Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Top 10 Original 'Clone Wars' Characters

Star Wars: The Clone Wars was a truly great show. Centered on the titular conflict that tore the galaxy apart, the series gave us great storylines while expanding on the characters from the Prequel Trilogy that never really got their time to shine on the big screen. It turned angsty and unlikable Anakin into a funny, intelligent general, while emotional and helpless Padmé became a strong, determined politician fighting to end the bloodshed.
But today, we're looking at the ten best new characters from the series that didn't come from the cinematic saga. These include both original creations and those that made their way from other Star Wars comics and novels. We're ranking them based on characterization, likability, and pure cool factor. 

10. Fives

Over the course of a handful of episodes throughout the six seasons, we watched CT-27-5555 evolve from a failing trainee to an elite ARC trooper. He was a recurring, likable character for the first five seasons, but it wasn't until the beginning of Season 6 that Fives took the spotlight in one of the series' most intriguing episode arcs.
After witnessing fellow clone trooper Tup murder a Jedi Master in the middle of a battle, Fives began to uncover a shocking conspiracy that would lead to the downfall of the Jedi Order. He discovered that all clones had secret bio-chips in their heads designed to ensure their obedience, specifically when the time came to execute the infamous Order 66 and kill all Jedi. 

Unfortunately, Fives' search for the truth led to his death, and the secret of the clones' programming died with him. Fives ultimately showed us that clones weren't evil killing machines, ready to betray the Jedi at any moment; they were honorable, free-thinking men, victim to a sinister plot set in motion decades before their creation. 
9. Pong Krell

Anyone who wields two double-bladed lightsabers automatically deserves a spot on this list. Krell's first and only appearance was in the Umbara episode arc (some of the best episodes of the series), when he temporarily took Anakin's place as the general of the 501st Legion. We quickly learned that unlike many of the other Jedi we had met, Krell had no regard for the lives of his troopers, and would happily sacrifice thousands of clones as long as he got results. 
At first, he appeared to simply be a strict substitute teacher in the eyes of both the troopers and the audience. That changed when Captain Rex discovered that Krell had tricked two legions of clones into attacking and killing each other. Rex and his men eventually arrested Krell, and the general revealed that he had foreseen the future and determined that the Republic was going to lose the war, so he attempted to sabotage the efforts on Umbara in order to gain favor with Count Dooku. 
Krell's badass choice of weaponry was probably his most memorable characteristic, but more importantly, he was the first (and far from the last) to show us that the dark times of the Clone Wars were enough to corrupt the Jedi themselves. He wasn't just a cruel and demanding leader; he was a genuinely evil guy. 

8. Pre Vizsla

Imagine if Jango Fett was more ambitious and had an army of Jango Fetts at his control. That's probably the best way to explain Pre Vizsla (voiced by actor/director Jon Favreau), the leader of the radical Death Watch warriors who fought to restore Mandalore to its glorious, violent past. He had all the usual Fett gadgets – blasters, flamethrowers, jetpacks – plus an awesome black-colored lightsaber called a Darksaber.
Besides all of the cool tech and armor, the fascinating thing about Vizsla is that at the end of the day, he was just a man dissatisfied with the current state of his world and desperate to return to a seemingly better time. That's really not too different from the modern politicians we have in real life. (Vizsla's slogan easily could have been "Make Mandalore great again.") 
Vizsla ended up losing his head after forming an alliance with a pair of powerful, horned brothers: Darth Maul and Savage Opress. He was all about old school Mandalorian honor, so it was fitting that he died in a traditional duel with Maul to determine the future commander of the Death Watch. 

