In The Phantom Menace, Darth Maul was a rad design. In The Clone Wars, Maul is a Shakespearean madman hellbent on restoring a glory stolen from him by Obi-Wan Kenobi. His resurrection in the animated series is terrifying. As he regroups and reclaims some semblance of sanity (just some, the barest thread), Maul beautifully treads a fine line between broken and driven. He’s not a good guy, but there are times when you find yourself rooting for him. Everyone’s got it coming in this series, and why shouldn’t Maul be the one to dish it out?
4. “The Mandalore Plot”
The Mandalorian wouldn’t be here without The Clone Wars. Before the cartoon, the creed was nothing but a symbol on an action figure’s armor. Boba Fett looked cool, but so what? The Clone Wars shows you what. And if you’re digging The Mandalorian and that Darksaber has you curious, then “The Mandalore Plot” is an essential episode that will happily satiate your desires. Rumors that Mandalore might side with the Separatists send Obi-Wan in for a look-see. There, he encounters Duchess Satine and romance flickers, but unfortunately for them, a dangerous Mandalorian sect known as Death Watch is plotting civil war. At the center of the conflict is the legendary Darksaber, a blade constructed by the first Mandalorian Jedi. He who wields it is destined to rule. And, oh yeah, Maul wants it too.
3. “The Lawless”
When Maul and his brother, Savage Opress, finally cross swords with Palpatine, the clash is vicious and unlike anything else in the Star Wars franchise. This is Dark Side, baby. No good guys. No righteousness. No holding back. The final fight rages, and the hate flows wildly between the combatants. The choreography is exceptional, but the emotion behind the dueling blades is even better. Maul has fought so hard to have this moment with his former master and the hunger to come out on top bloats every frame. We know Palpatine won’t go down, and the knowledge fuels the tragedy as well as Maul’s pathetic nature. He’s a wretched creature, deserving to be put out of his misery. But his old boss won’t oblige him. “The Lawless” takes Maul to his lowest point, and when we see him again, he’ll be a changed beast.
2. “The Wrong Jedi”
The further you get into Star Wars: The Clone Wars, the more obvious it becomes that the Jedi are a bunch of chumps. Palpatine played them before The Phantom Menace even started. The Clone Wars themselves acting as the great charade, blanketing the Republic in fear so that the galactic Empire may rise. Ahsoka Tano, a pupil to Anakin Skywalker, has her eyes opened in “The Wrong Jedi” after she’s accused of bombing their sacred temple. With their fallacy exposed, she can no longer adhere to their supposed wisdom. Season 5 ends with Tano putting her back to Skywalker. He’s pouty and a fool. Tano is alone but on the side of the angels. She takes her first step into becoming something more than a student or a soldier. She’s a badass unburdened by superiority. Tano does not claim to know, she merely seeks to do right, and she doesn’t need a rule book to blind her.
1. “The Phantom Apprentice”
Look, Star Wars: The Clone Wars‘ final four episodes are the best Star Wars that have ever Star Warsed. If you let me cheat, I’d put all four of them right here at the head of the class. But I won’t let me cheat. I gotta crown only one. That’s how these things must go. As such, “The Phantom Apprentice” is the absolute highlight from the seven seasons of television. Maul’s Mandalorian siege goes horribly wrong. While Obi-Wan Kenobi smashes sabers with his pal Anakin in some unseen corner of the galaxy, Maul and Tano trade blades as well. Their confrontation recognizes Maul’s duel with Palpatine and raises it several notches. Tano is no Jedi. Maul is no Sith. Maul serves himself. Tano serves those that need her. To sell the fight’s brutality, Ray Park performed Maul via motion-capture, and stuntperson Lauren Mary Kim inhabited Tano. Their brawl sends shivers down your spine the same way Luke and Vader’s final bout did in 1983. There are seven seasons of pay-off in their clash, and it does not disappoint. Whatever wonky episodes you meandered through or dismissed are all proven genius by The Clone Wars‘ exceptional conclusion. Whatever got us here was worth it.