Over the years, Clone troopers have become a cornerstone of the Star Wars universe, existing side-by-side with other notable elements of the series like lightsabers, starfighters, and even the Force itself (things that essentially make the Star Wars series what it is).
While Stormtroopers are sure to retain their iconic pop culture status as the decades go by, Clones have steadily risen to the forefront of Star Wars’ fandom. This surge in popularity can be most directly attributed to their appearances in fan-favorite TV series, like The Clone Wars, Rebels, and The Bad Batch.
In those shows (and most especially in The Clone Wars), ordinary Clone troopers are given a prominent place alongside their Jedi commanders, each Clone possessing their own distinct personality and physical appearances. For example, there’s the tactful, reserved Commander Cody, Obi-Wan Kenobi’s right-hand man in the 212th Attack Battalion; the energetic, explosive-addicted Wrecker of Clone Force 99; and the dedicated leader of the 501st Legion, Captain Rex.
Out of all the Clones featured in Star Wars’ Extended Universe, Captain Rex is given the most in-depth exploration, his character serving major or supporting roles in virtually every TV series created by Dave Filoni. The second-in-command of Anakin Skywalker and, later, Ahsoka Tano in the Clone Wars, Rex later became a hero of the Rebellion during the Galactic Civil War. He’s come face to face with some of the galaxy’s most credible foes, from Sith disciples like Asajj Ventress to infamous bounty hunters like Cad Bane.
Given Rex’s prominent place in the Star Wars universe and his personal connection to notable characters like Anakin, Obi-Wan, and Ahsoka, it’s helpful to know a few things about the 501st Clone Commander, especially for those who are unfamiliar with The Clone Wars, The Bad Batch, or Rebels.
Assigned to Anakin Skywalker
At the offset of the Clone Wars, Clone commanders were assigned to serve under Jedi Knights, aiding in the Republic war effort against the encroaching Separatist forces. In the early months of the conflict, Rex and the 501st Legion were sent to join Anakin Skywalker. During these earliest days of the war, Anakin’s bravery, unorthodox approach to warfare, and absolute loyalty to the Republic came to rub off on Rex, who mirrored his Jedi commander’s personality more and more as the war went on (an attribute shared by most Clone officers in regards to their Jedi commanders).
Amid the Battle of Christophsis in 19 BBY, Anakin was ordered to take the teenage Togruta Jedi Ahsoka Tano as his padawan, overseeing her training throughout the remainder of the Clone Wars. For the next few years, Anakin, Ahsoka, and Rex all became increasingly close to each other, their relationship on the battlefield soon evolving into a personal friendship between the three. Demonstrating an undying loyalty to his friends and to the soldiers under his command, Rex routinely led the 501st Legion into some of the war’s worst battles alongside Anakin and Ahsoka, fighting on Ryloth, Felucia, Kamino, and Geonosis. As the war drew on, Rex also continued to cement his friendship with the fellow Clones he served with, most notably Commander Cody and 501st soldiers (later ARC Troopers) Echo and Fives.
In the final stages of the Clone Wars, Rex’s dedication to the Republic and his unwavering belief in its ideals started to unravel. In 20 BBY, Rex and his men participated in the costly Battle of Umbara, which saw their temporary Jedi Commander, Pong Krell, betray his men, pitting Clones against Clones in an effort to secure a Separatist victory on the planet.
One year later, Rex witnessed a dejected Ahsoka leave the Jedi Order after being wrongfully implicated in the bombing of the Jedi Temple. Not long after, Fives – who had gone rogue upon discovering a sinister plot to destroy the Jedi (known as Order 66) – was killed by his Clone brethren as part of a cover-up to ensure Order 66’s continued secrecy. While Rex was devastated to learn of his friend’s death, his early knowledge of the Clone inhibitor chips ultimately came in handy, allowing him to escape the directives of Order 66 months later.
Surviving Order 66
In 19 BBY, a joyful Rex was reunited with Ahsoka Tano, having been ordered to aid the former Jedi in her mission to liberate Mandalore from Maul’s Shadow Collective. Donning customized helmets to reflect their new Jedi commander, Rex broke off a small contingent of the 501st Legion and reorganized them into the 332nd Company. Joining Ahsoka and Mandalorian loyalists led by Bo-Katan Kryze, Rex and the 332nd Company quickly overwhelmed Maul’s forces on the planet’s surface, capturing the former Sith Lord and freeing the planet from Maul’s puppet government.
As they traveled back to Coruscant onboard a Republic Star Destroyer, Chancellor Palpatine formally issued Order 66, triggering every Clones’ inhibitor chip, effectively turning them against their Jedi commanders. Like all of his fellow Clones, Rex promptly set his sights on terminating Ahsoka, although he managed to fight the effects of his chip long enough to warn Ahsoka of the betrayal, telling her to remove his inhibitor chip the first chance she had.
