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Star Wars: Ahsoka Season 1 Episode #1 – 2 Review

8 min read
I'm excited by the variety and the mental reminder that not every show is for everyone and having this kind of variety is both good and healthy for the franchise.

“Master and Apprentice” & “Toil and Trouble”.

What They Say:
After the fall of the Galactic Empire, former Jedi Knight Ahsoka Tano investigates an emerging threat to a vulnerable galaxy.

The Review:
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Let there be Loth-cats.

The first two episodes of this series are the kinds of things that in one sense are hard to review. I can’t say how accessible this is to anyone not familiar with the characters from The Clone Wars and Rebels which in turn is based on events and characters from the prequel trilogy. I also go back and look at A New Hope from time to time and remember that it had to introduce so much to people who knew absolutely nothing about it and it did so wonderfully. Does Ahsoka do that? No. It simply can’t. There’s so much that has been produced in the nearly fifty years since the original film that when playing in this time period you’re simply going to have the weight of continuity about it. Can you make it accessible? You definitely can. Is this accessible? Well, that honestly just depends on how your mind works and the way you handle watching any new property. Do you want all the basics fed to you at the start or do you want to ease into it?

The first two episodes basically accomplish a lot while trying to serve different masters. It sets up the larger initial stakes by talking about a Grand Admiral of the Empire that appears to be returning. We know these kinds of things have been going on thanks to novels, games, and The Mandalorian as well since that was all part of the first storyline in the hunt for Grogu. Ahsoka, a former Jedi who let the order to find her own path, is doing her own investigation based on these whispers and her copious connections over the past thirty years to try and find out more because the whispers are about Grand Admiral Thrawn. Ahsoka’s journey takes her to a few different places and there is some of that “fetch” trop playing out here, but it’s utilized to introduce the first round of cast members that we get to know and establish us in this 9 ABY period.

Ahsoka and her journey is pretty solid stuff in the general sense but it suffers a bit because the character, after all that has happened, is pretty damn reserved and distant at this point and that doesn’t make her easy to connect with. Worse is that in the time between this and Rebels, she and Sabine had a huge falling out because Ahsoka was training her – presumably not as a Jedi in the Force-sensitive sense but as someone that could wield a lightsaber and do right by people as the Spectre crew had done for years. Sabine has spent her time on Lothal, which has grown a lot since the overthrow of the Empire, and she’s been leading the local guard or military to help keep the peace. Though she doesn’t care for the pageantry aspect of it all because so much of what she does is because she wants to honor Ezra’s request to help people, a special message he had sent her before he ended up in parts unknown with Thrawn at the end of Rebels.

With both of them being cool at best toward each other, it’s a very slow and wooden approach to bringing these characters to life and that’s frustrating at times. Dialogue has always been bad in Star Wars (except Andor!) on the live-action side and nobody speaks like actual sentient beings here which is frustrating to watch. Sabine has the right look and overall general approach and we get some easy if minor growth in these first two episodes to get her on the right path. And we do with Ahsoka as well as Hera reminds her about certain things that has Ahsoka connect the dots that just as she left the Order and Anakin all those years ago, she left Sabine as well. Again, we don’t know why, but for Ahsoka, that guilt that if she had stayed she might have been able to change Anakin’s path finally hits her smack in the face. But she also knows that she needs for Sabine herself to be ready, which is what the second episode slowly gets us to.

There’s not a lot here in a way with the bigger events but it does set up a lot. So rather than cover the minimal plot and the moving from place to place to place to establish people and characters, I want to dig into a few other things. First, I love that part of what gets this going is that Morgan Elsbeth of the second season of The Mandalorian is what gets it all moving. She’s being transported on a New Republic ship in chains but she’s also set up for this eventuality as she hired out a former Jedi named Baylan to break her out should she be captured. He does so with his padawan Shin and while there are issues with aspects of it, the first impressions are pretty great. I love bringing back Morgan and revealing her to being part of Dathomir is intriguing. Baylan as a Jedi who went to ground and knows of Ahsoka and so many others from that period is a nice touch because he has respect toward what was but has also left it in the past – to a degree. His taking on a padawan will make for an interesting backstory because while the Empire has hunted down Force-sensitive kids for decades, they could never get them all and there are a lot out there. Shin herself is definitely a delight because she is totally in trust of her master and has a fantastic sense of form and style in what fighting we see of hers. That she’s also cautiously quiet and not giving away a lot is fantastic as well.

