When Star Wars: The Clone Wars began in 2008, no one could have predicted how much lore it would add to the mythology of Star Wars. At first, it seemed as though it would be a fun adventure show for the kids. Slowly, as the makers of the show found their footing and George Lucas, working alongside Dave Filoni, grew more bold in his story ideas, the series began to deepen every facet of the Star Wars universe.
Yes, in a show about the Clone Wars, it delved into the lives of the clones and gave us that window into the science fiction elements of their existence that the movies skipped over. It also explored the relationship between the Jedi and the Clone Troopers. Jedi, traditionally keepers of the peace, had their descent into a life as generals, warriors, and victims of the Sith revenge plot tracked meticulously through the course of the show. Arguably though, the mythological aspect of Star Wars that The Clone Wars deepened the most was our knowledge of the mystery of the Force. Many times, it gave us some hint or answer of its power, while also offering new questions.
With The Clone Wars set to return February 21 with new episodes on Disney+, let’s take a look back at some of the ways the series taught us more about the Force.
When Yoda told us in The Empire Strikes Back that Luke Skywalker was too old to begin his training, audiences wondered just how young he needed to be. When Mace Windu said the same thing to an eight or nine year old Anakin Skywalker, we all scratched our heads. Did they need to be infants? Well, that became a confirmed reality thanks to The Clone Wars. When Darth Sidious steals a holocron full of information, the thing he’s after is the location of Jedi nurseries full of Force-sensitive infants.
It makes sense to bring infants in for training. You can completely shape their worldview with your dogma and ensure that they have no connections that would jeopardize their status in the light side. If they would have identified Anakin earlier, perhaps he wouldn’t have had the connection with his mother that he did and it would have saved him from the dark side and he could have fulfilled the prophecy of the Chosen One to balance the Force for the galaxy in a more constructive way.
The Prophecy of the Chosen One is much debated. What does it mean that Anakin is “the Chosen One?” What does “bringing balance” mean? Qui-Gon Jinn seemed to have understood that prophecy differently than the Jedi Council. Many of us thought that bringing balance to the Force might mean dwindling the surviving Jedi down to two to match the Sith. Others felt Anakin didn’t balance the Force until he killed Palpatine in Return of the Jedi. But The Clone Wars turned the entire idea on its ear completely.
The Clone Wars brought us to a mystical planet called Mortis. Mortis is explained as a powerful nexus of the Force, a place through which all the Force flows. On this planet, Anakin, Ahsoka Tano, and Obi-Wan Kenobi are met by what some might refer to as the Force gods; Father, Son, and Daughter. These three all represent a delicate balance of the Force. Son was an embodiment of the dark side, Daughter the light side, and Father kept both in check.
But Father was dying. And it was his hope that Anakin, conceived of midi-chlorians themselves, would replace him to bring balance to the Force by bringing balance between his children. But Anakin was shown a version of his future by Son in an attempt to woo him to the dark side. Though Father is able to undo some of this damage, Anakin refuses his rightful place on Mortis to bring balance to the Force. By not staying on Mortis to keep the delicate balance between Daughter and Son, light and dark, Anakin creates great peril in the galaxy. Before he dies, Father tells Anakin, “You have brought balance to this world, and you will do it again for the galaxy, but beware…”
Mortis is also the first time the Force ghost of Qui-Gon Jinn is seen. Obi-Wan might assume that this is merely a trick of his eyes or the Force, not thinking that Qui-Gon could possibly be back himself. It adds a weight to his reaction in Revenge of the Sith when Yoda reveals his contact with Qui-Gon to Obi-Wan.
When Anakin has the entire ordeal wiped from his mind and is finally able to leave Mortis with Obi-Wan and Ahsoka, they’re all shocked to discover that they’ve only been out of communication with their clone allies for a matter of moments. This helps us understand why these places that are so powerful in the Force seem to bend time and space. It makes a lot more sense that Luke could have been trained by Yoda on Dagobah with a different timeline than The Empire Strikes Back presented, or even Rey on Ahch-To in The Last Jedi.
This entire series of episodes feels vital to any broader understanding of the Force in the entirety of the Star Wars Saga.
Qui-Gon Jinn first mentioned the idea about there being more than one type of Force in The Phantom Menace. “Be mindful of the Living Force, my young padawan,” he tells his apprentice, Obi-Wan Kenobi. But what does that mean?
Thanks to The Clone Wars, we understand that George Lucas intended the Force to be much more mysterious and complicated than we realized. The Living Force fed on the energy of living things; this is where midi-chlorians fit into the scheme. But it was separate and distinct from what we understood to be the will of the Force.
