May the Force Be With Us: Watching the Star Wars Saga in 88 Days

I like “Firsts”. Good or bad, they’re always memorable. – Ahsoka Tano

OK, maybe “first” is a bit of a stretch. This isn’t the first time I’ve marathoned Star Wars. Other than “Resistance” this wasn’t my first time watching any of this content. But it was the first time I watched the entire saga – movies and TV – in chronological order.

Also in “not-firsts”, I was joined on this marathon by my dear, dear friend Chelsea. This was not the first movie marathon we’ve done together. Not even the first Star Wars marathon, actually.

From December 4 to February 28, we slowly but surely made our way through the entire story, sometimes watching in tandem – most of the movies – sometimes setting “catch up” dates, by which we had to have a certain portion watched – most, but all the episodes of the shows. We did, of course, watch some of the bigger arcs together (the Obitine stuff comes to mind).

So why the Ahsoka quote? Because other than spending a significant chunk of time with the amazing Ahsoka Tano, it was her appearance on The Mandalorian that in part inspired us to embark on this journey, but I’ll let Chelsea explain more below.

If you’re here, you know me already. So now it’s time for you to meet Chelsea properly before we dive in:

This is Chelsea and myself at Disneyland Paris in 2017. But not just any day in 2017. This was the day – though we didn’t know it when the picture was taken – that the trailer for The Last Jedi was released. So picture us huddled over my tiny phone in a dark, loud Disneyland restaurant aaaaabsolutely losing our minds over “what does it all mean??” and frantically trying to figure out if the titular “Jedi” was singular or plural. Fun fact, the French translation pluralized it. But I’m getting off track. I’ll let Chelsea introduce herself.

Chelsea: Hello! I’m Chelsea! I’ve been a Star Wars fan for as long as I can remember, but I never got more involved in the fandom beyond the primary movies until now. So my starting point was: I had seen all of the movies except Clone Wars, and I had not seen any of the TV series except Mandalorian. I also still have not yet read any novels or comics.

I waited until not long before the second season of The Mandalorian came out to binge the first season for the first time. While watching both seasons, I suddenly had a lot of questions about what was going on in the Star Wars universe and I needed some answers. Cue Arezou. My dearest, beloved, gloriously nerdy Arezou is my go-to for any questions related to basically any Disney holding. While discussing implications of world-building in Mandalorian, my endless questions spiraled and we figured out that I needed a bit more. Thus I proposed the idea of doing a marathon together. The shows I had never seen would answer a lot of questions, but I still wanted to watch in tandem with her so I could continue to berate her with detailed inquiries into literally anything (including Anakin’s hair). So I asked her to put together a watch list and boy, did she come through! (I hope for your sake that she shares her Excel doc so you can do your own marathon.) We didn’t strictly follow the schedule, but we stayed pretty close! Holidays meant less time to watch, but then we made up for it other times, and we ended up only 6 days past her original estimation of 82. Sometimes we felt like we would never make it through the whole thing (mostly during Clone Wars, only because there are SEVEN seasons), but other times it felt like we were flying through and wished we had more content. (Side note, my parents ended up joining us in the marathon. Not only did they thoroughly enjoy it despite being extremely skeptical at the beginning, but my mom went back and re-watched Episodes VII-IX immediately after we were done because she wasn’t ready for the marathon to end. Seriously binged them the next day while I was working. I love her.)

I am so glad we did this marathon because I understand the Star Wars universe and its timeline so much better now. It’s important to note that what particularly helped was the fact that we watched everything in chronological order and not in airing order. Meaning that we watched a lot of Clone Wars (and some of Rebels) out of episode order because it ended up making so much more sense to watch chronologically. And now I feel ready to tentatively dip my toes into some Star Wars novels! (I’m obviously relying on Arezou’s recommendations.)

Arezou: Let’s dive into our thoughts!

Prequel Trilogy and Clone Wars

Chelsea: The prequels will always have a special place in my heart since they’re the trilogy of my generation. You can tell me Jar Jar is ridiculous all day long, and I will agree with you, but I still love Episode I so much. (Although I think he’s a little more palatable in that first movie since he’s not an actual Senator influencing critical policies…) Also, I never get tired of Padme’s outfits and of course her perfect sassiness.

I used to lose my patience with emotional Anakin in episodes II and III, but watching Clone Wars actually helped with that. I had never seen the animated movie or show before, so it was wonderful to get some fresh content in this early period. The Clone Wars show helped tremendously in Anakin’s character progression from Episode II to III, and I felt like I finally understood him better. (He can still be A LOT, but his moods seem less baseless to me now.)

And of course, I now have an undying love for Ahsoka Tano. We will always need more of her.

