The latest ‘Star Wars’ live-action TV series, ‘Ahsoka’, has arrived, and the first two episodes have set the bar high for the following episodes. It injects a fresh sense of adventure into the franchise, with some good performances from an expansive cast, drawing on existing lore in amazing ways while also offering new takes on what audiences thought they knew before.
This new series follows the titular Ahsoka (played by a thrilling Rosario Dawson), as she hunts for Grand Admiral Thrawn, who managed to survive being removed from the known galaxy at the end of ‘Star Wars: Rebels’. She’s joined on this journey by Mandalorian artist Sabine Wren, played by Natasha Liu Bordizzo, and Twi’lek ace pilot Hera Syndulla played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead
But they’re not the only ones. Evil force-users Baylan Skoll played by the late Ray Stevenson, Shin Hati, played by Ivanna Sakhno, and Marrok, played by stuntman Paul Darnell serve the Nightsister Morgan Elsbeth, played by Diana Lee Inosanto.
Dawson gives a precise and calculated performance as Ahsoka, a character who at this point has accumulated a lot of experience. She’s got a strong and stoic presence, even though Dawson is under heavy makeup. Hera and Sabine are slightly less realized than their animated counterparts with both Winstead and Bordizzo coming off as a bit flat at times. But Hera still has the maternal instincts she honed during ‘Rebels’, and Sabine still has an impulsive streak.
The new villains are fascinating so far. Stevenson gives Baylan a sense of thoughtfulness and a methodical purpose to his actions, whereas Sakhno gives Shin Hati a strong and intense flow, which is primarily expressed in her fighting style. Morgan Elsbeth returns, and Insoanto is allowed to get more mystical and dial the craziness up to 11. It’s a different angle on the more straight version of Morgan audiences saw in ‘The Mandalorian’.
The plot of the series is a direct continuation of ‘Rebels’, which fans should find very fulfilling as now audiences will finally get an answer to the show’s final mystery. It also gives another, very compelling look at the New Republic, with the thematic thread of apathy shining through both episodes. Hopefully, this will continue in the future, as it gives the episodes a sense of cohesion and helps tie it back to the overall theme in ‘Star Wars’ of selfishness versus selflessness.
Another way ‘Ahsoka’ feels in touch with the main franchise is with the sense of a grand adventure. The show is literally widening the galaxy, introducing crazy new concepts to the world, and imbuing it with the same sense of wonder. There is still some of the goofy charm in there too, but it has a sense of earnestness while doing it.
The show has a cinematic sense of scale to it, with locations and fight sequences looking like they’ve been taken straight from the silver screen. Even in the first two episodes, there is a lot of lightsaber action, which is well-shot and coordinated. When people think of fight scenes in ‘Star Wars’, this is the type of thing that comes to mind.
While the pace of the first two episodes does feel slow at times, it is done with a sense of purpose. The show has eight episodes, plenty of time to move slowly when necessary and explore the state of the wider galaxy. This is what episode two does in particular, showing audiences what the New Republic looks like. But one crucial misstep the show has made that will alienate newcomers is that it doesn’t explain its main villain, it expects audiences to have some prior recognition of his character. In ‘Ahsoka’, it assumes audiences will fear Thrawn based on his name alone, which is the case for longtime fans, but new ones might be confused.
This aside, the first two episodes are a promising start to ‘Ahsoka’, one that will hopefully continue as this brand-new saga of ‘Star Wars’ unfolds.