This Star Wars: Ahsoka review contains spoilers.
Ahsoka Episodes 1 and 2
Since its announcement, Ahsoka has had fans of The Clone Wars and Rebels in a frenzy awaiting the return of the Ghost Crew to the small screen in vivid live action. Is the show a worthy continuation of Ahsoka’s saga? And does it cater to those unfamiliar with this particular corner of the Star Wars universe?
Judging from the two-episode premiere of the Disney+ series, the answers are two emphatic yeses. There’s no disconnect between the live-action characters and their animated counterparts, and while Dave Filoni and company take care to preserve the continuity between the show and its predecessors, there’s more than enough here between the writing and the performances for newcomers to get a good idea of who these people are.
Two brand new characters to the story are Order 66 survivor Baylan Skoll (the late Ray Stevenson) and his apprentice Shin Hati (Ivanna Sakhno). Opening the series with these two slicing through a New Republic ship like butter to set Morgan Elsbeth (Diana Lee Inosanto) free is classic Star Wars—establish how insanely powerful the villains are from the jump, and it immediately puts the heroes on the back foot, narratively speaking. It’s a fantastic introduction that sets high stakes for the rest of the season.
In the opening crawl (in red, which is a nice touch), we learn Ahsoka is in search of a map that could lead her to Grand Admiral Thrawn and Ezra Bridger, wherever they are after their disappearance at the end of Rebels. Rosario Dawson’s performance is decidedly stoic and measured, which checks out considering this character’s journey throughout the years. Her clash with the HK-87 droids is a nice introduction to the brand of action we’ll be in for as the show rolls on. The lightsaber combat is fast and frenetic but filmed deliberately so that all of the movements are easy to follow, a subtlety that can make or break a scene. And Ahsoka’s explosive escape is a joy, due in part to her banter with Huyang.
It’s a clever move to insert Huyang into the story here. The master lightsaber builder’s appearances in The Clone Wars gifted him with one of the most unique backstories of any character in Star Wars, let alone any droid, and it’s cool to see that his wisdom and expertise with Jedi weapons will be a big part of this show. Beyond all of that, it’s just a no-brainer to include a droid companion voiced by the phenomenal David Tennant. It’s all just charming as hell.
Seeing a liberated Lothal in “live action” is a special moment, but seeing Clancy Brown reprise his role as Ryder Azadi is even sweeter. Sabine (Natasha Liu Bordizzo) ditching the ceremony in Lothal and dipping and dodging on her speeder bike as she holds up a proverbial middle finger to authority is yet another near-perfectly done character (re)introduction that feels right in line with the tone of Rebels. At this point it becomes clear that the show knows what it wants to be and understands what fans want from these beloved characters.
The strongest aspect of the show so far is the friction between Ahsoka and Sabine. The tension Dawson and Liu Bordizzo create is palpable and helps greatly in tying the drama of this show into the dynamics established in Rebels. Ahsoka walking away from training Sabine clearly hurt her deeply, and seeing them get back to a place where they can move forward with the mentorship by the end of the two-episode arc tugs at the heartstrings a bit.
But before their reconciliation, there was the first, but almost certainly not last, lightsaber duel between Sabine and Shin. Simply put, this showdown was sick as hell. The choreography, the lighting, the facial expressions, the intercutting with Ahsoka rushing to save her former Padawan…this scene wasn’t meant to just “look cool.” There’s a real sense of peril here, and Sabine getting a lightsaber through the gut sets up the rest of the story nicely. Again, Shin and Baylan come out of these two episodes looking like bonafide killers.
Ahsoka and Hera Syndulla’s (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) visit to the Corellia shipyard feels a bit routine at first, sort of like one of the less interesting episodes of The Mandalorian. It’s nice to spend time with Ahsoka and Hera but the whole interaction with Peter Jacobson’s shipyard officer plays out in the most predictable way possible. You see the deception coming straight away, and there’s no element of surprise when the shit hits the fan.
Seriously, though…none of that really matters, because what comes next is an absolute banger of a climax. Ahsoka going toe-to-toe with former Inquisitor Marrok is blissful Star Wars goodness, and Hera and Chopper’s pursuit of the fleeing Imperial ship is a spot on continuation of their dynamic from the cartoon. Everything clicks here, and more importantly, the scene is incredibly fun to watch.
That’s biggest difference between Ahsoka and The Mandalorian, at least judging from the first two episodes of the former: This show is really fun, colorful, and lively, whereas Mando feels more somber, dark, and serious. That’s not to say one is decisively better than the other—it’s too early to determine that. But it’s nice that Ahsoka has a distinctive tone that captures the spirit and energy of Rebels.
Ezra Bridger’s (Eman Esfandi) absence is felt throughout this episode, mostly due to how Bordizzo sells Sabine’s longing to reunite with her lost fried. He’s not there, but his heroic sacrifice at the end of Rebels is ultimately the force (pardon the pun) that brings Ahsoka and Sabine back together. Sabine using his lightsaber in battle is a brilliant touch that adds to the anticipation of when he’ll make his big comeback. But Ezra obviously isn’t the only character whose return is imminent.
Morgan, Baylan, and Shin’s mission to use the Eye of Sion (which looks freaking spectacular, by the way) to track down Thrawn and bring him back to power is a tantalizing tease of what’s to come. Thrawn (Lars Mikkelsen) is one of, if not the most, cerebral, layered villains in the entire Star Wars canon. The show is already proving to be awesome so far, and with Thrawn and Ezra joining the fray down the line, Ahsoka has a chance to be the best Star Wars show yet. As Baylan ominously tells Shin, the return of the “Heir to the Empire” is sure to be a seismic event: “For some, war. For others, a new beginning. For us, power…”