Here at Mulehorn Gaming, we have been watching the final season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. We have hoped for six years for a conclusion to this epic story to materialize. It is finally here, and we at MHG are here to break it down for you. We pick up our coverage with an in-depth review of the Martez Sisters Story Arc, which is the second story arc in season 7.
See our previous coverage of the Death Watch story arc and stay tuned for the final chapters of the Clone Wars. Know that spoilers follow below for Clone Wars: S7: E5-8.
The Martez Sisters Story Arc
Episode five begins the story of the Martez sisters but it also picks up with Ashoka Tanno’s story. The story arc consists of four episodes; “Gone With a Trace”, “Deal No Deal”, “Dangerous Debt”, and “Together Again”. It should come as no surprise that Ashoka Tano makes her return in the season. Fans have been eagerly waiting to learn about her goings-on since she left the Jedi Order at the end of season five and were over the moon to see her appearance in the announcement trailer.
“Gone With a Trace”
The episode begins with our heroine. It seems that Ashoka has managed to make a meager living on Coruscant. She has recently purchased a speeder on a budget. The thing is a hunk of junky. It blows out an engine and we quickly find Ashoka making a crash landing on a mech bay and left stranded on Crouscant’s Level 1313.
Ashoka happens to crash onto the landing pad of a mech bay that is owned by young Trace Martez. Trace witnesses Ashoka take a hard crash landing rather gracefully and takes pity on her. Trace seems to harbor great empathy but has a hard time showing it because she is short on credits and keeps trying to charge Ashoka for anything that she can.
Ashoka is not used to someone as friendly and opportunistic as Trace. She appears to feel bothered and is ready to leave but Trace begs her to stay. Ashoka sticks around and even helps Trace repel some local thuggery who want Trace to pay up for her older sister’s debts. Shortly after the bout of fisticuffs, the two go to pay Rafa Martez a visit.
Star Wars fans will recognize the infamous Level 1313 as it’s renowned for being the most dangerous of the city-planet’s many levels. This area stands in stark comparison to the upper levels from which Ashoka has long inhabited, known colloquially as Topside.
Ashoka is most likely at the lowest point of her life. We can see that as she frustratingly works on her speeder. She has just recently chosen to leave the Jedi Order. Ashoka is not willing to be included in the Order; recognizing that many of their actions are not seen by the civilians as sympathetic to their livelihoods. This oftentimes is a result of the Jedi’s hubris. Due to their political and militaristic dealings, their influence is felt far and wide. They were once viewed as the voice of reason and guardians of peace. Some now view them as occupiers of the Republic. While most of the Separatists leaders are nefarious; there are some of the Separatist populace who have legitimate reasons to secede from the Republic.
Trace Martez is a confident mechanic who is totally devoted to her older sister. Trace is very naive and believes that her sister has her best interest at heart. However, it quickly appears that is not the case. The older Martez sister, Rafa, is manipulative and self-serving. She owes quite a bit of money to some local thugs. It appears that she has mishandled the family business that she inherited after their parents “split”. Rafa is eager to land a big job that will allow them to pay off their debts and offer them a better life. She is willing to do whatever it takes, even if the work isn’t above board.
Trace manages the mech bay, which is her part of the inheritance. She has managed to build a star freighter piece by piece over the years. She is eager to be a pilot and to take the “Silver Angel” on her maiden voyage. Despite the ship’s name, this vessel does anything but shine. Perhaps young Trace has not been able to work on the cosmetics yet.
Trace is rather naive. She loves her sister and believes that she only has her best interest at heart. While Rafa does seem to love Trace, she does not always act in her best interest. Trace is quick to overlook this when Rafa points out that family needs to stick together. At times, Rafa is downright manipulative.
Rafa is approached by a Twi’lek who wants some Mech work done on a few droids. Rafa agrees and signs up Trace to work on the droids. Ashoka offers to help. While they are working on them, Ashoka explains to Trace that she should always use a restraining bolt before turning on a strange droid. The droid army has taught Ashoka caution. Ashoka mentions that there are a lot of good droids, but there are some bad ones too. Rafa points out that it is the same way with people. In all the chit-chat Rafa forgets to attach the restraining bolt.
A friendship is forged.
