Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season 1 often gets labeled as the weakest season by fans, though that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have fantastic moments. The early entries of the Geroge Lucas and Dave Filoni series set down much groundwork for future projects, introduced beloved characters, and made Ahsoka Tano face severe growing pains. These moments comprise vital elements of the show's story arcs, so check out reasons to love The Clone Wars Season 1 by focusing on one takeaway from each episode.
“Ambush” opens The Clone Wars on a fantastic note. While the plot centers around Master Yoda facing off against Asajj Ventress, the Jedi Master and his relationship with the three clones, Thire, Jek, and Rys, make up the episode's core.
As the clones worry that they hold Yoda back, Yoda asks them to remove their helmets to see their faces. He tells the clones they have worth as individuals. This moment sets a precedent that this show will break from Genndy Tartakovsky’s fantastic but different 2003 Star Wars: Clone Wars. The clones in that series functioned like cool action figures. George Lucas and Dave Filoni’s The Clone Wars made the clones fully fleshed out characters, which starts here in “Ambush” as Yoda lays out one of the show's central themes.
2. Rising Malevolence
“Rising Malevolence” introduces Ahsoka Tano’s relationship with Plo Koon. Jedi Masters Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi usually teach the young Padawan, but Plo Koon found Ahsoka and brought her to the Jedi Order. They have a unique teacher-student mentorship throughout the series. “Rising Malevolence” gives viewers the first look at it.
3. Shadow of Malevolence
While The Clone Wars would earn acclaim for story arcs in later seasons, the show first attempted this kind of story-telling in the “Malevolence” 3-parter. The stories focus on different aspects and characters to stop General Grievous’ new superpowered ship. A solid middle episode, “Shadow of Malevolence,” moves all the characters where they need to be to set up the arc’s finale.
4. Destroy Malevolence
The Clone Wars gives Padmé Amidala a chance to showcase her excellent character traits. In “Destroy Malevolence,” Padmé stands her ground to fight alongside Anakin and Obi-Wan to help bring down the monstrous ship, giving viewers a taste of Padmé’s fantastic run throughout seven seasons of storytelling.
“Rookies” set up long-term storytelling by introducing two characters: Fives and Echo.
The endearing members of Domino Squad follow their namesake and fall one by one, leaving only these two. Fives represents one of The Clone Wars most pivotal characters and a significant influence on Captain Rex, one of the show's main characters. Echo becomes one of the main characters in The Bad Batch, fighting in the Rebellion to save other clones from the Empire. Since their first appearance in “Rookies,” fans of the two characters should consider this episode required viewing.
6. Downfall of a Droid
This episode represents the earliest animated episode of The Clone Wars. As such, fans of this production company will enjoy seeing where Lucasfilm Animation began and how it developed since.
This two-parter sets up one of the first lessons for Ahsoka to learn. She trusts Goldie because she wants to see the best in everything. Ahsoka hasn’t learned the real cost of war yet, so she misses the warning signs of Goldie’s deceit. In time, Ahsoka will grow to pick her friends wisely, but she has to take a slight knock in this early entry.
7. Duel of the Droids
“Duel of the Droids” offers two fantastic moments. First, R2-D2’s battle with Goldie touches on the weird Star Wars that Filoni likes to do and showcases R2’s competence as a hero as he takes out the threat in a fantastic early battle. Second, during a battle with General Grievous, an overconfident and underskilled Ahsoka realizes she cannot defeat him and barely escapes alive. It does set up a precedent to look back on to see how much she grows. Ahsoka faces Grievous again later in the show and holds her own while defending Jedi Younglings. “Duel of the Droids” allows fans to see how far Ahsoka develops throughout the series.
8. Bombad Jedi
Ahmed Best returns to The Clone Wars to treat fans of The Phantom Menace. Lucas and Filoni stood their ground, despite Jar Jar Binks backlash, for the kids who loved the character. Lucas made Jar Jar for kids, not adults, and those children deserve Star Wars, too. Filoni developed Jar Jar’s throughout the show, giving him character arcs and even a girlfriend, a bold choice on the creators’ part.
9. Cloak of Darkness
The battle between Asajj Ventress versus Ahsoka and Luminara Unduli thrills fans. The cat-and-mouse brawl between three awesome women makes for fantastic Star Wars television. Ahsoka also gets to be the mentor in this episode. The Padawan has the most experience facing Ventress. Ahsoka learns to stand up against a Jedi Master and take charge in a moment of excellent early development for the character to find her voice.
10. Lair of Grievous
The horror episode “Lair of Grievous” should land on every “Top Scariest Moments of Star Wars” roundup. Grievous traps Kit Fisto, his ex-Padawan, and a group of soldiers in his house of horrors to unleash monsters and traps on them. It also showcases the desperation of the Jedi Order, as the Jedi knighted Kit’s ex-Padawan Nahdar Vebb before he finished his training. The war pushes the Jedi to their breaking point, and Nahdar represents an early hint of the Order cracking.
11. Dooku Captured
“Dooku Captured” introduced one of the most fantastic characters of Star Wars: Hondo Ohnaka.