This was the Cosmic Force, the larger workings of the galaxy at large. In The Clone Wars, these concepts are writ large for us by both the disembodied voice of Qui-Gon Jinn and a group of Force priestesses who shepherd Yoda through this knowledge so that he can achieve the path to immortality. They also take him to a planet called the Wellspring of Life and show him the origin of the Force and all life in the galaxy — midi-chlorians. They reveal mysteries by posing even more.
When Yoda reveals in Revenge of the Sith that Qui-Gon helped him learn this power, it is the events from these episodes of The Clone Wars that he’s referring to.
One aspect of the Force that we hadn’t seen much of in any canon stories prior to The Clone Wars was its use in creating lightsabers and keeping information in holocrons.
Through the Force, a kyber crystal is able to choose the Jedi that will wield them in a lightsaber. We got our first glimpse of this process in episodes where Master Yoda and Padawan Ahsoka Tano take a group of Jedi younglings to the planet Ilum to find the crystals for the lightsabers they would finally be making. The Jedi call this process “The Gathering.”
With the help of the ancient Jedi droid Huyang, the younglings learn how to use the Force to construct their sabers. They choose components representative of their personalities and assemble them together, but require the Force to do the fine work of focusing their crystal into a blade. In the show, Gungi, the young Wookiee Jedi, chooses wooden components to reflect his connection to nature and his home world of Kashyyyk. Petro, a youngling from Corellia, struggled to find his crystal because of his contentious connection to the Force. That also caused him to use the Force to assemble his lightsaber in a way that would have blown up on him.
The other object that requires the Force to properly hone are Holocrons. Holocrons are containers of information that can only be accessed by using the Force. The Jedi keep their most important holocrons in a vault in the Jedi Temple. When Cad Bane steals one that contains the locations of Jedi nurseries to advance the plot of Darth Sidious, he has to blackmail Anakin Skywalker into using the Force to open it for him.
Naturally, Sith have holocrons as well, but it takes an equal measure of the dark side to discover the knowledge they contain.
In the Skywalker saga films, audiences got the idea that the light and dark sides of the Force were approximately equal in their abilities and the only aspects of the Force. The only difference between the two was that tapping into the dark side was easier because of its reliance on emotion and rage and fear. The Clone Wars introduced us to much deeper and older ways of the Force with Mother Talzin and the Witches of Dathomir. They refer to their connection to the Force as something more akin to magic.
The most prominent among the Witches of Dathomir (also known as the Nightsisters) we met was Asajj Ventress, who was Count Dooku’s assassin for a time. Mother Talzin would have been the most powerful Nightsister, though. Her use of the Force is signified with a green light and mist. With it, she is able to practically teleport through space and time, appear as a disembodied voice, and use it for abilities beyond anything we’ve seen before in Star Wars.
One of the most shocking uses of Mother Talzin’s dark powers are revealed when General Grievous comes to destroy the Nightsisters once and for all. When the Nightsisters falter under the might of the Droid General, Mother Talzin calls in reinforcements in the form of the undead. Using her dark mastery of the Force, she is able to call upon the fallen Nightsisters of the past to rise from their graves to fight Grievous. It was a spectacular fight and shocking to think of what the Force is capable of.
Mother Talzin and the Witches of Dathomir were so skilled in their abilities with this magic, they were able to imbue Savage Opress, Maul’s brother, with powers beyond him. With their borrowed power, he was able to be trained in the dark arts and ways of the Sith by Count Dooku.
Count Dooku took the trainings of Yoda and twisted them to the dark side, offering a fascinating view of the training that we first saw Yoda put Luke through on Dagobah.
One thing The Clone Wars taught us is that the selfish followers of the Sith can’t achieve immortality in the way the Jedi can. By making a sacrifice for something greater than oneself, a Jedi is able to achieve that status as a Force ghost, retaining their consciousness in the Force beyond their death. For a Sith, the only thing they’re able to do is to rely on their selfishness and cling to their mortality at all costs. This is what happens to Maul after Obi-Wan Kenobi cuts him in half. He finds himself on a junk planet, destroyed by madness, starving, hysterical, and clinging desperately to what little life he had left.
Savage Opress was eventually able to find Maul and bring him back to Mother Talzin, who is able to use her Dathomiri mastery of the Force to bring clarity to his mind and rebuild his mechanical legs from the spider-like monstrosity they were into something more human and agile.
Fueled by his hatred, he’s able to keep his life long enough to pursue his own agenda, trying to take his place of power during the Clone Wars and get his revenge on Obi-Wan Kenobi.
The Clone Wars still has more mysteries left to give us. There are twelve new episodes coming in its seventh and final season on Disney+ and it looks to answer questions and reveal more secrets.
The trailer promises to show us more about how Ahsoka Tano dealt with Maul on Mandalore and, perhaps, how she escapes Order 66 after being pulled back into the Clone Wars alongside her former master, Anakin Skywalker.
New episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars premiere Friday, February 21st on Disney+.