For the informal fan, it’s maybe doable to overlook—amidst the joys of house flight, the escapism of distant planets, and the infinite meme-ability of these alien puppets—that the phrase “battle” defines Star Wars as a lot as “star.” There are few, if any, Star Wars tales (even these written primarily for kids) that function with out the looming menace of societal collapse. Andor, maybe, is the best current instance of those themes on a grounded degree. But when Andor was (and is) a sequence about what’s required for the typical individual to ignite revolt, then Ahsoka—the most recent of Lucasfilms’ Disney+ experiments—appears poised to discover how such an individual can presumably bear the aftermath.
In any case, Rosario Dawson’s Ahsoka Tano doesn’t breach the milestone of her personal live-action sequence unencumbered. There’s the character’s baggage to contemplate: a doomed apprenticeship to Anakin Skywalker (a.ok.a. Darth Vader); the trauma of the Clone Wars and the autumn of the Republic; the annihilation of her fellow Jedi within the genocide of Order 66; and the battles surrendered and celebrated amidst the Galactic Civil Struggle. Then, after all, there’s the meta baggage to deal with: Quite a few animated and live-action sequence, in addition to comedian books and a novelization, feed into the debut of Ahsoka on Disney+. The canon is so in depth as to require hours of research, had been you to actually commit your self to the biography of Anakin’s one-time Padawan learner.
Fortunately, Ahsoka does a largely commendable job of appeasing each ends of the Star Wars fandom spectrum: these with an in depth reminiscence financial institution on all issues Tano, and people greedy the character’s historical past for the primary time. The premiere episode opens with the traditional Star Wars opening crawl, informing us that we’re coming into the period of the New Republic, nonetheless in a fledgling state following the current victories of Luke Skywalker and his fellow Insurgent leaders (together with some we’ll be launched to shortly). Ahsoka is on the hunt for Imperial Grand Admiral Thrawn (Lars Mikkelsen)—a beloved Star Wars villain with in depth lore of his personal—who might carry what stays of the Imperial Military again into energy. Ahsoka believes she’s one step nearer to discovering Thrawn after having tracked down one in all his allies, Morgan Elsbeth (Diana Lee Inosanto), throughout the occasions of one other Disney+ sequence, The Mandalorian.
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From Elsbeth, Ahsoka’s realized of a secret map to Thrawn’s location, and in her first scenes of her personal TV present, she removes it from “an historic temple” constructed by the witch-like Nightsisters of Dathomir. She narrowly escapes some self-destructing droids with the assistance of her personal droid companion, Huyang (David Tennant), who—like Ahsoka herself—was first launched as a personality in animated kind, in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. (With out traversing too far into the black gap of Star Wars mythology, it’s essential to know two issues: Huyang aided the Jedi Order on the peak of its power, and he’s subsequently hundreds of years outdated. His protocol runs deep.)
However as Ahsoka and Huyang exit the planet’s stratosphere, they study that two unnamed villains—each wielding the attribute pink lightsabers of the Darkish Aspect of the Pressure—have attacked a Republic ship. So Ahsoka goes to fulfill with Basic Hera Syndulla (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a personality from the animated sequence Star Wars: Rebels and a key Republic chief. They each study the locked orb wherein the map is contained, and Ahsoka reveals her considerations that these new Pressure-using antagonists are accomplices of Elsbeth, and subsequently additionally gunning to search out Thrawn. Hera is equally keen on one other chance: that if the map results in Thrawn, it might result in Ezra Bridger.
For these not already acquainted with the animated Star Wars exhibits, you may need to bookmark Wookieepedia in an effort to differentiate all these characters. (Relaxation assured, it will get simpler.) Ezra (as performed by Eman Esfandi in Ahsoka) is one other Rebels protagonist, and all you should find out about him proper now’s as follows: He was a Jedi hero who sacrificed himself throughout the Galactic Civil Struggle; he operated with the crew of the Ghost, which included each Hera and the soon-to-be-introduced Sabine Wren; and his last act of defiance banished each himself and Thrawn deep into hyperspace. Hera and Ahsoka have greater than only a political incentive to search out Thrawn; they’ve a private one. The place Thrawn is, there may Ezra be additionally.
“You realize who might provide help to with this?” Hera asks Ahsoka.
“I do,” our protagonist replies. “I’m undecided she’ll need to assist.”
In fact, they’re speaking about Sabine Wren (Natasha Liu Bordizzo), at the moment rushing away from her boring ceremonial duties on the planet Lothal. A Mandalorian Insurgent chief who now operates out of an “outdated communications tower,” Sabine just isn’t what I’d describe because the tidiest house owner, however her dusty containers do reveal an outdated hologram of Ezra, which she watches as she makes dinner for herself and her (cute, if unnerving) loth-cat. On this transmission, Esfandi seems, telling Sabine, “You’re like a sister to me. I do know your battle isn’t over, and I received’t be there that can assist you, however I’m relying on you to see this by.”