7. Mother Talzin

We first met Talzin as the powerful leader of one of the coolest and most mysterious groups to be introduced in The Clone Wars: the Nightsisters of Dathomir, a coven of witches that used the Force to wield dark magicks. Talzin initially seemed like an ancient, kind woman who gave Asajj Ventress a new home and only got involved in the Clone Wars to help Ventress seek revenge on Count Dooku.
But it soon became clear that Talzin had a much more ambitious plan: she intended to use Darth Maul (later revealed to be her son) to defeat Darth Sidious and become the most powerful being in the galaxy. At the climax of the Son of Dathomir comic (which adapted storylines that were supposed to be aired on television), she engaged in a Force lightning battle with Sidious himself and then sacrificed herself to let Maul escape. 

What made Talzin special is that while she was certainly evil, she was neither on the Light Side nor the Dark Side of the Force, and she introduced us to a mysticism that we had never really seen before in Star Wars. Over the years, she turned ordinary men into monsters, tortured her enemies with voodoo dolls, dueled Mace Windu, and even possessed Count Dooku's body. Pretty impressive for an old witch. 
6. Cad Bane

The Clone Wars had a lot of cool bounty hunters – Boba Fett, Aurra Sing, Bossk, and Embo, just to name a few – but Cad Bane was the best. He appeared as a recurring villain in the first four seasons, often working for the Separatists and repeatedly butting heads with Anakin and Obi-Wan.
With a slew of tricks up his sleeve and a signature hat to add to his swagger, Bane would take on any long as he got paid. He robbed the Jedi Temple, delivered Force-sensitive children to Darth Sidious, took senators hostage, and nearly kidnapped the Chancellor himself. If anyone could have taken Jango Fett's place as the best bounty hunter in the galaxy, it would have been him.

5. Barriss Offee

Yes, Barriss did appear in Attack of the Clones as one of the exotic background Jedi, but she had zero lines. The Clone Wars gave her a voice, a personality, and a shocking twist on her character. Barriss was introduced in Season 2 as Luminara Unduli's studious, obedient padawan who nevertheless became close friends with impulsive and feisty Ahsoka. 
At the end of Season 5, Barriss expertly bombed the Jedi Temple and framed Ahsoka for it. Ahsoka was eventually caught by the authorities and nearly convicted of the crime, until Anakin discovered the truth and arrested Barriss.

In front of a grand Republic trial, Barriss confessed and went on to accuse the entire Jedi Order of having lost their way and become as vile as the Sith. It was obviously sad to see such a promising young Jedi fall on this dark path, but even worse was the realization that she had a point
Despite being a terrorist and completely betraying her friend, Barriss wasn't 100% wrong that the Jedi had become the opposite of the peacekeepers they were supposed to be. She inspired both the characters and the viewer to contemplate this moral dilemma, and The Clone Wars was really at its best when it explored these kinds of philosophical quandaries.  

4. Duchess Satine

Satine Kryze ruled Mandalore with a courage and pacifism that rivaled Padmé (who was a close friend of hers, no surprise). She was a relatable leader who only desired for her planet to remain neutral in the Clone Wars and move beyond its violent past. And, most memorably, she was the true love of Obi-Wan Kenobi. 
Sadly, Satine failed to keep Mandalore peaceful. With help from Maul and his Shadow Collective of crime organizations, the Death Watch finally took control of the planet in Season 5. Even worse, it was Satine's heart, not her fight for peace, that led to her demise. Maul stabbed her to get revenge on Obi-Wan, and she died in her lover's arms as her home was descended into utter chaos. 
3. Asajj Ventress

One of the most tragic characters in all of Star Wars, Ventress was born into the Nightsisters but given up to a pirate. A Jedi Knight recognized her Force sensitivity and trained her for many years, until he was killed. Filled with rage and sorrow, Ventress turned to the Dark Side and became an apprentice of Count Dooku, playfully clashing with Anakin and Obi-Wan on multiple occasions. 
When Dooku betrayed Ventress on Sidious' orders, she returned to her Nightsister clan and developed a revenge plot with Talzin and her new sisters. It ultimately failed, and Dooku later struck back by sending his army to wipe out the clan. Once again, Ventress had lost her family. She decided to put her skills to good use by becoming a bounty hunter. 