It appears that these loader droids, which are huge, had once been demolition droids. So when this one comes online the only thing it wants to do is to smash things. It quickly escapes and runs out into the streets chased by Ashoka and Trace. Eventually, they are able to power down the droid as it is hanging off an edge of one of Coruscant’s many levels. Trace jumps onto the loader droid while it is dangling off the edge and powers it down, but now both are about to fall. Ashoka attaches a tow winch to the droid to pull it from the ledge. The winch squeals and burns gears. Ashoka uses the force to slowly lift the droid up onto the edge and Trace along with it. She does this carefully and Trace is aware that Ashoka just saved her life but she is unaware that she did so with the help of her Force powers.
Ashoka has quickly formed a bond with Trace. She wants to protect her from any fallout from Rafa’s bad business dealings. The endearing youths have learned to take care of each other over the years. The older Rafa feels endangered by the companionship that Trace has found in Ashoka. Perhaps in part because of jealousy or partly because this is how they have learned to survive. Rafa places her financial burden on the younger sister and requires her mechanical talents to keep the business running. It quickly becomes apparent to Ashoka that the Martez sisters do not hold the Jedi in high esteem. Ashoka hides her powers to better fit in.
The “Silver Angel” Takes Flight
In the episode “Deal No Dealt”, we see that not only is Rafa manipulative of the younger sister but she is eager to take jobs that are shady and potentially dangerous. In order to keep Trace in line, she constantly insists that sisters must look out for one another and that Ashoka should not be trusted. For example, the older sister asks Trace to be a pilot for a cargo mission that she has landed from an unnamed contact. Trace is unable to say no to this request. She has been building a Nebula Class Star Freighter piece by piece for years with the hope of going to space one day. She is eager to leave Coruscant and begin a career as a pilot. Ashoka is protective and urges caution as events unfold along the way.
After taking off, Trace pilots the “Silver Angel” into a military lane. Ashoka immediately begins telling Trace that she needs to leave the lane and join the civilian lane, as it is a restricted one. Trace is adamant that she knows what she is doing and will not listen. This leads to a scene that is very similar to the shuttle scene in Return of the Jedi where they attempt to bypass the Imperial forces around Endor. This scene is pure gold. The banter is very similar to that of Han, Leia, and Luke. All the while, Anakin is sensing Ashoka while standing aboard the command deck of the Republic cruiser. This also is similar to the way that Vader sensed Luke from aboard the Star Destroyer.
The Kessel Run
Up to this point, Rafa has been particularly secretive about their contract. She would not disclose her source, what they were transporting, or where they were going. As Rafa plots the course for Kessel; it becomes apparent that her business dealing could potentially be nefarious. Ashoka is skeptical and urges caution. Trace is ecstatic to be flying her ship in space. Rafa could have told her to fly into the sun and she would have been jubilant.
The Kessel approach scenes really benefit from the 6-year hiatus of The Clone Wars. During this time Star Wars: Solo was released and we saw Kessel for the first time. Although, it has been referred to in Star Wars lore since the original trilogy. The approach scenes really blend the animated and live-action worlds together. I had to rewind the show to tell if the space lane was even truly animated.
We do get to see a part of Kessel that we have not seen before. The ship lands at a port that belongs to a king of Kessel. There is plenty of vegetation that stands apart from the mines that we saw in Solo. The three ladies are treated to a royal feast. The king’s majordomo addresses that the crew will be transporting spice and if successful will be rewarded with a contract for additional spice transports. Fans will immediately recognize that spice is often smuggled and dealt with among the black markets. This is not a good sign. It is explained that the king’s spice is refined into medicine that helps the populations of the galaxy. Ashoka is not buying it.
The crew head back to the ship and take off for the mines. This is familiar territory as we are now witnessing very similar strip mines to those in Solo. Trace comments that the king must be very wealthy to purchase so many droids for his operation. Ashoka points out that those are people, not droids, and they are most likely slaves. Rafa states that they are not slaves. The Republic would not allow slavery on this scale.
It is hard to know if Rafa is being genuine here or if she is still defending her situation. She may want to turn a blind eye to the fact that she is running spice that was mined for slaves. Or she could actually believe that the Republic would not stand for slavery. Ashoka appears to further become callous to the shortcomings of the Jedi. She merely states, “You would think they would not”.
In comparison: Minor spoilers for the book Star Wars: Master & Apprentice below.
