20 Years Ago, Star Wars Introduced General Grievous — Then Ruined Him

Where were you when Grievous was throwing down?

General Grievous in 'Clone Wars' (2004).

In the era of the Star Wars prequels, there weren’t nonstop TV shows set in a galaxy far, far away, but fans still had it pretty good. Although a lockstep unified canon didn’t exist, fans still got a steady supply of Star Wars books, comics, and games. And between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, the Genndy Tartakovsky animated Clone Wars (no “the”) reigns supreme as one of the slickest and most artistic Star Wars series.

Lucasfilm would go on to retcon much of Clone Wars (2003-2005) in favor of The Clone Wars (2008-2020), which rendered the greatest introduction of the best Star Wars prequel villain as nothing more than a myth. Twenty years ago, on April 8, 2004, General Grievous crashed the finale of Clone Wars with a brutal Jedi beat-down. Today, it almost feels like it didn’t happen.

Is this version of Grievous scarier? Or sillier?


For most people watching Revenge of the Sith in theaters in May 2005, General Grievous was a brand-new character, even though Anakin and Obi-Wan were familiar with him. But for the hardcore fans who had watched all the Clone Wars shorts on the Cartoon Network, seeing Grievous in Revenge of the Sith was a very specific kind of unfulfilled promise.

That’s because a year prior, in Clone Wars, General Grievous had a much more menacing voice, lacked that hacking cough, and generally seemed to be the most dangerous Jedi murderer of all time. In Revenge, Grievous was basically Count Dooku’s errand boy. But in Clone Wars, Grievous was a loose-canon nightmare.

Why the difference? Originally, the season finale of Clone Wars would have found Anakin fighting Durge, a difficult-to-kill bounty hunter who appeared throughout the show, and also in some of the tie-in Dark Horse Comics. But George Lucas wanted Grievous to be introduced earlier, a full year prior to Revenge of the Sith. Like Boba Fett appearing in the Star Wars Holiday Special before his live-action debut in The Empire Strikes Back, there’s a rough-draft quality to General Grievous in Clone Wars that doesn’t quite jibe with his onscreen counterpart.

But while Empire improved Boba Fett, Sith managed to downgrade Grievous.

In Clone Wars, Grievous was a threat to Jedi everywhere.


Star Wars fans have long debated what made Clone Wars General Grievous so much better than the live-action version in Revenge of the Sith. There are several obvious superficial differences. He’s mostly all-white, making him ghostly in appearance, as opposed to his rag-tag look in the opening of Sith. Second, his voice is less affected than in the film, and he lacks the nagging cough. Voiced by Futurama legend John DiMaggio, this Grievous also spoke some great lines like, “Make peace with the Force, now!”

Clone Wars Grievous was also a killing machine. As James Whitbrook pointed out at Gizmodo, Grievous takes out a lot of Jedi. But what really makes Clone Wars Grievous so much better than his Sith counterpart is one simple detail.

In Clone Wars Chapter 20, Ki-Adi-Mundi says, “He is coming. Alone,” an ominous foreshadowing of Grievous’ danger and boldness. But in Revenge of the Sith, when Obi-Wan and Anakin first battle Grievous, he sends his guards to deal with them while he runs off. He was fearless to the point of creepy arrogance in Clone Wars, but in Sith, he’s a spineless loser. That’s the essential difference: the lone mechanical killer unafraid of half a dozen Jedi was far more frightening than the fraidy-cat general who grabbed an escape pod when things got rough.

While other prequel villains like Darth Maul and Count Dooku have been fleshed out in various animated series, General Grievous basically peaked in his first episode. In an alternate timeline, he would be among the top five best Star Wars villains ever. But in our galaxy, there are two versions of him: one who’s scary and amazing, and one who’s part of the real canon.

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