The greatest character in Star Wars canon is Ahsoka Tano (Ashley Eckstein). That perhaps is a bold statement, partly because the idea of a Star Wars canon itself is hotly disputed. But Ahsoka perhaps has benefited from something the most characters (at least the major ones) in this universe have lacked, and that is time. Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) had a character arc that lacked the time-dependent nuance in its final chapter of the original trilogy. Anakin Skywalker’s (Hayden Christensen/Matt Lanter) character arc was infamously botched in the prequel trilogy, but The Clone Wars has managed to draw him in the shades that make his eventual turn to child murdered a bit more believable.
Ahsoka Tano, introduced in the oddity that was the Clone Wars movie, was originally received with the chilling and misogynistic response intricately tied to fandom. Unlike the similarly received Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) in the sequel trilogy, Ahsoka was given space and time to learn, grow, and mature in ways that women in this universe often have not been afforded. She has rightfully become one of the most beloved characters in this universe in part because we have seen her struggle to learn, grow, and mature in ways that are relatable. We have all been rash, far too sure of ourselves, and hesitant to see past the mistakes we have made in order to learn from them. Seeing Ahsoka overcome those hurdles over the course of 100 episodes helped us relate to her as we learned to overcome those hurdles ourselves.
Ashoka’s exit from the Jedi Order is arguably the most consequential event in Clone Wars history. It had to happen in some capacity or another, for she is not present in Revenge of the Sith. However, her departure drove a permanent wedge between the Jedi Order and Anakin, which is significant. That connection between the two of them, forged in some way against the norms of the Order itself, is still present. When Ahsoka moves past Anakin in a ship in episode six, “Deal No Deal,” the two sense one another in a quiet and evocative moment. The power of their connection remains intact no matter the circumstances that drove them apart.
In episode 6, “Gone with a Trace,” Ahsoka finds herself crash landing on a platform of Level 1313. She finds a mechanic named Trace (Brigitte Kali Canales) and her sister Rafa (Elizabeth Rodriguez). Ashoka, after having left the Jedi Order for an uncertain future, simply does not want to be alone. In a poignant moment, she stands at the edge of the platform, staring longingly at a ship rising to the upper echelons of Coruscant, knowing full well that perhaps there is no space for her there anymore. But in a world where Ahsoka’s Jedi privilege prevented her from knowing too well, there is difficulty in knowing when one will be swindled. Ahsoka’s eagerness helps connect her to Trace’s earnestness and it runs afoul of Rafa in particular, who doubts that Ahsoka is there simply out of altruism.
That each of them have their own follies, conflicts, and delusions of self are beautifully fleshed out in “Deal No Deal,” which is in my view one of the best episodes of The Clone Wars to date. It is built upon character flaws and strengths, a realistic understanding of how those character traits clash and meld together, and a heartfelt comic ode to people who try their best but make a series of wildly foolish decisions and yet somehow remain endearing. The conversations are organic, the conflicts that spiral from one misstep to another are logical in their steps, and the tonal shifts are excellently managed. As a character, Ahsoka Tano has grown so much that she is more than capable of anchoring a four-episode arc emotionally and dramatically. She does so here in a story that expertly bridges the personal conflict to the galaxy-wide war.
+ The views of the Jedi and the Republic shift dramatically depending where one stands on Coruscant. Trace refers to the Jedi as “starting wars everywhere” and Rafa sneers that if there was mass slavery, the Republic would have ended it. These two points are excellent notes that the Jedi and Republic, if they ever truly had it, have lost their absolute claim to morality.
+ “My brother” and “Skywalker Academy” are two small, beautiful little notes
+ The use of music is excellent in both episodes, but especially in “Deal No Deal” where the theme of “The Wrong Jedi” plays when Ahsoka Tano and Anakin Skywalker sense one another.
+ The animation is gorgeous this season and the landscapes of Kessel and Oba Diah are no exception. The transition from the lush forests of Kessel to the polluted mines spewing ash and dust into the air in particular is superb. The sense of scale is also excellent.
+ “The essence of the medicine” is the most hilarious euphemism for drugs that I may have ever heard.
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