Ahsoka’s Premiere Brings the Animated Side of Star Wars to Live-Action With Style

Ahsoka Tano nation, we’re up!



“Part One: Master and Apprentice”

Former Calodan magistrate Morgan Elsbeth (Diana Lee Inosanto) was previously captured by Ahsoka Tano (Rosario Dawson) and is being taken by a New Republic freighter to prison. She is broken out by Baylan Skoll (Ray Stevenson) and his apprentice Shin Hati (Ivanna Sakhno), two dark side users who were hired as mercenaries by Elsbeth to this purpose. Meanwhile, Ashoka Tano and Huyang (David Tennant) search for the thing Elsbeth revealed to her—a map that will show the location of Grand Admiral Thrawn. Ahsoka finds the map inside a temple and is promptly beset by droids. She defeats them, but they set off a self-destruct sequence, necessitating a narrow escape.

Ahsoka reunites with the New Republic fleet and meets with General Hera Syndulla (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), who informs her of Elsbeth’s escape. Ahsoka explains the map, but tells Hera that neither she nor Huyang can open the thing. Hera suggests that she go to Sabine Wren (Natasha Liu Bordizzo)—her former apprentice—for help with it. On Lothal, Ryder Azadi (Clancy Brown) is giving a speech to commemorate the role of Lothal in the Empire’s defeat and the loss of Ezra Bridger during the planet’s liberation. Sabine is supposed to give a speech of her own, but she has run away, and avoids all attempts to bring her back for the festivities. She notices when Ahsoka’s ship appears, however, and comes back to the city to see her old master. Ahsoka gives her the map, which Sabine wants to take away to study in private where she can think. Ahsoka says no, but Sabine leaves anyway.

Elsbeth tells Baylan that Ahsoka has the map and must be stopped; he sends his apprentice to find Sabine, knowing she was Ahsoka’s apprentice. Hera encourages Ahsoka to give Sabine another chance despite running off with the map. Sabine manages to decode the map, but right after she unlocks it, droids descend on her and steal the thing for Shin Hati. Sabine retrieves her lightsaber (that used to be Ezra’s) and fights her, but she’s run through just as Ahsoka approaches. Shin Hati departs with the map.

Star Wars Ahsoka, episode one, Master and Apprentice

Screenshot: Lucasfilm

“Part Two: Toil and Trouble”

Sabine is recovering from her wound while Ahsoka and Hera discuss next steps. Sabine tells Ahsoka that the copied data from the map was destroyed by the droids and she hadn’t figured out where the jumping off point on the map was, only that it led to another galaxy. Because Sabine cut down one of the droids, Ahsoka goes to investigate. The droid is still there, and Ahsoka cuts off its head to bring to Sabine. She tries to crack into it with no luck. Because Morgan Elsbeth had facilities on Corellia before the Empire was defeated (where these sorts of droids were manufactured), Hera tells Ahsoka she’ll meet her there. Sabine wants to join them, but Ahsoka assures her that she’s not needed. Morgan Elsbeth opens the map and shows the path to another galaxy, to a place know in Jedi legend. Baylan wants to go there and find power; Elsbeth is eager to find Thrawn. They send Inquisitor Marrok to Corellia to stop Ahsoka.

On Corellia, Hera and Ahsoka insist on getting a full tour of Elsbeth’s facilities. They are assured that nothing untoward is going on, though most of the staff from that period have remained onboard because they wouldn’t be able to keep the yards running otherwise. On Lothal, Sabine talks with Huyang, who insists that Ezra’s lightsaber is truly hers, and that while she may not be the most powerful Force-user, he knows it would be better for her to resume her training. Hera similarly tries to convince Ahsoka of this, but Ahsoka tells her that the master and apprentice both know when that time arrives. They find a giant hyperdrive about to be towed off-world for a ship that’s classified. When Hera insists that the information be unclassified, they are attacked by the staff. Marrok shows up, so Ahsoka begins to fight him while Hera jumps into the Phantom with Chopper to follow the ship.

