This Star Wars: The Clone Wars review contains spoilers.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season 7 Episode 7
In 1977, Star Wars established itself as a classic with both high-stakes galactic battles and interpersonal banter. Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Leia Organa are a family in the making in their escape from the Death Star, but their banter is also bitter and sharp. Leia commands, Luke hesitates, and Han grumbles, giving a human touch to the cold, metallic setting.
In “Dangerous Debt,” The Clone Wars carries on this tradition gamely. Fun dialogue and a maturing character dynamic make this trio entertaining to watch. But when the last third of the episode essentially undoes all the progress of the first two, it becomes frustrating as well.
Ex-Jedi Ahsoka and sisters Trace and Rafa Martez have been jailed by the Pyke gang and need to escape. Was I the only one who expected this episode to begin with a starship chase? Turns out Trace and the gang couldn’t escape that tractor beam from “Deal No Deal” at all. Instead, they’re slated to be tortured for information about where Trace dropped the valuable spice. The Pykes want their money’s worth and the girls want to live.
The Ahsoka-Trace-Rafa dynamic has really found its stride. Each pair of characters, as well as the trio, gets the chance to have serious conversations. In this regard, I can see exactly why the conversation about Ahsoka’s Jedi powers hasn’t happened yet. That conversation would dominate all of the rest, removing the quieter moments where the three girls learn more about one another’s histories and motivations and, ultimately, become closer friends.
Ahsoka herself shines in this new environment. Her dynamic with Anakin and Obi-Wan has charmed a lot of fans, but I often found the way she played off Anakin repetitive, which didn’t allow her to grow and develop as a character. In a new place, she clearly stands out from the people around her. Maybe it’s because I grew up as a church kid that the sisters’ skeptical responses to Ahsoka’s platitudes are so relatable. She’s clearly strong and accomplished, and also actively learning, growing, and interacting with the people around her. Being a Jedi is just one part of that.
What is the arc saving the reveal of Ahsoka’s Jedi powers for? Several moments in this episode were almost comical in terms of how many opportunities she had to use the Force and how subtly she ended up using it. Why not reveal her powers to the sisters when all three of their lives are on the line?
But the episode does lay some groundwork for this. The sisters’ parents were killed when a Jedi threw a speeder into the side of their apartment during a high-speed chase and left them with nothing but the Star Wars equivalent of thoughts and prayers (“the Force will be with you”) to rebuild their entire lives. Again, this arc shows how the carelessness of the Jedi can hurt regular people.
Even if the Jedi do care about the people they hurt, they don’t do anything directly about it. Rafa’s abandonment reminds me of when Qui-Gon left Shmi on Tatooine but rescued Anakin from slavery because he was Force-sensitive. The direction of the movie lets the audience decide how they feel about the implications of this (or, depending on how you feel about The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, decide these movies aren’t deep enough to provide moral texture). In The Clone Wars, the condemnation of the Jedi is much more obvious.
Ahsoka knows the conversation is going to be a hard one once she reveals she used to be a Jedi. Although I like this arc overall, the biggest problem continues to be a lack of introspection from Ahsoka. This episode forgoes even dramatic, yearning looks, making me wish we got some more scenes of Ahsoka by herself working through the many things she’s feeling. On the other hand, we know she isn’t a character who tends to do a lot of navel-gazing, a trait that tends to help her when she needs to make split-second decisions — like the times she does use the Force to help the group escape.
The “fortune cookie” that opens the episode says “who you were does not have to define who you are,” a possible reference to Rafa or to Ahsoka. I’d love for this arc to explore who Ahsoka is becoming, but that just isn’t the case. I love the idea showrunner Dave Filoni has about Trace and Rafa representing two options for who Ahsoka could become, but I’m not sure how much that comes through in this episode. All three girls are growing closer together, though, and that’s entertaining and heartening.
The last third of this episode falters. Just when the adventure is reaching full tilt, with Mandalorians dropping in to add another variable to the mix, Ahsoka and the sisters land back in jail. I’m so torn on whether this works or not. It effectively cinches the ferocity of the Pykes, whose heavy hand-to-hand combat makes it clear they’re a formidable foe, even for Ahsoka. It also feels like the “Dangerous Debt” was just about characterization, which is something I’ve wanted from The Clone Wars for years but feels odd in an episode that generated forward momentum so successfully just before plopping the protagonists back where they started.
I like the fact that this arc is letting the relationships between the three characters to develop slowly. What better time to do that then when they’re trapped together? But I was also frustrated. Where is the grand reveal of Ahsoka’s powers? Where is the fallout from that? How are our intrepid heroes going to escape the Pykes? I’ll risk another inaccurate prediction for next week: the Mandalorians might have something to do with said escape.
Overall, “Dangerous Debt” continues a fun, energetic arc. Next week, we’ll see whether it sticks the landing.