This Star Wars: The Clone Wars review contains spoilers.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season 7 Episode 6
Since “Gone With a Trace” aired last week, there has been a lot of discussion among fans about whether the episode felt like filler. Although this is the first time Ahsoka Tano has appeared on the show in years, her adventures on Coruscant don’t have much to do with the war. Instead, she’s helping a pilot and a gambler, two sisters from the dim alleys of the city-planet, stay afloat while they work on repairing Ahsoka’s getaway bike.
To me, this storyline doesn’t feel like filler at all. It’s slow and steady characterization, something that doesn’t happen enough in The Clone Wars. The show has always been told in an anthology format and revisiting other parts of the Star Wars galaxy not directly pertaining to the war fits in that format just fine.
In “Deal No Deal,” Trace Martez and Ahsoka are bantering about the mechanic’s ship when Rafa comes in with a proposal for a job. She’s signed up to fly a shipment of “medicine” from one planet to another. She needs the money and aspiring pilot Trace is eager to fly her home-built starship. Of course, the “medicine” is actually raw spice and the three girls end up pursued by the Pyke gang, a group of organized drug-runners.
At first, it’s a little unclear what the audience is supposed to feel about Rafa. Is she manipulating her younger sister out of malice? Some of her lines sound like she’s trying to pit Trace against Ahsoka. Or is Rafa loving but desperate and willing to risk everything for a payday that might finally free both sisters from their debtors? By the end of the episode, this is cleared up. Overall, everyone had a very clear motivation, and while that sounds like a low bar, it’s a big accomplishment.
Trace is naive, overconfident, and deeply attached to her ship. Whereas Ahsoka reminded me of a young Luke Skywalker in “Gone With a Trace,” this week Trace feels like the farm boy from Tatooine. This smuggling job is the only chance Trace has ever had to escape Coruscant, and her terror is half about the destruction of property she worked hard to get and half unwillingness to go back to the dingy life she wants to leave behind. The gambler Rafa is willing to take chances, but ultimately loves her sister; it’s just that her world has shown her she only gets a handhold when she’s risking everything. She also doesn’t want Trace to come along on this mission in the first place. Ahsoka wants to do what the Jedi Order taught was right, namely not smuggling drugs, but outright ending the mission would put her new friends in danger.
Each character has to make hard choices based on what they most care about. The banter between the three, each with a competing interest, makes for a fun episode overall. Even the low-stakes conversation between Ahsoka and Trace in the very beginning feels more natural than a conversation in The Clone Wars usually does.
Ahsoka also has to confront a harsh reality: the Republic doesn’t stop slavery. People are stil enslaved on the planet Kessel, and Ahsoka remembers her own captivity on top of her general disgust for the negligence of the people she was supposed to be serving. Unfortunately, the episode can’t yet dig into how she feels about the Jedi since she’s still hiding her identity.
One particular moment does specifically address Ahsoka’s frayed connection to the Jedi. Her brush with Anakin Skywalker, whose psychic nod helps keep Trace out of trouble, could have been cheesy. It’s a bit convenient that Anakin happened to be stationed in the same traffic lane Trace accidentally steered into. But I found this scene unexpected and refreshing, in part because of the way it acknowledges the subtle awareness Jedi tend to have of each other’s whereabouts.
This used to be more prevalent in the Legends continuity, where it was codified as both Battle Meditation, a weaponized ability that allowed multiple Jedi to act as one, but also a more passive ability for Jedi who were close with one another to communicate without words. The Clone Wars doesn’t generally portray Jedi like this, perhaps because it’s simply more difficult when you don’t have a close-up perspective on the characters’ inner thoughts. I’d gotten used to Jedi being able to sense one another at a distance only when it was very convenient for the plot. So having it work as a passive sense that gently reminds the audience of the weight of history between Anakin and Ahsoka was great.
The two new locations, Kessel and Obah Dia, are both visually interesting. This isn’t the part of the mining planet Kessel we’ve seen in Solo or Rebels before. As Ahsoka points out, it doesn’t look like “the Kessel from the stories.” But that’s okay. Planets can have different biomes, even in Star Wars. The costumes in the shady king’s court and the updated ensembles for the Pykes are both colorful and inventive. (The king’s guards actually look a little bit like High Republic Jedi concept art.)
It’s true this episode doesn’t have much to do with the war. The kind of operations the Kessel king and the Pykes run could happen anywhere. But the Pykes are connected to Maul, who now runs Mandalore. Ahsoka is going to end up there in the next arc, so it’s not even fully disconnected from the larger galactic story. I don’t usually address fan discussion directly like this, but it’s hard to point out what the episode is actually about (Ahsoka learning to navigate life outside the Jedi and hassling the Pykes) without gesturing to the way this story flows directly to and from the larger Jedi plot.
And “Deal No Deal” is just…fun. A more direct connection to the Jedi would have been nice, but the episode hasn’t forgotten that, either. Trace and Rafa are really starting to wonder where Ahsoka learned everything she did. Her quip of “Skywalker Academy,” while delightful, didn’t assuage the sisters’ suspicions. There are a lot of potential ways this adventure could and has gone wrong, which makes for good entertainment.