What, precisely, Ezra needs Sabine to “see by” isn’t clear. Maybe the Revolt itself? Take into account that checked off the to-do record, sweetie. Regardless, Sabine’s clearly haunted by Ezra’s reminiscence—and the likelihood that wherever he could be exterior her galaxy, he’s trapped there. So when Ahsoka arrives on Lothal with a lead on Ezra’s location, Sabine agrees to assist unlock the house orb-map. (Which, I swear, is a direct rip-off of the house orb-map in one other Disney traditional, Treasure Planet. However I digress.) Discovering Ezra means Sabine’s compelled to brush shoulders with Ahsoka, who seems to be the previous’s erstwhile Jedi grasp. Oh, hey, that’s new!
Rebels followers will seemingly digest this data with some shock, if not expletive-ridden outrage. In Rebels, Sabine was by no means a Pressure-user; her background was in blasters and explosives and different army expertise. If she’s now Ahsoka’s one-time Padawan learner (a.ok.a. apprentice), then Sabine should have demonstrated some affinity for the Pressure at one level or one other, even when it’s Ezra’s lightsaber with which she sliced and diced. (To be honest, she’d be removed from the primary Jedi to wield one other’s lightsaber: Luke Skywalker used his father’s till he constructed his personal.) It appears doable that Ahsoka observed Sabine’s dormant Pressure expertise after the collapse of the Empire, determined to coach her, after which deserted the mission when her pupil proved too…what? Anakin-like? Sabine would by no means.
Both means, one thing went awry between these two, as Sabine is keen to flee her outdated grasp’s presence; she swipes the orb-map and takes off for the consolation of her roost. In the meantime, Huyang runs a scan on the lightsabers utilized by the aforementioned villainous Pressure-users, and he learns that one is owned by Jedi Knight-turned-mercenary Baylan Skoll (the late Ray Stevenson), and the opposite by his apprentice, the blonde-bobbed Shin Hati (Ivanna Sakhno). Naturally, it’s Shin whom Sabine encounters after unlocking the map, Shin who steals it with the assistance of some droids, and Shin who stabs Sabine by the abdomen after a short lightsaber duel. Ahsoka arrives simply as her former apprentice collapses, an enormous glowing gap in her stomach, whereas Shin heads off into the evening sky with the valuable map intact—and Sabine’s renderings of its contents destroyed.
’Tis a high-stakes starting for what Lucasfilm undoubtedly views as a high-stakes funding, grafting a lot of the franchise’s beloved animated IP onto the distinctive aesthetic (and visibility) of its live-action movies and TV sequence. So far, the Ahsoka experiment is a strong one, although it threatens to boil over from the combination of its many elements. As of the top of episode 1, Ahsoka feels promising however unfocused, as but undecided on its tone or its targets.
What is going to in the end matter most just isn’t, essentially, how nicely Ahsoka Tano and her mates slot into the present New Republic canon. What is going to decide Ahsoka’s success is how nicely the sequence can replicate and increase upon the character dynamics that made the animated exhibits must-watches, even for these exterior the cartoons’ focused age demographic. The Clone Wars and Rebels had been greater than adventure-of-the-week packages; they had been intelligent takes on the traumas of battle, however rendered in a extra youth-friendly method than, say, Rogue One or Andor. Ahsoka has the chance to bridge the space between these two poles, gifting the cartoon characters with extra space wherein to wash their deepest wounds—and to construct a authorities that received’t repeat the identical brutalities. That, to me, is a premise as thrilling as something Star Wars has teased not too long ago, and an enchanting reply to Andor, particularly.
It stays to be seen if the present can rise to such an formidable idea. However my hopes had been spurred by one particular dialog between Ahsoka and Hera within the premiere episode. As Ahsoka bemoans her former Padawan’s antics, Hera tells her, “I wager your grasp discovered you tough at occasions.”
After an extended, pointed pause, Ahsoka replies: “Anakin by no means bought to complete my coaching. Earlier than the top of The Clone Wars, I walked away from him. And the Jedi. Similar to I walked away from Sabine.”
Hera, gently, says, “I’m positive you had your causes.”
Ahsoka then units up what I’m positive would be the theme for all the sequence: “Typically even the fitting causes have the unsuitable penalties. What can we do then?” If Ahsoka takes that query severely, it might turn out to be far more than the sum of its many components.
Lauren Puckett-Pope is a workers tradition author at ELLE, the place she primarily covers movie, tv and books. She was beforehand an affiliate editor at ELLE.