In episode 6 of The Clone Wars Season 7, "Deal or No Deal," Ahsoka, Trace, and Rafa take the starship Silver Angel to the oft-referenced planet of Kessel, marking its earliest canon appearance. The Kessel Run has become an iconic feature of Han Solo's backstory, so this latest visit to this planet might make you scratch your head a little bit. Why didn't Ahsoka and her buddies have to do the Kessel Run to get there?
Here's what we think is going on. Punch it! Spoilers ahead for Clone Wars Season 7, episode 6.
Most of "Deal or No Deal," focuses on Ahsoka, Trace, and Rafa faking a Spice delivery to the Pyke gangsters. In case you're just catching up, right now the events of Clone Wars are happening in 19 BBY, roughly two decades before A New Hope and a few months away from Revenge of the Sith. Ahsoka has just been kicked out of the Jedi Order and is living by her wits. In an attempt to pay their debts on Platform 1313, Sisters Rafa and Trace Martez take on a Spice running job, which goes sour when Trace realizes that Spice is bad and can be turned into space drugs. (This is never stated outright, but pretty clear given the black-market air given to Han and Poe Dameron's tales of their misspent youths.)
Trace ditching her shipment of Spice foreshadows a huge moment in Han's backstory that we've never actually seen. Sometime right before the events of A New Hope, Han and Chewie also ditched their illegal Spice shipment to avoid getting busted by the Empire and ended up with a bounty placed on their heads by Jabba the Hutt. When Trace jettisons the Spice on the Silver Angel in this Clone Wars episode, this is probably exactly what it looked like when Han and Chewie did it.
The weirdest thing about Spice smuggling and the planet itself is linked to the idea of the "Kessel Run," a treacherous route taken by smugglers and supply ships to reach the planet. Kessel is surrounded by something called the Akkadese Maelstrom — a cloud of gravity wells and space dust that prevents ships from jumping to Kessel through hyperspace normally.
Yet, in this new episode of The Clone Wars, the Silver Angel just jumps to Kessel, normally. There's no mention of the Akkadese Maelstrom or the Kessel Run. So what's the deal?
Because "Deal or No Deal" happens in 19 BBY, it predates Solo by nine years. So, the easy explanation is that the Akkadese Maelstrom did not yet exist, but it will a little bit later. Something changed in the fabric of space in the intervening years and sent a Maelstrom around Kessel by the time of Solo.
But it's actually not that easy. In the very first episode of Rebels — set after the events of Solo – the crew of the Ghost visits Kessel with no mention of the Maelstrom or the Kessel Run. So in 19 BBY, there's no Maelstrom, in 10 BBY there is a Maelstrom, and in 5 BBY it's gone again.
So far, explanations within canon are either totally absent, or hard to come by. But there is one thing that makes sense. Back in 2018, Lucasfilm Story Group member Matt Martin jokingly tweeted a sketch of why the Maelstrom exists in Rebels but doesn't exist in Solo. The explanation? Kessel has a very big orbit around its star, and in some years, that orbit puts it in the path of the Akkadese Maelstrom, and some years, it does not. Martin was quick to point out that his explanation was not canon, but if you think about the way real astrophysics works, this checks out. The planets in our own solar system experience different celestial events (like comet sightings or meteor showers) depending on the location of said planets in their orbits.
Right now, The Clone Wars doesn't have to explain the lack of a Kessel Run. But that could mean that an appearance from the Akkadese Maelstrom is still coming.
The Clone Wars airs Fridays on Disney+.