One of the overarching complaints that the Star Wars prequels always put into question was how the average citizen of the galaxy could so quickly believe that the Jedi could turn on the Republic. This week’s Clone Wars episode shows us just how easy it was for people to do so, and how Ahsoka might be coming around to that idea too.
Much of the journey of “Dangerous Debt” sees Ahsoka, Trace, and Rafa attempting to break out of the Pyke prison they’ve found themselves in after one sketchy Rafa plan after another landed them in hot water with the Crime syndicate while trying to smuggle spice. It’s not the first time Clone Wars has done a “break out of jail” storyline—and there’s a good chance it might not be the last, even if we’re a decent chunk into the final season of the show. But it is one of the rare versions of that storyline that ends with our heroes failing, and back exactly where they started by the episode’s end.
That’s not to say nothing of import happens, however. Actually, a lot does, as our heroines attempt to liberate themselves from the Pyke’s clutches. Because even though their attempt goes poorly—try as Ahsoka might to smooth it over at times—our former Jedi learns two valuable lessons that make her realise the sheer distance between the self-described peacekeepers of the galaxy and the ordinary people who live in it.
Ahsoka has to learn these lessons physically and intellectually. The physical lesson is perhaps easiest, and one interwoven throughout “Dangerous Debt” in a subtle, but pointed manner. Over the past few episodes, Ahsoka has had to internally wrestle with how much she lets on about her past and hide her ability to tap into the Force. But as everything about her and the Martez sisters’ escape attempts gets disastrously out of hand over and over again, she’s forced to use her abilities more dramatically.
Her recalcitrance in using the Force dissipates almost entirely as she relents that it’s infinitely easier to cover Trace and Rafa’s fumbles as they fight Pyke and clamber their way out of jail. After all, they’re kids way in over their heads, untrained in combat and just trying to get by in a galaxy at war—how on earth are they meant to just casually break out of a crime gang’s prison complex? She’s commanded armies and can make things float with her mind.
That physical power disparity is constantly contrasted throughout the episode as the trio attempt to escape Pyke forces over and over. When Rafa struggles to overwhelm a single Pyke guard to steal his stun baton, earning more than a few nasty blows in the process, Ahsoka effortlessly infiltrates a guard tower and expertly floors a whole squad of them barely breaking a sweat. When Trace, who picks up a blaster for what looks like the first time in her entire life and struggles to land a shot, Ahsoka simply lifts Trace’s opponents out into the open with the Force to make them targets easy to hit for even the most novice marksman. And when the sisters have to give it their all to leap over a closing bridge to escape—Trace requiring a little Force assist in the process—Ahsoka just casually follows after them, jumping the gap with ease. She can’t help herself: She leaps through the air, landing literally feet beyond them, twisting acrobatically as she does so.
She can. She was a Jedi. She has powers and skills the vast majority of the galaxy can’t even begin to comprehend. She is different to them. And she can use those powers for good, whether it’s to help her new friends out of their repeatedly sticky situations or beyond.
That’s the hopeful lesson Ahsoka learns of the disparity between a Jedi and the average person in “Dangerous Debt.” The second, and equally valuable one, is much darker, and actually comes early on in the episode. While still attempting to figure a way out of the jail for the first time, Ahsoka and Rafa—who still can’t help needling one another for the latter’s dangerous, spiraling con game—unload on each other, until Rafa and Trace finally explain just why they have a particular distaste for the Jedi, beyond their entire retreat from public service to become generals of the Clone Wars. It’s a story of loss, their parents killed when a Jedi chasing a gang of criminals diverted a crashing freighter into the surface of one of Coruscant’s many docking holes to its lower levels. The unnamed Jedi saved the day, and countless lives in the process. But the freighter they diverted from crashed elsewhere, smashing into Martez’s apartment, killing Trace and Rafa’s parents as they ensured their children survived.
But it’s not losing their parents that embittered Trace and Rafa—and millions of people across the Republic like them, who have lost loved ones to war and conflict—to the Jedi. It’s what happened in the days after the tragedy when that Jedi came to visit them. Not to apologise. Not to offer financial or social support to two tragically orphaned children in Coruscant’s slums. All she did was tell these grieving kids that all is as the Force willed it, like some kind of wise seer, and goes about her way, leaving them to fend for themselves. Because that’s what comfort is to a Jedi, right? They know there’s something beyond this mortal life that connects the galaxy on a beautiful, fundamental level. But it means nothing to two children who just lost their parents and their home.
What’s fascinating about this moment isn’t just the way it devastatingly details the casual cruelty the Jedi have come to embrace as part of their esoteric distance from the citizens they serve. They know of the Force, these people don’t, so it’s their duty to solemnly let them know everything will be fine in the end when they’re all dead and one with it, even as they do very little to help in the moment. It’s that even as she retells this story to Ahsoka, Rafa can’t help but also admit the awe with which she saw this vaunted, powerful figure. She says she was beautiful, effortless, stoic, and inspiring even as she was breaking her and Trace’s already broken hearts. She was, Rafa admits, unlike anything she had ever seen.
Because the Jedi are nothing like the people they swore to protect. And as time has gone on and that’s become clearer and clearer, it’s also become clear that distance has alienated them from why they’re meant to be doing what they’re ostensibly doing as the Jedi Order: helping those who do not have this power or perspective themselves.
For Ahsoka, these lessons are hard ones to take in. She must stop hiding who she truly is—a hero, strong in the Force, who is willing to do so much to help others. But she must do so by letting go of the organisation that defined her life in the process, and the hubris that has become baked into it at its very roots.