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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Illustration for article titled iStar Wars: The Clone Wars/i marks Ahsoka Tanos return with clunky, seedy melodrama
Image: Disney (Disney Plus Press Site)
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Return! After going through a harrowing and tumultuous encounter with her own Jedi people, accused of a crime she didn’t commit, and hunted down like a fugitive, Ahsoka Tano left the Order, losing trust in the very world she knew and understood. (Now ends my attempt to mimic the show’s opening voiceover.) Fans across the Star Wars spectrum have been looking forward to see this apprentice-turned-renegade back on the small screen, which raises the question: why is Ahsoka Tano so low-key popular? She’s a bit stubborn, a bit whiny, a bit reckless, and not exactly the shrewdest character we’ve seen. But all that describes Anakin as well, which makes (well, made) them a perfect pair. Ahsoka also has the benefit of being a “new” character within this Star Wars universe (in the fact that we don’t see her in the movies), a character who we got to follow for seven whole seasons. We’ve seen her learn, grow, mature, and generally get better at everything. She’s optimistic, hopeful, and generally positive, which made the betrayal and antagonism from the chasing Jedi hurt all the more–especially from Anakin. Unlike Luke Skywalker (and Anakin, to be honest), we’ve seen the (almost, metaphorically) day-to-day development of Ahsoka. Luke was a Chosen One. Ahsoka had to put in the work.

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I, too, have been excited to see Ahsoka’s return, and while seeing “Snips” again is definitely a delight, I don’t know if “Gone With A Trace” is... the best re-introduction to the character. The opening sequence has her riding a bike into the depths of Coruscant–not too far from the Jedi Council she just fled from–only for the bike to malfunction. It’s a pretty audacious, visually impressive sequence to be fair, with Ahsoka clinging to the bike and springing off various cars and ships to maintain some sense of control and not die, particularly that wall-run she does towards the end of it. Still, it’s an intro that showcases Ahsoka’s return as kind of a clumsy one. She has been a bit klutzy in the past, sure, but after everything she’s been through, it seems odd to bring her back in such a “wacky” way so immediately. Her aerial misadventures causes her to crash-land on a platform outside a mechanic shop run by an spunky, intriguing woman named Trace, and here is where things really get odd, narrative-speaking.

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Trace is kind of an enigma of a character–a relatively straight-forward, typical, slightly-smarmy Star Wars mechanic who feels less like a person and more of a sounding board for Ahsoka’s current predicament. She’s very nice and wholly accommodating, maybe too much so, and even though she lets Ahoska stay to fix her bike for credits, there’s something about her that suggests she doesn’t really care about that. Her primary goal is to get off Coruscant with her sister, and she and Ahsoka talk about various reasons why. The Jedi, Trace claims, start wars and care little about those below the “surface,” and while Ahsoka protests, there’s a reluctance in her voice that implies she may not quite believe what she’s saying anymore. Her defense of the Jedi is out of reflective habit, no longer a core principle or belief. She learned first hand that the Jedi can be indirectly careless in their own, specific ways.

Illustration for article titled iStar Wars: The Clone Wars/i marks Ahsoka Tanos return with clunky, seedy melodrama
Image: Disney (Disney Plus Press Site)
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I’m not quite sold on Trace as a character, but she and Ahsoka have a low-key, scrappy rapport going, which is pleasant enough. But when Pintu arrives demanding money from Trace, the episode goes in another odd direction. Ahsoka has to fight off Pintu’s goons with some impressive fighting skills, but it feels so random, and now Ahsoka is in the midst of a seedy, sketchy situation. It’s all due to Trace’s sister, Rafa, who dresses like something out of The Real Housewives of Coruscant and has a knack for making, to be blunt, bullshit deals with shady characters. “Gone With a Trace” is aiming for a “lost protagonist finds direction within a messed-up world” narrative, and this is as messed-up as they come–Rafa “runs” a half-assed droid-building shop in the back of a laundromat (which seems like it would be impossible; how much extra room do space laundromats have?). Ahsoka seems pretty aloof towards everything, which makes sense, but that she doesn’t just leave is strange–but that says that a lot about her as a character, still being helpful, probably feeling as if she owes Trace for all her help. The whole adventurous scenario involving the runaway binary load lifter droid was fun but felt overly long, when it could have been spent developing more of a sense of who Trace and Rafa really are, and how Ahsoka connects (or fails to connect) with them. Ahsoka uses some Force powers though, which means, she still got it!

“Gone With A Trace” is nether a good episode or a bad one. It’s more... offbeat, with a lot of vague, loose elements that allows the arc to go in whatever direction it deems. There’s no clear indication what will happen, aside from more nutty conflicts occurring among Trace, Rafa, and Ahsoka, and while the development between those two sisters need a bit more work for audiences to really care about them, it could allow Ahsoka to find some clarity, direction, or purpose. Ahsoka has enough goodwill in her character that watching her flail and search for some kind of post-Apprentice meaning is deeply entertaining enough, even if the whole mobbed-up sibling thing isn’t exactly the most entertaining or weighty storyline for it to come to fruition. Perhaps a future episode will help to bring it all together. But the Togruta is back!

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Stray observations

  • Star Wars has never been a franchise driven by nuance, but the brief scene of Ahsoka standing on the platform, quietly, watching a ship rise up above her and head off into the unknown is a fantastic moment. She says nothing, her eyes briefly darting around, taking in the smallness of moment. She knows she made the right decision but she doesn’t know what to do next, or how to move on. She’s “stuck” in these lower levels, just like she’s stuck in life, overwhelmed by everything around her–the circumstances of her current predicament. All of that subtext in what, twenty seconds of screen time? So well done.
  • This ultimately depends on the direction of the arc, but I think thematically this may be about toxic relationships, even among loved ones, and how to recognize and escape them. Rafa is clearly a terrible influence on Trace, but Trace can’t escape her sister’s pull. Perhaps this is meant to parallel Ahsoka’s relationship with Anakin. After all, we know he’s destined to be evil, but he’s not evil at this point, so his relationship with Ahsoka wasn’t toxic. (Or was it? Have I missed the signs?)
  • I’m going to assume shippers are going to make Ahsokace a thing? I don’t know.
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Contributor, The A.V. Club, with a clear preference for all things cartoons; check out his main blog at http://www.totalmediabridge.com.

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