Momentarily fleeing the now homicidal Clones, Ahsoka managed to stun Rex long enough to surgically remove the chip, restoring Rex to his former, even-tempered self. Recognizing the danger to Ahsoka’s life, Rex and Ahsoka tried to escape from the ship before the 332nd Company could close in. Around the same time, a recently-escaped Maul began damaging the vessel beyond repair, sending the Destroyer crashing into a nearby moon. Escaping in the nick of time onboard a stolen Y-wing, Ahsoka and Rex buried the fallen Clones on the moon’s surface, making it appear as though they perished in the crash. They then secretly attended the funeral service of Padmé Amidala on Naboo.
On the Run
Having faked their deaths, Rex separated from Ahsoka, fleeing into the largely chaotic Outer Rims in the hopes of outrunning the Empire’s increasingly tight grip over the galaxy. Living a fugitive lifestyle, Rex rapidly moved from planet to planet, carrying on the Republic’s main ideals in his own private war against the newly-formed Empire. Recruiting two smugglers who happened to be former acquaintances of Ahsoka (Trace and Rafa Martez) to his cause, Rex eventually reunited with the members of Clone Force 99, who had similarly gone rogue and were working against the Empire.
While the Bad Batch never formally agreed to join Rex’s freedom-fighting group – believing that fighting on behalf of the Republic was a lost cause – they did aid in several of Rex’s missions, including rescuing the captured Clone commando Gregor. As Rex continued to carry out his crusade against Palpatine’s new regime, he began to notice that an increasingly larger number of Clone troopers had started to revert back to their former personalities – the effects of the inhibitor chips slowly wearing off. Seeing this, Rex began to focus more of his time rehabilitating his Clone brothers, providing them with safety once they snapped out of their Imperial-induced trance.
Combating the Empire
For the next decade, Rex helps rescue and reform veterans of the Clone Wars whom he knew and served with, moving into a residence with Gregor and Commander Wolffe on Seelos. In 4 BBY, Rex is contacted by the crew of the Ghost on behalf of Ahsoka, who is searching for potential members for her growing underground resistance movement. Mutually distrustful of each other at first, the former Clone commanders eventually agree to pool their efforts with the Lothal Rebel cell, aiding them in various sabotage missions against the Empire. Having joined this new Rebel group, Rex once again met with Ahsoka, 15 years after their previous encounter during Order 66.
Though he was initially disdainful towards the Clones for their role in the Great Jedi Purge, Ghost crew member Kanan Jarrus was to put aside his past animosity long enough to form a rich friendship with Rex as they carried out missions together. While he was physically much older as a result of the Clones’ advanced aging process, Rex demonstrated the same ferocity and bravery he had exhibited in the Clone Wars during this time. His service would come at a cost – with Gregor losing his life during the Rebellion’s repeated clashes with the Empire – but Rex’s military expertise helped the Alliance gain a valuable edge over the Empire in the early days of the Galactic Civil War.
After helping the Ghost crew liberate the planet of Lothal from the Empire, Rex was promoted to the rank of commander within the Rebel Alliance, serving the Rebellion with outright dedication and loyalty. Most tellingly, Rex was handpicked by Han Solo for an elite task force assigned to infiltrate the Imperial facility on Endor. As a ferocious dogfight took place in space and as his former Jedi master, Anakin Skywalker, redeemed himself by killing the tyrannical Emperor, Rex faithfully fought in the Battle of Endor, surviving the conflict and living to see the end of not one, but two momentous wars in the galaxy.
Richard Chachowski is an entertainment and travel writer who has written for such publications as Wealth of Geeks, Looper, Screen Rant, Fangoria, and Sportskeeda, among many others. He received his BA from The College of New Jersey and has been a professional writer since 2020. His geeky areas of interest include Star Wars, travel writing, horror, video games, comic books, literature, and animation.
Richard has been an avid consumer of movies, television, books, and pop culture since he was four-years-old. Raised on a diverse mix of Clint Eastwood Westerns, Star Wars, sci-fi and horror films, Alan Moore comics, and Stephen King novels, he eventually turned his various passions into a creative outlet, writing about film, television, literature, comics, and gaming for his high school and college newspapers. A traveling enthusiast, Richard has also managed to create a career out of journeying abroad, venturing to such awe-inspiring places as the Sonoran Desert of Mexico, the rainforests of Costa Rica, and the scenic coastline of Haiti. Upon graduating from TCNJ, Richard set his sights on a career in journalism, writing extensively about the art of traveling and the entertainment medium for various online publications. When he’s not busy making his way through The Criterion Collection, he can be found either reading or planning a trip somewhere (preferably someplace with a scenic hiking trail).