by Joseph Andress
Star Wars has found new life on Disney+ over the last few years. From the global sensation that is The Mandalorian, to the unexpected success of the gritty and grounded Andor, the team behind Star Wars’ television projects have had more hits than they’ve had misses. With the season premiere of Ahsoka, Dave Filoni and Jon Favreau have once again demonstrated a mastery over the beloved galaxy far, far away.
While Ahsoka is following up on events featured in The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett, it is very much a continuation of Dave Filoni’s Emmy-winning Star Wars Rebels. The first two episodes do a good job at filling in unaware fans without getting bogged down in the finer details, introducing characters, establishing their personal motivations, and setting the plot in motion rather seamlessly.
For Star Wars fans who have been counting down the days until some of their favorite animated characters are featured in live-action, Ahsoka adapts them beautifully. The titular Togruta is similar to her appearances in The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett, with Rosario Dawson’s performance conveying the silent confidence of a seasoned Jedi. Star Wars newcomers Natasha Liu Bardizzo and Mary Elizabeth Winstead also do a serviceable job translating Sabine Wren and Hera Syndulla into live-action respectively.
The former is given an introduction befitting the hero’s misfit nature, accompanied by a rocking Kevin Kiner composition that is sure to make Ahsoka’s eventual soundtrack release a hot commodity. Visually, Sabine has been flawlessly adapted from the cartoons. She sports her signature colorful hair, her clothing features bright reds and oranges, and even the walls of her living quarters are adorned with eclectic art pieces.
Winstead’s Hera Syndulla is perhaps the most impressive recreation from Star Wars Rebels, as Dave Filoni and company spared no expense in ensuring she looks just as she did in the fan-favorite series. From the intricate pattern on her bright green headtails, down to the striking blue of her eyes, there’s no denying that great care was put into ensuring Hera was recognizable the moment she first stepped on screen. Winstead’s performance also strongly conveys both Hera’s duty to the New Republic and her role as the emotional center of the Ghost crew. Much of Ahsoka's two-episode premiere has to do with the frayed relationship between Ahsoka and Sabine, and Hera serves to provide levity and perspective for each frustrated character.
The stakes in Ahsoka are as personal as they are galactic. Dark forces conspire to find Grand Admiral Thrawn, a prominent antagonist in Star Wars Rebels who could spell disaster for the fledgling New Republic. Ahsoka, Sabine, and Hera are trying to find him before the series’ antagonists do, while also hoping they’ll be able to find Ghost crew member Ezra Bridger who sacrificed himself in order to take Thrawn out of action towards Rebels’ end. Dave Filoni handles the writing for these two episodes, as well as each future episode, and successfully conveys the threat of Thrawn even for viewers who are hearing of him for the first time. There’s truly a sense that he could bring down the New Republic on his own, adding a sense of urgency for both Ahsoka and those working against her.
In addition to the hunt for Thrawn and Ezra, Ahsoka’s premiere deftly puts Sabine and Ahsoka’s master and apprentice relationship center stage. It’s explained that Ahsoka once trained Sabine as her apprentice, but abandoned the pursuit due to her own impatience and Sabine’s stubbornness. The frustration each character feels toward one another is palpable in each scene, as Dawson and Bardizzo convey a clear tension that leaves viewers waiting to see who is going to snap first. The dynamic is all too reminiscent of Ahsoka’s own relationship with her master, Anakin Skywalker, as Ahsoka often played the inexperienced troublemaker to Anakin’s brand of controlled chaos. By the premiere’s end, it’s clear that both Ahsoka and Sabine have a fair bit of growing to do, but there’s a sense that they’ve rediscovered some of the camaraderie they shared in Rebels.
Visually, a live-action Star Wars series has rarely looked as good as Ahsoka’s two-episode premiere. Not only have the series’ protagonists been shown a great level of care, but background characters and those on screen for only a few minutes at a time look so authentically Star Wars that they blend in with their surroundings perfectly. Ahsoka’s premiere also demonstrates a mastery over CGI and practical effects. From little things like Ahsoka and Baylan Skoll’s lightsabers to the grandeur of the New Republic’s fleet, there’s rarely a sense that anything feels out of place. In true Star Wars fashion, fans also have a new little creature to obsess over thanks to the convincingly-crafted, practical Loth-cat that accompanies Sabine in her living quarters. Considering the increasingly questionable state of Hollywood’s visual effects over the last couple years, it’s refreshing to see a show that took the time to create something that truly looks impressive.
Ahsoka had the challenge of appealing to two separate Star Wars fanbases. While there are many rabid fans who happily consume every crumb of content and have an encyclopedic knowledge of the franchise, there are just as many if not more who watch Ahsoka knowing very little about Star Wars beyond some of the films and maybe The Mandalorian. Dave Filoni and company do a superb job at catering to both perspectives with Ahsoka’s premiere, making it accessible enough for new fans without alienating more seasoned Star Wars veterans. While some performances can be muted at times, Ahsoka’s cast faithfully reproduces the essence of the show’s beloved characters while injecting additional complexity for this new story.
Ultimately, this two-episode premiere is a tone-setter, and it gracefully succeeds in checking off all necessary boxes to ensure fans are able to settle in and enjoy the ride for the rest of the season.
New episodes of Ahsoka air Tuesdays at 6:00 p.m. ET on Disney+.
Review Score: 8.8/10
About the Writer:
Joseph Andress is a writer from South Jersey. When he isn't waxing poetic about the faint glow of an autumn moon, he's probably watching a Star Wars movie or reading comic books. He can be found on the platform formerly known as Twitter at @J_Andress29.