For fans longing for a series that uniquely feels Star Wars, "Ahsoka" could be the one you're looking for.
It took me a long time to come around to the character of Ahsoka Tano. When she was first introduced in "The Clone Wars" movie, I hated the character, and I don't use that term often. I found her to be an annoying throwaway character and anytime she referred to Anakin Skywalker as "SkyGuy," I would almost make me gag. I know Star Wars is meant for kids, but it was ridiculous.
Then "The Clone Wars" series happened, and I fell in love. Ahsoka quickly became one of my favorite characters in the Star Wars universe and the glue that held that series together for me.
Now the character is getting her own live action series on Disney+ and if the first two episodes are any indication, we're in for a treat. The combined runtime for the episodes clocked in at almost two hours and while it starts a little slow, both are packed with action, intrigue and a vintage Star Wars vibe which gives me hope this will be something special.
Writer, director and series creator Dave Filoni has previously stated that "Ahsoka" is basically season five of "Star Wars: Rebels" and while diehard fans will be thrilled with the series start, fans just joining the fun won't be left behind or lost. And even if you're a fan of "Rebels" you find yourself asking questions, which is good.
One of the best things I can say about the series thus far is that it feels like Star Wars. We get an opening crawl that does a great job of bringing us up to speed on where things stand in the galaxy. The New Republic has risen from the ashes of the fallen Galactic Empire, and peace is just an illusion. We find out that there are plans to find and bring Grand Admiral Thrawn (Lars Mikkelsen) out of exile and it's up to former Jedi Knight Ahsoka Tano (Rosario Dawson) to thwart the plan and save the day.
As the first episode titled "Master and Apprentice" begins, dark side agents Baylon Skoll (Ray Stevenson and Shin Hati (Ivanna Sakhno) board a ship under the guise of being Jedi to free Ahsoka's prisoner Lady Morgan Elsbeth (Diana Lee Inosanto). They are tasked with finding a map that reveals of the location of Thrawn. Unbeknownst to them, Ahsoka has discovered the map's location and liberated it from the planet after slicing through a droid or two.
But the secrets of the orb won't reveal themselves easily. A call from former rebel and current New Republic General Here Syndulla (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) helps point her in the right direction and that is to her former Padawan and rebel Sabine Wren (Natasha Lui Bordizzo), who Hera believes can unlock the map.
When we are reintroduced to Sabine, she hasn't changed much, as she's skipped out on a ceremony on Lothal to celebrate her and her fellow rebels. Instead, she's rocketing back to her place on a speeder, refusing to follow orders to return to the city. She's struggling to find her way after Ezra Bridger's (Eman Esfandi) disappearance and her failed attempt to be Ahsoka's Padawan.
The reunion between the two is tense but yields the results Ahsoka is looking for. But as soon as the map reveals the possible location of Thrawn and, therefore, Ezra, it is stolen by Shin, resulting in an incredible lightsaber battle between the two with Sabine sustaining a lightsaber wound to her stomach. With the map in hand, Lady Morgan believes nothing will stand in their way.
The story continues in "Toil and Trouble," with Sabine recuperating from her battle with Shin and Ahsoka struggling to connect with her former Padawan. Returning to Sabine's place, Ahsoka cuts off an assassin droid's head and Sabine is able to hack its memory and find that the droid hailed from the planet Corellia. Leaving Sabine behind, Ahsoka and Hera blast off to the Corellian shipyards, where they find loyalty to the Empire still runs strong and have been working against the New Republic from within.
Ahsoka must battle an assassin droid and an Inquisitor as she tries to stop a ship from leaving the yard, while Hera and her droid Chopper go after the ship and put a tracker on it before it jumps to hyperspace.
Meanwhile, Baylon, Shin and Lady Morgan can fully unlock the map and we find out that Lady Morgan is constructing a massive hyperspace ring from New Republic hyperdrives to reach Thrawn and bring him back.
As the episode ends, Ahsoka and Sabine are back together as master and apprentice. Baylon realizes that he and Ahsoka are set on a collision course that will decide the galaxy's fate.
I spoke a little bit about how this felt like Star Wars and that comes from Filoni. Next to George Lucas, he understands the Star Wars universe better than anyone. He knows what makes it unique and he knows how to give fans what they want and create a mythos that feels both grand and intimate at the same time. That's the magic Lucas was able to weave in “A New Hope” as we were thrust into this immense universe ravaged by war, but it was the story of an orphaned boy searching for meaning that drew us in.
My only concern is that Disney+ Star Wars shows follow a very beat-specific formula at times and I hope that Filoni has been given enough creative freedom to craft something unique. I love the familiar feel of Star Wars, but there's room enough to explore the universe on a path that isn't as worn down. The franchise needs a breath of fresh air and I'm hoping this is the series that revitalizes the fan base and gets them excited about this universe once again.
It was surreal to see animated characters come to life, and the actors captured the essence of each character well. Dawson, Bordizzo and Winstead are excellent, but Stevenson and Sakhno stole the show. Stevenson passed away in May and it felt a bit heavy watching him crush every scene he's in. I'm most intrigued by Sakhno. Her performance as Shin mesmerizes with this beautiful blend of vulnerability and savage power that captivated me from the moment she stepped on screen. I couldn't get enough of the character or her performance. It's fantastic.
I've left quite a few things out so fans can nerd out on their own without me ruining anything. There are Easter eggs I didn't bother to mention and a character with some of the best moments in the episodes. Just know that if you are a fan of both "The Clone Wars" and "Rebels,” you'll really enjoy yourself.
For fans longing for a series that uniquely feels Star Wars, "Ahsoka" could be the one you're looking for. Filled with mystery and high stakes, "Ahsoka" is a must-watch for fans of the saga.