This Star Wars: The Clone Wars review contains spoilers.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season 7 Episode 5
Coruscant’s Level 1313 has long been a myth in the Star Wars universe. Once intended to be the setting of a Boba Fett video game that never saw the light of day, the location is supposed to be the seediest and most dangerous of the city-planet Coruscant’s many levels. In “Gone With a Trace,” the first brand-new episode of The Clone Wars season 7, it’s a vibrant place plagued with graffiti and poverty. Ahsoka Tano returns in this episode, which finds her helping out a mechanic and her sister while hiding her identity as a former Jedi.
In the show’s timeline, Ahsoka has just walked away from the Jedi Order and everyone she has ever loved, including a close friend who framed her. Her angst is dealt with mostly in one longing stare toward the upper levels. That moment carries a lot of emotional weight, especially since Star Wars fans (hello) are conditioned to base lifetimes of love on Luke Skywalker’s one yearning stare at a binary sunset. But I also kept waiting for more Ahsoka introspection, or more of an indication that she’s in shock, or … anything to give us a clue as to her mental state.
As a re-introduction to the character, the episode isn’t bad: Ahsoka’s speeder bike goes on the fritz, dropping her thousands of storeys in an instant. She talks to herself with a mix of calm Jedi competence and frustrated teenage fear, and the scene paints a strong picture of her personality. Her new model and outfit are both very cool, too. I’ve always liked the design of Ahsoka’s Togruta species, and it’s fun to see the way the new costume compliments her look. When she meets down-on-her-luck mechanic Trace Martez, Ahsoka is kind and focused on her mission. I really appreciate the quick and effortless friendship between them.
Standards for female characters in animated shows have become much, much higher since I started watching The Clone Wars, but I still appreciate that Trace clearly has her own interests, skills, and, personality (mostly). The plot requires that Ahsoka not talk about the other people in her life. She’s now distanced from Anakin, Obi-Wan, and Barriss Offee and isn’t going to spill that hurt to a person she just met, for many reasons. It doesn’t help that Trace says she doesn’t trust the Jedi.
In an interesting addition to the anti-Jedi sentiment displayed by some members of the public at the end of season six, Trace lays out her concerns. Jedi “start wars, police people,” and don’t bother to help the people suffering right under their feet on Coruscant. This has been on display throughout the show, with Jedi often not able to see the forest for the trees when it comes to the war. They’re doing what the Republic tells them to do, but is that really what the “light side of the Force” calls people to do? Revenge of the Sith confirms it isn’t.
That brings us back to Ahsoka’s moral quandaries. She isn’t the kind of person to immediately collapse into her anxieties, but I did want some more acknowledgment of what she’s going through. It’s cool that her unwillingness to use the Force is unspoken. In an otherwise pretty unsubtle episode when it comes to dialogue and scene-setting, this plot point is nicely restrained. Ahsoka never outright expresses that to use the Force here would create as many problems as it solves, but it’s clear from the context. She says she doesn’t understand people, but what exactly she’s referring to is unclear. Is this about the Jedi Order as a whole? About Barriss or Anakin? Or about her feelings of isolation in general?
Maybe Ashley Eckstein’s voice acting has something to do with it. She’s much-beloved, but something in her voice sounds a little too polished, her tone shifting between chipper and worried without much shading in between. Both Trace and her older sister Rafa are also performed with chipper cartoonishness that sometimes felt like it belonged in a show for a much younger audience.
Trace and Rafa are both in financial trouble. Trace is shaken down for her sister’s debt, only to discover that Rafa keeps taking jobs that land her in over her head. (Or, at least, I think that’s what Rafa’s situation is. It was a little unclear at first whether she owned the laundromat or was stealing from it or both. She has somehow acquired a reputation for being able to fix droids, but doesn’t usually do so; asking her mechanic sister to help seems to be a first.) Their plotline is serviceable but unexciting, with the straightforward dialogue typical of The Clone Wars. Rafa and Trace feel almost more like mother and daughter than sisters. Rafa touches Trace’s face in a patronizing, showy way that may or may not have been intended to look purely affectionate.
Then comes the obligatory action scene, a chase that is inventive enough but feels oddly placed. The demolition droid wrecks things right and left, giving the chase a lot of its humor and sense of adventure. The fun, skirling cartoon music played alongside action beats worked for me. But the scene doesn’t hook into the main plot very well until the predictable end, where Ahsoka has to choose whether or not to use the Force.
I want to give a special shout-out to the marina at the very end of the episode. The music, crowds, animation, and lighting really come together to make it feel like a real place. Fans know there are lakes and other waterways on Coruscant, but to actually see one surrounded by the city marina was satisfying.
This episode begins the season’s journey to the Siege of Mandalore arc, so there will be a lot more Ahsoka in the few weeks. I’m looking forward to it, while also keeping in mind some inevitable truths: there will be stilted dialogue and some vague character relationships. Hopefully, there will also be some more staring longingly at the sky and listening to music only a Star Wars hero can hear.