In this ongoing series, Ian Blackout dissects the culmination of Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series, as it returns to the small screen courtesy of the Disney+ streaming service.
Gone With A Trace (2020)
Season 7, Episode 5. Written by Dave Filoni & Charles Murray.
Directed by Kyle Dunlevy, Saul Ruiz.
“If there is no path before you, create your own.”
Ahsoka Tano may have walked away from the Jedi Order, but trouble won’t seem to leave her alone. Down in the depths of Coruscant, the Togrutan crosses (or rather crashes) paths with Trace and Rafa Martez, a pair of young grifters who may need to be nudged back onto the right path…
We skip back now to the end of Season Five, with the opening of ‘Gone With A Trace’ taking place just moments afterward. Ahsoka is still emotionally shellshocked while Coruscant’s Level 1313 is finally revealed in all its grimy and dimly-lit wonder, all the better for our two newcomers to shine.
Voiced by Brigitte Kali Canales and Elizabeth Rodriguez respectively, Trace and Rafa are that rarest of things: civilian Clone Wars characters who are interesting and engaging in their own right, as a troubled backstory is teased out naturally rather than info-dumped for the audience. For all their cynicism and bluster, the pair’s character trajectory is still clearly set, of course, but a novice starpilot and huckster with a distrust of the Jedi give this adventure a great foundation. A sequence with a rogue Binary Loadlifter droid ensures plenty of action, too.
Bonus geek-points go to Lucasfilm Animation for repeatedly sliding in Greedo, Walrus Man, Hammerhead and Blue Snaggletooth – all in their original 1978 Palitoy fatigues…
READ MORE: The Mandalorian (Season 1) – Review
Deal No Deal (2020)
Season 7, Episode 6. Written by Dave Filoni & Charles Murray.
Directed by Nathaniel Villanueva & Steward Lee.
“Mistakes are valuable lessons often learned too late.”
Sticking with the Martez sisters until she can get her speederbike repaired and figure out her next move, Ahsoka is at something of a loose end. When Rafa scores a deal that should pay the bills for a while, the ex-Padawan urges caution; because if spice-runs were easy, they’d be legal…
What’s astounding at this late point in The Clone Wars‘ development is that many of the scenery shots (ie ones not featuring the stylised characters) now look photorealistic. Outside of the excellent art and animation, a tight script sees our trio bickering all the way to Kessel, the easy flow between Canales and Rodriguez a natural counterpoint to the seasoned caution of Ashley Eckstein as Ahsoka.
Kessel is the most polished we’ve seen it yet, while the Pyke Syndicate’s stronghold on Oba Diah shimmers once again with backlit menace. By this point of course the ladies are well out of their depth, not least because Ahsoka is trying to conceal her powers. Their plan may have gone off the rails, but the audience know precisely where it’s all heading…
Dangerous Debt (2020)
Season 7, Episode 7. Written by Dave Filoni & Charles Murray.
Directed by Saul Ruiz & Bosco Ng.
“Who you were does not have to define who you are.”
Imprisoned by the Pykes after trying to deceive the crime-lords over a spice shipment dumped in a moment of uncertainty, escape seems to be the most logical option, even if it’s far from the easiest…
A visually and tonally dark third act now, as our heroines are plucked one by one from their cell to be electro-tortured by a sadistic 8D-series smelter droid. Action and tension are the orders of the day, even if the start and end-points of the episode are similar enough to make the audience wonder if the twenty minutes have been anything other than filler.
Their breakout meets with mixed results, although in the end it’s not the lithe Pyke guards which do for the trio but the opportunistic greed of a bystander outside the complex. ‘Dangerous Debt’ continues to paint texture for its protagonists, a superb way of having Ahsoka as a central figure of the arc without making the storyline ‘about’ her.
Bonus points awarded for the inclusion of one glorious Wilhelm Scream, now thought lost to the Galaxy Far, Far Away…
Together Again (2020)
Season 7, Episode 8. Written by Dave Filoni & Charles Murray.
Directed by Nathaniel Villanueva.
“You can change who you are, but you cannot run from yourself..”
Cornered once more, Ahsoka, Trace and Rafa need to decide what’s more viable – outsmarting the galactic drug-runners or placating them…
Ever resilient in a crisis, the ladies eventually formulate a plan to recover the Pykes’ cargo by stealing it from elsewhere, a beautifully grey area for a series that’s usually morally transparent. This splits the gang up for the majority of the runtime, but they’re no less of a team for that.
We see the Rafa sisters’ blagging skills in action, while under her own steam Ahsoka gets to revert to more athletic forms of destruction. In terms of wider lore, the Pykes’ spice operation reveals that Crimson Dawn has already superceded Maul’s Shadow Collective, bringing the setup closer to the one shown in Solo. What’s more, Bo Katan’s Mandalorian resistance are planning to make a move on the Zabrak. And while we may have seen him in-power a decade on from this point, there’s still everything to play for.
We close with Tano called to duty elsewhere, and a pair of firmly etablished characters that hopefully team-Filoni will bring back in another title (and since Ahsoka is already being lined up for The Mandalorian…)
Join us next time as we finally witness the Siege Of Mandalore…