My absolute favorite reveal this episode? Trace is absolutely terrible at being a pilot. She doesn’t even have a license! It’s a hilarious, bold choice for this show, a decision that these characters have to work through, especially as the conflicts escalate so fast. “Gone With A Trace” suggested that Trace was a nice, honest person who was constantly pressured, negged, and manipulated by her trashy sister. “Deal No Deal” reveals that both Martez sisters are delusional messes in their own ways. And Ahsoka, who is the most experienced of the three but maybe not the most assertive, has to just deal with all this, while inadvertently making things better or worse, depending on the moment. Things happen so fast, and the three bicker, argue, complain, and rail on each other through out. It’s chatty. It’s catty. It’s hilarious, ridiculous, and bold. I can see this episode not being everyone’s favorite, since a lot of character decisions here are, frankly, idiotic. But they made sense for the characters, and the episode knows they are idiotic choices, and plays it as such.
“Deal No Deal” functions on contrasting scenes, tones, and atmospheres. If you feel like you’re hit with whiplash with the pacing and speed of this episode, and how fast things occur, that’s the point. It’s meant to be jarring, the juxtaposition of places and ideas, placing its audiences into the jumbled mess our three main characters find themselves in. One moment we’re in the presence of royalty on a lush, rich, verdant planet; the next, we’re landing in a rough, dirty, oppressive land filled with literal slaves. Even the interactions among the women goes in disparate directions. Distrust between Ahsoka and Rafa becomes a brief accord as they both “connect” over a understanding of Trace’s lack of piloting skills–or general understanding of anything ship-based (that awful ship name), only to turn sour again as Ahsoka’s surprising knowledge of, well, everything makes her suspicious again. And the warm camaraderie between Ahsoka and Trace? That starts to wobble on shaky ground as Ahsoka desperately tells Trace what to do when she ignorantly drifts into a restricted military lane (and is ignored). And then everything pretty much falls apart when Trace blindly, rashly, disposes of the spice in the middle of hyperspace.
To be more specific about what happens in “Deal No Deal,” a wonky if amicable conversation between Ahsoka and Trace is interrupted by Rafa, who asks Trace to help her make a delivery of a questionable nature. Rafa claims that the original pilot backed out, which irritates Trace, thinking that her own sister doubts her piloting skills. Ahsoka clearly thinks that Rafa is conning her sister, manipulating her emotions to take his job. Well, come to find out, Rafa was, in her own messed up way, right to ask for another pilot first, since Trace make some awful rookie flying mistakes almost immediately. Rafa didn’t want to bring Trace, partially cause she does want to protect her but also because she’s terrible at being a pilot. But she’s desperate for money, as well as the fact that she made promises to the kinds of characters you don’t renege on.
So they fly to Kessel, meeting with the royal staff and Kinash Lock for dinner, where Ahsoka asks too many questions and Trace blurts out her weird excitement for flying. Say what you will about Rafa, but she’s a smooth enough talker to keep Lock from growing too suspicious, maintaining his confidence in them. They head to the mines next to pick up the spice, the oppressive vision of a horde of slaves toiling over spice mining not holding them back from their work–Rafa even justifies it by saying the Jedi would have intervened if it was truly a problem (more on that in the Stray Observations). They part with the spice, and that’s when things get juicy.
The entire nonsensical arguments that blow up among these ladies have the chaotic, blabby feel of something from The Hangover, or Dude, Where’s My Car, or Keanu, or Date Night–just squabbling in the midst of real criminal dangers. Rafa’s annoyance at Ahsoka’s know-it-all do-goodery, Asokha’s frustration at the overall deal with the deadly serious Pike Syndicate, the two’s absolute bewilderment over Trace dumping the spice in some bizarre desperate move to save her ship–which it won’t: it’s all nonsense, but in a very “how the hell did we get here, how the hell did it go from bad to worse so fast” kind of way. Again, I can see viewers hating this, but it tracks in a silly, face-palming, laughable kind of way (Even Ahsoka’s weird plea to use the spice for good falls short, lacking any real follow-up on how that saves them currently). A couple of well-meaning people making awful decisions and having to somehow get out of it is a classic dilemma, and kudos to Star Wars: The Clone Wars for being willing to tell that kind of story. Sure, Ahsoka tries to Force mind trick their way out of Marg Krim’s clutches, but it fails. Spectacularly. Definitely curious to see where this ridiculous arc goes next.
- This episode has the kind of vibe that I think Star Wars Resistance was going for: a couple of not bright, clumsy, overtly lucky characters getting way in over their head against the First Order. I think there were a lot of top-down issues steaming from the movies themselves, but needless to say, “Deal No Deal” does it better.
- Where and when did Trace even begin harboring the delusions she was some kind of ace pilot? I guess Rafa may have put that idea in her head over the years, out of misguided love, but it doesn’t strike me as a thing Rafa would push upon her sister. Rafa’s pretty blunt, and at some point even she would have told Trace to not quit her day job.
- Anakin and Ahsoka briefly Force-connect across ships, and Anakin lets her go. It’s a small moment, but one filled with regret and guilt.
- Visiting the planet Kessel, I’m assuming this relates to the Solo film. I have not seen it, so any references that this episode make to the movie will be lost on my. Sorry!
- There’s a couple of mixed messages going on here, thematically relating to the harsh contrasts of the visuals and the narratives. Early in the episode, Trace mentions never being able to afford any academy, highlighting the difference between Ahsoka and Trace directly. Kinash Lock, the person they meet on Kessel, mentions, somewhat wryly, how helpful they are to people affected by the war with their “spice” and medicine. Later, Rafa describes their wealth, but also mentions how there’s always a price to be paid. And finally, perhaps most directly, Ahsoka mentions how the spice miners are slaves, but Rafa scoffs, claiming how if they were, the Jedi and the Republic would have put a stop to it. Ahsoka backs off. She knows all to well the darker, more questionable side to the Jedi and their actions.
- Oh, and to be clear, spice is drugs. I was going to point out the use of the term “spice” for illicit substances as an amusing Disney+ form of censorship but it’s also canon to Star Wars so there’s no point. But still.