Why Star Wars: The Clone Wars Fans Need To Watch Star Wars Rebels

star wars the clone wars season 7 poster disney+
(Image credit: Disney+)
(Image credit: Disney+)

Spoilers ahead for the series finale of Star Wars: The Clone Wars and light spoilers for Star Wars Rebels.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars has come to an end after seven seasons, one cancellation, and nearly 12 years. While the finale managed to end Ahsoka and Rex’s Clone Wars stories in about as satisfying a way possible considering the rise of the Empire, fans are now facing a future without new episodes of The Clone Wars. The good news? There’s already another animated Star Wars Series to pick up after The Clone Wars, and Star Wars Rebels is definitely worth the watch.

Now, Star Wars Rebels isn’t The Clone Wars 2.0, but as somebody who has watched and enjoyed both Clone Wars and Rebels, I say that Clone Wars fans need to check out Rebels. Here are some (mostly) spoiler-free reasons why.

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Star Wars Rebels Is Good Star Wars

I will admit that the animation styles of Rebels and Clone Wars are very different, and it’s pretty evident that Rebels was produced for Disney XD while Clone Wars was produced for Cartoon Network. The formats are also different, with the serialized Rebels focusing on a particular group of characters rather than jumping around the galaxy a la The Clone Wars. Basically, Star Wars Rebels is not Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

But Star Wars Rebels is pretty great Star Wars. If we as a fandom can suspend our disbelief about magical space wizards with their laser swords in Clone Wars animation, I think we can suspend our disbelief about Rebels animation. It's worth noting that Clone Wars arguably wasn’t that great early on. Rebels starts out a lot more kid-friendly than it ends up, and the animation improves as well. As long as you don’t go into Rebels expecting Clone Wars Season 8, you can enjoy the ride.

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Who Doesn’t Love The Original Trilogy Era?

Star Wars Rebels kicks off five years ahead of the events A New Hope, so it’s technically before the original trilogy, but watching Rebels will take you back to the feel and tone of those first movies. Like Clone Wars, the action of the series goes down in the years between films. Unlike Clone Wars, however, Star Wars fans can watch the conflicts of Rebels knowing that the good guys are going to eventually win, whereas Clone Wars viewers always knew it was only a matter of time before Order 66.

Rebels is building to eventual victory rather than tragedy. The Ewok dance party circa Return of the Jedi is still a ways off, but it’s coming. In fact -- spoiler alert -- Rebels doesn’t pull a Rogue One and kill off all the heroes. That’s not to say that they’ll all make it to the end unscathed (or at all). There are also ties to the events that will lead up to the original trilogy, with some Rogue One and A New Hope characters sprinkled in.

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Rebels Is A Clone Wars Sequel (Kind Of)

While Star Wars Rebels is its own show, set in its own era with its own format and animation style, it does exist as a successor to The Clone Wars. In fact, Rebels will answer some of the biggest leftover questions from the end of the Clone Wars series finale. If you ended The Clone Wars dying to know what happens to Ahsoka, Rex, and Maul (among others), then Rebels has some answers, although don’t expect Rebels to debut Clone Wars characters right off the bat.

Rebels is about the Ghost crew of rebels, not Ahsoka Tano. That said, Rebels features some appearances from Clone Wars characters large and small, and viewers will discover that some who debuted in Clone Wars via the Siege of Mandalore arc technically made their first appearances via Rebels! It’s all connected, to the point that I was hoping for Clone Wars to flash-forward to Rebels at the end of its series finale.

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Rebels Follows New Characters With Unknown Fates

While part of the appeal of The Clone Wars was getting to see more of the prequel trilogy characters, I for one didn’t feel all that much suspense. Whenever Anakin, Obi-Wan, or Yoda would end up in trouble, I just couldn’t worry about them. The same goes for Mace Windu and the Jedi guaranteed to survive until Revenge of the Sith, as well as characters like Tarkin, General Grievous, and of course Palpatine. Admittedly, how Maul returned was a surprise, but we mostly knew where major characters would end up.

Not so with Star Wars Rebels! The six major characters (including the droid Chopper) didn’t appear in the films at all until Rogue One, which itself only confirmed two survivors. These are active rebels, and two of them are Jedi who definitely weren’t hanging out with Luke in the original trilogy. Rebels delivers big reasons to worry about their survival. Rebels may not be as graphic as Clone Wars, but people can still die.

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More Pre-Mandalorian Mandalorians

Since Mandalorians didn’t have a key part to play in Rogue One or the original trilogy, the events of Star Wars Rebels provide the most recent relevant Mandalorian twists ahead of The Mandalorian in the Star Wars timeline. The Mandalorian arc of Rebels brings back some familiar characters and plot points from Clone Wars, and it’s difficult not to see how Rebels’ Mandalorian stories could ultimately lead to the devastation that Mando recalled in The Mandalorian.

Also, the Mandalorian arc in Star Wars Rebels is pretty cool even independent of its potential impact on The Mandalorian. Rebels adds to the canon about Mandalore, and some of the series’ best episodes center on a young Mandalorian’s journey. Depending on what reveals come in Season 2 and beyond, it’s possible that some of the episodes from Rebels’ final season are pretty much a Mandalorian prologue! Rebels proves that the Rebellion might have been much better off with some Mandalorians while also explaining why the Mandalorians were busy elsewhere.

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Twilight Of The Apprentice

If I haven’t convinced you to at least try Star Wars Rebels by this point, I’ll resort to the big guns: “Twilight of the Apprentice.” Just as I said that the Siege of Mandalore arc of The Clone Wars is something that all Star Wars fans should watch, Rebels' “Twilight of the Apprentice” two-parter is a must-see for any Clone Wars fan. I won’t even tease the biggest twists other than to say that it’s an event that does justice to both Rebels and Clone Wars, and delivers some of what Star Wars fans most love about the saga. And the soundtrack also kills.

Since Star Wars Rebels is more serialized than Clone Wars, dropping into “Twilight of the Apprentice” (which is comprised of the final two episodes of Season 2) will be a little more complicated than dropping into the Siege of Mandalore arc. If you plan on watching Rebels, I recommend starting at the beginning and working your way up to “Twilight of the Apprentice.” If you’re still undecided about Rebels or are just a Star Wars fan, watch “Twilight of the Apprentice” anyway as a taster. (“Twin Suns” in Season 3 is worth checking out as well, if you’re not afraid of spoilers.)

All of this said, Star Wars fans are also out of new Star Wars content for the time being, and The Mandalorian Season 2 may feel like a long way off. Unless you want to go cold turkey on Star Wars, jump to Star Wars Resistance, or make Forces of Destiny a priority, Star Wars Rebels is the place to go. Fortunately, all four seasons of Rebels are available streaming on Disney+. Check them out!

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. Resident of One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and Northeast Ohio. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).