Maul’s return; the siege of Mandalore; Ahsoka’s trial; whatever was happening on Mortis. The Clone Wars in its entirety is a beloved part of the Star Wars mythos and yet it’s a select batch of episodes, arcs, and storylines which usually dominate conversation. But there are episodes worthy of discussion that slip through the cracks and don’t make the viewing guides of ‘essential episodes.’ For a long time now season five’s youngling arc has been viewed as a lesser entry in the series, easily skippable and that dreaded, overused word ‘filler.’ But that is not the case and evidence of its importance has been growing over the years and now, in 2023, we are at the threshold of these four episodes becoming vital Star Wars viewing.
Firstly, connecting to the wider canon is not a key marker of a good or important episode. That comes from the quality of storytelling and entertainment value, but the growing connections to the youngling arc are making more people open their eyes to what a fun adventure it is. A band of six Jedi younglings have to face their fears in visions on the world of Ilum to gain their Kyber crystals and then, lightsabers constructed, put the lessons they have learnt to practical use as they fend of pirates and Separatists, under the tutorage of Ahsoka. These youngling characters were intended to star in their own series, with this arc being a backdoor pilot of sorts, but this never came to be. Yet surely much thought must have been put into these young Jedi and the possible adventures they could have and Star Wars is known for recycling unused concepts. Those ideas, rooted in this arc, now seem to be springing up elsewhere.
Let’s start with the big one: Gungi. Perhaps one of the reasons why the youngling series never went ahead is because the Clone Wars would be the worst possible time to tell a youngling story. A light, kid-focused show that has to end with its lead characters being brutally slaughtered by a newly-named Darth Vader. But now, thanks to a recent episode of The Bad Batch, we know at least one of them has survived. Gungi, the Wookie Jedi, goes home to Kashyyyk after spending an adventure with the Batch and bonding with Omega. This could be the end of his story or it could be a new beginning. Another Jedi, post-Order 66, is now surviving in the galaxy and could potentially show up in a variety of places. Whatever Gungi’s future holds, it’s clear the writers have not forgotten about these youngling characters or the arc they were created for. The fate of the others remains unknown… for now.
The youngling arc also introduces the character of Professor Huyang, an ancient droid who for a thousand generations has taught Jedi how to construct their lightsabers. Voiced by David Tennant, Huyang is a fan favourite character for viewers of animated Star Wars and it seems as if he could soon be for live-action fans, too. In footage of the upcoming Mandalorian spin-off Ahsoka shown at last year’s Star Wars Celebration, a droid which looks very much like the good professor was briefly shown. It likely is Huyang, hopefully with Tennant returning to the role, and so the youngling episodes should immediately jump to the top of people’s homework list so they are caught up on the character before his big reappearance. Huyang’s role could once again surround lightsaber creation but more than that he is an important symbol for the Jedi and their rich history. His survival and return is thematically powerful and will likely drive the plot, considering his vast knowledge gained over millennia.
Hondo had been one of the more memorable supporting characters of The Clone Wars since he debuted in the first season but it is season five, in which he appears in three of the five arcs, which truly fleshes out his character into the Weequay pirate we know and love today. Know and love not just from The Clone Wars but Rebels and even as an animatronic at the Galaxy’s Edge themepark. Surely, with Dave Filoni’s love of him and the influx of animated characters into live-action, Hondo is destined for an appearance in an upcoming Disney+ series. He could naturally fit in any of them! And when he does it will be, in part, thanks to the youngling arc. It is the story which softened him a little, turned him into a more heartfelt character than he was previously, and put him on the path of being a friend to Ezra in Rebels, and perhaps again in Ahsoka. It’s his relationship with youngling Katooni which incites this change and he even names his ship after her. If, or rather when, Hondo reappears, he’ll be the lovable rogue he became in the youngling episodes.
But the importance of this once dismissed arc of The Clone Wars is not just judged by what will appear but what already has. Let us not forget that the first episode of the storyline, The Gathering, introduced the planet of Ilum to the canon. The ice world, rich in Kyber, is where the Jedi go to find their lightsaber crystals and is now everywhere in the franchise. Ilum appears in the video game Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order and it even recreates exact locations seen in the episode. The game also confirmed a long-standing fan theory that Ilum and Starkiller Base from The Force Awakens are, in fact, the same planet. Ilum was strip mined and its heart of Kyber made it the perfect choice for the weapon 30 years later. A huge location from one of the franchise’s biggest movies has its origin in that little, seeming insignificant arc of The Clone Wars. I wonder what else does too…
What are your thoughts on the youngling arc of The Clone Wars and how it impacts the greater franchise? Let me know in the comments and be sure to geek out with me about TV, movies, and video-games on Twitter @kylebrrtt.