I, like many people I know, am super jazzed about the upcoming release of Star Wars: Rogue One. Honestly, I may be more pumped for it than episode eight. I grew up with this franchise and have never really cared about the Jedi or the force or any of that nonsense. Keep your space wizards; it’s the grunts and the bounty hunters, the smugglers and the scoundrels that keep me coming back for more. Now that the old expanded universe has been redubbed “legends” and made non-canonical, fans don’t have quite the wealth of options that they used to as far as side stories, but there are still some fine choices out there.
Now, before I go any further here, I’m going to do something I’ve never done before. I’m going to acknowledge that the Star Wars prequels exist—but it’s necessary, because I will be talking about two television series’ that are rooted in those events. Personally, I think that the prequels were poorly paced, poorly written, and had a habit of ignoring interesting characters and demystifying a franchise that had previously been built around magic and fantasy, but I digress. Don’t watch the prequels. Do watch the animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
The Clone Wars explores the events of the conflict of the same name. The viewer follows the adventures of young Anakin Skywalker being officially accepted into the Jedi knighthood and taking on an apprentice of his own. This series fills the gap between episodes II and III, but you shouldn’t hold that against it. The Clone Wars gets off to a slow start, but it delivers it a lot of important ways. The characters are all interesting and likable, giving new life to some existing characters like Yoda and Obi-Wan while also bringing some new blood to the table. There is certainly enough action and interesting plot twists to enthrall newcomers to the franchise while providing some delightful fan service for long time fans.
The episodes are mostly standalone, with one long narrative thread throughout each of the six seasons. The series typically walks a very fine line, being approachable to new fans while still hinting at much larger things. The greatest compliment that I can give to this series is that it succeeds in places where the prequels failed. It returns some mystery to the universe, especially to the Jedi order, and takes a deeper look at some characters that didn’t have enough screen time. If you think Darth Maul went out too quickly or if you know who Sy Snootles is and want more background on her, then you might be pleasantly surprised by this little gem.
Now, I know the story of noted Tusken Raider murderer Anakin Skywalker is well worn at this point. I can certainly see how watching a character whose ending you already know could be frustrating, and you might want something a little closer to the upcoming Rogue One in timeline. Well, it doesn’t get much closer than the latest ongoing animated series Star Wars Rebels. Well, A New Hope is probably a bit closer, but that’s beside the point.
Star Wars Rebels sees a rag-tag crew doing what they and Jyn Erso do best: rebel. Picking up after Episode III, the Galactic Empire is tightening its grasp on the galaxy spreading the will of Darth Sidious. We’re into the third season and the series has already garnered some nominations and awards for writing and animation. If you would rather have a diverse cast and higher action, it looks like Rebels is going to be a better option for you than The Clone Wars. It tells a story set in a universe where the bad guys have already won, and that’s a setting I personally love. Despite this, it manages to remain fun and optimistic in the face of that adversity. All in all, it’s shaping up quite nicely and worth a look.
The Star Wars bug is going around, and it looks like it’s going to be a regular seasonal illness. If you haven’t already been indoctrinated, there’s some fine ways to jump into the franchise. If you’ve been there before, then those same things are also worth a look. After all, we’ll have a whole year for crazy theories and wild speculation before the next entry, and you definitely need to have your research done before then. I certainly will.