It’s a curious choice indeed to feature the return of fan-favorite character Ahsoka Tano on Star Wars: The Clone Wars only to relegate her to third wheel in what should be her story. Last week’s new episode, which arrived on Disney+, caught viewers up with the former Jedi after she fled the surface city of Coruscant for the dangerous depths of Level 1313. It was a fine enough introduction to the character for newcomers and a re-introduction of sorts for fans who have been waiting years for the series’ return, and it even featured a fun, action-packed sequence to jazz up the proceedings a bit. But in the follow-up frame, Ahsoka takes a back seat to pretty much everything as newcomers / sisters Trace and Rafa Martez take over.
What part the Martez sisters have yet to play in Ahsoka’s story (because it is still Ahsoka’s story, even if we have to wait for her to take up agency within it again) remains to be seen. Right now, they’re acting as physical manifestations of the philosophical debate raging within Ahsoka. Trace is a hard-working and talented mechanic who’s loyal to older sister Rafa, a devious and cunning crook who’s willing to make dangerous deals with increasingly deadly bedfellows if it means earning a quick buck. Trace, beholden to Rafa, ends up getting the two of them out of a jam more often than not, and now Ahsoka has been pulled into their schemes, for better or worse. To clarify: Trace is similar to Ahsoka’s younger, more naive and idealistic self, while Rafa represents a potential future version of Ahsoka, one who eschews the path of the Jedi and looks out only for herself. It’s just a bit boring to watch Ahsoka sit around and wait for fate to run its course.
In the previous episode, “Gone with a Trace”, Ahsoka had to decide whether or not to let Rafa sell dangerous droids to a criminal; in the end, she opted to do so in order to help Trace get a step closer to realizing her dream of escaping Level 1313. In “Deal No Deal”, Rafa’s criminal dealings get taken up a notch: She practically forces Trace to fly her precious ship–the Silver Angel–in order to run a shipment of unrefined spice from Kessel to a waiting Pyke Syndicate crimelord. That may sound easy-peasy, but Trace’s amateur flying skills, Rafa’s high-risk, high-reward attitude, and Ahsoka’s unwillingness to make a firm decision one way or another soon lands the trio in hot water.
First, they’re nearly stopped before they can even leave Coruscant, but a passing Force connection between Anakin Skywalker and Ahsoka allows them to continue on their way. Then, Ahsoka discovers non-droid slaves being put to work in the spice mines of Kessel, but opts not to do anything about it and continue with their spice-running mission. Then, a disagreement aboard the Silver Angel causes Trace to dump their shipment in a childish and nonsensical bid to protect her hard-won ship, leaving them with nothing to deliver to the dangerous Pykes and no way to barter with them for their lives. It’s all rather … forced, shall we say? The only way out of this scenario is for Ahsoka to finally do something and mind-trick the waiting buyer before they make a hasty escape.
Much like last week’s episode, “Deal No Deal” feels like an act in a story that hasn’t been fully told yet. Season 7 probably would have benefited from being told in three mini-movies rather than separate four-episode arcs, but Disney+ probably wanted that weekly bump for viewers. In other words, we’re halfway through “Ahsoka’s Return” and have yet to see a disastrous fall or heroic rise, or anything really. Clearly, her run-in with the Martez sisters and the experiences they share together are going to shape Ahsoka’s perspective, developing her into the character we know in Star Wars Rebels. And we’ve still got a lot of Clone Wars to go even after this arc, which ties into the inevitable clash between Ahsoka and Darth Maul quite nicely since the Pyke Syndicate, Maul, and Mandalore are all wrapped up in each other. So as a setup episode/arc, Ahsoka’s return is fine, it’s just not the badass former Jedi we were hoping to see.
Rating: ★★★ Good