There is an ongoing argument among fans of The Clone Wars: Who is the best clone? Is it Rex? Cody? Boba? 99? Wolffe? Obviously, this conversation has come up at Project Stardust and, after an extensive rewatch to assure my confirmation bias, I am here to tell the internet that all of these options are completely and entirely wrong.
[Editor’s Note: We have provided rebuttals throughout the piece to make sure that Patty does not go mad with clone power]
The best clone of the army of the Grand Republic is Fives, CT-5555. [Editor’s Rebuttal: Cody]
Obviously, this claim is both bombastic and objective. The best clone is a personal choice, one that can only be decided by an individual. However, this is my piece. Therefore, for the course of this article, my opinion is objectively correct. This means everyone else is wrong and Fives is the epitome of clonedom [Editor’s Rebuttal: Rex]. I have RECEIPTS!
Or, maybe more accurately, I have frantically written notes while rewatching the entirety of The Clone Wars, my first full rewatch that includes season seven. Dave Filoni has waged emotional warfare against me and now I am prepared to wage war on behalf of Fives to convince my readers that they should, in fact, list Fives as their favorite clone, or at least within their top five(s).
Each of the clones has what I would call a defining trait. Rex has loyalty, Cody has duty, Wrecker has… wrecking. But Fives has brotherhood [Editor’s Rebuttal: Echo]. In order to understand Fives, including his decisions and actions, one needs to understand that brotherhood is the core principle by which he lived his life. Yes, most of the clones hold a strong sense of brotherhood with their fellow clones, since all of them come from the same genetic material and nearly all of them have the same shortened childhood on Kamino where they are raised to be soldiers. Certainly, there were clones that had close bonds, often with those of their squad that they were raised with. These were generally small pods of clones that blurred between cadets and siblings. In fact, I want to impress upon my readers that Fives starts out with a similar mindset when we meet Domino Squad on Kamino (when watched in chronological instead of release order), which is comprised of Fives, Echo, Hevy, Cutup, and Droidbait. Domino Squad is shown to be a group that lacks cohesion, communication, and that inherent connection that elevates the clones to be a force beyond their training and programming. This squad lacks brotherhood.
But, while most of Domino Squad struggles to figure out their way as a unit and even attempts to strike off on their own, Fives is partnered with Echo. The two of them share a close bond, even by clone standards. When they speak to their superiors, it is often as a unit. In many ways, from the beginning, Fives and Echo are presented as two halves of a whole, and that bond supersedes that of the collective bond of their entire squad. While Domino Squad edges toward becoming a cohesive team through collective understanding, Hevy’s leadership, and 99’s inspiration, the real driving force behind Domino Squad becoming a squad is when Fives begins to extend his sense of brotherhood beyond Echo to encompass the whole of Domino Squad.
The Rishi Station assignment would test that bond of brotherhood between them all, knocking Domino Squad down one-by-one until there was (once again) only Fives and Echo. If watched in release order, the Rishi Station arc of The Clone Wars is the viewer’s first encounter with Fives and Domino Squad. They are fresh from Kamino, dubbed ‘shinies’ for the lack of decoration on their armor, still missing the rites of passage that occur throughout every clone’s journey on the front. On what should be a simple assignment outside of Kamino to keep watch on the space surrounding the clones’ home planet, things quickly fall apart. While Domino is comprised entirely of shinies, with little experience outside of training, it’s clear to see, even as they begin to fall one-by-one (like the dominoes they were named for), those losses are not from ineptitude. Droidbait is killed in the initial ambush, falling beside brothers from outside of the Domino Squad. Cutup is eaten by the Rishi Eel, immortalized on Echo’s armor by the ink in Rex’s handprint and immortalized later on Fives’ helmet. And Hevy, their de facto leader, the one that managed to pull them together when all seemed like it would fail, the one who made them more than just themselves— Hevy stays behind to make sure the station is destroyed, the attack thwarted, and Kamino warned.
Look around. We’re one and the same. Same heart, same blood.
– Fives rallying cadets to defend Kamino
The only survivors of Domino Squad after the attack on Rishi are Echo and Fives. From here, they are brought into the 501st, which carries Fives and Echo not just to the front of the war but also to the front of the overall story of The Clone Wars. While Fives has lost the cohesive base that was Domino Squad, he still has Echo. As I’ve mentioned before, Echo and Fives share a unique bond [Editor’s Rebuttal: Waxer and Boil]. They survive Rishi together. Side by side, Echo and Fives (and 99, the one that inspired them to finally succeed in their trials as cadets) successfully defend Kamino. They are promoted to ARC troopers together. Yes, they are part of the 501st, but Echo and Fives are bonded to one another as the remaining members of the squad they grew up with. Together and through the war, Fives and Echo have one brother they can always count on, the brother that will always be there and will always understand.
We did what we had to do, sir.
What any clone would’ve done.
– Echo and Fives after defending Kamino
That is… until the Citadel.