We know that this is not the only cell of slavery that the Jedi Council have turned a blind eye to. In the above-referenced book, Qui-Gonn Jinn and young Obi-Wan Kenobi were previously dispatched to settle a political dispute on the planet of Pijal. Another student of Count Dooku, Rail Aveross had been set up as a regent there and to tutor the young queen. The Czerka Corporation had a long-standing agreement with the monarchy of Pijal. Pijal profited from Czerka’s business while they mined the Pijalian moon. A recent piece of legislation that would be signed at the Coronation of Princess Fannery would give Czerka Corp. far-reaching powers over the inhabitants of the moon, essentially making them slaves for life to Czerka. This legislation would also transform the absolute monarchy into a democratic monarchy and join Pijal to the New Republic, granting the Pijalians the coveted trading routes their economy needed.
Kessel and Pijal are two examples where the Jedi Council and the Republic both turned their eyes on injustice and allowed inhumane circumstances to befall some in order to benefit the Republic. Tatoonie could be considered a third example. We’ll come back to Tatooine later. In all instances, it was argued that the benefit of the greater good outweighed the liberation of a few. Ashoka was fed up with the hypocrisy.
En Route To Oba Diah
Once the spice has been loaded, the oldest sister plots a course for Oba Diah and mutters a remark about getting the shipment to the Pykes. The Pykes are an intergalactic crime syndicate. Ashoka has had enough. The Pykes are not going to refine the spice into medicine the will refine it into illegal drugs. As Ashoka and Rafa argue about what should be done with the spice. Trace becomes angry and dumps the spice into hyperspace. Now they have nothing to repay the Pykes with. It is never good to owe money to a crime boss. We know that from Han Solo and Jabba the Hutt’s example.
The three decide to go to Oba Diah and with a plan to trick the Pykes and take their money. This just sounds like a bad idea from the start. Even the Martel sisters do not like the idea. Ashoka uses an underhanded Jedi Mind Trick on the Pyke crime boss, unbeknownst to the Martez sisters, and they almost escape with the credits. They are caught in the last moments and ensnared in a tractor beam at the end of the episode.
It has become apparent that Rafa Martez has made a very dangerous deal with a sinister cartel, and with no way to pay them back they are soon imprisoned and must rely on each other to escape. Ashoka will be confronted with a choice to either continue to hide her identity or embrace it and stand on her own. Trace and Rafa will have to come to terms and address their heritage and their fall from grace as a respectable family of Coruscant.
One of the most intriguing and pivotal points In the third episode is when Ashoka learns exactly how the Martez sisters were orphaned and how they came about inheriting the family business. This happens early in the episode, shortly after the three find themselves in a cell attempting to pull one over on the Pykes.
As they begin trying to lay blame for how they arrived incarcerated, Ashoka makes some lofty observations about right and wrong and points out Rafa’s responsibility for her shady business dealings. This leads Rafa to accidentally, maybe even sarcastically accuse Ashoka of being a Jedi. This allows Rafa an opportunity to discuss the past of the Martezes and what happened to their parents.
The Indifference of the Jedi
It seems that in previous years, Ziro the Hutt escaped his imprisonment and was chased by a Jedi. The chase led to collateral damage when an explosion occurred due to a crashing vehicle that happened to hit the dwelling of the Martezes. The sisters were spared but the father and mother were not so lucky. Afterward, the Jedi Knight told Rafa, “I had to make a choice, but not to worry. The Force will be with you.”
Ashoka has had to witness the callousness of the Jedi before, in her own trial and excommunication of the Order. This previous occurrence serves as another example of how the Jedi’s ideals can be off-putting to the inhabitants of the Galaxy. Instead of remuneration for the loss of property and family members; a “thoughts and prayers” statement seems cold and indifferent and it has led to a festering dislike of the Jedi by these two sisters. Ashoka definitely feels that she cannot open up about her Force abilities and her past now.
I particularly like the origin story of the Martez sisters. It shows the self-righteousness of the Jedi and it hits hard with Ashoka. The story is an example of how they often strive to do right by protecting justice, often serving the galaxy at the macro level, but at the micro-level, the Order tends to pass over individuals indifferently for the benefit of the populace.
Indifference to Slavery and the Phantom Menace
It is very similar to Anakin Skywalker’s existence with his mother while they were in slavery. Anakin is discovered by two Jedi who goes through incredible acts to free him from slavery but does literally nothing to assist his mother or the other slaves of Tatooine. This culminates into Anakin’s first dark brushes with hatred and the Darkside when he returns to Tatooine to rescue his mother and finds her dying in a camp of Sand People. As we know, Anakin cuts them down in hatred but what would have happened if Shimi had been allowed to accompany her son? Might Anakin’s fate have turned out differently?
