It feels so long since we watched Ahsoka Tano as she walked down the steps of the Jedi Temple one last time. It wasn’t the last time, of course. We have seen her grow, become a rebel, confront her fallen master, and become so much more than a mere Jedi in the years since. But now we’re revisiting that moment with a reminder: The Jedi left behind so many more people than just Ahsoka.
After opening with its “Bad Batch” arc focusing on Clones, conflict, and the weariness of tools at war, this week’s Clone Wars kicked off a new story that we’ve been waiting literally years to see. We now know where she ended up. But what happened to Ahsoka in those immediate moments after the show’s first tragic end in season five?
“Gone With a Trace” begins to paint that picture. Picking up with an Ahsoka still trying to navigate her new normal, the episode almost immediately shows us that she’s not quite fully adjusted to a life that isn’t on the front lines of an interstellar war. Struggling to cope with a structure as aimless as her rickety speederbike is prone to impromptu engine failure, our young ex-Padawan is literally catapulted into the depths of Coruscant’s underworld—specifically to level 1313, a fun callback to what could’ve been Star Wars’ video gaming and televisual future—crashing right into the life of the titular Trace Martez (Brigitte Kali).
Ahsoka, it turns out, has a lot in common with Trace, beyond their shared interests in mechanics and a scrappy, uncanny ability to tinker through a dicey situation. They’re both young women struggling to make ends meet in a time of galactic uncertainty. They’re both wrestling with a sense of aimlessness and a tragic despair that their current lots in life are holding them back from the dreams of who they want to be—for Trace, a freewheeling space pilot, exploring the galaxy; for Ahsoka, simply someone who can use her abilities to help people in need. But as Trace unwittingly reminds a skeptical Ahsoka—attempting to keep her distance to avoid getting involved and potentially exposing her status as a former Jedi—there’s something else they both share, and many more beyond them on levels like 1313: The Jedi left them all behind, in one way or the other.
Even as she keeps her former association secret, Trace’s reminder gets to Ahsoka deeply, pulling her out of the malaise that trying to keep her distance from others (trying to deny the good person she always has been, in some ways) has put her in. The Jedi’s capitulation in Ahsoka’s particular case—choosing to cast her aside in a misguided sense of justice and accept, in its own hubris, that she would forgive them for doing so when proven wrong—is one failing of the Order. But so is its abandonment of people like Trace and her sister Rafa (Logan’s Elizabeth Rodriguez), ignoring the socioeconomic plight of the people it swore to defend—and, not long before the time of the prequel movies, did so against the likes of exploitative privateers and industrialists—to go fight as frontline soldiers and generals.
That abandonment pushes the forgotten peoples of the galaxy into dire situations. Situations like Trace and Rafa have found themselves in, hunted by debtors and having to put themselves through increasingly seedy—and increasingly dangerous—jobs to scrape by. The latest of those jobs procured by Rafa for her sister (and now Ahsoka, tagging along in an attempt to pay her keep for Trace helping to fix her speeder) is fixing up droids for shady clients in the Coruscanti underbelly in order to try and get Rafa’s perpetual debtors off their backs for a while.
When Ahsoka and Trace discover that said droids are in fact binary load lifters prone to wreaking havoc (or can be programmed to do so by scrupulous owners like, say, Rafa’s Twi’lek go-between and their mysterious master), the danger that Rafa has gotten them into, albeit out of desperation, becomes explicit. And while for us, it means a twisty-turny, action-packed chase sequence as Ahsoka and Trace try to stop their wayward droid from tearing most of the local sector apart, it’s also an opportunity for clarity for Ahsoka.
Unlike the Jedi Order, she simply can’t turn her back on people like Trace, as much as she has tried to, if only to keep her Force abilities a secret. The desire to help, to do the right thing, is too strong in her, and unburdened by the shackles of Jedi bureaucracy—and Jedi hubris—as she is now, she can still be that person without being a member of the Order. So when the chase concludes with Trace and her now-disabled rampaging droid dangling off a precipice, in a moment of desperation, Ahsoka reaches out in the force to pull them both off of the edge.
She seemingly gets away with it. Trace is blissfully unaware that her savior was a mystical energy field rather than the winch on the hover-forklift she and Ahsoka rode into the chase in the first place. Of those in the crowd around them, seemingly only a child spotted Ahsoka’s outstretched hand revealing her Jedi nature. But as there’s more to this story to tell—Ahsoka still has that repair bill to pay, and it’s clear Trace and Rafa aren’t out of danger yet as the episode draws to an end—we’re assured Ahsoka did the right thing. And in doing so reminded herself of something vital, that we know she will carry with herself far into the future: You don’t have to be of the Jedi Order to do the good work they’re meant to believe in.
The peculiarities of time have given Clone Wars a chance to revisit missed opportunities. In this case, to see how the Ahsoka we used to know would one day—sooner for us than it was for her—become the woman we now know her to be. But maybe the greatest lesson learned here is that she always was that woman, deep down. And she never needed the Jedi to be otherwise.
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