Like the Hitchcockian hero, Ahsoka had her name cleared and the real culprit, Barriss Offee, was captured and confessed her guilt. The status quo was restored. It all turned out exactly as it was supposed to.
Except that it didn’t.
An underlying theme in the Star Wars prequel trilogy has been the failure of institutions and leaders. Corruption, passivity, in-fighting, greed, and complacency all contributed to Palpatine’s ability to assume control of the galaxy and establish the Galactic Empire. The Senate was never depicted as an active, useful branch of government, as it was mired in bureaucracy and special interests. The Jedi Order was unable to detect the return of the Sith, and ultimately failed to see the forest of the trees, becoming instruments of an increasingly bellicose Senate under Palpatine’s shrewd control.
What this arc has demonstrated is that those themes are bleeding into the connective tissues between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. The Jedi Council failed to back Ahsoka by conducting its own investigation; instead, it expelled her to avoid political pressure, and turned her over to the Republic military. Both the hearing in the Chamber of Judgement and the military tribunal were farces of justice (though the latter came off especially poorly because we saw so little of it), existing as either formalities or blunt instruments to further discredit other institutions, in this case the Jedi Order. Both failed in the stated purposes of serving their followers and their citizens, respectively.
And in these sorts of situations, the show tells us, it falls to individuals to act in an effort to create change. Anakin went to do what the Order should’ve done and questioned Ventress to get the the whole story. Barriss, who was able to see the big picture, acted violently and dangerously because she had no ability to properly voice her frustrations within the Order itself, even if the seeds for this had been planted way back in Season 2. Ahsoka left the Order because it doubted her loyalty and thus betrayed her trust in it. Mace Windu can talk about how the entire ordeal was a trial that Ahsoka passed, but the real truth of the matter is that Ahsoka passed the trial by realizing that the Order had failed her and she walked away.
It was a surprisingly devastating and emotional moment as Ahsoka closed Anakin’s hand around her Padawan braid, and then when she walked down the steps of the Jedi Temple. The series has been building to this in some capacity, to resolve the question of where Ahsoka would end up by the series’ end (I'm not saying this is definitely the series’ end, but no official announcement has been made about the show’s future). We all knew the character would likely depart in some way, either shuffling off the mortal coil or leaving the Order, the question was simply which one it would be. And while I doubt we’ve seen the last of Ahsoka, the show’s dynamics have permanently and drastically changed.
Notes & Quotes
– A quick casting note: Tim Curry replaced Ian Abercrombie, who died in January 2012, as Palpatine in this episode. I like that the show went with someone very different from Abercrombie, as it would’ve seemed not only odd to have someone mimic him, but also a touch disrespectful to someone of his status.
– The younglings! Hi, younglings! Glad to see you’re getting your lightsaber training in!
– This was the first time we’ve seen Padmé in forever, right? I don’t think she's appeared all season.
– “You should’ve gotten rid of them.” “I think they suit me.” The duel between Barriss and Anakin was appropriately brutal, especially on Anakin’s side. Let that anger through, Master Skywalker.
What'd you think of "To Catch a Jedi" and the season as a whole?