In Comparison: Minor Spoilers Below for Dooku: Jedi Lost
Similarly, the book Dooku: Jedi Lost takes its readers through Count Dooku’s origins to discover that he had a secret but a close relationship with his sister and knew of the goings-on of his royal family, while in the Jedi Order. This knowledge ultimately caused him to make choices that were not sanctioned by the Jedi Order. This friction between code and love ultimately forces Dooku down a dark path much like Anakin’s.
Dooku was required to cut ties with family and to turn a bline-eye to their suffering and his people’s suffering. When he had difficulty doing this, it was looked at as a personal flaw of his, a limitation. This allowed for anger and resentment to build in him. Some of his rebellious nature is also apparent in his tutelage of Qui-Gon Jinn and Rael Aveross. All three had difficulty blindly following the teachings of the Jedi Order.
After the short Martex family history lesson, the Pykes come along to begin interrogating the three. After interrogating Rafa, they come for Trace. Trace puts up a fight and is able to disable several of the Pykes and makes off with a blaster. Trace runs blindy through the cell block fending off they Pykes as she goes.
Meanwhile, Ashoka tends to the unconscious Rafa. She blacked out during her interrogation. Ashoka believes this is her chance to use her force powers and make a getaway. She opens the lock with the Force and wakes Rafa. Rafa asks how Ashoka opened the lock and she explains that it was the result of a power outage. Now they too are running through the cell block searching for Trace, in an attempt to rescue her.
This is all very reminiscent of the prison break of Princess Leia in A New Hope. From Trace running through the prison cell block yelling at the top of her lungs, much like Han when he is chases and is chased by Stormtroopers; to the banter over who is actually saving who after both parties manage to run over each other. It is all quite hysterical and nostalgic. The scene serves as another reminder why the show has been so successful. It manages to create original scenes for Star Wars newcomers and youngsters that can be enjoyed by nostalgic adults, all the while adding to the Star Wars narrative as a whole.
Ashoka and her entourages continue their attempt at escape being chased by the Pykes running through area after area, causing destruction and obstacles in the hopes of slowing down their pursuers. They eventually have to run across a bridge that is being retracted as they run with the Pykes on their heels. Rafa and Trace are able to make it across. Trace only is able to make the jump with the help of a Force Push. She does not realize that she has once again been saved by a Jedi. Ashoka has to choose to either be captured or use the Force to bridge the gap. Ashoka makes a high leap that takes her over the sisters’ heads.
Rafa makes several statements during all of this that later serves, to show a change in character. She observes that Ashoka will never make the jump. And states, “Don’t worry Ashoka! if you can’t make it, we’ll come back for you.” Then she says to Trace, “Let’s get out of here. She won’t make it.” This shows that she does not suspect Ashoka of truly being a Jedi. She just can not stomach her lofty ideals. It also shows that she cares little about Ashoka and is willing to leave her behind to save her own skin. Trace is not willing to leave her behind. After Ashoka leaps over their heads, Trace fears that she did not make the jump yelling her name. Rafa sarcastically states, “That’s terrible.”
Help Them No Matter What
Ashoka makes her appearance and hurries the group along. They eventually are able to escape into the populace of Oba Diah. Ashoka and Rafa are discussing their current situation and Ahoka points out how Rafa should not have dragged Trace into this mess. Along the way, a beggar asks for credits stating he is hungry. He is turned away by Rafa. Shortly after, Ashoka states, “In my life, if someone needs help, you help them, no matter what.” Rafa mentions the similarities between her mother and Ashoka. Then the beggars informs the Pykes that he has seen the people they are searching for. Perhaps if Rafa or Ashoka had given the guy some credits, then he might not have turned them in. Instead, he sells there whereabouts for credits.
As the group is being chased, once again, they are split up. The Martez sisters are captured and Ashoka briefly escapes. All of this is witnessed by a band of three Mandolorians. One of which seems to have some familiarity with Ashoka. Suspecting her of being a Jedi she has met previously. They decide to keep track of Ashoka claiming she could be of use to their cause. The Mandolorians are hooded and appear to be the only characters in the season that know how to be covert.