The pirate became an instant fan favorite, which added to his staying power. He returned throughout The Clone Wars, Star Wars Rebels, and popped up in numerous webseries, books, and comics. Pirate’s Price by Lou Anders particularly stands out. Jim Cummings voices the audiobook, and Hondo tells his own stories, complete with him making sound effects. Hondo also appears as a staple in Galaxy’s Edge in Disney Parks. This journey began here with “Dooku Captured” and his first introduction.
12. The Gungan General
Like “Bombad Jedi,” “The Gungan General” reminds fans not to take Star Wars too seriously. It can be a fun romp for kids, which adults can also chuckle at. Lucasfilm doesn’t create all Star Wars for everyone, and that’s okay. This episode wrap-ups in a humorous two-parter with “Dooku Captured” with Jar Jar Binks at its center to offer a good laugh.
13. Jedi Crash
With Anakin gravely wounded, “Jedi Crash” allows Ahsoka to team up with another Jedi Master. She paired off with Luminara earlier in the season but now learns from Aayla Secura this time. Aayla presses a hard lesson on Ahsoka that the Padawan needs to learn to let go of her attachment to Anakin, which resonates more in the Ahsoka series.
14. Defenders of the Peace
While this episode has a unique battle where the Jedi and the clones must pull out their best strategies, George Takei’s delightful, devious, campy performance as Lok Durd steals the episode. The Separatist leader chews up every single scene, commanding the show. While the actor’s only appearance in The Clone Wars, he returned in Star Wars: Visions’ first season in “Akakiri.”
“Trespass” solid storytelling from start to finish makes for an incredible 22 minutes of Star Wars. The vital part introduces Riyo Chuchi. While relatively young here, Riyo finds her voice in “Trespass,” which lets her be a powerhouse character later. She plays a crucial role in Season 2 of The Bad Batch, picking up the work of Padmé if she had survived as the voice of the clones.
16. The Hidden Enemy
“The Hidden Enemy” represents Captain Rex’s first solo episode, mostly away from his Jedi companions. It first seeds the deeper issues with the clones. Rex represents the Paragon clone. While Ahsoka begins The Clone Wars flawed, Rex begins the show as the perfect example of who the clones should be. His journey of disenchantment leads him to question the war, the clones’ place in it, and the Republic until it reaches a breaking point with Order 66. “The Hidden Enemy” shows the first step on this journey as Rex faces another clone who already sees the writing on the wall. This forces Rex to consider some hard truths and not to be loyal without questions.
17. Blue Shadow Virus
Padmé once again shines in the “Blue Shadow Virus” arc. She’s formidable facing Doctor Vindi. She’s kind to Peppi Bow. She doesn’t panic despite the bombs around her that can release a deadly virus onto her planet. Padmé shines as the clear MVP of the episode. It also showcases an early step in Anakin’s downfall into Darth Vader as he’s willing to endanger the entire galaxy to save Padmé’s life. This sentiment becomes a running theme in the series.
18. Mystery of a Thousand Moons
As the second entry for the “Blue Shadow Virus” two-parter, the previous point about Padmé and Anakin still applies as this episode continues those story threads. It encompasses the best of the Jedi. Obi-Wan and Anakin race against time to save the lives of Pamdé, Ahsoka, Rex, Jar Jar, and their men. Despite that, they take the opportunity not to abandon the people of Iego, whom the Separatist trapped in their world. The Jedi ultimately save both groups thanks to their dedication to protecting every life.
19. Storm Over Ryloth
“Storm Over Ryloth” stands as Ahsoka’s most essential episode of Season 1. So sure of her abilities, Ahsoka disobeys orders, leading to the death of several men under her command. It’s a bitter lesson she swallows down early in the show, galvanizing her into the warrior she will become. The warrior point rears its head again in Ahsoka. Anakin also proves he’s an excellent teacher to his Padawan, giving her instruction and helping her through this struggle.
20. Innocents of Ryloth
In this episode, Waxer and Boil cemented themselves as fan-favorite clones as the two soldiers protected a little Twi’lek girl named Numa. “Innocents of Ryloth” focuses on the horror of war for civilians experienced through the eyes of the clones. It’s an excellent entry, one of the best of Season 1. Also, Numa would go on to be a minor character in Star Wars Rebels, fighting in the rebel cell of Cham Syndulla. As an adult, she wears parts of clone armor in Waxer and Boil’s unit color to honor the men who saved her life.
21. Liberty on Ryloth
Speaking of Cham Syndulla, “Liberty on Ryloth” introduces him to Star Wars. Cham plays one of the most influential roles in the Rebellion once the Empire takes over. He leads his cell on Ryloth in The Bad Batch and Star Wars Rebels and makes numerous appearances in books and comics. Most important, he sires Hera Syndulla, one of the main characters of Rebels. Cham’s, for better or worse, influence on Hera shaped her into the person fans love, and this journey starts here in “Liberty on Ryloth.”
22. Hostage Crisis
The Season 1 finale of The Clone Wars, “Hostage Crisis,” represents the first significant tone shift in the show. The creators marketed Season 2 under the banner “Rise of the Bounty Hunters,” hinting at it in this episode with the introduction of Cad Bane. Instantly, Bane and his lovable droid Todo 360 jumped into the realm of fan-favorite to reoccur throughout multiple Star Wars projects, from The Bad Batch to his live-action debut in The Book of Boba Fett. Bane easily bests Anakin and the Republic leaders, showcasing why he’s a dangerous new threat going into the new season.