This Star Wars: Ahsoka review contains spoilers.
Ahsoka Episode 8
“The Jedi, the Witch, and the Warlord” caps off Ahsoka with an ending that, when compared to the powerful cliffhanger in Rebels that set all of these events in motion, pales in comparison. The episode itself has its highlights as well as quite a few lows, but when you look at the bigger picture that was painted over the course of the eight chapters, this grand finale sadly doesn’t feel all that grand, and it certainly doesn’t reach the great heights of more thrilling, poignant episodes like “Shadow Warrior” and “Far Far Away.”
The heroes are left in precarious positions by episode’s end: Ahsoka, Sabine, and Huyang are stranded on Peridea, and Ezra has returned home to reunite with Hera and Chopper (where’s Zeb?!) and deliver the worst news ever: Thrawn is on his way back to raise the fallen Empire from the dead. The very thing our heroes risked their lives to prevent is coming to pass. But you know what the weird thing is? Ahsoka doesn’t seem to give a shit! With that unintentionally arrogant smile Rosario Dawson has been wearing virtually all season, she says calmly and confidently, “Ezra is where he needs to be, and so are we. It’s time to move on.”
Okay, so, her home galaxy’s doomsday is imminent because she and her friends failed, and her reaction to this outcome is, “It’s time to move on?” Her zen demeanor is, to be fair, completely on-brand, particularly since she gained her newfound, unbreakable faith in the Force following her inter-dimensional heart-to-heart with Anakin a few episodes ago. But shouldn’t we be shown someone—anyone—reacting in panic and horror to literally the worst case scenario unfolding before their eyes? Thrawn is back, but why should we care if none of the characters do? We don’t even get to see Hera’s reaction to Thrawn’s impending return. It’s what her entire story arc revolved around! Where’s the drama?
Looking back at the season, this is precisely the core element the show was in desperate need of: high drama. The friction between Ahsoka and Sabine never reached a boiling point, Ezra’s return was tepid at best, Baylan and Shin’s split was abrupt and confoundingly amicable, and Thrawn’s Imperial march toward intergalactic domination with a literal zombie army and the most powerful witches in the galaxy doesn’t feel as frightening and dire as it should.
Maybe the only stirring thing about the episode was Morgan Elsbeth’s ascension into the Nightsisterhood and subsequent sacrifice in the name of Dathomir. Her story’s been an afterthought over the last couple of episodes, but this payoff was great. She met her demise on the best day of her life, and she died protecting the thing she loved most.
This death really meant something. It was also preceded by some seriously awesome action. The gauntlet Ahsoka, Sabine, and Ezra had to fight through to get to Thrawn’s ship was inventive, exciting, breathless, and damn fun to watch. Their explosive high-speed approach to the fortress was a brisk way to kick things off, and the zombie trooper melee that followed was a perfect change of pace. The way the horde of undead was hunting the heroes as they climbed up the tower was a brilliant touch and lent the sequence a much-appreciated sense of urgency. I kept waiting to see an even a greater number of them—a sea of zombie Night Troopers climbing over each other to rip the fleeing good guys to shreds, World War Z style. Still, what we got was excellent.
One of the very early scenes was pretty great, too. Ezra arguing with Huyang over lightsaber construction only to receive the most touching, sentimental lightsaber part imaginable from the ol’ droid was heartwarming stuff. It’d be nice to spend an entire episode with just Ezra—Eman Esfandi is pitch-perfect in the role—to really get to know him again and see how years of being stranded on a witch planet far from home has affected him or changed who he is. Maybe in a future season, or perhaps in showrunner Dave Filoni’s upcoming movie?
A note on Peridea: turns out being stuck on this planet for three episodes is way too much. Aesthetically, it did look a bit creepier than the other planets we’ve explored on these shows thus far. But the dry, brown and gray expanses ultimately became so drab and uninspiring. Grating to the eye, even. It’s just not enjoyable to look at, which is a real bummer considering that half of the main cast ain’t leaving there anytime soon. If Peridia was meant to be our first step into a whole new galaxy, one implied to be vastly different from our own, it doesn’t really do enough to separate itself from the other miserable rocks in the Star Wars universe.
Meanwhile, the disappointing thing about Thrawn is that his character arc has been more of a character plateau. “Far Far Away” did well to focus on the villain’s immense talent for military tactics and getting under his opponent’s skin, but this wasn’t built upon all that much in subsequent episodes. I lost count of how many times we were forced to watch this same exact Thrawn scene: Enoch gives Thrawn a situation report; Thrawn mumbles measured, monotone orders to Enoch; Enoch disappears; Morgan is confused; Thrawn mansplains his plan; malevolent music, SW wipe. We do get some insight into the coldness of his psyche, though, when he explains to Morgan that his leadership isn’t driven by ego, but by sheer loyalty. “It is for the Empire. The security of our galaxy,” he says. He’s about as dedicated and laser-focused as villains get, even if his reasons for worshipping the Empire after all this time aren’t all that captivating.
Thrawn and Ahsoka are sparring from afar, but neither of them seem moved or shaken by, well, anything the other does. Again, the motivations and actions all make sense character-wise, but there is a clear lack of drama here, even when Thrawn reveals that he knew Anakin and taunts her about his transformation into Darth Vader. Ahsoka looks as stoic as ever, and while that might be in keeping with who she is, it’s become rather boring to watch week after week. With all of this war, tragedy, and death in the air, you’d think at least one person involved would show some kind of emotion. But no—everyone is cool as a cucumber.
With Ahsoka being the title character and all, one would’ve expected the show to spend a bit of time on her character development, or at least lift the veil a bit more on how she feels about everything that’s going on around her, but her only significant moment of growth happened in “Shadow Warrior.” And beyond a few long-winded bits of exposition, you don’t really get to learn anything new about her, nothing that wasn’t already implied. She remains a bit of a cipher by the end of her own show, which is a shame.
Sabine, however, has had a far more compelling journey as a character, battling crippling self-doubt, fighting through crises of self-identity and faith, dealing with the loss of her entire family at the hands of the Empire, and making a potentially catastrophic decision that altered the fate of the entire galaxy. The show feels like it belongs more to Sabine than Ahsoka and there’s no question the infinitely charismatic Natasha Liu Bordizzo owns this character in live action. Whether or not this is detrimental to the show titled Ahsoka is a matter of opinion, of course, but it is strange that the main character’s story has less texture and shape than her supporting cast. Sabine Force pushing Ezra home was a poetic moment on several levels, and her decision to come back for Ahsoka paints a vivid picture of how much she’s grown since we saw her speeding away from her responsibilities in the first episode.
There are some tantalizing signs of things to come in the final minutes of the episode. Ahsoka glimpsing Morai is a really nice touch for fans, especially in conjunction with the ominous Mortis Gods tease elsewhere on Peridia, and Thrawn’s arrival on Dathomir with his hangar full of “cargo” sets up something monumental down the line. Baylan and Shin seem to have settled down quite nicely in their new home, and the shot of Anakin smiling at the person his padawan has become is a sweet way to put a bow on things and send the audience home happy. Did this finale pay off everything that led up to it? Not quite. But that doesn’t mean it tanked the show. Overall, Ahsoka has been a worthy addition to Star Wars canon, and future installments of the story have an opportunity to follow through on all of the setup we got across these initial eight chapters. We’re hopefully on track for some exciting (and much more dramatic) times ahead.