Review – Star Wars Ahsoka: Season 1

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Overview

Directing Dave Filoni, Steph Green, Peter Ramsey, Jennifer Getzinger, Geeta Vasant Patel, Rick Famuyiwa

Producing Dave Filoni, Jon Favreau, Kathleen Kennedy, Carrie Beck, Colin Wilson, John Bartnicki

Writing Dave Filoni

Starring Rosario Dawson, Natasha Liu Bordizzo, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ray Stevenson, Ivanna Sakhno, Diana Lee Inosanto, David Tennant, Eman Esfandi, Evan Whitten, Genevieve O'Reilly, Hayden Christensen, Ariana Greenblatt, Lars Mikkelsen, Anthony Daniels

Genre Action/Science Fiction

Platforms Disney+

Release Date August 22 – October 3, 2023

Disney’s Star Wars continues at pace to be a contentious and confusing mess, with new shows being met with a combination of adoration from fans and general malaise from pop culture at large. 2023 has already proved the admirable misfire of Mandalorian Season 3 and the largely ignored second season of The Bad Batch. And this is coming after Andor simultaneously proved to be Disney+’s most critically successful original series, while being completely ignored by the general public.

With Disney still pushing big plans for a Dave Filoni-produced adaptation of Heir to the Empire and a looming Star Wars: Episode X, the need for the House of Mouse to deliver on solid and popular Star Wars is more heightened than ever before, lest the company’s $8 billion investment devolve further into a worthless investment. This puts a lot of weight on the shoulders of a show like Ahsoka, which even a solid or successful Star Wars show would likely struggle to fulfill.

Content Guide

Violence/Scary Images: PG-13-style action violence with gunplay and lightsaber duels, with characters being bloodlessly stabbed and shot, several characters are depicted as reanimated corpses
Language/Crude Humor: Mild to none
Drug/Alcohol References: None
Sexual Content: None
Spiritual Content: The series explores the concept of the Force, a spiritual power that connects all living things in the universe across time and space and gives the user spiritual and combat powers
Other Negative Content: None
Positive Content: Themes of master-apprenticeship relationships, loyalty, duty, and saving lives in the face of death

Review

Ahsoka is a show fans (and critics) of the current Disney regime controlling Star Wars have been talking about with moderate anticipation since it was first announced in late 2020. The series’ font and direct continuity from the events of the moderately well-received Star Wars Rebels cartoon led many fans to get excited that many of the loose plot threads from that series would be adequately addressed in this mini-series, while critics argued the new show would use the time travel powers introduced in that animated show as an excuse to reboot the canon and bring back elements of the Star Wars Expanded Universe books.

For those wanting a time travel reboot, they will be disappointed by Ahsoka. This new series, while following some of the new directions introduced in The Mandalorian, does not take the supernatural force elements introduced as anything more than an excuse for fanservice. That said, it does directly answer many of the dangling plot threads from Rebels, which proves to be its most notable strength and criticism.

The first season of Ahsoka is set in the immediate aftermath of the events of The Mandalorian Season 3, roughly five to ten years after the events of Return of the Jedi. Ahsoka Tano is still continuing her personal quest to track down the missing Jedi Padawan Ezra Bridger, who disappeared shortly before the events of the main Star Wars trilogy when he captured a Star Destroyer helmed by the dangerous Imperial Admiral Thrawn and launched it into the unknown regions of space, never to be seen again.

When Ahsoka discovers coordinates to a strange extra-galactic planet, she finds herself and her Mandalorian apprentice Sabine Wren being besieged by a pair of deadly Dark Jedi whose powers surpass theirs, and who have been conscripted by the Imperial Remnant to track down the location of Thrawn. This sends Ahsoka and Sabine on an intergalactic journey to discover the fate of their friends and grapple with their complicated relationship as a master and an unruly apprentice.

Ahsoka has proven to be a highly controversial series among fans, as many of its characters are only familiar to fans who watched four seasons of Rebels or have any level of emotional connection to Ahsoka Tano’s character from The Clone Wars. Casual fans seem to agree the series is too slow-paced and doesn’t adequately explain the background of many of its key characters. Most of these criticisms hold true, but fans of the Rebels cartoon have widely praised the new series and its ability to translate the animated characters into live action for the first time.

Sabine ends up being the standout protagonist of the series, being introduced from the first episode as the most motivated character with the most need for character growth of the cast, as she struggles to subordinate herself to a master and make wise decisions. She is a rebel at heart and is too easily driven by her grief at the loss of her former friend years prior to settle down and do the right thing until danger comes to her doorstep and nearly kills her. Her volatility makes her both the most emotive character and a key driving factor in the plot, largely due to her poor decisions.

Curiously, Ahsoka Tano largely falls by the wayside in her own show. Rosario Dawson doesn’t bring much to the role beyond a strong physical presence and serviceable lightsaber choreography. The character is given very little character development outside of one key episode, and the previously established plot from The Clone Wars of her being a wandering ronan with no commitments or clear direction in life is only tacitly challenged in that episode. She is far too stoic in this role, which pairs with the script’s general disinterest in advancing her character arc in the franchise to make her boring and perfunctory.

The only character who has proven to be a runaway success for the series is Ray Stevenson as Baylan Skoll, a Dark Jedi who has spent the last several decades since Order 66 surviving in the unknown regions of the galaxy and working as a mercenary alongside his apprentice Shin Hati. Stevenson’s presence as an actor and a handful of lines of dialog chart his original character as a fascinating new inclusion into the Star Wars universe, a Dark Jedi seeking order by any means necessary but who is disinterested in the way of the Sith. It’s a shame Stevenson passed away in May, meaning this character will need to be recast in the future if he is to be further explored.

The show as a whole is highlighted by these moments of fascinating ideas and solid execution, but it is too deeply buried in eight episodes of television. Not enough happens by the end of the series, and the new status quo introduced in the finale seems to simultaneously be setting up a continuation of the bizarre Mortis story arc from The Clone Wars as well as the long alluded to Heir To the Empire adaptation. With Mandalorian and Ahsoka widely being met with a shrug by Star Wars fans, it remains to be seen if any of these promised stories will come to pass, or if fans will embrace them when they are released.

The Bottom Line

 

Ahsoka is a slow paced, flawed story with a handful of moments dedicated Star Wars fans will find gratifying, but will likely prove dull or confusing for fans unfamiliar with Star Wars: Rebels or the character of Ahsoka Tano.

 

7

Tyler Hummel

Born into the unexplored residential backwater of Chicago, Tyler Hummel is a graduate of Tribeca Flashpoint College where he studied Sound Design for Film and Interactive Media. When he isn't hosting his public access talk show The Fox Valley Film Critics or collecting DragonBall Z figurines, he enjoys writing and directing short films. As with Rick from Casablanca, "he's a man like any other man, just more so!"

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