The question was whether or not (and how) they'd ever see the light of day due to Disney's acquistion of Lucasfilms.

  • JT_Kirk Mar 11, 2014

    Most of these s6 episodes weren't actually completed when the plug was pulled, they were only in production, but Lucasfilm allowed Dave Filoni to finish production for this release.

  • current Mar 09, 2014

    Didn't they also pull Tron because they said they only wanted to concentrate on SW and for actual/potential fans to also? I really liked Tron as it had a darker more adult feel than expected.

  • noelrk Mar 09, 2014

    They've said nothing about Uprising to my knowledge, but it's likely dead.

  • current Mar 08, 2014

    Said in Michael Caine tones, "D'you know, it bloody well passed me by that these had come owt. I blame the missus. But I'll endeavour to watch 'em all shortly with me hangover. Nitie nite all".

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