As Ahsoka fights Marrok, Chopper plants a tracking device on the ship towing the hyperdrive. Marrok escapes, and Hera promises to give Ahsoka the location of the ship once it drops out of hyperspace. Sabine retrieves her Mandalorian armor, cuts her hair and sends a message to Ahsoka: She’s ready. Ahsoka heads back to Lothal to pick up Sabine as they get the information on where the hyperdrive arrived. Said hyperdrive is being fitted into a massive hyperring that Elsbeth means to use to power their journey to another galaxy to find Thrawn.



Star Wars Ahsoka, episode two, Toil and Trouble

Screenshot: Lucasfilm

In all honestly—I’m not sure how this show will read to anyone who hasn’t watched The Clone Wars and Rebels?

Look, there are good and bad things about the Endless Continuity Era of media that we’re finding ourselves in. Getting the next steps in the journeys of beloved characters can be great, but it also means that your average audience member needs a certain level of investment to play. Which is not to say that these two episodes aren’t trying to introduce these characters to a new audience—I just don’t think that they succeed in doing that particularly well.

That doesn’t mean that there’s nothing to latch onto, of course—there are several excellent intro sequences, gorgeous fights, artful sweeping landscapes—only that the complex interpersonal dynamics of the central characters contain so much history that the weight of the story is unlikely to come clear in the first two episodes unless you’ve already got said backstory in your brain. Ahsoka is a beautiful show to look at, but it hasn’t done a bang-up job of explaining why this chapter of a galaxy far, far away matters yet.

Star Wars Ahsoka, episode two, Toil and Trouble

Screenshot: Lucasfilm

If you know the source material on the other hand, there is so much to be excited about, so much being rendered in live-action for the first time. This is simultaneously strange because it plays into the awareness that some people will never consider aspects of a story “canonical” if they’re only rendered in animation—which is enraging for a number of reasons, least of all the fact that the series’ its pulling from are some of the best Star Wars we’ve got.

It’s important to remember that creator-writer Dave Filoni has strengths incredibly similar to that of the franchise’s creator, George Lucas. Dialogue is sadly not his strong suit, a problem that shows up here over and over again. There are an overabundance of clichés, some of them spots that don’t even make sense, and often coming from Ahsoka and Sabine themselves (“It’s more me”? That’s the best you could do?)… which is awkward when we’re trying to get a measure of the characters and their relationship. This is even more important because Ahsoka’s initial training of Sabine is not something that fans have seen on-screen—and Sabine’s potential Force abilities were not even hinted at within the Rebels series. The closest she came to it was wielding the Darksaber, but, as we’ve seen, plenty of Mandalorians can also do that.

However, Filoni’s strengths are entirely tied up in the cinematographic vernacular of Star Wars, something that he speaks better than practically any director to take on Star Wars since Lucas’ departure. The man clearly thinks in visuals, and Ahsoka is proving no different in showcasing that skillset. This is particularly true where Ahsoka herself is concerned; while some of her lines may be clunky, the work that Rosario Dawson is doing physically with the character speaks to an entirely different understanding than she seemed to have in her first outings with the character. There’s a playfulness, a wisdom, a confidence to her movements that build from the animation that came before. Sabine gets those moments too, and the visuals are even more obvious in her case because she’s an artist—the sketches in her old bunk area on Ahsoka’s ship (that have gone untouched in her absence) speak to more about their relationship than any of the words between them could.

We’re not there for everyone yet, though: I’m waiting for Winstead to open up Hera a little more, because only time she truly felt like the same character were the moments flying the Phantom and yelling at Chopper. (My buddy. My aggro MVP. My perfect bitchy trash can. Why do you have so much garbage in your alcove? Don’t explain, you are a joy to behold.)

Star Wars Ahsoka, episode two, Toil and Trouble

Screenshot: Lucasfilm

The plot is a little slapdash at the moment, and I’m hoping that they’ll make certain pieces clearer as we go. For example, uh… how and why would Thrawn be in another galaxy? Are the purrgil that transported he and Ezra capable of extragalactic travel somehow? Why would this very old, seemingly unrelated map know where he is? How did he and Elsbeth become connected? I’m not sure the story is going to give satisfactory answers to any of these questions, which will be irritating in the extreme, if that’s the case. (This also makes the question of how certain Imperial agents seem so convinced of his imminent return a more pressing one—are we supposed to believe the Paelleon is getting messages from another galaxy? Really?)

