The latest episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars continues the adjustment of former Skywalker padawan Ahsoka Tano (Ashley Eckstein) to her new station without the Jedi’s guide. She is temporarily residing in the underground of Coruscant, sheltered by the not-so-bright aspiring pilot Trace (Brigitte Kali) in a garage. After some hired pilots fail to show up, the shady Rafa (Elizabeth Rodriguez) enlists Trace, her little sister, who is miserable to learn she wasn’t the first choice, to pilot for a major job that could pay off Rafa’s debts to gangs. Rafa reluctantly permits Ahsoka on board, skeptical of the latter’s objections to her crooked business dealings. In turn, Ahsoka seeks to keep them out of trouble.
Penned by Dave Filoni and Charles Murray, the episode leads the trio to the famous Kessel, a planet of spice mines, to pick up the shipment of spice (that’s shorthand for drugs in the Star Wars universe). Rafa doesn’t spill Ahsoka all the details and is suspicious at Ahsoka’s own hefty knowledge of their destinations.
Profiteer commentary makes a return, complementing the previous episode’s lens on how Rafa and Trace are molded by their lower-class underworld upbringing, which is reiterated by Trace remarking that piloting education isn’t available, and even if it was, it wouldn’t be financially accessible for her. When the ship lands on Kessel, the vistas unfurl wondrous greenery and chirping birds (accompanied by a fine-class score by Kevin Kiner’s astute music cues), and Rafa and Trace are enchanted by the fine-dining in a polished upper-crust palace. Their employer, himself a subordinate to an unseen “King,” insists the Kessel mine-owners are a “promoter of health and happiness across the skies,” and use the spice to make medicine. It’s a public-relations façade.
But soon, the sisters and Ahsoka observe the fouler circle of Kessel, when the greenery makes way to a fumigated crevice, revealing slaves looking like ants from above. Rafa dismisses the sight as “local workers.” When Ahsoka corrects her—“slaves”—Rafa refutes that the Republic would shut down such a large slavery operation. Ahsoka resignedly replies, “Yeah, you would think they would.” Ahsoka has seen the Republic’s lack of action before when it comes to slavery in plain sight and it reminds her of the shortcomings of her own environment. And Rafa’s immediate defensive remark “Spice-mining has made the people of Kessel wealthy. There’s always a price to be paid” is telling. She’s bought into the idea that the poor pay for the rich to be richer.
What we have observed of Trace and Rafa’s strange sisterhood in “Gone With a Trace” builds into psychological scuffle fueled by their frailties. Rafa is resistant to Ahsoka’s moral compass. She is aware of the weight of the mission to her sister but also underestimates worst-case scenarios. When Ahsoka voices dire concerns, the rash decision that Trace, a girl who’s more unequipped than genuinely dumb, makes is a special kind of situational stupid but also a human one. It’s more than just the possibility of losing her hard-earned livelihood; She doesn’t know how to process that she could be a pawn in people’s schemes, even to her beloved sister. What could be a conflict-contrivance is a reckless grab for agency she hadn’t had before.
Under the direction of Nathaniel Villanueva and Steward Lee, the plot coasts along until its third act and cliffhanger. Otherwise, this episode is a welcoming breathing space for the characters to drink in already what we know about the dark side of the galaxy. Perhaps “Deal No Deal” would have benefited more if it was more conscious about offering Trace more centrality. Jedi-raised Ahsoka already knows the galaxy beyond Coruscant, while a lower-class civilian like Trace is an ingénue to the galaxy. What happens should feel more like Trace’s story than Ahsoka’s.
- Trace first assumes that Kessel employs “droids.” Considering droid oppression, L3-37 would not take kindly to the implications that droid labor is not to be taken as seriously as sentient labor. (Many droids fall into a sentient category, right?)
- Poor Anakin (Matt Lanter), not quite understanding the familiar presence he feels.
- I laughed when Tom Kane’s voice was heard over the com. It’s his funniest performances as Admiral Yularen. You can imagine this fellow speaking in this indignant tone if he were pranked called.
- Ha! Ahsoka cover-story was that she attended “Skywalker Academy.”
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