After the immensely entertaining story arc with Captain Rex and the Bad Batch, the middle chapter of The Clone Wars’ final season is here, and fan-favorite character Ahsoka Tano is back in the spotlight in this week’s episode “Gone With a Trace”. Having just left the Jedi Order, the young Togruta woman finds herself in the underworld of Coruscant. Now a world apart from her former life “topside”, Ahsoka sets out on a new path to try to find her place in the galaxy.
When her recently purchased speeder malfunctions midflight, Ahsoka crashes onto the landing platform of a mechanic shop where she meets a girl named Trace, a mechanic and aspiring pilot. Trace offers to help her with repairs, but Ahsoka is a little light on credits at the moment. The girl insists that she hang around until she can afford to pay for the parts she needs for the speeder. Ahsoka agrees but soon, she begins to grow restless, wondering if she had made the right decision.
Ahsoka had decided to keep her Jedi past to herself, which puts her in a slightly awkward spot when Trace begins to point out the flaws of the Jedi and how, while waging their war, they had forgotten about the people like her. Ahsoka initially attempts to defend the Jedi, but after listening to Trace, she seems to realize that the Jedi had indeed lost their way somewhat during the war, reinforcing her decision to leave.
When the moneylender Pintu shows up to collect a debt from Trace’s older sister Rafa, Ahsoka uses her fighting skills to ward off his goons. Pintu leaves them for the time being, but they both know he’ll be back eventually. Later, Ahsoka meets Rafa, who has just been hired by a client to build some droids. Rafa would need Trace’s help of course to get the droids up and running, and Ahsoka lends her hand as well.
As it turns out, Ahsoka recognizes the droids. The binary load lifters they were rebuilding had been refitted from a very dangerous and erratic model of demolition droid. It was a risky job, but as long as they fitted them with restraining bolts, they should be okay. Naturally, Trace forgets to install one of them though, and her inattention sends the now uninhibited load lifting demolition droid on a rampage through level 1313, destroying everything in its path.
Ahsoka helps Trace chase down the droid, and the mechanic is able to shut it down before anyone gets hurt. But when Trace falls to her impending death while on top of the droid, Ahsoka catches them with a speeder and attempts to use a wench to pull Trace to safety. But when the cable begins to give at the combined weight of the droid and the speeder (I continue to be amazed at the strength of piping in Star Wars), Ahsoka has to use the Force to pull her back over the ledge. She does it without gaining too much attention, and Trace is saved none the wiser concerning her Jedi abilities.
Later on, Trace tells Ahsoka that she knows her sister doesn’t always get it right but that she was trying to make things better for them. “But at what cost?” Ahsoka asks. When Rafa arrives, she reveals that she had still decided to sell the droids without warning her client about how dangerous they were. If they didn’t build the droids, someone else would. This doesn’t sit well with Trace, but when Rafa reminds her they needed the money to pay off Pintu, she relents.
Before leaving, Rafa tells Trace that one day, they’d have enough credits that Pintu would be coming to them for work. The older sister gives Ahsoka a warning glance before leaving, and Ahsoka realizes it would be for the best if she moved on as soon as possible. Trace thanks Ahsoka for saving her and the two head back to the shop to continue working on Ahsoka’s speeder.
When the show’s creator Dave Filoni first revealed this story arc back at the”Ahsoka’s Untold Tales” panel at Celebration Europe in 2016, it was a little bit different than the final version of the story. Originally, the role of Trace/Rafa was an entirely different character named Nyx Okami. Dave Filoni said that Nyx was an attempt to bring in an Asian male lead to Star Wars (something later achieved with Kazuda Xiono in Star Wars: Resistance). It was later announced at the “Clone Wars Saved” panel in 2019 that the character Nyx would be replaced by two new characters, the sisters Trace and Rafa Martez.
With Ahsoka’s appearance in Star Wars: Rebels and the young adult novel Star Wars: Ahsoka, it seems like we’ve already witnessed the character’s triumphant return. However, this episode is significant in that it is her first appearance on The Clone Wars since her exit in the season five finale of the show. Seven years and seventeen episodes later, it’s great to finally see the character back where she belongs.
Plotwise, this episode is pretty much a by the numbers Clone Wars adventure, but there are enough nuances with the character relationships to keep it interesting and plenty of action to keep it entertaining. Trace and Rafa represent the classic “siblings raising siblings” scenario, and like many other stories with this concept, the older sibling is forced to make compromises just to scrape by and make a better life for the younger. On the surface, Rafa appears to be rash and self-serving, but a closer look reveals that she is just doing what she can to watch out for her little sister.
Ahsoka’s warning about whether or not her compromises were worth the cost certainly feels prophetic, however, and it will be interesting to see how this comes into play over the course of the next three episodes. If the trailer for the new story arc is any indication, the former Jedi and the siblings are on a crash course with the criminal underworld of Coruscant.
There’s a lot to like about this episode. For one, the Martez sisters are likeable. Trace is young and naïve without being annoying. Sure, she messed up with the restraining bolt, but she made it right in the end and has a heart of gold. Rafa’s personality is reckless and she’s not very receptive of Ahsoka’s interventions, but the love she has for her sister is clearly what drives her and that makes her endearing. Plus, her shaved hairstyle is on point and reminds me of Natalie Dormer in the Hunger Games (which is always a good thing).
I also enjoyed the callback to C-3PO’s first job programming binary load lifters (he tells Owen Lars about this in A New Hope). If those droids were anything like these, it’s a wonder the protocol droid was still functioning at that point. And oh my, that music at the end of the episode… If you’re not paying attention, you may miss this little glorious nugget, but if it’s not 80’s night at the wharf then I’m the uncle of a Kowakian monkey-lizard.
The in-universe music of Star Wars is always interesting. From the brass band stylings of the Modal Nodes at Chalmun’s Cantina in A New Hope to the Mongolian folk-metal band (The Hu) that gave Cal Kestis his jam in Jedi: Fallen Order, it’s always fun to hear different musical styles in Star Wars. A person’s musical tastes also says a lot about them. This moment in “Gone With a Trace”, however, may say more about the show’s creators than its characters. I don’t know whose idea it was to include a song reminiscent of A-ha’s “Take On Me”, but I loved every second it was playing in the background.
Perhaps the best thing about this season so far though has been the absolutely incredible animation. The show still looks and feels like The Clone Wars, but it’s clear that the animation techniques and capabilities have improved significantly for the show’s final season. Everything about it is just fantastic. The digital camera the team uses gives a truly cinematic feel to the show, something that is not really present in previous seasons but feels perfect for the show’s final chapters, especially as we get closer and closer to tying into Revenge of the Sith. The character models also look better than ever and their ability to emote and convey more subtle facial expressions really adds a lot to the drama of each scene.
This episode may not have reached the level of awesomeness that was “The Bad Batch”, but it’s still yet another good episode of The Clone Wars. It’s also the first episode of a new story line, so I can’t fault it for failing to achieve the same level of epicness as the episode before it. I think good things are on the horizon for the final season’s middle chapter, and for now, I can say that The Clone Wars only continues to prove that it’s one of the best animated series to have ever graced television.
“Gone With a Trace” is available to stream now on Disney +.