She became something of an antihero, saving Obi-Wan from Maul's wrath and temporarily teaming up with Ahsoka, even though Ventress was still considered an enemy of the Republic. In the Dark Disciple novel, her story was concluded as she partnered with unorthodox Jedi Quinlan Vos to assassinate Count Dooku, and ended up falling in love with Vos and sacrificing her life to save him. 
Ventress was a likable and entertaining character throughout the series, whether she was battling Jedi, Sith, clone troopers, or pretty much anyone who picked a fight with her. Star Wars has lots of villains, but (arguably) none as layered and relatable as Asajj Ventress.

2. Captain Rex

Rex is the best example of how The Clone Wars turned the clones into unique human beings. He was the right hand man to Anakin and Ahsoka, leading the 501st into countless battles with loyalty, bravery, and his signature twin blasters.
Nearly all of the heroes of Star Wars have been Jedi, rebels, or politicians. Rex was a soldier through and through, and pretty much the first soldier we ever got to know and love almost as much as his Force-sensitive commanders. Fortunately, Rex has returned in Star Wars Rebels, lending his years of combat experience to the central team.

1. Ahsoka Tano

When fans first met Ahsoka as Anakin's new padawan in the Star Wars: The Clone Wars feature film (which served as the pilot for the series), she was dismissed as annoying and unnecessary, an obvious plot device to set the animated show apart from the Prequels and give Anakin some more responsibility.
And then, over the course of five seasons, we watched Ahsoka evolve from an immature, reckless teenager to a strong, fearless young woman, literally capable of decapitating four Death Watch commandos at the same time.
In the Season 5 finale, Ahsoka decided to leave the Jedi Order because the Council had abandoned her and refused to believe that she was innocent for the Jedi Temple bombing. We all knew that she was going to die or otherwise exit the show eventually (because she wasn't present in Revenge of the Sith), but that didn't make it any less painful.

When Ahsoka slowly walked down the steps of the Temple, away from her previous life and friends, away from her confused and saddened master, it was genuinely tear-jerking. She had cemented her role as the series' most popular and beloved new character.
An older, wiser Ahsoka returned in Rebels in a recurring role as an ally and advisor to the team. She reunited with Rex and later crossed her blades with Darth Vader's, making the most emotionally affecting moment the series has offered us yet as master battled apprentice. 
Her fate at the end of the fight was unclear, but seeing as we have an Ahsoka novel coming in October (detailing her adventures after leaving the Jedi Order), we won't be saying goodbye to this fan-favorite character anytime soon.

Honorable Mentions

Savage Opress - Darth Maul's monstrous brother, enhanced by Nightsister magicks, who met his end at the hands of Darth Sidious. He wielded a double-bladed lightsaber and was immensely powerful, but had little personality and was quickly overshadowed by his brother when Maul re-entered the picture. 
Aurra Sing - a highly-skilled and deliciously evil assassin who repeatedly clashed with Ahsoka. Although we first saw her in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it appearance in The Phantom Menace, and she popped up in other comics and novels, The Clone Wars showed us just how merciless and diabolical she was. 

Bo-Katan - Vizsla's deadly lieutenant (and Satine's estranged sister) who rebelled against Darth Maul when he took control of the Death Watch. After Satine died, Bo-Katan rescued Obi-Wan from Maul's clutches and then stayed on Mandalore to fight the ensuing civil war. 
Hondo Ohnaka - a greedy and comical pirate who had an unusual relationship with the Republic, sometimes robbing them and sometimes lending a hand. He's currently back as a recurring character on Rebels

The Zillo Beast - a gigantic, Godzilla-like monster who wreaked havoc in one of the series' most memorable (and strangest) episode arcs. 
Saw Gerrera - a freedom fighter on Onderon and the only original Clone Wars character to make it to the big screen; Oscar winner Forest Whitaker will be playing him in Rogue One this December. 

Which of these characters is your favorite? Where do you hope to see them again? Tell me in the comments or tweet to @SithObserver, and may the Force be with you all. 

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