Arezou: First of all, yes. More Ahsoka Tano always. I really liked her before we did this marathon, I was never one of those who was annoyed by her character. But I came out of this marathon loving her more than I ever have.

This part of our marathon also got me extremely hyped for the Obi-Wan Kenobi series. Like stupid, deliriously excited. More than I was before (and if y’all remember I have been excited about this for a while). I could go on at length about the tragedy that is this man’s life, and how watching him go from a padawan on the verge of knighthood to a master at the top of his game who has just lost everything and everyone – literally everyone – he ever cared about in a very short amount of time? It broke me.

Also, though I liked him just fine before I now have a deep, abiding love for CT-7567 aka Captain Rex. Please don’t ask me to explain, I truly cannot. I just love him so, so much.

Solo, Rebels, Rogue One

Arezou: I once saw the take that Solo reads like if they made an in-universe biopic of Han Solo this is what it might look like. It’s fine. It’s fun. I have no desire for a Solo sequel, but if they wanted to continue Qi’ra and Maul’s story in some way, I wouldn’t be opposed.

Chelsea: I feel like Solo is just a fun trip rather than a necessary plot point; I had fun watching it but it didn’t leave me with a sense of gravitas.

Arezou: I tried Rebels twice. I gave up the first time, I made it through on the second go, but it didn’t really *land* with me. It was fine, it had it’s moments but it didn’t exactly take my breath away. This time around it was totally different. I was *in* it, deeply invested in the pain and the angst, particularly where the Jedi stuff was concerned, as well as taking a renewed interest in all the Madalorian/Darksaber stuff for obvious reasons. My only problem is, like Chelsea also says below, that whole season four subplot where Hera and Kanan are acting like they haven’t been married for years and it turns into a blushing budding romance. Like, hello, if Hera is pregnant y’all have clearly been together for some time and also their general dynamic is that of a married couple. Very confusing. Also tragic, but then again this is Star Wars and all romance ends in tragedy.

Chelsea: Rebels was more interesting than I thought it would be. I was wary of a show with a brand new cast of characters, but I was hooked pretty quickly. I thought this show did an excellent job of showing the wider effect of the rebellion and how small rebel cells functioned throughout the galaxy. In the primary movies, it’s all about the Big Stars and their Big Action that happen over a small period of time, but I appreciate how this show painted a larger picture for us to enjoy. (Although what was up with pretending in the last season like Hera and Kanan weren’t together the whole time? They were totally an adorable married couple taking care of some adopted orphans and you can’t tell me otherwise.) I also appreciated the adherence to the technology that we already saw in the prequel trilogy.

Arezou: Rogue One is such a weird little movie. For all that it’s extremely grim and sad, for some reason I can’t place my finger on it absolutely radiates comfort. It’s cozy. I was really looking forward to getting to this part in the marathon just so we could watch this movie again. A group of misfits banding together and doing the right thing, knowing there is very little chance they’ll make it out alive? It’s beautiful. I also actually really like that we only get a little backstory for each character (within the context of the movie at least) but it’s still enough to make us care. We don’t need a whole life story to see why they fight, and that’s beautiful. Also, worth noting that the movie where the entire main cast of characters dies is somehow more hopeful and uplifting than certain other entries in this saga…

Chelsea: And in Rogue One, finally no forced ending! I have great respect for writers that don’t create a purely happy ending just for the audience’s sake. And ok, Star Wars isn’t skipping along with rainbows and butterflies all the time, but to have a movie that is 100% plot necessary where all the main characters die in the end is somehow refreshing to me. Their deaths had a purpose and they were neither glossed over nor martyrized. In general, I find that movies that are planned to be a one-shot tend to have a tighter script and more efficient world-building since they don’t think they’re going to get another chance to do things right. 

Original Trilogy and The Mandalorian

Arezou: There are certain segments of this fandom that were really starting to make me hate the OT. The sickening worship of it, holding it up as a gold standard and calling everything else derivative (yes, they all technically derive from this, that’s not what I meant, go be pedantic somewhere else) and lesser really grinds my gears. So it was nice to revisit it as part of a whole, right in the middle of a much larger story. It put things in perspective, and the parts of it I love really got to shine through. Much like Chelsea says, I too was deeply bored by the Hoth stuff as a kid. Not much has changed but now I know that character beats I love are coming and it’s worth powering through.

Chelsea: The OT! Even though the original trilogy is perfectly comprehensible without all of the lead-up, it was still really nice to have everything that came before it. Watching all of the “prequels” helped me understand how the Star Wars universe got to this point and why. As a kid, I was always super bored with Episode V (I think all that wandering around in the snow at the beginning got me off on the wrong foot), but I actually really enjoyed it this time around. Doing a marathon and not watching Episode V simply in order to get from Episode IV to Episode VI meant that I could relish it in a way I hadn’t before. (I don’t actually remember the first time I ever saw the OT- my family must have watched it often enough that it was always just there while growing up.)