The loss of Echo at the Citadel is, in my eyes, the most significant turning point for Fives as a character. Fives goes into a persistent and deeply set grief after losing Echo and it is this sense of grief and loss that is not often focused on with the clones. As the story continues on in The Clone Wars, Fives’ sense of grief is, in my opinion, shifted to his brothers at large. Fives becomes preoccupied not just with the war, the mission, and their purpose as clones, but also with the status and place of his brothers at large within the structure of the Republic and the Galaxy.
This shift in perspective could, in retrospect, be seen as a moment of radicalization for Fives. Throughout the rest of his story, whenever we meet up with Fives as viewers, he consistently places his brothers and their well-being above everything else. His brothers are more important than the war, the Jedi, and, in the end, even himself. Brotherhood becomes more than Echo, more than Domino Squad, growing into a guiding beacon for Fives, who becomes an outspoken advocate for his fellow clones, his brothers, his family.
This radicalization is demonstrated at its fullest during the Umbara Arc, during which time the 501st under the direction of Pong Krell. The Umbara Arc is notable for displaying the stark brutality of Pong Krell’s practices and behavior, including the horrors that he puts the clones through, which reaches a penultimate with two battalions of brothers being deceived and tricked into killing one another. The absolute horror that the clones experience as they realize they’ve killed and been killed by their own brothers is haunting and this action has solidified Pong Krell on many fans’ “Worst Jedi” lists.
We thought they were wearing our armor. But it was you.
But the Umbara Arc is more than just the culmination of Pong Krell’s brutality. Pong Krell constantly undermines the clones, gaslighting Rex’s judgement and pitting them against one another. Some fall immediately into line with the authority of a Jedi, such as Dogma, with others questioning but following orders (mostly), like Rex.
On the opposite hand, there is Fives. Fives spends the Umbara Arc in direct opposition to Pong Krell. He is the clone on Rex’s shoulder constantly reminding him of their abilities, the wisdom of their brothers, and speaking a stark advocate for completing the mission without the needless loss of clone lives. Fives is fierce in his opposition, willfully insubordinate, and is drawn up for a court martial execution along with Jesse. All of this is done in the name of his brothers. Fives is the canary in the coal mine, shouting that Pong Krell’s tactics are cruel, deadly, and utterly suspect. Pong Krell’s plan hinges on the clones following orders without question and being more loyal to the mission than to each other. That is, after all, what the clones are trained to do. They are programmed to be that way, through their behavioral training on Kamino and, as we will eventually see, through the inhibitor chips that are capable of wiping away their free will.
Wait! This is wrong and we all know it! The general is making a mistake, and he needs to be called on it. No clone should have to go out this way! We’re loyal soldiers! We follow orders, but we are not a bunch of unthinking droids! We are men! We must be trusted to make the right decisions! Especially when the orders we are given are wrong! – Fives, facing execution
But, by the time the clones reach Umbara, Fives has become disillusioned by the mission in its entirety. While he still holds loyalty to the Republic and to the Jedi, his loyalty is tested over and over again through this arc. Fives comes up with only one answer every single time: that his brothers are more important than any mission [Editor’s Rebuttal: Hardcase].
Our final outing with Fives is also the one that caused my Clone Wars rewatch to take so long. With all the pain through the series, his final stand for his brothers is the one that always breaks my heart the most, leaving me a wreck as I process the tragedy and potential. It strikes such a cord to think that this one clone could have ended everything but, much like everyone else in The Clone Wars, Fives is too expertly played in Palpatine’s games.
It all starts when Tup begins to act strange, expressing odd behaviors and signs of being in pain. That pain ultimately leads to Tup killing the Jedi Tiplar, caught up in some kind of mental breakdown where he finds himself only able to repeat that good soldiers follow orders. When Tup is taken to Kamino to investigate why this happened, Fives goes with him. He is given leave to do so after explaining that Tup is his best friend and his brother. Regardless of whatever mission the 501st may be assigned to next, Fives has decided that this is the mission that matters most.
While Kamino does its best to hide what has actually happened, Fives maintains his determination to figure out the truth. In order to save Tup, convinced that something more is going on, Fives teams up with the medical droid AZI-3. He convinces AZI-3 to perform a brainscan on Tup, which the droid had advocated for but was overruled by Nala Se, appealing to AZI-3’s own programming. Much like what drives FIves in his actions, he appeals to AZI-3’s loyalties to its patients and protocols. This appeal includes the continued defense of his own humanity and defense of his right and the right of all clones. This includes arguing that clones have a right to their chosen names rather than their numbers, which links to Fives’ insistence that clones should be considered as more than property. He insists that all clones be considered and treated as the people and individuals that they are. In doing so, he talks AZI-3 around to his cause and convinces him to conduct the brain scan, which reveals a biochip implanted in Tup’s brain. Devastatingly, Tup dies after extraction. Before he passes, Tup gives Fives a cryptic message that propels Fives through the rest of the arc and through the rest of his life.
You… you know the one. The—the mission, the one in our dreams… that never ends. The one in our dreams… Oh, brother. This is the end. Forget the mission. Oh, the nightmare. I’m… free. – Tup to Fives
Though he receives orders back to the frontlines, Fives maintains his dedication to the friendship and humanity that he shared with AZI-3 and uses this to maintain his pursuit of the truth. When AZI-3 tells Fives in passing that they are in fact both going to be memory wiped and repurposed, Fives is spurred back to action [Editor’s Rebuttal: Gregor], knowing that both he and AZI-3 are going to be erased to cover up the truth behind what happened to Tup… and what is going to happen to all clones.