The Pykes now have the Martez sisters apprehended. They choose to keep them out in the open while Ashoka formulates a plan to save them. Ashoka finds a mech that is outfitted with blasters. She lifts it and begins her assault on the Pyke guards. This has all been the plan for the Pykes who have withheld part of their guard to lure out and capture Ashoka and the sisters.
In episode four, After being imprisoned by the Pykes, once again; Ashoka makes a deal that allows the sisters to be released to bring back the spice that they require. They are given one planetary cycle to secure the spice and return with it. In order to negotiate their temporary freedom, she bargains to stay behind as collateral and offers that if the sisters do not return, then she will inform the Pykes of their family’s location. The ruse would have allowed the sisters to abandon her but Ashoka’s selflessness has struck a chord with Rafa and they resolve to get the spice needed to negotiate her freedom. The Pykes seem to know that they are being swindled; the Martezes have no family. Still, they are very afraid of the outcome of not having the spice to refine for their overlord.
The Black Sun
The absence of the Martez sisters allows Ashoka the freedom to use her Force powers to escape her cell and to sneak about the Pyke spice refinery. She comes about an armory and determines to “do some good” by rigging the refinery with explosives. During her sneaking around, Ashoka makes an incredible discovery. The Pykes are in communication with Darth Maul. He is the one that they are afraid to infuriate by not delivering the promised refined spice. Maul is obviously attempting to avoid detection as he is very interested about the Jedi infiltrating his plans. He threatens to have the Black Sun crime syndicate take over from the Pykes if they cannot perform.
As you may remember, Maul has set up a puppet government on Mandalore and created a crisis in an effort to lure out Obi-Wan Kenobi, whom he loathes for the loss of his legs. After making this discovery, Ashoka is eventually imprisoned again but she has the detonator to the explosive she placed. These come in handy when the Martez sisters return and they make their final attempt to escape.
After the Martez sisters return, Ashoka is forced to reconcile with the sisters and confront her Jedi heritage. The older sister recognizes Ashoka has acted in their best interest from the beginning and they reconcile their differences. The three make a getaway when the explosives that Ashoka planted detonate. Ashoka and her friends make for the Silver Angel and are persued. Trace is able to put her flight skills to the test as she zips through canyons and outflies her pursuers. The three make it back to Coruscant and to the sister’s mech bay.
Once they are back on Coruscant, they are approached by three Mandalorians who had tracked them down from Oba-Diah. It seems that they were attempting to infiltrate the Pykes to bring down Maul on Mandalore. Bo-Katan Kryze and her companions remove their helmets and request Ashoka’s assistance to dethrone Maul who is ruling Mandalore from the shadows. The Martez sisters insist that Ashoka should go with the Mandalorians and assist them. This is what she is meant for. Ashoka states that she is afraid of where this might lead, back to the Jedi. At the encouragement of the sisters, she agrees to accompany Bo-Katan. Ashoka asks if she can leave her speed with the Martezs in case she needs it later. They are happy to house it for her. I believe we will see more the Martez sisters before the season is over.
I have enjoyed this story arc. I should mention that my wife and girls were through the roof to have more Ashoka content. We binge-watched the whole story arc as we were behind. I took glances at them during these episodes to see their smiling faces and it occurred to me that Disney/Star Wars are knocking it out of the park with the heroines. It was recently announced that a female-centric Star Wars show has been approved and is being helmed by Leslye Headland. Who is the Co-Creator of Russian Doll.
The story arch does a great job weaving scenes that are reminiscent of the original trilogy. It does so in a way that seems original. Upon viewing the episodes the first time, I actually missed them. It was only when I went back to write about the episodes that I began to recognize the similarities.
The Martez sisters’ story arc is fundamental in building Ashoka’s character. It illustrates her rise from what must be the most horrible point in her journey, thus far. It shows our heroine as she is required to determine that she may no longer be a Jedi but she still has a desire to assist those who are less fortunate than herself and to do so she will need to act selflessly to do so. It also shows her walk a difficult path. She does not answer to the Jedi, but she is Jedi trained and still harbors many similar beliefs. She is lonesome for the companionship she lost and is able to fill that void with Trace.
I am excited for the end of the season. The Siege of Mandalore is next. Surely Ashoka will be reunited with some old friends, but which ones? We can determine from the trailer that she will confront Maul to some degree. And how will the fall of the Republic affect our characters? I hope that you are just as excited as I am. Stay tuned.