Arezou: I remember way back when this show was announced, thinking it sounded weird and boring and saying that I would watch it once out of obligation. HOO BOY was I off-base there. I love the slow-build of season one, and while season two can feel a little (a lot) cameo heavy, I actually love looking at it through the lens of how each of these familiar faces informs Din’s journey in some way. That said, if the end of season two were the end of the series this would be a very different, angrier conversation. Also this show made me go from Boba Fett hater to a full-on Boba fan and I did not see this for myself. Not mad about it though.

Chelsea: The Mandalorian does a great job of mimicking the technology and world-building of the original trilogy while still feeling fresh and original. I enjoyed that it mostly followed a completely new set of characters, with nods to some of the original characters and the big picture stuff we know is going on in the background between sets of trilogies. And how could you not love Baby Yoda?! An added bonus is how short the episodes and seasons are, so you have an excuse to binge the entire thing and it’s not completely unreasonable.

Resistance and Sequel Trilogy

Chelsea: Resistance was a little more difficult to take seriously since Kaz was just so silly. He and the rest of the cast eventually grew on me, but this is obviously a show directed towards children. Even though Clone Wars and Rebels were made to be family-friendly, they were still intelligent enough to appease adults who need a bit more than high-pitched screaming during various shenanigans. Although that skepticism doesn’t keep me from being willing to put my life on the line for Neeku’s happiness because he deserves it, dang it.

Arezou: I tried Resistance twice before this. I failed twice. I just couldn’t get into the race car side of things. It wasn’t much easier this time around but I think knowing I had to push through it made things easier. A very dear friend of mine pointed out the beauty in the series is the focus on every day lives, rather than the large galactic scale, and I can definitely appreciate that. The galaxy is so much bigger than the Skywalkers and their drama. That said, I think I preferred season 2 when they were on the run and the stakes were a little higher. But I’m also glad I didn’t watch this as it was airing, since the finale aired after TROS, and if that image had been the last one I had of Kylo Ren I would have been a bigger mess than I already was.

Chelsea: The final trilogy (for now)… Well, it starts off (mostly) strong and then ends with a whimper (or a slew of curse words, your choice). I think the first mistake of this trilogy was to start off with a completely different balance of power than where we left off in Episode VI and offer no explanation. Like ok, the First Order is a thing and they’re obviously bad, but what happened to the New Republic and why do we need a new rebellion? Thankfully we now have fillers like Mandalorian and Resistance to pick up the pieces, but going straight from the OT to this one is jarring.

I loved all the new characters, and of course our original crew are as badass as ever; they are built up wonderfully in episodes VII and VIII only to have their characterizations ripped to shreds in the finale. J.J., I’m not angry- I’m disappointed. You have let down every Star Wars fan. But luckily for us, we are stronger than you and we will not let you ruin the entire franchise for us. We’ll work out where to go from here together. You’re not invited to anything ever again though.

[Note from Arezou: I swear I didn’t tell her to say any of that]

Arezou: So this is the part where I confess that I didn’t actually make it all the way through the marathon. As soon as we started Resistance, I started to get a sick feeling of dread in my stomach. Then we started The Force Awakens and I almost spiralled into December 2019 levels of depression. I never want to feel the way I did then ever again. So I made the choice to watch up to The Last Jedi then stop – while of course still remaining on hand for Chelsea. It sucks that this is the way it’ll have to be for me until they decide to make a follow-up series or an Episode X, but it is what it is.

(Also pls bring back Ben Solo when you do k thx)

The characters created for this trilogy are among my favourites, and they deserved to end on a high note instead of a disappointing mess that reads like one guy’s amateur fan film written after he saw clips of episodes VII and VIII on mute while he was half-drunk. What is there to say that I haven’t said already in some way or another? The culmination of a 42 year saga went out with the stupidest wet-fart of a whimper. My only consolation is that this is not the end. It just can’t be, and I have to believe that the Powers That Be know this and will rectify all the mistakes made in the name of appeasing people who weren’t going to enjoy this movie anyway.

Final Thoughts

Arezou: All romance is tragedy. Never love anything. OK, no in seriousness, I’m so glad we did this and I can’t recommend it enough. With all the new shows on the horizon, this timeline is only going to get fuller and fuller. Hopefully at least one of these things will give us a happy romance (Book of Boba Fett? Please please please)

Chelsea: The droids saved the entire universe every time. That’s my take-away. I highly recommend doing your own marathon! May the Force be with you!

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