On its face, it looks like yesterday's Clone Wars episode took the easy way out. After setting up a very risky proxy war and having the Onderon rebels practice terrorist tacts, the rebellion gets away with a clean martyrdom, and the Jedi once again function as pawns of the Republic. But none of it could happened if Anakin hadn't broken ranks with the Jedi to engage in a very shady—and highly illegal—arms deal. Spoilers ahead.
Now that King Dendup is on the rebels' side, he has begun rallying the citizens of Iziz through holographic messages, prompting them to attack the Separatist droids. Saw wants to continue the fight in Iziz, hitting the usurper King Rash where he lives, but Steela wants to avoid civilian casualties by bringing the fight to the outskirts. Dendup, impressed, immediately appoints Steela commander of the Onderon forces. Saw is less than pleased, but General Tandin respectfully yields; after all, he did spend the last several weeks keeping Dendup locked away.
General Kalani sends his droid army to the rebel camp, and the rebels, many of them riding dalgos and dragon-birds, fend the droids off. But Kalani has an ace up his mechanical sleeve: a Separatist gun ships surrounded by shields so powerful none of the rebel weapons can pierce it. With the rebel defeat looking certain, Ahsoka contacts Obi-Wan and Anakin, begging them for help. Obi-Wan tells her that the Jedi Council won't agree to send any more reinforcements, and orders her to evacuate. But Anakin comes up with a way to help the rebels quietly: by employing the pirate Hondo Ohnaka. Anakin purchases several crates of rocket launchers from Hondo and has them delivered to the rebels.
The rebels are in poor spirits, but everyone is on friendly terms now. Saw is impressed with Steela's leadership, and while Lux insists that the Jedi could be doing more to help, Steela is grateful for all Ahsoka has done for them. Just in time, Hondo appears with the rocket launchers, then hightails it out of warring space. The rocket launchers do the trick, but after Saw fells the final gun ship, Steela is knocked off a nearby clip. Ahsoka tries to Force-lift her to safety, but she's shot in the back, breaking her concentration and letting Steela fall to her death. The rebels never even get to King Rash; Kalani executes him once Count Dooku gives the order to retreat.
Honestly, I was pissed when Steela was killed off. This was our great sacrifice? If the greatest tragedy suffered by the Onderon people is that they lost their general, they got off absurdly easy. Where are the lingering terrorists? Where are the civilian casualties? When Lux, who has been appointed senator of Onderon, says that the Jedi's bravery has inspired him to join Onderon to the Republic, it all seems too neat. Another pointless victory in this sham of a war.
But I can't help but wonder if the whole point of the Onderon arc is that Anakin got away with something big. He argued for this proxy war when the Jedi Council was against it. He made a shady arms deal (with the tacit approval of Obi-Wan) that won the battle. For Anakin, victory isn't about following the rules of war; it's about following his own instincts. But the path the Dark Side is paved with good intentions.
Ahsoka, on the other hand, is reflective. Even as Lux promises to return Onderon to the Republic and praises the bravery of the Jedi, she's thinking of the lives lost to the war between the Separatists and the Republic. There's a gap between Master and Padawan, one I hope we'll see widen during the rest of the season.