“It will resonate the most with The Clone Wars and Rebels fans, but Ahsoka is a refreshing celebration of all things Star Wars that has appeal to everyone.”
Rosario Dawson leads with a strong, composed performance
Blends classic Star Wars movie atmosphere with fresh storytelling
No Clone Wars or Rebels knowledge required
Newcomer-friendly, but Clone Wars and Rebels fans will resonate the most
Some fans might feel the Star Wars brand on Disney+ has been getting saturated as of late, with The Mandalorian season 3 being solid but underwhelming compared to the first two seasons. Still, Ahsoka earns its place among Lucasfilm’s best streaming originals. The studio’s latest adventure set in a galaxy far, far away sees Dave Filoni explore his fan-favorite Star Wars animated sandbox in live-action, with Rosario Dawson reprising her role as Ahsoka Tano from The Mandalorian season 2 as she aims to stop Grand Admiral Thrawn’s return from exile to reignite the embers of the Empire.
Reuniting with her estranged former apprentice Sabine Wren (Natasha Liu Bordizzo), the group of rebels is met with resistance as two fallen Jedi-turned-mercenaries are aiding a Thrawn ally in uncovering the map to his whereabouts. While it’s no secret that the audience that will get the most out of Ahsoka is The Clone Wars and Rebels faithful, this series is delightfully accessible to all franchise fans as well.
Celebrating the old and the new
The argument can be made that, as big on nostalgia as something like Star Wars is, Lucasfilm will need to move past the illustrious Skywalker Saga. And while Ahsoka is another production that opts to fill gaps in the Saga, Dave Filoni and co. tastefully uses the atmosphere of the revered Original Trilogy while justifying itself as a compelling story on its own merits. It’s easy for a TV show or movie intended to pay homage to a beloved source material to result in cheap fan service, yet Ahsoka strikes a deft balance in its first two episodes between faithful callbacks to the Rebels animated series and forging its own identity as a standalone live-action show.
Even the series premiere’s opening sequences, dramatic lightsaber duels, and swelling score (courtesy of The Clone Wars and Rebels‘ Kevin Kiner) playfully tug on nostalgic strings. But the key component to these scenes is that Filoni portrays them with the utmost sincerity that has affectionately earned him the reputation of being “George Lucas’ heir” among the fan base.
And with Filoni being best known for his work on the animated Clone Wars and — more relevantly to Ahsoka‘s premise — Rebelsone of the lingering questions pre-release was how much the series would depend on prerequisite knowledge to follow the story. Thankfully, the uninitiated can rest easy knowing that Ahsoka doesn’t gatekeep when it comes to understanding the plot. The only downside for newcomers when it comes to immersion in the show is that, understandably, The Clone Wars and Rebels faithful will surely be the ones to get the most out of this Star Wars tale.
Making good on The Mandalorian’s promise
Part of what makes Ahsoka accessible to those not well-versed in Star Wars’ animated offerings is the clever inclusion of Rosario Dawson’s rendition of the character in The Mandalorian season 2. While it can be frustrating seeing Lucasfilm’s flagship IP force some MCU-like elements of cameos and crossovers that take some of the current story’s spotlight, Chapter 13: The Jedi pays off for Ahsoka. The episode set the standard for what fans see in this series from Dawson’s character, down to the tone.
Chapter 13: The Jedi was arguably one of the best episodes of The Mandalorian due to its Jedis-as-samurai that evokes Lucas’ fondness for Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa, and that’s quickly shown again in the first episode of Ahsoka. Through a combination of Dawson’s intense commitment to the role (you can’t fault her for being all-in on Ahsoka) and the impressive and methodical combat choreography, these first two episodes do an excellent job of capturing the spirit of the samurai motif that made Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Backand Return of the Jedi so fun to begin with.
The supporting cast deserves praise as well for their performances, including the late Ray Stevenson’s imposing Baylan Skoll, David Tennant reprising the voice of the witty Huyang, and Bordizzo’s charmingly rebellious Sabine. But it’s Dawson who rightly commands every scene she’s in. She depicts the character with a sense of strength and composure befitting a Jedi with her level of experience.
Flexing Star Wars’ creative versatility
Though The Mandalorian‘s third season was rather uneven and suffered from a bit of an identity crisis and Obi-Wan Kenobi didn’t completely satisfy anyone, Ahsoka is a triumphant vehicle that effectively showcases the Star Wars franchise’s versatility. The durable sci-fi brand is represented currently by the sci-fi spaghetti western The Mandalorian and the riveting Andor, which boldly embraces political intrigue and espionage capers. Ahsoka reignites the appeal of Original Trilogy-level Jedi mysticism on the small screen without ever becoming a pale shadow of its source material.
Time will tell how the remaining six episodes handle the pacing of Ahsoka‘s story, but the first two episodes are a promising start. The promise of Lars Mikkelsen’s impending Thrawn is reason enough for optimism on top of what Filoni and the rest of his creative team have shown off already, making his potential dynamic with Dawson’s Jedi a thrilling prospect to look forward to.
Overall, Ahsoka has been a welcome example of a story that proudly stands on its own feet while simultaneously honoring the legacy of the franchise it belongs to, and its titular protagonist effortlessly makes her case as a modern Jedi icon.
The first two episodes of Lucasfilm and Dave Filoni’s Ahsoka are available to stream now, with new episodes streaming every Tuesday.