'Star Wars: The Clone Wars' Embeds Soul-Searching Within Big Action During "Dangerous Debt"

Ahsoka Tano is in a tight spot in "Dangerous Debt", the latest episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Ahsoka (Ashley Eckstein), Trace (Brigitte Kali), and Rafa (Elizabeth Rodriguez) are imprisoned by the Pyke Syndicate on Oba Diah after their disastrous attempt at deception. Directed by Saul Ruiz & Bosco Ng and penned by Dave Filoni & Charles Murray, "Dangerous Debt" is snappy with the fisticuffs and fleeing despite the rocky transition from its opening introspection to the escapade action.

In the first few minutes, Ahsoka hears about more cracks in the mythological image of the Jedi she tried to live up to. It was interesting enough that the Martezes' disdain for Jedi and upper-Coruscant had plenty to do with them being products of their impoverished underworld environment. Turns out, it's even more personal. Ahsoka learns why the Jedi Order, or other topsiders, tick off Rafa and Trace. The Martez sisters' parents were killed during the Jedi's pursuit of the criminal Ziro the Hutt. The Jedi, when steering an out-of-control ship, opted to crash into the Martezes' home rather than land on a populated platform, costing the lives of the Martezes parents.

It's a reminder that civilians are often caught in the crossfires of Jedi undertakings. And not unlike how Ahsoka is given no guidance when departing the Temple, the institution hasn't provided for casualties of its collateral. A little touch suggests that Master Luminara Unduli, the master of Ahsoka's now-incapacitated former Jedi compatriot, was the Jedi who left the Martezes with a patronizing consolation "Not to worry, the Force will be with you" that did nothing for their tragedy. 

I focus plenty on Rafa and Trace more than the jailbreak and chase across Oba Diah since their dynamic has been anchoring this arc. Ahsoka seems to exist as a supporting character, sometimes a wannabe angel-on-the-shoulder who herself realizes her Jedi-shaped words don't have anything clear-cut to contribute to their situation. Ahsoka's "You can't profit from other people's suffering" lecture can't undo Rafa's mindset. It is a tough reckoning for Ahsoka to realize that some people truly can't afford to cling to ideals since they will always be tangled in systemic hardships.

With an intact and shaky sisterly rapport, Rafa and Trace process their situation by the way their hardscrabble life has shaped them, juxtaposing Rafa's tough pragmatism and Trace's youthful desires. It's demonstrated best when Rafa, making a quick contingency in the possibility of her execution, calls out to Trace that she gets the "family business," which the younger sister rebuffs. Their sisterhood pulsates throughout the chase through the city. Of course, Trace wouldn't want to leave the ship she worked on. Of course, Rafa would pragmatically tell her to leave it behind if they need to. And Ahsoka having to referee their sisterly dispute (funniest line: "Tiebreaker!") is not only a dose of humor but it shows where she's best useful for the sisters: When she is bridging their own conflicts in the middle of high-risks situations.

Note how Ahsoka adjusts her approach in her later talk with Rafa when they find respite. When she utters, "You might be cut out for this life but I'm not sure about Trace," she understands that Rafa's circumstances aren't easily reparable while encouraging her to rethink how her shady career is contradicting her younger sister's needs. She also learns to talk to Rafa about her principles in terms of what her comparatively privileged life has given her—"In my life"—rather than preach her own values. And this heart-to-heart cracks at Rafa's conscience not because of well-meaning but patronizing observations, but because Rafa is able to tap into her personal life to contemplate her morals.

"Dangerous Debt" tips into a slight narrative imbalance even if it lasts for less than a minute. I found myself not as interested in the intrigue of the Mandalorian trio, led by a helmeted Bo-Katan Kryze (Katee Sackhoff), clocking in Ahsoka's presence and combing the Pyke Syndicate terrain for a yet-to-be-clarified mission. Despite the implication that the Mandos' path-crossing will play a role in Tano and the Martezes' story, they feel disparate.

It would be a frustrating back-to-square-one ending if it wasn't capped off by Rafa humbling herself and accepting responsibility for their situation. It's not a hard-hitting development, but it counts for something. What matters is that Rafa and Ahsoka come back to where they started slightly different from before and on better terms, cementing the final shot of the trio's solemn solidarity to survive.


  • For those who viewed Star Wars Rebels, your ears may perk up and the credits will confirm that the subordinate Mandalorian is a helmeted Ursa Wren (Sharmila Devar) from Star Wars Rebels. It affirms that Ursa Wren, and perhaps Clan Wren, joined Bo-Katan's opposition to Maul's rule of Mandalore. Wonder how her daughter Sabine Wren is doing...