After this escape, Fives and AZI-3 look further into the biochip that was extracted from Tup. They discover this chip has been placed in all of the clones while they are still developing in their mechanical wombs. Knowing the chip is inside his own head, Fives insists that it is removed and comes to terms with the possibility of his own death after witnessing Tup’s death. The possible fate of his brothers is more important than his own life. However, the procedure is a success and Fives and AZI-3 are given the confirmation that Tup’s chip had failed, ultimately leading to his death.
Fives is able to save himself for a while longer by presenting his chip as evidence to Jedi master Shaak Ti, despite Nala Se’s insistence that a virus is the root cause of Tup’s death and Fives’ actions and not the inhibitor chips. Nala Se continues to insist that the chips function as a control for the clones, preventing them from becoming too violent and too independent. However, her own motivations are revealed when she drugs Fives to disorient him during the trip to Coruscant.
Despite his drugged state, Fives still tries his best to present his case, fighting against the drug’s influence as he tries to convince the Chancellor himself of the reality of the situation. Unfortunately, this only leads to Palpatine revealing his true nature, pushing Fives deeper into the drug-induced paranoia that plagues him. He now has the knowledge that his deepest fears are to be realized: The chip will be used to destroy the Republic and the Jedi. More importantly, it will destroy his brothers and the meager lives they have. His panicked reaction is easy to frame as an assassination attempt, and Fives finds himself painted as yet another rogue clone.
Even while in the depths of the drug and facing a truth too horrible to be readily believed, Fives still doesn’t give up on his brothers [Editor’s Rebuttal: Kix]. He uses every resource available to him to find someone who will listen and help him try to make a difference. Relying on the loyalty of his brothers and the kinship that comes with their shared experiences, Fives finds his way to a clone-centric location (the infamous 79s) and finds Kix, a brother who will ultimately outlast them all, calling on him and their shared brotherhood to connect him to Rex and Anakin Skywalker.
We all know the devastating end to this story, however. Fives’ final scene in the warehouse with Anakin and Rex, facing down their disbelief and the blasters of his own brothers, feels much like a terrible, twisted shadow of Anakin’s own showdown later on Mustafar, where Anakin battles his own brother. Desperate to share the truth he knows with Anakin, Rex, and anyone else who will listen, still struggling with the drug coursing through his body, Fives is driven to the appearance of absolute madness. What he sees clearly is interpreted by those around him as muddled, at best. The difference is that Fives is right. Later, when Anakin finds himself in a similar situation and is drenched in the dark side, paranoia and anger, he’s wrong.
Anakin and Rex attempt to talk Fives down, promising to listen to him but asking him to come in for questioning and be accountable for the actions for which he’s been accused. Again, this moment reflects future collisions, including the one that Obi-wan will attempt on Mustafar. Regrettably, both situations end in failure and loss. Anakin and Rex do not strike Fives down. Instead, a brother does. Commander Fox shoots Fives, mistaking him for a threat. The clone who gave up everything for his brothers is slain by them, because good soldiers follow orders.
In his death, Fives echoes Tup. He finds freedom from the enslavement that the clones are not even aware of yet.
In sum, this is why Fives is my favorite. His entire story arc is about connection and brotherhood and how these bonds end up leading him to his own freedom, even if that freedom is tragic. His life is one that is defined by his willingness to connect and fight for his right to live a life entirely his own and form attachments to those around him, as well as fight for the right for his brothers to have the same life-lived experience. No one fights harder for the clones than Fives [Editor’s Rebuttal: … Sustained]. His brothers mean everything to him. His people were created to obey and Fives, in the end, simply can’t. Notably, it is his disobedience that saves many of the clones that we see after Order 66 has been instated. Rex, Kix, Wolffe, Gregor… they all owe a debt to Fives, their brother who tried so hard to save them all but at least managed to save a few.
Sometimes I like to think of what would have happened if Fives had survived. I truly think he would have ended up in a situation similar to Saw Gerrera’s, a revolutionary doing whatever was necessary to free any clones he could. He would have gotten to see Echo again and we would have seen how those bonded clones established a new dynamic between them: Echo, who is told he is more machine than man, and Fives, who refused to let his humanity be taken from him. In my more fanciful moments, I even wonder if there was the possibility of a happy ending for Fives where he was able to establish his own future and live a life entirely his own.
Unfortunately, I don’t think that would have been an option, even if somehow he had lived. Fives is a character who, like all clones, is built in tragedy. There are no happy endings when your people are built for their humanity to be stripped away by an order. But hope remains. Hope that maybe someone listened. Hope that someone, anyone, will be saved. Hope that maybe, when overwhelmed by the order to kill those he has come to trust with his life, Rex would be able to say Fives’ name to Ahsoka. That Fives’ name, his strongest assertion of personhood, would save his captain and commander.
Because one saved is better than none.