Review- The Clone Wars "Ahsoka, Trace, and Rafa" Arc
Going into season seven many wondered what the main bulk of episodes would be. Knowing the final stories would focus on tying into Revenge of the Sith and giving us what Dave Filoni had previously teased, the rest were just guesses.
Once we got a trailer it was clear many of the planned and near finished episodes would be brought fully to life, with this arc intending to tell the story of what Ahsoka did upon leaving the Jedi Temple. So how do the episodes; Gone With a Trace, Deal no Deal, Dangerous Debt, and Together Again fair considering the limited time the series has?
Off the bat, it's worth mentioning a lot of fans have complained about this arc for being "filler" and "stupid", something I don't entirely agree with. While the episodes certainly take some odd diversions and stretch things out, a lot of the problems some cite with it, are the same sort of complaints that divided fans over The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker.
The notion of four entire episodes being filler is not only a huge exaggeration but also somewhat misguided. Especially considering the entire idea of the show is to fill in the time between two movies.
For a good analysis on this, I encourage you to check out a video from YouTuber HelloGreedo, one of the most balanced and rational Star Wars critics on the internet. In the video, he analyses the idea of "filler" in more detail (link at the end of the article).
So how do the individual episodes hold up? Well, Gone With a Trace is certainly a decent opening episode. As much as many people may complain about these types of episodes, you need breaks in the onslaught of action, something I feel The Mandalorian hasn't done as effectively.
We immediately get the message that this is a story to bridge Ahsoka's decision to leave the Jedi to her inclusion in the finale. We see her wandering the lower levels of Coruscant till she meets a young mechanic named Trace, who offers to fix Ahsoka's speeder after it breaks down outside her garage.
The episode is a nice chance to explore the lower levels more. We learn more about how the civilians view the Jedi, and how people like Trace and her sister Rafa survive.
I also really like the designs of Trace and Rafa, they show how the animation team have levelled up their skills over the years, in achieving different textures and shapes. They are a new look for Star Wars, and while they get some annoying moments, later on, they are no more annoying than many one-off characters we've been introduced to in Star Wars before.
While the opening episode does wrap up, with a generic cartoon chase, it does give us a glimpse of the restraint and struggle Ahsoka is facing, to not use her force/ Jedi powers.
The next episode Deal no Deal moves along to a mission the Martez sisters take on, with Ahsoka joining to keep an eye on them. It shows her continued pull to help others out, something a lifetime at the Jedi Temple would naturally instil on you.
The episode features fantastic artwork, with more and more vivid designs that were also enjoyable in the first arc.
We get interesting notions on the use of spice, with the corruption, but also potential benefits it can have, being abundantly clear that it is a reflection of modern drug debates.
Whether you like it or not, Star Wars has always set out to comment on issues such as this and politics for a very long time. It adds another layer to the story, and places Ahsoka in a position that shows her very different beliefs, especially compared to Rafa.
Like the opening episode Deal no Deal struggles to build any huge drama, but the confrontation with the three women over the spice does at-least stay true to their characters. The episode ends with Trace, Ahsoka, and Rafa caught by the Pykes, with the big question being what is the end goal of this story?
The final episodes Dangerous Debt and Together Again lead our three characters to a lot of back and fore struggles with the Pykes. It unfortunately all becomes quite repetitive and frustrating as we see Ahsoka, Trace and Rafa escaping a prison cell multiple times.
The chase scenes can be fun, and give us a glimpse of a new city, but ultimately none of the action or consequences really add anything to the overall trajectory of the story.
That being said Dangerous Debt and Together Again do offer up moments that make the intentions of the two respective episodes clearer. Rafa's description as to the deaths of her and Trace's parents opens up a lot more depth into the perception and corruption of the Jedi. While the appearance of Bo Katan and her Mandalorian comrades, nicely sets up the upcoming finale.
The two episodes both show off the great facial expression work the animators are able to pull off, while the built-up tension with Ahsoka's past has a satisfying and interesting resolution. It's especially amusing when the Pyke leader believes Ahsoka has been sent by the Jedi leading me to half expected him to show her up in front of the Jedi, like a naughty child causing a ruckus in a neighbour's garden.
The biggest frustration with the final episode Together Again is the focus on Trace and Rafa when separated from Ahsoka. Considering the rushed nature of Bo Katan and Ahsoka's meeting, I would have much preferred they met earlier and uncovered the threat there together, instead of focusing on a pointless fight for spice with Rafa, Trace, and a Trandoshan. Their reappearance to help Ahsoka would have been just as impactful without the scene and would have also given more time to develop their group dynamic in the closing scene.
While the teases and tidbits we get from our more villainous and cool characters do make up for the lacklustre story, the arc does end a bit limp, with a satisfying resolution for Ahsoka, Trace, and Rafa, but ultimately a very rushed tease for Bo Katan, Maul, and the chaos on Mandalore.
Filled with highs and lows, this Ahsoka arc is certainly a mixed bag, but as I mentioned earlier, I would in no way write it off as filler, or unnecessary. We needed time and episodes to see Ahsoka outside of being a Jedi, especially before she jumps straight back into a situation with them. It helps build the emotions of reuniting with her friends and also justifies her choice to leave, with elements built to potentially be revisited later on.
Four episodes are what was needed to tell this story, it's just a shame they weren't structured or utilised to their best.