“The Soft War” is more of the same for the Onderon arc, although the female characters and royals both have expanded and improved roles. The Ahsoka-Lux-Steela love triangle continues without moving forward, while other relationships such as Saw’s and Lux’s rivalry, or Ahsoka and the older Jedi, are set to the side in order to get the plot moving. Once it does it has some fine dramatic moments, especially a public execution threatening both former King Dendup and the rebels.
Steela works well as the leader of the rebellion, with her
holographic form projected larger-than-life around the city. I thought
toward the end of the episode that Saw’s rashness and Lux’s
weapons-toting would save the day for good, but in the end it’s Ahsoka
who really brings the rebellion to victory, giving this episode a hefty
dose of positive female leadership.
I also liked the presence of an incidental female scout named Dono.
She moved organically and unobtrusively within the plot. This was
refreshing after characters like Asajj’s Nightsister friend Karis at the
end of Season Four, or Ahsoka’s ally Kalifa at the end of Season Three,
who die shortly after scenes obviously meant to shoehorn in some
wartime bonding to make an emotional moment work. Dono had had me
curious to find out what her story was, but if I never did I could
imagine her as someone like myself.
Speaking of obvious things, Saw walks into a trap I saw coming from
the get-go – why would the conquering king let the defeated one walk
around alone? – and leads up to the nicely done execution scene. Both
King Dendup and his General Tandin, who went over to Rash’s side after
the invasion, reveal their thoughts about Onderon to Saw in ways that
both explain and complicate their actions. Saw’s captivity also
continues the heavily political feeling in this arc, with more dialogue
separating what it means to be a terrorist from what it means to be a
The execution scene was notable in both how quickly the plot moved,
with the two sides of the war flip-flopping in terms of who had the
upper hand, and in some of the dialogue and voice acting. Steela’s
“Come with me” is perhaps the most sincere line in the whole arc, and
“Your people will see you into the next world. May you find forgiveness
there.” is the first moment where Rash is genuinely scary. I was
starting to wonder whether Dendup’s head would actually roll across the
This episode wasn’t without its cringeworthy moments, though. Of
course Rash had to pull a fruit from nowhere and do the “bad guy eating
to show how little he cares” trick. And it sounded like Saw had been
saving his comeback to Lux – “Why don’t you go write a speech about it?”
– since sixth grade.
A marked contrast between Rash’s posturing and the General’s change
of heart comes when Rash calls Tandin “traitor,” a word he seems to
like, while General turns it around with, “I was, but not any more.”
Tandin’s line gives the viewer the sense that he’s been thinking this
over for some time, just like Dendup had been thinking over his choices.
episode ends with a lesson about togetherness that comes too late and
isn’t relevant enough to the first twenty-one minutes: Saw, Ahsoka, and
Tandin all acted alone, with only Lux and Steela obviously teaming up.
Another slight disappointment was the underwhelming droid general
Kalani. After serving as the cliffhanger for last week’s episode, this
week he only stood around. His beaked face and ornate gold trim are
unique, but without him actually doing anything impressive I felt like I
had missed a big reveal.
The arc has suffered from the beginning for not going into the
Gerrera siblings' backstories. Even with Steela getting a lot of face-time
and some fantastic animation this week, her story is beginning to
falter because we don’t know whether she had a personal reason for
joining the rebellion – parents killed by Separatists would be
acceptable, and explain why she might feel close to Lux – or just
believes in the cause in a more idealist, theoretical way. I doubt that
will be explained next week, but I’m one for two in terms of predicting
things this week. (I was right about Saw walking into a trap, but didn’t
foresee Ahsoka saving the day.)
The episode ends on a positive note: it seems like the will of the
people has been pretty much won over by the rebels. But the preview clip
for next week shows that the rebels are outgunned, and Ahsoka is going
to have to make a tough choice that could bring all the relationship
drama together and test the groups’ teamwork even more. It’s Onderon’s
last chance to shine before the next arc begins, and so far Onderon
hasn’t been very remarkable. Strong female characters can’t quite make
up for a group with too many sidelong glances and not enough backstory