With excitement building over the coming release of a seventh season of The Clone Wars in 2019, we’re taking a look back at each episode of the first six seasons – doing so in chronological order. Today, we’re looking at the ninth episode chronologically, the fifth episode of season one, titled “Rookies.”
Several rookie clone troopers (including Echo, Fives, Hevy, Droidbait, and Cutup) are stationed at a remote Republic outpost on the Rishi moon, but they grow weary and bored of no action. Their commander reminds them that they are guarding a very important listening outpost that is vital to the protection of Kamino, the homeworld of the clones. Meanwhile, Commander Cody and Captain Rex prepare to visit the outpost for a routine inspection. Before the officers arrive, however, a meteor shower strikes the planet, forcing the clones to raise the shields. Unbeknownst to them, some Separatist landing ships snuck in with the meteor shower, carrying Commando Droids. The Droids made their way into the outpost with relative ease and killed the commander, Droidbait, and others. Echo, Fives, Hevy, and Cutup are the only ones who survive, and they manage to escape the station and hide outside. While outside, a giant eel attacked the clones and killed Cutup.
At that point the inspection crew of Commander Cody and Captain Rex arrived, and the three surviving clones realize they must warn them. Unable to contact them, they launch a droid attack flare, which alerts the officers that something isn’t right. The Droids have donned clone trooper armor to try to deceive Cody and Rex, but Rex fires at one and kills it, exposing the reality that it’s a droid. Suddenly, the two are ambushed by several other droids and ultimately are forced off of the platform, where they meet up with Echo, Fives, and Hevy. The eel returns a second time, but Rex kills it before it can eat any more clones. Realizing that they have to get back to the station to disable the ‘all-clear’ beacon, the clones devise a plan to get inside. Holding up a droid head to the monitor, the clones trick the droids into opening the door… at which point the clones blast their way into the outpost. By this point, General Grievous and the Separatist fleet has arrived and is preparing to assault Kamino, so the clones decide to blow the station up before Grievous’s reinforcements can re-take the base. As the reinforcements arrive, the clones escape through the ventilation shaft, but Hevy stays behind to activate the bomb. Unable to do so remotely, he heroically manually detonates the bomb, blowing up himself, the droids, and the outpost.
The transmission of the all-clear signal going out alerts Obi-Wan Kenobi and the Republic fleet that something is wrong, so they arrive quickly, which forces the Separatists to retreat. Impressed with the courage and skills shown by Echo and Fives, Rex welcomes them into the 501st.
I believe this was one of the most significant and influential episodes of The Clone Wars. For every show in any genre, there is typically one or two episodes early on that truly establishes what the show is about, draws people in, and firmly puts the show on solid ground to take off running. For The Clone Wars, “Rookies” was that episode. The movie wasn’t all too well received, and the first four episodes of the show were solid yet unspectacular. They’re enjoyable, but they didn’t truly set the tone for the show like this episode did. And in many ways, that’s surprising given the fact that there are no lightsabers, and the Jedi make only a cameo appearance. This episode was all about the clones, but in many ways that’s why it was so significant.
One of the most brilliant enduring legacies of The Clone Wars is the way it humanized the clones, introducing us to many individuals and making us care for them. That really didn’t happen at all in the prequels, and that’s not really a negative about the films as much as it’s a realization of the fact that the films had to focus elsewhere. But in the show, we grow to know and love characters like Rex, Cody, Fives, Echo, etc. They move from being a random supporting army to beloved starring characters. “Rookies” marked as clear of an example of that as any episode, and it truly set the foundation for what the show wanted to be and do.
In my opinion, it remains one of the strongest episodes of The Clone Wars, in large part because it does focus on the clones. There’s good characterization, important plot developments, exciting action, and a great story. This represents a lot of what The Clone Wars is about, and this episode remains not only one of the most significant but one of the best.
My grade: 9.5/10