I don’t claim to be an expert on Star Wars canon or The Clone Wars, but I do have some thoughts! The 3D-animated The Clone Wars show is incredible; it expands the canon and lore of Star Wars itself, it develops and gives insight into beloved characters, and it introduces characters that are becoming central to the new canon stories.
But there is also so. much. Clone. Wars. And there’s a lot of… uh, more kid-oriented episodes and arcs—especially involving Jar Jar Binks and droids. So, this is my attempt at picking out the essential The Clone Wars episodes, aimed at expanding on and filling in details of the canon—especially anything that is now cropping up in The Mandalorian.
Also, a disclaimer: The Clone Wars kind of has a timeline problem; episodes were not aired or numbered in their chronological order. It is mostly fine, but if you find things jumping around a little bit (especially if watching all of it), that’s why.
🥇️ required viewing
🥈️ worthwhile but less essential
🥉️ non-essential, but fills in arcs/details
Not really essential, though it introduces Ahsoka Tano. But in non-spoiler-y summary: Ahsoka Tano is a young Jedi padawan assigned to Anakin. In the movie, you get to see her learning from Anakin and their master/apprentice, teacher/learner relationship develop. She calls Anakin “skyguy” (a nickname that sticks throughout the series), and she gets the nickname “snips” for being a bit snippy with him. Anakin starts to learn to trust Ahsoka, and it’s obvious she is picking up on his improvisational and often defiant style.
Not much of Season One is essential viewing, actually. There are a lot of clone-focused episodes and some focused more on Padme, Jar Jar, and the introduction of Cad Bane (a bounty hunter whose character I just… hate). The Ryloth arc, however, is worthwhile because it shows some Ahsoka development, and the cost of the war.
|🥉️||9||Cloak of Darkness||Ahsoka development, introduction of Master Luminara|
|🥈️||19||Storm Over Ryloth||Ahsoka character development|
|🥈️||20||Innocents of Ryloth||Introduces Cham Syndulla and continues Ryloth arc|
|🥈️||21||Liberty on Ryloth||Continues and concludes the Ryloth arc|
Season Two introduces Mandalore, the Mandalorians, Death Watch, and a whole bunch of stuff related to The Mandalorian show. While none of this is required to understand and enjoy the events of The Mandalorian, it fills in a lot of backstory and lore. It also features the Holocron arc and some good Ahsoka/Barriss-focused episodes with the Geonosis arc.
|🥉️||1||Holocron Heist||Kicks off the Holocron arc with Cad Bane (boo) that might have implications in canon? Or at least fills in some major character motivations/implications.|
|🥉️||2||Cargo of Doom||Continues Holocron arc, features Ahsoka|
|🥉️||3||Children of the Force||Concludes the Holocron arc|
|🥈️||5||Landing at Point Rain||Kicks of Geonosis arc, featuring Ahsoka|
|🥇️||6||Weapons Factory||Focuses on Ahsoka and introduces Barriss, continues Geonosis arc|
|🥉️||7||Legacy of Terror||Continues Geonosis arc (less essential, but might as well watch)|
|🥈️||8||Brain Invaders||Fun “weird” episode, focuses on Ahsoka and Barriss, concludes the Geonosis arc|
|🥉️||11||Lightsaber Lost||Not essential, but a standalone Ahsoka-focused episode|
|🥇️||12||The Mandalore Plot||Hoo boy, kicks off the Mandalore arc and is required viewing|
|🥈️||13||Voyage of Temptation||Continues Mandalore arc, Obi-Wan and Anakin development|
|🥈️||14||Duchess of Mandalore||Continues Mandalore arc, Death Watch, Republic occupation of Mandalore|
|🥉️||20||Death Trap||Young Boba Fett arc|
|🥉️||21||R2 Come Home||Continues Boba Fett arc|
|🥉️||22||Lethal Trackdown||Ahsoka, concludes Boba Fett arc|
There’s some Mandalore-related stuff, but I really enjoy the Nightsisters and the implications they have on canon. Also, the Mortis arc is Star Wars getting weird, and I love it.
|🥉️||5||Corruption||Kicks off a Mandalore arc but is otherwise meh|
|🥉️||6||The Academy||Ahsoka, Mandalore, but again, kinda meh|
|🥈️||10||Heroes on Both Sides||Intentions behind the war; introduces Lux; Ahsoka development|
|🥉️||11||Pursuit of Peace||Continues previous arc, more peeking behind the curtain|
|🥈||12||Nightsisters||Sith rule of two; Ventress backstory; Nightsisters arc|
|🥈||13||Monster||Introduces Savage Opress (yes, really), continues Nightsisters arc|
|🥈||14||Witches of the Mist||Continues Nightsisters arc|
|🥇️||15||Overlords||Star Wars gets weird and I love it; kicks off Mortis arc|
|🥇️||16||Altar of Mortis||Mortis arc|
|🥇️||17||Ghosts of Mortis||Mortis arc, Anakin development|
Season Four includes the Umbara arc which I just enjoy, and has… implications. Some light Mandalore stuff, and then back to the Nightsisters and Maul.
|🥉||7||Darkness on Umbara||Kicks off the Umbara arc; plot is covered in next episode’s intro|
|🥉||8||The General||Continues the Umbara arc; Clone-centric, mostly covered in next episode’s intro|
|🥉||9||Plan of Dissent||Continues the Umbara arc; mostly covered in next episode’s intro|
|🥉||10||Carnage of Krell||Concludes the Umbara arc|
Note: this is as far as I am through my most recent watch-through! So anything after this point is based on other episode guides or just the episode descriptions plus my recollection.
|🥇️||14||A Friend in Need||Ahsoka and Mandalorian-related, I think?|
|19||Massacre||Back to Dathomir and the Nightsisters|
|15||Shades of Reason||Mandalorian|
The Clone Wars was brought back seven years after its initial run to conclude the series on Disney+. The first arc is high production value, but meh story-wise and completely non-essential. The rest is essential as it ties everything up and has implications for Ahsoka, Maul, Anakin, and more. Just watch it. The last four episodes operate more as a four-part film and are required viewing.
|🥉️||1||The Bad Batch||Bad Batch arc|
|🥉️||2||A Distant Echo||Bad Batch arc|
|🥉️||3||On the Wings of Keeradaks||Bad Batch arc|
|🥉️||4||Unfinished Business||Concludes Bad Batch arc|
|🥈️||5||Gone with a Trace||Ahsoka after leaving the Jedi order|
|🥈️||6||Deal No Deal||Ahsoka|
|🥇️||7||Dangerous Debt||Ahsoka, Mandalore|
|🥇️||8||Together Again||Ahsoka, Mandalore|
|🥇️||9||Old Friends Not Forgotten||Finale Part I|
|🥇️||10||The Phantom Apprentice||Finale Part II|
|🥇️||11||Shattered||Finale Part III|
|🥇️||12||Victory and Death||Finale Part IV|