And having been a fan of Ray Stevenson going back to the Rom series years ago, the costuming and his look here is just impressive as well. There’s a certain sense of presence about him because of the size of his form and the calm nature of his voice that makes him far more threatening than most villains – if he truly is a villain – than we’ve seen before. The hooded parts are the weakest moments for both characters but once past that, it’s just great stuff. Her darting eyes and careful movements, the way he moves with purpose but is fully aware of all things around him. And the not-quite-deferential way he opiates with Morgan as well. He knows he’s a hired hand and a bit more than that but you sense he has other goals with the power that he and Shin can gain when and if they can get Thrawn back. There are bigger elements at work there.

Similar to some of The Mandalorian in regards to how there are not a lot of differences between the Empire and New Republic, this show tackles it a bit more openly when Ahsoka and Hera head to Corellia since that’s where Morgan previously operated when working under the Empire. We see how the businesses there were basically dissolved and things repurposed since then because you couldn’t trust the companies to be operating in good faith. This makes sense with things like your Tagge operations and all, and a lot of smaller ones. But the reality is that most of the people who worked for them, especially your line Corellian workers, are still there. As the businessman they deal with says, they don’t care about galactic politics. But the reality is that enough do and there are a lot of Imperial loyalists still in the ranks and they’ve worked to secure drives that Morgan needs in her plan to bring Thrawn back from the other galaxy he got sent off to (with Ezra) thanks to the Purgill at the end of Rebels. It’s interesting to watch things play out on Corellia because these are things that have happened many times in our history after wars and the corruption will always run deep. It may not handle it as well as Andor would but it does better than how The Mandalorian did.

One thing I wrote about in discussion elsewhere is how clean Corellia looks and provides comparisons to how it was presented in Solo – which was close to thirty years prior to the events here. From my view, and you can include Lothal with this as well, both places were presented with overcast skies almost all of the time and were very drab and worn down to help highlight the oppression of the Empire over the place. Here, Lothal is bright and alive with the Empire pushed out years before Return of the Jedi while Corellia is now shown with blue skies and sunlight. Again, it’s trying to paint that contrast in that these are not the same days. If both had been presented as bleak as it was during the Imperial era, yes, there’s lots you can say about that. But this is shorthand for painting a different view of these worlds post-Empire. Neither is going to look at engaging or alive as a real-world set like we saw in most of Andor, which is why it looks too clean in a lot of instances, but it’s also providing a contrast from before.

In Summary:
While there’s a coldness to a lot of this presentation because of the dynamic between Ahsoka and, well, everyone else, but particularly Sabine, the stiffness of that is offset for me by so many other things. And we do get a thaw at the very end for those two which helps. The core concept works well enough and I’m intrigued to see where it goes but I’m thrilled to have new Chopper material, to see Loth Cats and so many things from Rebels brought to a wider audience of people who would never “watch cartoons.” Baylan and Shin are real standouts for me in a lot of ways but giving Morgan a greater role after her time in The Mandalorian was a surprise and a great move. And honestly, getting Clancy Brown to reprise his role as Ryder Azadi provides some awesome continuity and I have so much love for this actor that having him in this series and in this place and time is just fantastic. With The Mandalorian providing the big “classic” Star Wars for people along with Obi-Wan in legacy character material with its focus on Vader as well, Andor and Ahsoka – along with The Bad Batch – deliver things for the hardcore fans that will convert new people to it as well. I’m excited by the variety and the mental reminder that not every show is for everyone and having this kind of variety is both good and healthy for the franchise. I can’t wait to see what’s next.

Grade: b+

Streamed By: Disney+

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