There’s a show on Netflix called Kulipari. It’s not particularly amazing–it’s a frog vs. scorpions tale but in the scope of a Game of Thrones/The Secret of N.I.M.H.-type epic–but one thing each season has is a two-three episode arc that involves an escape plan that goes horribly, hilariously wrong. They’re the best part of the cartoon, showing how insanely hard and crazy escaping from militaristic captivity really is, along side the typical melodrama of surprises and ironic twists, revelations, and betrayals. I bring all that up because “Dangerous Debt” also functions around a failed escape, but brings little of the narrative surprises in story or character that would make this failure really interesting or revelatory. Some characters open up, and there are some *way* outside-the-plot intrigue that occurs, but ultimately this episode runs in a complete circle, with little forward progression in terms of story or characters.
It’s a bit frustrating because “Dangerous Debt” feels like it’s about to go to some meaningful places. The beginning of the episode has Trace and Rafa finally recount how they ended up struggling in the deeper, poorer parts of Corsucant and why they trust no one–Jedi in particular–except for themselves. During some kind of chase that happened between Jedi and an escaped criminal (more on this in the Stray Observations), an out of control ship the Jedi tried to stop ended up crashing into a wall, which was the Martez’s home. The event killed both their parents. And, perhaps most cruel and dismissive of all, a Jedi visited them, told them she made the right call, said “May the Force be with you,” then left. No physical, financial, mental, or emotional assistance–the sisters were left to fend for themselves. It’s a pretty direct indictment of the Jedi, and one that I honestly haven’t thought about. There’s been plenty of criticisms of the Jedi’s actions before–their high-class status, their lack of any regulation, their high-and-mighty ideas of knowledge and control of the Force–but I never quite thought of how their go-it-alone tendency to action not only leaves damage in its wake, but has no body or protocol to relieve the victims of that damage.
That I want to learn more about. Instead, we get a kind of run-of-the-mill escape sequence that’s fun enough, with ebbs and flows of action and entertainment. The initial escape is kind of clever–after a brutal torture sequence involving Rafa, Trace fakes a fainting spell only to then fight/blast her way out of captivity. It’s a bit silly–Trace yells weirdly when running–but it leads to a lot of good, if not great, action. All the while, Ahsoka helps along with her Force abilities: unlocking a prison door while Rafa is unconscious, helping Trace make a crazy jump, wrecking a bunch of Pike fools in a tower. Still, I can’t help but feel like Ahsoka is just... along for this ride. She, Trace, and Rafa are intriguing and amusing enough together as a group, and they have a weird frenemy accord among them that works for the purposes of the story. But I’m still struggling to grasp Ahsoka’s whole mindset on everything: not just on the situation at hand, but something deeper inside her–her perspective, her feelings, her thoughts. She’s just... here.
There’s some discussion over this, mostly how Ahsoka is going along because she sees these Martez sisters as needing help, and when she sees people needing help, she helps them. “It’s just who she is.” This is the essence of her response when Rafa asks her what she is getting out of all of this. But after everything Ahsoka has been through, her experiences, her trials, her struggles, her removal from that Jedi life, it’s hard to buy that “being helpful” is all there is to her (not that it isn’t valid in and of itself, but it would be nice to draw more out of her). Rafa and Trace took two different approaches from their late mother. Trace embraced her optimism as a ideal, an legacy to follow; Rafa sees it as a fool’s errand, a meaningless perspective in the face of a brutal, random universe. Maybe that’s why the entire escape leads nowhere. Maybe the two sisters need to strike a balance, and Ahsoka’s “purpose” is to try and make that balance happen. Yet without getting a better sense of Ahoska’s head throughout all this, and the episode generally running through generic, shrug-worthy action beats, “Dangerous Debt” ends up as confined as the characters.
- I know that these kinds of shows could never kill off its main characters, but still, the fact that this Pike Syndicate didn’t even kill one of the three women here was straining belief. They had the three in their custody many, many times (they even torture Rafa!), yet they don’t significantly harm or kill one of them, especially after hearing how vicious this gang is. The episode tries to lampshade this by having the crew claiming to know where the spice is, and their deaths would therefore never reveal that location, but that seems weak. All three of them claiming to know the location is a liability that this group could easily exploit.
- I tried to see if I could find the episode/event that corresponds to the story that the Martez sisters tell, regarding what happened to their parents, but... I couldn’t find it? The red-eyed alien is Cad Bane (who I hope we see again), Ziro is a Hutt and in some of the earlier episodes of the show (who was killed in the third season), and there is an episode that involves Bane breaking Ziro out of prison in the first season. Yet that specific incident the sisters regale, as far as I can tell, never occurred on screen? Not to say it didn’t happen, but it would have been cool to see that continuity/connection, and provided their tale even more dramatic weight. Unless, of course, I missed it.
- There’s a brief moment where Ahsoka and Rafa talk, and the former brings up how Trace looks up to Rafa too much to grasp how much danger she puts Trace into. Rafa sees the danger as just part of life, the deals one make to just survive, but Ahsoka pegs it as a viewpoint that Trace isn’t ready for. This is a life for Rafa, not Trace. Ahsoka hints that this is some raw, low-key, toxic manipulation, but she nor the episode really go further. (Rafa admits at the end that this was a bad mission to take, but it isn’t clear if it’s just the mission or the overall shady lifestyle that she regrets.)
- The mysterious hooded group seem to be Mandalorians. They reference meeting Ahsoka on a planet called Carlac, which was home to a group of more violent, terroristic Mandalorians called the Death Watch. A lot happened with this group; we’ll see what the next episode does with them before I expand upon it.