This Star Wars: Ahsoka review contains spoilers.
Ahsoka Episode 7
“Dreams and Madness,” Ahsoka season 1’s penultimate episode, looks great on paper but falls short in execution. We get to spend more time with Ezra and Sabine, we get to see Thrawn exert his tactical dominance from his war room on Peridea, there’s a frantic space chase inside a Purrgil graveyard, and we’re even treated to a lengthy cameo by C-3PO. So why does the episode fall a little flat?
It’s not that there’s one big issue that tanks the entire episode. Rather, it’s an accumulation of little creative decisions that don’t hit the mark. Take C-3PO saving Hera and Teva’s asses in the courtroom, for example. It’s fun to see him put Senator Xiono in his place and clear Hera’s name on Leia’s behalf, but as a courtroom scene, this thing could not have been more lacking in tension. Beat for beat, the sequence is poorly paced, and it’s as predictable as it gets (wasn’t there a scene just like this in a Mighty Ducks movie?). Hera’s back and forth with the New Republic bureaucracy is the weakest recurring storyline in the series, which is a shame, because it does serve the purpose of establishing the dire implications of Thrawn’s return. Chop’s fiery reaction to Xiono’s “mere droids” comment was pretty funny, though.
Watching Ahsoka train with an Anakin hologram is…a little awkward. The scene doesn’t add much to what we saw in “Shadow Warrior,” and kinda feels like a flimsy excuse to get Hayden Christensen up on the screen again. The subsequent minefield sequence and chase through the Purrgil graveyard features some nice nods to the asteroid field in The Empire Strikes Back but ultimately feels a little too familiar to stand on its own. And speaking of Purrgil, were we not meant to feel terrible that they were being bludgeoned with magnetic mines? Huyang and Ahsoka’s comments about them “providing cover” does come off as a bit cruel…
We then get the first of several check-ins with Thrawn at his base, surveying the movements of his enemies and allies on Peridea and sharing his stratagems with Morgan. It’s becoming quite clear now that Elsbeth is simply there as a prop that gives Thrawn an excuse to vocalize his inner thoughts, which is a bummer considering how interesting she could be if she were given a bit more material to work with.
At one point, Thrawn says he plans to “put [Ahsoka] on a path of our own choosing so that no matter which direction she takes, we’ll always be one step ahead of her.” No matter which direction she takes? You just said you were choosing the path, no? The dialogue isn’t exactly razor-sharp here, either.
But we do get a sense of how Thrawn’s mind works throughout the episode: He’s constantly learning and adapting, striving to stay 10 steps ahead of his enemies and let the grunts do the grunt work while he observes and dispatches orders to Captain Enoch from his perch. It’s worth noting that unlike most Big Bads, Thrawn never underestimates his adversaries. In fact, he makes a point to overestimate them and plan for the worst case scenario, something the New Republic refuses to do despite Hera’s desperate pleas. Despite his condescending demeanor, Thrawn’s ego doesn’t seem to be his Achilles’ heel the way it is for most traditional Star Wars antagonists.
Ezra. He’s back! And yet…it doesn’t really feel like he’s back back. Which is to say, after all this time and build-up to his return, it seemed natural that we’d get a nice, long, emotional catch-up between him and Sabine. But so far, their interactions sound a lot more chit-chat and less heart-to-heart, which makes Ezra still feel a bit distant. He deserved more of a prolonged focus here, but unfortunately he comes off as a supporting character rather than a true protagonist. That said, Eman Esfandi nails Ezra’s mannerisms and sense of humor, as if the character had jumped right out of the cartoon.
The Sabine/Ezra segments also allow us to spend more time with the adorable Noti tribe. We learn that they’re a peaceful group, and the designs of their armored caravan supports this lore tidbit beautifully. New Star Wars designs are hit and miss these days (the howlers are atrocious) but the Noti are a worthy addition to the universe. These little alien hermit crabs from the space Shire are a great bit of worldbuilding.
The coolest thing about the big fight scene between Ezra, Sabine, Ahsoka, Shin, and the Night Troopers is that we get to see how the characters’ backgrounds manifest in their fighting styles. Ezra uses the Force to accentuate the hand-to-hand combat he’s had to employ on Peridea, Sabine combines Jedi techniques with her Mandalorian artillery to deadly effect (those wrist rockets just never get old), and Ahsoka channels all of the Jedi Masters that came before her.
But overall, the action in this episode is just a bit underwhelming. Even the anticipated rematch between Ahsoka and Baylan doesn’t really deliver, and ends on more of a to be continued. With just one episode left in the season, the show hasn’t really done enough to make this particular showdown between ex-Jedi feel all that emotionally charged. Surely, there should be more conflict there?
Surprisingly, the score is one of the weakest parts of the episode, especially during the action sequences. The brilliant Kevin Kiner is without a doubt one of the best composers working on Star Wars today, but his arrangements this week just don’t evoke high drama or high stakes at all. Think about how much “Duel of the Fates” elevated the climactic battle in The Phantom Menace—the score sounded as epic as what we were seeing on screen. Or even the creepy organ theme that accompanied Thrawn’s debut last week. In this episode of Ahsoka, the music doesn’t quite give scenes the lift they need to feel as engrossing as they deserve.
Unfortunately, “Dreams and Madness” doesn’t build up as much momentum heading into the season finale as one would hope. The going concern should be the heroes’ race against time to stop Thrawn from leaving Peridia, but the urgency of this is only barely hinted at here. Ezra seems hopeful that he’ll finally get to go home, but shouldn’t the episode end on a note that he and the gang need to move their freakin’ Force-sensitive asses before the Heir to the Empire destroys everything they fought so hard for?