THE CLONE WARS: "THE MARTEZ SISTERS" ARC REVIEW
Last seen walking away from the Jedi Order after a sense of betrayal, Ahsoka Tano returns. Ahsoka is living day to day in the lower level of Coruscant, amongst the disenfranchised and smugglers. A hive of scum and villainy. Here Ahsoka crosses paths with Trace and Rafa Martez, sisters with lofty aspirations and a shade line of profession. While meandering and derivative, there are smaller moments through the arc that offer insight into Ahsoka’s character, and fleshed out criticisms of the Jedi and their hubris.
The new additions to the series are the sisters Ahsoka crosses paths with. Trace Martez is the younger sibling, who boasts of being the best pilot of galaxy and flies a junk pile of ship with a ridiculous sounding name. Sounds much like another scoundrel in Star Wars. Then there is Rafa Martez, the eldest who is gambler, swindler and charismatic con-artist who believes that the only people you can trust are yourself (and her sister). If isn’t obvious yet, the Martez sisters are just Han Solo’s characters split into two separate bodies; the hotshot pilot and fast-talking rogue. They’re likeable knock-offs, but knock-offs all the same.
The first episode is very much a kid friendly episode, with hijinks and slapstick comedy aplenty. One scene sees Ahsoka step in to save Trace from some thugs before unleashing Jackie Chan style action, with flaying limbs and the kick-to-the-nuts finisher which kids of any age will giggle at; because nuts are funny, I guess. The main action set piece of Ahsoka and Trace pursuing a rogue droid, feels more at home in an 80s/90s kids movie. You expect Beethoven (the St. Bernard, not the composer) to run past chasing a steak. A wild creature wreaking havoc, initiated by characters in over their heads makes for wacky action. Not helped by Kevin Kiner’s use of a sad trombone which draws to mind a poor, gun powdered covered Elmer Fudd.
Aside from the over the top action, the arc’s strength comes when it focuses on Ahsoka’s mind frame post-abandoning the Jedi Order. Even though she feels betrayed, Ahsoka still holds onto her connection to the Force, try as she might to supress it. She refuses to ignore the sisters struggles with crime lords and sneakily uses her Force abilities; she clings on to her old life and looks longingly towards the Upper Levels. In the final episode, the Martez sisters remind Ahsoka that she is the best of the Jedi; “what they should be like”. More insight into her feelings toward the Jedi and her sense of betrayal by them would have elevated this internal conflict to the forefront of the story, and in turn, elevated the quality of the overall arc.
Another interesting theme in the arc revolves around what lies beneath the surface; of a planet, a city, an institution or a person. Upon arriving at the planet of Kessel for their job, the trio find lush green forests and a classical, fantasy style castle, far removed from the barren, slave-run mines seen later in the episode. The planet of Coruscant is seen in the Prequel Trilogy has a glistening, opulent metropolis but as the series and these episodes show, that is only a façade to cover the filthy slums underneath. The Jedi are noble, graceful warriors who actually sit in their literal ivory tower and fail to take action for the oppressed. Even Rafa, who is cold to Ahsoka, warms to her by the end of the arc. Very ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ messaging.
The third episode encompasses the overall flaw of this arc in its repetitive story and characters. The worst thing you can do in a story is have the characters start and end the story in the same place as they were before. Either physically or emotionally. In this case, before sins are committed. The trio are in prison, and neither one grows. The only important moment comes when Rafa reveals the tragedy of the Martez’s parents and the origins of their disdain for the Jedi.
Early on, Trace comments how the Jedi have forgotten all about “us”, referring to those in the lower levels of Coruscant. In kicking-ass and taking names across the galaxy, the Jedi have relegated their duties to uphold peace and left the ‘little guy’ behind. George Lucas attempted to convey this view of the Jedi in the Prequel trilogy but failed to carry that message across. Here it’s more overt, especially when you have a sceptic and a practitioner of the faith having this confrontation, instead of a whiny, emotionally-stunted, sceptical practitioner. By repositioning a moment from way back in Season 3, Filoni and crew deliver a gut-punch about the Jedi’s failing and their hubris. In saving several lives, the Jedi endangered more and could offer no more condolence than a hollow promise of the Force. This is how a beloved institution could crumble; by ignoring the innocents they swore to protect, around them, which seems apt, currently.
It’s only clear in the final episode what the true purpose of this story arc is; and that is to get Ahsoka into the Siege of Mandalore. Mandalorian warriors lurk in the shadows sporadically through the last two episodes, and only reveal their intentions in the closing minutes. Darth Maul even makes a brief appearance in a jarring appearance to rival his left-field appearance in Solo. Four episodes who’s only contribution is to set up a different storyline. Fun, fan-service moments, like Anakin and Ahsoka’s brief Force connection that mimics a similar situation from Return of the Jedi, can’t save this dragged out story arc that is forgettable entertainment at best.