Stevenson’s turn as Skoll is intriguing because there’s clearly more to him than meets the eye, and the same goes for his apprentice. The idea of two unaffiliated dark side users who travel around with a former Inquisitor and all currently work for a Nightsister for money is… just a great setup all the way around. Excellent crew of evil. More interesting than the First Order ever was, sorry (not sorry) to the cloned Emperor. This is the kind of thing the Legends books excelled at, and I’m hoping Filoni will continue to incorporate. Make things weirder.

We’re already dealing with themes of former traumas dictating choices a bit too much in the present; while Ahsoka’s comment to Hera about actions being taken for the right reasons still having bad consequences is painfully accurate, her fear over training Sabine is more complicated than that. It’s about the fact that she left the Jedi Order, yes, but also about losing Anakin to the dark side. About losing Obi-Wan to anguish, too. About always having to be the person with answers. About growing up in a war, and taking on an apprentice who has those same scars. About taking on Anakin’s role for someone who needs it, and trying to do him one better, but feeling like they both already failed.

Star Wars Ahsoka, episode two, Toil and Trouble

Screenshot: Lucasfilm

So master and apprentice are reunited and ready to stop this inevitable return. Let’s go.


Bits and Asides

  • Ray Stevenson sadly died in May of this year, hence the series being dedicated to him. We have no idea what bearing this may have on the fate of his Baylan Skoll, or if anything within the show was changed following his death.
  • Morgan Elsbeth first appeared in The Mandalorian, and had quite the epic showdown with Ahsoka. I was irritated that they didn’t make it clear she was a Nightsister at that point—I only found out from a wayward Instagram post via a crew member. The Nightsisters were conceptualized in the Legends novel The Courtship of Princess Leia, but the current rendering was retooled in Clone Wars and they became the people of Asaaj Ventress. They’re essentially Bene Gesserit-style dark side users with heavily vampiric leanings. Their people were massacred in the Clone War, which is why Elsbeth insists that she’s a survivor.
  • Dang y’all, Lothal got money coming in, this planet was never all that fancy, now it’s decked out like a core world. They must have made it a major hub for being a “start” of sorts for the official Rebellion.
Star Wars Ahsoka, episode one, Master and Apprentice

Screenshot: Lucasfilm

  • Ryder Azadi! Ryder also showed up frequently in Rebels, helping our Ghost crew take back Lothal. (He was voiced by Clancy Brown in the series, and they continued that casting presumably because his voice is unmistakable and also… I mean, he really does look like the character.) Poor guy parlayed his work for the planet into a cushy political job that he’s clearly loving, so that’s fun.
  • Huyang first appeared in The Clone Wars during a small spate of episodes where Ahsoka had to escort a group of Jedi younglings into caves to find their lightsaber crystals. Once the kids completed the task, Huyang imparted his age-old wisdom (and boxes full of essential parts) to help them construct their sabers. The tough love he gives Sabine here is entirely on-point for the character—he’s a droid who used to teach organic lifeforms with abilities he could never hope to possess how to construct their most important instrument. Why would he care how much innate sensitivity Sabine has? He knows perfectly well that’s not what makes a servant of the Force.
Star Wars Ahsoka, episode two, Toil and Trouble

Screenshot: Lucasfilm

  • The only other times that I can recall the Star Wars universe looking to other galaxies were two very particular occasions in the Legends canon. The first was a gelatinous trans-dimensional being named Waru, which almost ate Luke Skywalker until Han and Leia swam inside the being to rescue him. (I know, why don’t we get that on TV, right?) The other was the main enemy from the New Jedi Order series, a sado-masochist species called the Yuuzhan Vong, who showed up from another galaxy with the intent to conquer. Their invasion was responsible for the deaths of countless beloved characters, Chewbacca included.

See you next week!


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