With more than fifteen years of storytelling afforded to the iconic fan favourite character, there’s no denying that the latest entry in the Star Wars universe is one of the most highly anticipated. Ahsoka finally sees Rosario Dawson’s double shoto wielding Togruta fronting her own series following her complex journey in the animated shows, along with the scene stealing cameos in both The Mandalorian and The Book of Bobba Fett. Much to the excitement of many, the series also features the live-action debut of several of Dave Filoni’s beloved characters from animated series Rebels and The Clone Wars, as they continue on their intriguing quest to locate the missing Ghost crew member, Ezra Bridger.
Thanks to the red(!) opening crawl, we’re soon brought up to speed following the events of The Mandalorian, as the captive Magistrate of Calodan Morgan Elsbeth (Diana Lee Inosanto) is freed by Mercenary Baylan Skoll (the late Ray Stevenson) and his apprentice Shin Hati (Ivanna Sakhno). The newly formed allies attempt to track down the ex-Jedi Ahsoka to retrieve the Macguffin Eye of Sion star map, which holds the vital secret to uncovering the last known location of the lost imperial Grand Admiral Thrawn. However, Ahsoka also calls on her allies in the fight, reuniting the existing members of the Ghost crew – Pilot and general Hera Syndulla (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and her droid Chopper, along with Mandalorian rebel and former apprentice Sabine Wren (Natasha Liu Bordizzo), with Jedi instructor droid Huyang (voiced by David Tennant).
It’s hard to deny that this Disney+ series is pretty much the live action sequel to Dave Filoni’s animated series Star Wars Rebels, a certain property in the Star Wars universe which many had previously written off as “just for kids”. So certain narrative beats and character dynamics may be lost on casual fans and the uninitiated. However, it’s not totally inaccessible – with plenty of exposition in the two episode premiere to help quickly fill viewers in with the overarching story. For those who have been long time fans of the SW animated corner though, it’s so wonderful to be back in this world – and particularly Lothal – again, with more time afforded to continuing the open-ended Rebels finale with these beloved characters.
And what an intriguing mission they’re on too. Following Jedi padawan Ezra Bridger’s (Eman Esfandi) sacrifice in the battle of Lothal – orchestrating the banishment of Grand Admiral Thrawn when the ship they were both on was pulled into hyperspace – both sides have long since been searching for their respective ally. This quest has led them to search and scour the more mystical and fantastic foundations of the franchise, with fascinating links to mythical lore such as the witches of Dathomir, ancient temples and shrines and star maps unlocking routes to unexplored areas of the galaxy. Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re no longer in Coruscant or Tatooine anymore.
The show’s unique tone wonderfully captures the more fun and rebellious spirit and energy of Rebels – with a great emphasis on character dynamics – but is still in keeping with the often stoic nature of the Mandalorian through Ahsoka’s contemplative and methodical nature. Thematically, there’s also an interesting thread woven throughout questioning what it really means to be a Jedi (“There is nothing easy about being a Jedi” Ahsoka comments), and a hero – and being ready to embrace your destiny, explored throughout the two episode opener. The first episode is understandably somewhat of a slow burn while setting up the main narrative arc and introducing the complex dynamics of the characters – predominantly Sabine and Ahsoka’s fractured relationship. Meanwhile, episode two ratches up the action with plenty of lightsaber battles and a thrilling chase with Hera and Chopper in pursuit of a fleeing Imperial ship – perfectly capturing their dynamic from the animated series.
The dynamic of the master and apprentice – amongst both the light and dark side of the force – has always made for a fascinating exploration throughout the many stories of the Star Wars properties, and this latest series is no different. While the overarching hunt for Thrawn and Ezra is particularly exciting for longterm fans, the emotionally fractured relationship between Ahsoka and her former apprentice Sabine is such an intriguing element, especially considering where Filoni left the characters at the end of Rebels.
This dynamic is also replicated by the mysterious (and deadly) newcomers Mercenary Baylan Skoll (the brilliant late Ray Stevenson) and apprentice Shin Hati (an icy Ivanna Sakhno), but what is their true motivation for finding Thrawn? “For some, war. For others, a new beginning. For us, power. Such as you’d never dream” Skoll captivatingly teases. This pair are another bright element in the series, adding a real enigma and depth to the villainous offering, particularly when it comes to Skoll’s views on killing Ahsoka. The lightsaber duel between Sabine and Shin also adds genuine peril and tension to proceedings, along with the excellently choreographed Inquisitor Marrok and Ahsoka battle.
Rosario Dawson does an incredible job of bringing one of the most iconic female characters of the franchise to life, brilliantly mastering Ahsoka’s mannerisms, movements and controlled nature. While the former Jedi is often composed – especially in battle – it’s clear that there’s a certain pain and regret when it comes to her complex history, along with the strained relationship with Sabine. Meanwhile, Bordizzo perfectly channels Sabine’s stubbornness and rebellious spirit as the reluctant hero, torn between her Mandalorian upbringing and abandoned Jedi teachings. Her fun introduction speeding away from the procession is certainly reminiscent of a young Kirk in Star Trek (2009), sans Beastie Boys’ Sabotage.
While there’s a certain disappointment from both parties – and clearly opposing approaches to tackling tasks, much to Ahsoka’s frustration – it’s clear that they both still care deeply about each other, a crucial point that the nurturing pilot and general Hera Syndulla (a commanding Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and the sarcastic scene stealing Jedi instructor droid Huyang (voiced by David Tennant) regularly point out.
Just like The Mandalorian, the world building and visual environments in this series are also enviable, with the creative team impressively bringing the unique highways and structures of the planet Lothal – and ancient temples on far away planets – to life. There’s also plenty of physical, practical sets and droids which feel tangible, tactile and authentic, with the lightsabers also looking more lifelike. The scene stealing animatronic Loth-cats also rival Grogu in the cute department, with their lifelike fur, adorable purrs and hilariously relatable behaviour when it come to spherical shapes. Ahsoka also ticks a lot of classic SW elements, incorporating classic transitional wipes, sassy droids and excellent lightsaber battles. Returning composer Kevin Kiner’s score also adds an outstanding immersive and atmospheric element.
Star Wars Rebels and The Clone Wars fans rejoice, the wait is finally over! So far, Ahsoka is a treat for lifelong fans who fell in love with the iconic character and her rebellious Ghost crew allies, fittingly bridging the gap between their past legacy and exciting future. With the fascinating (but slow-paced) search underway – complete with intriguing mythos and more fantastical elements – teasing the return of Mikkelsen’s Thrawn, there’s certainly plenty to look forward to. With an impressive array of performances from the female-led cast, here’s to the amazing women of Star Wars!